It appears to me that a single idea transpires through Isaac Asimov’s “New Guide to Science”, Carl Sagan’s book “Cosmos” and many more: this idea is Cosmism.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was a true legend, the inventor of astronautic and a pioneer of conceptualization of space exploration. He was anchored in the tradition of Russian Cosmism.
The (Soviet) film about him “Road to the Stars” was used (copied?) in several parts by Kubrick for his “2001:A Space Odyssey” as some researchers maintain.
At that time (mid 1950s) Soviet space research had the lead. Stalin had passed away since only 4 years when the Sputnik was launched: it was his posthumous triumph, for the good or for the bad.
Transhumanism is just the name we now give to this collection of ideas. They were well spread back then. Also thanks to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (see here and here)
Notable ideas here: “zoo hypothesis” in
1) Ball, J.A. The Zoo Hypothesis, Icarus, 1973
2) Kuiper and Morris, Extraterrestrial Intelligence: An Observational Approach, Science, 1977
There was a point in which the AI community adopted Chomsky grammars. Grammars are Cartesian universals.
The other approach (N. Wiener) would have been to use feedback control system (later: stochastic control) to interpret learning. It did not happen. It is happening now. Big data, correlation based strategies. Deep learning.
This very interesting article by David Auerbach about Summa Technologiae by S. Lem captures exactly this transition: the interaction in living systems, of on the one hand ORDER STRUCTURE SIGNAL and on the other morphism (in the sense of J. Lanier), PLASTICITY, NOISE.
This dyadic structure is everywhere:
- in educational systems (rigidity vs. creativity): Freud’s “Unbehagen in der Kultur” vs. Malinowski, Engels and Wilhelm Reich;
- in the definition of formal languages (grammar based a’ la Chomsky vs. feedback based a’ la Turing, Piaget, and mostly Wiener)
- in the ideas underlying political structures of the modern world: “for Lem, communism and capitalism are delusional twin faiths: communism, that we can collectively and centrally control chance and causality; capitalism, that chance and causality will intrinsically prove benevolent and productive for us.” (D. Auerbach)
See “Un paradiso Perduto”, by Marcello Cini and of course N. Wiener’s “Cybernetics” and “The Human Use of Human Beings”.
Robert K. Merton, in Science Technology and Society in XVII Century England makes the point that Reformation, since it helped promote the idea that one had to follow his judgement as regards faith and not official doctrine, at the same time created the right subversive attitude towards traditional culture in general, by giving men the input to use their own reason to investigate the Ipse Dixit. Catholic Countries, as well as missing this positive feedback, got also the negative one of a institution that programmatically enforced double think, lying and undefensible positions. See Brecht, Leben des Galileo.That is why Southern European Countries lost their lead.
See als Russell, HWP. D. Cantimori, Eretici Italiani and A. Prosperi, Tribunali Della Coscienza
F. De Sanctis knew all of this (of course) very well. The fact is, post 1861 Italian state was under the control of optimates who had a clear agenda of reforms based on the French Revolution. See Legge Casati and Leggi di Eversione dell’Asse Ecclesiastico.
With the entrance of “people without history” in the political arena, ``hoi polloi” (compare Ortega’s “Rebellion of the masses”), the average level of consciousness about such issues lowered dramatically and in Italy we landed into Art. 7 in the 1948 Constitution.
Capitano Ercoli – i.e. Palmito Togliatti, leader of PCI – was in Spain in 1936-1939, so he knew what it would mean to attempt a secular government in Italy. He understood it right – according to me, and forced the PCI to vote for art 7. That was Gramsci’s “Guerra di posizione”, i.e “Attrition Warfare”.