Imagine a world with no bodies. A planet inhabited by thinking robots with a consciousness - the one which used to belong to us - in which minds are preserved in super-powerful machines. This is the world of transhumanists, those who believe that our mind and body have become obsolete technologies by now and should be overcome. The Irish journalist Mark O’Connell has long examined this phenomenon and has now written an essay, To be a machine, published in Italy by Adelphi.
From the convinced supporters of technological singularity to biohackers who rely on under-the-skin sensors to implement the human race, to those who are willing to pay $200,000 to the American Alcor to cryopreserve their bodies whilst waiting to detach their mind from their (mortal) body and implant it onto a much more resistant technological support: O’Connell takes us on a journey, which has nothing to do with sci-fi and, rather, is extremely documented, through the endless pathways and explanations that men have come up with to manage, overcome, deal with the thought of life after death, the mortality of one’s body and the relationship with technology advancing at the speed of light.
The “new religion”, as called by O’Connell, cannot be labelled as a ‘mere’ cult of tech freaks; indeed, many Silicon Valley tech billionaires - from Ray Kurzweil, one of the brains behind Google, to Elon Musk or Steve Wozniak - dabble in aspects of transhumanism.
To be a machine opens up a window into the future that awaits us, into concepts such as life and death, body and mind, human or technological supremacy, the relationship between humans and machines and, apart from those theories that may seem extravagant to most of us, the question we are left with is whether and in what form we will continue to be ourselves and whether also our soul and “energies” will survive.
To wonder about what we will be able to do in the future opens up new paths for those who, every day, take on the challenge of achieving increasingly ambitious goals. To keep one’s mind open, crazy and creative to find new solutions is the key...Suffice it to think that most of what we used to see only in sci-fi movies has now become reality.