Istvan, Zoltan (2013). The Transhumanist Wager. SL: Futurity Imagine Media LLC. 2013. ISBN 9780988616110. Pagine 300. 0,99 $
A me non era mai successo prima: sono stato invitato a leggere questo libro dal suo autore. Non mi era mai successo prima, ma nel frattempo mi è già successo una seconda volta. Immagino che diventerà sempre più frequente ed è un effetto del famoso web 2.0 e dei social network. Questo, tanto per contraddire quelli che pontificano (a partire, ahimè, da Umberto Eco) che internet non si è inventato nulla che non ci fosse già prima, e che al massimo è una questione di scala. Può anche essere, ma in tal caso neppure quella di Gutenberg sarebbe stata una rivoluzione: e invece lo è stata, e una rivoluzione pervasiva, per di più: basta vedere che cosa ne scrive Steven Pinker nel 4° capitolo (The Humanitarian Revolution) del suo The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (ne ho parlato anche qui):
The growth of writing and literacy strikes me as the best candidate for an exogenous change that helped set off the Humanitarian Revolution.
Reading is a technology for perspective-taking. When someone else’s thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person’s vantage point. Not only are you taking in sights and sounds that you could not experience firsthand, but you have stepped inside that person’s mind and are temporarily sharing his or her attitudes and reactions. [posizione Kindle 3830-3839]
Del resto, del passaggio quantità → qualità mi sembra ne avesse già scritto Hegel nella sua Scienza della logica …
Ma torniamo all’invito. Il 6 maggio 2013, su Goodreads, ho ricevuto questo messaggio:
Hi Boris, I found you through a review you made on Nexus. The reason I’m writing is I recently published a revolutionary novel, The Transhumanist Wager. It’s a philosophical science-fiction thriller. Reviewers are calling it “an instant cult classic” and the book has the power galvanize a new generation of readers.
I’m a former National Geographic war journalist, and if you’re interested in a bold and rebellious novel, especially one that promotes science and technology, this book will give you much to ponder and cheer about. There’s a daring, twisted love story too.
You can find out more about the novel and purchase it on Amazon ($0.99 for ebook (SALE today) / $7.28 for paperback):
Feel free to friend me or ask any questions if you like.
Thanks and cheers, Zoltan
Incuriosito, e dato il prezzo ridicolo (anche se Amazon mi ha sgridato per essere passato temporaneamente su amazon.com per godere dello sconto), ho comprato il libro, e l’ho scritto all’autore, che a sua volta mi ha risposto. Ecco lo scambio di messaggi:
Bought your book. I’ll let you know what I think and possibly post a review when I’ve read it. But don’t hold your breath, as I am reading other things at present.
Thanks for buying my book. I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it. Thanks again, Zoltan
Fine della storia. Penserete, come ho pensato anch’io, che Zoltan è una persona gentile e cordiale, anche se un po’
sborone spaccone («I recently published a revolutionary novel»).
A leggere il romanzo, trasparentemente autobiografico, stiamo invece parlando – temo – di un pericoloso fanatico.
Partiamo dall’autobiografia del nostro, tratteggiata sul suo sito:
At the age of 21, Zoltan began a solo, multi-year sail journey around the world. His main cargo was 500 handpicked books, mostly classics. He’s explored over 100 countries—many as an investigative journalist for the National Geographic Channel—writing, filming, and appearing in dozens of webcasts, articles, and television stories. His work has also been featured by The New York Times Syndicate, Outside, San Francisco Chronicle, Sail, BBC Radio, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Animal Planet, and the Travel Channel. In addition to his award-winning coverage of the war in Kashmir, he gained worldwide attention for inventing and popularizing the extreme sport of volcano boarding. Zoltan later became a director for the international conservation group WildAid, working with armed patrol units to stop the billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. Back in the States he started various successful businesses, from real estate development to filmmaking to viticulture, joining them under ZI Ventures.
He is a philosophy and religious studies graduate of Columbia University and resides in San Francisco with his daughter and his physician wife. Zoltan recently published The Transhumanist Wager, a visionary novel describing apatheist Jethro Knights and his unwavering quest for immortality via science and technology.
Inutile dire che il protagonista del romanzo, Jethro Knights, si laurea all’università, fa il giro del mondo in una barca carica di libri che si è costruito da solo, lavora per il National Geographic, fa il corrispondente dal Kashmir e così via. Il che ti lascia con la sensazione che le idee dell’autore non siano poi così diverse da quelle, superomiste oltre che transumaniste, del protagonista del romanzo.
Il libro si regge, con qualche difficoltà, finché racconta le avventure del nostro Jethro/Zoltan. Ma diventa sinceramente inquietante quando ne espone, a volte con pipponi che durano decine di pagine, la Weltanschauung. Ho qualche simpatia per Kurzweil e le sue idee sulla singolarità, ma se transumanismo significa un individulismo che fa impallidire Ayn Rand «you can count me out», come diceva John Lennon. Non abbiamo proprio bisogno di un altro Mein Kampf.
* * *
Il romanzo è un tale minestrone, che non vi stupirete del guazzabuglio di spunti interessanti e luoghi comuni che ci si possono trovare. Ve ne metto un idiosincratico florilegio (riferimenti alla posizione Kindle):
The rotunda was silent for a long time after Jethro stopped speaking. In those moments every person believed in the speech’s common sense, in the potential of transhumanism, in modifying and improving the landscape of traditional human experience. The logic was inescapable. But then—slowly—their minds, egos, and fears lumbered around to the immediate tasks facing them. They remembered about their need to be elected to office; about what their constituents would say; how their churches would cast judgment; how their mothers, spouses, and friends would react; how they would be viewed, tallied, and callously spit out in public. Finally, they remembered their own fears of the unknown. 
“[…] We might be stuck in some vortex where we’ve already died, and are reliving our lives in a nanosecond in some laboratory vat. Or more likely, a parallel universe where our greater minds have recreated all these realities using unknown quantum technology. Or maybe we’re just controlled experiments of super-intelligent aliens from one of the hundred billion galaxies in our universe that contain planets capable of supporting life. Or possibly we’re just dreaming and still asleep in bed. And one morning we’re going to wake up and be late for our job flipping hamburgers, or maybe running a country as its president. Or maybe fighting as a soldier in Kashmir.” 
Progress, not control, is the prime motive. 
“[…] I’m only human with how many hours I can dedicate to everyone and everything, you know.”
“Well, that’s power, Gregory. Get used to it.” 
[…] formulize […] [3202: la parola, che io trovo orrenda e ho incontrato qui per la prima volta, è sinonimo di formulate (formulare), è presente nel Merriam-Webster ed è stata usata la prima volta nel 1842]
People, it seemed, even the scientists capable of making transhumanism succeed, simply wanted the world that Jethro spoke about to exist. They didn’t want to build it or fight for it; t; it was risky and far too much work. 
“Their management and regulation of our lives spans the total spectrum of American experience, from their obtuse Imperial Measurement System, to their irregularity-strangled English language. From their lobbyist-ruled government bureaucracy, to their consumer-oriented religious holidays like Christmas. From their brainless professional sports jocks cast as heroes, to their anorexic supermodels warping the concept of beauty. These are the people who made sugary colas more important than water; fast food more important than health; television sitcoms more important than reading literature. They made smoking a joint in your home a crime; going out in public without your hair tinted an embarrassment; and accidentally carrying a half-filled bottle of baby formula on an airplane a terrorist act. Do you realize 85 percent of Americans still say ‘God bless you’ after someone sneezes? And that ‘In God We Trust’ is on every U.S. dollar in circulation? Or that ‘One nation under God’ is recited every day in the Pledge of Allegiance by millions of impressionable kids?
“From our first day alive on this planet, they began teaching society everything it knows and experiences. It was all brainwashing bullshit. Their trio of holy catechisms is: faith is more important than reason; inputs are more important than outcomes; hope is more important than reality. It was designed to choke your independent thinking and acting—to bring out the lowest common denominator in people—so that vast amounts of the general public would literally buy into the sponsorship and preservation of their hegemonic nation. Their greatest achievement was the creation of the two-party political system; it gave the illusion of choice, but never offered any change; it promised freedom, but only delivered more limits. In the end, you got stuck with two leading loser parties and not just one. It completed their trap of underhanded domination, and it worked masterfully. Look anywhere you go. America is a nation of submissive, dumbed-down, codependent, faith-minded zombies obsessed with celebrity gossip, buying unnecessary goods, and socializing without purpose on their electronic gadgets. The crazy thing is that people don’t even know it; they still think they’re free. Everywhere, people have been made into silent accomplices in the government’s twisted control game. In the end, there is no way out for anyone. 
Gregory insisted again, his pink silk tie crooked. [4802: i cattivi portano sempre cravatte rosa]
Imagineade — the Transhumanian-brewed energy drink that induced creativity. [5415: OMG]
“[…] You’re an apatheist—one who doesn’t care to find out if he should know God.” [5848: OMG2]
Every time they accept anti-science laws instead of pro-science laws, every time they embrace restrictive religious attitudes instead of freethinking human enhancement attitudes, every time they pay for trillion-dollar wars abroad instead of funding trillion-dollar wars at home against cancer, heart disease, or old age, they are prematurely ending the lives of their fellow human beings. [5954: e a volte mi tocca pure essere quasi d’accordo]
“Throughout your lives and modern history, civilization has erroneously subscribed to the vision that the human being is a marvelous, ingeniously assembled specimen of life: a work of divine creation and sweeping beauty, whose culture and intellect is profound like the cosmos itself. What a joke. The cruel truth is we are a frail, hacked-together organism living within a global culture of irrationality, pettiness, and deception. 
Compared to humans, rats have better noses for smelling. Pigeons have sharper eyes for seeing. Crocodiles can run faster. Earthworms can survive underwater longer. Cockroaches can survive far colder temperatures. Humans are only best at reasoning. Yet, computers can already beat the best of us in chess, math, and physics.