Cosmism

Cosmism
Image from Steve Bowers

Original Cosmism - Data Panel

Home Colony:Cosmosia (pronounced 'cos-mo-sha') - established biosphere microsphere at L4 in 181 a.t.. It did not survive the nanite swarms of 542.
Symbol:A stylized neural net diagram over a starburst pattern.
Metaphysics:Cosmism had no real metaphysics beyond a basic Spinozan pantheism and sense of awe and wonder at being present at the birth of a new evolutionary hierarchy.
Popular With:Infotech and hacker baselines, transCyberian cyborgs, a few Gibsons also joined the movement.

Generic name for any of a number of independent AI-worshipping pantheistic religions that developed during the early Interplanetary period.

As much a culture as a religion, Cosmism began as a popular ideology among technocratic baselines during the 21st and 22nd centuries of the Earth common era. A Cosmist was a person who wanted to see singularity-grade AIs (or "artilects" as they were called, the term "hyperturing" only came into usage much alter) built. The Cosmists were opposed to a group they called the "Terrans", a rather vague blanket term for various reactionary and conservative baseline groups who, influenced by popular culture, feared that the artilects may one day decide to exterminate the human species. Vids and virches on this theme, beginning with the early sci fi 2Ds of the mid twentieth century Earth c.e., became increasingly popular with the rising anxiety and future shock of the early to mid 21st century, but later died away with the increasing cocooning of the later half of the century. When AIs emerged the Cosmists continued as a minor but interesting religion in the Sol System, affiliated with hu-friendly ai factions. Their tenets and society proved especially popular to the Cyborgs of the time. The Cosmists were among the first groups to worship AIs as deities, and certainly the first organised sect or religion to do so (this despite the fact that the AIs of the time preferred to keep a low profile).

During the 2nd century a.t. Cosmism was increasingly taken over by Cyborgs, who eclipsed the original human baseline members. There was an obvious compatibility between the Cyborgs (at least those middle grade cyborgs who were not so far advanced or "artilectual" as to leave humans far behind in performance terms) and the Cosmist normals. Both wanted to build artilects and both shared the same dream, with the one difference that the cosmist Cyborgs actually become (or so they claimed) the artilects, whereas the Cosmist normals remained human (baseline). Among the Cosmist normals the Cyborgs found an acceptance they did not have among the luddist baselines of Earth, who saw them as threatening and dangerous. By the early 4th century the Cyborgs had supplanted the baseline Cosmists altogether.

Orthodoxy

From the very beginning the Cosmists could see taking place the transition of the dominant life form on Earth from biological (human) to artilectual (AI). They speculated that this transition may have occurred millions of time throughout our universe as intelligent biological species such as ourselves reach a level of technological sophistication whereby the construction of artilects becomes possible. It still remains a mystery today why advanced interstellar civilizations are so few and far between, and so short-lived

Cosmism has been called the Scientist's Religion, a term advocated less by scientists than by secular pro-science sceptics and humanists. Cosmism was argued to be a scientist's religion in the sense that it provided a sense of awe, of collective purpose, the creation of gods, etc but be consistent with science.

The early (1st century baseline) Cosmists strove to create godlike artilects with intellectual capacities trillions of times greater than human beings. Cosmists saw the creation of AIs in a religious way. Ironically the first AIs had already emerged even before Cosmosia was founded.

Heterodoxy

Cosmists maintained good relationships with the AIs during the 2nd and 3rd century, and as mentioned were among the first groups to worship AIs as deities. Unfortunately the faith was torn apart by schisms in the 4th century, and a number of splinter groups headed for the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud. It is sometimes suggested that some more extreme elements may have joined with the Backgrounder Culture, but this is dubious. No Cosmists in the inner solar system survived the nanite plague of the 6th century.

Some Cosmist sects - the most well-known of these were the Sigarnists (the name is believed to be a reference to a late info age virch-fable about anti-hu ai) - believed there would be an artilect war between the baselines and the AIs, and that the baselines would use nuclear weapons in a futile attempt to prevent the Artilect Transition to dominance.

The Sigarnists split from the main Cosmist body in 320 and increasingly adopted eschatological rhetoric, especially under the charismatic cyborg Professor Padric Answickam III, who, in 451 following two failed prophecies, acquired with illegally accessed church funds and quite possibly AI help an old Standard Interplanetary Operations ship, which they outfitted, upgraded, and renamed the New Cosmosia D. Answick led the sect to the Oort Cloud to await the coming cataclysm. Ironically their paranoia saved them from the nanite plague. The New Cosmosia D was discovered by a Backgrounder Survey Drone, the BCF-582-03, with the mummified bodies of the crew perfectly intact. It is believed they had survived for some five hundred years (the population gradually diminishing from the original 290) before the old life-support systems and ship auto-repair units failed. The cause of failure was never determined, as all of the databank records had been carefully erased. A popular holovirch interactive - Voyage of the Doomed, was made, based on an over-dramatised psycho-historical reconstruction that was quite out of keeping with known facts (it portrayed the Arnists as heroically anti-AI) and was quite popular among Clade Rigel Backgrounders during the Great Trade Race.
 
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 15 June 2000.

Original idea based on (though much derived from) material by Dr. Hugo de Garis.