In this blog I’ve expressed skepticism about transhumanism despite being something of a transhumanist myself. I’ve been skeptical about ideas of immortality, about the risks, and that some transhumanism is really just a hope for a kind of techno-secular heaven.
My concern roughly is that transhumanism too often becomes a race to preserve a limited sense of identity, when that limited sense of identity may actually be what we need to transcend. I take this inspiration both from observation, and my studies of oft-referred-to, little-understood thinking by Buddhists and Taoists.
Or to be blunt, a lot of deep thought about human identity is that the human identity, that is identifying with a transitory mind and ego, is the core of most of our problems, and maybe we ought to seek to deal with that first. Uploading our brains to computers and such can kind of wait because this “us” we want to preserve is part of the problem.
The ultimate question of transhumanism is one of identity – and how we deal with that.
So let me suggest that what we need in our transhumanism is not a quest for immortality that may backfire on us culturally as well as in various technical ways, but “building a better reincarnation” and understanding of our ever-changing natures.
If we can leave behind a legacy, so much the better. Better recording, information, perhaps engrams or memories, etc. The ability to find, get, and leave information is important – for it satisfies our need for survival, yet also encourages us to create and do and contemplate our legacy. It also makes us think.
If we can better examine ourselves and our nature we can in turn understand our limits, what makes us human, and our issues of identity. From meditation to psychological techniques and “smart pills” maybe we can work on increasing awareness for ourselves.
If the depth given to us by this ability to contemplate and create a legacy, our ability to know ourselves comes to fruition, we can then step easily outside our limited identities. Those identities often seem to be the problem when egos clash, wars begin, and we decide to step on each other in a race to an impermanent heaven.
If we can focus on embracing the change of the world as opposed to running from it and sealing ourselves off, but knowing ourselves and by finding ways to leave behind our best, I think we’ll be much happier than the vague hope of a virtual Asgard.
We might find we don’t need simplistic immortality. We may find out the answer is both simpler and richer than some simple sci-fi story.
So perhaps the focus on transhumanism needs to be a realization not of a simple heaven, but a more serious reincarnation. We don’t need to preserve our single, limited life – we can have many and create many.
Come to think of it, we’re kind of doing that anyway as human beings. Maybe it’s time to just take it up to 11.
And, yes, I just referred to Spinal Tap in a post on Transhumanism. Go figure.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.