Let a thousand turtles fly, in the quest for joyful immortality

For more on Terasem…

This article is part of our series of posts discussing Terasem. It is written by our friend Giulio Prisco and cross-posted from Giulio’s web blog Turing Church. Please read the “Truths of Terasem” (ToT) and join the discussion.

Starting to write this post I noticed that, by Internet serendipity, IEET Managing Director Hank Pellissier had just published an article titled “My Favorite H+ Philosophers – David Pearce, Martine Rothblatt, and Ursula K. Le Guin.” Hank’s article should be a wake up call for the transhumanist community. “Transhumanism isn’t a viral phenomenon,” he says. “The rest of the world – most of our family and friends, right? – don’t grok our enthusiasm. ‘Read the books!’ we suggest. ‘Boring,’ they retort. ‘Not my thing.’

Hank proposes to complement the aseptic, ultra-rationalist, hard-technology oriented “traditional” formulation of transhumanism, with alternative softer, fuzzier and cozier formulation for Social Empaths (SEs): those (a large majority) who “want a softer, cuddlier, easier, gooier, goofier, happier Future. They want a culturally rich world that values aesthetics, modulations in tone, nuance, fantasy, intuition, satire and lyrical metaphor. [They] want to share and process feelings. SEs want to communicate intimately, with delicious, extravagant language. SEs want to be sensitive, tender and occasionally childlike.

I am an unrepentant, in-your face, old-school transhumanist who looks forward “to abandon the meatbag and jump rapturously into The Singularity with a chemically-preserved brain ensconced inside a metallic Russian 2045 cyborg [Hank's words].” This IS my thing. But, like Socrates, I know that I don’t know, and I try to be honest enough to admit it. In particular I don’t know how to give our ideas the immediate, powerful emotional appeal that they deserve. But others do.

Hank says: “Already, we have several writers with the words and wisdom we need for this purpose; we just haven’t been listening to them,” and lists three of them: the great science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin, and our teachers and friends David Pearce and Martine Rothblatt, the founder of Terasem.

I have been associated with Terasem for a few years, and I formally joined in 2011 (video below). I think the nice and warm new-age look and feel of Terasem is our best chance to build bridges to the very large, scattered communities of spiritually oriented persons. Terasem offers a formulation and interpretation of transhumanism more emotionally appealing to persons with artistic and spiritual inclinations, which will help communicating our beautiful ideas in a simple and effective format and give happiness, hope, a sense of wonder, a sense of purpose and peace-of-mind to a multitude of seekers. At Terasem meetings, both online and in brickspace, these powerful feelings are communicated also with the help of yoga, readings, music, poetry and songs, which create a stimulating “magic” experience for all participants.

Ultra-rationalist “bureaucrats of philosophy” usually dismiss “hippie new-age attitudes”, but we should not forget that the hippie new-age attitude of the 60s shaped the Internet technology revolution. Perhaps we had the right attitude in the beautiful, visionary anti-authoritarian 60s, and we should recover it to shape new transhumanist technology revolutions.

My experience with new-agers is that, yes, they are easily deluded or scammed, and yes, they move from a guru to a new guru, from crystal therapy to energy pyramids and then to pyramid scams, but they are intellectually and spiritually alive, perhaps more alive and awake than others; they seek something beautiful that they cannot define.

Terasem offers good answers to the big spiritual questions of life, death, immortality, meaning, and our place in the awakening universe, yet its worldview and philosophy are firmly rooted in science with no concession to “supernatural” realms beyond science. I think Terasem has a huge potential to bridge the gap between the 60s and the 10s, cosmic visions and technology, spirituality and transhumanism, hard and soft rationality.

I cultivate the excellent habit of rationality and consider it as a very useful tool. But rationality is indeed a tool (a useful means to achieve a desired result), and not an end in itself. Rationality is an excellent screwdriver, a powerful tool to work with screws, but it is not the best tool to work with nails. Open-minded soft rationality is a much better approach to life than dull, fundamentalist rationalism.

Spiritually oriented New Age seekers often have powerful intuitions, beyond what current science can analyze. Their visions form an aesthetic layer that colors their (and then our) perception of the universe and, even when they are not entirely correct, inspire scientists and engineers to turn visionary dreams into actual reality.

For example many mystics, and some scientists, believe in  telepathy and extras-sensory perception (ESP), and many scientists think that it is all crap. I am open to the possibility that some yet undiscovered science may provide solid theoretical foundations and experimental evidence for ESP, and I am also open to the possibility that ESP may not exist. In science, we let experiment decide.

But ESP will exist. Soon we will have brain implants linked to our thoughts and to the Internet. These implants will give us instant telepathic communication with others, and the ability to access the Internet in our minds and see what happens elsewhere. Brain implants will also permit influencing, by thought alone, physical objects in remote places via appropriate actuators. So, regardless of whether or not we possess native ESP abilities for telepathy, remote vision and psychokinesis, the mystics are right anyway. If we have no native ESP, we will engineer ESP someday soon. See the recently published Human+, a novel about transhumanism and spirituality by Martin Higgins, for a fascinating fictional account.

Many mystics believe in supernatural phenomena beyond the reach of science. Many ultra-rationalists believe in a soon-to-be-found Theory of Everything to explain all that happens in the universe with a few elegant formulas. I think they are both wrong: nothing is beyond the reach of science, but Shakespeare’s “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” may remain true forever. You can count up to any number, and there will still be infinite numbers beyond. Similarly, our growing scientific understanding of the universe may always find new fractal depths of unexplained phenomena, to be explored by future scientists, in an endless explosion of diversity.

The balance of diversity and unity, in the quest for joyful immortality, is one of the key intuitions of Terasem. In 2002, while viewing a Space Shuttle launch from a Florida beach, Martine found inspiration in a remarkable vision, which she subsequently composed in writing and published as “Truths of Terasem” (ToT).

See the video embedded below and the annotated transcript produced by Fred and Linda Chamberlain (pasted below), which is also available as an audio podcast, with the other 100 episodes of Fred and Linda’s Truths of Terasem podcasts, the most comprehensive writings about Terasem so far.

“I’ll share some personal part of Terasem’s beginnings! It really began in March, 2002 when I was out, on the beach, up on the Space Coast of Florida, doing a morning meditation, at 6 a.m., and suddenly, I felt two ‘presences’ around me, so I immediately opened my eyes, and I witnessed, quite to my surprise, the blastoff of the Space Shuttle STS-109, on its way to the Hubble telescope. This was Columbia. I then felt a presence, immediately behind me, and I turned around, and found myself eye to eye, with a large Lanternback turtle sea turtle, which was clearly trying to make its way back into the sea. And I was in its way.

So, this was kind of startling, because it was pretty much dark, still, and an epiphany poured into me, through the triangular vector of the shuttle’s light blasting across the sky, and the Lanternback turtle’s consciousness, streaming into my own, and I felt a very strong, triangular force of energy between the shuttle, the sea turtle, and myself.

An epiphany surged through me, that there were three principles, or three values, which united all life, all reality, indeed the entire multiverse, and these were that the purpose of the multiverse, the solution to the multiverse, was to balance diversity with unity, in the quest for joyful immortality; that the shuttle, Columbia, was a balance of diversity and unity in the quest for joyful immortality; that the Lanternback turtle, was a balance of diversity and unity, in the quest for joyful immortality; that everything was a balance of diversity and unity, in a quest for joyful immortality.

I slid myself out of the way, of the Lanternback turtle, and it slowly, but without delay, pushed itself toward the sea, which wasn’t far away. As it did, the shuttle quickly arced out of my sight, smaller and smaller although the contrails were visible as the sun began rising, and again the triangular energy between the turtle and the shuttle remained connected to me, and downloaded to me the entire gist of the Truths of Terasem.

It was like I received this multi-gigabit download that still had to be processed, in the way one uploads a video but you can’t see it yet because it’s processing, or uploading a file and it still needs to be processed. I was totally blown away. I stood up, and it was like I was walking on air. I walked a couple of hundred feet to where my soul-mate and partner Bina was resting, up above the seashore. I shared with her what’s happened, and we slid right into the most wonderful, the most erotic lovemaking that anyone could imagine, and it was through this erotic lovemaking that those Truths of Terasem that were downloaded to me in an epiphany, channeled by the shuttle and the turtle, became written into my soul, just as suredly as a file is written into a digital or magnetic medium.

I spent the rest of 2002 trying to print out what was in my mind and soul from that March 1st morning, and it took me the rest of 2002, and some final pieces only really made sense late in October 2002, when my partner Bina experienced extraordinary pain, and somehow that pain jelled the remaining pieces of the Truths of Terasem. Since that time, I’ve been committed to spreading the message of the Truths of Terasem, about diversity, unity and the quest for joyful immortality, and the spreading of it, I feel, has been really wonderfully successful.”

Mystics throughout the ages have had the powerful intuition that everything in the universe is deeply connected to everything else to the point that, in a fundamental sense, everything is one. Today’s science seems to confirm it: the correlations between two entangled particles with a space-like separation (each is out of the light cone of the other), which cannot be explained by speed-of-light signaling between two separate parts of the physical universe, tell us that the two particles are really one in some sense that our everyday intuition is not equipped to visualize.

As long as the two entangled particles are not observed, each one is in a weird quantum state (for example a superposition of spin-up and spin-down). According to the popular Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, this weird quantum state “collapses” as soon as it is observed. So the first observation (for example of particle A) defines the result of a future observation of the other particle. But if the separation between A and B is space-like, according to Einstein there is another, equally valid frame of reference, where the observation of B comes first. So we cannot say which observer, A or B, collapses the system. This seems to say that, in some sense, also the two observers are really one.

The last two paragraphs may be difficult to follow, but many mystics have contemplated the fundamental unity of consciousness. In my Terasem joinership video below I say “I am You, You am I, and We are One,” parts of the collective consciousness of Terasem. The physics above shows that this is not only a poetic image, but also a scientific concept.

Imagine a room with many windows. From one, you see a busy city street. From another, you see a quiet, green garden. From another, snowy mountains. The perceptions are different, but the Mind who perceives is One. When a person dies, the blinds of a window go down, but the Mind has many other windows to look at the world from. When we die, we will just continue to live as someone else. Actually, we will continue to live as everyone else, and we are everyone else right now (don’t hurt others, because you would hurt another you).

Note: there is a simple way to formulate this concept that does not involve weird physics, based on the observation that “I am,” the bare feeling of existence, may be the same for everyone. I first encountered this intriguing thought in Rudy Rucker‘s Infinity and the Mind.

Some wise persons find that this is good enough. But most of us cherish our individuality (memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings) and we don’t want to accept personal death. The diversity of individual minds is an important part of the unity of Mind, and must be preserved.

Terasem supports cryonics, the preservation of temporarily departed persons’ bodies and brains at very low temperatures until they can be revived by future technologies. It also supports, via its LifeNaut and CyBeRevprojects, personal data storage services for biological samples and “mindfiles,” that will preserve one’s individual consciousness so that it remains viable for possible uploading with consciousness software into a cellular regenerated or bionanotechnological body by future medicine and technology. Mindfiles (there are about 12,000 so far) are stored online. Future AI programs, Terasem believes, will use a mindfile and a person’s DNA to create a digital clone of that person that can interact with future family members and others, and subjectively think and feel that (s)he is the continuation of the original. More on mindfiles in a forthcoming post.

Terasem is open to the possibility of future resurrection of the dead (even those who did not leave mindfiles behind) by “copying them to the future” with exotic future science. We can find hints in the Truths of Terasem, for example: “Souls of our ancestors come back to life when we emulate their lives and their environment.” I am persuaded that a ‘Third Way’ synthesis of science and spirituality, open to the possibility of technological resurrection, is very appealing to both the mind and the heart.

In summary, and in reply to Hank’s article, Terasem extends the aseptic, ultra-rationalist, hard-technology oriented “traditional” formulation of transhumanism with compassion, love, and spirituality. I wish to invite all those who find traditional transhumanism too limited and restrictive to take a look, and I am persuaded that the Terasem approach has much more potential to appeal to the masses.

Martine Rothbtlatt’s talk begins at about min. 40.

My Terasem Joinership video

A sea turtle flies past a Terasem infinity sign in the sky (SN 1987A)

Giulio Prisco

Giulio Prisco is a physicist and computer scientist by training, and a former senior manager in the European space administration. He is now freelancing and based in Budapest.

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