Transhumanists are people who desire to use science and technology to improve the human being. While the international movement of transhumanism is rapidly growing and diversifying, its most important goal remains the same: overcoming human mortality. Many experts believe some sort of indefinite sentience for individual human beings, whether via age reversal or by mind uploading into computers, will be achieved around 2045. Such incredible advances will change the way the species views itself. Procreation, the foundation of human civilization, will be one activity that is dramatically affected.
If all goes well, my wife and I will be bringing a baby girl into the world in a few days time. It will be our second child. I'm often asked whether it makes sense for transhumanists to have children. For a group of people who mostly doubt they will ever die, it's a valid question. Doing away with death presents a historical quandary for the human race. For example, if you were to live indefinitely, would you have children within the first 250 years of your life? However, since many people probably wouldn't be biological in 250 years time -- people that far in the future will likely have become all-digital by uploading themselves into machines -- the question itself is turned upside down. Such is the nature of the budding movement of transhumanism, which is on course to create a paradigm shift for civilization in the next half century.
As a transhumanist, I choose to have offspring for many of the same reasons other people do. I want children because they're amazing, thrilling, and beautiful to nurture and raise to their best potential. It completes the artist in me like no pen and paper ever could. Moreover, the love shared with one's child is very comforting and precious. It bonds my family together, giving everyone involved -- including my parents -- profound meaning. Of course, being a father is incredibly fun, too.
Having a child is also one way to achieve a sort of immortality; if I was to die, at least my genes (and hopefully some of my ideas) would be carried on. As a transhumanist, I don't consider that an acceptable form of immortality, but I find some consolation in it, anyway.
The question of whether transhumanists should have children is ultimately a personal and subjective one. In the near future, concepts of procreation will drastically change. Already, advanced in vitro fertilization techniques, prenatal testing, and genetic engineering are altering the way we approach the procreation process. In the next two decades, advances in cloning and ectogenesis -- using an artificial environment to grow life outside of where it would normally be found -- will further our perspectives and present many philosophical and moral challenges. Yet, all this innovative procreation science still remains within the confines of our biological human parameters. What happens when we leave our genes and DNA for a virtual existence in machines?
"Mind uploading may be here in 30 years or so," says Avinash Singh, a software engineer and co-founder of the India Future Society. "Once inside a computer, we may have brought the essence of our biology with us, but it won't remain with us for long. We will quickly adapt and evolve in the virtual world, especially with the help of increasingly powerful artificial intelligences."
If we transcend our biology completely, does this mean we won't have incentive to procreate? Will human beings living exclusively in computers really drop certain rituals that stem from millions of years of evolution? The likely answer is yes. Over time, we'll probably program the desire for progeny out of ourselves. Procreation in the sense we know it -- along with sex -- will likely become obsolete. Indeed, even the concepts of male and female will probably disappear unless a reasonable purpose inside the digital frontier is found for either.
Leaving behind our biological propensities and heritage has nothing to do with right or wrong, but rather whether it's useful in a digital environment given our current evolutionary incentives. Such a computational-run world may at first seem alien, shallow, and devoid of compassion, but the nature of our digital selves will not know that. We'll be far from human by that point.
We can anthropomorphize our future digital selves all we want in hopes we'll be able to maintain our humanity, but once permanently in a machine, our mammalian proclivity will quickly become as foreign to us as an infant's perspective is to an elder's perspective. After that, it won't take long before evolution makes us virtually unrecognizable to our former selves. Our digital avatars will adapt and advance at evolutionary speeds never known before.
Digital environments will likely become the playgrounds of personal egos and their wills, where self-centered domination of perspective and experience are paramount, as detailed in my philosophy TEF, which stands for Teleological Egocentric Functionalism. TEF was designed as a bridge from today's Homo sapien to tomorrow's digital avatar who wields the power of extraordinary machine intelligence. From there, it's but a short leap to the Singularity.
As a transhumanist, I look forward to the coming future and all its grand possibilities, including my existence in a machine. In the meantime, I'll be grateful to welcome my daughter with much love and care into our biological world.