In its broadest sense, transhumanism is the view that humanity’s problems can and should be solved through science and technology.[1] Humanity’s chief problems, on this view, derive from our biological, cognitive, and psychological limits. Transhumanists, therefore, seek to overcome these limits through applying science and technology to human persons. And this, they propose, will eventually lead to a new species labeled “posthumans.”[2]

Transhumanists envision a techno-utopia sometimes referred to as a triple ‘S’ civilization of superintelligence, superlongevity, and superhappiness, a future where there is a gradual blurring of the traditional boundaries between human persons and machines.[3] This transition is sometimes referred to as the Double Blur, or the two-pronged pursuit to build machines to be persons (then surpass humans), and at the same time to transform human persons into machines through artificial technological enhancements.[4]

Transhumanism’s materialist philosophy of human persons fuels their ambition to merge humans with technology. They have a mechanistic picture of the world, where nature is modeled after a machine and human beings are part of that machinery. All natural objects are constituted of essentially the same kind of thing, namely fundamental particles in different configurations.[5] Transhumanist Nick Bostrom puts it this way, “If human beings are constituted of matter obeying the same laws of physics, then it should, in principle, be possible to learn to manipulate human nature the same way we manipulate external objects.”[6] Transhumanists approach problems with a reverse engineering mentality. If something needs to be fixed, you take apart its components and determine the causal connections. If every problem can be converted into a technical problem, then the solution is simply the appropriate application of technology. Transhumanism reflects a strong commitment to carry to completion the materialistic metaphysical picture of reality to include human persons. In fact, if it were possible to merge humans with technology, meaning the entirety of body and brain were replaced with technology, it would count as evidence for the materialist philosophy of human persons.

Few would deny that the universe and natural objects are, in some respects, machine-like and that this point of view has resulted in many scientific achievements. However, this is only part of a complete explanation of reality, and it is legitimate to take exception when this materialist view is set up as the absolute and all-sufficient form of explanation. I argue that transhumanism’s materialist philosophy is inadequate to account for humanity’s essential features, namely the existence of persons, enduring personal identity, ethics, values, individual autonomy, liberty, dignity, and rights. Because of their incomplete understanding of the human person, there is no reason to believe their proposed enhancements are metaphysically possible and, if attempted, would be good for human flourishing.

Materialism Cannot Account for the Existence of Persons

First of all, it is misleading for transhumanists to claim a strictly materialist explanation of human persons. Materialism denies the existence of persons in the ordinary sense, namely that we are substantial, conscious, rational, embodied selves with free will. Instead, they believe that human beings are the accidental products of a non-personal, purposeless, valueless evolutionary process driven by reproductive fitness. Nevertheless, because people generally hold the ordinary, commonsense view of themselves as substantial selves, transhumanists often employ “person” language in their writings in order not to appear extreme. Yet, this “person” language is inconsistent with their materialism and in the end, as I will show, transhumanists believe the concept of the person as illusory. They seem compelled to give an account of our commonsense assumptions — enduring identity, moral agency, individual autonomy, rights — but their explanations are incompatible with materialism. If they were intellectually honest, they would follow Francis Crick who candidly states the radical consequences of materialism:

 

The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice may have phrased it: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can be truly called astonishing.[7]

 

Nothing undermines the materialist philosophy of human persons like the astonishing hypothesis that persons do not exist.

Materialism Cannot Account for Enduring Personal Identity

Transhumanists claim that radical human enhancements are desirable because they are aimed at a person’s well being. Practically speaking, if I am deciding whether to radically transform myself into a posthuman, it seems crucial to know that ‘I’ myself will experience this promised future existence. If the enhancements will not improve ‘me,’ then the rationale for deciding to enhance myself is less persuasive. Am I only creating my successor? In fact,  transhumanism’s materialist view of the human person and their patternist view of the self are not sufficient to account for personal identity that will persist throughout the trajectory of radical enhancements.[8]

According to transhumanism, the human person is best understood as a bundle of molecular and cellular complexes that can be engineered and manipulated.[9] For the transhumanist, the most important part of the bundle is the brain because a person’s identity is encoded there in the form of a pattern of neural connections, memories, cognitive capacities, and sensory abilities. This core pattern changes very gradually in stages over time, yet it purportedly maintains continuity.[10] Ray Kurzweil’s description of patternism affirms the gradual aspect of the changing pattern. He says, “I am rather like the pattern that water makes in a stream as it rushes past the rocks in its path. The actual molecules of water change every millisecond, but the pattern persists for hours or even years.”[11]

Kurzweil analogizes the water with our biology and the pattern of the stream with our brain pattern. Yet, even if we grant that your brain pattern is you, this stream analogy has little to do with explaining how identity persists through radical enhancements. Water molecules in a stream change location by moving downstream, but never do they cease being water molecules. After all, transhumanists plan to replace every biological molecule with artificial technology. Additionally, Kurzweil admits the pattern is not permanent but persists only for a while. This is the first clue that he and other leading transhumanists are not ultimately concerned about the persistence of personal identity.

The project to merge humans with technology occurs in two phases. Phase one uses biotechnology, nanotechnology, cyborg engineering, and the Global Brain to replace our bodies and brains with non-biological parts. This phase is dependent on first being able to fully understand the intricate workings of biology. This obstacle is acknowledged by Ray Kurzweil, albeit as an afterthought to his optimistic claim: “Biology will never be able to match what we will be capable of engineering once we fully understand biology’s principles of operation” (emphasis added).[12] Transhumanists are confident that by fully understanding biology and gene expression, they will be able to manipulate the genome and thus enhance specific traits related to health, cognition, and emotions.[13] Thereafter, replacing these biological systems with artificial parts will proceed fairly easily. Our bodies and brains will be replaced with such things as synthetic DNA, artificial organs, artificial blood cells, cognitive nanobots, neural chips, neural implants, modified memory, artificial neurons and synapses, and brain/computer interfaces.[14]

With the phase one changes to brain patterns, it is unclear, on the patternist view of the self, how personal identity persists. Susan Schneider, who admits she is sympathetic toward transhumanism, finds this path from human to posthuman incompatible with the preservation of the original person’s identity.[15] She likens transhumanism’s enhancement trajectory to a “technophile’s alluring path to suicide.”[16] Further, phase one enhancements will blur the boundaries of the self because the body and brain will be merged with technology that is constantly connected to the internet, artificial general intelligence, and the Global Brain.[17] The enhanced self, merged with technology, will no longer have the sense of a single consciousness distinct from the external world. Our experience as autonomous individuals, the feeling of individuation and separateness, will seem fallacious when we are interacting every day with AGI and the collective Global Brain.

The loss of personal identity is not the only human cost of phase one enhancements; the inherent value of embodiment is also destroyed. Phase one enhancements are meant to maintain the health of the body and brain long enough to be a ‘bridge’ to phase two technologies that are yet to be developed.[18] Kurzweil plans to achieve radical life extension through “a bridge to a bridge to a bridge.”[19] Biotechnology is a bridge to nanotechnology which is a bridge to mind uploading. Thus, the body is only instrumentally valuable; it is used as the means to mind uploading, where one can then escape the body altogether.[20] Our self-understanding and experience affirm that we ought not treat our bodies in this way. Immanuel Kant’s Principle of Humanity reflects this commonsense view of human dignity: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only.”[21] Transhumanism’s materialist philosophy and utilitarian ethics make no room for the intrinsic value and dignity of embodied human persons.

The aim of phase two enhancements, or mind uploading, is to transfer the biological brain to a more durable non-biological substrate.[22] Consider the following thought experiment: suppose the computational brain pattern of John is captured through Whole Brain Emulation (WBE), without destroying John’s brain.[23] His pattern is then uploaded to a computer. On the patternist view, the same pattern means the same personal identity. Therefore, John and the upload on the computer are the same person. But this is obviously wrong. Even if we grant that an upload is a conscious person, it is not the very same person as the original John. The upload is a copy, not John himself. Only one person can be John. To make matters worse, the upload can be copied again and again.

This is an absurd view of the self with all kinds of ethical and legal ramifications. Ray Kurzweil defends the patternist view, with its absurdities, saying “It’s not true that the [copy] is not you — it is you. It is just that there are now two of you. That’s not so bad — if you think you’re a good thing, then two of you is even better.”[24] Likewise, Nick Bostrom applauds the potential advantages of mind uploading, such as “the ability to make back-up copies of oneself (favorably impacting on one’s life-expectancy) and the ability to transmit oneself as information at the speed of light. Uploads might live either in virtual reality or directly in physical reality by controlling a robot proxy.”[25]

Some transhumanists are more like Francis Crick and suggest the sense of self is an illusion. For instance, Ben Goertzel, Chairman of Humanity+, describes how the idea of personal identity will become obsolete in the future:

 

Advances in technology will lead to the obsolescence of many of the most familiar features of our inner lives, like the way we conceive of ourselves, the feeling of free will that we have, the sense we have that our consciousness is sharply distinct from the world around us, the sense we have that our mind and awareness is within us rather than entwined in our interactions with other minds and the external environment.[26]

 

Similarly, James Hughes holds a Buddhist and Parfitian view of the self as an illusion.[27] He predicts that once technology gives us control of our memory, cognition, and personality, “we will abandon our Western view of individuality for new forms of collective identity.”[28]

Simply put, based on their own philosophy of patternism and the admission of at least three transhumanist leaders, the self as a pattern will not survive gradual enhancements or mind uploading. In fact, on this scenario, the original self wills its own death. This outcome is paradoxical, especially since the primary motivation to become posthuman is to overcome death.[29] Clearly, transhumanists are more interested in using humanity as a means to create a new species of posthumans than preserving personal identity.

Materialism Cannot Account for Ethics, Values, and Duties

Transhumanist Max More maintains there is no agreement concerning a comprehensive transhumanist moral theory.[30] His claim seems to be an attempt to be consistent with transhumanism’s materialistic evolutionary philosophy. As Michael Ruse acknowledges, “Ethics is an illusion put in place by natural selection to make us good cooperators.”[31] However, despite transhumanists having no formal moral theory, it is not difficult to discover that they adhere to a set of values and a particular concept of human nature, namely a utilitarian ethic, the will to evolve and control human nature, and a belief in perpetual progress.[32] Yet, transhumanism’s materialistic evolutionary philosophy offers no basis or framework for ethics, values, and duties.

A Utilitarian Ethic

In addressing ethical concerns, transhumanists typically hold to some form of utilitarianism.[33] Generally stated, the principle of utility tells us that right actions are those that have good consequences for the community. On this view, determining if a certain enhancement is morally right is based on whether there is a good outcome for society. For the transhumanist, a good outcome would be one that advances humanity’s goal to transcend its biology.

For example, some biotechnologies will offer enhancements but require the willful destruction of thousands of human embryos.[34] The transhumanist perceives an enhancement as morally right based on the good consequences for the community, such as overall increased lifespan or cognition. The ends justify the means. Utilitarianism does not accord moral standing to individuals, such as human embryos. Even in cases where utilitarians acknowledge that individual rights do exist, these rights are not inherent or inalienable but contingent on whether they confer some advantage to society. In John Stuart Mill’s well known work Utilitarianism, he expresses the contingent nature of individual rights which are grounded in utility.[35] In discussing justice, which he views as a sentiment, he writes, “All persons are deemed to have a right to equality of treatment, except when some recognised social expediency requires the reverse.”[36] Likewise, transhumanists will abrogate individual rights when it is decided those rights are no longer useful to society.

While self-described as having no formal moral theory, transhumanists still do not hesitate to use moral language such as ‘ought’ and ‘should.’ In the Humanity+ FAQ discussion of reproductive genetic engineering, transhumanists argue

 

that parents have a moral responsibility to make use of these methods, assuming they are safe and effective. Just as it would be wrong for parents to fail in their duty to procure the best available medical care for their sick child, it would be wrong not to take reasonable precautions to ensure that a child-to-be will be as healthy as possible.[37]

 

Therefore, enhancing your offspring is seen not only as desirable, but as a moral obligation.

Values and Duties

The normative value shared by transhumanists is the will to evolve, a desire to transcend our biological limitations. In addition, the ability to manipulate the world is seen as a universal feature of being human.[38] Max More puts these two ideas together, “We will reshape our own nature in ways we deem desirable and valuable.”[39] Simon Young describes it this way: “Human beings have an innate ‘will to evolve,’ an instinctive drive to expand our abilities in pursuit of ever-increasing survivability and well-being.”[40] The desire for human enhancement and the ability to control nature are seen as universal, innate, and instinctive. Simon Young claims these desires are aimed at our well-being; they are good for their own sake. In Nick Bostrom’s essay “Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up,” he argues that, for most current human beings, these posthuman modes of being will be very good for us.[41]

Transhumanists present their conception of human nature as normative, which is reflected in their dogmatism regarding their selected values. This brings to mind the Innovators in C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, who debunk traditional values and virtues yet believe their own values are immune from the debunking process.[42] As philosopher Michael Hauskeller properly states, “It thus appears that [human] nature, after it has been expelled from the transhumanist paradise with a great show of indignation, is immediately invited back in through the backdoor, just as Lewis thought it would.”[43]

Even if we grant that transhumanism’s enhancements are for our good, we would need a standard by which to measure these changes. It seems rational that only enhancements that increase the well-being of our species would qualify as good. Using this standard, the trajectory of enhancements that ultimately reject and abolish the human species in order to evolve into a non-biological posthuman species should necessarily be judged as bad for human flourishing. The conclusion of Lewis is apt, “The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves.”[44]

Regardless of transhumanism’s commitment to a select set of values and ethics, their materialist evolutionary philosophy lacks the moral basis to support these values. That is, if matter is all there is and if human morality is the product of natural selection — meaning belief-formation is aimed at fitness and survival, not truth — then there can be no objective account of morality.[45] Hence, transhumanists have no grounds for believing their “select” moral knowledge and claims are true. If moral reasoning involves forming judgments about what one ought to do, those actions must be evaluated against an objective standard. If matter is all there is, there are no “ought” or”should” claims. In response to transhumanism’s select values, Lewis would likely say,

 

“I ought” is the same sort of statement as “I itch” or “I’m going to be sick.” In real life when a man says “I ought” we may reply, “Yes. You’re right. That is what you ought to do,” or else, “No. I think you’re mistaken.” but in a world of Naturalists . . . the only sensible reply would be, “ Oh, are you?” All moral judgments would be statements about the speaker’s feelings, mistaken by him for something else (the real moral quality of actions) which does not exist.[46]

 

Make no mistake, transhumanism’s appeal to universal human values is not consistent with their commitment to a materialistic evolutionary philosophy. Therefore, there is no warrant to take their enhancement projects or their moral claims seriously.

Belief in Perpetual Progress

Another normative value promoted by transhumanists is perpetual progress. It is closely tied to the essential human characteristic of self-overcoming, or the will to evolve. In Max More’s Principles of Extropy 3.11, perpetual progress is the number one value, defined as: “perpetually overcoming constraints on our progress and possibilities as individuals, as organizations, and as a species; growing in healthy directions without bound.” [47] In Nick Bostrom’s “Transhumanist Values,” technological progress is a basic condition for the transhumanist project “to explore the posthuman realm.” [48]

Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) argued against this kind of absolute change, saying, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”[49] If Santayana’s reasoning is right, transhumanism’s progress toward a posthuman species represents absolute change with no being, or self, left to improve.

Transhumanists rely on the doctrine of technological progress when promoting their triple ‘S’ techno-utopia. Whereas it is reasonable to assume that technology will continue to advance in the future, it is not reasonable to assume that it will impact moral progress. In fact, because there is no notion of purpose or end in materialistic science and technology, there is no basis for judging the value of the ends to be served by technology; that is, there is no basis for judging whether technological changes are improvements or not.

Transhumanists have complete confidence in technological progress which blinds them from realistically anticipating the human propensity for twisting good into evil. Accordingly, they generally dismiss humanity’s potential for evil.[50] Consider the significance of the computer virus as a reflection of the human capacity for evil. The sole purpose of inventing a computer virus is to cause chaos and destroy. Ted Peters says, “There is something at work in the human mind that leads to the development of brute and unmitigated destruction. No increase in human intelligence or advance in technology will alter this ever-lurking human proclivity.”[51] The computer virus is an apt metaphor for the literal evil that could arise when we have software running in our brains and bodies and computers that control our nanobot immune system.[52]

This transhumanist blind spot is caused by three things: an overconfidence in technological progress, an assumption of human perfectibility, and a belief in a techno-utopia. As a remedy, I suggest a return to Christian Realism in the tradition of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971). In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Niebuhr emphasized and exposed the sinful condition of human beings, a reality made undeniable because of World War I and II, Hitler, Stalin, the Holocaust, concentration camps, and the gulags. The Christian Realist would caution transhumanists against overestimating what can be achieved through technology apart from the gracious action of God. Niebuhr stressed that because of the human potential to choose evil and chaos, as well as what is good and fulfilling, progress is not inherently good, but ambiguous.[53] There is a need to acknowledge the human condition; the human potential to choose evil cannot be converted into a technological problem to be solved by enhancements. Only God can ultimately solve this problem.

Materialism Cannot Account for Individual Autonomy, Liberty, and Rights

Individual autonomy, liberty, and rights are promoted by transhumanists, especially the fundamental right to modify one’s body and brain. They oppose government intervention and regulation as it relates to what they call the right to morphological freedom.[54] The Transhumanist Declaration states: “We favor morphological freedom — the right to modify and enhance one’s body, cognition, and emotions. This freedom includes the right to use or not to use techniques and technologies to extend life, preserve the self through cryonics, uploading, and other means, and to choose further modifications and enhancements.”[55]

Transhumanists defend the concept of cognitive liberty, defending the right of individuals to choose brain enhancements by applying biotechnology, neuropharmacology, machine interfaces, and collective neural networks.[56] It is the individual self that acts as a responsible agent and freely wills his own enhancement and self-transformation. The subject becomes the object of his own change. Anders Sandberg rightly says that morphological freedom is “the use of oneself as a tool to achieve oneself.”[57] This echoes Lewis’s warning in The Abolition of Man that “it is in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere ‘natural object’ and his own judgements of value as raw material for scientific manipulations to alter at will.”[58]

Despite the ‘rights’ language, transhumanism’s materialist philosophy cannot account for the existence of the self as a free agent who has individual rights. In the early stages of their project, transhumanists use these concepts (as useful fictions) to appeal to people who hold a commonsense view of themselves. Transhumanists consistently portray the individual as a responsible agent of his actions. Because they appeal to individual autonomy and self-determination when defending the fundamental right to enhance, it appears that transhumanists are staunchly libertarian as it relates to free agency. Be that as it may, the concept of free human agency is problematic for the transhumanist as a materialist. If human persons are strictly physical, this entails that all mental events are caused by purely physical prior histories and, therefore, free actions are necessarily ruled out.[59]

In brief, transhumanists have no philosophical grounds for their appeal to individual autonomy and free will in defending the right to enhance. The inadequacy of their materialist philosophy to account for individual autonomy and liberty is one of the reasons there is a blatant inconsistency between defending individual autonomy and upholding their utilitarian ethic. Utilitarian David Pearce abrogates individual liberty in favor of the authoritarian state when discussing the challenges of a future techno-utopia that has overcome death.

Control of human reproduction, whether sexual or clonal, will be a generic feature of any post-aging civilization. The need for social mechanisms of reproductive control on pain of Malthusian catastrophe isn’t a specific peculiarity of the abolitionist project. If (post)humans aren’t going to grow old and die, as we do today, then we can’t go on having children at will indefinitely. A regime based on genetic Russian roulette will be replaced by an ethically responsible policy of planned parenthood.[60]

Transhumanists also express inconsistencies between their belief in individual self-determination and their belief that free people are often mistaken about their own best interests. Despite favoring liberal views of individual autonomy in their promotion of transhumanism, few believe democracy will be the final and best form of government for a future techno-utopia.[61] Their rationale for authoritarianism is that knowledgeable rulers understand the needs of the people better than the people themselves.

Transhumanism’s reason for envisioning a technocratic authoritarianism is that a superior posthuman would know better what people need. Nick Bostrom calls for a global “singleton” to mitigate existential risks inherent in emerging technologies. He defines the singleton as “a world order in which there is a single decision-making agency at the highest level.”[62] The singleton could be a democratic world republic, a world dictatorship, a friendly superintelligent machine, or a posthuman.[63] Its purpose would be to solve global problems that might result from new dangerous technologies, like nanotechnology. “The singleton could relieve inequalities and suppress wars with help from improved surveillance, mind-control technologies, and communication technologies.”[64]

In the end, transhumanists have no philosophical grounds for appealing to individual autonomy and free will in defending the right to enhance. In fact, when these concepts are no longer useful to the future society, they likely will disintegrate in the face of a technocratic authoritarian rule. Again, it turns out Lewis was right:

 

It is in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere ‘natural object’ and his own judgements of value as raw material for scientific manipulation to alter at will. The objection to his doing so does not lie in the fact that this point of view (like one’s first day in a dissecting room) is painful and shocking till we grow used to it. The pain and shock are at most a warning and a symptom. The real objection is that if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere Nature, in the person of his de-humanized Conditioners.[65]

 

Conclusion

My critique demonstrates that the transhumanist cannot adequately account for the human person based on their materialist, mechanistic, reductionist metaphysics. The essential features of humanity that materialism leaves out — the substantial self, enduring identity, morality, free will, inherent dignity, and rights — are the very things that a philosophy of human persons needs to explain and a technology that proposes to enhance human persons must account for. Since their materialist philosophy offers such an incomplete understanding of the human person, there is no justification for believing their proposed trajectory of enhancements are metaphysically possible and, if attempted, would be good for human flourishing.

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Citation Information

Julie Miller, “Transhumanism and the Abolition of the Human Person,” An Unexpected Journal: Image Bearers 4, no. 1. (Spring 2021), 53-84.

Direct Link: https://anunexpectedjournal.com/transhumanism-and-the-abolition-of-the-human-person/


Endnotes

[1] Max More, “The Extropian Principles version 3.0, A Transhumanist Declaration,” MROB, 1998, accessed March 15, 2020, https://mrob.com/pub/religion/extro_prin.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] David Pearce, “What is Transhumanism? The 3 Supers,” Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, September 16, 2014, accessed March 15, 2020), https://ieet.org/IEET2/print/9543.

[4] Selmer Bringsjord and David A. Ferrucci, What Robots Can and Can’t Be (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992), 4.

[5] Edward Feser, Aristotle’s Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science (Germany: editiones scholasticae, 2019), 46.

[6] Nick Bostrom, “A History of Transhumanist Thought,” Journal of Evolution and Technology 14, no. 1 (April 2005): 4.

[7] Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, Naturalism (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 22.

[8] Susan Schneider, “Future Minds: Transhumanism, Cognitive Enhancement and the Nature of Persons,”  Neuroethics Publications, July 1, 2008, accessed March 8, 2020, 1-14, https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1037&context=neuroethics_pubs

[9] Steven A. Hoffman, “Transhumanist Materialism: A Critique from Immunoneuropsychology,” in Hava Tirosh-Samuelson and Kenneth L. Mossman, eds., Building Better Humans? Refocusing the Debate on Transhumanism (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012), 275.

[10] Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 258.

[11]Ibid., 383. Kurzweil’s reference to the pattern in a stream is likely a nod to Heraclitus (c. 535-475 B.C.), who held that permanence is an illusion and change is the universal feature of reality. Plato and Aristotle both credit Heraclitus as saying, “It is impossible to step into the same water twice.” See Plato, Cratylus, in Mortimer Adler, editor, Great Books of the Western World, Volume 6 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1990), 94; Aristotle, Metaphysics, in Mortimer Adler, editor, Great Books of the Western World, Volume 7 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. , 1990), 529 (1010a13).

[12] Ibid., 227.

[13] This kind of reasoning is akin to “genetic determinism,” which Philip Kitcher soundly refutes saying, “We do not live by our genes alone . . .Typically, many genes combine to affect the characteristics we observe, and their action can be perturbed by changes in the environment.” Further, “It is possible that evolution fashioned the basic cognitive capacitiesalles ubriges ist Menschenwerk, or everything else is manmade (translation added). Philip Kitcher, Vaulting Ambition (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1990), 18, 19, 418.

[14] Kurzweil, Singularity is Near, 257, 375. Cognitive enhancements through augmentation of thinking processes are typically described in terms of faster processing and increased access to immense quantities of data and information, not in terms of enhanced knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

[15] Susan Schneider, Artificial You: AI and the Future of Your Mind (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), 89-91.

[16] Ibid., 90.

[17]  Ben Goertzel, “Encouraging a Positive Transcension,” Singularity Stewardship and the Global Brain Mindplex, 2004, accessed June 16, 2020, https://goertzel.org/dynapsyc/2004/PositiveTranscension.htm#_4._Singularity_Stewardship. Global Brain theory is the idea that the increasing interconnectedness of humans and computers produce a kind of distributed mind, collectively forming a higher level of intelligence. Goertzel expects that AGI would collect and synthesize the thoughts of all the people on the globe, add its own thoughts, then feed these ideas back to humans.

[18] Kurzweil, Singularity is Near, 373.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 371.

[21] Immanuel Kant, “The Metaphysics of Morals,” The Great Books of the Western World, Volume 39, Mortimer J. Adler, ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 272.

[22]   I have argued elsewhere that mind uploading is metaphysically impossible because transhsumanism’s materialist philosophy of mind is false. Here, I demonstrate the human cost of pursuing these enhancement projects.

[23] Sim Bamford, “A Framework for Approaches to Transfer of a Mind’s Substrate,” International Journal of Machine Consciousness 4, no. 1 (2012), 23-34, accessed June 18, 2020, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/36cd/238588dee2b7fa36ef2c3a0a80447b30b96a.pdf. Recent developments in the field of neural prosthetics has led to a method of WBE which would gradually replace all of the organic neurons of the brain with artificial synthetic parts.

[24] Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), 247.

[25] Nick Bostrom, “Transhumanist Values,” Ethical Issues for the 21st Century, reprinted in Review of Contemporary Philosophy 4 (May 2005), 2, accessed November 12, 2019, https://nickbostrom.com/ethics/values.pdf .

[26] Ben Goertzel, “Artificial General Intelligence,” in Max More and Natasha Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future (West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 130-131.

[27] James Hughes, “Contradictions from the Enlightenment Roots of Transhumanism,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 0 (2010): 1-19, accessed June 28, 2020, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.993.3636&rep=rep1&type=pdf.

[28] James Hughes, “The Future of Death: Cryonics and the Telos of Liberal individualism,” Journal of Evolution and Technology 6, (July 2001),  https://www.jetpress.org/volume6/Death.htm, accessed June 28, 2020.

[29] Nick Bostrom, “Why I Want to be a Posthuman,” in More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 33-35.

[30] Max More, “The Philosophy of Transhumanism,” in More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 6.

[31] Michael Ruse, “The Biological Sciences Can Act as a Ground for Ethics,” in Francisco Ayala and Robert Arp, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 1, accessed July 15, 2020,  http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/4078/1/RusePhilSciArchive.pdf.

[32] Despite having no formal moral theory, transhumanists promote ethics on their most prominent websites:  Humanity+ states its mission as “the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities,” https://humanityplus

.org/about/mission/ (accessed June 22, 2020). The online Transhumanist scholarly website is the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, which carries the label ‘ethics’ in its name, https://ieet.org/ (accessed June 22, 2020).

[33] More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 15.

[34] Brent Waters, Human to Posthuman (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006), 48-9.

[35] John Stuart Mill, “On the Connection between Justice and Utility,” in Utilitarianism (London: Parker, Son, and Bourn, 1863), Hedweb.com, accessed August 15, 2020, https://www.utilitarianism.com/mill5.htm.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Humanity+ FAQ, “Why Transhumanists Advocate Human Enhancement as Ethical Rather than Pre-WWII Eugenics?” Humanity+, accessed June 23, 2020, https://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-faq/.

[38] Gregory Stock, “The Battle for the Future,” in More and Vita-More, The Transhumanist Reader, 312.

[39] Max More, “The Philosophy of Transhumanism,” in More and Vita-More, The Transhumanist Reader, 4.

[40] Simon Young, Designer Evolution: A Transhumanist Manifesto (New York: Prometheus Books, 2006), 19.

[41] Nick Bostrom, “Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up,” in More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 29.

[42] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 29.

[43] Michael Hauskeller, “Prometheus Unbound: Transhumanist argument from (human) nature,” Ethical Perspectives (March 2009), 11, ResearchGate, accessed March 2, 2020, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232770169_Prometheus_unbound_Transhumanist_arguments_from_human_nature.

[44] Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 44.

[45] Mark D. Linville, “The Moral Argument,” in William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, eds, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2009), 391- 417.

[46] C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 56, Electronic Edition. I maintain here that materialism and naturalism (as C. S. Lewis uses it) agree on an important feature: that reality is fundamentally impersonal and nonmental.

[47] Max More, “Principles of Extropy 3.11 (2003),” Lifeboat.com, accessed June 23, 2020, https://lifeboat.com/ex/the.principles.of.extropy#:~:text=The%20Principles%20of%20Extropy%3A%20Version%203.11%20(2003)&text=Self%2DTransformation%3A%20Extropy%20means%20affirming,responsibility%2C%20proactivity%2C%20and%20experimentation.

[48] Bostrom, “Transhumanist Values.”

[49] George Santayana, The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 284, quoted in Charles T. Rubin, Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress (New York: New Atlantis Books, 2014), 43.

[50] Nick Bostrom is one transhumanist leader who addresses the global catastrophic risks of transhumanism in Nick Bostrom and Milan M. Cirkovic, eds., Global Catastrophic Risks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[51] Ted Peters, “Transhumanism and the Posthuman Future: Will Technological Progress Get Us There?” in Gregory R. Hansell and William Grassie, eds., H+/- Transhumanism & Its Critics (Philadelphia, PA: Metanexus Institute, 2011), 158.

[52] Kurzweil, Singularity is Near, 410-414.

[53] Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, 2 Volumes (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1941-2), 2:240, quoted in Ted Peters, “Transhumanism and the Posthuman Future; Will Technological Progress

Get Us There?” In Gregory R. Hansell and William Grassie, editors, H+/-: Transhumanism and Its Critics, (Philadelphia: Metanexus Institute, 2011), 168.

[54] Anders Sandberg, “Morphological Freedom: Why We Not Just Want It, But Need It,” in More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 60-1.

[55] “The Transhumanist Declaration (2012),” in More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 54-5.

[56] Wrye Sententia, “Freedom by Design: Transhumanist Values and Cognitive Liberty,” in More and Vita-More, eds., The Transhumanist Reader, 356.

[57] Sandberg, “Morphological Freedom,” in More and Vita-More, editors., The Transhumanist Reader, 63.

[58] Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 72.

[59] David Papineau, “The Rise of Physicalism,” 8, Core.ac.uk., accessed April 14, 2020, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/74162.pdf . The Causal Closure Argument for Materialism:

  • Conscious mental occurrences have physical effects.
  • All physical effects are fully caused by purely physical prior histories.
  • The physical effects of conscious causes aren’t always overdetermined by distinct causes.

[60] David Pearce, “Chapter 4, Objections 4.31,” in The Hedonistic Imperative, HedWeb.com, accessed June 15, 2020, https://www.hedweb.com/hedethic/hedon4.htm#natural.

[61] James Hughes, “Contradictions from the Enlightenment Roots of Transhumanism,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (2010), 8, accessed June 25, 2020, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.993.3636&rep=rep1&type=pdf.

[62] Nick Bostrom, “What is a Singleton?” Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2006), 48, accessed June 25, 2020, https://www.nickbostrom.com/fut/singleton.html.

[63] Ibid., 48.

[64] Ibid., 52.

[65] Lewis, The Abolition of Man, 72-3.

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