by Niki HASAPI, MTh / Postgraduate Student in Science Communication, Hellenic Open University
A new philosophical understanding has emerged in recent decades, the so-called Posthumanism, which affirms trust in a completely different kind of man as he will be in the not-too-distant future. Max More founded the movement in its current form in 1988, and it is still growing today. A significant event in the movement’s history was the founding of the World Transhumanist Union (WTU) in 1998, which also mentions in its founding statement the right to the welfare of all sentient beings, including artificial forms of existence. One of the goals of this philosophical movement is the limitless extension of human life, and with the development of digital minds—that is, the replication of human brains in computer systems—digital forms of consciousness and life are thought to be both feasible and legitimate, with the potential to replace current life as we know it. Typically, the term “transhumanism” is used to describe the intermediate stage of the human being before she/he enters the last step named Posthumanism.
According to the term’s origins, the Posthuman will be a radically different kind of human than the one alive today, a being with extraordinary mental and physical powers. With the help of various materials, such as inorganic matter and elements of flora and fauna, she/he will be able to alter their existence by using her/his biological foundation as a base on which to build and shape new features and talents in whatever way she/he chooses. This will eliminate the barriers between species and the components of the planet. Since humans are perceived as something that does not fundamentally differ from other kinds of existence, humanism ceases to be the dominant philosophy.
However, posthumanism transcends humanism’s bounds to the point where it renders it invalid because it holds that human traits can also be applied to inorganic things. Mechanical systems that mimic the way the human brain works will be able to gain fundamental human qualities like self-awareness, free choice, and emotional experience, as well as claim a matching moral judgment. In the future, robots should be given the same rights and obligations as humans, while the Posthuman will have the ability to live forever in a virtual reality world. In order to realize the human’s desire for immortality, the ultimate goal will be to combine every digital thought into a single global digital superbeing that can endure forever.
People are interested in this topic, but they are also concerned about it. Both the scientific community and the average citizen have valid questions and worries about the remarkable advancement of technology and the statements made by a number of scientists and philosophers regarding their visions for the future of humanity. If one considers that the changes that are hinted at affect both living situations and human nature itself, these anxieties grow even more severe. The anthropological understandings of both traditional science and Christianity appear to be significantly disturbed by the emerging philosophical movement of posthumanism.
From the period of the Old Testament till the present, Christianity has evolved its views on Humans and their nature. Up to the advent of Christianity, which stressed the bond and unity of soul and body, philosophical thought was dominated by the profound dualism between soul and body and the portrayal of the latter as a prison of the soul. The most fundamental teaching of Christianity about the human, however, is that she/he was created in God’s likeness and in his image, which is found in Genesis 1, the first book of the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament, especially in the Epistles, both those by Paul and the Catholic. The Church Fathers in particular developed the understanding of how creation was interpreted as being in the image and likeness of God. This doctrine holds that the human was uniquely created in order for her/him to serve as the creation’s crowning achievement. God gave Man his exceptional qualities, which are potential characteristics rather than instincts. This took place in order to protect God’s fundamental gift of the capacity for free will and moral judgment. If and only if she/he fully comprehends the potentialities inherent in her/his nature, the Human has the capacity to resemble God.
Some scientists believe that modern Man is monistic, in opposition to Christian anthropology, as the idea of the soul is not acknowledged by science. It is well known that the Renaissance established the groundwork for the materialistic approach to reality. The following paradox, however, was materialized. Many scientists started to interpret reality in a way that now surpasses materialistic constraints as scientific thought developed and advanced. It was discovered that since this alone cannot describe the multi-level world, modern scientific thought is starting to break free from absolute physicalism. In terms of its anthropological teaching, this has the effect of confirming the theological concept on many levels. In other words, it was recognized that human beings are existential beings whose nature transcends the scope of scientific study. They are more than just physical beings. The fact that a person’s soul and body are inseparably linked shows that posthumanism, which holds that a person can exist apart of his or her physical body, is incompatible with the accepted Christian doctrine. However, it was discovered that a robot acquiring human traits like free will, emotions, and self-awareness was incredibly implausible. As a result, it would be wrong to grant anthropomorphic computers a moral status, let alone assign them moral or legal obligations.
The close connection between a person’s mental and spiritual well-being demonstrated the impact one’s way of life and existence may have on their innate nature. Man’s spiritual development is influenced by his biological development. Overuse of technology poses a significant risk to society and forces it to answer to future generations. It is possible to modify a human-hybrid to the point where it is impossible to tell that she/he is still a member of the human species. When a person strives to humanize a mechanical creation while still pursuing her/his own mechanization, a paradoxical and contradictory occurrence arises. The odd thing is that in order to meet the issues that would result from the overuse of artificial intelligence, the mechanization of the human being is seen as the sole and necessary solution to the humanization of the machine.
The following query relates to Posthumanism and Orthodox Anthropology. Is it possible that Posthuman is a contemporary interpretation of the deified man in Christian theology? First-level observations of certain similarities between Christian theology and the Posthumanism movement are simple to make. First, is the objective, which appears to be the same for both Posthumans and Christians. The aim of the believer is union with God and achieving immortality. Posthuman, on the other hand, aims to conquer death as well, whether with or without a body and to have the option of digital immortality or even perpetual rebirth. But man’s pursuit of immortality also seems to have elements with Christianity. Utilizing the available options, or the perfection of nature, is how the image is realized. One of the fundamental tenets of posthumanism is that the human has not reached her/his full potential and is open to progress, which seems to have no end. This is stated in the second point of its bill of rights. This assertion is comparable to the Christian possibility of comparing God and humans. But is it actually true?
In order to attain her/his aim and become a sharer of the divine Energies, the deified human must have recognized her/his freedom. This purpose is accomplished through its mode of being. In this sense, despite the fact that the human is a social animal and well aware of her/his oneness with other people, she/he is also fully aware of his uniqueness. Only love, which according to Orthodox theology is far more than just a sentiment, can resolve this contradiction. It is the only authentic way to exist. It is that compassionate manner of existing that takes the members of the Holy Trinity as its model and is globally realized by the eucharistic community of the Church. In this community, otherness is turned into complementing diversity.
It should be investigated whether the deified man can be the Posthuman of the future based on these theological foundations. The first thing that could be seen is to how each of these attempts at deification is presented. Posthumanism is most likely an attempt at deification in this situation. Even though humans are aware of their relative nature, they will not embrace their relativity or their transient state. They make an effort to employ technology to become immortal and, in doing so, to finally change the physical rules that they had previously absolutized. The divine-human does not attempt to avoid death, according to theology. Because she/he sees it as the foundation of a new reality and has accepted it. In contrast, Posthumans reject death because they view it as the absolute end of their existence weighed down by their desperation. They make an effort to either ignore it or to shelter behind the false belief that it will be defeated.
The difficulty with Posthumans is that the more they strive to absolutize themselves, the more relativized they get. They develop the technology to replace those competencies rather than changing their own capabilities. Technology changes from being a tool of Man to being a subject, and Man changes into a tool of technology, becoming its perpetual hostage as her/his attributes deteriorate. The divine-human, on the other hand, develops her/his own nature by persistent struggle and exertion.
The assimilationist’s aim is to get rid of the selfishness that is the root of his failure, which causes her/him to give in to her/his desires and isolate from others. Instead of attempting to suppress her/his ego and desires, the Posthuman has instead made it a top priority to indulge them. It feeds them rather than getting rid of them. In order to increase enjoyment, she/he seeks to create new joys and even feelings. Humans must have the freedom to make their own decisions though if they are to get over egocentrism. The most difficult decision, the one that will actually benefit them, is what defines a human as truly free. However, Posthumans cannot be free because their objective is to cede their decision-making authority to technology. Decisions should be made in the human future where there is no possibility of error. No error should be tolerated. There should be no disease, pain, suffering, hardship, or conflict; humans should be perfect and produce perfect offspring. While negative conduct can be curbed through surgical or other procedures, even happiness can be attained artificially. Since evil will no longer exist, the concepts of good and evil will be meaningless. Future society will inevitably be ideal. Humans will stop being bad and accept their role as slaves.
But we must remember that making mistakes is human merit. It is what enables humans to draw lessons from their experiences. Should the human being solely give up her/his freedom to technology, it may ultimately prove to be the last and most sad act of freedom in the years to come.
Further Reading Bitsaki Α., “Ἡ ἀθανασία τῆς ψυχῆς κατὰ τὸν Πλάτωνα. Κριτικὴ θεώρηση ἀπὸ Χριστιανικὴ ἄποψη”, Theologia 66/1(1995) 150-170. Papakonstatinou P. , Άνθρωποι και Ρομπότ, Οι προκλήσεις της Τεχνητής Νοημοσύνης, Athens: Livanis, 2020. Perrou P.A., “Συναισθηματική Νοημοσύνη και Μηχανές". Bostrom N., “A History of Transhumanist Thought” Bostrom N., “Human Genetic Enhancements: A Transhumanist Perspective”, Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 37, No. 4(2003) 493-506. Kass L.R., “Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls”