I’VE SINCE HAD TO DISTANCE MYSELF from prolonged meditation on these topics. People who once believed, I’ve been told, are prone to recidivism. Over the past decade, as transhumanism has become the premise of Hollywood blockbusters and a passable topic of small talk among people under 40, I’ve had to excuse myself from conversations, knowing that any mention of simulation theory or the noosphere can send me spiraling down the gullet of that techno-theological rabbit hole.
This is not to say that I have outgrown those elemental desires that drew me to transhumanism — just that they express themselves in more conventional ways. Over the intervening years, I have given up alcohol, drugs, sugar, and bread. On any given week, my Google search history is a compendium of cleanse recipes, HIIT workouts, and the glycemic index of various exotic fruits. I spend my evenings in the concrete and cavernous halls of a university athletic center, rowing across virtual rivers and cycling up virtual hills, guided by the voice of my virtual trainer, Jessica, who came with an app that I bought. It’s easy enough to justify these rituals of health optimization as more than mere vanity, especially when we’re so frequently told that physical health determines our mental and emotional well-being. But if I’m honest with myself, these pursuits have less to do with achieving a static state of well-being than with the thrill of possibility that lies at the root of all self-improvement: the delusion that you are climbing an endless ladder of upgrades and solutions. The fact that I am aware of this delusion has not weakened its power over me. Even as I understand the futility of the pursuit, I persist in an almost mystical belief that I can, through concerted effort, feel better each year than the last, as though the trajectory of my life led toward not the abyss but some pinnacle of total achievement and solution, at which point I will dissolve into pure energy. Still, maintaining this delusion requires a kind of willful vigilance that can be exhausting.