Saturday, 3 December 2016

Letter on Transhumanism (The parable of the dying chief)

One day an indigenous chief lay dying in his tepee. He was surrounded by his friends and family. His armor and weapons sat in the corner. His horse paced about ruefully outside. His beautiful daughters and strong sons all wept and commended him for the greatness he had brought to their tribe. They recounted how he had led the tribe in a successful defenses against countless invasions of enemy tribes. They gave him approbation for the many fair and just decisions he had given on difficult matters between members of the tribe. They thanked him for keeping the many gods and spirits in favour by encouraging living harmoniously with nature. The medicine man wafted the smoke of a bundle of white sage over the chief and he drew his few remaining breathes.

Suddenly, the chief bolted up in bed. He sat fully upright, looking about in a panic. "Oh no!" he cried, "I can't die just yet! What a waste my life has been! All this time, riding about on my war horse, talking to people, raising children. What I should have been doing all this time is researching medicines and technologies that will keep me living forever! If only I'd spent hours and hours staring into microscope, creating pharmaceuticals. If only I'd done countless scientific experiments on animals, including vivisection, to develop surgical procedures that could extend my life!"

"But great father!" his family interrupted, "You have a lived a great a full life, you have accomplished so much in your years on this earth." 

"No!" he retorted, "I never got to spend hours and hours staring into a small screen, being amused at the flashing pictures. I never got to immerse myself in the fictional life of a set of characters on the screen. I only could live my own life directly, never vicariously. Furthermore, I never took the time to mass up large amounts of material possessions. I only had the things I needed for day to day life. I never got to pore through catalogs and shop in malls for things that I could imagine increasing my sense of self if only I owned them. I never took a vacation to Paris. What an unfulfilling waste it's all been! Oh won't someone freeze my body in liquid nitrogen in hopes of a future cure, or at least transfer my consciousness into a computer?"

The chief's family was left speechless. The chief fell back down onto the bed. He was dead. "What sort of evil demon was that which possessed him in his final moments?" they asked.

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