Computing Reviews

Religion and the technological future: an introduction to biohacking, artificial intelligence, and transhumanism
Mercer C., Trothen T., Palgrave Macmillan, Switzerland, 2021. 283 pp. Type: Book
Date Reviewed: 12/16/21

When a professor of religion in North Carolina and a professor of ethics in Canada walk into a bar--oops, make that a classroom--what do they talk about? Apparently, they are interested in the power of “biohacking,” defined as “the attempt at human enhancement of physical, cognitive, affective, moral and spiritual traits.” Whether or not one agrees with the definition, it certainly makes for a wide-ranging and stimulating discussion.

Part 1 sets the stage and includes a chapter on “transhumanism, the posthuman, and the religious.”, It ends with a chapter on “[ethics] questions we must ask.” All this captures the tone and content of what follows.

I question the framework of Part 2, “Five Categories of Enhancements,” which are posited to be the core topics. They include superlongevity, becoming smarter and becoming more moral, and end with feeling happier and more spiritual. Would that the latter was crucial to biohacking!

Part 3 goes “beyond the edge” to cover cryonics, “mind uploading,” and the singularity.

The book concludes with a chapter on “Religion 2.0 and the Enhanced Technological Future.” It is perhaps the most thought-provoking and stimulating part of the text. A fairly redundant and useless, though comprehensive, glossary is followed by an excellent list of references.

For CR readers, it’s important to note what this text is and what it is not. What it is not: you won’t find technical depth, explanation, or notes. This is not intended, nor does it pretend to be, a technical introduction or reference, and will not serve even as a pointer in that direction.

However, on what the book is: it’s intended to be an introductory text for university students of religion, ethics, and morality, as applied to (sorry for the word again) “biohacking.” It does all of this admirably. Some practitioners of the discussed religions might quibble here and there--myself and colleagues dispute some of the characterizations of Buddhism and Zen, for example--however, that is not the point. 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.

Reviewer:  David Bellin Review #: CR147392

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