As transhumanism and its quest to achieve indefinite lifespans through science moves more into the mainstream, questions of whether there's any room for spirituality in the movement abound. The answer seems to be a resounding "yes."
Transhumanism spirituality revolves around how technology can impact the greater truths our species faces, including whether a God exists or not, or even theistcideism-the idea that God might have once existed, but no longer does.
Terasem is one of the largest transhumanist communities in the world, exploring these questions while embracing radical science and technology to overcome death. Founded by multi-millionaire transgender tech entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt, Terasem is based in Central Florida, right on the Atlantic Ocean. From the outside, it looks like a normal building, but inside it looks like an ashram-and most people, including employees, call it that.
As a transhumanist presidential candidate, my journey to Terasem began when I was invited to speak at Terasem's Annual Colloquium of the Law of Futuristic Persons in Second Life. While I knew about Second Life - the online environment where people build virtual worlds - embarrassingly, I'd never actually been in it.
Lori Rhodes, who helps manage Terasem, told me not to worry, and invited my campaign crew to visit.
We were joined by Terasem Pastor Gabriel Rothblatt, Martine's son and also a former Democratic candidate for Congress. Gabriel is a well-known spiritual transhumanist.
Gabriel told me, "The end goal of Terasem is similar to other religions - these ideas of joyful immortality in the afterlife. But for us it's not simply a spiritual concept, it's a mechanical challenge. Technology could one day make this a reality through digital backups - the idea of transferring a person's consciousness on to a hard drive, which could then be placed into quasi-utopian conditions. Heaven could be a virtual reality world hosted on a computer server somewhere."
People in the Terasem community upload details of their daily lives and thoughts in hopes of recreating themselves one day, or just leave a lasting legacy in the future digital world. A few hundred people have mindfiles, and their information is kept securely on servers at Terasem, and backed up elsewhere around the world.
Anthony Cuthbertson, an embedded International Business Times who joined the Terasem tour, wrote:
" The so-called mindfiles include personality profiles, biographical information and memories in the form of photos and other media. For now it is more like a digital scrapbook but it is hoped that advances in artificial intelligence could one day turn these mindfiles into what can be considered human consciousness. Indeed, one of its mantras is 'software people are people too'.
The property includes a few large antennas, where the mindfiles are spacecasted, on the off chance that other life forms might pick them up (also just to get the data circulating throughout the universe, which in itself is a small piece of immortality for humans).
In addition to mindfiles, many Terasem supporters are, naturally, believers in other life extension technologies. Most Terasem members also want to use cryonics, where dead patients are frozen for long periods of time as they wait for new medical technologies to revive and cure them.
If the the cryonics freezing procedure accidentally damages parts of a patient's brains and memories, the mindfiles could theoretically be useful in helping determine who they are and once were.
With a little help from artificial intelligence, mindfiles may one day have a mind of their own. A hanful of companies, including Eternime andETER9, are attempting to create mindfile-like platforms that can use artificial intelligence to post as you indefinitely on social networks. For some, this is scary stuff, but for others this might mean watching the avatar of one's deceased friend, parent, or child continue some form of existence, even if it's just in social media.
At Terasem, staffers prepare an amazing organic vegetarian lunch. A few filmmakers are present, recording everything. The lunch conversation is light, and I can't help but notice the large antennas just in view of the windows to the sea. It makes me wonder if the video being taken of our lunch - and even the words I've written here - will one day be used to help reconstitute someone at the table, or even myself. If so, I'm all for it.