Transhumanism, Longevity Research, and Anti-Aging
A Philosophical Panel
Continuing our previous panel discussion
Moderator: Transhumanism, Longevity Research, and Anti-Aging are all the rage in Silicon Valley. Thoughts?
Strauss: If I can extend my life and read more books, I would. But we should not let technologists mistake “is” and “ought.” The ability to do great, unprecedented things doesn’t mean we ought to. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do them—just that we shouldn’t think that scientists have any special moral authority. The celebration of innovation as an end in itself will lead us away from the moderation and prudence the ancients knew to be safeguards against barbarism.
Heidegger: Only a God can save us. Which is to say technology will not save us. Or to put it prosaically, the ability to extend our time on earth by no means teaches us how to dwell on this earth, or to understand the nature of time in terms of ecstatic temporality. We are fundamentally mortal. If we undo our essential mortality, we will lose our care for the world and all meaning will become oblivion. We are well underway towards this end.
Kojève: Transhumanism and anti-aging will likely create a new class of first and second class people, and will be valuable as social currency. There is no absolute value to living longer, but there is a relative value to being recognized as having superior longevity, superior genes, capacities, etc. These technologies will exacerbate the human tendency to prove dominance—but they will not fundamentally change human nature, understood as a struggle for glory.
Schmitt: We should first conquer nihilism, and then, if God wills it, conquer aging, making sure only friends and not enemies get their hands on the new technology, which are, as we all know, forms of weaponry.
Arendt: We should not ask whether AI is sentient or whether man is capable of becoming a cyborg until we first understand how someone like Eichmann is possible. The issue of our time is not who can pass a Turing Test, but who can avoid so warping Kant’s categorical imperative that it leads directly to totalitarianism. Technology will make the world demonstrably worse if it makes the psychology of Eichmann the norm.
Adorno: The greatest injustice is not suffering, but cruelty. Will our Methuselahs be less cruel? Is it possible to be in an economic system whose essence is exploitative and whose culture is middle-brow and benumbed?
Benjamin: There is already an elixir for longevity, which is to become, through writing, gathering, and collecting—a constellation. Those who have spent time in the archive, or who have found traces of the messianic in the junkyard know what I’m talking about.
Bloch: We will cease being human only when we cease longing for what is not yet.
Scholem: Technologists once exhibited the ethos of “redemption through sin.” Now, since Sorkin’s The Social Network they have become the new norm. And “redemption through sin” can find expression only in those who unplug, at great personal cost. The Messiah is the inverse image of the Very Online Person. The hidden zaddik (righteous one) has neither paper trail nor “digital presence.” Still, since the rise of cloud computing, we cannot read the Torah’s description of God traveling in a cloud pillar again without risking apocalypse.