Transhumanists - Pacific Standard

Transhumanists

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.
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Riva-Melissa Tez, 26, advisor for investments in artificial intelligence and life-extension. (Photo: Lisa Wiseman)

Riva-Melissa Tez, 26, advisor for investments in artificial intelligence and life-extension. (Photo: Lisa Wiseman)

Americans tend to greet technology in two ways: rabid adoption or rabid fear. Transhumanism is an especially ambitious version of the former: It’s a movement to upgrade the human animal with technology. A number of prominent transhumanist researchers say brain implants could improve cognitive function beyond our current capacity to imagine; other long-term goals include the ethical colonization of space. Most exciting: Transhumanism is urging bio-hacking policy in health care—in support of funding and research for technologies like those brain implants—with an eye toward slowing, pausing, or even reversing the aging process. While the movement’s constituency is motley and sometimes quarrelsome, transhumanism is attracting tens of thousands of new adherents each year across social-media platforms.

  • Transhumanism is a new approach to an old idea. The idea is to better the experience you have, extend life, and increase happiness by harnessing technology. The technology is new, but the goals of transhumanism go back through every cultural society since the beginning of time.
  • I’m a bit perturbed by the term transhumanist. I call myself a humanist: I want humanity to flourish! And transhumanism is about using very, very modern ideas to improve humanity. I think in the future the term transhumanism will dissolve, once it’s become a basic concept—of course you use technology to improve the human race!
  • The classic trope is some sort of computer-science guy who wants to live forever and wants to find a way to reap the rewards at the expense of others. It’s a very narcissistic view. But I think the main goals of transhumanism take a global perspective. That means everyone; it’s about every single person on the Earth, perhaps especially those who have the least.
  • There really aren’t that many women [in transhumanism]. I can probably count on one hand the number of women working in artificial intelligence and life-extension over the last couple of years.
  • I never use the word immortal. That’s a radical difference between me and some others in the movement. Instead, I talk about life-extension. If you talk about being healthy for a long time, it makes sense; if you talk about immortality, it sounds a bit more egotistical and out of reach.
  • I can’t make some sort of call [about] how long I want to live; you have to look at health care very systematically to find out where the effective nudges are going to be. If we recognized aging as a disease, I’d be a bit more optimistic. At the moment I think we’re really at square one. If the world realizes that aging is a disease, then everything changes.

—Riva-Melissa Tez, 26, advisor for investments in artificial intelligence and life-extension (as told to Ted Scheinman)

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