The Anti-Human Essence of Transhumanism

    

Today quite a lot is written about transhumanism, and the movement itself has long turned into an ideological paradigm with all the ensuing consequences.

When we talk about one or another system of ideas, first of all we should not refer to opinions that are widely held in society, but to the origins. Thus, for instance, if we judge Christianity not by the words and deeds of Christ, but by those of anyone who calls himself a Christian, then we may find a lot of nonsense without reaching the essence. That is why if we want to understand what transhumanism is like and see its anti-Christian essence, we need to refer to its policy documents, perhaps the main one of which is the Transhumanist Declaration1. This is very important, since today many daydreamers associated with the IT sphere predict a happy cybernetic future for us without realizing that a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit (Mt. 7:17).

So, an important document reflecting the goals and objectives of transhumanism is the Transhumanist Declaration. Its original version was worked out in 1998, and since then it has undergone a number of changes and additions with the final edition in 2009. In terms of its volume it is a small but quite specific document, owing to which you can understand what a threat to Christianity, and to humanity in general, transhumanism poses.

The first points of the Declaration speak of the untapped potential of humanity and the supposed future victory of technology over illness and aging. Interestingly, the possibility of leaving the Earth by mankind and colonization of other planets is also considered here. It is worth noting that the second point speaks of possible positive scenarios for the development of mankind on the path suggested by transhumanists. Apparently, now that technology is developing at a tremendous pace and much money is being invested in transhumanist projects, the transhumanists do not even have a single safe scenario for achieving their goals. In fairness, points 3 and 4 of the Declaration seem to indicate the understanding of the problem raised and speak of the need to study it—but all this should be done before the practical implementation of the plans, and not in the process. Let us recall that the history of mankind has seen many examples when technology led to very deplorable consequences.

Unfortunately, today we can hear more enthusiastic comments about the “bright technocratic and cybernetic future of mankind” than serious and constructive criticism. Technology is fraught with a rather serious danger, which the American theologian and physicist Ian Barbour (1923–2013) called “uncontrollability”. The fact is that even today some of them are a single interconnected and self-sustaining network that lives its own life. Such things tell us that the singularity (the digitization of human consciousness and the creation of a super-strong artificial intelligence capable of self-development), described by the British mathematician I.J. Good (1916–2009), has ceased to be a distant fantasy and is becoming a fully realizable reality. In this case, critical pessimism is better than restrained optimism, because the transhumanists forget that technology can “break loose” and lead to unpredictable consequences: “Some critics assert that technology is not just a set of adaptable tools for human use but an all-encompassing form of life… with its own logic and dynamic. Its consequences are unintended and unforeseeable… We have set in motion forces that we cannot control. The individual feels powerless in the face of a monolithic system.”2

Points 5 and 6 of the Declaration say that the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of human suffering, the improvement of wisdom and moral responsibility, and respect for the individual rights and dignity of all people in the world should be regarded as urgent and actively funded priorities. It should be noted that these formulations look very appealing, but there is cunning behind their “shine”. If the goals of transhumanism are reduced to pragmatic formulations, they boil down to the desire for total control over matter and oneself. However, the realization of these goals will concern only those individuals who agree on the application of technology to them, but the part of humanity that rejects this worldview and the use of these practices will be recognized as “subhuman” or a “failed experiment.3” It is already clear today that high technology is a rather expensive thing, and only a limited number of super-rich people have access to advanced developments. This state of affairs is openly recognized by the proponents of transhumanism themselves, so a situation in which representatives of the wealthy elite will become posthumans will be a completely natural consequence of such social stratification. This raises a completely logical question: What will become of that part of the global population that does not want or cannot afford to use advanced technology? It seems that the answer is quite obvious. Today we can already observe the implementation of the exploitative plan in the form of propaganda of “abnormal relations between a man and a woman as family members; the use of women as a means or a tool for the production of children for the rich; the imposition of family planning; the promotion of abortions; chipping of people for the purpose of total control; the introduction of android robots;” 4 promotion of the right to euthanasia (while in some countries child euthanasia has been legalized and plans are being implemented to use it as a means to combat poverty).

In addition, a technocratic society of exploiters will lead to the depersonalization of man: “When people feel like cogs in a well-oiled machine, true community and interpersonal interactions are threatened.”5 In a technocratic society people lose their sense of responsibility for themselves and everyone else. In this case, the formation of a technological mentality is underway, which regards man as just an object of the system and treats him accordingly. Even Hegel spoke of man as a puppet of history, but today this position has been hyperbolized, and as it turns out, man is “a hopelessly arrogant puppet.” He is incapable of learning anything. Where are you philosophers, great and small, who wrote about choice and “free will”? Can anyone now dare to assert that they exist? When we point to all the problematic issues and call for thought about where we are sliding, we hear shouts from all sides: “Be silent! It (progress), our new god, and it cannot be stopped.”6 In light of the foregoing, points 7 and 8 of the Declaration sound quite mocking. They read: “We advocate the well-being of all sentient beings, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise. We favor allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they live their lives.”7 Today we can already see that people who do not agree with the digitalization of certain areas of life may lose a number of rights and freedoms. In addition, in the above quotation we see that humans, animals, and… artificial intelligence are ranked on the same ontological level. The denial of the hierarchy of being, where man is perceived merely as one of the links in the development of the world, has long been an attribute of the transhumanists. It comes to the point that they are even at peace concerning the possible total destruction of humanity by super-strong artificial intelligence, which they perceive as a qualitatively new and more advanced form of life, to which we must give a “lucky ticket” to the future. For all its odiousness, this idea is being translated to the masses today—for example, through cinema (i.e., the film Ex Machina). It goes without saying that all of the above contradicts Christian eschatology, and how it is ideologically flawed in the light of the Gospel teaching. For many Christians, it’s all very clear.

Despite a very brief review of the Transhumanist Declaration, not only the anti-Christian, but also the anti-human character of transhumanism becomes clear. We cannot stop the development of technology in which billions of dollars are being invested today, but at least we are able to understand the ongoing processes and speak about them to those who are still able to hear us. The final word will be with God Almighty.

Archpriest Vladimir Dolgikh
Translation by Dmitry Lapa

Orthodox Life

1/3/2023

1 http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-declaration/

2The citation source: https://www.giffordlectures.org/books/ethics-age-technology/chapter-1-views-technology

The Russian resource: Barbour Ian. Ethics in the Age of Technology. Moscow: Biblical Theological Institute of St. Andrew the Apostle. 2001. pp. 13–14.

3 Grechkina E. N. Transhumanism--the Worldview of the Twenty-First Century or a Civilizational Threat to Humanity // Humanitarian, Socio-Economic and Social Sciences. No. 8. Krasnodar, 2015. P. 36.

4 Ibid.

5 Barbour Ian. Ethics in the Age of Technology. Moscow: Biblical Theological Institute of St. Andrew the Apostle. 2001. P. 13.

6 Kutyrev V. A. Gone with Progress: the Eschatology of Life in the Technogenic World. St. Petersburg: Aleteyya, 2016, p. 126.

7 https://www.humanityplus.org/the-transhumanist-declaration

Comments
bill cordasco1/8/2023 3:51 am
Um, I seem to recall something from the Apocalypse about things that looked like men but had faces of iron, etc. You don’t think? Nothing good will come of this.
Afanassy1/4/2023 9:43 pm
Dionysius - - - Are you addressing my comment or the technology of creating transgender persons, as in the article? if the former, then "decrying" is NOT what I intended, -- as I simply reported objectively on what is developing. In fact, the Japanese are also quite advanced in AI robotic technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5yJvUMJ7Ng. So, it's coming -- like an avalanche. If the latter, then my take on the article is that you are right: most of it is unnecessary hand-wringing. The author's concluding comment is really all that needed to be said: "We cannot stop the development of technology in which billions of dollars are being invested today, but at least we are able to understand the ongoing processes and speak about them to those who are still able to hear us. The final word will be with God Almighty." What theologians need to start dealing with NOW goes beyond just "understand": they need to define what is "human" under God? What is life, as created by God, even if brought forth by man? Are all sentient beings (robotic and otherwise) part of a worshipping community? [Do not say they are just preprogrammed electro-mechanical devices. Ever since "HAL" in "2001, A Space Odyssey", we have learned of Heuristically Algorithmic Logic -- the ability of a computer to write/rewrite its own software and increase its own capabilities, ad infinitum. In other words: become fully sentient, with feelings and emotions.] God will no doubt have the final word, just as He gave us THE Final Word, to Whom we did not listen. But will His "final word" now even look like us? ===============
Dionysius Redington1/4/2023 5:38 am
Simply decrying this technology is a waste of time; part of it is already here, and more is coming. Theologians must try to understand the implications, or they will be completely unprepared for the test of faith that is just around the corner. It's hardly great literature, but around the start of the century Gregory Keyes wrote a tetralogy called Age of Unreason, based on the idea of a world where Isaac Newton's occultism had been as productive as his physics and all the great thinkers of the Eighteenth Century (several of whom appear as characters in the books) were in touch with 'angels' who answered their philosophical and scientific questions instantly and provided them with whatever technology they desired. It's dystopian fiction, and it will be our world in ten years. --Dionysius Redington
Afanassy1/3/2023 6:12 pm
We (some American scientists and engineers) are already developing robotic life forms with artificial intelligence (AI) that far surpasses human capabilities. These "beings" can be self-replicating; consume 1/100th of the energy that humans need; and are immune to many temperature changes and environmental hazards. Will they be our "replacements"? Will they honor God? What are the theological implications? ===============
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