The target audience for the book is the general public, those who are engaged in a technological milieu. The book may also be helpful in graduate courses on transhumanism and, or, posthumanism.
This is a challenging book because it evokes the need for a new theology in light of evolution. Drawing on the insights of the Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the book traces the rise of human consciousness in evolution and argues that computer technology and artificial intelligence (AI) extend human consciousness by complexifying consciousness through electronic connections. Drawing on insights from quantum physics, particularly the relationship of mind and matter, the book examines the extension of mind through technology and the implications of extended mind for personhood. Teilhard brings together the human person, God and evolution and speaks of a new type person emerging on the level of cosmic consciousness. In his view, evolution has ushered in a new understanding of God, and he sees this God-world relationship moving toward greater unity in and through technology, as technology extends the human person.
Some of the take-aways: first, technology is not a tool but an extension of ourselves. The media expert Marshall McLuhan, a disciple of Teilhard, said that all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of the human person that cause deep and lasting changes in the human and transform one’s environment. The total-field awareness engendered by electronic media is enabling us — indeed, compelling us — to grope toward a consciousness of the unconscious. To quote McLuhan’s famous phrase: It is the medium itself that is the message, not the content. We have not understood this profound insight, certainly not in theology, and the book attempts to expound why the medium is the message. Both Teilhard and McLuhan felt that we are retribalizing along global lines which will have profound impact not only on religion but on politics and culture as well. Teilhard described global tribalization as the emergence of the body of Christ.
The book discusses the philosophical trajectories of transhumanism, with its emphasis on human enhancement, and posthumanism, which emphasizes deep relationality, and opts for a new type of person rising up in and through technological evolution. This new person, the ultrahuman or posthuman, bears a different logical structure, a different axis of consciousness, than the modern human person. My hope is that the book will spawn discussions on the emerging ultrahuman/posthuman for whom religion, as well as politics, race and gender will be enacted in new ways that reflect a hyperpersonalized milieu. In short, theology, as with most disciplines, is still looking in the rearview mirror. AI invites us to consider the world we are creating; it acts as a mirror. In this mirror we are to see ourselves and what we are becoming. Technology is affecting the depths of human personhood, the same depths where religion takes place. It is important that a credible theology be considered for a technological age so that we do not fall prey to the lure that technology will fulfill what religion promises.
Reading here today gives me sweet peace. These writings validate an internal fire that I have tried to quench so many times over many years. Yes, I have hope for the good that can come from our current distress. That we can come together and become more whole as a world.