Mark O’Connell in The Guardian:
As humans, we are defined by, among other things, our desire to transcend our humanity. Mythology, religion, fiction and science offer different versions of this dream. Transhumanism – a social movement predicated on the belief that we can and should leave behind our biological condition by merging with technology – is a kind of feverish amalgamation of all four. Though it’s oriented toward the future, and is fuelled by excitable speculation about the implications of the latest science and technology, its roots can be glimpsed in ancient stories like that of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh and his quest for immortality.
In writing To Be a Machine, my book about transhumanism, my thinking on the subject was heavily influenced by the psychologist Ernest Becker’s 1974 study The Denial of Death. It’s an extraordinarily potent work of social anthropology, the underlying argument of which is that much of our culture is a reaction – variously destructive and creative – to the inadmissible fact of our own mortality. Though Becker was writing well before transhumanism existed as a movement, his book is useful in positioning it as a neurotic symptom of our inability to accept our own mortality. It’s also, more broadly, an eloquent and unsettling disquisition on the inexhaustible weirdness of the human animal.