Words To That Effect #16 | Transhumanism, Fiction, and Immortality

This is an episode about who we are as humans. And, more importantly, where we are going. About a future in which technology and biology have merged in ways that are in equal part fascinating and terrifying. A future of unparalleled technological ingenuity, but one with deeply problematic ethical concerns.

It’s a future that sounds like science fiction because, in some ways, it is. But it’s a world that’s being designed right now.

Transhumanism is a social movement which aims to use technology to push out the boundaries of the human condition. It aims to move humanity beyond what we are today. It takes in a huge range of ideas: from the wildly speculative, like uploading our consciousness to computers, to the more low tech, like DIY tech implants and biohacking. It’s a movement which tries to transcend the human condition and, ultimately, to achieve immortality.

It’s also a movement which has been heavily influenced by a century of science fiction writing about these ideas.

In this episode, I talk to Dr Mark O’Connell, author of To Be a Machine, a fascinating new book which explores the world of transhumanism. The book, as its subtitle outlines, is about O’Connell’s Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death.

I also chat with Dr Thomas Connolly, who helps situate the transhumanist movement in the context of a long history of science fiction writing.

We talk about genetically engineered mice, sci-fi dystopias, Silicon Valley, immortality, human consciousness, and quite a bit in between.