The Church of Perpetual Life, Zombie Philosophers and Russian Cosmism

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November 16th marked the first service of the Church of Perpetual Life in the former Bethel Romanian Methodist Church in Hollywood Florida. The Church’s gospel comes from the Russian Cosmist philosopher Nikolai Federov. Federov held that it is consistent with Divine intentions to use technology to attempt to achieve indefinite longevity and even raise the dead. Federov was careful to reserve the caveat that the resurrected would take on a more perfect form which would reflect the intentions of the deceased (unencumbered by physical constraints like scarcity or singularity). In the proud tradition Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the Gospel of Federov allows us to indulge the adolescent fantasy that cloning ancient leaders will lead to recovering some lost insight, or regaining a lost innocence, or perhaps just acing our history exam.

It is easy to imagine even those idealized tulpa or flesh ghola stinking with the funk of obsolescence, corrupted data, the reality of their actualized humanity, and the pure putrefaction of propaganda installed by modern ideologues. Some of the greatest ideas have been suppressed by some of the finest people that have ever lived. What consequence will the persistent influence of a static personality have on a culture? Imagine a contemporary incarnation of Socrates engaging our minds with a profoundly tangible line of discourse which is, however, uniformed by all the work subsequent to his pre-Hellenistic incarnation.

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The idea of the Church of Perpetual Life proselytizing for the nineteenth century version of the Singularity complete with theistic projections like the idea of a singular “Creator” and the obligation to resurrect the dead with technology, has a fantastic steampunk appeal. Our accelerating technological progress should however, naturally, be paced by an ever quickening supply of new philosophical and existential theories and conclusions. By adopting the beliefs of 19th century Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher Nikolai Federov, the Church of Perpetual Life is simply a weird chord subtending the arc of technology’s effect on human religious and philosophical notions.

So what would a legitimate philosophical implication to indefinite longevity be? Prima facia, we can assert that some existential absurdity disappears when we consider the idea of continued living. Certainly dieing, and likely being forgotten rather quickly, complicates any attempt to justify our existence. Indefinite longevity, however, is a premise which might allow us to close that seemingly ineffable question: “Why do I put up with hard times when my life probably doesn’t matter anyway?” with: “Because, tomorrow we may live a better day.” It is like having an infinite bank while playing black-jack, you can guarantee a positive net outcome because you can just keep betting more to cover the losses which preceded the inevitable, eventual, win.

 

3 Responses

  1. Nikolai Fyodorov was one of the greatest futurists of his time. And it’s important to note while Fyodorov considered his own thought consistent with Christianity, Orthodox Russian Christianity definitely didn’t see it the same way, and his philosophy extends far outside the bounds of Russian Christian Orthodox Philosophy. To call him a Russian Orthodox Christian Philosopher is I think misleading at best (despite what Wikipedia says). Moreover, all his thoughts on resurrection and indefinite life extension were grounded in scientific materialism (a.k.a. metaphysical naturalism), and were argued to be possible through scientific and technological means. You don’t give him nearly enough credit in your second last sentence, where you write: “By adopting the beliefs of 19th century Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher Nikolai Federov, the Church of Perpetual Life is simply a weird chord subtending the arc of technology’s effect on human religious and philosophical notions.” You should be describing him as Russian Cosmist and/or Immortalist Philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, not as a Russian Christian orthodox philosopher. His writings weren’t ever incorporated into the rhetoric, literature or even general-thinking of Russian Christian Orthodoxy, or Christian philosophy in general.

    Fyodorov’s work is some seethingly interesting stuff by any atheist or scientific materialist’s standards, especially for his time. And Russian Cosmism is an interesting 19th century philosophy, and some of its foremost figures were really great futurists and scientists as well. Fyodorov was thinking about human cryopreservation and space exploration more than 150 years before either of them were thought of in a modern scientific context (both of them occurred in the 1960s). That’s pretty impressive by my standards. Another prominent figure in Russian Cosmism, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, is often called the father of rocketry and aeronautics. These were smart men with more to say than I think they’re credited for here, especially when, with the words, “By adopting the beliefs of…” you seem to put the ultimate blame on Fyodorov, rather than those who adapted his thought according to the shape of their own. Fyodorov’s work was scientifically rational (e.g. based upon material mechanisms and mediated by science and/or technology) and interesting besides. All 5 times you mention his name, you misspell it. You should at least get his name right. His name is Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, and the anglicized version of his last name is “Fedorov” rather than “Federov”. Also “Prima facia” in the last paragraph should be “Prima facie”.
    I feel like you didn’t read very much by or about Fyodorov before publicly condemning him as philosophically invalid and the source of the supposed shortcomings of some church. The phrase “The Gospel of Federov” is particularly ironic considering that during Fyodorov’s time the overwhelming majority of minds weren’t nearly as scientifically grounded as his – and that’s probably even true for the majority of professional scientists in his time, which is really saying something. Here’s a much better bird’s-eye view of Fyodorov: http://www.iep.utm.edu/fedorov/,

    I actually thought your papers “A Simulation of Evolved Autotrophic Reproduction” and “Braitenberg Simulations as Vehicles of Evolution” were interesting. Judging solely by them, I bet that if you looked into Fyodorov a bit more extensively you’d probably invert your opinion of him. He was a pioneer in many areas of thinking that constitute veritable scientific fields and industries today.

  2. Billy Bitcoin says:

    Nice article.

    Great point: “Our accelerating technological progress should however, naturally, be paced by an ever quickening supply of new philosophical and existential theories and conclusions.”

    I’m reminded of the words of the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “When technological advancement outpaces moral advancement, shit gets real bad, real fast.”

  1. November 20, 2013

    […] Peter   November 16th marked the first service of the Church of Perpetual Life in the former Bethel […]

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