Monday, December 15, 2014

Transhumanism and the search for digital immortality

Issue-19-Transhumanism_2500px 
With enough scientific research, we could potentially become immortal.
Rapid advances in medical and cognitive technology, ranging from artificial skulls to mind-controlled prosthetic limbs, point to a time in the not-too-distant future when we may be able to replace our entire bodies with artificial, manufactured parts. After all, the human mind is nothing but software running on the “machine” of the brain—software that could potentially run on hardware made of chips and wires instead of neurons and blood vessels.
Sound intriguing? Welcome to the endless wormhole of biology and futurology that is transhumanism.
Science has been nipping at the heels of religion for millennia. As science has advanced, it has forced religious theories about the material world to evolve. Many Judeo-Christian theologians and religious groups, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Popes John Paul II and Francis, all accept that the universe started with a “big bang,” that the Earth is billions of years old, and that humans evolved from other things. These beliefs haven’t exactly rocked the theological world. Although some fundamentalists put up a fuss, most religious scholars don’t consider scientific theories about evolution or the Big Bang to be any kind of threat to the basic tenets of religion.
Transhumanism is different. Its theories have established a brand-new battlefield for the clash between science and religion. It’s one thing for science to pressure religion into reinterpreting beliefs about the distance past or the far-off cosmos. But this science is getting personal. If human beings are able to upload their minds into computers, what implications does that have for the soul? What does it mean for free will? What does it mean for morality?
Welcome to the endless wormhole of biology and futurology that is transhumanism.
It doesn’t help that one of the most vocal advocates of transhumanism, Ray Kurzweil, is almost evangelical in the way he talks about technological advancement. He predicts human immortality and “nearly God-like powers” arising through technology in the not-too-distant future. As you can imagine, talk about God-like powers grates on many religious people. To make matters worse, most transhumanists identify as either secular or atheists, and some transhumanists are even vocally anti-religion, publishing articles like “Should It Be Illegal to Indoctrinate Kids With Religion?
For at least some within the transhumanist community, the realization of a fully artificial human body would be the ultimate vindication of atheism, and the ultimate debunking of religious mysticism. After all, if human consciousness can be run on a machine, like software, doesn’t that imply that there is no such thing as a “soul”? Doesn’t it basically prove that “free will” and “choice” are nothing more than illusions and mysticism? You can almost see the atheists high-fiving one another across the high-tech, futuristic operating table.
- See more at: http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-titles/religion/11103/transhumanism-and-the-search-for-digital-immortality/#sthash.PqAUf8iL.dpuf
With enough scientific research, we could potentially become immortal.

Rapid advances in medical and cognitive technology, ranging from artificial skulls to mind-controlled prosthetic limbs, point to a time in the not-too-distant future when we may be able to replace our entire bodies with artificial, manufactured parts. After all, the human mind is nothing but software running on the “machine” of the brain—software that could potentially run on hardware made of chips and wires instead of neurons and blood vessels.

Sound intriguing? Welcome to the endless wormhole of biology and futurology that is transhumanism.

Science has been nipping at the heels of religion for millennia. As science has advanced, it has forced religious theories about the material world to evolve. Many Judeo-Christian theologians and religious groups, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Popes John Paul II and Francis, all accept that the universe started with a “big bang,” that the Earth is billions of years old, and that humans evolved from other things. These beliefs haven’t exactly rocked the theological world. Although some fundamentalists put up a fuss, most religious scholars don’t consider scientific theories about evolution or the Big Bang to be any kind of threat to the basic tenets of religion.

Transhumanism is different. Its theories have established a brand-new battlefield for the clash between science and religion. It’s one thing for science to pressure religion into reinterpreting beliefs about the distance past or the far-off cosmos. But this science is getting personal. If human beings are able to upload their minds into computers, what implications does that have for the soul? What does it mean for free will? What does it mean for morality?
Welcome to the endless wormhole of biology and futurology that is transhumanism.
It doesn’t help that one of the most vocal advocates of transhumanism, Ray Kurzweil, is almost evangelical in the way he talks about technological advancement. He predicts human immortality and “nearly God-like powers” arising through technology in the not-too-distant future. As you can imagine, talk about God-like powers grates on many religious people. To make matters worse, most transhumanists identify as either secular or atheists, and some transhumanists are even vocally anti-religion, publishing articles like “Should It Be Illegal to Indoctrinate Kids With Religion?”

For at least some within the transhumanist community, the realization of a fully artificial human body would be the ultimate vindication of atheism, and the ultimate debunking of religious mysticism. After all, if human consciousness can be run on a machine, like software, doesn’t that imply that there is no such thing as a “soul”? Doesn’t it basically prove that “free will” and “choice” are nothing more than illusions and mysticism? You can almost see the atheists high-fiving one another across the high-tech, futuristic operating table.

For the rest of the story: http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-titles/religion/11103/transhumanism-and-the-search-for-digital-immortality/

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