The Order of Cosmic Engineers (OCE) is an organized activist group created to use science and technology to engineer the future of human civilization, and ultimately the entire universe, in such a way that it provides the best possible life for every human being.
It was founded by over a dozen activists, authors, speakers, lecturers, scientists, teachers and other academics from within the communities of futurism, transhumanism, extropianism, singularitarianism, and life extension. Because the members and founders live on different continents around the world, meetings are held in virtual worlds so that everyone may attend. To date meetings have been held in Second Life and World of Warcraft. In addition, research expeditions have been conducted into other virtual worlds that might be prototypes of real human futures, notably The Matrix Online and Tabula Rasa.
The Order of Cosmic Engineers is, at the same time, a transhumanist association, a spiritual movement, a space advocacy group, a literary salon, a technology observatory, a think tank, a virtual worlds development group, and a global community of persons willing to take an active role in building a better future. It originated from and still embodies a joyful, action-oriented, dynamically optimistic strand of transhumanism. As such the Order can be distinguished from other strands of transhumanism by its enthusiastic espousal of universe-scale cosmic visions and worldviews, including spiritual sensibilities attendant to such.
It is ruled by standard parliamentary procedure within its founding group which has been named the College of Architects.
Ultimately, by adopting this engineering approach and attitude, the OCE aims to transform the universe into a “magical” realm in the sense of Clarke’s Third Law: a realm where sufficiently advanced technology turns daily reality into what would be considered by most today as a seemingly supernatural ‘magical’ realm.
The foundation of the Order was inspired by a 1981 article of one of its founders, William Sims Bainbridge's: "We need a new spaceflight social movement capable of giving a sense of transcendent purpose to dominant sectors of the society... The human condition is one of extreme absurdity unless fixed in a cosmic context to provide meaning... A species which does conquer the stars will have developed a culture including a cosmic religious faith well-adapted to continue expansion indefinitely... I have suggested that only a transcendent, impractical, radical religion can take us to the stars".
Subsequently, Bainbridge co-organized a series of conferences and edited books on the implications of nanotechnology and on technological convergence. In 2001, a conference supported by the National Science Foundation examined the "Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology" and concluded that nano would have its greatest impact in partnership with other fields of science and technology. This insight led to a conference sponsored by NSF and by the US Department of Commerce, "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance," that first explicitly identified NBIC convergence as the core of a general unification of all branches of science and technology. NBIC stands for the convergence of Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology, and new technologies based in Cognitive science. Three subsequent independent NBIC workshops developed the concept and research agenda further, and on December 2-3, 2003, the National Nanotechnology Initiative Workshop confirmed that convergence was crucial for nanotechnology. In 2007, Bainbridge published Nanoconvergence, which explained how the social sciences could join the NBIC convergence to build a replacement for religion, and Across the Secular Abyss, evaluating the challenge of evolving beyond traditional religion.
The Order of Cosmic Engineers was announced at the Second Life Conference on the Future of Religion on June 5, 2008, and officially launched with a ceremony in World of Warcraft on June 14, 2008, associated with the first scientific conference in World of Warcraft "Convergence of the Real and the Virtual" held the previous month.
At the Terasem’s 4th Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology in Second Life on Sunday, July 20, 2008, international spokesperson of the Lifeboat Foundation Philippe Van Nedervelde, also executive director of the European Foresight Institute and one of the founding members of the Order of Cosmic Engineers, gave a presentation on Awaken The Universe -- Introducing the Order of Cosmic Engineers. Van Nedervelde's text was later adapted in article format and published by the Terasem Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology.
The first issue of the print magazine Flux of the Rathenau Institute, an independent organization that concerns itself with issues on the interface between science, technology and society, and that provides politicians with timely and well-considered information, describes the Order of Cosmic Engineers as ‘a new transhumanistic organization that (amongst other things) aims to give people a scientifically sound ‘warm, accessible’ alternative to the ‘emotional chill’ that has arisen due to the disappearance of religion’.
The Associazione Italiana Transumanisti welcomed on its Web site the establishment of the Order, which described the group as "keen on the most playful, speculative and visionary aspects of transhumanism, with a strong focus on VR worlds".. Previously, the establishment of the Order had been covered by the Italian technology blog and newsletter Estropico .
In January 2009 the Order has published a statement, titled YES! to transhumanism, in support of transhumanist values.
Founders & Architects
The founders and Architects of the Order of Cosmic Engineers include:
- William Sims Bainbridge (author, scientist and activist)
- Howard Bloom (author and activist)
- Riccardo Campa (author and activist)
- Stephen Euin Cobb (author, columnist, and host of The Future and You)
- Ben Goertzel (author, scientist, AI pioneer and activist)
- Max More (author and activist)
- David Pearce (author, professor, philosopher and activist)
- Giulio Prisco (author, entrepreneur and activist)
- Martine Rothblatt (author, entrepreneur and activist)
- Philippe Van Nedervelde (author, entrepreneur and activist)
- Natasha Vita-More (author, lecturer and activist)
Despite choosing a name and organizational structure modeled after religious fraternal organizations (such as the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis), the Order of Cosmic Engineers claims that it does not qualify as a defacto religion because it has no dogmatic belief system. As much as the Order enthusiastically espouses universe-scale cosmic visions and worldviews, including spiritual sensibilities attendant to such, it does not view itself as a religion nor a faith nor a church nor a sect nor a cult, but a "conviction-based organization". It describes itself as the world's first "UNreligion of science".
Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith has criticized some of the ideas that led to the establishment of the Order of Cosmic Engineers as "a quasi religion that seeks to use science in ways for which the great method is not meant".. Smith's arguments have been expanded by other authors such as technocritic Dale Carrico. The same authors have reacted negatively to the YES! to transhumanism manifesto.
Science fiction writer Charles Stross has criticized the Order of Cosmic Engineers for "trying to develop a human-centric teleological model of the future of the cosmos that's descended from Christian eschatology -- essentially Christianity without the whole bundle of biblical superstitions, but with new and improved superstitions of their own".
- "Religions for a Galactic Civilization". 2008.
- "Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology" (PDF).
- "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance" (PDF).
- "Managing Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno Innovations" (PDF).
- "Report of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Workshop, December 2-3, 2003" (PDF).
- Bainbridge, William Sims. 2007. Across the Secular Abyss: From Faith to Wisdom. Lanham, MD: Lexington.
- Bainbridge, William Sims. 2007. Nanoconvergence: The Unity of Nanoscience, Biotechnology, Information Technology, and Cognitive Science. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- "MTA: Giulio Prisco To Present in Second Life Conference on the Future of Religion".
- "Science: Slaying Monsters for Science".
- "IEET: Report on Terasem’s Geoethical Nano Conf in SL".
- "Awaken The Universe - Presentation of the Order of Cosmic Engineers in Second Life, GN4 workshop".
- "Terasem Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology".
- "Flux magazine, Rathenau institute, october 2008".
- "Flux magazine, Rathenau institute, october 2008, Dutch language version".
- "Nasce l'Ordine degli Ingegneri Cosmici (The Order of Cosmic Engineers is Born)".
- "Tecnosalvazione, transumanismo e religione".
- "YES! to Transhumanism".
- "The Future and You - August 27, 2008 Episode".
- "The Future and You - August 13, 2008 Episode".
- "IEET: Considerations on the development of the transhumanist movement".
- "Secondhand Smoke: Give Me That New Transhumanist Religion".
- "Amor Mundi: The Superlative Summary".
- "Amor Mundi: Yes!Trons Defending "The Transhumanist Core" from the HumanityPlusTrons".
- "In space nobody will have to poop".
- "Charles Stross: That old-time new-time religion".