The eerie, synthetic, world of Aldous Huxley’s classic, Brave New World, is no longer futuristic speculation. It’s here folks—and it’s scary!
The term Transhumanism refers to the quest to technologically improve mental and physical aspects of the human condition such as suffering, disease, aging, and death. It is “the belief that humans must wrest their biological destiny from evolution’s blind process of random variation…favoring the use of science and technology to overcome biological limitations.
In other words: We are unconsciously evolving into techno-humans living in a virtual reality. This is the downside of the Transhumanist agenda: believing that the human species—and the whole created order—is defective and in need of our mastery and technological correctives. This is arrogant, misguided hubris.
In her 1999 publication, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, Katherine Hayles notes:
“In the posthuman, there are no essential differences, or absolute demarcations, between bodily existence and computer simulation, cybernetic mechanism and biological organism, robot technology and human goals…. Humans can either go gently into that good night, joining the dinosaurs as a species that once ruled the earth but is now obsolete, or hang on for a while longer by becoming machines themselves. In either case…the age of the human is drawing to a close.”
The Scary Stuff:
Robotic computers calling the shots (literally)—as in The Department of Defense funded humanoid robots going to war (super soldiers); geo-engineered clones and designer babies (yep—God has competition!); artificial intelligence developing in unpredictable ways and making “moral” decisions for the rest of us; and here’s the real kicker: a transhumanist world run amok would mean—not only more synthetic biological creations and cyborgs—but synthetic olive oil, coffee beans, wine, salsa and well you name it…anything is possible in a Virtual world of make-believe, right?
Essentially transhumanism is scary from a number of philosophical standpoints: firstly, in biological evolution nature relates harmoniously with the species, but in technological evolution the species (namely us) controls nature; secondly, our technologies are rapidly becoming extensions of ourselves—think Smartphones, GPS, Bluetooth, high-tech goggles with digital dashboards, iCloud and so on; thirdly, the transhumanist belief that the physical world is impure and subpar, needing the corrective of pure information, is not only scary—it is way scary: imagine “super informational beings” in digitized bodies running the whole cosmic show; and finally, by insulating ourselves in artificially controlled environments we sever our vital connection to the natural wildness, biodiversity, and abundance of nature. We choose to exist in an individually controlled virtual community where if we don’t like our friends, we can delete them.
No, it’s not all doom and gloom. Information technology, robotics, and mechanical engineering, can improve the quality of life for many, especially the disabled and elderly. And social media and online educational resources, when used responsibly and moderately, can raise human consciousness to inspiring and transformative levels. It really comes down to accountability, legislative controls, and responsible stewardship of the intelligence we employ in the development of our technologies.
Where do we go from here?
Hard to say. But my one caveat in the potentially misadventurous quest of transhumanism, is to recognize that the human brain is more that a giant information processor. The human person as a whole—interconnected with and inter-dependent on the whole created order—will not thrive or flourish in the unreflected, posthuman cyber world that many transhumanists like Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near) envision. We can marry a robot or have wired friends, but will they inspire us to grow as authentic, truly human, spiritual beings?
The film Transcendence starring Johnny Depp is a thriller-paced exploration of the benefits and risks of the emerging Transhumanist movement. Check it out with your next bowl of popcorn—just make sure it’s natural and non-synthetic!
Author: Gerard Murphy
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Movie Still