I’ve neglected this blog due to getting pulled into the massive research/writing black hole which the last few posts have led me into. I want to come all the way through the hole before sharing the white dwarf; so in the meantime, here are a few tidbits that our research has turned up, and which may go some way to answering Debbie’s question: “What does all this Changing Images of Man/SRI stuff have to do with Whitley Strieber?”
What follows are quotes from articles by or about William Sims Bainbridge, the American sociologist and transhumanist.
“During the twentieth century, the proportion of the general population involved in agriculture declined rapidly, and society became heavily urban. This profound shift may have reduced the opportunities for new communal sects that try to re-create essentially medieval agrarian communities, without necessarily reducing the opportunities for more radical communal cults. This suggests that utopian ambivalence toward nature is increasing, with some groups embracing the Earth while others try to escape it. The sect–cult distinction is only a matter of degree, however, and either kind of group can evolve back toward conventional society. For example, the Amana sect became a household appliance corporation, and the Oneida cult became a silverware corporation.
“Acknowledging the instability that comes from their experimental character, we can learn much from utopian religious communes about building sustainable society in harmony with the environment. Their transcendent ideals and social cohesion allow them to work cooperatively for shared goals. The material lifestyle of successful communes tends to emphasize efficiency rather than luxury, and their need for social harmony causes many of them to develop effective means for controlling the birth rate. Humanity needs brotherhood and harmony with nature, so utopian religious communes can provide valuable myths for the twenty-first century and beyond.”
William Sims Bainbridge, http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/bron/ern/U.pdf
Uploading Life: Send Your Personality to Space (June 28, 2001)
“The gradual merging of human beings with their computers over the next century gives rise to the prospect of interstellar immortality, said William Sims Bainbridge at a recent George Washington University Space Policy Institute symposium.
“Cognitive neural science, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and information systems may allow the founding of a cosmic civilization, a possibility that does not require flying living human bodies and all the necessities of life to other planets.
“The technology already exists to start archiving personalities, albeit at low fidelity. We can begin now to make digital, audio/visual copies of a person’s perceptions, speech and behavior. In years to come, the ability to reanimate human personalities at ever-higher fidelity is a sure bet, Bainbridge said.
“That archive is what Bainbridge, author of the seminal work in the mid-1970s, The Spaceflight Revolution, calls Starbase. “Only a goal as valuable as eternal life can motivate investment in substantial scientific infrastructure on the Moon or Mars,” Bainbridge said.
“Starbase modules, filled with archived but active personalities of crew and colonists, could also make the first interstellar excursions. On their arrival, the crews need not waste time setting up terraforming operations. Rather, the colonists would adapt and thrive in whatever environment they are dealt. Follow-on waves of colonists can be dispatched as “radioed datafiles” across interstellar space, Bainbridge said.
“In future centuries, Starbase archives sent throughout the galaxy can be resurrected into robots, clones or cyborgs, Bainbridge said.
“By offering the stars to people living today, the second wave of the spaceflight movement would be spurred into being, Bainbridge said. The future demands a powerful, motivational force to create interplanetary and interstellar civilizations, he said, and a new spaceflight social movement can get us moving again.”
For the Marvel Comics supervillain with this name, see Infomorph (comics).
The term Infomorph refers to a consciousness uploaded or downloaded into a computer ( mind transfer) from a biological entity. A concept primarily used in science fiction, it has appeared in various guises:
in novels like Frederik Pohl’s Gateway series and Poul Anderson’s Genesis (to name a very few)
on TV series such as X-Files, Star Trek: The Next Generation (Ira Graves) and Red Dwarf ( Arnold Rimmer)
on roleplaying games, such as Transhuman Space and the MMORPG Eve Online (where the skill infomorph psychology allows a character to transfer themselves between multiple jump clones of their original body).
Sociocracy: The Objective?
‘The revelation of the MJ-12 documents helped to edify the religious convictions of many UFO cults. Suddenly, an artifact promising to affirm the cosmic presuppositions of UFO true believers had conveniently appeared. More and more, likeminded UFO adherents and contactees were assembling to form scientistic cults. In turn, these scientistic cults have been central to the emergence of what sociologist William Sims Bainbridge calls the “Church of God Galactic.” Essentially, Bainbridge’s “Church of God Galactic” is a theocracy premised upon the technocratic faith in “progress.” It is a religion that is politically and socially expedient because of its emphasis upon unfettered technological development. Commenting on the supposed centrality of this scientistic faith to progress, Bainbridge states:
‘Religion will continue to influence the course of progress, and creation of a galactic civilization may depend upon the emergence of a galactic religion capable of motivating society for the centuries required to accomplish that great project. (“Religions for a Galactic Civilization,” no pagination)
‘According to Bainbridge, a galactic civilization requires a new galactic religion. Scientistic cults, particularly UFO cults, are the purveyors of this new religious consciousness and they are contributing to the creation of a new theocratic order. Bainbridge reiterates:
‘J. Gordon Melton’s monumental Encyclopedia of American Religions reports the histories and doctrines of thirteen flying saucer cults: Mark-Age, Brotherhood of the Seven Rays, Star Light Fellowship, Universariun Foundation, Ministry of Universal Wisdom, White Star, Understanding Incorporated, The Aetherius Society, Solar Light Center, Unarius, Cosmic Star Temple, Cosmic Circle of Friendship, and Last Day Messengers. These groups mix together various supernatural notions from many other traditions, but a common thread is the idea that the Earth is but a small part of a vast inhabited galaxy. Some, like The Aetherius Society, contend that our planet is the pawn in an unseen interstellar war, and if such a cult became influential our society might invest in cosmic defenses which incidentally would develop the planets as bastions. Others feel we must perfect ourselves in order to qualify for membership in the Galactic Federation of enlightened species, and if such a cult became influential our society might invest much in the attempt to contact the galactic government. These flying saucer cults are all quite insignificant, but one like them could well rise to prominence in a future decade. We need several really aggressive, attractive space religions, meeting the emotional needs of different segments of our population, driving traditional religions and retrograde cults from the field. (No pagination; emphasis added)
‘Thus, for a galactic society to truly take shape, new UFO cults must consistently clear the religious marketplace and erect a new theocratic order. Sociologists like Bainbridge have actually suggested that the social sciences should augment the efforts of scientistic cults in the formation of this new theocratic order. Bainbridge conducted a five-year ethnographic study of the Process Church, a satanic cult birthed from a schism within the scientistic cult of Scientology (“Social Construction from Within: Satan’s Process,” no pagination). During his examination of the Processeans, Bainbridge developed a great deal of affinity for the cultists’ penchant for re-conceptualizing the roles of God and Satan in accordance with their Hegelian theology (no pagination). This case of Biblical revisionism inspired Bainbridge and, since then, he has encouraged sociologists to take an active part in the re-conceptualizing of traditional religious concepts. It is his hope that such religious experimentation will eventually result in the creation of a “Church of God Galactic.” In “New Religions, Science, and Secularization,” Bainbridge presents the following mandate:
“It is time to move beyond mere observation of scientistic cults and use the knowledge we have gained of recruitment strategies, cultural innovation, and social needs to create better religions than the world currently possesses. At the very least, unobtrusive observation must be supplemented by active experimentation. Religions are human creations. Our society quite consciously tries to improve every other kind of social institution, why not religion? Members of The Process, founded mainly by students from an architecture school, referred to the creation of their cult as religious engineering, the conscious, systematic, skilled creation of a new religion.
“I propose that we become religious engineers . . . Sociologists of religion are among the most ethical and high-minded of scholars, and there is no reason why they should not apply their knowledge to the creation of new religions. The world needs them. We have roles to play as consultants to existing new religions, helping them solve problems that our research has permitted us to understand. But we must be prepared to launch cults of our own invention, a task I admit is both hazardous to one’s own welfare and outrageous in the eyes of people who refuse to admit that all religions are human creations. But it is far better for honest religious engineers to undertake the creation of new religions for the sake of human betterment than to leave the task to madmen and wealth-hungry frauds”.
William Bainbridge also said this: “Techniques such as genetic engineering, psychoactive drugs and electronic control of the brain make possible a transformation of the species into docile, fully-obedient, ‘safe’ organisms.”
“If we make the correct decisions and investments today, any of these visions could be achieved within twenty years’ time. Moving forward simultaneously along many of these paths could achieve a golden age that would be a turning point for human productivity and quality of life. Technological convergence could become the framework for human convergence (Ostrum et al. 2002). The twenty-first century could end in world peace, universal prosperity, and evolution to a higher level of compassion and accomplishment. It is hard to find the right metaphor to see a century into the future, but it may be that humanity would become like a single, distributed and interconnected “brain” based in new core pathways of society. This will be an enhancement to the productivity and independence of individuals, giving them greater opportunities to achieve personal goals.”
See more here.