Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control (I. J. Good, Advances in Computers, 6, “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine”, pp. 31‒88, 1965).
From what I’ve read so far about Transhumanism, the movement seems to be obsessed with escaping being human, as if that were something undesirable. Certainly, we humans have our problems, but that is simply Nature unfolding as She is meant to. I think the Transhumanism movement is just another attempt at transcendence of this world and what it means for us to be connected to this world and universe.
We have been lied to for thousands of years as to who we are. The Christians and pessimist Gnostics ingrained into us that we were sick with sin, corrupt, dirty, and in need of salvation; that all matter in the universe is defiled in some way and also in need of a savior. These days, we are told matter is dead and lifeless and that there is no Spirit, no Soul in anything. Why don’t they want us to know the truth?
All attempts at transcendence seem to me to be a form of escapism. What are we running from? Sure, this world isn’t easy, but it is ours. As if being human was unsatisfactory in some way, transhumanists look to science and technology to lift them out of their very human bodies and make them “more than human,” like some super heroes we watch at the movies.
Isn’t this desire just another example of the Western Ego run amok? I’ll be the first to admit that technology has greatly improved our lives in some ways, but I would argue that some technology has harmed both us and our planet. Technology is not a panacea. It should be a tool we use to improve the lives of the billions who live on this planet. It should never be used to harm them.
The Transhumanism myth is another story, just another myth. It derives from the collective unconscious, as do all collective mythologies. And as with all such stories, we should attempt to examine it in a mythopoeic fashion. A few comments on some transhumanist points:
1) One goal of transhumanists is life extension. The attempt to live forever has been a dream of humanity for many millennia. Why do so many myths carry this theme? Could it simply be that we already live forever due to the fact that death is merely transition from one form to another? But we repress this and believe, instead, that life ends at death, or that when we die, we pass to a transcendent world, escaping the earth for eternity. This is simple denial that we are already eternal beings who change form occasionally. They are so attached to their particular bodies because they allow Ego to rule them instead of understanding that we are connected to all things.
2) Colonization of Space: This is another heaven quest, another attempt to transcend, another Utopian trip. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it someday because we’re interconnected with the entire universe anyway, but it will never be a Utopia.
3) Designer Babies: What is this part of the story telling us? We should genetically design our own children to be what? Rich, smart, successful? Won’t everyone want that for their children? But who will get it? Only the privileged few who can afford it, thereby setting up yet another caste system, another disjointed, fragmented excuse for humanity. I think such concepts are harmful to humanity because they continue to promote the transcendent and hierarchical model that has wreaked such havoc on our world. If our paradigm is not one of rhizomal and immanent thought, our future will be bleak, indeed.
There are some good ideas in Transhumanism. The use of technology to improve our lives is wonderful. To heal the sick and suffering, feed the hungry, provide for the destitute, these are the ideas that have always led humanity to its ultimate potential. If these values could be preserved, that would be wonderful. But I fear these values have already been laid aside by those who wish to transcend this world and humanity.
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