So last Thursday, T and I attended a Philosophy Night at a local parish. Having had the night free, I felt the need to attend (trying to be more Catholic and all that). It was simply fantastic! When one does their Masters’ thesis on a given subject, one may expect the lecture given by said person to be interesting: this was so much more than that.
I did manage to record whole lecture. If you have around an hour and a half to spare while you puddle around on the Internets, I do suggest giving the lecture a listen:
History of Trans-Humanism: 0:00.00 – 0:30.00, Trans-Humanism: 0:31.00 – 0:54.00, Future Implications & Dialogue: 0:55.00 – 1:24.00.
First thing. What is trans-humanism? According to Fr. Tim its the “belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.” Fast-forwarding through Fr. Tim’s history of philosophy, theology, sociology, biology, and history, we get to the three guiding directives of trans-humanist: (1) super-longevity – eradicating disease, cell death/oxidation, etc., (2) super-well-being – antidote to suffering , and (3) super-intelligence – artificial intelligence in human brains.
There are a few paramount themes the Fr. Tim enumerated multiple times: the idea/reality/practical of Grace —(everything trans-humanist are trying to do, should be done with the objectivity of God and His desire for us to enter Heaven as the driving force; begging the question: what drives trans-humanists?)—, suffering and bliss in human existence (Read: R. Steiner’s “Concerning the Nature of Pain, Suffering, Joy, and Bliss“), and the idea of an extreme expansion of human cognitive expansion through artificial means (if you have time to peruse the Global Information Technology Report 2016, you may find some interesting information).
The excerpt he reads from Brave New World — “And if every by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why there’s always Soma to give you a holiday from the facts and there’s always Soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to you enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now you swallow two or three half-gram tablets and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half of your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears – that’s what Soma is.” — has stuck with me since.
Having just finished watching a documentary on AmazonPrime called Psychopath: Redefining Rational, which was at first simply psychologically fascinating to attempt to understand how psychopaths function and if they are born or are made, I paused when I heard Dr. Adrian Raine say: “We’re not too far away in the future but what we’ll be able to do is replace dysfunctional brain mechanisms with microchips.”
Will microchips become our Soma?
As a person who has dealt with depression and anxiety for over five years, I ask: is my brain dysfunctional? Fr. Tim mentions that there is a difference between a treatment and an enhancement. Of course an argument could be made for helping those who all over treatments have failed but In this not-too-distant future, would I be able to receive a microchip? Where do we draw the line?
Presently, we do have a committee (the National Catholic Biomethics Center) that deals with issues related to medical technologies and Catholic morality. I would imagine that should these integration of human beings with technology, even in the name of medical science, continue and become more consuming, they would make judgments – as would Rome – on what our appropriate allowances are as Catholics.
There’s a point in the lecture that a woman asks, “But what if they don’t give you a choice? What if they have a treatment is also a mandatory enhancement?” In my mind, I heard: “There’s always a choice.” The purpose of life is choice.
If the Catholic church takes a stance against medical enhancements because it alters God’s good work, which is all aspects of humanity, then we as the faith cannot morally accept the treatment.
I felt right there that some people were not about that.
But isn’t that why we’re Christians? We understand fundamentally that this life on planet earth as we know it is finite – that’s not what we’re living for. We are, quite honestly, living to die. Not in any sort of nihilistic way, but in a Christian way. If we get rid of our suffering, we get rid of our appreciation of God; we take away the truth of God in our lives.
If you have not yet, I do still emphatically encourage you to listen to the full lecture. We must be weary of the future. Not just for ourselves, but the generations to come. The future is happening, and it’s much closer than you realize. Read these writings: Foresight Institute and Singularity Hub.
May God bless you and keep you.