Culture & Ethics
Neuroscience & Mind
John Lennox: Dante, Glaucus, and Transhumanism
As Oxford mathematician John Lennox points out, the term “transhumanism” is not of recent or secular origin. While we define it as a creepy movement, inspired by Yuval Noah Harari and others, to transcend our humanity and achieve immortality through AI technology, it was first used by Dante, seven centuries ago. This is a translation from the Italian, of course, but in Canto 1 of Paradiso, Dante references the myth of Glaucus, a fisherman-turn-sea god who achieved immortality by consuming a certain herb. Dante, contemplating his own resurrection, writes, “As Glaucus, when he tasted of the herb / That made him peer among the ocean gods: / Words may not tell of that trans-human change.”
These and other fascinating thoughts come up in Dr. Lennox’s bonus interview for the latest Science Uprising episode, which tackle the materialist-driven myths surrounding artificial intelligence. Will AI machines become conscious? Will humans someday be able to upload our consciousness to a computer? As Lennox notes, it’s a bit premature to entertain such imaginings when no one alive today can say what “consciousness” even is.
Meanwhile, the will to become gods — transhumanism in a nutshell — still beckons with its ancient glamour. The form may be modern, but the temptation, Lennox reminds us, is extremely old, as old as the serpent in the Garden and the Tower of Babel. He observes that modern transhumanism is a like a parody of Biblical promises of immortality. As always, John Lennox is a delight to listen to and learn from. If you missed the “Artificial Intelligence: Will Machines Take Over?” find it here: