Academic journal article Review of Contemporary Philosophy

Zoltan Istvan's "Teleological Egocentric Functionalism:" a Libertarian Philosophical Basis for "Transhumanist" Politics

Academic journal article Review of Contemporary Philosophy

Zoltan Istvan's "Teleological Egocentric Functionalism:" a Libertarian Philosophical Basis for "Transhumanist" Politics

Article excerpt

Introduction: The Framework

In recent years the importance of technology in daily life has been growing steadily. This trend is reflected by the rise of technology and its applications to ever more crucial factors within the economy, the health care sector, the military and political rhetoric. Among the systemic factors that are shaping globalization from a medium- and long-term perspective, technology has indeed become probably the most influential factor - to the point that critics speak of a "universalization" of technology in our time that is replacing the former lead roles of politics and economics.

Indeed, the computer and internet have revolutionized society since the 1990s; genetics, bio- and neurotechnology have modified aspects of our image of the human being.1 Furthermore, new technologies and its derivatives have also profoundly changed the ways we look at the desirable future. To a certain extent, technology has not only changed the traditional - including ideological - utopias, but has itself become the most important utopia, if not the embodiment of a utopian ideal as such. Technology as ideology is in the process of displacing most other ideological approaches both from the left and the right. This displacement has become possible given that technology - as objective process - can claim to be a new "neutral" ground between traditional political factions and their mostly "binary" inclinations that shaped the 19th and 20th centuries.2

1. The "Transhumanist" Movement and Its "Proto-Political" Character

As a consequence, a technology-inspired "transhumanist movement"3 has begun to arise out of (as at yet mostly Western) civil societies to start to influence opinion-makers and governments, and is increasingly imitated in its basic ideas by non-democratic governments in Asia and elsewhere. The main "transhumanist" goal as far as it has been elaborated, is not only to further modernize civilization, but to overcome the existing human condition, which it regards as in principle still unsatisfactory, given its dependency on factors outside human influence.4

The literal meaning of "transhumanism" is, as the term suggests, to "go beyond the existing human being"5 through as free and open as possible application of technology to all sectors of human activity. But - more important - the mea ning of "transhumanism" is also about merging technology with human biology, in order to extend human lifespan dramatically and, if possible, to eventually defeat death.

Zoltan Istvan, one of the most publicly present and well-known advocates of transhumanism, stated clearly but controversially:

What are transhumanists to do in a world where science and technology are quickly improving and will almost certainly overcome human mortality in the next 30 years? Will there be a great civil rights debat e and clash around the world? Or will the deathist culture change, adapt, or even subside?

First, let's look at some hard facts. Most deaths in the world are caused by aging and disease. Approximately 150,000 people die every day around the world, causing devastating loss to loved ones and communities. Of course, it should not be overlooked that death also brings massive disruption to family finances and national economies.

On the medical front, the good news is that gerontologists and other researchers have made major gains recently in the fields of life extension, anti-aging research, and longevity science. In 2010, some of the first studies of stopping and reversing aging in mice took place. They were partially successful and proved that 21st century science and medicine had the goods to overcome most types of deaths from aging. Eventually, we'll also wipe out most diseases. Through modern medicine, the 20th century saw a massive decrease of deaths from polio, measles, and typhoid, amongst others.

On the heels of some of these longevity and medical triumphs, a number of major commercial ventures have appeared recently, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the field of anti-aging and longevity research. …

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