Zoltan Istvan: Cyborg or weirdo?

In an article named Why I’m Debating an Anarcho-Primitivist Philosopher About the Future, Zoltan Istvan, one of the best known futurists and the author of The Transhumanist Wager, defended transhumanist ideas against anarcho-primitivists, and their romanticized visions of a life ridden of all benefits of the industrial revolution. Yes, including the good ones, like water processing plants, vaccines and tractors. It should be safe to presume that none of them is a farmer or inhabitant of New Delhi suburbia.

When you hear about some ideas of transhumanism for the first time, it may sound as one of the many conspiracy theories people revel in these days. Merging humans with robots, „Oh dear God, no!” You start to feel shivers down your spine. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we are all doomed! But, when you stop for a second and think about it, things become clearer to you.

If we were given an option to undergo a few operations and medical treatments in order to become sort of cyborg, the vast majority would explicitly decline such an offer, even if it’s for free. It’s because we would be so much different from the rest of the population. Anyway, that’s not how things work with new, revolutionary ideas. First, we have to torch one or more Giordano Brunos, before we get used to talking about their ideas (still in disbelief and filled with contempt), until they eventually become acceptable concepts.

What if we start with modifications of certain proteins in our bodies which could make our bones more durable, and our teeth resistant to bacteria? Wouldn’t that be nice? Millions of people are undergoing unnecessary corrective plastic surgeries, often painful and risky, just to achieve temporary results. Wouldn’t you sign up for a vaccine which could make your immune system powerful enough against most known diseases, thus avoiding use of medications which can fix one thing and damage the other; a microchip, like the one produced by the VeriChip company, acting like your body’s miniature laboratory, signaling potential threats to your health; or a treatment which can make your skin impenetrable and thermally resistant? What about eagle’s eyesight and nocturnal vision? Google X‘s laboratory has already patented camera-integrated smart lenses, which could help not only vision-impaired people, but can perform some of the functions of Google Glass. In all these cases our appearance would not change. We would still be perfectly normal persons, as we are used to think about ourselves. It doesn’t sound that bad anymore, does it?

Well, it all starts like that, we adapt to changes step by step. That’s why we all dream about living a life ridden of all technological wonders, somewhere in a small rustic house, calmed with summer breeze and intoxicated with smells of blossoming flowers, while we’re hooked on cyber-life, technology and comforts of urban dwelling. All that we traded for industrial revolution… was it worth it? Whatever your answer might be, it doesn’t change the fact that it was an inevitable course of the history, and human evolution. We don’t want to fall behind, so we adapt to changes and move along. Otherwise, we would be the ones looking and acting strange.