This is part 1 in a series of posts exploring how the philosophy of Transhumanism is compatible with Anarchist thinking, and why Anarchists should support the transhumanist movement. More posts to follow exploring other facets as well. Enjoy!
A beginning note: One thing to keep in mind is I am looking at this through the lens of control over our bodies and its various functions. Transhumanism is so much more than that. A deeper study and much more time is required for students of anarchy and transhumanism to get a fuller picture.
A quote I once heard in my earlier days of studying transhumanism summed up the ideal like this: Who we are is but a stepping stone to what we can become. For transhumanists, what we can become can take on a variety of forms, but suffice it say that the driving principle behind the philosophy of transhumanism is something that Anarchists should understand better than most – the desire for complete autonomy, or control, over oneself. For anarchists and that end, it may take on a political and philosophical meaning, to be free from government, masters, controllers, statists, or even god. The idea that man is in control of himself, and that he alone is his own master, and is responsible for his own actions constitute this framework for anarchists, especially of the negative type. But perhaps transhumanism takes this to the next, logical step – That is complete control over oneself. Now, from here, I may be reading my own fascination into what transhumanism can and does represent for me as an anarchist, but I have to believe this is a significant component for others’ fascination with the ideas and movement as well.
So how does transhumanism illustrate a desire to be in complete control of one’s own self? I’m going to try to illustrate this through some feelings I have about my own body:
1. I love food. No really, I LOVE food. Am I addicted? No, at least not in the more common usage of the word. If I don’t eat, I’ll die, yes. But we know that in this day and age, with everything we eat, much of it is “food like substances,” to quote one nutritionist from a popular food documentary I once watched. Food is designed to make us want more of it. It isn’t there to just satisfy nutritional demands anymore, but exists as a profit creation engine. And while I am not against profit, I am against the idea of others controlling me through additives, additional chemicals, and other strange and perhaps poisonous things being added to my food, all with the intent to create a permanent, repeat customer. Just look at sugar, and its effects on the body. Sugar makes your organs fat, leading to fatty liver disease. It increases your chances of diabetes. A study done by PloS One found that every 150 extra calories per person per day, you increase your chances of getting diabetes by 1.1%! That’s daily! And should you get type 2 diabetes, your chances of dying from heart failure or stroke is 65%. This isn’t even scratching the surface of what sugar does to you. Virtually every day, scientists and researchers are finding new negative side effects of sugar consumption. And sugar is in just about everything we eat, in copious, and sickening, amounts. And it is highly addictive, to boot! And guess what? I likely have a sugar addiction, despite not being much a sweets eater. And chances are that you do as well. http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/weird-effects-sugars-having-on-your-body/1-sugar-makes-your-organs-fat
2. We age at the worst time. No seriously, I’m 28 years old, fairly good health, but my 2 year old has more energy than he knows what to do with. And while I’m heaving and gasping for air (not that bad, but if you’re a parent, you know what mean) on the couch, my son is running around like a crazy person at 9 o’clock at night, like he hadn’t been doing it all day already. At age 28, do you know what I could get done with his energy? Write my book/s, finish my graduate schooling with time to spare, respond to everyone on twitter, and then go and clean my car. At least! Age is one of those things that if thought about long enough, you come away pretty existential. In America, the average life expectancy is a little over 78 years, as of 2012. How much of that time do we spend, generally healthy, fit, and physically active? A good diet and exercise are important, and can allow for longer periods of those things I just listed, but on the whole, males get 30 years or so of it. Once age 30 hits, testosterone decreases in increasing amounts every year thereafter, unless increasing amounts of exercise and good dieting is there to prevent the onset of age related diseases and conditions. And even then, unless you’re a fitness expert, you’re likely not going to be able to accomplish that 100% of the time. The sheer amount of diet fads, exercise crazes, and even natural home remedies is a testament to that fact. To put it more bluntly (with a hint of pessimism), you spend your first 25-30 years living, and the rest of the time slowly dying at increasing rates. Physically, mentally…it’s downhill from there. And there is very little that I can do about it that is significant enough, and powerful enough to prevent it, much less stop or reverse it.
3. What about aesthetically? My body stores fat in areas I don’t want it, grows and loses hair in all the wrong places, produces strange smells, requires daily, sometimes more, baths or various kinds of scrubbing, perfumes or colognes, skin loosens and wrinkles, tightens and stretches, is too dark or too light, teeth become stained, nothing seems to fit right, and on and on and on...Am I right?
4. Death. ‘Nuff said.
Now, what do just these 4 sets of truths we all feel about our own bodies to some degree have to do with transhumanism?
Transhumanist philosophy seeks to wrest control of these things away from Mother Nature. There is too much to do in life, to learn, to study, to see and experience…for us to only get 30 years or so of good time in doing that. And even then, those first 30 years are usually spent getting an all-encompassing education, working terrible jobs, and starting families. By the time we’ve finished the education, made more money, and kids are out of the house, all we want to do is crash on the couch again. And then wait to die. I want to be able to do all of those things while still feeling good, physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically. I don’t want to be worn out. There’s so much to do and learn and experience, and not nearly enough time to do it all in. And it sucks.
Again, I may be looking at age and the human body quite pessimistically, and that likely colors my view on this issue. But it also provides a sense of real human longing to be better than I am now, which is exactly what transhumanist philosophy offers, and transhumanist science is starting to deliver. From the anarchist perspective, cyberization of body parts, 3d printed organs, eyes that see clearer, ears that hear more efficiently and greater levels of sound, brains that process information faster and store and retrieve that information more effectively, these are all aspects of transhumanism that anarchists should definitely support. For humans, it is wisdom to know thyself. For transhumanists, it is wisdom to master yourself. The concept of taking control of your own life, truly becoming sovereign in as many ways as possible, is the heart of anarchy, in any of its forms. Now while not all forms of Anarchy support transhumanism, transhumanism is anarchist. No kings. No masters. Just my body, and what I want it to do and to become.
How can anarchists not support that?