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Transhumanism: The new religion of the coming technocracy

by on June 22, 2020

In a  recent Wall Street Journal essay, “Looking Forward to the End of Humanity”Adam Kirsch posits a technological push, impelled by the global coronavirus pandemic, that would abolish death:

Eternal life through advanced technology seems like a pipe dream for a society that, until recently, had trouble manufacturing enough masks to save doctors’ and nurses’ lives. Yet Covid-19 may turn out to be just the kind of crisis needed to turbocharge efforts to create what its advocates call a “transhuman” future. With our biological fragility more obvious than ever, many people will be ready to embrace the message of the Transhumanist Declaration, an eight-point program first issued in 1998: “We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering and our confinement to planet Earth.”

There is an abundance of well respected thinkers who believe this is possible, including Google Ventures founder Bill Maris, cited in the article, and Yuval Noah Harari, in his Homo Deus sets the tone early on by declaring:

In the twenty-first century, humans are likely to make a serious bid for immortality….Humans always die due to some technical glitch….Nothing metaphysical about it. It is all technical problems.

Then of course, no discussion techno-utopianism would be complete without Ray Kurzweil, who posits a “technological singularity” which would provide for a personalized and totally controlled universe for every human, one where they would be in complete control to experience whatever they desired, for all eternity, once we all upload our consciousnesses into the cloud.

The WSJ piece hits on the same theme:

Today, cognitive scientists often compare the brain to hardware and the mind to the software that runs on it. But a software program is just information, and in principle there’s no reason why the information of consciousness has to be encoded in neurons.

The Human Connectome Project, launched in 2009 by the National Institutes of Health, describes itself as “an ambitious effort to map the neural pathways that underlie human brain function.” If those pathways could be completely mapped and translated into digital 0s and 1s, the data could be uploaded to a computer, where it could survive indefinitely.

Does any of this sound like heaven? Or paradise? Valhalla? That’s not surprising because Scientism (as distinct from exploration and discovery using the scientfic method) has ushered in a new era of material reductionism so that religion, spirituality, or any other non-material aspect of reality that cannot be readily quantified have been stripped of relevance and meaning in our Brave New World.

Something has to fill the void that the absence of religion and spirituality will vacate. In my next book, The Singularity Has Been #Canceled, I posit that this vacuum will be filled with techno-utopian thinking, which will pull forward utopia and everlasting bliss from the next life, and via the promise of expertly managed technology, roll it out into this one.

My premise for the book includes four main assertions, which are:

  • It is techno-utopian thinking, the idea that systems and expert management can control for all undesirable outcomes, that paradoxically exacerbates undesirable outcomes they seek to ameliorate.
  • True “artificial intelligence” as defined as “wide AI”, sentient and conscious, can never be achieved under our current assumptions.  The idea that consciousness is just something our brains emit “as a liver secretes bile” is, I think, actually wrong. No amount technological advancement will achieve wide AI so long as this is the core belief.
  • That there are fundamental internal contradictions in techno-utopian thinking. The logical extension of the intellectual framework is that consciousness is an illusion, albeit, one we we’ll be able to perpetuate ever after by uploading it into the cloud. These internal inconsistencies, when taken hold at a societal level lead to a type of hypernormalization or what spiritual philosopher Ken Wilbur calls “aperspectival madness”.

Finally, because I’m not a luddite, far from, in fact, I introduce a framework for what I call “techno-realism”, the central premise being that every technological leap ushers in a new set of larger, more complex problems and that this is ok.  I do think it’s possible that an era of radical life extension could be upon us, for those who can afford it. Life extension is not eternity, however. Do the math.

The downside to this is that every technological quantum leap also bifurcates society into a breakaway civilization that gets to front-run the new technology. The wider masses are slower to benefit (although they do benefit over time), and the ways to mitigate this inequality are typically impeded by institutionally entrenched interests.

Which brings us back to the Wall Street Journal article, that posits a techno-utopian immortality and presents evangelists from the likes of Google and myriad think tanks to advance it.

As we move into a more algorithmically controlled society, I would expect that technocratic social credit systems will supplant conventional moral structures, and the prospect of having your mind uploaded into an everlasting paradise will be the religious payoff for conforming to the rules.

It will be interesting to see how this narrative will be promulgated by various thought leaders and MSM outlets over the coming years. I hope to have my book out sometime in 2021.

12 responses to “Transhumanism: The new religion of the coming technocracy”

  1. Avatar Lu says:

    This is what happens when too few people acquire too much dumb, stupid money.

  2. Avatar Ray Elliott says:

    Mark,

    Someone else has already abolished death (maybe). His name is Dr. Harold Katcher. You can read up on him on a website called Aging Matters. This site is operated by another distinguished researcher, Dr. Josh Mitteldorf.

    It may be as simple as resetting your epigenetic clock with saline solution.

    This represents the most important discovery since man evolved.

    Ray Elliott

    • Avatar Leonard says:

      Someone has abolished death, and secured immortality indeed. His name is Jesus Christ. It is fascinating that people would go through hoops and loops trying to find something that has already been given a long while ago. Death is aa crutial step in everyone’s journey from human 1.0 to 2.0. Without it that transition would not be possible.
      Btw, great article Mark!

  3. Avatar John Chabot says:

    I suggest reading Sarah Newton’s ‘Mindjammer’ series, one of the best scifi looks at the subject under a primary postulation that irrational faith in true ‘person’ upload inevitably destabilizes society, which she brilliantly labels “The Transmigration Heresy”. Looking forward to your book. Have my own in the works. Salutstions.

  4. Avatar Mark says:

    Interesting article. I think the idea of transhumanism has so many negatives. A divided human race, the haves and the have nots. Those without would become second rate humans along with their offspring etc. I look forward to your book. I have read many of the books on transhumanism and I think it will lead to further mass division and separation of society and humans. And ultimately lead to mass civil unrest, disorder. I am currently writing a fiction book on the subject.

  5. Avatar Jean Rajotte says:

    > The wider masses are slower to benefit (although they do benefit over time)

    You mean like “trickle down”? That has not really panned out, from what I can tell. e.g. industrial revolution is, in the end, a catastrophe for the whole planet and the poorest humans suffer the most. I think there are very few examples where it’s true, where “big” techno advances aren’t Faustian deals in the end. If we all just learned to grow food w/ wooden tools and scuttled greed, we’d likely all be better off (and might even survive the impending shit storm).

    • Avatar Mark E. Jeftovic says:

      I mean things like literacy, electricity, plumbing, cars, telephones, the internet, medicine. The stuff pretty well everybody takes for granted today that puts their standard of living superior to royalty of yore.

      • Avatar Timmy75e says:

        None of those things matter, if you’re an individual self absorbed, drowning in self pity. As a boomer, I see self pity as THE poison pill of my generation, as it has stunted the emotional and spiritual growth of so many of us. As I was growing up, it was my observation that those a generation before me got smarter as they grew older, which of course stands to reason. Sadly and quite regrettably, it’s been my observation that those of my generation are becoming more stupid as they age. A sad state of affairs, as they weren’t all the bright to begin with, truth be told. Alas… wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with old age, sometimes old age shows up just to crash your party, and without having brought a gift, reprehensible vagabond that it is.

  6. Avatar Timmy75 says:

    The Wright brothers—Orville and Wilbur were two American aviation pioneers generally credited with inventing, building, and flying the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.They made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft with the Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903. This single event proved to be the most monumental occurrence regarding all humanity on planet Earth ever, it’s potential benefits too numerous to list.

    It indeed took just short of twenty years after this marvelous event for these flying machines to be loaded up with incendiary devices, as an efficient of destroying property/assets while murdering human beings in the process. Just 20 years is all it took for something so spectacularly beneficial to become something so exceedingly hideous.

    How long might one suppose then, will it take before the ability to extend human life into eternity is then used to extend the torture of political prisoners into all eternity? We are on the cusp of creating, quite literally, Hell on Earth. See ya, wouldn’t wanna BE ya.

  7. Avatar sojournerholmes says:

    If you are trusting in technology to save you it won’t ever . Look at the thousands upon thousands of technology patents swallowed up by big corporations that would have erased energy bills for all the poor of the world .
    My dad who served on the USS constellation during Vietnam and then was an IT engineer who built networks, always told me even back then the military had technology at least 30 years advanced than what was in public . Just imagine what it is now . As long as technology is being used for evil which it has been almost from the start you have this in world .
    FORD or GM has had carburetor technology that have 80mpg for over 30 years now , it was called the fish carburetor. Stanley Meyer made a vehicle that split water through electrolysis that ran off water
    Fact is this all may have happened before if you read michael cremo’s book forbidden archeology , which lays out some proof the Gobi desert has evidence of nuclear war .

    The evil comes from within man’s hearts as Jesus Christ said , cleanse first that which is within . Your heart is in your head .
    You may accuse the Heavenly Father of not allowing man this technology right ? We cannot even use the wheel for perfectly good reasons , so how could you expect to be allowed use of high tech ?
    Fact is the flesh is nothing , a prison cell . We appear to be living in the hell dimension

  8. Avatar abinico warez says:

    The artificial version of anything is never as good as the original.

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