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Religion and the Technological Future

An Introduction to Biohacking, Artificial Intelligence, and Transhumanism

Palgrave Macmillan

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  • Introduces radical human enhancement technologies and their religious implications

  • Invites conversation and reflection on critical issues, without displaying bias for or against human enhancement

  • Includes biographies for further study and questions for discussion

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  • ISBN: 978-3-030-62359-3
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Table of contents (11 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xvii
  2. Setting the Scene

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 1-1
    2. Introduction

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 3-8
    3. Existing and Possible Technologies: How We Biohack

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 9-18
    4. Radical Human Enhancement and Ethics: Questions We Must Ask

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 43-62
  3. Five Categories of Enhancements

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 63-63
    2. Superlongevity and Other Physical Enhancements

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 65-90
  4. Special Topics: Going Beyond the Edge

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 141-141
    2. Cryonics: Buried, Burned, or … Frozen

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 143-159
    3. Mind Uploading: Cyber Beings and Digital Immortality

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 161-179
    4. Superintelligence: Bringing on the Singularity

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 181-204
  5. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 205-205
    2. Religion 2.0 and the Enhanced Technological Future

      • Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen
      Pages 207-228
  6. Back Matter

    Pages 229-266

About this book

We live in an age of rapid technological advancement. Never before has humankind wielded so much power over our own biology. Biohacking, the attempt at human enhancement of physical, cognitive, affective, moral, and spiritual traits, has become a global phenomenon. This textbook introduces religious and ethical implications of biohacking, artificial intelligence, and other technological changes, offering perspectives from monotheistic and karmic religions and applied ethics. These technological breakthroughs are transforming our societies and ourselves fundamentally via genetic modification, tissue engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics, the merging of computer technology with human biology, extended reality, brain stimulation, and nanotechnology. The book also considers the extreme possibilities of mind uploading, cryonics, and superintelligence. Chapters explore some of the political, economic, sociological, and psychological dimensions of these advances, with bibliographies for further study and questions for discussion. The technological future is here – and it is up to us to decide its moral and religious shape.

Keywords

  • Superlongevity
  • Cryonics
  • Cryogenics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Bioethics
  • religion and society

Reviews

“Glossary is followed by an excellent list of references. … it’s intended to be an introductory text for university students of religion, ethics, and morality, as applied to … ‘biohacking.’ It does all of this admirably. … The discussions are meant to stimulate intellectual reflection on the current direction, and coming together of, the biosciences and computer sciences. And this it does admirably. I know of no other introduction of its kind.” (David Bellin, Computing Reviews, December 16, 2021)

“It is vital that we begin to analyze these difficult questions before, not after, they become reality.” (Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College, USA, and author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?)  

“Human yearning to prevent morbidity and mortality is so intense that we mostly put it out of our minds, in any way that works—including religion, for some people. But this is just one of many ways to relate to our future and our, and higher powers’, control over it. This outstanding textbook comprehensively surveys the ecosystem of such thinking. Whatever your stance on these issues, you'll find extensive food for thought here.” (Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer, SENS Research Foundation)

“Mercer and Trothen have laid down the intellectual infrastructure to enable theology to make a smooth transition into the transhuman future. And precisely because the book is firmly grounded in the religious world-view, it should also prove attractive to secular ethicists who approach their topic from a deep metaphysical perspective that wonders how the ongoing developments in science and technology are transforming what it means to be 'human.'” (Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick, UK, and author of Humanity 2.0) 

“Like a weather reporter daily checking our atmospheric pressure, for nearly two decades Mercer and Trothen have been monitoring biohacking at the frontier of the human and the posthuman. They forecast a coming storm of theological and ethical conundrums. Religion and the Technological Future tells us how to ready ourselves for the storm.” (Ted Peters, Co-editor of Theology and Science and Distinguished Research Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Graduate Theological Union, USA) 

Religion and the Technological Future is the first comprehensive and deeply-considered textbook on the intersection of religious thought and twenty-first century technology. It's lively prose brings to life the intellectual, political, and ethical debates that frame our progress into the next stage of human culture. Mercer and Trothen take their years of leadership in the study of radical enhancement and transform that into a textbook that will inspire thoughtful engagement from students, scholars, and the general public.” (Robert M Geraci, Professor of Religious Studies, Manhattan College, and author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality) 

“This timely textbook provides a valuable overview of the profound challenges and potential benefits that contemporary technology poses to humanity. Written by pioneering scholars in the field of religion and technoscience, this book introduces key concepts, themes, contributors, and debates on human enhancement and biohacking, radical life extension and cryonics, Artificial Intelligence and digital immortality. Intended for college-level courses in ethics, science and technology studies, religious studies, and psychology, the book is also most useful for programs in faith communities that ponder the promise and peril of technology.” (Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, Regents Professor of History; Director, Center for Jewish Studies; Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism, Arizona State University, USA) 

Religion and the Future: An Introduction to Biohacking, A.I., and Technological Change invites thinkers from all disciplines and faiths to contemplate our collective future, and asks us, what sort of future do we want to make? Covering emerging and futuristic technologies, religious and ethical responses, and identifying areas of further inquiry, this ambitious volume offers clear, expert guidance through this urgently needed conversation about what we value about our human selves, and desire for our (post)human future.” (J. Jeanine Thweatt, School of Humanities and Sciences, Flagler College) 

“The world is changing. A.I., Robots, Genetics, Cybernetics and many other areas, all mean that traditional religious questions of what does it mean to be human and what is the role of religion, are all being, or will be, rethought. Religious Studies should not be on the sidelines for this. Trothen and Mercer have provided a Religious Studies textbook for the 21st century that takes on these cutting edge issues and brilliantly shows the way religion is a full participant in these advances. As Religious Studies seeks to be relevant in this new world, this textbook may well become the new standard for introductory classes in Religion and Theology.” (Randall Reed, Professor of Religion, Appalachian State University, USA) 

“Faith, science, life, and technological power are forever intertwined. Since human driven technological change is speeding up and the potency of life technologies are multiplying exponentially, pastors, religious leaders and people of faith will need guides to recognize the perils and examine the promises. This guide will be indispensable for speaking love and truth and justice to the human condition of today and tomorrow.” (Pastor Peter Noteboom. General Secretary, The Canadian Council of Churches) 

“There are many books assessing some aspect of transhumanism, and more broadly the technological transformation of human beings, from a religious perspective. But to date no comprehensive overview has been on offer. That void has now been filled by an informed, accessible, and highly engaging text that deserves to be read and studied by a wide audience.” (Brent Waters, Stead Professor of Christian Social Ethics; Director, Stead Center for Ethics and Values, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, USA) 

“The future is coming sooner than we think. Our descendants may be a new species—homo technicus—as different from homo sapiens as we are from our ancestors. Trothen and Mercer provide a much needed exploration of what this new species might be like and how the crucial aspects of life—to be born, live, love, and die—will change. It is we who will determine the direction of those changes.” (Noreen Herzfeld, Reuter Professor of Science and Religion, St. John’s University and The College of St. Benedict) 

“This is a comprehensive, updated, indispensable textbook that addresses urgent religious and ethical issues raised by radical human enhancement biohacking technologies--for humanity today and in the future. This book should be translated for readers outside the English-speaking world.” (Heup Young Kim, Former Professor of Theology, Kangnam University; Director, Korea Forum for Science and Life) 

“This timely and thorough introduction to the many intersections between religion and emerging technologies provides readers from a variety of spiritual traditions with thoughtful, critical engagement with some of the most pressing technological issues of our time. Mercer and Trothen walk the reader through five categories of enhancements, Abrahamic and karmic religious traditions, and both supportive and critical religious responses to current and near-future enhancement technologies. Readers interested in the future of religion in a technologized society will welcome this volume for students and scholars alike.” (Amy Michelle DeBaets, Manager, Bioethics, Hackensack University Medical Center and Associate Professor, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine) 

“The days of the computer Hal in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and of the androids in both versions of Battlestar Galactica have arrived. Computers, both hardware and software, have suffused our material culture, our bodies, and our minds. As the documentary Social Dilemma reveals, truth has been hijacked for the sake of profit. Machines and their information, for better or ill, generate and drive contemporary reality. The specter of machine manipulation of human awareness is no longer a Jungian dystopian archetype or metaphor. It has arrived. This important book provides students with the information and the discernment skills needed to negotiate this strange new world.” (Christopher Key Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University)

“Mercer and Trothen tackle some of the thorniest and most exciting areas in the new era of science-religion dialogue—giving one of the most comprehensive overviews of the massive changes that are rapidly emerging, and the ways in which they will reshape our religious landscape. And they do this from a position of intimate familiarity with the movements, figures, and cultural forces that are leading this charge.” (Micah Redding, Founder and Executive Director, Christian Transhumanist Association; Host, Christian Transhumanist Podcast; Software developer) 

“Momentous is the intersection of human enhancement technologies with religion. Mercer and Trothen are experts, and their textbook skillfully guides the student from awareness to understanding.” (Lincoln Cannon, Founder, Mormon Transhumanist Association)


Authors and Affiliations

  • East Carolina University, Greenville, USA

    Calvin Mercer

  • School of Religion and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada

    Tracy J. Trothen

About the authors

Calvin Mercer is Professor of Religion at East Carolina University, USA, and founding chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Human Enhancement and Transhumanism Unit.

Tracy J. Trothen is Professor of Ethics at Queen’s University, Canada, and co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Artificial Intelligence Seminar.


Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Religion and the Technological Future

  • Book Subtitle: An Introduction to Biohacking, Artificial Intelligence, and Transhumanism

  • Authors: Calvin Mercer, Tracy J. Trothen

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62359-3

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Religion and Philosophy, Philosophy and Religion (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-62358-6

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-62359-3

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVII, 266

  • Topics: Sociology of Religion, Bioethics, Artificial Intelligence

Buying options

eBook
USD 44.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-62359-3
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)