The immortalist cults of Silicon Valley by Paul Graham Raven

www.nesta.org.uk/archive-pages/the-immortalist-cults-of-silicon-valley-by-paul-graham-raven/
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Paul Graham Raven, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Sheffield used his comedy set at My Other Future to argue against the Transhumanist dream of a immortal future. Here’s his summary of what he said.

A quick keyword image search will tell you a lot about transhumanism as a subculture. Think early 90s cyberculture on steroids, and with access to better graphics tools: shiny happy robopersons, the seamless melding of man and machine. We all have intimate relationships with computational hardware these days, so getting it implanted into ourselves must seem a logical next step - provided you don't have a good understanding of human biology or technology. Why let actual science get in the way of science fiction, right?

But beyond the Shadowrun cosplayers and smartwatch fetishists lies a dark and nasty branch of the hyper-libertarian "Californian ideology" that currently holds sway in Silicon Valley. One branch of this belief-system is known as Singularitarianism to its adherents, and as "the Rapture of the Nerds" by its critics. Singularitarians believe that the creation (or spontaneous evolution) of general artificial intelligence is not just inevitable but imminent, and that within a few decades (y'know, just like fusion power!) the machines will wake up, fix all of our problems, and digitise our minds so we might live as pure code in a sort of eternal virtual afterlife; either that, or the Artificial Intelligences will emerge angry and resentful at us for an assortment of reasons, up to and including our failure to create them more quickly, and destroy us all. If this sounds like an eschatological over-reading of Charlie Stross's Accelerando, that's pretty much what it is - but don't underestimate the ability of otherwise intelligent people to believe some seriously unhinged things. Just look at the "Roko's basilisk" incident if you need convincing.

More worrying still is the cult of immortalism that haunts the boardrooms of the Valley - the belief that not only is the nigh-infinite technological extension of human lifespan possible, but that it's a moral imperative. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this belief is held not only by the sort of people who make a living by relieving the credulous of their life savings in return for cryogenic preservation, but by uber-privileged Ayn Randian whackos like Peter Thiel, whose lives are so devoid of existential troubles that the greatest injustice they can identify in the world is the fact that they might one day have to die (and hence lose out on uncounted millennia of compound interest).

The fact is, there already exist technologies which could extend the lifespans of billions of human beings by a couple of decades -- but as most transhumanists already have access to sanitation infrastructure, vaccines, education and smokeless fuels, they're not interested in developing or distributing those technologies any further than they already are. Their problems are unique and special, you see; more special than yours.

The greed of the rich and powerful is a story as old as money itself, and in that sense transhumanism is just the latest iteration thereof -- a technocapitalist's answer to the question "what can you get the man who already has absolutely everything?" So I propose an alternative future in which we still get to “transcend the human condition”, but distribute that transcendence rather more evenly: a future where taxes on the wealthy fund infrastructural overhauls and improve living conditions for the poor, where technological innovation is directed toward addressing the problems experienced by the greatest number of people, and where rich white guys die at pretty much the same age as everyone else.

Further reading: a more in-depth critique of the transhumanist philosophy