The concept of Cosmism originated with Nikolai Fedorov, a devout Orthodox Christian and philosopher who mixed in Moscow salons with thinkers such as Tolstoy.
In his major 1906 work, The Philosophy of the Common Task, Fedorov argues that death is an unnatural design flaw in humanity that can be corrected through science. Moreover, until we correct this imbalance, we doom the dead to suffer for eternity under the tyranny of the living.
While Fedorov set the terms, later Cosmists worked out the finer details while expanding their scope. Rocket scientist and astronautics pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was profoundly influenced by his friendship with Fedorov, in particular by the latter’s expansive egalitarianism. Tsiolkovsky’s theory of panpsychism saw the entire universe as a living, sentient, connected organism that inexorably integrated humanity in a process of “positive entropy.” Life and death, according to this line of thought, are mere instances of an infinitely larger, collective being. The spiritualism inherent in this concept is strikingly balanced by its implicit connection to the mass politics of the Bolshevik Revolution.
The goals and vision of the Cosmists are still with us, but they’ve taken an inverted form, as venture capitalists and technofuturists from Musk to Ray Kurzweil and J. Craig Venter still dream of space colonization and human immortality. These latter-day start-up capitalist Cosmists envision a form of immortality and space colonization that would only serve to advance privatized dispossession and the expansion of the capitalist market rather than socialist redistribution of wealth and labor. Sure, Musk can colonize Mars, but we’ll all just be janitors or warehouse workers there. And should the Singularity ever occur, it’s not going to be liberatory, but will more likely just make it easier to enter our timesheets. Capitalist Cosmism would simply be the grim extension of the world as it already exists, an ideology consistent with a late neoliberal world order of accelerated wealth disparity, the intensification of labor time with diminishing pay, and the privatization of every last piece of our bodies and minds.
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