My piece on the transhumanism conference is in this week’s Weekly Standard, but there is no link available other than for subscribers. Here is a brief overview.
In the article, I describe how transhumanism advocates obliterating the belief in intrinsic human value and replacing it with personhood theory to “allow all self aware entities–whether human, post human, machine, chimera, or robot–to qualify for all of the rights, privileges, and protections of citizenship.”
Protecting “post human dignity” was one of the primary focues of the conference. Thus, Nick Bostrom, co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association state “that society must understand that discrimination ‘based on substrate’–meaning the kind of material from which a being is made, e.g., biological, silicon, etc.–is as odious as racism. Ditto to discrimination based on ‘ontogeny,’ that is, how a consciousness comes into existence, which I guess means whether they are born, assembled, or hatched.”
“Other presentations revealed transhumanism to be obsessively solipsistic. The ‘Catman’ was touted as a template, an example of early transhumanized recreationism. Catman–whose real name is Dennis Avne–has tattooed his face, sharpened his teeth, undergone cosmetic surgeries, had ‘whisker’ implants, and reportedly wants a tail implant—all to look like a cat. Catman is weird, but of no real concern other than about the harm he has done to himself. His transhumanizing, after all, is only skin deep. If he sired a son, the child wouldn’t be ‘Kitten Boy.’ But transhumanists ultimately want to do more than create Halloween costumes with their own bodies. Post human enhancements are to flow down the generations, including through the genetic designing of offspring, resulting eventually in the yearned for, radically individualized post human species.”…
“For all of its emphasis on enhancement, the true emotional core of transhumanism is a yearning for immortality. This desperate desire to defeat death made the eccentric and somewhat famous transhumanist anti-aging researcher, Cambridge professor Aubrey de Grey, the clear star of the conference. De Gray’s presentation was titled, ‘Our Right to Life.’ But his use of the phrase did not mean a right not to be aborted, euthanized, or executed. Rather, he claims we have a putative right not to die at all.
“Toward this end, de Gray, whose long beard and pony tail makes him look like a cross between ZZ Top and Rasputin, is working on a ‘cure’ for human aging that will erase the ‘physiological differences between older and younger adults.’…De Gray is obsessed with his work and believes we all should be too. He told the conferees that inaction is really a form of action. Accordingly, society’s unwillingness to make anti-aging its top scientific funding priority is akin to actively killing the people who would have been saved if the research had been bounteously supported. He even claimed that supporting anti-aging research is more important than increasing access to health care for the poor in Africa, likening the diversion of funds away from anti-aging research to ‘killing with a time bomb in a car.'”…
“Transhumanists like to say that their movement cannot be stopped,” I write in conclusion. “That we are already on the slippery slope to the post human future so we might as well enjoy the ride…But as Rosanne Rosannadana used to say, ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another.’ Even if cancer is eradicated and the aging process slowed, new afflictions will soon arise to take their places. Just read the current headlines: After 25 years, we still can’t cure AIDS. Antibiotics are beginning to fail. And now the new worry is about a possible bird flu pandemic. All of the fantasizing about living forever and morphing into ‘post biological units’ won’t change the hard fact that we are born to die. Far better then, to embrace our fully human lives rather than seek in vain for a post human future that will never come.”