Fundamentally, Transhumanism is about life — making it better, longer, and happier. Unfortunately we live in a mostly malevolent, or at best indifferent, universe. Consider the fact that the universe is at least fourteen trillion light years in diameter, and out of that fourteen trillion light years we know of a single environment — roughly 1.34 × 10-9 light years in diameter- that isn’t immediately going to kill us. Crunching the numbers, this means that about 0.0000000000000000000000000957% of the universe is naturally human friendly — and even that miniscule planet we call home itself isn’t so safe either.
Every day we face unexpected threats. If we didn’t, the bottom would fall out of the insurance industry. Some threats aren’t so bad. There’s always the threat that the power will go out because of a storm and you’ll have to ration what battery power remains in your devices. Some threats are moderate. If you live in an urban area you run a higher risk of getting mugged and potentially injured. These type of threats are able to be recovered from. The power will come back on, and mental and physical therapy can restore you after a violent attack. This article is about the kind of threat that you can’t recover from. The most serious threats, the life-threatening ones, can’t be insured against or dealt with after the fact, because at that point it’s just too late. Instead, they must be planned for and avoided at all costs.
I’m amazed at the number of people who will do everything they can to stay alive, up until they die. They seem to think that life is valuable up until the point that most other people lose it. This mentality is exemplified in the aftermath of natural disasters. Miraculous stories of survival are broadcast around the clock in an inspiring display of the will to live- and yet those same people who miraculously survived will die scant decades later, without so much as putting up a fight. Transhumanism introduces a new view of life: that it is not necessarily human, that is is intrinsically valuable, and that it should be defended. As succinctly stated in the motto of the Terasem Movement: “Lives are good”. Accordingly, responsible Transhumanists need a plan to defend those lives, and more specifically their own. Before delving into a personal defense plan, I want to remind you that I’m not an expert in these areas, and I strongly encourage you to contact the experts in these areas.
Physical self-defense is a good place to start. After all, you can’t enjoy the benefits and wonders of the distant future if you don’t make it there. In addition to all of the wonderful things the human body can do, it can also be dangerous. In a natural, untrained state one can be mildly dangerous against those who also aren’t trained. Against someone who is trained, nothing can be done. It’s a fundamentally unfair fight because while the untrained individual is directing force in all directions, the trained individual has learned to organize and focus that force usefully. Learning a martial art is a good start but it’s just that — a start. Professor John Lott once said “Guns are the great equalizer between the weak and the vicious.” Regardless of your stance on gun control, you’ll probably want one if you end up in the wrong dark alley. Consider this: is potentially being unable to properly defend yourself worth permanent, irreversible death? If it isn’t your attitudes toward guns, or death, need to change. [Editor’s note: these views on gun control, like every opinion expressed in every H+ magazine article, are those of the author and not official opinions of the magazine or the organization Humanity+]
Physical self-defense includes more than just evading the risk of being beaten. Also in this category is routine physical exercise, nutrition, and overall health. A virus can kill you just as dead as a person. Start a workout routine and stick to it. When you feel like quitting, remember that your life could literally be on the line. Keep well-nourished. Avoid fast-food and food loaded with simple sugars. Remember that junk food deserves its name.
The most important — and most obvious — step in a physical defense plan is to avoid death at all cost. Death used to be cardiac arrest- then CPR was introduced. So death was pushed back until neurons stopped firing- then cryonic suspension was invented. Currently, death occurs gradually, as the brain decays losing the information contained in its structure. This is called information-theoretic death. If you don’t think you’ll be around to take advantage of life extension technologies, arrange to have yourself preserved when you die, using the method you find most likely to assure your eventual resurrection. Even if you do think you’ll be around you may want to prepare for the worst anyway. The world is full of nasty surprises.
Mental self-defense is also necessary. Although not subject to direct physical harm like the body, viruses propagate through the mind in much the same way as they do through the body. Although many of these viruses are beneficial- cooperation, freedom, rule of law, democracy — many of them are actively harmful. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ad infinitum separate us from those who may otherwise have offered us valuable tools in our struggle for survival- even if we don’t personally engage in those behaviors ourselves. Although they are not physical, ideas have very real effects in our daily lives. It behooves us to study which ideas promote survival, individually and collectively, and which ideas prevent our survival, and act accordingly.
An incredibly useful characteristic of ideas is that they are extremely contagious, making sharing your ideas with others the easiest way to defend yourself mentally. Not only will sharing your ideas encourage others to adopt and perpetuate them, but they will reinforce these ideas in your own mind, essentially “vaccinating” you against contrary, but seductive, ideas. For example, encouraging your friends to adopt Transhumanism not only grows the community but also makes you more knowledgeable about Transhumanism, and enables you to effectively counter arguments against it that may have persuaded you otherwise.
Your financial security may be most important. If you don’t have the resources you need to keep your body and mind alive and well, physical self-defense is a moot point. Financial security takes on an entirely different meaning in terms of self-defense, namely, in terms of immortality. This is because those who don’t plan on dying soon have different motivations for the choices they make. Max More defines aenomics as the study of the economic problems of immortal existence. In order to defend yourself financially, you must not only educate yourself in common economics, but also in aenomics. Mortals handle their resources in terms of their lifespan, and perhaps slightly longer. The potentially immortal must learn to handle their money in ways that enable them to always have the resources they need, when they need them- even if they’re not around to manage them. Cryonics trusts have already been covered by this magazine and constitute a small part of the knowledge necessary to defend oneself financially. In addition, one should become knowledgeable in the areas of compound interest, exponential growth, and risk management.
Even if you’re not an expert in finance, now is the time to start increasing your financial security because of the effects of compounding interest. Set aside for now the fact that your planning for immortality and suppose you’re simply saving for retirement. If you place $100 in an investment account, and add $100 per month for the next fifty years, compounding monthly at 10%, you end up with $1,761,413.06. Now assume you waited for that promotion at work and it took you a year to get started. You now only have $1,593,306.07. Almost $170,000 less, but still not bad. Now let’s assume you waited five years. Now you’re down to $1,065,821.01- almost $700,000 dollars short of what you could have had. Exponential growth in both finances and technology mean that those who get in early will reap the most rewards. Your financial security cannot wait.
Your life won’t protect itself. Death and entropy is the default state, and you will quickly return to it if you aren’t proactive about keeping yourself alive. Even the best of us have less than a century to do something about this condition so it’s never too early to start. The difference between a victim and a survivor is preparedness. Those who survive natural disasters see them coming and make sure they are physically able, mentally prepared, and have the resources they need to survive. Those who survive assault or rape are those who have the foresight to realize that there are sick people out there who prey on others for no rational reason, and decide not to be a victim. The ones who survive death will be the ones who saw it coming, and refused to be just another corpse on a world already filled with graveyards. This is your warning. Death is coming for you. You can’t dissuade it, you can’t rationalize with it; it doesn’t want your money, or your family… it wants your life. Can you defend yourself?