On a warming planet bearing scars of significant environmental destruction, you’d think one of the 21st Century’s most notable emerging social groups—transhumanists—would be concerned. Many are not. Transhumanists first and foremost want to live indefinitely, and they are outraged at the fact their bodies age and are destined to die. They blame their biological nature, and dream of a day when DNA is replaced with silicon and data.
Their enmity of biology goes further than just their bodies. They see Mother Earth as a hostile space where every living creature—be it a tree, insect, mammal, or virus—is out for itself. Everything is part of the food chain, and subject to natural law: consumption by violent murder in the preponderance of cases. Life is vicious. It makes me think of pet dogs and cats, and how it’s reported they sometimes start eating their owner after they’ve died.
Many transhumanists want to change all this. They want to rid their worlds of biology. They favor concrete, steel, and code. Where once biological evolution was necessary to create primates and then modern humans, conscious and directed evolution has replaced it. Planet Earth doesn’t need iniquitous natural selection. It needs premeditated moral algorithms conceived by logic that do the most good for the largest number of people. This is something that an AI will probably be better at than humans in less than two decade’s time.
Ironically, fighting the makings of utopia is a coup a half century in the making. Starting with the good-intentioned people at Greenpeace in the 1970s but overtaken recently with enviro-socialists who often seem to want to control every aspect of our lives, environmentalism has taken over political and philosophical discourse and direction at the most powerful levels of society. Green believers want to make you think humans are destroying our only home, Planet Earth—and that this terrible action of ours is the most important issue of our time. They have sounded a call to “save the earth” by trying to stomp out capitalism and dramatically downsizing our carbon footprint.
The most important issue of our time is actually the evolution of technology, and environmentalists are mistaken in thinking the Earth is our only or permanent home. Before the century is out, our home for much intelligent life will likely be the microprocessor. We will merge with machines and explore both the virtual and physical universe as sentient robots. That’s the obvious destiny of our species and the coming AI age, popularized by past and present thinkers like Stephen Hawking, Ray Kurzweil, and Homo Deus author Yuval Noah Harari. Hundred million dollar companies in California led by billionaires like Elon Musk are already working on technology to directly to connect our brains in real time to the internet. We may soon not need the planet at all, just servers and a power source like solar or fusion.
Even if we somehow don’t merge with machines (because scared governments outlaw it, for example), we will still use the microprocessor and its data crunching capabilities to change our genetic make-up so dramatically, that it could not be called: natural. We will enter the Star Wars age where we literally change our DNA and biological appearance to become alien and creature-like—to fit whatever environment we need to fit. If this sounds crazy, just consider the Chinese geneticist who last year changed a girl’s genes in utero, creating the first alleged designer baby.
Whatever we become—as a former journalist for the National Geographic Channel who has passionately covered many environmental stories—I want to first make it clear what I think humans are doing to the Earth. I do believe we are destroying the environment. I do think we are overpopulated in many cities. I also believe there is high likelihood humans are helping to cause climate change. And while I do think we should not needlessly destroy the planet (especially wildlife) or live in man-made polluted wastelands, the last thing we need to do is put the brakes on consumption, procreation, and progress.
What we’re doing to the planet is not as important as what we are achieving as a species in the nearing of transition to the transhumanist age. We will save and improve far more lives in the future via bioengineering, geoengineering, and coming technology than damaged ecosystems across the planet will harm. Salvation is in science and progress, not sustainability or preserving the Earth. To argue or do otherwise is to be sadistic and act immorally against humanity’s well-being.
Besides, the envisioned transhumanist future is not just a place where humans can live without the constant threats and hostility of a biological world, it’s an age where sentient beings can finally overcome pain and misery. Beyond shedding our terminal flesh and living indefinitely, a secondary goal of the transhuman movement is to overcome all or the majority of suffering—both for ourselves and other nonhuman animals. This is why some believe transhumanism—even if it's made up of post-earthers—is the most humanitarian movement out there.
The tools transhumanists use—science, technology, and reason—to accomplish its watershed aims rely on thriving economies, free markets, and innovation. These mostly come from competitive countries trying to become powerful and make money—a lot of it. Increased economic output is nearly always responsible for raising the standard of living, something that has been going up a lot in the last 50 years for just about every nation on Earth. But that could change quickly as governments increasingly enforce strict pro-environmental regulation which slows down industry and commerce. When you force companies to operate inefficiently for lofty ideals, it hurts their bottom lines, and that in turn hurts workers and everyday people. It’s a well-known fact that when economies slow down, people increasingly lose property, turn to violence, and put having families on hold.
But the media usually doesn’t paint environmental policy this way. In fact, the media is responsible for a lot of the misinformation propping up the environmental movement, which is often at odds with transhumanism. A typical news headline reads: Billionaires and Politicians Trying to Protect the Planet. I have to chuckle. Billionaires and politicians usually have power-hungry ambitions. In general, they don't want people to have access to their wealth, power, or pristine environments—because they want it for themselves. That’s why they want walls, borders, ownership, and control of it all. How many people without the resources to even afford housing, healthcare, and food will ever take a vacation to protected land, even if the land is public like a national park. How many hundreds of millions of people in inner cities ever go visit "nature"? They don't.
Modern environmentalism is a fabricated deceit of and for the rich and powerful. It’s especially prominent in liberal places like New York City and my home town San Francisco. Sadly, environmentalism is often just a terrible tool to wield power over those of lesser means. The amount of minorities that visit US national parks—only 22 percent—compared to whites is totally out of whack.
Despite the imperfections of capitalism, I continue to support it because it remains the best hope for the poor to improve their standard of life—because at least the individually poor can work hard, be smart, and eventually become rich themselves. This rags to riches phenomenon is not something that can happen in socialist or communist environments, where nearly everyone loses (except the corrupt)—and those losses often lead to starvation and eventual civil war.
Enviro-socialists and their green new deals are some of the worst examples of those trying to bring change about to society. These people produce very little—rarely enough to improve society in any meaningful way—and they promise a pristine planet oblivious to the fact the great majority of people will be harmed, not helped, by such economy-killing policies.
However, there is an alternative to this ugly duopoly system we exist in for the masses. Let’s harness the capitalists and use our nation’s natural resources to end poverty, spread equality, and get humans to the transhuman age where science will make us all healthier and stronger. America has approximately 150 trillion dollars of uninhabited Federal Land not including national parks that we could divide up among its citizens—that’s a half million dollars in net worth of resources to every American—all 325 million of them. As a nation, let’s sell this federal land or preferably lease it to the capitalists and corporations who can pay us something in return—a permanent universal basic income, for example. Some call this a Federal Land Dividend. Leased properly, our Federal Land could provide over $1500 a month to every US citizen, giving a household of four $75,000 a year indefinitely.
Naysayers will say the capitalists will forever destroy the land and resources. But over a quarter century, this is unlikely, since all the new capital and innovation from divesting the land will push us far more quickly in the nanotechnology era—an age where we can recreate environments as we please, including those that are destroyed. If you think making plastic with oil is nifty, just wait till we create whole mature forests and jungles in a week’s time with coming genetic editing techniques. Also, we’ll be able to regrow any animal or plant—including extinct ones—in mass in a laboratory, something that is already on the verge of happening.
But why create the same nature that is so quintessentially cruel, especially as we become transhumans, with perfectly functioning ageless bionic organs and implants in our brains connecting us to the cloud. Let’s us create new environments that fit our modern needs. These will be virtual, synthetic, and machines worlds. These new worlds will be far more moral and humanitarian than that of nature. They will be like our homes, cars, and apartments, where everything in it is inanimate or no longer living, and that’s why we find sanctuary and comfort in it. If you doubt this, spend a night in the jungle or forest without any comforts or amenities, and see if you survive.
I don’t believe in evil, per se, but if there was such a thing, it would be nature—a monster of arbitrary living entities consuming and devouring each other simply to survive. No omnipotent person would ever have the hate in them to create a system where everything wants and needs to sting, eat, and outdo everything else just to live. And yet, that’s essentially what the environment is to all living entities. Environmentalists want you to believe nature is sacred and a perfect balance of living things thriving off one another. Nonsense—it’s a world war of all life fighting agony and loss—of fight or flight, of death today or death tomorrow for you and your offspring.
It’s time to use science and technology to create something better than an environment of biological nature. This begins with admitting the green do-gooder environmentalists are philosophically wrong—and the coming transhumanist age will usher in a world with far less suffering, death, and destruction, even if we have to harm the planet to first get there. Humans must cast off nature, and then they will finally be free of its ubiquitous hostility, misery, and fatalism. Let’s rise above the cultural push of environmentalism, because it’s antithetical to our future.
Zoltan Istvan is a transhumanist writer and lecturer. He has spoken at events by the World Bank, Congreso Futuro, and the World Economic Forum. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughters.