The Revolt Against Humanity
Imagining a Future Without Us
Should we welcome the end of humanity?
In this blistering book about the history of an idea, one of our leading critics draws on his dazzling range and calls our attention to a seemingly inconceivable topic that is being seriously discussed: that the end of humanity’s reign on earth is imminent, and that we should welcome it. Kirsch journeys through literature, philosophy, science, and popular culture, to identify two strands of thinking: Anthropocene antihumanism says that our climate destruction has doomed humanity and we should welcome our extinction, while Transhumanism believes that genetic engineering and artificial intelligence will lead to new forms of life superior to humans.
Kirsch’s introduction of thinkers and writers from Roger Hallam to Jane Bennett, David Benatar to Nick Bostrom, Patricia MacCormack to Ray Kurzweil, Ian McEwan to Richard Powers, will make you see the current moment in a new light. The revolt against humanity has already spread beyond the fringes of the intellectual world, and it can transform politics and society in profound ways—if it hasn’t already.
Poet and critic Kirsch (The Blessing and the Curse) delivers an intense study of the various schools of thought on "the end of humanity's reign on Earth." On one hand is the "Anthropocene antihumanist" camp, who assert that humans aren't "Earth's protagonists" but rather are to blame for making the planet nearly uninhabitable; as a result, their disappearance should be welcomed. Transhumanists, meanwhile, believe technology will ease the way for a new and improved species, posthumans, who some theorists believe will live past 170 years and will think "more rapidly and deeply" than Albert Einstein. Kirsch suggests that the main difference between these two perspectives is that transhumanists believe the universe "would be meaningless without minds to experience and understand it," while antihumanists propose that the universe "doesn't need to include consciousness for its existence to be meaningful." Kirsch defers to scientists, philosophers, and activists rather than taking a side himself, but the expert perspectives, paired with anecdotes from sci-fi films and literature, make for a fascinating look at the "profound civilizational changes" that may come. The result is a nice lay of the post-human land.