Forget performance enhancement, optical implants, and all the other “upgrades” that the coming decades of progress towards the Singularity are supposed to bring. What about the distant (or at least remote) future, after we’ve transcended? Many transhumanists believe that our destiny is to continue expanding outward from the Earth, consuming the Solar System, the Galaxy, and eventually the entire Universe with our being. The exact nature of that being is still a matter of dispute — it may be bodies like our own but made to live much longer, or bodies that have been enhanced through mechanization, or robotic surrogates, or perhaps even Consciousness itself expanding on a computational substrate (see Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near for a depiction) — but the general idea of our inevitable expansion into the cosmos is the same.
Of course, long before transhumanism and even before space travel, science fiction writers were speculating on the implications of just such a notion of posthuman destiny. In his 1956 short story “The Last Question,” Isaac Asimov considers the inevitability of limits, ends, endings, and beginnings. The story presages the metaphysical spiritualism of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 and related science fiction, as well as that of many of the later transhumanists. Read it for the provocation of thought (and the hilarious anachronism of planet-sized computers).
(Hat tip: Mark Reitblatt.)