Geek As Citizen: My Own Private IdaHell


Last week I discussed how trying to get to Heaven made us bad citizens.

Specifically, I discussed how there’s a desire to escape everything and reach some permanent paradise (that is never permanent nor really that great a paradise) that separates us from others. Relying on the unexpected tag-team of C.S. Lewis and the Buddha, I looked at how that desire to get to that special inner perfect area drove us onward yet disconnected us from others – and that getting to it was never permanent anyway.

Of course my intention was to look at how that was relevant to geeks.

My concern was that there is a distinct part of geek culture that focuses on the Great Escape, from the Singularity to the perfect job where you never work, that could disconnect us from our fellow humans and society. To try and get away and keep grasping the elusive ring, we missed what was important, and even in our success we became alienated from others. As we’re in an Age of Geek, it’s an important issue to address so we don’t become less human and worse citizens.

But there’s a flipside to this “Heaven Seeking” behavior that I’m sure we’re all equally familiar with. Some people are happy to have their own private Hell, and in some cases it’s easier and the rents are cheaper. Though we may not think of it as the same, it still creates social, emotional, and just plain human distance.

And we know hell all too well.

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Transhumanism And The Hell Of Heaven

If it came down to a choice, I would rather be mortal and decent, and thus have the chance to leave behind things of real lasting importance, than be immortal but also be an asshole.

Serdar’s rather pithy statement is made on his observations that far too much of transhumanism is way too focused on leaving the human race behind. It becomes a race to “get up and get out” that really comes off as an attempt to coddle or deify one’s own ego.

Frankly, I have to agree with him. A lot of transhumanism I see thrown around casually (note casually) really seems to be nothing more than the idea of getting to a kind of technical heaven. Saint Peter may not be there, it may be an upload or a cyborg body, it it’s still all about “me” getting away. In a few cases getting away from all those “others.”

Some of this sounds the absolute same when I hear people talk about an afterlife of Heaven. Too often when I hear such an afterlife discussed, it’s always about pleasure and reward. Too often when I hear hell discussed, there’s a satisfaction those “others” will be in it.

I’ve discussed Buddhist concepts of the afterlife here before due to the many psychological insights they provide. One of them is that Heaven, the God Realm of Buddhist cosmology, isn’t all its cracked up to be.

The problem is with Heaven, with a realm of pleasure, you loose touch. You don’t feel compassion for others. You don’t feel empathy for others. In fact you don’t really “life” since life is far richer than whatever rewards or spoils you want to get. Heaven sounds vaguely addictive.

The problem with Heaven is that you can’t take a fall. In Buddhist cosmology even gods die, so if you’re reborn in the god realm one day you’ll die and probably will end up in another. As a god, you’ll even see it coming.  Hopefully you’ll reach the human realm, where things are well balanced enough for you to achieve enlightenment, but either way a painful fall.

In short, the desire for a real of perfect pleasure and escape makes you addicted, distant, un-empathetic, unprepared for change. It also probably risks you being kind of an ass as Serdar notes.

I’d even add the desire for a Heaven risks this as well. The desire to get away from people, from life, just deceives you and separates you. I’d say this may explain Jesus oft-forgotten note that all things done for those in need are for him in Matthew 25:31-46 – as a way to build empathy.

The transhuman desire for transcendence as a way to get away really misses what humanity is about. It’s a desire to cut ourselves off, to wrap ourselves in pleasure, to get distance, to “win.” It just makes us less human. It’s not transhumanism – it’s inhumanism.

As I noted, before we can improve who we are we better know what we are.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at