The Transhumanist Imagination: Innovation Secularization and Eschatology The Transhumanist Imagination: Innovation, Secularization, and Eschatology This project seeks to understand the connection between beliefs about the future of humanity and technological innovation. The object of study is a set of beliefs, narratives, practices, and policies generated by technological enthusiasts who believe that by means of science and technology the human race will transcend its biological limitations so as to usher the posthuman phase. In the posthuman age, super-intelligent machines will supplant biological humans and enable human to achieve what religious traditions have sought: immortality. The posthuman phase will come about because of and by means of human action, namely, technological progress. The transition from current humanism to posthumanism is labeled transhumanism, a term that captures the visions of the ideal posthuman future as well as concrete actions to bring it about. In the transhuman phase humans will presumably live longer, happier, and healthier life because of the convergence of nano-cogno-robo-info technologies. The goal of this research is to present transhumanism as what Charles Taylor has called, social imaginary. That is to say, a scenario that combines factual and normative dimensions and (not unlike Kants notion of schema) offers contours and gives reality to common human practice. By looking closely at transhumanist beliefs, literatures, practices, and social impact, we aim to accomplish the following: a) expose the degree to which the transhumanist imagination secularizes traditional religious beliefs thereby contributing to what Jrgen Habermas has defined as the postsecular moment; b) highlight the causal connection between this secularized imagination of the future of humanity and specific technological innovations; c) expose the social ramifications of transhumanism by exposing the link between technology and individual entrepreneurship; d) offer a framework for social scientific analysis of the appeal of transhumanist ideas to diverse religious communities in the United States; and e) offer a comparative framework for the analysis of science policies in different counties: the US, the EU, and South Korea. These goals will be attained through a combination of empirical case studies and theoretical reflections by experts on converging technologies, specialists on science and technology policy, social theorists, theologians, philosophers, and historians that will take place through an ongoing faculty seminar and a major international conference. The combination of empirical, quantitative, and qualitative analyses that we propose, which will be disseminated through academic publications and public outreach, will generate deeper understanding of the postsecular moment, the meaning of the notion of progress, and the degree to which religion (secularized or not) inspires technological changes. In so doing this research will suggest ways in which anticipation of the future engenders agency and shapes social reality. Although technological innovations belong to the realm of human action in the temporal order (i.e., the saeculum), these innovations are inspired by a vision that belongs to the non-temporal, transcendent order (i.e., the eschaton). Thus in a roundabout and perhaps even paradoxical manner, the transhumanism ideology of extreme progress will bring about the re-enchantment of the world.
|Effective start/end date||5/30/12 → 7/31/14|
- John Templeton Foundation: $200,000.00
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