The most important question for transhumanism
What if it’s here already?
Transhumanism hasn’t been rightly viewed by the mainstream media lately, and that is likely to continue. It is rewarding to just proclaim that the future is bleak, and everything is getting worse despite clear evidence of the contrary.
This is largely due to the combination of two cognitive fallacies known as “Decline bias” and “Rosy retrospection.”
All of us will experience both throughout our lifetimes, but like all cognitive biases- knowing about them and being mindful can always help us in making clearer and more rational judgements.
Decline bias causes us to think that things are only going to get worse from here. Most centralized media services are aware of this, and cater to our doomsday scrolling by rewarding us with bleak predictions of the future that we’re likely to engage with, confirming our bias with clicks and attention.
The rosy retrospection bias is exactly what it sounds like, and it is when we look back favorably at the past about how things were infinitely better when we were younger and nothing can match up to how we felt when we were young. It’s easy to understand why this happens. When we’re younger, we don’t have much responsibilities. The complicated realities of life don’t bother us yet. Things are simple, life is mundane but fun and every day is a learning experience.
It’s easy to fall into this kind of thinking, and it’s widely considered normal to romanticize the past while feeling unsure of the future. Combine these biases with the threatening pace of technology, and you can see why Black Mirror used to get 1.6 million viewers even before it was picked up by Netflix.
But there is nothing in fiction. Fiction, like every piece of content that has ever been created, thrives on an element of conflict that hooks us in, but soon ends up being resolved, and it’s relatively easy if you’re going to portray the future as an antagonist and align with our inherent biases.
What is wrong is the attitude of news media, who capitulate on this and make us fear the development of technology that has the potential to make our lives infinitely better. Anarcho-primitivists like to take this one step further, by proclaiming that we’re better off retreating from civilisation and returning to the simple times of Stone Age, when life was less complicated and phones didn’t exist to distract us.
Most people, however, like to fall in the middle of this line, with most them leaning towards the side that serves to confirm their biases. Soon enough, we don’t notice when we’re turning into the old man yelling at the clouds- it’s not just a lack of imagination, it’s social programming at scale and one that we’re not able to instantly notice.
My goal with bright mirror has always been to explore what’s at the bleeding edge of tech, but to do that with an open mind, we need some mental models. I’m going to share the most important one today, and it’s the question of “What if it’s already here?”
Let us start with life extension.
You would think most people would unanimously embrace life-extension, but that is not the case. Even as we move further along to solve the problem plaguing most of humanity today- aging — there are still many who view death as an integral part of the human experience.
The arguments against it can seem convincing to naive minds-
“If you didn’t ever die, what would you do with all your time?”
I’m sure most people can think of something to do. This is not a problem, and unless people are in terrible circumstances to begin with, most people complain about not having enough time, rather than not having enough.
“If people stopped aging, what would happen to newer generations? Isn’t the dying of older generations necessary for the youth to thrive?”
The answer is no, as in a world where everyone’s immortal- relationship dynamics would look entirely different from the one that humans had during their period of mortality.
“What if I don’t want to take part in this?”
Your body, your choice. You don’t have to participate in anything if you don’t like it, but you also shouldn’t moral police others for choosing a different life than your own.
This wouldn’t be the last question. There would be many more questions as there are- each designed to be cautionary but resulting in the same rhetoric. That is where the question- “What if it’s already here?” shines.
Ask yourself this.
If death was already no longer a problem, would you want humanity to choose a voluntary death at a specified age?
If human life span is currently, say, 500 years, instead of the current average lifespan of 80, would you want everyone to kill themselves when we arrive at the age of 80?
The answers to the above can be immediately “No”, unless you subscribe to the philosophy of antinatalism, which if you do, you’d think we shouldn’t have been born in the first place. If that’s you, should email me and tell me about how you found this post.
But the nice thing about this mental model is that it can be extended to every question relating to transhumanism and acceptance of the technology of the future.
If Bitcoin was the reserve currency in most countries, would you want to go live in a country where they can print infinite amounts of fiat money and steal your money?
If neural implants were the norm and everyone wore them, would you prefer remaining 60 IQ points below literally everyone around you and choose to take your neural implants off?
If everyone chose to live on infinitely as their online identities in a VR metaverse after their death, would you choose to deprive your loved ones any chance of seeing you after your death, by choosing the alternative?
If everyone around you flies around with better robot-bodysuits or painless mechanical-implants, would you choose to ignore the convenience of the skies and choose to never try one?
The list can go on. With every invention that’s coming, it’s useful to think about things this way to avoid falling into the doomsday mindset. Of course, thinking about the negative implications is also important, but highlighting just the negatives and ignoring every aspect of the positive is not fair, both for us as individuals and for humanity as a whole.
Unfortunately, preaching the utopia that progress in technology brings isn’t click worthy- and there is no chance any of these get mainstream coverage.
We can change that by amplifying our own voices. That is important, as we may be able to convince the budding entrepreneur, or the intelligent science student, or the transhumanism skeptic, to perhaps ignore the noise for a while and consider the chance we have. Mainstream media won’t do it for us. Science fiction will, but that is limited to a niche. To spread the word of this chance, we’re all we have.
A chance to build a future that never ends.
A chance to embrace the frontier, and everything it holds.