Transcendence, for the Christian, is more than a life of eternal consciousness. It is a visceral, bodily eternity, where men and women live in a glorified earth with glorified bodies (Rev. 21). Whereas transhumanism dreams of a disembodied, mechanical immortality for humanity, we Christians—trusting in the sure promises and work of our Lord Jesus Christ—look forward to a glorious, heavenly city, where we shall live and rejoice eternally in the presence of our God.
Since the beginning of history, people have used technology to overcome various challenges. Bifocals, cars, artificial knees, smartphones: the history of humanity is littered with technologies designed to address the many limitations we face in our everyday lives. The last few decades have given us many new, amazing technologies, ranging from personal computers to improved prosthetics for the disabled. Because of these remarkable advancements, a growing number of thinkers are beginning to wonder how new technologies can help us not only overcome but even transcend our physical limitations. “Transhumanists,” Ian Curran states, “believe that developments in science and technology will soon make possible the radical transcendence of human biological, cognitive, and emotional limitations and the evolution of a posthuman race, even the attainment of immortality.”
Whether or not future technologies will live up to the dreams of these transhumanists, the fact that we are increasingly looking to technology to solve humanity’s troubles—and perhaps even deliver us from mortality—warrants a thoughtful examination of the transhumanist movement, its underlying assumptions, and the possible consequences of new medical and cybernetic technologies emerging in the coming decades.
Over the last few centuries, many Western thinkers have preached an optimistic view of scientific progress. The French Enlightenment philosopher Nicholas de Condorcet, in his Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, expressed such confidence in humanity’s capacity for “unlimited progress” that he wondered if “the duration of the average interval between birth and wearing out” would one day have “no time limit whatsoever.”  Within the last few decades, the emergence of computers, along with major advances in the fields of human biology and medicine, have opened new horizons upon which optimists could cast their visions for the future of humanity. These advances afforded new possibilities not only for the alleviation of human suffering, but also the enhancement of humanity. For example, recent innovations in prosthetics have stimulated conversation about the prospect of one day replacing functional human limbs with enhanced bionic prostheses.
Furthermore, as computers have become increasingly complex, it has become conceivable, even imminent, that computers could soon exceed the human brain in terms of speed and capacity. For transhumanists, the “singularity”(the term used to describe this proposed historic inevitability) will make it possible for humans to escape from their mortal bodies. As tech innovator, philanthropist, and leading proponent of transhumanism Ray Kurzweil notes:
“[T]here won’t be mortality by the end of the twenty-first century…Up until now, our mortality was tied to the longevity of our hardware. When the hardware crashed, that was it. For many of our forebears, the hardware gradually deteriorated before it disintegrated…As we cross the divide to instantiate ourselves into our computational technology, our identity will be based on our evolving mind file. We will be software, not hardware.”
According to Kurzweil and others, de Condorcet’s dream of immortality will be fulfilled once humans cease to be confined to bodily limitations and opt for a “post-biological” existence.
Transhumanists also propose that post-biological existence will offer more than immortality. As people get rid of biological limitations and integrate themselves with advanced technologies, they will also gain a whole set of abilities, pleasures, and experiences that transcend those of bodily existence. Kurzweil, with obvious zeal, writes, “[T]he road we’re going down is a road paved with gold. It’s full of benefits that we’re never going to resist—continued growth in economic prosperity, better health, more intense communication, more effective education, more engaging entertainment, better sex.” Even spiritual experiences, Kurzweil proclaims, will be capable of enhancement in this “posthuman” age. As scientists discover “the neurological correlates of the variety of spiritual experiences”, Kurzweil is certain that these experiences, too, will be heightened as human beings achieve ever-increasing technological complexity.
Despite the far-reaching scope of transhumanism’s vision for human evolution, however, some transhumanists are also genuinely concerned about the potentially negative consequences of these technologies. The most recent draft of “The Transhumanist Declaration” acknowledges “that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies” and calls for research in order “to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications.” Still, it is worth noting some of the potential ethical objections to the transhumanists vision for the future.