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A New Quest for Immortality

A new movement has emerged from California's Silicon Valley. It's a combination of philosophy, faith, and science known as transhumanism. An article in The Futurist magazine describes transhumanism as "radical life extension and life expansion." Those devoted to the movement "perceive the human body as a work in progress." They believe that "evolution took humanity this far…and only technology will take [humanity] further." As for sickness, aging, and death? Adherents call all three "unnecessary hindrances that we have the right and the responsibility to overcome. … Our bodies, frail and unpredictable, are just another problem…to solve."

The goal of the World Transhumanist Association is to transcend all human limitations. They believe the body is a machine; the brain, a computer. With quickly advancing technology, then, man can be "upgraded." Transhumanists are convinced that one day artificial limbs will be more efficient than real limbs. Our brains will be vastly superior, too. Researchers have theorized that Einstein's brain had no gap between the frontal lobes. Transhumanists hope to use technology in such a way that his "advantage" can be engineered for everyone.

It probably isn't surprising to learn that transhumanists are also staunch supporters of cryonics. Ralph Merkle, a board member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, says, "People think cryonics is freezing the dead. That's incorrect. We're freezing the terminally ill. We want a second opinion from a future doctor." In the future they hope to unleash the power of nanotechnology to repair failed organs and dying cells. They are convinced that these billionth-of-a-meter robots will be able to "go into a deceased body, repair the dead cells, and reboot the brain." Merkle insists that "once we get the technology in place, dying goes away. It just doesn't happen."

Inventor Ray Kurzwell forecasts that right around the year 2030, cybernetic implants will greatly augment human intelligence, and all of the world's common diseases will have been cured. By 2040, we will see the rise of an artificial intelligence that is thousands of times smarter than all of humanity combined.

The overwhelming majority of transhumanists are atheists. Still, Tyler Emerson, a leader in the transhumanist movement, says, "For those of us who don't believe in God, this is a sort of religion." Another leader, Peter Thiel, adds, "Every myth on this planet tells people that the purpose of life is death. It rationalizes death. It helps them deal with it. Every temple is a tomb and every tomb a temple. If you have a set of technologies that radically changes the meaning of death, then that has repercussions for religion. These questions touch on our very humanity."

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