Metaphysical Monday: Transhumanity

By Seth Hecox on August-6-2012 | Filed under Articles | Tags : , , , | Share

Metaphysical Monday:  Transhumanity

The issue of Transhumanity is of great interest to me and it’s something I’ve given a good amount of thought to over the past few years. The song “Artificial Immortality” is about this issue and my thoughts have changed since then (4 years ago).

Transhumanity, shortened to h+, “is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” -Wikipedia

Many within the h+ movement expect humanity to advance to such a state that it would merit the term “posthuman.” Some also expect to see, within our lifetime, some humans live indefinitely. That is, not eternally, but that they won’t be limited by normal aging processes because what wears out, science can replace.

The issue has gained considerable momentum, most notably evidenced by Time Magazine making Transhumanity it’s cover story for the February 21, 2011 issue.

Below is the message I sent to friend in a conversation about this very thing. Please comment, and if you disagree, be able to defend your viewpoint. I have many other things to suggest about the h+ community and singularity and even Ray Kurzweil (I used to play a Kurzweil keyboard, which he created). But there is not space here. Maybe a follow up article? Anyway, here’s the message:

“I’m afraid the whole transhumanity concept is a complex web of beliefs that rests on lots of other perceptions. It’s the cherry on the top of a delicately built dessert, if you will. To discuss it at length would take an inordinate amount of time just to set the foundation on which a proper conversation about Transhumanity could be had.

I think the basics of it, however, boil down to where you believe our souls reside and what aspects of us make us human. Man being created in the image of God could mean many different things and that definition is essential to defining what humanity really is. I now believe that it means that we have self-awareness like God has, which the lesser creatures do not have.

Look at it this way: if a man loses his arm, he is no less of a man. Therefore, his organic body must not be what we refer to when we speak of the human essence. Artificial Immortality disagrees somewhat with that point, saying “I am an organism, I am a beast.” and that was CS Lewis’s view. Although I nearly worship CS Lewis, I think this is one of those rare subjects on which I must disagree with him.

Ray Kurzweil and the transhumanity movement may have questionable aspirations, but I think they are correct in their basic assumption: humankind is identified by its ability to reason: it’s brain.

There can be arguments made to the contrary (the gut is now found to be a “second brain” that operates independently from the brain and communicates with the brain as its own entity. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gut-second-brain for more info on that). But I think those arguments break down because, again, a man without a stomach is still a man. A man only ceases to be a man when he has lost the power of his brain. As unromantic as it seems, this is where his personality dwells and the complex elements of his personhood are seated there in his mind. We like to say “heart” in reference to feelings as if that’s where the soul is seated, but you can surgically exchange any organ, heart included, and your man is still the same man, soul intact.

So if the soul is seated in the brain and the rest of the body is merely organic growth given to our minds to command, much like tools, shouldn’t we then push forward in science and learn all we can about how to progress? Is it not incumbent upon us to unravel these possibilities of what humanity is capable of?”

Those are my current thoughts. Ideas?

About the author Seth Hecox

I play music and write articles. I write the Metaphysical Monday article for IVM. I have a folk project due out later this year. I identify with the Reformed aspects of the Christian faith and I live in the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia. Follow my musical life at facebook.com/sethhecoxmusic and my (lame) comedy life at twitter.com/sethhecox. View all posts by Seth Hecox

17 Responses to 'Metaphysical Monday: Transhumanity'

  1. Chandler A. says:

    Wow, very interesting post. I’m not well read or informed on this issue, but I’m curious to how the brain breaks down over time, both physically and mentally. How much can you help the brain before it stops being you? I’m skeptical of the whole thing really. Well you may physically be helping the body, artificial immortality could actually be something that’s very unhealthy. Death is just such a natural part of life, maybe in some ways, death to the earthly body is the perfect closure to a life. Also, I don’t think death will be cast off so easily, decay will come mentally if not physically.

    • Seth Hecox says:

      Exactly right. When I said “live indefinitely,” what is meant is that your life can last as long as your brain lasts without something else happening to your body to end your life. The brain will decay over time, but no one knows how long a healthy, well-kempt brain might live if uninhibited by the decay of other body parts.

  2. Boaz says:

    ” We like to say “heart” in reference to feelings as if that’s where the soul is seated, but you can surgically exchange any organ, heart included, and your man is still the same man, soul intact.”

    This would seem to argue against this.
    http://www.care2.com/greenliving/do-our-organs-have-memories.html?page=1

    I can believe that “artificial immortality” will happen but I know I am not narcissistic enough to want it.

    • Seth Hecox says:

      That’s an interesting read, but I’m not entirely sure the site is such a creditable site. I’m intrigued by the idea but would feel better about the idea if it was supported by a more legit source.

    • Boaz says:

      It was the first site I found but I remembered reading about this concept years ago when organ transplants first started becoming more common. I only mentioned it because I find your point about where the soul resides is crucial to whatever side of the argument one make take.

    • Seth Hecox says:

      Absolutely. Determining what element(s) of the human anatomy contains the soul is crucial to deciding which side of the issue to be on. I have a difficult time believing in the concept of a physical heart revealing info to a person that receives it as a transplant. However, I don’t wanna be quick to disregard it since I’ve become an avid watcher of the X-Files recently :)

  3. thruchristalone777 says:

    This isn’t really an argument, but just a thought: I honestly don’t know that I would want to be on this planet longer than maybe 80 years at max (and i’d be fortunate to live that long), considering that I have eternity to look forward to… I mean think about it; in the Genesis people used to live for a good 800 years, yet God eventually shortened man’s life expectancy. People were living way too long. I honestly think it is a good thing that man has an experation date. It helps us to realize that this place is only temporary. It’s not our home, it is a tent. Why try living here longer than necessary? Knowing that these bodies aren’t eternal is a way of keeping us humble. At least that’s the way I see it. I’ll cherish every day that Christ has been gracious enough to give me here on this earth, but I also eagerly await the fact that once this is all said and done, there is something far more incredible waiting for me. These are just my thoughts.

  4. This moves into a very prevalent issue regarding the existence of a soul, though it’s a question that has been asked for ages. What, in the end, actually defines us? If we are said to be made in the image of God, then what does that mean? N.T. Wright says it means that we are like “angled mirrors” in that God can reflect his love, care, and stewardship of the world through humans while we receive these gifts with the understanding that they come not from us but from the Creator, so that we can, through humans, give praise back to the Originator. So I don’t believe it’s our soul that defines us but, like you said, our brains. Take a victim of Alzheimer’s disease for example. We can see that as this disease affects the brain, the person (spiritual and physical) is attacked as well. The same could be said of people suffering from several disorders that attack the brain (panic attacks, schizophrenia, etc.). I still believe in a “soul” but my definitions of it have changed drastically over the years and I’ve come to accept the fact that who I am may just be my brain; that very complex and unique organ that defines all of mankind. As a Christian this would branch off into another theological issue of bodily resurrection or spiritual resurrection but I’m afraid that’s too difficult for me and actually off point in this discussion. As far as extending the life of human beings, that somewhat scares me because, being a believer in evolution, death has played a very important role in the sustaining factor of mankind and in the universe. Everything we’ve become is due to stars dying millions and millions of years ago. It seems that life is propelled forward through death…so, what would that mean if we had the technology to actually outsmart death?

    • Seth Hecox says:

      Well said. The issue here is not that a man would live forever, but that he would live indefinitely. No organic brain can last literally forever. So you would die eventually, regardless. The issue is a life drastically lengthened and possibly enhanced via technology.

    • Ah, I see but for me the problem still lies in “cheating death” so to speak. I guess an insight from David Lack that I read earlier today might help:

      “For a population to maintain a stable size, all births must be balanced by a corresponding number of deaths. A world in which no animals die is a world in which no animals are born. That means no reproduction, no courtship, and by implication, no singing birds—much to the dismay of ornithologists and people in love!”

      Now, again, I see what you’re saying about man living indefinitely but if life is lengthened by technology then we would find an imbalance in the natural order of things if one does believe what Lack puts forward in that all births must be balanced by a corresponding number of deaths. If people continue to reproduce at the same rate they are now (remember that right now there are 7 billion people in the world and the population is steadily growing), then stalling death might be very problematic on a number of levels like space and using up our natural resources. What do you think, Seth?

    • Seth Hecox says:

      The ramifications of a population increase aren’t something I’m qualified to discuss with authority. I have no data with which to state any strong opinion on that whatsoever.

      The only things I feel knowledgeable enough to talk about are whether transhumanity is A) possible, B) ethical and C) desirable. I can’t predict any outcomes of a possible moment of singularity, because the possibilities are endless and I am entirely unqualified to speak with confidence on that subject.

  5. Isaac says:

    This is a video representation of what these elites would like to do.

    This is anti-Biblical in many ways, but in short is a technocratic tower of babel, seeking to rise above God and the rest of humanity. It’s pure evil.

  6. Josh says:

    I would be hesitant to accept that the soul resides in the brain. For one, you would first need to define “soul”, which I know just enough about to know that I don’t know much. But, I think this also raises the question of mind body dualism. Materialists reject that there is a mind apart from the physical brain. In fact, for them the mind and the brain are the same thing. But this is incredibly problematic. Electrochemical brain states aren’t “about” anything. But our thoughts are about ideas, events, people, things, etc. So they can’t be the same thing. Of course, there is a correlation between the physical brain and the mind. They influence each other, but they are still separate entities. The mind and the soul are immaterial entities. Does it makes sense that an immaterial entity is located in a physical location? Maybe it does, but it seems to be an interesting question.

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