Want quick and easy happiness? Think science can get you there?
Don’t fall for the propaganda.
Notions of quick and easy happiness are part of an effort to demonize “negative” emotions.
Many and varied groups push to eliminate negative emotions, thoughts, and experiences, and accentuate the positive.
Here is a list of just a few culprits, and quick descriptions of how they attack negativity:
- New Age spiritualist movements — Advocate elimination of ego, ignore all negative experience or “vibrations,” and use meditation as a means of escape.
- Self-help and motivational speakers — Often promote willful ignorance of negative experience in order to focus on the positive.
- Popular music — Carries the general theme of baseless optimism, which has now become ubiquitous in pop music. (Watch this excellent video for some examples.)
- Major media — Also pushes baseless optimism. It’s not just music, but television, motion pictures, and much more.
- Medicine — Especially psychoactive drugs, provide quick fixes to complex problems. It’s no secret that Americans abuse prescription pills more then ever. And the medical establishment is set up so to sell, sell, sell those drugs.
- Transhumanists — Frequently point out the many distressing, difficult, and negative emotions that could easily be done away with by developing and using new technologies to alter the current human form. And, of course, even more drugs.
All of the different groups listed above mix and match to a great extent.
New Age ideals of positive uplift are now everywhere, and so are the means to achieve it.
The real question of course, is whether or not this sort of uplift is actually healthy.
The transhumanist endeavor
When it comes to uplift, one group stands out in particular.
The transhumanists constitute a movement just entering the mainstream.
They advocate converging technologies such as:
- Artificial intelligence
- Genetic engineering
- Life extension therapies
- Virtual reality
Transhumanists say that by using these tools, you can actually do away with the human condition altogether in favor of a new and better form of life.
The quest for creating a “better” human
Before transhumanists can convince the public that they need fixing, they have to describe what is wrong in the first place.
The transhuman laundry list includes: complex and difficult human emotions.
Transhumanists say that many of our emotions could be purposely deleted, and that we would be better off if we deleted them.
Humans are well known to be less than perfect, but the transhumanists take this point to an extreme.
Transhumanists want to get rid of your (negative) emotions
R. C. W. Ettinger was a pioneer in cryonics, and an early proponent of transhuman ideas. Here’s what he had to say about human emotion in Man Into Superman (1974):
“Humanity itself is a disease, of which we must now proceed to cure ourselves” [...] “Surely it will be an advantage to be able to ‘turn off’ or ‘tune out’ one’s emotions at will, choosing fully to savor only those that are enjoyable…”
“All human emotions are complex multifaceted beasts…”
[Later this text goes on to talk about inundating the world with media and entertainment to such a degree that everyone will be happy, and feel no need for war.]
Nick Bostrom, co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), which now goes by the name H+, had this to say about human emotion in his 2007 TED Talk:
“…life isn’t usually as wonderful as it could be. I think that is a big big problem… There are just those moments that you have experienced where life was fantastic… and you wonder: Why can’t it be like that all the time?”
You can view Bostrom’s clip in my film, The Age of Transitions.
As you can see from the above quotes, the “negative” aspects of human experience are a major problem for transhumanists.
Their many solutions to this apparent problem range from using helmets that stimulate the brain magnetically to actually bioengineering new humans to be less prone to mental suffering.
Theirs is an engineering approach; build better humans.
Transhumanists want to force happiness
The major transhumanist think tank, the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies (IEET), is cooking up something called the Cyborg Buddha Project.
There’s an obvious tie to eastern religion and the promotion of meditation.
The transhumanist view is that mediation and other “ecstatic states of mind” should be studied fervently. Not unlike the current main stream in psychology research.
Happiness — “quick and easy”
With this knowledge, various devices can then be created that directly affect the mind to induce:
- Other desirable states of consciousness
Well-being could then be achieved with the press of a button.
Moods could be selected at will.
The transhumanist argument is that this would give you more control over your emotions.
But would it really? To what extent? And at what cost?
Happiness — technologically induced
Here is a quick list of some “emerging technologies” that could directly affect the human brain, and as a result, human emotion:
- “Mood brightening” drugs
- Implantable brain chips
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
The technologies themselves are something to marvel at, especially when you realize that most of these devices have already been developed.
It should not come as a surprise that the military is heavily involved, leading research in this field.
Science gone mad
Transhuman technology is here.
But what sort of “human enhancement” is socially acceptable, marketable, and legal?
The technological cutting-edge has cut much deeper than most know.
The mere labeling of problems is what this is all about.
The big transhumanist problem is humanity itself.
That means, you.
Top transhumanists promote the end goal of scientific utopia.
Not only do they say that it is possible to create a new paradisaical world, but for many it is also a moral imperative to do so.
The subject of paradise engineering is so important that I dedicated an entire chapter to it in my book, Revolve: Man’s Scientific Rise to Godhood.
David Pearce, co-founder of the WTA, is also the founder of BLTC Research, an “ambitious global technology project” established in 1995 in Britain.
The goal of BLTC is to:
“…abolish the biological substrates of suffering. Not just in humans, but in all sentient life.”
BLTC promotes the idea that our biology is determined by “random genetic mutations,” and that we would be far better off if we decided to take Life into our own hands.
Genetic engineering could be the way to “deliver genetically pre-programmed well-being.”
Constant bliss could be engineered into the human condition, and subsequently given to the world as a whole.
Pearce uses the term “paradise engineering” to describe a grand Utopian vision for the transhuman enterprise.
He truly sees all forms of “suffering” as abhorrent, and he certainly is not alone.
If you read transhumanist literature you will find this theme pop up again and again — the idea that negative human emotions are holding us back, and should be eliminated.
The danger of forcing happiness
The very act of defining a problem yields enormous power.
When the human condition itself becomes a problem, what becomes the solution?
According to the transhumanists, the solution is the so-called posthuman Utopian world.
There is an underlying issue here, however. Perception.
Just because we label certain uncomfortable conditions as negative does not mean that those conditions are without value.
That which creates distress, heartache, and even pain in a person can actually end up being a good thing.
Some of the greatest prizes in life are won in this way.
What would happen if we decided to alter our bodies and minds to such an extent that feeling even the slightest discomfort became impossible? What motivation would we have to change anything? Would a Brave New World be the natural outcome?
I think that the most powerful question one can ask is whether or not a Brave New World is the natural outcome of what we are doing right now.
Where are we headed?
The psychoactive drugs flooding our streets are obtained by prescription. “Quick and easy” ways to conquer negativity are promoted everywhere you look.
We are dissociating from reality, and we believe that it is healthy. The complex and difficult thing that is human consciousness is being reduced.
I don’t see how this process will simply stop if we decide to use high technology to multiply happiness and bliss. If anything, the process will be amplified.
Could it be that we find consciousness, with all of its ins and outs, so threatening that we decide to flee from it altogether?
What if such a choice is actually being made at a macroscopic, or worldly scale?
Only you can find answers to life’s big questions, for true answers and solutions are never formulaic.
They are dynamic, complex, and yes, even difficult.
About the author: Aaron Franz is an author, filmmaker, and researcher. He is best known for his 2008 film, The Age of Transitions. Aaron’s website theageoftransitions.com, greatly expands upon the topics covered in this article.
P.S. If you want to get a head start on answering your own Big Life Questions, check out the free e-class: Your Life is Your Construct.