Is ‘progress’ really enough?
THE GOD OF PROGRESS
The story of Prometheus is one of the most important Greek myths.
Famous for stealing fire from the gods to give it to humans, Prometheus has been seen throughout the ages as the ‘god of progress’.
Today, the myth can help us reflect on transhumanism.
Stories have the advantage of capturing, in their simplicity, issues that are hidden in the complex historical context in which we live. Indeed, thanks to their profound nature, myths pose direct questions and provide us with valuable reflections issues.
The myth of Prometheus alludes to a fundamental element of our reality. Fire has actively accompanied the development of technology and civilisation. It served to harden ceramic utensils, forge weapons of war, to make work tools.
It has even acted as a link between the gods and human beings via certain rituals.
As such, Prometheus represents the symbolic framework of all cultural creation.
His name is made up of the prefix pro, which refers to ‘what’s before’, and the root of the verb mantháno, commonly translated as ‘to learn’ or ‘to come to know’.
Prometheus was the one who ‘came to know things before others’. He was a provident god who was always ‘one step ahead’.
On the other hand, his complementary twin, Epimetheus, was the one who was always late and only tended to think after he’d acted. He signified clumsiness and a lack of logic.
There are various interpretations of the myth of Prometheus.
Throughout history, some have seen him as one who corrupted the natural order.
Others considered him to be a heroic god who gave power to human beings.
Either way, the central concept surrounding Prometheus is the ‘freeing from the inclemencies of nature’.
A philosophy that also underlines the transhuman and anti-human ideologies.
PROMETHEUS AND TRANSHUMANISM
Transhumanism is a current philosophical current that sees the human being as ‘something to be overcome’.
The mass dehumanization agenda over two centuries, under the guise of ‘progress’, has led us to no longer believe we are the center of this reality — but merely a stepping stone for the merging of man and machine.
This ‘shift’ can occur through biotechnological implementations, genetic modification and robotic implants.
In fact, any type of technology that possesses human characteristics that aren’t given by the natural course of life.
For transhumanism, the search to ‘transcend the human condition’ is a central part of this doctrine.
The biophysicist and transhumanist, Gregory Stock, uses the figure of Prometheus to declare that the act of stealing fire from the gods is typical of ‘being human’.
For him, biotechnological modifications to ‘improve our natural condition’ are inevitable and even desirable.
Therefore, from this viewpoint, Prometheus is presented as a transgressive hero who ‘frees us’ from natural limits.
A figure that represents the utopian visiona of ‘perfection’ and ‘no suffering’.
However, as we know, a greater nightmare is usually the result of pushes to outrun the things that make us human.
Are technical improvements actually necessary for us to achieve and survive?
Is technological progress, the eradication of diseases, and the prolongation of life expectancy (such as Google’s efforts to ‘solve death’) sufficient to overcome natural obstacles so that societies can live happily?
Unfortunately, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
IS ‘PROGRESS’ ENOUGH?
Certainly, there are many benefits to improvements in quality of life. But, these improvements seem vain and insubstantial without the kind of social order that guarantees prosperity and peace among human beings.
Moreover, achieving a moral sense that legitimises equal rights, as ‘Plato’ was able to demonstrate in the Promethean myth, isn’t obtained through mere technological progress.
Confidence that ‘progress’ itself will necessarily lead to the improvement of humanity is a naïve fantasy.
Look at how unhappy and unstable things like smartphones have already made the world.
Can you imagine what happens when we begin to merge with these types of things?
After all, there are many different factors that make well-being possible.
Transhumanist positions that blindly trust in biotechnological development, losing sight of the social dimension of the human.
As ‘Plato’ pointed out, we need a civic and moral sense that serves as a guide for our actions.
One that maintains peace and keeps us from fighting with our fellow men.
While attempting to escape the horrors of disease and death, we may unleash even bigger horrors on the world.
‘Hesiod’ was one of the first poets to write down the story of Prometheus.
Far from heroising the figure of Prometheus, his version emphasised the transgression that he committed against the gods.
Zeus did, indeed, punish Prometheus and all of humanity with an endless variety of evils.
‘Hesiod’ believed that Prometheus had upset the cosmic order, which explained the imbalance and evils of the world.
From this viewpoint, ‘progress’ is seen as synonymous with the decline of the human being.
As a rule, the visions that are manifested against progress are based on the argument that, in the past, there was a cosmic order that gradually deteriorated as civilisation advanced.
Just look at how the ‘progressive’ mindset has already changed society from the 1960s alone.
As a matter of fact, the ecological disasters generated in the last century do tend to show that our naïve trust in ‘progress’ had a dark side. Moreover, what’s ‘new’ isn’t always necessarily better.
Unbridled progress breaks the natural balance of the environment, attracting all sorts of misfortunes to befall humanity.
The transhumanists are subscribed to this philosophy and are making new strides each and every day.
Will you let the modern-day Prometheus cult alter what it truly means to be human?
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