I have a somewhat melodramatic thought about Transhumanism and the Singularitarians: if these movements are as threatening as they would appear to be to so many traditional religious and "liberal" value systems, is this community better served by working very quietly toward their goals? Should transhumanists operate as a kind of cabal, a global uber-elite of scientists and engineers whose work is only made public at the moment of implementation? To put it bluntly: should all the Singularitary theorists (myself included) simply stfu and stop alerting the public to the potentially revolutionary developments that are in the offing?
One of my greatest fears, as I have discussed before, is the onset of a new Dark Age of religious Luddism and anti-modernity. The United States is currently the leader of this trend in the Western world, as evidenced by the growing influence of religious fundamentalists who seek to mandate the teaching of creationism in schools and restrict biological research on religious grounds. Carried to its conclusion, this trend will result in the USA becoming a Third World country in fairly short order. The only real danger in this scenario is that a group of Christian extremists might attempt to hasten Armageddon by launching the nuclear arsenal created by some of history’s great secular scientific minds. This would be the ultimate irony: the former world leader in science and technology gets hijacked by some kind of Christian al-Qaeda who wields these technologies for religious terrorism think 9/11 times ten thousand. If this can somehow be avoided, we can expect a religion-dominated United States to fade into irrelevance and impotence, and rightfully so. But in a worst-case scenario, perhaps the transhumanist movement will become an outlaw order, not too dissimilar from the European monks who preserved knowledge during the Dark Ages. This is a real possibility if transhumanists do not tread carefully in these uncertain and backward-looking times.
The challenges to transhumanism will not come only from the conservative religious elements of society; many who claim to be “progressive”, “enlightened” and “humanitarian” can be expected to resist transhumanism from the moral ground of “anti-fascism” and “egalitarianism”. In the minds of these generally rational people, any movement that promises to radically alter human capabilities can only mean dramatic inequality and the onset of some kind of techno-fascism. A prominent example of such a thinker is Francis Fukuyama, who calls transhumanism the world’s most dangerous idea. While such concerns are understandable, from the larger evolutionary perspective we must resist going down this intellectual dead end. Just as the Neanderthals were ultimately surpassed and replaced by our ancestors, it is short-sighted and arrogant to insist that humanity in its current form should last forever. The processes of evolution will continue with or without our moral approval, but if the means to guide them intelligently are within technological reach, it is imperative that we seize upon them now before this historic window of opportunity closes.
It is quite conceivable that transhumanist research will become outlaw science in the not too distant future. Transhumanism may simply present too many ethical and cultural challenges for any society to peacefully accept, whether it be secular-humanist or traditional-religious. I suggest that everyone in this community begin preparing for that day now, and consider viewing themselves as a kind of revolutionary cabal. Because that is really what Transhumanism and the attendant Singularity represent: a total revolution in human affairs, which no established order can be expected to accept without a fight. I hope everyone who understands what is at stake will consider keeping their lips sealed while they sharpen their revolutionary weapons.