Ever since we first took bite of the proverbial apple and were ejected from Eden, human beings have been trying to better themselves. Whether through acquiring new knowledge or attempting to revert to a more natural state, the question of how best to further human progress is always at hand. One of the latest concepts is transhumanism.
A philosophy stretching back into the last few decades of the twentieth century, transhumanism proposes that the future of humankind is to not be human at all. Proponents of transhumanism believe that by altering how humans reproduce, genetically and technologically augmenting the body, and potentially dispensing with the body altogether in favor of neurological liberation, we can take charge of our own evolution for the better. While all of that may seem a ways off, one things shines through: in the future, sex as we know it may be a thing of the past.
We’re Already Using Technology to Affect Reproduction
Human beings are well on the road to altering how we reproduce. From in-vitro to surrogacy to children born with three biological parents, we are no longer a species that requires physical sex to generate offspring. Despite removing the reproductive incentive, however, our culture is incredibly focused on sex.
Our bodies and minds clamor for this release, and our art and entertainment reflect that right back to us. While there are exceptions, sex is not usually the subject of what we consider high culture. Instead, sexual content is considered base, and so is the act itself. We condemn it, restrict it, and are shamed by it. Perhaps if we entirely remove the biological necessity of sex by doing away with the 14-day rule that limits experimenters to embryos younger than 14 days old, we will remove the stigma of sex by completely test-tubing reproduction. Will this free our higher, cognitive selves from the base physicality that binds us to our bodies and to each other?
We have invented the tools to rule our own evolution, and each is designed to liberate us from our natural bodies. Reproductive technologies and artificial wombs, medical advancements in artificial limbs, hearts, lungs, all render our natural state primitive.
Many people think artificiality enhances life. We need not look far into the annals of medical science to see that the breakthroughs in artificial limbs, reproduction, and tissue and organ replacement make life better for many people. There is a difference, however, in correcting a physical detriment and altering the physical form wholesale.
Yet I can’t be the only one who gets queasy at the concept of genetic enhancement. The ethical questions abound, in terms of genetic altering for gender, skin color, height, predisposition toward a particular skill set. The argument can be made eradicating genetic illnesses is an honorable mission. But how are these illnesses defined? Is Downs Syndrome something to eradicate? What about autism? Schizophrenia? Bipolar disorder?
This Is All a Form of Self-Loathing
We are naturalists about the environment, animals, and oceans, but dismiss ourselves as beings of nature and instead think of ourselves as contaminants. Our time teaches us that everything in nature is precious except for that perennial villain, the Homo sapiens. An ancient relic of a forgotten time, the Homo sapiens—the explorer, the nomad, the homesteader, the brave, the noble, the being made in God’s image—is in danger of extinction at its own hand. We have overthought ourselves so thoroughly that we are convincing ourselves that any reality the mind can conjure, the body should imitate.
Transhumanism presupposes atheism as the only reasonable perspective. It sets us up as gods who take charge of, and direct, our own evolutionary capabilities and assumes that a more technological being is preferable to one that relies on its own body. Yet we are still unable to create life from scratch, unable to manufacture the spark of existence. Without understanding how life is made, we are attempting to remake it.
Whereas mankind previously believed we were made in the image of God, we are now meant to believe that we should make ourselves over in our own, imagined image of what humanity can be. We hold God up as an example of the good we can attain to, despite our limitations.
If we become our own gods, we will be self-hating gods, eternally dissatisfied, tweaking all nature right out of ourselves. What will we remove from our genetic make-up in pursuit of the most efficient human? Fear? Sadness? Empathy? Eroticism? It is easy to imagine the drastic measures we would take to better ourselves, only to wind up entirely disassociated from what makes life worth living.
If Only I Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil
If the Age of Reason taught us about the mind/body split, the twenty-first century is schooling us on the mind/body divorce. Divorcing the mind from the body is exactly what the transhumanists intend once the concept of neurological liberation becomes practice.
The ability of scientists to upload a consciousness to an artificial neural net is not too far off. Cut off from the body, the mind has a very limited scope. It cannot gain information through sensory input. Human beings are made up of experiences as relayed to the brain through the senses. What is a brain without sensory input, and what is a being that cannot feel, smell, taste, hear, see?
This final state, a mind without a body, eliminates sex entirely. While the mind may be the ultimate erogenous zone, it needs the body to achieve release. The brain is not just a meat computer, it is a physical entity that performs physical functions within itself. Transhumanists ask us to imagine ourselves as minds without bodies, as though that is somehow a higher state of being that our natural ones. But it isn’t.
Sex Offers Transcendence, Not Transhumanism
Instead of looking at sex as something beneath us, we should consider it as one of the most beautiful expressions of our humanity. Sex can bring about an emotional and physical connection, and in long-term relationships sex takes on a more profound meaning.
It can be a way to communicate and tend to the needs of a lover in ways that words, commiserations, and even a hug can’t get close to. The transhumanists would have us transcend the body, but the tools of transcendence are within us.
The idea of altering the human being into something that is both human and “trans,” or beyond the existing concept of humanity, assumes that we fundamentally know what it means to be human. It also presupposes that it is reasonable to accelerate cognitive development at the cost of our physical selves. We must consider, and value, what we would leave behind. The body is not a dead weight that our minds lug around. The body does more than hold our consciousness, it drives it.
Sex, and the pleasure drive, is a gift. It is a gift to be able to extend our own boundaries to include another person. Sex gives us the ability to feel ephemeral and grounded all at once and to feel thoroughly connected to another human being. That is not something to give away.
Sex has been the raison d’etre of humanity since our beginning. No matter what we may think we will get in return, for the continuance of our life or the collective consciousness of our fellow humans, sex is not something to relinquish to technological advancement.