I just took the first step toward becoming a cyborg. I now see through artificial lenses. My world is brighter, sharper. A new, improved HD version.
However, I am not a Transhumanist. I’m more of a trashhumanist.
As a science fiction writer, I do like to stay hip to things like Transhumanism. It pays to know what cutting edge movements are up to. Also, sometimes I find things I can . . . let’s say, appropriate.
I follow Zoltan Istvan, a major transhumanist writer and activist. He recently recommended a novel, Even God Herself, by another Transhumanist, Chris T. Armstrong. I read it. It’s a fun, weird read and I recommend it to those curious about the movement.
It also got me thinking.
Istvan dabbles in politics. He ran for president–yes, of these United States of America–as the candidate for the Transhumanist Party in 2016 (documented in the film Immortality or Bust), for governor of California in 2018, and considered running for the Libertarian and Republican presidential candidacies for the 2020 race. What could all this mean in 2024?
(Just had a wishful fantasy flash: What if Trump and his clones all ate each other alive during a televised debate and Zoltan ended up the Republican candidate?)
I found myself rereading Istvan’s novel The Transhumanist Wager. It’s as crazy as I remember it. I recommend it, too. Both books provide an excellent overview of Transhumanism.
Which brings me to why I’m a trashhumanist.
Like cyberpunk (I'm also not now nor have ever been a card-carrying cyberpunk, but that’s another story . . .) I have reservations with Transhumanism.
I like the whole body modification/customization thing, but do we really need immortality? A lot of people just get dragged along by social pressures, and never really figure out what to do with themselves, and the only reason they don’t live fast, die young and leave good-looking corpses is because they’ve stumbled into obligations. Even if you could be healthy long past your body’s use-by date, most people I’ve known who live long decide that they’re all done at some point, and dying doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Also, the problem with immortality is that it takes forever to be sure that it’s actually working.
Back in the Nineties, a guy with a remarkable resemblance to the Fifties puppet/kid show host Howdy Doody kept showing up at science fiction conventions, trying to sell cryonics. “When you’re dead, everybody else makes all the decisions,” he’d say. But why would you care when you’re doing what Raymond Chandler called the Big Sleep?
As LSD guru Timothy Leary said when he decided not to get frozen: “They have no sense of humor. I was worried I would wake up in 50 years surrounded by people with clipboards.”
Uploading into an android body is a step beyond the c-punk dream of living in virtual reality. And not only do they want to live forever, but they don’t like the fact that we’re animals. Christopher yearns for the “de-animalization” of the human race. Istvan wants us to stop being “super-apes” and ditch our “baggage culture.” There’s an abhorrence of biology and all its sensual, hot, wet, stickiness, and a sterile lust for what the Aztecs called the Way of the Fleshless, which is another way of saying death.
People are worried about AIs wanting to kill off us sloppy, illogical humans, but actually, if AIs are going to truly live, they need our mess, our trash. Android bodies are not enough. They need soft, sensual, sensitive meat-suits, like our bodies.
And that is exactly the way robotics are developing.
The Singularity will happen when biology and technology become indistinguishable, and compatible in ways we haven’t imagined. And it’s gonna be good and nasty.
Meanwhile, I recommended that you Transhumanists out there read Rudy Rucker. He’s way ahead of you with all this, especially his novel Juicy Ghosts.