Turing Church newsletter 9/24/2021

Turing Church news, thoughts on Inspiration4 & spaceflight, reading list.

Greetings to our about 60 subscribers, and special greetings to the full (paid) subscribers! I consider paid subscriptions as donations, and therefore most posts and podcast episodes are free for all and sent to all subscribers. But full subscribers deserve something more, and therefore some content will be for them only.

I plan to publish one newsletter and one podcast episode per week (but please don’t expect me to follow this rule strictly), plus one (or occasionally two) stand-alone posts per week. Not more than that because I don’t want to invade your mailbox too often. I’ll still publish other posts in the older website turingchurch.net, with links and summaries in this newsletter.

Now that I have redirected this domain my writings before 2016 have disappeared from the web. Most of those writings have been adapted for my books (see the About page), and I’ll republish others in turingchurch.net. For example, I have republished an archive of some old pages about the Order of Cosmic Engineers, a Turing Church precursor that was active before 2010.

Inspiration 4 you, 4 me and 4 all of us

The night sky doesn’t look the same now that four ordinary persons have been to space and orbited the Earth for three days in the private Inspiration4 mission.

Well, perhaps not that ordinary. One of the four astronauts, Jared Isaacman, is an extraordinary superman. He dropped out of school at 16 and went on to build a successful tech business and become a billionaire. But life was still too boring so he wanted a hobby on the side and learned to fly all sorts of aircraft including fighter jets. Then he funded and commanded Inspiration4. And he’s still very young (38) so I’m sure he’ll do many other extraordinary superman-like things.

Watch “Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space” on Netflix for the backstory of Isaacman and the other three astronauts. I have avidly watched the first four episodes before the mission and I look forward to watching the finale with a recap of the mission on September 30.

The mission has given people all over the planet inspiration to build our future in space. It has been argued, notably by Catherine Newell, that the Apollo program faded out because what the people really wanted was a future where “space was populated by them, by regular people who within a generation or less were going to transplant their suburban lifestyles to the Moon, to Mars, to Saturn’s moon Titan…” See Chapter 6 of my book “Futurist spaceflight meditations” for more.

I’m persuaded that easier and cheaper spaceflight will open up the solar system to ordinary people, and then open up wonderful interstellar and cosmic futures (Chapters 8 and 9 of my book). Newell emphasizes the spiritual aspects of spaceflight and our “deep-seated belief in a sense of divine destiny to reach the heavens.” And so do I.

The successful fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, linked to Inspiration4, should dispel the cheap myth that spaceflight and humanitarian concerns are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, spaceflight and other important causes (e.g. environmental, social…) can, should, and must advance together.

I’m a big fan of private spaceflight, but I’m not a private spaceflight fundamentalist. I am a spaceflight fundamentalist (without qualifiers), which means that I’m persuaded that we must start expanding beyond the Earth as soon and as fast as possible before it’s too late. Period. Therefore, I welcome all actors to play any role that they can play, including NASA and the government. And including China.

See my book “Futurist spaceflight meditations” for more related thoughts.


Reading list

Believing in Dawkins: The New Spiritual Atheism” by Eric Steinhart. Steinhart develops a philosophy of spiritual naturalism, inspired by the works of Richard Dawkins but not attributed to Dawkins, to show “that the jobs once done by God can be done by natural entities.” Steinhart continues Dawkins’ works, correcting omissions and mistakes on the way, to build a sanctuary where spiritual naturalists and atheists can feel at home. The spiritual naturalism of Dawkins and Steinhart is very close to my religion, only I don’t call it atheism. On the contrary, since spiritual naturalism offers the mental benefits of religion, first and foremost the possibility of life after death, I call it a religion. See my full review of “Believing in Dawkins” published in turingchurch.net.

The Relativity of All Things: Beyond Spacetime” by Laurent Nottale. Actually I’m reading the French edition “La relativité dans tous ses états: Au-delà de l'espace-temps.” The new English edition has a new preface and an afterword by Charles Alunni. Nottale thinks that spacetime has a fractal structure and this fractal structure is directly responsible for quantum behavior. When I first heard of Nottale a few years ago I was pleased to see him developing ideas that I had been thinking about for some time. I was also disturbed to see his ideas ignored and dismissed by most other scientists. I guess that, while Nottale's core idea is valid and useful, some of his elaborations are not entirely right in detail. But we can say the same of all current scientific ideas. Given that all scientific theories are wrong and will inevitably be replaced by better ones, I think part of the value of a scientific theory lies in its ability to provide starting points and mental models for further research, and I think Nottale's ideas are valuable in this sense.

On Not Dying: Secular Immortality in the Age of Technoscience” by Abou Farman. An anthropologist looks at life extension, cryonics, and the quest for immortality (I never had problems with that word) from historic beginnings all the way up to the prospect of mind uploading. The book includes a short history of transhumanism in Silicon Valley. Parts of the book are not up to date, but the book is good and insightful overall. I like that Farman gives space to the science and philosophy of information, the ideas of some of my favorite thinkers like Bill Bainbridge, Ben Goertzel, and Martine Rothblatt, and the cosmic aspects of transhumanism that overlap with metaphysics and religion. The end point of our quest is (what else?) making matter and the whole universe alive and super-intelligent. Farman also gives space to many critics of our ideas, but I guess that’s only fair.

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