Technological advancements in recent decades have drastically altered human experience, with computing power and many other technologies growing at exponential rates. Our lives will continue to change, and most likely in ways that are presently incomprehensible. “Transhumanism” is a relatively new movement that is carefully considering this immanent future, paying particular concern to how humanity will be changed—for already, and certainly in a more thoroughgoing way than ever before, it is poised to be a primary actor in its own evolution. How can we increase the likelihood that this future will better than the present, that we as transforming, evolving humans (“transhumans”–people on the way to being something more) and societies will become more benevolent, more concerned with alleviating suffering and having compassionate concern for all? And given that many scientists and technological innovators have primarily secular orientations, is there a role for religion and spiritual traditions to inform Transhumanist discussions and help shape this future? What can religious mythologies, terminologies, concepts, and social forms bring to the table that secular-based ethics and perspectives cannot?
Into this fray comes the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA), which in 2006 was admitted to the World Transhumanist Association as its first religious special-interest affiliate. MTA leaders, two of them panelists in this podcast, see in Mormonism many sensibilities and views of humanity and God that match well with Transhumanist perspectives. The LDS ideas of eternal progression, including the description of Gods as once being like us and our call to become just like them and emphasis on “worlds without end,” along with its strong naturalism, optimism, universalism, and sense of the importance of community/society building, all make Mormonism a great conversation partner for and bridge-builder between the religious and scientific/technological worlds. Can Mormonism and other religions that have long been discussing human transformation, deification, concern for others, and ways to mitigate human tendencies toward selfishness and evil serve the emerging future well by contributing their energies and ability to move and inspire us to active faith and action in creating a future in which we flourish rather than destroy ourselves?
In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Tyson Jacobsen, Lincoln Cannon, and Christopher Bradford discuss the future, especially as it is and promises to be even more impacted by technological advancements, along with several other major themes in Transhumanist debates. They discuss the relevance of religion in a world increasingly dominated by science and secularism, and they pay particular attention to how Mormon and other religious concepts and terms can be given new life when informed by Transhumanist themes. They also examine the type of actors the world needs as it hurdles toward completely unprecedented forms of life and sociality.
ALERT: This episode will be the first introduction to Transhumanism for many, and it is likely to present a significant barrier for some in terms of both new terminology and a startling awakening to where science and technology seem to be taking us. Our strong hope is that listeners will stick with this episode, as the terms and ideas will begin to become more and more familiar. The discussion ultimately ends in a terrific introduction to familiar concepts brought into great new life through considering Transhumanist themes.
A STRONGER WARNING: This episode contains altogether far too many usages of the word “robust,” mostly by the host. He sincerely apologizes!
Mormon Transhumanist Association website. Includes information about the association’s April 6, 2012 conference in Salt Lake City and that is also available through livestreaming.
The New God Argument website.
“Transfiguration: Parallels and Complements Between Mormonism and Transhumanism” (Sunstone, March 2007)