Religion as Transhumanism Predecessor
Several thousand years ago major world religions were invented. As societies moved beyond family and tribal connections and into larger agglomerations they needed some binding force to justify this coexistence and working towards a common goal. Various kinds of ideologies and religions were invented by humans to serve all kinds of purposes in the developing societies.
Apart from a tool to control the masses and make them obey “God’s representative” on sinful soil, religions fulfilled several major goals throughout human history:
- Giving God’s explanation for physical events which had no reasonable scientific explanation before
- Establishing a reasonable set of values by which people can live by
- Giving people meaning in life and a hope for redemption and continuity after death
- An ability to relay responsibility on your life’s faults onto some higher power
Some of these functions have deep psychological essence and some of them have roots in our inherent necessity to satisfy our curiosity and find a sense of belonging.
Apart from power abuse and “God’s representatives’” enrichment none of these functions are intrinsically bad or wrong. Nevertheless, with human progress in the domains of natural sciences and cognitive psychology we managed to find much more reasonable answers for those who are willing to search. There are numerous self-help books, not talking about life, that teach us to take responsibility for our actions. Aren’t you excessively tired of Internet circulating lists of what mentally strong people do and do not do? However dull and unimpressive those lists are, there is no mentioning of a superior power accompanying mental strength. It all boils down to our human ability to take responsibility for our actions. Alas, one of the major goals of religion is slowly being veered into the dustbin of human history.
A major emergent trend of the last century came not from religious teachings but from the Scientific Enlightenment and hard data.
As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth,” the Pew report says. “Islam was second, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent of the global population.
An advance in AI and scientific progress in the last 8 years alone might have decreased the numbers dramatically. Still not as much as to liquidate spiritual beliefs of the vast majority of the world population.
So why care? What is so dangerous in the enduring clinging to religious postulates? What can be the problem if it gives you a strong set of values and dims your unlimited human ego?
The problem lies in the proliferation of a rogue belief that there is some better world out there, an everlasting Utopia we will get once this intermittent period on our Planet is over.
While there is no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis the fact that our current habitat is about to turn to Hell in the nearest decade is very much a proven scientific fact. And I see this inaction of millions of religious zealots and their delirious hope to get to an imagined “San Junipero” while the rest of us are being burnt alive and sunk in the melting oceans as a really, really big problem.
What Is Transhumanism?
Moreover, an emerging Tranhumanist movement denies any deception of life after death and demands life and happiness on this very Planet. Now. And forever!
Why put your efforts into a non-productive hope for an afterlife if advances in Artificial Intelligence, biotech and nanotechnology can turn this very life into a never ending amusement park?
What point is there in being able to afford discovering new places and enjoying the sunsets when the rat race of your life has turned you into a flabby and disintegrating piece of carbon?
Numerous generations devoted their efforts and intellectual struggles so that we can finally reach the palpable reality of an extended life span and possible immortality. There are times my heart is about to explode from the indescribably beauty this world has to offer. Sometimes you just wish these moments would last forever. What if you can really make this moment called life last forever?
Transhumanism is not an ideology for poor, hopeless and depressed. Those people can dream of better worlds elsewhere. It is an ideology for people who know what they want from life and how to get it. It is a philosophy for strong, happy and ambitious people who could not care less about what happens to their souls after their bodies turn to ashes. These people want life here and now. And they are not ready to be lured into the mockery of an “afterlife”.
Another issue comes when we reflect on our desire to live forever. No matter how much I respect Ray Kurzweil and his call to merge with machines to achieve immortality, I do not see how it solves the main problem.
What is the point of living forever in a trash bin?
The biggest revelation in my childhood was not the way how children are born or why people go to war to die for the artificial constructs fed to them by the media.
It was the realization that we dump all our trash into our very oceans and soils. And that’s in the times when we have space ships and can move all of that stuff away from our home, our Planet. I was a bit concerned that we are polluting surrounding space but the realization that we are poisoning our waters and living creatures hit me like a truck.
According to the most prudent estimations, we have got 12 years until we reach a run-off global warming which will drastically alter weather patterns on our Planet, submerge our strategic cities, exterminate most wildlife species and create a worldwide migration crisis.
This is not some kind of a futuristic scenario or a plot for currently so popular Apocalyptic movies. It is a fast approaching reality. And it is also an emergency. It is an impending worldwide catastrophe calling for a global united action!
So why don’t we see enterprises frantically shifting to green energy generation, governments immediately banning plastic production and huge investments going into the creation of a food-redistributing AI solution? Why aren’t coal and oil enterprises being shut down and government incentives given to support environmentally conscious consumer decisions? How come world’s best known democracy is withdrawing from Paris climate agreement, Europe keeps relying on Russian gas and Saudi Arabia keeps replenishing its blood-stained coffers?
There is only one explanation to this ongoing absurdity. And it is not even game theory. It is our mortality and the acknowledgement of the fact we will die. People making decisions today will turn to ashes several decades from now.
Nature bestowed them with unsurpassed analytical and negotiation skills, strong character and the power to overcome adversity. In most cases fate also gave them rich and influential parents and an open ticket to do whatever they please to do. But it also gave them the most precise and irreversible countdown. And they know it all too well.
We have a sarcastic saying in Ukrainian that translates to the following “There can be a flood after we are gone.” I think nothing describes the world’s complacent attitude better than this tongue-in-cheek Ukrainian adage. There can be a flood; and there will be a flood, but it will no longer be us who will drown…
It is human mortality and its universal acceptance that prevented taking the correct course of action back in the 80s when we knew the consequences of climate change all too well and could have acted on the situation in timely manner.
Truth is, unless you are a Transhumanist you care very little what will happen once our oceans devour our cities, forests start a perpetual burning cycle and melted permafrost releases deadly viruses previously unknown to Homo Sapiens.
So what has changed since the 80s? Millennials and Generation Z, who increasingly enter the decision making scene, expect to live several years longer than their predecessors as well as enjoy a more productive life in older age. Life expectancy is only part of the answer. More significantly, the ongoing scientific discoveries in machine learning, biotech and nanotechnology inspired Transhumanist hopes for the possibility of immortality in our very lifetime.
Too sad we are approaching the hope of an eternal life just when we drive our Planet to the brink of annihilation. And no matter how much money we pump into our eternal youth and the acquisition of New Zealand’s citizenship, the worldwide Planet crisis will get you no matter how far and secure you appear to be.
None of the existing religions is able to provide the answers to the rising waters, bleaching corals, mass extinction of species and deadly fires. Thus we need to embrace a new ideology, which will unite all of the humanity and give the hope and meaning to people who love life and want to preserve this beautiful place called Earth.
Thus, I would like to highlight some of the postulates of the ideology that will save our Planet and give us eternal life in this very time and space dimension. There is only one way and one approach that can sustain us throughout a third millennium and beyond.
ON GRATEFULNESS TO LIFE
Transhumanist is a proud human being who appreciates the fact that she was chosen out of millions of DNA variations, – whether through a natural process of fertilization or in vitro, that gave her a ticket to this life. Thus a Transhumanist uses each opportunity to gratefully enjoy life
ON DESIRE TO EXPLORE
Transhumanist knows there is only one reality to fulfill all of her aspirations and longings and will do everything in her power to extend her presence in this universe and experience a whole plethora of opportunities given to her by the Planet she inhabits
ON MORAL CODE
Transhumanist will take every opportunity to enjoy life and explore the world without consciously inflicting suffering on another conscious or sentient creature, as it is below her intellectual and moral level and world view
ON EMBEDDED REALITY
Despite our ever accelerating advances in Artificial intelligence and Virtual Reality, a true Transhumanist appreciates the reality she lives in and understands there is no benefit of an eternal life in a disintegrating environment. Thus, a Transhumanist is actively working towards reversing the effects of climate change inflicted by previous negligent and selfish generations. There must be a clear boundary among Digital Escapists who are waiting to upload themselves in silicon matter and gorge on VR worlds and a Transhumanist who may choose to do so but understands the need to restore the world that gave us our unlimited biological potential
ON THE ERADICATION OF SUFFERING
Transhumanist realizes her happiness, albeit a subjective construct, is the most valuable asset in her disposal and will do everything to fulfill it. At the same time, she is kind and helpful to people and other creatures around her as she understands that misery and suffering of others eventually will have an impact on her well-being. A Transhumanist realizes that living in a rich family or wealthy country will never be a panacea as long as people elsewhere are suffering and dying from hunger. She understands that nothing can be contained and in order to ensure her immortality and happiness she should make every effort to eradicate suffering worldwide
A Transhumanist does not believe in any religion or nationality as she realizes all these constructs have been artificially created to divide and control weak and misled people. A value of human being is not dictated by the place of birth or amount of money deposited in her bank, but solely by one’s aspirations and actions to make this Planet a better place. Thus, a Transhumanist denies any racial, ethnical or gender superiority or discriminations as unworthy and scientifically faulty
ON THE RIGHT TO UPGRADE
A Transhumanist will make every effort to transcend one’s biological and mental limitations with the help of available technology. No imagined moral or ethical barriers will limit a Transhumanist desire to improve oneself and ensure happy and healthy future for her children. Any religious, ideological or national interference with an individual’s quest for self-improvement will be viewed as an infringement of Transhumanist’s rights. As long as one’s biohacking does not transgress someone else’s happiness or vitality there is no logical explanation or moral warrant for others to constrain the above
Ethical Considerations and Challenges of Universal Transhumanism
As any new ideology Transhumanism involves embracing new ideas and values while neglecting or managing previously dominant ideologies.
The constructs of human fabric and civilization have been constructed by numerous religions, family values, ethics and beliefs.
Embracing new models of behavior and changing the order of things dominant for millennials never goes unnoticed. While saving millions from poverty and saving our Planet from destruction, Transhumanism is capable of shattering the very foundations our everyday reality is based upon.
So what are the discussions we should get involved in and what are the consensuses we should strive to achieve before we relinquish a Universal transhumanism as a new maxim of existence?
Biological upgrades and biotech developments are making their ways to the newspaper headlines and increasingly into the world supermarket of choice. The price of these developments, however, is still far from universally accessible. While there is no doubt Jeff Bezos would be able to afford any readily available and tested biohacking technology, it is a big question whether even 1 % of richest people will be able to afford eternal life, if even available. What about the other 99 %?
It is worth noting a delicate balance in ecosystem, which we are continuously trying to upend to our own detriment. Just like an extermination of one species will eventually lead to dismal effects on other biological systems, once a specific stratum of population performs a biological uplift, there will be immediate influences on other creatures. Once 1 person out of a hundred upgrades its biological arrangement, the interconnected viruses and aligned micro ecosystems will start adapting to this new upgraded individual. In other words, technology enabled evolution will inadvertently lead to a biological evolution of interconnected species.
Despite obvious benefits of an increased endurance and boosted immune system, once you embark on a journey of bio enhancement it will be hard to impossible to back down. You would constantly need periodic biological upgrades if you are to ensure a consistent performance of your biological operating system. A note to Digital Escapists: the same holds true for the mind uploading techniques and the evolution of computer viruses, more so potentially assisted by the creation of AGI.
In light of the above, what do you do with 99 % who are not able to afford an upgrade or opt for a neo Amish lifestyle of non-upgrading? Chances are any they will have to very careful with the proliferation of advanced viruses. Moreover, there is a high probability most of the humanity will be destroyed by yet another pandemic which evolved viruses will aim at an upgraded class of humanity. You remember this annoying post Business Insider republishes as news every few weeks on Bill Gates prediction of an upcoming deadly pandemics? Chances are this will be this very pandemic that will wipe out all the non-mods from the surface of the Planet.
What do we do with the above? Should we limit Transhumanists’ desire to improve their lives to ensure stability and ecological balance for the all? Should we adapt an evolutionary socialism?
In all probability, there will be no force capable of stopping life-loving individuals to improve their existence on this Planet if they have all the means and knowledge to do so. However, to prevent mass extinction of non-modified human species and to avoid a possible rebellion of non-mods, Transhumanist uplifts must be carefully thought out and executed in a responsible manner, the main goal of which should be to avoid the deterioration of life standards of any non-modified human beings. Clearly, you do not need to pay for a biological upgrade of other 99 people if you opt to uplift yourself, but a Transhumanist may well consider to pay a premium to protect the well-being of potentially affected populations.
Possibility of Radical Inequality
Compared to previous centuries, we are already experiencing an unprecedented shift in gender roles and behavior perceptions. With people more focused on self-development and career, women tend to delay having children and have much lower birth rates overall. Additionally, it is contributing to leveling out gender inequality in material well-being.
Equality and emancipation are great. However, if you take a second look at it, it is clear that these educated and ambitious men and women are not very likely to pass on their genes. In such a developed region as European Union birth rates have been steadily decreasing during the last century and currently stand at 1.6 children per woman. In Japan it is 1.44. The country is often cited for its technology development as well as for its shocking disinterest in family or sex life among Millennial generation.
On the contrary, poorest and most politically unstable countries tend to have the highest birth rates. Niger is leading birth rate worldwide with an indication of 6.6 children per woman, followed by a whole range of poor African countries. Statistics show that the fertility rate per woman in low income countries is twice as high as the global average.
Back to our discussion of the affordability of biohacking. The gap between world richest and poorest people has been steadily growing throughout the Information Age and will cumulate with the tiny fraction of people controlling the most advanced Artificial Intellect and leaving the rest of world to figure out what they are to do on this Planet.
Clearly, these will be the machine controlling elites which will be able to afford Immortality first. An interesting phenomenon will appear when these super rich and super immortal people will decide children are not a necessary legacy to leave behind and not the way to find a sought after meaning in life. Hey, you are immortal yourself, why care of raising yet another human being?
The ongoing discussion among intellectuals on the negative environmental consequences of having children is already a spreading trend, and apart from numerous talks I attended in recent years there is a whole plethora of articles, like in Independent, The Guardian and the like, highlighting the trend.
While there can be no generalization here and human psychology (especially in a hypothetical immortality scenario) is very hard to predict, the possibility of Immortal people giving up on procreation might well leave us with a tiny elite of “eternal judges” and an ever expanding and ever impoverishing population in the developing world.
The consequences of such inequality are easy to predict, – a potential rebellion and mass killings of either side of the spectrum, – a perfect scenario for a prisoners’ dilemma Apocalyptic movie.
Thus, tremendous efforts should be devoted to the worldwide increase in living standards and the efforts to level out demographics and well-being in different parts of the Planet.
Ethical and Pragmatic Considerations of Immortality
Once getting into the discussion of immortality you often end up with arguments of what would happen if people financially successful in current Capitalist order live forever and the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Kim Kardashian keep defining the world agenda for millenniums to come, while someone with the qualities of compassion, empathy and caring ends up in the confinements of Death.
This is a very realistic scenario if we move from the theory of Transhumanism right into the pragmatic access to Immortality. It is worth noting that there is a very high probability of the change of human mentality given a ticket to an eternal life. By the reasons of logic your consumerism, selfishness and narcissist attitude to the life would gradually change into a genuine caring about the world you would inhabit for the coming millennia, if we are talking about an absolute Immortality, which is still far from possible. Even in the prospect of a guaranteed and considerable life extension you would most probably start caring about favorable ecological conditions that will define your life in 50 or 100 years from now.
Nevertheless, this prospect if far from guaranteed. Thus, money might not be and should not be an exhaustive measure by which Immortality is to be granted. Very possible that people opting for Immortality or life extension will have to undergo protracted training in sustainability. Most radical version of pragmatic Transhumanism will involve specific and accurate tests which could prove an individual suitability and worth to inhabit this reality for a significant period of time.
There is no point extending the life span of people who would continue their pursuit of Planet destruction. An ultimate end of such a materialistic Transhumanism realization will be a destroyed Planet which will be uninhabitable for both biologically immortal humans and newborn generations.
This is an extremely controversial topic which has the elements of intellectual eugenics and moral judgement reminiscent of religious teachings Transhumanism is striving to differentiate itself from. The criterion for Immortality will be the single most important decision we will have to make once bio- and nanotechnological advancements leave the domain of theory and turn up as viable alternatives to biological degradation.
Discussions over Artificial General Intelligence, Universal Mind and Dataism
Very often Transhumanism is equated with a blissful mix of AGI and human intellect, mind uploading and an eternal digital life. In such a scenario we would have an instant access to the Universal Mind of everything ever written and invented and anyone ever uploaded to the net. The Universal Mind is the concept we came up with in a joint article on the 3rd Information Revolution, coauthored with Jacek Utko.
While it is very hard to impossible to create an eternal engine, the ease and opportunity of fetching one’s consciousness from one server to another has inspired numerous Transhumanist threads and teachings. In fact, one can almost differentiate between digital immortality believers and biohacking supporters.
Thanks to compute capacities we have made a huge leap in what is currently coined as Artificial Intelligence but what really is a combination of super powerful human invented and mathematics-based algorithms. Nevertheless, this leap has been sufficient to start talking about the possibility of the creation of an “artificial soul”.
What is it that makes a soul? I’m afraid this is what we haven’t figured out just yet and what is probably the most valid and worthy explanation of the world religions.
The parallel processing nature of our brain has been developed by millions of years of evolution, and a computer’s ability to use the same wire thousands of times per second might very well be enough to approach human “thinking mechanism.”
Or will it not? Will the hard wiring be enough to recreate a sacred human spirit?
Irrespective whether AGI ever comes around or not the ability to upload bits of memory and cognition into a machine is a likely and unrelated opportunity. Questions we need to ask to the Digital Escapists are:
- Is this upload a verified representation of your own self or just a rogue “pirated” version?
- Will you be happy with a “copy paste” version of yourself if “cut and paste” proves to be impossible? In essence the question is the same as whether you would be happy for your clone to take over and start from scratch once your body material is no longer usable?
- How do you ensure you do not forfeit your “bird in the hand” physical reality for a digital immortality easily subject to Internet viruses, malicious software and massive digital suicides?
- Is there a point in living (eternal living more so) if you cannot experience the breeze of wind, the smell of grass, the lips of your loved ones and the autumn melancholy?
As a Transhumanist I would give anything to enjoy this life one more time, to see more than I can in a limited life span, to feel a whole plethora of human emotions and experience a whole range of physical desires. But I would not give a dime to be locked in a world wide web, no matter how much knowledge and data I would be able to access.
I believe anyone who shares this philosophy would be especially keen on keeping this Planet going for as long as eternity itself.
To summarize the examples of my formulation of Transhumanism I would like to give several examples of the projects, seemingly not directly related to Immortality, but which are indispensable for Transhumanism as an ideology of “sustainable immortality” and universal happiness.
Examples of Concrete Transhumanist Projects
- Introduce additional 40 % tax on Gasoline and channel this into a switch to renewable energy sources
- Create an initiative aimed at the adoption of dying Yemeni children into Western families
- Oblige each manufacturing corporation to recycle an equivalent of its produce
- Subsidize and enforce a switch from coal chimneys to solar panels on every household
- Channel 50 % of the United Nations R&D into the research on corals restoration and faster reforestation
- Create OSF-style national philanthropic organizations in each developed nation to fund talented and ambitious individuals in the developing world
As you can notice, none of these project directly relates to the creation of the philosopher’s stone or an elixir of an eternal life. Rather they bring us a step closer to the creation of the world a Transhumanist would want to live in.
How much would you pay for an illusory hope of being brought back to life after you experience clinical death and your brain is being frozen by a cryonics institution? A whole-body preservation at Alcor costs $200,000.00. Same organization charges $ 80,000.00 for Neurocryopreservation. Is it too much or too little for a hope to be given a second chance? Hard to say.
Is it too much of a sacrifice to do everything in our power to ensure an inhabitable Planet for ourselves and future generations? Is it an unrealizable goal to live forever in the world full of green trees, non-extinct animals and breathable air?
Transhumanism is a dream, which totally justifies putting all your eggs into one basket, a basket called Earth.