Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science, NSF/DOC-sponsored report edited by Mihail C. Roco and William Sims Bainbridge.
This is part of a lecture given at a conference held in Ottawa, Canada, October, 1999, and sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.
Deceased people can live again in cyberspace. It is certainly far beyond current technical capability to transfer the neural net of a human brain into a computer, and this may never be possible. But already it is possible to record some aspects of a person's memory and personality, and to simulate some aspects of a person's behaviour.
Ethnography, the systematic documentation of a culture, can be carried
out over the World Wide Web, employing either observation or informant
techniques. A series of online ethnographic questionnaires, administered by
The Question Factory, collected material for 90 afterlife items and 100
future of religion items. The ultimate aim is to create a
questionnaire-based system for uploading aspects of a human personality into
a computer database for long-term storage, reanimation, and potential
Actual everlasting life will be possible in the near future, using a combination of advanced technologies that have been developed for other purposes. The process will be complex, but in outline form it consists of four stages. First, you will be recorded: all your memories, personality, skills, physical characteristics and genetic inheritance. Second, this information will be entered into a vast computerized data base, so that future generations can draw upon your experiences and you can continue to be part of this world after your death. Third, your data will be transported by robot spacecraft to the solar system of a distant star, where a new colony is to be established. Fourth, you will be reconstituted from the recording and begin a new life in a fresh, young body as a colonist of the new world.
This article illustrates how personality capture can be accomplished through 20,000 questionnaire items culled from responses to open-ended online questions, content analysis of existing verbal or textual material, and using words from dictionaries, encyclopedias, and thesauri. This approach enables detailed idiographic study of a single individual, based on fresh measurement items and scales derived from the ambient culture.
Our culture's conception of the future of Internet will illustrate how novel surveys can archive aspects of an individual's personality - a new application that has begun to appear on Internet and may have much greater significance in the future. The research reported here is based in the tradition of computer-administered surveys, but it reverses the conventional relationship between social scientist and research subject. Instead of having one person compose a questionnaire to be answered by a thousand subjects, thousands of people provided input over Internet to create a questionnaire for a single respondent.
Published in a book titled Religious Movements and edited by Rodney Stark.
Cult is culture writ small. We can learn much about the generation of culture by studying religious cults, and by applying concepts from evolutionary biology to understand the processes that make them change.
Presented at the NBIC Convergence 2003 conference, and in press.
Now, for the first time, it is possible to unify the sciences of culture, drawing on inspiration and practical help from biology and information technology. Convergence of evolutionary biology, information science, and cognitive science creates new approaches to understanding and classification in areas as diverse as space technology, the arts, and nanotechnology. The rapid rise of computer and information science has provided both valuable new applications and extremely effective research tools.
Published in a book in the NASA History Series and given at a symposium of the Space Policy Institute.
This essay first considers whether technological breakthroughs in space
technology and the rational motives of ordinary institutions have the
capacity to break out of the relatively static situation in which the
spaceflight movement finds itself. Then it surveys the roles that social
movements of various kinds might play, and concludes with an examination of
one particular nascent movement - StarBase Immortality - that might possibly
build the foundation for a spacefaring civilization.
This essay argues that exploration and colonization of the universe cannot be achieved by the ordinary operation of day-to-day social forces and institutions but require a radical spaceflight social movement. The social history of rocketry demonstrates that the moon never would have been visited, were it not for the perilous machinations of the first phase of the Spaceflight Movement. At present the movement is weak, although new military rivalries, evidence of extraterrestrial life or a space-oriented religious crusade could reinvigorate it. The earthbound governments that currently set modest space policies may have to be transcended or abandoned.
This is the introductory section of a book about the social movement that created space rocketry.
Spaceflight was not achieved to serve mundane economic, military or scientific motives. Rather, it was a radical revolution, led by such pioneers as Wernher von Braun who exploited social condititions to achieve a transcendent goal. If von Braun had not succeeded in building the V-2 rocket for Hitler, the Spaceflight Revolution would probably have failed, because competing military technologies were developing rapidly. Thomas Kuhn's distinction between normal science and revolutionary science can be applied to space technology. The development of multi-stage liquid-fuel rockets was a revolutionary technological change, brought about through social processes that operated outside the conventional market mechanisms.
This article was published in the issue of Analog commemorating the tenth anniversay of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Analysis of opinion poll data indicates that American citizens give only rather weak support to the space program, but a new survey of 225 Seattle voters provides a more detailed and optimistic understanding of attitudes toward specific aspects of the space program. The research identified five different groups of justifications for space development: information including scientific knowledge, economic or industrial benefits, military applications, emotional or idealistic motives, and colonization of outer space. These five sets of justifications constitute the ideology of spaceflight.
Pages 1-29 of Goals in Space: American Values and the Future of Technology.
This book delineates the values spaceflight holds for American culture and identifies more than a hundred specific goals in space that Americans find plausible. Based on approximately 4,000 questionnaires, it reports both the precise words through which our culture discusses space and the statistical correlations that link the specific ideas in the public mind. Beyond the practical benefits that exploitation of near-Earth orbit has given our economy and communications system, it probes for idealistic and long-term goals that have begun to have meaning for members of our society. Utilitarian motives may keep the space program aloft, but there is serious question whether they alone can drive it to new heights of achievement.
This article identifies the general qualities of young people who want to go to Mars, based on data from an innovative web-based survey carried out late in 1998 by the National Geographic Society, with responses from 3,185 youngsters aged 13-15.
This paper was originally given at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, New York City, August 20, 1996. It was subsequently presented to participants at two meetings: "Shared Future: The Prospects of Revolution" (Asian Forum Japan, Tokyo, Japan, September 2-6, 1996) and "Nonlinear Dynamics in the Behavioral and Social Sciences" (National Research Council, Washington, D.C., November 15-16, 1996), and published as a book chapter in 1997.
This theoretical essay considers the possible meaning to sociology of a perspective that has gained some ground in cosmology and philosophy and that is linked to concepts in other fields such as chaos and complexity in mathematics and evolution by natural selection in biology. The anthropic principle explains the characteristics of the universe by stating that only
in such a universe could observers come into being and ask why the universe has the characteristics it does. In cosmology, the anthropic argument has been employed to explain why a number of physical constants have the values they do, but it can be applied to the nature of the social world as well. Applied to formal deductive theory in sociology, the anthropic principle identifies an historical moment, which we call the omicron point, when human beings first effectively asked the question of why the universe has characteristics suitable for the evolution of intelligent life. A discussion of three alternative scenarios then considers the possibilities for social evolution after this omicron point. The essay concludes that the very nature of existence demands human expansion into the cosmos.
Published in Journal of the British Interplanetary Society
The results of a sociological survey of 1,465 American college students provide the first detailed analysis of the social and ideological factors which influence support for CETI, thereby suggesting ways that support might be increased.
Published in The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics.
An international social movement has emerged which advocates an attempt to achieve communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, CETI, and some consideration of linguistic issues is a necessary preparation for it.
This paper was given at the Nineteenth Goddard Memorial Symposium of the
American Astronautical Society, Pentagon City, Virginia, March 26-27, 1981,
and published as a book chapter the following year.
While much has been written about the power of science fiction to
suggest and urge technological innovations, its power to stimulate religious
innovation has been ignored. The greatest social impact of science fiction
over the next century may well be its ability to develop new myths,
appropriate to our changing times. This article will first argue that a
Galactic Religion may be needed to motivate our society to achieve
interstellar colonization and communication. Then we shall see that
candidate religions can in fact be generated by science
According to widely held views about secularization, science is
progressively eroding the plausibility of religion, and after some years
this inexorable process will lead to the extinction of faith in the
supernatural. A very different scenario seems more likely, however. New
religions will arise, taking some of their metaphors and inspiration from
science, and establish a symbiotic relationship. Among the organizations
that bridge between science and religion are Transcendental Meditation,
Scientology, and The Committee for the Future. But scientistic religions of
the future may be even more successful, an imaginary example being
Experimentalism, that draws upon quantum cosmology, the anthropic principle,
and the possibility of interstellar travel to offer new hope for spiritual
For Processeans, Satan was no crude beast but an intellectual principle by which God could be unfolded into several parts, accomplishing the repaganization of religion and the remystification of the world.
Religious Insanity in America: The Official Nineteenth-Century Theory, Sociological Analysis 1984, 45, 3:223-240.
Discovery of hitherto untouched data from the 1860 census, giving supposed cause of insanity for 2,258 inmates of 17 asylums, provides the opportunity for exploring the alleged role of religion in producing insanity.
This is the introductory section of the concluding chapter of a textbook on religious movements, published in 1997.
Highlighting the religious aspects, this section is a synopsis of the Star Wars trilogy of motion pictures. The Jedi knights of Star Wars are warrior priests, following the creed of the Force. In the advanced, interstellar society to which they belong, religion exists only in minor backwaters, and a universal religion can exist only if its beliefs are actually true.
"The Analytical Laboratory, 1938-1976," Analog, January 1980, Vol. C. No. 1 (Fiftieth Anniversary Issue) pages 121-134.
From March 1938 through October 1976, stories in every issue of Astounding Science Fiction, renamed Analog in 1960, were rated in a readers' poll called the Analytical Laboratory. This article analyzes the fascinating literary data buried in the 464 "Labs" that were published, covering twenty-five hundred fiction items.
"The Impact of Science Fiction on Attitudes Toward Technology" in: Science Fiction and Space Futures, edited by Eugene M. Emme. San Diego: American Astronautical Society, 1982, pages 121-135.
This article analyzes the ideological impact of science fiction, using data from large questionnaire surveys. The mode of analysis is standard correlational opinion research. The first of the two main studies was carried out at the 1978 World Science Fiction Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, where 595 dedicated members of the science fiction subculture were willing to complete a lengthy questionnaire. The second survey was administered in 1979 to 1,439 students at the University of Washington, leading research and teaching institution in the Pacific Northwest
"The Shape of Science Fiction" by William Sims Bainbridge and Murray Dalziel, Science-Fiction Studies, 5:2, July 1978, pages 164-171.
This article presents the chief results of a quantitative analysis of the relationships perceived by readers among twenty-seven authors and several types of literature. So that our statistical findings will be generally intelligible, we have presented them in four charts, analogous to maps of physical territory, defining the shape of science fiction.
"New Maps of Science Fiction," by William Sims Bainbridge and Murray M. Dalziel, Analog Yearbook, 1977, pages 277-299.
This article describes some of the most basic and most modern techniques of sociological survey analysis, demonstrating them with data provided by science fiction fans, arriving at a scientific sketch of science fiction literature.
Religions are systems of true lies or general compensators. To define religion as "systems of general compensators based on supernatural assumptions" is to acknowledge the complex psychological motivations, social interactions, and cultural institutions that construct and sustain faith. People seek rewards, often in exchange with each other, and when they lack a reward desired by their exchange partners, they frequently offer compensators instead. By invoking supernatural assumptions, people prevent their exchange partners from empirically evaluating these secondary compensators.
Pp. 178-191 in Handbook of Religious Conversion, edited by H. Newton Malony and Samuel Southard. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press, 1992.
This is a survey of the main epirical evidence and chief theories (strain theory and social influence theory) of why people convert from one religious affiliation (or lack of affiliation) to membership in a new religious group.
"Social Influence and Religious Pluralism," Advances in Group Processes, 1995, Volume 12, pages 1-18.
This essay reconsiders the current sociological debate whether the proportion of the population affiliated with religious groups is increased or decreased by the diversity of denominations available in the community.
Social Science Computer Review 12:2, Summer 1994, pp. 183-192.
Consideration of four possible grand computing challenges in sociology suggests that progress will come from wholly fresh approaches, rather than from mere improvements in current kinds of social science computing.
Social Science Computer Review 13:2, Summer 1995, pp. 171-182.
We envision the National Information Infrastructure as a global network of computer communications, which will evolve out of the Internet, linking all social scientists to massive digital libraries and to myriad smaller distributed data sources containing information of every imaginable sort. Five workshops have charted applications of high-performance computing in the social and behavioral sciences: cognitive science, computational geography, computational economics, artificial social intelligence, and electronic networks. A survey of SBER programs revealed that many are helping to create the information infrastructure, and substantial investment in six "flagship" digital library projects will develop the systems necessary for the NII of the 21st century.
"Sociology on the World Wide Web," Social Science Computer Review 13:4, Winter 1995.
The essay examines how the Web is being used to distribute social data sets and scholarly publication. Sociologists are only beginning to become critical of the potential social harm of the universal net, however, and to take advantage of research opportunities to study net society.