This is a guest post from Carolyn Forbes, Assistant Director of ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, which promotes interdisciplinary research and education on the dynamics of religion and conflict with the aim of advancing knowledge, seeking solutions and informing policy.
Where does the scientific imagination come from? Could religion play a part? Explore these and other questions at this Friday’s workshop on “The Transhumanist Imagination: Innovation, Secularization, and Eschatology,” which will take place from 12:00 – 3:30 p.m. in West Hall room 135 on ASU’s Tempe campus. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The term “transhumanism” denotes an ideology of extreme progress, suggesting a coherent narrative to account for the accelerated pace of science and technology. As a future-oriented outlook, transhumanism prophesizes scientific and technological advances for the well-being of humanity, enabling humans to live extremely long, intensely happy lives, free of pain and disease.
Transhumanism is more than an idle fantasy of a few techno-optimists; it is an eschatological narrative that draws together a range of religious and secular motifs around an ideology of innovation, intensifying an imagination of the future that foregrounds technology as the source of progress. The transhumanist posture toward innovation reaches well beyond the transhumanist community itself, exerting a powerful influence affecting innovation policies and practices, scientific and cultural views about the transformative powers of technology, as well as our understandings of human flourishing.
The eschatological vision of transhumanism has ethical and political ramifications: it is a radically individualist vision in which freedom is re-imagined as the agency to radically transform—and thereby transcend—the body. This understanding of freedom does not measure the present in terms of improvement over the past, but rather as an incremental progress toward a future in which transcendence is achieved by rendering the body utterly subordinate to the individual, creative will.
By examining the religious underpinning of the ostensibly secular transhumanist imagination, the workshop contributes to a larger discussion about the sources and dynamics of technological innovation in the current moment and the institutions being harnessed towards realizing the future that it imagines.
The workshop is funded by a grant to the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict for the project The Transhumanist Imagination. The grant is funded by The Historical Society’s program in Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs and sponsored by the John Templeton Association.
- John Evans (UC-San Diego) on hope, progress and religious views of technology
- Nassar Zkariya (NYU) on transhumanism, posthumanism, and the theology of the secular
- Margo Lipstin (Harvard) and Ben Hurlbut (ASU) on Singularity University and technological messianism