What is Transhumanism? And why should Christians care?

In the past year, a strange new idea called “transhumanism” has started to show up in documentaries, tv series, and blockbuster movies. It’s often coupled with stories of amazing new medical developments, like restoring hearing to the deaf, or sight to the blind. Sometimes it’s coupled with stories of scarier things, like robot invasions, or murderous artificial intelligences.

You might be wondering, what is transhumanism? What does it mean, and why should I care? Or maybe, why is Micah always talking about this?

At root, it’s actually pretty simple. Transhumanism is basically just the idea that we can make the world better. We’re not stuck with how things are; we actually have the power to change things, and to do things differently.

This means that when we face problems like Ebola or cancer, we don’t simply sit back and say this is how things have to be. Instead, we apply our God-given ingenuity to working out solutions.

And when we face issues like extreme poverty, we don’t simply accept that this is how things are. Instead, we work to help those in need, and work harder to eliminate the things that caused the need to begin with.

Whether facing disease, poverty, or hunger, whether encountering the wounded, sick, or dying — we don’t simply throw up our hands in defeat. Instead, we set out to address the problem; we set out to improve the world.

Transhumanism is about working on these kinds of problems, problems that affect the world on a really large scale.

What’s amazing, of course, is that humans have been able to do so much already. Just in the last century, we’ve seen the widespread adoption of indoor plumbing and electricity. The impact of these things has been incredible, from dramatic reductions in disease, to the health benefits of refrigerated food.

The irony is that many people now act like things have always been this way; like we’ve always had electricity, plumbing, and indoor lights. In reality, of course, these technologies are barely two generations old. Not having had them is within memory of many people still alive.

This lack of historical awareness can blind us to the fact that things can be better, that there is still plenty of room to improve the lives of people at every level of society. That, in turn, can make us apathetic, leading us to surrender our role in making the world a better place. Or even worse — it can make us hostile towards those who are working to change things for the good.

But the reality is that the world has been radically transformed, over and over again, by the actions of people just like you and me. From fire and agriculture, to space travel and particle accelerators — we create new things, cultivate new life, and enable new ways of living, working, and playing. We explore and learn and discover, we imagine and build and invent.

We have always been transforming. That is who we are — that is what it means to be human.

And that means that we have the capability — and the responsibility — to make things better. We need to fight the impulse towards apathy, and embrace our responsibility as human beings. We need to realize how far we’ve come — and how far we still can go.

The future can be shaped. The world can be improved. Life isn’t static, change can happen.

We need to ask hard questions about the future. How can we solve the problems of global hunger? How will we deal with massive unemployment, if large parts of our economy become automated? What can we do to prevent the spread of biological weapons?

Rather than approaching these questions with pessimism or fear, we need to approach them as problems to be solved with ingenuity, passion, and hard work. We need to see the future, not as something terrifying, but as a chance for doing good, and an opportunity to improve the lives of billions of people.

That’s what transhumanism is about. Believing that we can change things. Recognizing that the world has transformed before — and will transform again. Thinking far enough ahead to see large-scale challenges, and larger-scale opportunities. Working towards making the world a better place for everyone.

At the moment, very few self-proclaimed transhumanists are Christian. This means that the people seemingly most invested in the future of the world — in considering its challenges, and contemplating opportunities to make it better — are mostly secular.

I'd like to change that. After all, Christianity is the religion that tells us we were made in the image of God, and charged with the care of all creation. Christianity is the religion whose prime directive is “love your neighbor as yourself”. Christianity is the religion which calls its followers to participate with God in the redemption, renewal, and reconciliation of the world. Christianity is the religion whose disciples were commanded to go out and heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bring life to the dead.

This is why I’m involved in helping to grow the Christian Transhumanist Association. We’re asking Christians to start thinking deeply about the challenges and opportunities of the future, and to start moving boldly and optimistically toward making the world a better place. We’re not suggesting a new idea, but an old one. We want Christians to wake up to what they claim to believe — and to connect more deeply with the heart and vision of their faith.

If you’re interested in taking on these kinds of challenging questions, being a part of this growing discussion, and working on ambitious ways to improve the world, we want your ideas and your vision. We'd love for you to join us.