Of the many ideologies and isms to emerge in recent years, transhumanism, which promotes striving for immortality through technology, has to be one of the quirkiest. But its advocates are dead serious. Silicon Valley tech magnates Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Bill Maris have already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into research dedicated to slowing or even stopping the aging process. And the Transhumanist Party’s presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, who recently crisscrossed the nation in a coffin-shaped RV called the Immortality Bus, claims that death itself can be eradicated in “eight to twelve years, with enough funding.”
Beyond Silicon Valley, transhumanism is extending its reach into intellectual and spiritual realms. Though still largely rejected by the mainstream academy, transhumanism has found support in surprising places, for example at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute. Transhumanism’s movers and shakers, made up predominantly of tech entrepreneurs and independent “visionaries,” have held conferences, published widely, and funded research, much of it via a think tank called Humanity Plus.
The transhumanist movement seeks to improve human intelligence, physical strength, and the five senses by technological means. Transhumanists are often also interested in the idea of “technological singularity,” a hypothesized moment in the development of computing power when a true artificial intelligence emerges. This would, its adherents believe, spark an explosion of technological growth, leading to unimaginable, but positive, changes in human society. In certain versions of this scenario, humans and computers would merge, and humanity as a whole would be brought to a new stage of development that would transcend biology.
Above all, transhumanists seek to extend life, even to the point of eliminating death altogether.