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Transhumanism, Singularity and the Meaning of Life: An Afrofuturist Perspective

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Abstract

Transhumanism, a movement promoting the possibility and desirability of using science and technology in overcoming fundamental human limitations, could be conceived as a type of philosophy of life that emphasizes a meaningful and ethical approach to living informed by reason, science, progress, the value of existence in our current life, and the eventual goal of human enhancement. Related to transhumanism is the concept of the Singularity described as a future period during which the pace and impact of technological change will be so rapid and deep that human life will be transformed irreversibly. The projections and implications of transhumanism and the singularity phenomenon raise many important philosophical questions and possible new answers concerning human nature, intelligence, and the meaning generally of life. In this chapter, we examine both philosophies and apply analytic argumentation in demonstrating that they affect or provide meaning of life at individual, species and cosmic levels. Furthermore, with assessment of meaning of life in some particular African conceptions, the chapter employs a perspective of Afrofuturism and engages in critical reconstruction and creative imagination of African thought-systems in conversation with other intellectual traditions to propose a view connecting transhumanism, singularity and meaning of life within a futuristic African philosophical context.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For more accounts on a history of African robotics, see the book: Khnum-Ptah to Computer: The African Initialization of Computer Science.

  2. 2.

    Important to note is the case that although transhumanism arguably parades representatives of religious/spiritual views, the brand of transhumanism which I here have in mind and promote going forward in this chapter is in deliberate terms that of the secular and naturalist wing of the philosophy and movement. This is so intended for an appreciable level of correspondence to be pursued and hopefully achieved between the stated naturalistic version of transhumanism and the secular/naturalist African theories of meaning deployed subsequently in the analysis.

  3. 3.

    It is plausible to anticipate though that as discussions on transhumanism and meaning of life from African perspectives progress arguments are likely to be put forward especially from the theistic view of “doing God’s work” in perfecting humanity and the world as grounds for drawing connections between the African God-purpose theory of meaning and transhumanism. I will rather, however, leave that narrative endeavour to the labours of (current or/and emerging) African thinkers in the supernaturalist camp of the transhumanism and meaning discourse.

  4. 4.

    For more on a naturalist, physicalist, and energy-oriented conception of vitality as ‘liveliness’ see Metz (2012); and as ‘creative power’ see Dzobo (1992).

  5. 5.

    An objection might be raised here on the grounds that death plays a role in some African perceptions of meaningfulness, and in which case mortality is required for a transition to an afterlife status which renders meaning on the journey of earthly existence. But then so also does death play a converse role in other African perceptions (notably in diverse African “origin of death” myths) in which its occurrence renders life and human projects meaningless. On the basis of the latter view therefore immortality, or a vastly extended lifespan, in the natural world stands desirable and need not be an anomalous concept to African thought.

  6. 6.

    Here, we may need to indicate that “life principle” as intended for this discussion can also involve the term as understood, for example, in Yolanda Mlungwana (2020). Mlungwana’s invocation of “life” as one among three theories of meaning which she evaluates in terms of its ability to account for intuitions about the meaningfulness especially of relations, work, self-actualization and partaking in rituals bears much correspondence with my use of the principle in this proposal. However, whereas Mlungwana explores this life principle to account only for meaning of individual lives, the application I intend here differs significantly in its approach which employs Life as a principle in seeking the purpose of humanity in general.

  7. 7.

    From “Extropianism”, a transhumanist philosophy of extropy developed by Max More in his “Extropian Principles” which, among other principles, points to nature’s evolutionary processes from mindless matter to life to the generation of increasingly complex organisms with ever-more intelligent brains, embodies an inspiring and uplifting view of life while remaining open to revision according to science, reason, and the boundless search for improvement; promotes perpetual progress in the search for more intelligence, wisdom, vitality/effectiveness, an indefinite lifespan, and the removal of limits to self-actualization and self-realization; advocates perpetually overcoming constraints on our progress and possibilities; and expanding into the universe and advancing without end. Additionally, for a concise discussion exploring “Extropianism and meaning,” see Sandberg, 2015, 6–7.

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Correspondence to Ojochogwu S. Abdul .

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Abdul, O.S. (2023). Transhumanism, Singularity and the Meaning of Life: An Afrofuturist Perspective. In: Attoe, A.D., Temitope, S.S., Nweke, V., Umezurike, J., Chimakonam, J.O. (eds) Conversations on African Philosophy of Mind, Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-36163-0_8

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