Blog

Oct 11, 2016

Brexit for Transhumanists: A Parable of Getting What You Wish For

Posted by in categories: governance, government, human trajectories, humor, life extension, Ray Kurzweil, transhumanism

For the past two years, Zoltan Istvan has been campaigning for the US presidency on the Transhumanist Party, a largely one-man show which nevertheless remains faithful to the basic tenets of transhumanism. Now suppose he won. Top of his policy agenda had been to ensure the immortality of all Americans. But even Zoltan realized that this would entail quite big changes in how the state and society function. So, shortly after being elected president, he decides to hold a national referendum on the matter.

The question on the ballot is one that makes the stakes crystal clear: ‘The government shall endeavour to release all Americans from the constraints of mortality’. Zoltan liked this way of putting things because were he to lose to the referendum, which he half-presumed, the opportunity to air publicly the relevant issues would continue to shift naysayers in Congress to increase funding for broadly anti-death research and treatments — a step in the right direction, as far as he’s concerned.

Zoltan also liked the idea that the referendum effectively ‘rotated the political axis’, from left-right to up-down, a turn of phrase he picked up from some philosopher whose name he couldn’t remember. But this also meant that the ensuing campaign, which was fierce, attracted a motley crew of supporters on both sides.

The ‘Remainers’ (as the anti-immortalists call themselves) were composed of a mix of traditional religious believers, environmental activists and hard-headed sceptics who distrust all transcendental hype, whether it comes from religion or science. In other words, those who wanted us to remain in our normal bodies held that our fate either is confined to our current circumstances or requires that we remain in those circumstances in order for something better to happen post mortem. The stakes were so high that even the Pope was called out to argue the case, which of course he was more than happy to do, Obama-style.

On the other hand, the ‘Leavers’ who espouse immortality were an even more mixed bag. Some on the ‘soft’ side of the argument wanted us to remain in our biological bodies, but in a fortified form that makes us forever resistant to foreign agents. Thus, the prospect of reversing the ageing process got sold as an indefinite productivity booster, allowing us to do what we already do but without the constraints imposed by age and death. In contrast, the ‘hard’ side wanted us to leave our biological bodies altogether and enter into the relatively unregulated realm of ‘digital immortality’, which was sold as enabling us to interact with a broader range of agents than we could otherwise do, both on Earth and maybe even in the cosmos. Indeed, various interfaces were being developed that would enable us to exchange data easily with all sorts of non-human beings to mutual benefit. And matters could go much further – even towards a ‘Singularity’, a universal free trade data zone! However, none of this could be brought to fruition unless we first release ourselves from various codes and norms that inhibit their development and use.

It turns out that the Leavers managed to suppress their differences during the campaign and surprisingly eked out a narrow win. But what was President Zoltan to do? Understandably he wanted to keep his options open with regard to how immortality is implemented. So the first thing he did was to appoint a cabinet with a broad church of Leavers on board, and so both Aubrey de Grey and Ray Kurzweil figured prominently. But these guys pulled the implementation of Leave in opposing directions. De Grey wanted to focus on a radical extension of conventional medical research. Indeed, when de Grey first heard that President Zoltan was holding a referendum, he was concerned that ‘immortality’ might mean only the digital immortality favoured by Kurzweil, which de Grey regards as a complete fantasy.

By the time the referendum campaign began, Zoltan had managed to get Congressional approval to increase funding and loosen regulation in ways that enabled various pro-immortality research projects to move forward at an unprecedented pace. However, as the campaign progressed, it became clear that the soft immortalist side was lagging: There appeared to be much greater cellular complexity to the reversal of ageing than de Grey and his colleagues had imagined.

Meanwhile a clever tech entrepreneur, inspired by the economist Robin Hanson, had figured out a way to scan living brains for purposes of uploading them into machines capable of enhancing their computational power indefinitely. These brain emulations (or ‘ems’) are indeed at least in principle immortal, but at the cost of leaving the original human in a state of disorganized mush, which is to say, biologically ‘dead’. Because Zoltan had already de-regulated all transhumanist-related industries, the ‘ems’ end up dominating the market, with large public relations firms emerging to persuade people that they will live better lives by abandoning their biological bodies and uploading into what some liken to Star Trek’s Borg.

After a few generations, Earth had earned a reputation as the most rational death cult in the cosmos.

And they all ‘lived’ happily ever after…

2

Comments — comments are now closed.

  • Alfred Schickentanz on October 12, 2016 3:18 am

    The only limit is our imagination. This is how i see the future and it looks good to me.

    Homo Immortalis Omnipotent

    Living in “Infinite Space-Time”! No more “human created secondhand God’s”!

    The function assigned to GOD is now available through understanding
    the Universe we are part of. We will be the Engineers of our own body chemistry, in the Infinity of Space-Time we can live forever.

    Biotechnology will control the “aging process” (we don’t wear out, but are DNA programmed to age), and “involuntary death” will not exist any more.

    Science, Gene Engineering, Nano Technology, Epigenesis, Astrophysics
    etc. and Extra Terrestrial Migration will allow for “Goal Oriented Evolution”, leading to HOMO IMMORTALIS OMNIPOTENT.

    The fact that you are reading this is a good sign.

    Many people know that we all have to die, so anything that may undermine that believe will be avoided.

    If this would be information confirming that there is life after death, which is something many of us deem possible, we would be more inclined to believe it. The reason is, that once we have formed a believe and have been influenced accordingly, we are more reluctant to reevaluate our acceptance of it.

    Since I grew up in a katholik environment I was sure that by following the rules, I would go to heaven and presumable not be dead.

    I am now over seventy years old and have lived and loved on five Continents. With the information and experiences I have been exposed to, I have come to the conclusion, that science will make it possible that we can keep on living here, instead of dying and going to heaven.

    You may be inclined to believe in some form of life in heaven, because that is the opinion of confirmed authorities. I can assure you, that looking for information based on up to date science, leading to youthfulness and the avoidance of death, will not do any harm, but may give you more time to do so.

    You probably ask, what is this about?

    It is like a quantum leap. A move to a new state of being. In the material world it would be like the jump from the atom to a mineral. Or from a multicellular organism to a cerebral animal. Or from a culture that depends on an “idealized self projected image (God)”, to provide protection and escape from annihilation , to a society that uses science and technology to solve the problems of sickness and death.

    The tools that propelled us from primates to “Homo sapiens sapiens”, will now be developed, so we will evolve to Homo Immortalis Omnipotent.

    Of course there will be opposition from institutions that now have the monopoly on “Life after death”. They should not worry, because our need for entertainment will always exist. Even sincere moral and religious disapproval should not divert us from taking this next step in evolution.

    Just like the hydrogen atom did not know that it would become the planet we now live on, even though it already contained the basic code leading to the status quo. We will realize that the abilities that we have assigned to our God’s, are now for us to acquire.

    The only limit is our imagination.

  • Lombardi on January 9, 2017 8:08 pm

    Transhumanism has a serious image problem. I consider myself a transhumanist, and it infuriates me that proponents of our views can’t help but start talking in incoherent prose every time they discuss anything. I mean, look at the first comment on this article. What a fucking monstrosity.

    The way I see it, transhumanism never explicitly meant immortality. Rather, transhumanism implores us not to fear technological change. The public campaigned against trains, horseless carriages, airplanes, the television, mobile phones, even the Internet. Each of these things revolutionised an aspect of being human. Transhumanism argues that we should embrace these changes, whether they come in the form of AI, cybernetics, VR, or nanotechnology.

    However, if we can kill Death, and do it intelligently, just as we have powered the earth, harnessed the atom, connected billions of people, and ended countless diseases — who’s to say we shouldn’t out of fear?