A study of Mormon transhumanism, by Jon Bialecki
I am not a Mormon and I am not a transhumanist, but I am a Mormon transhumanist.
Greetings to all readers and subscribers, and special greetings to the paid subscribers!
Please scroll down for the main topic of this newsletter. But first allow me to salute Elon Musk, Captain of Spaceship Earth and new owner of Twitter.
Read my love letter to Elon Musk in three parts (1, 2, 3) for more. Yesterday Tesla and SpaceX, today Twitter, tomorrow Mars and the solar system. We’ll expand out there among the stars and do awesome things, and this is what Turing Church is all about. Here’s to Elon!
In the cover picture I and my beloved wife are standing by the Cosmic Christ statue in the visitor center in Temple Square, Salt Lake City.
The statue is described in the recently published book “Machines for Making Gods: Mormonism, Transhumanism, and Worlds without End” (2022), by Jon Bialecki.
I had the cover picture taken in 2019 when I went to Utah for the annual conference of the Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA). See Chapter 4 of my book “Tales of the Turing Church” for my short outline of Mormon transhumanism and the MTA.
In his book Jon Bialecki, who has spent years traveling with the MTA as an embedded anthropologist, provides a comprehensive scholarly study of Mormon transhumanism and the MTA. Besides Lincoln Cannon and Blaire Ostler, the many members of the MTA who appear in the book are not mentioned by name but blend into the background of the MTA, which is the real protagonist of the story.
Jon appears in the picture below, that I took at an MTA meeting.
Mormon transhumanism is a fusion of two independent strands - Mormonism and transhumanism - at their intersection, and of course there are people on both sides who consider it inconsistent and even heretical. But Bialecki argues that Mormon transhumanism is not only consistent, but a whole that is relatively independent of its parts and can stand alone.
“Mormon Transhumanism imagines itself as the proper telos of both movements. This means that it is a complete form of Mormonism, a complete form of transhumanism… the two categories seem to simultaneously envelope each other, collapsing the distinction.”
To a large degree, says Bialecki, “the history of contemporary religious transhumanism is the history of Mormon Transhumanism.” He is, I think, totally right.
Bialecki outlines Mormonism and transhumanism in two short chapters before diving into Mormon transhumanism and the MTA. His outline of transhumanism is focused on contemporary Western transhumanism, but he mentions “a separate strand referred to as ‘Cosmism’” and “transhumanism’s occasional cosmism.”
Bialecki recently reviewed two recent books that present these complementary strands of transhumanism: “On Not Dying: Secular Immortality in the Age of Technoscience” by Abou Farman and “The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia” by Anya Bernstein. See also my reviews (1, 2). These books are referenced in “Machines for Making Gods.” Bialecki doesn’t elaborate much on Russian and modern cosmism (See Chapter 7 of my book “Tales of the Turing Church”), but he does elaborate on many cosmist ideas in the context of Mormon transhumanism.
Including, of course, the idea of technological resurrection: Mormon transhumanism allows us to think that future humans will develop ultra-advanced science and use it to resurrect the dead of the past.
I make a few appearances (not by name) in the book. In one I say that while I am not a Mormon, I am a Mormon Transhumanist.
I have said that many times indeed, but allow me to correct myself: I am not a Mormon and I am not a transhumanist, but I am a Mormon transhumanist.
I can’t call myself a Mormon because, while I am open minded, I don’t interpret Mormonism literally. Also, while I find Mormon cosmology intriguing, I am totally uncaring about Mormon lifestyle prescriptions. I am happiest (and I think God is happiest) with a world where people live and let live.
I have called myself a transhumanist in the past, but not anymore. I don’t call myself a transhumanist because, while I think transhumanist technologies will eventually be achieved one day, I think most transhumanists are far too naive in their optimistic predictions. I hate being the one who says this, but I think all those who are reading this in 2022 will die (but it doesn’t matter too much, because we will be resurrected). Also, I prefer to keep distance from the ultra-rationalist mindset of many transhumanists. To me, rationality is a tool. A very useful tool, but not the only one, and not always the most useful one.
I call myself a cosmist these days. Or I call myself a Mormon transhumanist, which to me is pretty much the same thing. To me, Mormon transhumanism is a whole that is better than its parts, and I feel at home in the MTA.