The idea of a coming technological utopia in which humans upload their minds into a machine to live forever conquering the universe or living in an immortal video game is a popular fantasy held by many technophiles. It is an appealing idea that may serve to help people cope with their anxieties about the future of the technological system. However, transhumanism is a delusional mythology.
We will begin with what should be obvious. Foregoing the issue of whether or not ‘technological immortality’ would even be technically feasible, let’s assume for the sake of argument that it will be at some point. Technophiles assume that just because something is technically feasible and ‘good’ that the technological system will deliver it to them. There are many, many great things which are feasible today but do not happen. Every man could be taken care of completely, housed, fed, given proper healthcare, etc. The technological system only does what it has to and is most advantageous in the short-term.
- ‘It will be answered that many self-prop systems-governments, corporations, labor unions, etc.-do take care of numerous individuals who are utterly useless to them: old people, people with severe mental or physical disabilities, even criminals serving life sentences. But this is only because the systems in question still need the services of the majority of people in order to function. Humans have been endowed by evolution with feelings of compassion, because hunting-and-gathering bands thrive best when their members show consideration for one another and help one another. As long as self-prop systems still need people, it would be to the systems’ disadvantage to offend the compassionate feelings of the useful majority through ruthless treatment of the useless minority. More important than compassion, however, is the self-interest of human individuals: People would bitterly resent any system to which they belonged if they believed that when they grew old, or if they became disabled, they would be thrown on the trash-heap. But when all people have become useless, self-prop systems will find no advantage in taking care of anyone. The techies themselves insist that machines will soon surpass humans in intelligence. When that happens, people will be superfluous and natural selection will favor systems that eliminate them-if not abruptly, then in a series of stages so that the risk of rebellion will be minimized.’ -Kaczynski, Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How
If it does become feasible to keep people alive forever it will in all likelihood be reserved for a small number of elites. To be kept alive they would have to remain technically competitive, and in order to do so they would have to be changed to such a state as to be practically not human in any way. Much of what makes us human would be technical liabilities and hindrances: love, despair, appreciation for art, etc. Many people still see humans as the driver of the technological system, in control and able to make whatever turn they wish. In this writer’s opinion, it overwhelmingly appears not to be the case. We are not past the point of no return yet for the freedom of humanity and life on earth, but as technique continues to invade every corner of existence the point draws closer until humans will have no recourse for doing anything about the technological system.
For the readers who are skeptical about the idea that humans will be discarded by the technological system, I will give only a rudimentary outline of why this is the case. If you really want to learn more about this subject then you must read The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul and Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How by Theodore Kaczysnki (in that order).
As I said about the technological system in the previous post:
- What is the primary force driving human society in the modern world? It is not men or men’s profits, nor is it the veneer of collectivist altruism… What drives humanity is an encompassing motivation, it is something that is a religion in the hearts of most men today. That is the technological system, technical development in all fields, in all facets, in all aspects of living, at all costs, for whatever end, and with whatever means, simply for the sake of doing it; if it can be done it must be done. Most technological developments appear to have more upsides than downsides in the immediate effects, so they will always be pursued whether or not they will be disastrous later on. Men are not the shepherds of technology in the modern world, but are shepherded by the technological system. Industrial economies are a means to pursue, coordinate, plan, and engage in this totality of technical development. Man is increasingly a middleman between technology and the world and eventually will be an unnecessary one.
It is very clear that the technological system operates under natural selection as essentially everything does besides the laws of physics. Because of this, agents within the system or systems themselves who do whatever they can to their advantage in the short term will win out over those who are prudent and careful for long-term preservation. This is the reason fossil fuels are still burned as much as possible despite the impending disaster, it is far too immediately advantageous to give up and those who are cautious in their energy sourcing will lose competitively. As soon as humans are not needed to maintain machines and organize labor natural selection will greatly favor the replacement of humans by machines. This already happens and is spreading in most industries with automation and AI management. Humans are still needed to intervene occasionally with these systems, but this will not always be the case.
- ‘Even though the technological world-system still needs large numbers of people for the present, there are now more superfluous humans than there have been in the past because technology has replaced people in many jobs and is making inroads even into occupations formerly thought to require human intelligence. Consequently, under the pressure of economic competition, the world’s dominant self-prop systems are already allowing a certain degree of callousness to creep into their treatment of superfluous individuals. In the United States and Europe, pensions and other benefits for retired, disabled, unemployed, and other unproductive persons are being substantially reduced; at least in the U. S., poverty is increasing; and these facts may well indicate the general trend of the future, though there will doubtless be ups and downs. It’s important to understand that in order to make people superfluous, machines will not have to surpass them in general intelligence but only in certain specialized kinds of intelligence. For example, the machines will not have to create or understand art, music, or literature, they will not need the ability to carry on an intelligent, non-technical conversation (the “Turing test”), they will not have to exercise tact or understand human nature, because these skills will have no application if humans are to be eliminated anyway. To make humans superfluous, the machines will only need to outperform them in making the technical decisions that have to be made for the purpose of promoting the short-term survival and propagation of the dominant self-prop systems.‘ -Kaczynski, Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How
A technological utopia is not coming in the same way that the absolutely feasible technological utopia today has not arrived. This is not of because any particular human characteristics or flaws (though there are many of them that people often incorrectly blame for the state of the world), it is because of the nature of the technological system itself and natural selection. It is not technically competitive to provide general welfare for all (past the surprisingly little amount necassary to placate revolutionary activity) and those who don’t do it have a considerable advantage and thus win out over those who do.
Kaczysnki has hilariously pointed out that transhumanism can be thought of as a sort of gestating system of religiosity and draws parallels to Christianity. It has a cataclysmic event, ‘The Singularity’ (the point where technological progress becomes like an explosion) akin to the Day of Judgement in Christianity, which is followed by the technological utopia akin to the Kingdom of God. It has a chosen few similar to Christianity, and in both belief systems the chosen few are destined for eternal life. This is not to insult Christians, but to draw attention to the fact that the transhumanists beliefs are mostly in faith and not the logical next stage in our technological development, whether they admit it to themselves or not.
In this piece I have chosen not to mention that the technological system will destroy itself if continued to go on to its logical conclusion. However, there are many other problems with the transhumanist fantasies that deconstruct them even if it were possible one day. Much of this article has been quotations. I wanted to have this topic on my website because of the prevalence of this delusion, however the full texts that inspired this article really ought to be read.
Stay safe – Normandie
The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul
Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How by Theodore Kaczysnki