Apple recently unveiled its Vision Pro, a revolutionary spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world. The device creates an infinite canvas for apps that scales beyond the boundaries of a traditional display and introduces a fully three-dimensional user interface controlled by the user’s eyes, hands, and voice. This is a significant move towards an increasingly digital life in the metaverse, a limitless online reality.
One of the main features of Vision Pro is that it allows users to interact with their computer using eye tracking, which is a great improvement over existing VR sets that still require gloves or remote controls. Another new feature is the transparency of the goggles when interacting with the physical realm, negating the need to remove the goggles between uses.
If you’re looking for an even more immersive experience, you could have a computer implanted directly into your brain. Neuralink is a neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk in 2016 that is developing implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). These devices can translate brain activity into commands that can be sent to a computer or other device. Potential applications of Neuralink’s BCIs include treating neurological disorders, improving human-machine interaction, and augmenting human intelligence.
Of course, we’ve been augmenting our focus and discipline for decades with things like Adderall and Botox. Prescriptions for Adderall have been going up rapidly in recent years, as the drug has migrated from the college classroom to the workplace. People are taking it to work more efficiently or outcompete their colleagues.
The possibilities for human enhancement are endless. In the future, we may be able to take genetic modifications to improve our physical and mental abilities. As these technologies develop, it’s important to consider the ethical implications of human enhancement. How will we ensure that these technologies are used for good and not for harm?
Where are we?
Transhumanism is a belief that human beings can and should use technology to transcend their biological limitations. It is a secular religion that sees technology as the source of human progress and salvation.
Transhumanists believe that we can use technology to create a new, posthuman species that is free from disease, aging, and death. They argue that this would be a moral improvement on the human condition, as it would allow us to live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
However, the philosopher John Gray argues that transhumanism is ultimately utopian and unrealistic. He points out that technology has often been used for destructive purposes, and that there is no guarantee that it will be used for good in the future. He also argues that transhumanism fails to consider the human capacity for cruelty and destructiveness.
Gray concludes by arguing that transhumanism is a form of secular Gnosticism. He sees it as a belief that human beings can achieve salvation through technology, and that this salvation will involve escaping the physical world. Gray’s critique of transhumanism has been both praised and criticized. Some have argued that he is too pessimistic, and that transhumanism has the potential to be a force for good in the world. Others have argued that he is right to be skeptical, and that transhumanism is a dangerous and misguided ideology.
How did we get here?
What is the purpose of life? We exist to collaborate with God to create order out of chaos. The Biblical narrative is the theme of the Creator taming the waters of chaos and potentiality to produce dry land. He is a God that orders, that sets hierarchies in place, that separates categories, that maintains borders and boundaries, and then smashes all of these when they become stagnant and calcified. Our purpose here is to work with him, to enjoy his friendship and leadership as we build, sort and order to his design.
To make culture is to order. The suffix “-culture” comes from the Latin word “cultura,” which means “to cultivate.“ It is the taking of raw material full of potential to shape it into some use or meaning and we do this with technology. For example, viticulture is the production of grapes or wine from vineyards. The vines must be pruned and cared for using farming implements and watering infrastructure, and pruning shears. Through technology the viticulturalist takes disparate elements and tames them together to produce meaning.
And when we do this, we experience fulfilment and joy, because this is our created purpose. Horticulture is taming the plants with rakes and shovels and lawnmowers to produce a garden. And when we participate in this we enter a state called flow, which is literally just when you step into your created purpose. This is why we work. To live in a state of flow as created.
So in the same way we make popular culture. We take the chaotic mess of all potential notes, and we combine them together to form a melody on a guitar. We take the chaotic mess of all potential words and put them together form a movie on a film camera.
In this way the proper place of technology, whether it’s your car or your laptop or your reading glasses, is to assist you to order the entropy of reality rightly according to God’s design. Jason Thacker puts it well when he says that there is no inherent morality to technology. The Christian is not called to be an Amish or a Luddite, but to learn how to wield the tool so that it does not become the master.
We lack wisdom but we drown in ability. There is a quote in the first Jurassic Park film when a scientist sees a cloned dinosaur for the first time. And he quips that the science was so busy showing that it could, it never stopped to ask whether it should. Just because our tools enable us to achieve something does not mean that thing should be achieved, no matter how wonderful the latest development looks.
We must hold before us the question of intent. What does it mean to be human? When is it honouring God’s design to repair what is broken, and when do we reshape God’s design in our own image through augmentation? Do we know the difference between restoration and augmentation? Are my reading glasses returning my sight? Or are they giving me sight I wouldn’t have naturally had? Can we call a technology “gender affirming” when it is design to change the gender? If you could design your baby to be the most physically attractive person possible, would you? If you could restore a paraplegic’s ability to move through a mech suit, would you? What about boring technology like IVF that allows medically barren couples to conceive? These are not easy questions, and none which we can reasonably hope to answer outside of fellowship with God and the Church.
Where are we going?
CRISPR gene editing is a powerful new technology that allows scientists to make precise changes to the DNA of living cells. It has the potential to revolutionize medicine by curing genetic diseases, improving crop yields, and even creating new forms of life. If our pursuit is repair, CRISPR could be used to cure genetic diseases such as sickle cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis. Or it can target and destroy cancer cells before they become active. But if our pursuit is augmentation, we’re looking at supernatural crop yields, powerful biofuels and designer babies.
The metaverse is a hypothesized iteration of the internet as a single, universal, and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. If our pursuit is repair, the metaverse could be used for socialisation of isolated and disabled people, or to enable isolated people to participate in the labour market. If our pursuit is augmentation we can use the metaverse for endless new digital identities, where you could permanently disembody from your physical restrictions in every way imaginable.
Artificial wombs are synthetic placenta imitations so that blastocysts can be develop to birth within it. This technology is developing both in the direction of externalised wombs so that humans no longer need to develop within humans, or in the direction of wombs for transplant into transwomen who wish to have a baby. I can try, but I will fail to steel man this technology. In a way it is just an extension of existing IVF technology, but instead of only outsourcing the insemination, we now outsource the entire carrying term.
Transageism is the belief that a person’s age identity does not match their chronological age. Again there is the fine line between taking care of yourself and superseding natural aging processes. Testosterone replacement therapy, retinol anti-wrinkling cream, and plastic surgery are all technologies that enable this. This will undoubtably be the next “–ism” of our time.
What then is the Christian response to this future? Firstly, we must meditate on Christianity as a religion rooted in the physical. The Bible itself is a physical book. God incarnates physically as a man, from a bloody messy painful birth, through the frustrations of adulthood and adolescence, through the hunger and cold and heat and sweat and blood of adulthood. Christians are admonished to take care of their bodies, it’s called a temple, and we’re called to refuse the poisons of alcohol and drugs, so that we can hike and dive and eat and feel to enjoy creation. And Christianity has a strong focus on physical justice, from missionary hospitals across the world to the call to visit the incarcerated and feed the hungry. Our confession is the drenching of the baptism and the consumption of the holy communion.
Secondly, we must express our faith in community. Christ established the church as a community of believers who would support and encourage each other in their faith. We are described as limbs together in a body, as bricks together in building. That means that we are not individuals free to determine our identity. I am because I am perceived, and my identity is rooted in the communal perception through biblical vision.
And thirdly we must root ourselves in the resurrection. It is not the restoration of pre-fall that we are looking to, but a re-creation in Christ. The hope of resurrection reminds us that our bodies are not disposable. They are a gift from God, and they should be treated with respect. It gives us hope for the future as even though our bodies will eventually decay, we know that they will be resurrected in glory. And it challenges us to use our bodies for good and not to seek to escape our bodies through technology, but rather to use them to glorify God.
We are living in a time of great technological change. It is a time of both great promise and great danger. As Christians, we have a responsibility to use these technologies wisely and to use them for good. May we have the wisdom to know when to repair, when to augment, when to order, and when to deny ourselves according to God’s plan.