Though I benefit from technological advancement in my everyday life, the recent and accelerated rates of progress make me pine for the days of 19th Century English workers who took hammers and pikes to the machinery that threatened their livelihoods. Technology and art sans the buffering of faith, leads down strange roads indeed. Art that erases lines of demarcation between humans and animals like critical darling The Shape of Water and James Cameron’s box office hit Avatar, denigrate humanity, not elevate it.
Technology devoid of the divine also clouds thinking and gives rise to all manner of theories and beliefs as humans without a divine premise will search far and wide to find a replacement for it.
One such pop culture answer to the void left when people no longer believe in an all knowing, all merciful personal God is called “transhumanism.” It is the belief that human evolution will press onward beyond the biological and include the melding, or is it welding, of man and machine.
Though you won’t find instruction on human/machine hybrids that promise immortality in Psalms, Deuteronomy or Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, you will find the same level of hubris that has many scientifically minded types believing that a super Artificial Intelligence will someday be recognized as a god and all the “medieval” forms of religious expression will go the way of the Dodo.
A Transhumanism website defines its philosophy as “The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.”
It is a philosophy, according to this same website, that expects a form of immortality to become common place, give or take a few thousand years, with intellects transferred to machines that cannot die…if you can still get the parts. Who maintains the maintenance on the machines is not so clearly defined, and if my robotic body has the same repair history as the last washing machine I had, then I better make alternative plans.
As defined, the goal of transhumanism is to be like god. Doesn’t this make Adam and Eve the first trans humans? For what was the tree of knowledge other than an attempt to become something we were not meant to be.
Genesis is rife with other examples of humans desiring to be god-like. The cooperative pride that resulted in the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis is dripping with allegorical comparisons with modern day scientists who conflate animal with human and who are desperate to unlock all the “secrets” of eternal life.
One reason I will not fully punch my Luddite card yet is that, due to the wonderful interconnectivity of things like the internet, my search for more information on transhumanism, turned up one Zoltan Istvan. Besides having a name that sounds like a super villain in the next Avengers movie, Mr. Istvan was also a presidential candidate in the last election cycle. Not that the last election cycle needed any more entertainment content, it would have been interesting to see candidate Istvan sharing the stage with the other two as he extolled his campaign promise of making immortality affordable to all. Which would be quite a trick since we still haven’t figured out how to make a shot of penicillin affordable to all.
A self-described “recovering Catholic,” Zoltan Istvan describes the Bible as a “sadistic book” and has a lot of negative things to say about a God he also insists does not even exist. Part of his trans human evolution nirvana will include Artificial Intelligence (AI) he is convinced will replace God and eventually be worshipped by humans. If this sounds completely crazy remember Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking believe AI is a real and present danger.
The AI god is the same cold and distant intelligence that non-theists progenitors like Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick imagined in 2001 A Space Odyssey and what many film makers embrace today. It has its appeal because this god asks nothing from us and can’t love us so we don’t have to love it back. The God of Abraham on the other hand is a little more involved with creation. He not only loves us just as He finds us, but He loves us so much He doesn’t want to leave us there. And that is the biblical schematic not to transform our human natures, but to complete them.