On Transhumanist Manifestos and Dilemmas

It’s been almost 10 years since I wrote the first versions of Hamlet’s Transhumanist Dilemma and A Transhumanist Manifesto. And a lot has changed. Including my point of view.

I started with Hamlet. With asking a question: Will technology replace biology?

At the time I felt that this was the contemporary version of Shakespeare’s original human dilemma: to be or not to be.

I felt that, since death is a tragedy, technology was our only way out. And a worthy one at that. Still, I was also afraid that choosing technology over biology might come at too high a price. A Faustian bargain.

While I couldn’t put my finger on it, I was concerned that in moving from human to transhuman, or cyborg, we might be losing something. Something precious and unique. Something not to be lost or traded – even for immortality. Hence, I titled the piece Hamlet’s Transhumanist Dilemma. Because I felt that there is no right answer. And that each and every one of us ought to figure it out on our own.

A few months later, I felt I had the right answer and was going all in. I’ve been drinking the cool aid straight from the fire hose of Transhumanism and the world was getting really simple. Black and white even. Because, as the Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II simply put it: “Death is wrong and life is right.

Right.

You see, the problem with dilemmas is that there is no right answer. They are uncomfortable. They are good at posing questions but bad at giving you the answer.

Manifestos, on the other hand, leave no room for doubt. By their nature, manifestos are a straightforward call in support of action that is certain to provide the answer. And, since I was so submerged in the transhumanist narrative, I decided to write my version of a transhumanist manifesto. A manifesto where I call on my transhumanist brothers and sisters to unite in breaking the “chains of biology and death.”

Ten years later I feel I’m almost back where I started. [I guess, at least in some ways, life is a circle.] Yes, it is true that dilemmas don’t give you guidance as per what to do but I feel they are real, raw and honest. They are true to the world we live in. A world where there is no GPS towards our future. A world where answers are often free but good questions can be priceless.

Dilemmas call for introspection, manifestos call for action.

Manifestos are idealistic, romantic and convenient. Worse – they are naïve, simplistic, and utopian, often dangerously so. They help us focus and inspire action, but it is often action without introspection. Action which often ought not to be justified.

Perhaps I’m getting old, but, lately, I see a lot of action taken without much introspection. The kind of action that is ready to do violence in order to supposedly build a new world on the ruins of the current one. But, unfortunately, the world is never as simple and straightforward as manifestos make it be. [Especially after the revolutionary (i.e. the destructive) part is over and we actually have to build something.]

And so I’ve gone back to dilemmas as a better way to face my future. Because the world is transformed by asking questions. And because, as Richard Feynman noticed, it is better to have questions we have no answers for than answers we can’t question.

And thus I’m back to Hamlet. I’m back to doubt, uncertainty, paradox, not knowing and probably being wrong.

And what about you? Are you up for revolution or introspection?

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