The Approaching Transhumanism

The Approaching Transhumanism and the Inhibition of Ethical Discourse, by Laura Drake, Ph.D.

Amidst the never-ending chatter about matters like health care, taxes, and race relations, a new postindustrial power elite is rising in the background whose agenda transcends, and threatens to affect everyone a great deal more than, all these other matters combined. This new elite, which we will characterize as “techno-libertarian,” has emerged naturally as a result of the great coming together, or convergence, of the interests, people, processes, and architectures of three  powerful pre-existing forces: Big Technology, Big Finance, and Big Government. This new de facto ruling coalition has arrived quietly, so ubiquitously as to be invisible to the mass of the population.

Yet most people are indicating through their informal commentaries and postings, which can be found everywhere on the Internet, their intuitive understanding that their rulers, which people today call “the system,” are taking their freedom and dignity. They are probably not yet aware that the system has ceased to place any value on human life as an end in itself. In the past, the system utilized human capital as labor, but labor is becoming increasingly automated. Today it uses the population as merely a consumable natural resource, like trees in the soil or oil in the ground. It is systematically depleting this newly-available resource, as it has been doing to nature all along, to power its own functions.

The system has acquired a great deal of new knowledge in the field of neuroscience during the past two decades. As a result, its Internet entertainment software is increasingly captivating the attentive, cognitive, and emotional functions of entire populations: it seduces, then depletes, the energies of people’s minds. Its all-consuming technological platforms contain algorithms designed to play with people’s emotions, trigger changes in their brain chemistry, hijack their decision processes, and manipulate their “behavior.” In other words, the system is using the vast bulk of the human population in the postindustrial world for the same purpose as it uses laboratory rats and other animals, for scientific experimentation. The people have suffered a power loss, relative to the system, of such magnitude that system actors, in their own internal discourse, now speak of them solely in these terms.

The consequence of this general shift in the balance of power is that the political, economic, and technological environment has become increasingly authoritarian. This is reflected in the collapse of the “consent of the governed” in recent years, which Rasmussen polling data show has been consistently averaging a paltry 20 percent in the U.S. for almost a decade now.1 The trappings of democracy remain as legacy artifacts, but its deep substance and logical rationale from the elite standpoint are already gone. Powerless and alienated, but without a panoramic view of the big picture dynamics, the people appear to have no recourse other than to vent their anger into the technological social media forums, an activity which serves only as more food-energy for the system.

The techno-libertarian system meets any human definition of evil: it is at best indifferent, and at worst, openly hostile to the ultimate well-being of both humanity and nature. Far from being a conspiracy – the default explanation offered by growing numbers of incredulous people who once thought themselves citizens – the system functions, just as the mid-20th Century philosopher Jacques Ellul said it would, increasingly on autopilot, not subject to conscious human control.2

The inherent value of humanity and nature, which techno-libertarians commonly denounce as “essentialism,” is not open to debate. Nearly all the theoretical academic literature, as well as the practical material presented at system-sponsored professional conferences, is about procedures and methods, not ethics. The system roundly dismisses, ridicules, and deflects any attempt to introduce ethics into its discourse as irrelevant, inconvenient, inefficient, insignificant, based in humanism, and therefore, obsolete. This combination of mad scientists, corrupt politicians, and global corporatist financiers that together make up the system has unified itself around a single, obsessive pursuit: the ruthless perfection of its own efficiency.

The Prelude to Transhumanism: Full-Spectrum Immersion Technologies

With little left to conquer in the natural environment, the system, under the leadership of its scientific and technological wing, has turned the greater part of its attention inward, against humanity itself. Philosophically, the inward turn is in accord with the implosive societal dynamics predicted by the 1980s-era philosopher Jean Baudrillard.3 One of its most important frontiers, together with the AI research, is transhumanism, the aim of which is to “overcome humanity” through technology. The physical human being is thus emerging as the focal point of, and the raw material for, the converging subfields of genetic, nano-, and information technologies.

The techno-libertarian elite is aggressively pursuing transhumanism at this time on a near-consensus basis, with a proposed completion timeframe (less than 30 years) that falls within the lifetimes of most people alive today. Vast sums of money are going into it, and it is accelerating at the speed of what would ordinarily be called a crash program. Its objective, which the scientific and technological wing of the elite neither conceals nor fully advertises, and which the other two wings are affirming through their silence, is to render humanity extinct in favor of a more efficient replacement species. In their artificially engineered future, transhumans would be, at first, a hybrid species, the end-product of a man-machine fusion. However, their creators envision that these hybrid beings (cyborgs) would be likely, on grounds of efficiency, to eventually discard their biological components altogether to become a pure machine species. Techno-libertarianism has decreed that no political-governmental checks and balances shall be forthcoming to stop the transhumanist experiment aimed at “redesigning” humankind. It does not appear that its architects feel in any way responsible for what they are about to do, nor is it likely they will be held accountable for it by any entity or institution.

There are a small number of technologists who still believe in ethics, and who have stated that they do not wish to be a part of activity that will result in the replacement of the human species. The standout individual is Bill Joy, the cofounder and former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, who stepped forward through his seminal article “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” published in 2010 in Wired magazine.4 Re-quoting at length the words of Ted Kaczynski from Industrial Society and Its Future (1995), a.k.a. the Unabomber Manifesto,5 however reluctantly, Joy told his readers that he had initially chosen his profession believing that technology would “make the world a safer and better place.” He worked on it in the belief that it would bring about something resembling the future presented by Gene Roddenberry in the Star Trek series. But now, facing the likelihood that the opposite might be the case, he wrote: “I may be working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species.” Joy told his colleagues and other readers that if he were forced to conclude that his work would likely make the world worse and less safe, “then I would be morally obligated to stop this work.” Which, it appears, he did.

Most of the remainder of the scientific and technological lot presses on undeterred, dismissing the obvious consequences of its actions for humanity and nature, and aggressively denouncing the preoccupations of people like Bill Joy. However, Silicon Valley is not without its defectors, individual technologists from the intermediate ranks who have separated themselves from the relevant projects on ethical grounds.

Transhumanists, and the neuroscientists who are enabling them, are well aware that their proposed victims are hard-wired for self-preservation. Therefore, they are using deception to ensure the future compliance of their unwitting human subjects. As it is, people are already being flooded with an array of full-spectrum mental, emotional, and cognitive immersive Internet technologies, which dole out pleasure and entertainment in simulated worlds in return for intimate access and influence over people’s private thoughts and interpersonal relationships. Most of the new generation is already psychologically and socially anchored in one or more of these artificial bubble worlds, gilded mental cages constructed for human minds to dwell in. Simulated environments are consuming more and more attention of the human senses, overwhelming and confusing people, and ungrounding them from reality. Near-continuous immersion in these environments, which are designed to be both addictive and socially obligatory, is gradually robbing people of their ability to think in solitude, converse with others, focus on anything, or trust anyone.

The man-machine hybrid collective that the Internet is becoming, its human component now outfitted with smartphones for mobile and continuous immersion, is, in our opinion, rapidly becoming the AI the techno-libertarians have been dreaming about, not some invented pure machine mimic of human thought which is far more difficult to create. Man and machine are already fusing on the collective level into a hybrid organism, as people rapidly lose their capacity for attention, concentration, cognition, and emotional empathy. Instead, their existence itself is being monopolized by the fascinating (to them) simulations that appear inside the crystalline walls of the immersive Internet (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Second Life). In many cases, people are confusing its increasingly sophisticated simulations for reality, or in other cases, defaulting to them as a means of escape from their lives into the fantasy realm.

The next human attributes slated for disappearance are self-awareness, self-direction, independence of thought and action, and ultimately, human consciousness itself. Virtual reality technologies on the immediate time horizon will transform the current screen-based Internet simulation into a kind of all-encompassing three-dimensional interlinked holodeck enclosure. Instead of immersion into a screen that can be held away from the eyes, this technology is placed directly over people’s eyes, literally blinding them to the world, and further anchoring them in the simulated bubble artifice.

With people’s minds already pulled out of their real lives and thus contained, with their lines between reality and fantasy increasingly blurred, and with ethics gone the way of the dinosaur, the advance to virtual reality, and later to full-blown transhumanism, should be relatively seamless. Transhumanist engineers are looking forward to the time when they will be able to puncture the physical barrier of the skin and implant the simulation-generating technology directly into the brains of vast portions of the human population. At that time, people so implanted will be directed to “share” their thoughts online with other people whose brains have been similarly equipped, and, of course, with the information-hungry organs of the system. This stage will only serve to complete the people’s descent into an irreversible, final condition of servitude, or checkmate.

The Transhumanism Proposal for Mass Crimes Against Humanity

Transhumanists are playing not only on the pleasure principle, but also on people’s innate fear of death, to make them go where they want. They are enticing humanity in the short term by promising to enhance their natural-born abilities, cure most of their diseases, and extend their lives. This will be done first through brain implants, and later through the application of nano- and genetic technologies to their minds and bodies. Self-replicating microscopic nanobots will be injected into people’s bloodstreams, to take over their immune systems and “enhance” their bodily functions. Nanobots will have the capacity to rebuild any malfunctioning organs; however, they will eventually be used to extract people’s healthy organs as well, and replace them with artificially manufactured robotic ones. Would-be parents will be offered, through the application of genetic technologies, the ability to design their own babies through artificial selection. Transhumanist designers and inventors are following up these enticements with a false promise of immortality based on information technology.

Their primary deception lies in the fact that the people, so “enhanced,” do not stand to benefit from any of these advancements in the long term, because their minds, their consciousnesses, their ability to discern who they are, will be taken from them in pieces along the way. Transhumanists are the gamers of the scientific world, taking advantage of people’s ignorance, blindness, induced helplessness, and capacity for self-deception. The anatomical brains of this unwitting population, its members reduced to the status of human subjects, will be destroyed and discarded late in the process.

Transhumanists are “selling” their deadly wares to humans by promising them immortality, only the promise is not for humans: it is for the replacements they wish to create. The units that will comprise the replacement species will possess neither consciousness nor conscience, as they will not have human minds. By 2045, transhumanists claim they will be in a position to “offer” immortality to those human beings who are ready to permit the extraction of their brain tissue. In past decades, people in the older generations used to call this “lobotomy,” a practice which has been recognized to be deforming and unethical since at least the late 1950s. At present there are two identifiable variants of the procedure the transhumanists would use to destroy the human mind against the backdrop of the false promise of immortality.

In one scenario, the subject would be fully lobotomized, his brain volume evacuated from his cranium, and thus killed, with his own uninformed consent, of course. The electro-neuronal “data” contained within his brain at the moment of death would be “downloaded” for storage into either a stationary database (computer) or a mobile robotic encasement (robot). The human body-shell and the dead brain would then be discarded.

In a second scenario, the subject would also be fully lobotomized, but in this case his brain would be replaced by computer parts inserted directly into the cranium, and the dead brain parts would simply be disposed of. Transhumanists take great pains to emphasize that the brain tissue would be cut out and replaced gradually so that the person wouldn’t notice any sudden change. Upon completion, the person would be gone, his cranial cavity now repurposed as housing for machine hardware. Software would be installed to animate it, and to commandeer whatever remnant brain tissue had been left intact in order for it (the zombie) to move efficiently.

The victim of either procedure would obviously be dead by any medical definition.

The choice the transhumanists will have presented to the victim prior to undergoing this surgery, his already confused soul entranced by dreams of immortality, would be either a slow or sudden painless death; they just wouldn’t call it that. The victim himself would be blissfully ignorant of the fact that he would never even wake up from his surgery, much less become immortal. His brain, mind, consciousness, personality, executive functions, and ability to sense and experience will all have been deleted and replaced by a machine. There is hardly any more effective way to control human “behavior” than by simply inventing a deceptive mechanism by which to destroy it with the person’s own unknowing “consent.” The neurosurgery in question, when examined scientifically rather than according to technological mysticism, describes a methodology for semi-voluntary euthanasia, not immortality.

Amongst themselves, transhumanists admit that their wild pronouncements to the population about immortality are a deception. They are keenly aware that the human consciousness, the “I,” would not survive these grotesque procedures, nor would the singular person ever experience the continuity of life – both before and after the operation – inside a computer, robotic device, or human body-shell. The truth is that they do not care, as they deem human consciousness to be a triviality unworthy of survival. Their hostility to the further evolution of the sentient human being is a predictable characteristic of a kind of science that is no longer being conducted for ethical purposes.

Transhumanists, when pressed, concede that it will be necessary to hide the truth from their future victims regarding the survival of their own consciousnesses, that the people will have to be coddled in order to appease their human sentimentalities (i.e., their emotional attachments to their own existence). The deprecation of ethics in the pursuit of science, and its replacement by the supreme virtue of raw power, would be inconceivable to the average person, who is inclined to trust, and to disbelieve that human civilization’s most eminent scientists and entrepreneurs could ever be that evil.

It has to be wondered whether the techno-libertarian elites plan to undergo lobotomy themselves in line with their stated intent to do it to their fellow human beings en masse. Several of them claim they will, but it is highly doubtful that they will really decide to end their own lives at the time the choice  becomes a reality. That would be irrational behavior on the part of people who enjoy thinking of themselves as “rationalists.” Indeed, it is their own self-actualization as inventors, designers, and engineers that they pose, privately at least, as the real rationale for driving humanity down this grisly path. Those who credibly profess their disdain for the “I” as it pertains to everyone in the world, while at the same time excepting themselves from the same judgement, will open themselves up to the charge of rank hypocrisy, not to mention psychopathy. Exposing their hypocrisy is the first step toward defeating their elaborate deception. Even people who see themselves as having the rights of gods, even of the pseudo variety, cannot transcend logic and rationality as they transcend humanity, and still be considered gods.

Were ethics still in play, the entire construct of transhumanism would be called out for what it is: a giant con that amounts to a proposed mass crime against humanity. However, posthumanism, during the last decade, has completely replaced secular humanism as the dominant philosophy in elite circles. Adherence to posthumanism by the ruling coalition means, in plain terms, that the system no longer values human life, and that it has therefore already released itself from all ethical responsibilities to humanity as such. In a supposedly “democratic” system of rule, the massive power held by the system elite would itself be contingent on humanity’s trust that it would use that power responsibly from a national or species-level point of view. However, this point is not being widely discussed, because the elite media that serve as its publicists and spokesmen, similarly released from ethical constraints, see no reason to broadcast the long-term implications of these monumental new developments.

By the time anyone understands what it all means by way of the mass publicity channels, it will already be upon us, or more likely, upon our children and grandchildren, and too late to stop. It is important to emphasize that none of this is a secret: anyone can read about it for themselves within the pages of the most eminent scientific and technological journals. Bloated with power and ambition, these inventors and engineers see human life as a mere commodity to be taken from us and used up for their own benefit in the here and now. This is not to make us “better,” because there will literally be no more “us,” but to consume humanity, as they are already doing with nature, to create sources of even greater power for themselves.

The Transhumanist Motto: Resistance is Futile

Raw, unbridled power, divorced from ethics, uses inevitability as its primary argument. The transhumanist future is coming because we say so, and because we say so, it is inevitable. Translation: You, the people, are helpless to do anything about it. You will come into slavery willingly because, thanks to our neuroscientists, we know how your minds work, we know how to tempt and hook you, and you will find it irresistible: Resistance is Futile.

In theory, the acceptance of these different technologies, and in which sequence, would be subject to the individual choice of each person, in alignment with the “libertarian” intent of techno-libertarianism. Yet, as scientists, transhumanists are aware that human beings whose minds are occupied or distracted by reality substitutes of whatever nature – whether the fantasy worlds be drug- or computer-induced – will be disoriented and unnaturally vulnerable to suggestion and “nudging.” To the extent that people are stripped of their grip on reality, they are not actually being given a choice. Part of what is already being taken away, or willingly surrendered, is people’s ability to make meaningful choices.

Transhumanists insist that human beings be offered such choices only as individuals, but not as communities, while they themselves are in the very process of making these same decisions about our entire species as a small but powerful community. In offering the fiction of individual choice, what the system is really telling humanity is that it has no political rights to decide this matter in the sense that Francis Fukuyama, one of the few political scientists to take it up, indicates in his Our Posthuman Future (2002).6 In a free society, the people would have a real choice as to whether or not they wanted this specific group of Homo Sapiens, the techno-libertarian elite, of whom the transhumanists are a subset, as the shapers of the framework of their lives, as their effective rulers, or, more ominously, as their gods. If people do not know that this very choice is before them right now, which it is, they will not have the chance to make it while it still can be made. The transhumanists are saying that they are entitled to do whatever they want with humanity, writ large, and that the people as such do not have that kind of choice at all. The system’s own internal debate on the matter has already reached its concluding phase, and as far as it is concerned, its own consensus opinion is the only one that matters.

Free people, no less than the elite, actually do have human agency. As fully-functional sentient beings, as members of an intelligent species, we still have, for now, the ability to organize ourselves and act together, as groups, in the furtherance of self-determination. Human beings acting together have the ability to preclude the emergence, in the first place, of a system that would make us “choose” between prefabricated menu “options” as atomized individuals. Moreover, human beings are entitled to prevent a subgroup of our own species from subjecting humanity itself to the same kind of “planned obsolescence” that it applies to its latest smartphones. At the same time, history proves that it is supremely difficult to demonstrate to people that they have independent agency, and to overcome their natural inertia so they will make use of it. Most people are lazy and too trusting, and therefore they find it easier to have other people do their thinking for them. It is very important at this critical juncture that those “other people” not be transhumanists.

Those few who are keenly aware of the trajectory humanity is on, and who value self-preservation over the efficiency obsession of a small number of powerful but misguided people, are being tagged with names such as “bioconservatives” (preserving of humanity), and “neo-Luddites” (against runaway technology). However, techno-libertarians are little qualified to either lead people or make judgements. They are unqualified because they openly proclaim their hostility to the existence of their own species; thus, they pose a danger to themselves and others (as they are objectively still members of the human species they say they want to extinguish). Our agenda is ethical, as compared with theirs, which is unethical. In the final analysis, those are the only names that should matter so long as human beings remain human.

Those of us who “still” value human life, and therefore oppose transhumanism, will not be obsolete so long as humanity itself remains intact. For we are just philosophers, ethicists, mathematicians, social scientists, physical scientists, and others who believe in respect and dignity for humanity and nature. Our natural ranks include those who are protective of human individuality and independence, who have a sense of responsibility to the generations to come, who know the difference between right and wrong, and who are able to distinguish between freedom and tyranny. These are exactly the attributes, and the kinds of people, that the transhumanists would like to put down. It is up to us, not them, whether or not they succeed.

Transhumanists proclaim that “bioconservatives” and “neo-Luddites” who stubbornly fail to heed their incremental call to mass suicide shall one day find themselves in an alien transhuman world, unable to compete, or even survive. After all, most everybody else will have already “transitioned” out of human consciousness – to their deaths. Here they are referring to the possibility of a dual species situation, in which humanity would be split into two competing branches: the cyborgs versus the primitives and the holdouts. This is an inferior outcome they are willing to “risk” bringing about, that is, in the event their supreme goal of replacing the human race ends in failure. Needless to say, neither of these outcomes should be acceptable from a human point of view, but it is just that point of view, our point of view as human beings, that the transhumanists forthrightly condemn.

The First Step: Reclaiming Humanity’s Ethics from the Void

Most people, if told of the seriousness of the transhumanist agenda, would never understand how such a bizarre scenario would even remotely come to the minds of people in positions of “authority.” However, the ability to see unhindered requires us to accept that there really are such people in the world that have sprung from our own hollowed-out civilization, and that they fully intend to carry out this background agenda. It is also true that the options of the new generations of today to escape this fate are far fewer than they were for the generations that came before. Fewer and fewer children will ever leave their virtual spaces to go outside, play with friends, learn to drive, or work for a living. And this is exactly what the transhumanists are counting on. Human minds to them are merely raw material available for consumption, just like any other natural “resource” they encounter. Perhaps humanity should have heeded the earlier warnings.

The saner minds advocating ethical outcomes are very much losing this debate, which is why it is so necessary to now broaden it out, so that all may participate while the topic is still under live discussion. People the world over – regardless of their economic standing or political beliefs – must decide, soon, if they want that future of increasingly being treated as human laboratory rats, which is the way system actors already regard them behind closed doors, or if they would rather live as free, self-respecting human beings with the dignity that title conveys. Indeed, humanity will deserve whatever it gets if people who still value freedom and independence of thought, and action, do not deem it necessary to come together in the real world and decide what kind of future they really want.

Endnotes

[1] The last such poll the author could find on the Internet was that of 2014, showing 19 percent of likely voters believing “consent of the governed” existed at present. Rasmussen Reports, April 11, 2014. The previous poll, from 2012, placed that number at 22 percent; and Rasmussen Reports, June 24, 2012.

[2] Jacques Ellul, Our Technological Society, translated from the original French by John Wilkinson (New York: Vintage, 1964).

[3] Jean Baudrillard, In The Shadow of the Silent Majorities … Or the End of the Social and Other Essays (New York: Semiotext(e), Inc: 1983): pp. 1-61,.

[4] Bill Joy, “Why the future doesn’t need us,” Wired, 4/1/00.

[5] Theodore J. Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future, a.k.a. the Unabomber Manifesto (1995), reproduced in Kaczynski, Technological Slavery (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2010): pp. 36-120.

[6] Francis Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), 2002.

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