The Daily Sheeple
by Joshua Krause
Over the past 30 years we’ve seen the exponential growth of computing technology change our lives in countless ways. It has done a lot to make our lives easier by increasing productivity, creating new job opportunities, and offering the greatest communication tool in human history, the internet.
But it has also come at a great cost to our humanity. Our gadgets are hurting us in a ways that we’re only just beginning to understand. They cause stress, depression, eye problems, back pain, and they are one of the biggest drivers of the sedentary lifestyle since the invention of the television. They leave adults socially isolated as they click away on their smartphones, oblivious to the world around them, and they make our children emotionally stunted and socially awkward. And for the icing on the cake, these devices can be very addictive as well.
But for a handful of people, our technological progress has no downside. They’re not only planning to fully embrace the gadgets of the future, they plan on augmenting their bodies with any piece of technology that they think will help make them smarter, stronger, or live longer. I can’t say I blame them, since these are attributes that all humans want, but their beliefs read like the fever dream of a science fiction writer.
They’re known as Transhumanists, and they believe that the human race will soon be a thing of the past. The lynchpin of their ideology is a hijacking of Moore’s Law, the idea that computer technology is and will always double exponentially on a regular basis, and will continue to do so until we enter ‘The Singularity’.
This is their utopia. Their heaven in the sky. The moment when technological progress and artificial intelligence surpasses human reasoning. This point will supposedly usher in a new era of peace and an astounding standard of living, as humans merge with machines, gain immortality, and explore the universe. But first, we have to abandon our humanity before we can step into the light of progress.
This Transhumanist manifesto sounds like a religion for atheists, which it is. While there are some religious folks who have supplemented their faith with these beliefs, the majority of the movement is populated by atheists and scientists, who are apparently lost on the irony of their situation. They spent their whole lives denying the existence of god, and criticizing his believers, only to find themselves embracing a technological cult that mirrors most religions, albeit in a purely physical rather than spiritual way.
And now their cult has taken on an additional characteristic that was traditional reserved for religions of a spiritual nature. Behold, the Transhumanist Church.
Earlier this month I received a Facebook invitation from an immortalist church in Florida: it was going to hold a ritual called Remembrance of the Resurrectables, a ceremony to commemorate those who had decided to have their bodies frozen—cryopreserved is the proper term—after their demise, in hopes that technology would at some point allow them to be reawoken.
Over live stream, the liturgy looked like a hybrid between a small church service and a lackluster business event. The officiator uttered a short but inspiring sermon about his conversion to immortalism. Then Bill Faloon—the founder of the church and a much more managerial speaker—took the floor to give a presentation about the history of cryonics, using many PowerPoint slides in the process. The churchgoers rose and lit candles to pay tribute to those who had been brave enough to bet against death’s victory.
Loudspeakers pumped out songs like Alphaville’s Forever Young. A screen showed pictures, names, and facts about people who had been cryopreserved (information about the cryonites’ “first life cycles” was the preacher’s wording). Finally, the officiator thanked everybody, including three cryonics companies who were involved in the event, and said goodbye.
Their faith has even adopted traditional symbols, and has their very own prophet. I would have guessed their prophet would be Ray Kurzweil, but since he’s still alive, maybe they’re saving him to be their messiah at a later date.
It has a symbol (a fiery phoenix) and a prophet (Nikolai Fedorov, a 19th century Russian philosopher who advocated immortality and resurrection of the dead), and holds a monthly service during which experts such as gerontologist Aubrey de Grey or entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt are invited to speak about longevity science. According to its mission, the church wants to help in the advancement of indefinite life extension not only because it’s “desirable” but also because it’s “what the Creator planned for humanity to accomplish.”
Fortunately, they at least recognize that their is no proof that their dream will ever come to fruition. Thus, their movement relies on faith, rather than knowledge.
“We have faith that we don’t have to die,” he explained to me in a phone call. “That we have, on this planet and at this time, people and technologies that will give us the opportunity to not have to die. But our belief is a faith [because] there’s no proof in today’s technology that we’ll be able to extend indefinitely our lives.”
And of course, no self respecting religion would be complete without a bloody apocalyptic showdown, not unlike the Book of Revelations.
In his novel The Transhumanist Wager, Istvan envisions a future where transhumanism and religiosity clash in worldwide wars. He thinks that’s no fantasy. “As the technology catches up and people realize that a new kind of human beings would walk the planet, there’ll be clashes,” he said. “There will be a showdown, a battle between religion and transhumanist aims. I’m 100 percent sure of it.”
I’m not one to crap all over someone’s religion, so I won’t do it here. If this is what these people choose to believe, then more power to them. But I will say this: We live in an age of boundless technology that is granting us convenience at the cost of our humanity. We should approach our computers with moderation and humility, so that we may reap the benefits without losing ourselves.
But to throw caution to the wind, and blindly embrace technology and its warm promises of a new golden age, sounds like a perfect combination of human hubris, arrogance, and folly. If they want to be more like a religion, then I suggest they adopt Icarus as their mascot.