December 7, 2022

An uphill battle for transhumanists

“They think we’re fantasists when in fact we’re talking about a future just over the horizon.”

Notwithstanding a wide range of approaches, the ultimate goal of all transhumanists is the indefinite extension of life. But according to Steve Fuller, a leading transhumanist theorist, it is an uphill battle to convince the public that this is possible or even desirable. “Most people don’t believe a word we’re saying, however entertaining they may find us,” he says. “They think we’re fantasists when in fact we’re talking about a future just over the horizon.”

Fuller, who is  Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, in the UK, finds these naysaying sceptics deeply frustrating. They do not believe that they can live beyond 100; they passively accept their wretched future; and they always think that radical change will be negative. They are, he says scathingly, “suicide bombers trying to manufacture a climate of terror in humanity’s existential horizons”.

As if this is not enough, he goes on to assert, “This much is clear: If you’re a transhumanist, ordinary people are zombies.” And what does one do with zombies? There are three possibilities: cure them, flee from them, or kill them.

Thankfully, Fuller believes that killing the rest of us is not an option at the moment. He is stuck with the lonely task of education: “How can we persuade people that extending their lives is qualitatively different from simply extending their zombiehood?”

One person who is trying to educate the public is Zoltan Istvan, who is running for President in the US. It is a quixotic campaign, but he is taking it seriously. He is cruising around the country in a giant coffin to persuade people that they can cheat death.

His particular bugbear is not just stupid people in general, like Dr Fuller, but stupid religious people. A belief in afterlife diverts people from working to live indefinitely. “For those of us who don’t believe in an afterlife, this is the time we have to stand up and emphasise science,” he told the BBC.

This is also the theme of a science fiction novel Istvan has written to promote transhumanism, The Transhumanist Wager. He imagines an America which is rapidly becoming a theocracy and in which transhumanists are persecuted and even assassinated. 

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