For those few readers who may still be unaware of this futuristic social movement, transhumanists seek to “seize control of human evolution” by harnessing the naked power of biotech, cyber tech, and computer tech, to engineer into themselves the powers of movie super-heroes and, eventually, achieve life without end. When transhumanism first emerged from the high academy such as Oxford and Yale, the focus was on radical individual redesign. Transhumanists believed that they could genetically alter themselves to increase their intelligence exponentially or, say, harness hawk genes to radically improve their eyesight. Society would, they believed, soon be divided between what Princeton biologist Lee Silver called “naturals” — e.g., the unenhanced — and the superior “gen-rich” post-humans.
Over time, transhumanism’s goals grew even more ambitious and grandiose. No longer satisfied with merely attaining extraordinary capabilities, the movement shifted its primary focus to fulfilling the age-old dream of immortality in the material world, giving a new meaning to Saint Paul’s triumphant declaration, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Transhumanists believe that as technology grows increasingly sophisticated, particularly research into artificial intelligence (AI), a moment— “the Singularity” — will come in which the cascade of technological advances will become self-generating, unstoppable, and uncontrollable. This crescendo of scientific leaps forward will culminate in everlasting life via the ability to upload our minds into computers. Once safely in cyberspace, transhumans can live indefinitely, perhaps melding their cyber-minds with others, being downloaded into a cyborg, their own cryogenically frozen heads attached to new bodies, or perhaps into their own clones. The details can become a bit murky, but Google’s Ray Kurzweil believes that software heaven will be with us by the 2040s.
And this is where transhumanists’ desperation becomes most clearly visible. You see, transhumanism is overwhelmingly a materialist’s obsession. Polls show that most of the movement’s adherents are atheists, with a scattering of agnostics and apostate religionists thrown in. In any event, the focus of their movement is materialistic. Most of them believe or fear that nothing of them will survive their own dying.
That kind of thinking leads to nihilism or, at the very least, a temptation to despair. Something must be done! Enter transhumanism. As movement proselytizer Zoltan Istvan, who ran for president in 2016 on the Transhumanist Party ticket and is now a Libertarian candidate for California governor, wrote in “I’m an Atheist, Therefore I’m a Transhumanist”:
The challenging idea that everyone in the 21st Century must decide how far they are willing to go to use technology and science to improve their lives is loudly calling. And the faithless will answer it. It’s inevitable that hundreds of millions will soon come to call themselves transhumanists, if not in name, then in spirit. Many will end up supporting indefinite life extension and technologies that strip away our humanness and promote our transhumanness. Further into the future, many more will begin to discard the human body in favor of embracing synthetic forms of being.
So there you have it. Transhumanism offers adherents the comforts and promises of traditional faith — without the humility that comes from being a created creature, and with the further benefit of eschewing all worry about the eternal consequences of sin, the laws of karma, or a future reincarnation in which our condition is based directly on how we live our present life. In short, transhumanism’s primary purpose is to substitute religious belief with a nonjudgmental and ironic technological echo of Christian eschatology. Consider:
• Christ’s second coming and the Singularity are both expected to occur at a specific moment in time.