Would Ayn Rand have been a Transhumanist?
Book review of The Transhumanist Wager
The novel starts with this very determined young man, who is on a mission to circumnavigate the world in his sailboat. He ends up a semi-benevolent transhuman dictator.
The Transhumanist wager is a rationalization that I think comes out of the objectivist school of thought.
The Wager is the most logical conclusion to arrive at for any sensible human being: We love life and therefore want to live as long as possible — we desire to be immortal. It’s impossible to know if we’re going to be immortal once we die. To do nothing doesn’t help our odds of attaining immortality, since it seems evident that we’re going to die someday and possibly cease to exist. To attempt something scientifically constructive towards ensuring immortality beforehand is the most logical solution.
I found the protagonist similar to Hank Rearden, in that he occasionally is an unrealistically ethical agent, I like protagonists who are a little more murky and human. However, I think he’s probably an accurate picture of the kind of dictatorially obsessed leader (or omnipotender) the world will need to push the transition from superstition and petty thinking to a transhuman society. Like John Galt, at the end of the book, the protagonist gives an extended speech to the world, diagnosing the problems of society and presenting a philosophical solution.
I said in my ayahuasca video that…
I aspire to think like a man of action and act like a man of thought.
For me this book struck a balance between philosophy and action — juxtapositioning discussions of politics between power players and scenes of cool shit blowing up.
I began reading this while I was finishing up Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and the parallels are significant. After reading both books I’m coming to the conclusion that philosophical ideas are better communicated as fiction novels.
Atlas Shrugged [Book Review]
For those unacquainted, this novel is a vehicle to explain the philosophy and practical application of objectivism…
However, this isn’t simply Atlas Shrugged in the future, it’s nowhere near as long-winded as Atlas Shrugged where you have these dialogs between characters lasting 30–40 pages. There’s also more portrayal of violence as a means to an end.
For example; a common theme in Science Fiction is the conflict between archaic human religious values and transhumanism. As opposed to trying to find a way to non-violently transition to a global transhuman society, as Ayn Rand would probably have in this book there’s a war, albeit a short war thanks to technology.
Transhumanists are supposed to be so evolved and enlightened, it would be nice to show them in a novel figuring out a way to bring about a global transhuman society without a war. I bet you if you had a conference of all the leading minds in science, technology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and marketing you could figure out a way to non-violently transition from the old idiocracy world we live in now and this Transhumanist utopia prophesied by so many authors.
The entire time the book was describing the sea city of Transhumania I was imagining what it might actually look like. A word to the wise to the author; myself and everyone who reads this book would love to see some artwork of Transhumania. Go on 99 designs and get some awesome artwork done of Transhumania!
A design complaint…
The cover of the book is just these two gray heads facing each other, every time I saw the book cover in my Kindle app, I thought: god that’s a boring book cover! The cover should have been the artwork of the sea city. So I guess in this case, don’t judge a book by its cover.
It would have maybe been cool to hear more about the science and technology being developed by the transhumanists, instead, the book focused on the global ramifications of transhumanism. Some novels are character-driven, and some are driven by really rich scenes, this one is about taking a macro view of how a radical philosophy may affect the globe.
A couple of passages that jumped out to me…
“…transhumanists do not believe in welfare; your freebies are over.” (p. 282)
The Transhuman state was contrary to the idea that you deserve to be taken care of.
“People who can reasonably and successfully raise children will be allowed to procreate and encouraged to do so; all others will not be allowed to procreate.” (p. 282).
In Transhuman society procreation is a privilege, not a right. This is the same conclusion I reached when I lived in Madre-Soltera-landia, aka Medellin, Colombia. I would share this idea when I got into philosophical discussions with people who I thought were deep enough to handle it.
“We live according to what we believe we are becoming; we call it the futurization of values.” (p. 280).
This is one of those good ideas, that people generally do a really bad job of practicing. I contend that empathizing with our future selves, comes down to one word: discipline.
I’ll finish this review with one of my favorite passages from The Transhumanist Wager…
“Death is a malfunction of the human experience.” (p. 271)
Update: I read and reviewed this one a while back when I was an atheist and the diabolical aims of transhumanism weren’t so obvious. It’s now clear that transhumanists are anti-human, but it’s worthwhile to listen to what they are saying about the world they envision. Check out this playlist for the evolution of my thoughts on Transhumanism.