The War on Death: Human Transcendence Through Technology
Philosopher, designer, filmmaker, and author Dr. Natasha Vita-More’s work is pushing the limits of what it means to be human through the field of transhumanism. Last year at Future Frontiers, she spoke of the importance of using emerging technologies to radically extend our life expectancies.
A Brush with Death
Vita-More will never forget the time she came to in an operating room in a Japanese hospital. The doctor was standing over her, holding a Japanese to English dictionary trying as best he could to make it clear to her that she may not live.
She had been found in the hall of a restaurant, unconscious and hemorrhaging. At the height of her career as a filmmaker, she had been traveling the world and pursuing her art. She would later discover that it was an ectopic pregnancy that caused her to spend the next several weeks recovering in the intensive care unit. She did not die, but she came dangerously close. And this encounter with mortality would forever change the way she viewed life and death.
“If I ever get out of Japan I am going to do something marvelous,” Dr. Vita-More recalls thinking to herself as she laid in a hospital bed recovering. She hadn’t even known she was pregnant and yet, there she was recovering and retraining herself how to walk. Even amid all these challenges, she felt so immensely grateful to be alive. Her life felt renewed with purpose. From that point on, she redirected her focus and became a leading pioneer in the field of radical life extension and transhumanism.
Radical Life Extension
Feeling as though she was no longer an artist, she left filmmaking to pursue what she calls, the “human story.” Her brush with death in Japan, along with other complications, including two cancer diagnoses, had encouraged her to take more responsibility for her health. What had frightened her the most about her experience was the lack of understanding of what was going on in her body. But if she could use the technology available to get ahead of other complications that might arise, she could potential radically extend her life.
By utilizing advances made in nanotechnology, the cognitive and neurosciences, information technology — like A.I., biotech, cryobiology—like egg freezing, humans can live longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. And since the early 1980s, Vita-More has dedicated her career to working with experts in the aforementioned fields to extend human life longer than ever before. In 1983, she authored the Transhuman Manifesto. She also later designed the first model of the Primo Posthuman, a prototype for a futuristic prosthetic body that will help humans live longer. She has also done work on the possibility of backing up our brains when we die, prolonging our intellectual existence on the planet.
Vita-More has said, “The beauty of humanity is something we are aware of, but it’s not enough.” Spending years in filmmaking allowed her to study the human experience, but it didn’t do anything to help humans live longer, better lives on this earth. And that is of the utmost importance to Vita-More.
Vita-More strongly believes you have to be willing to see beyond the limitations of your field. And while the field of transhumanism might sound a bit radical, we are already living out many of its principles today when we take steps to merge health and technology and biotech. 3D printers have allowed just about anyone to manufacture state of the art prosthetic limbs for lower costs than ever thought possible. The burgeoning field of biohacking is also being practiced by many who take supplements and eat specific foods in order for their bodies and brains to perform at peak levels.
As Vita-More said at the end of her Future Frontiers talk last year, “I’m not interested in dying anytime soon.” And through her work, we might all be able to live in a not-so-distant future where life and death take on very different meanings than they have today.