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Tricking death with the theory of transhumanism

by Alison Maurer - Advertising Manager
Tue, Feb 28th 2017 09:10 pm
Photo taken from Dymaxion Leedskalninon on Pinterest

Transhumanism is the controversial theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. Leading scientists say a breakthrough is close, but should it be?
Photo taken from Dymaxion Leedskalninon on Pinterest Transhumanism is the controversial theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. Leading scientists say a breakthrough is close, but should it be?

 If you are reading this, you are going to die. Well, not right now, but eventually you're going to die. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Some people feel strongly that this shouldn't be true. They think that technology will save us from the inevitability of death, an idea called transhumanism.

More technically, transhumanism, according to Olga Khazan's article "Should We Die?" in The Atlantic, is "the idea that technology will allow humans to break free of their physical and mental limitations." 

Basically, it's the idea of adapting technology to replace human parts to never wear out. 

Has science fiction taught us nothing? I can rattle off several books, movies, even video games that tell us why this is a terrible idea. "Postmortal" by Drew Magary, "Tuck Everlasting", heck, even the "Sly Cooper" video game series deals with this topic.

It has never gone well. In almost every documented case, although fiction, people became unhappy.

In "Postmortal", there was an injectable "cure for aging." People were chronically bored, chronically depressed and chronically poor. The main character was hired as a trained killer to reduce the population as it grew exponentially. People who were too poor to live were killed on the spot and many extremist groups evolved to take down the system. 

In "Tuck Everlasting", a family is cured of aging by drinking water from a special spring. Everyone is miserable, and there is literally a character who fights in war after war so he can die and go to heaven. The Tuck family convinces the main character that living forever is so awful that she goes back to her boring, pretty miserable life and decides not to join them. 

In "Sly Cooper", the bird is completely evil. He replaced each of his body parts so he could remain immortal to kill off the Cooper family line. Other, more minor, bad guys were absorbed into the scheme and were corrupted by this absolute power as well. It took two whole full-length video games to take down an evil on this immense scale. None of these situations are pleasant. The only story that comes to mind where immortal beings live happily ever after is "Twilight". Do these transhumanists want to live like Bella and Edward? No? I didn't think so. 

These could be the reality of transhumanism. 

Some examples of transhumanism can include knee replacements and growing organs out of stem cells, according to the aforementioned article. Ethical issues aside, these technologies can improve quality of life, especially for people who are already retired. This is a very small step in the way of transhumanism, and it is a positive one.

The main argument against transhumanism is the fact that technology is moving so fast. If we immediately improve everything, we will not have the abilities or resources to keep up. Things will become too much too soon. 

Even if we don't live forever, living a lot longer can still be bad. People will need money, meaning they will have to work longer. As retirement goes up, the number of jobs that will become available for young high school and college graduates will reduce. This is already happening, as stubborn baby boomers refuse to retire. If we know we're living longer, the problem will continue to get worse. If we increase the size of the working population without increasing the number of available jobs, we will face horrible rates of unemployment.

If we live longer, we have more time to make babies. There will be even more people in the world. Population will increase exponentially, as will consumption of food, water and fuel. Pollution will increase. We will run out of places to put garbage. More people means all of our current resource problems will become a lot worse a lot sooner. 

People will get bored. Think about people in dead-end jobs. They're just going to be in dead-end jobs for longer, becoming more and more miserable. Unless everything becomes super cheap, life will be boring and awful entirely for longer. Five weeks of vacation time per year, but instead of 50 years of this, try 70, 90, 300. It just gets worse and worse.

We can't know the outcome for transhumanism before it happens. It could go completely fine, without any of these problems. It could be a gradual climb that ends up benefitting humans in the long run and improving quality of life. Do we really want to risk it?

amaur2@brockport.edu