Volume 2, Issue 3
3rd Quarter, 2007

Trajectories to the Heavens

William Sims Bainbridge, Ph.D.

Page 6 of 6

I will end this essay with two high-level points: (1) People today should show more imagination in thinking about the futures they can create. (2) Those few people today who lead in creating radical futures will thereby gain admiration and gratitude from future generations. The corollary of these two points is: Imagination plus gratitude equals immortality.

The idea of transforming Mars into Barsoom, and using it as a stepping stone to the stars, would seem absurd to most citizens of contemporary societies. Okay, where are their great ideas? Admitting that few people may have a taste for the novels Burroughs began writing in 1911, I am quite prepared to produce a design document showing technically how Barsoom could be built on Mars, if not by 2011 then by the second centennial of his first book. What kind of society do you want to build on Mars? Or, to return the focus to transmission of human personalities across immensity to the stars: Where do you want to go? What is your ultimate destination? As every great artist proves, imagination is not enough, because both skill and effort are also required. Yes, we should discipline our imaginations, but at the same time we must nurture them. Beaming datafiles of our personalities into space, as we are beginning to do today, is a brilliant example of something that is technically feasible yet opens new vistas of possibility.

Anyone who participates in the movement to capture, archive, transfer, and emulate personalities in other worlds thereby contributes to the great pioneering effort of our age, the marriage of inner space with outer space. By the mere act of answering questions in the right software system, and beaming the data upward, a person becomes a colonist of the universe. We cannot know with certainty today, which of the pathways to the stars will prove most direct, or which efforts by which people will turn out to have been decisive. I believe that the galactic people of the future will be wise enough to recognize the difficulties faced by us pioneers, and to honor us all, regardless of which specific contribution we made. From their perspective, we are the most important people of the past, not only because we deserve to be reincarnated in partial payment of the great debts the future will owe to us, but also in the hope that our unusual courage and creativity will prove valuable again in future centuries.


bio picDr. William Sims Bainbridge (born October 12, 1940) is an innovative American sociologist who currently resides in Virginia. He is co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and also teaches sociology as a part-time professor at George Mason University. He is also the first Senior Fellow to be appointed by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Bainbridge is most well known for his controversial work on the sociology of religion; recently, however, he has published work studying the sociology of video gaming.


Bainbridge, William Sims. 1984. "Computer Simulations of Cultural Drift," Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 37: 420-429.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 1993. "New Religions, Science and Secularization," pp. 277-292 in The Handbook of Cults and Sects in America, edited by David G. Bromley and Jeffrey K. Hadden. Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2000a. "New Technologies for the Social Sciences," pp. 111-126 in Social Sciences for a Digital World, edited by Marc Renaud. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2000b. "Religious Ethnography on the World Wide Web, " In Religion and the Internet, edited by Jeffrey K. Hadden and Douglas Cowan. Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2002a. "The Spaceflight Revolution Revisited," pp. 39-64 in Looking Backward, Looking Forward, edited by Stephen J. Garber. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2002b. "A Question of Immortality," Analog 122(5): 40-49.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2003. "Massive Questionnaires for Personality Capture," Social Science Computer Review 21 (3): 267-280.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2003. "Religious Opposition to Cloning," Journal of Evolution and Technology, 13, www.jetpress.org/volume 13/bainbridge.html.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2004a. "The Future of the Internet: Cultural and Individual Conceptions," pp. 307-324 in Society Online: The Internet in Context, edited by Philip N. Howard and Steve Jones. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2004b. "Progress toward Cyberimmortality," pp. 107-122 in The Scientific Conquest of Death, edited by Immortality Institute. Libros En Red.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2005a. "The Coming Conflict between Religion and Cognitive Science," pp. 75-87 in Foresight, Innovation, and Strategy: Toward a Wiser Future, edited by Cynthia G. Wagner. Bethesda, Maryland: World Future Society.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2005b. “The Transhuman Heresy,” Journal of Evolution and Technology, 14 (2); http://jetpress.org/volume14/bainbridge.html.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2006a. "Cognitive Technologies," pp. 203-226 in Managing Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno Innovations: Converging Technologies in Society, edited by William Sims Bainbridge and Mihail C. Roco. Berlin: Springer.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2006b. God from the Machine. Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2006c. “Strategies for Personality Transfer,” Journal of Personal Cyberconsciousness 1(4); http://terasemjournals.net/PC0104/bainbridge_01a.html

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2007a. Across the Secular Abyss. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2007b.Nanoconvergence. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Bainbridge, William Sims. 2007c. “The Scientific Research Potential of Virtual Worlds,” Science 317: 472-476.

Bainbridge, William Sims. In press. “Direct Contact with Extraterrestrials via Computer Emulation,” in Culture in the Cosmos, edited by Douglas Vakoch and Albert Harrison.

Burroughs, Edgar Rice, 1917. A Princess of Mars. Chicago: A.C. McClurg.

Heinlein, Robert A. 1950. Farmer in the Sky. New York: Scribner

Stephenson, Neal. 1992. Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books.

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