In advocating the ideal of obtaining an absolute improvement in one’s condition by casting off all ailments, Transhumanism is not a new form of perfectibilism but a contemporary expression of an ancient dream. Many myths refer to sacred objects and incantations which promised the individual life and vitality for eternity. Today, with the developments of various technologies it seems to some that these ancient dreams will ‘soon’ become a reality.
This belief is fed by a similar emotion to that which pushes many into religious belief across the globe – the fear of death, of non-existence. To those unwilling to accept the promise of immortality in imaginary realms after death (as is found in many traditional religious systems), the prospect of immortality in the empirical realm is extremely enticing. The point at which this becomes technologically feasible thus becomes extremely important to those who adhere to this ideology. Predictions of the future, due dates, statistical graphs and public talks by key exponents of transhumanism amongst other things are pored over by those who desperately seek a way to shut down what appears to be their own seemingly inevitable countdowns to non-existence. The idea of the ‘singularity’ – the rapture point where apparently the flock will be saved by a great big-bang of technology that will potentially reveal all unknowns – plays the role of the event that will provide the near absolute certainty of overcoming the countdown. The singularity is yet another event on a pedestal; one of utmost importance for the morale of transhumanists and one that has every aspect of it produced by the imaginations of those who long for it, since it has not even occurred.
What is perhaps tragic about the transhumanist project is the encroaching desperation that envelops many of the followers, that becomes ever more apparent and pitiful as the followers themselves age further. As the hairs grey, the skin wrinkles and the sinews ache, the hopes of hitting the prophesised point of the singularity ‘sooner rather than later’ become ever more desperate. Further, the aging visages of those individuals who occupy notable positions within transhumanist circles – the ‘celebrities’ of the movement, if you will – should serve to remind the followers that even their idols are aging, dying and thus, failing. After all, if those at the forefront of the transhumanist ‘movement’, those with the greatest understanding of ‘developments’, with the technical expertise, and with the privileged access to esoteric material – in short the vanguard of the movement – is falling behind their own optimism-strewn projections of the future, then what hope do the ‘little people’ have? Sadly, they are in total denial. In the future, I foresee various devotees dealing with their own disappointment in different ways. Like all ideological systems that fail to live up to the promises of doctrine, the ‘movement’ will likely shatter into various groupings contingent upon how individual members’ psyches deal with ideological disappointment: Bitter born-again ‘anti-transhumanists’, stoic orthodox disciples of the original vision, and apologists and sectarians of reformed techno-creeds all seem likely by-products of this tragic cult.
And for all of this, even if, against the odds, their striving proves a ‘success’ – even if the transhumanists do achieve potential immortality – is this truly life-extension? What would such developments do for the content and context of our lives? One may live healthily until one is 200 years old – but the important question is what will one be doing with one’s life. One may be emancipated of sorts from the constraints of death, but what does this technological vision offer for those that yearn for autonomy and real freedom in their lives? What does it mean if one lives for 200 years or longer, yet is forced to live that life chained within a workplace, undertaking mind-numbing, monotonous work in order to support oneself within an industrial system that makes the extension technologies possible all the while destroying any sense of an authentic self in the process? This would not be life-extension but the extension of a life sentence.