Megarich sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein may have been interested in “seeding the human race” with his DNA and using cryonics to freeze his head and penis. He also may have been attempting to identify a “mysterious particle” with godlike panopticon powers. But contrary to how those fantasies were described in the press, none of it makes Epstein an actual transhumanist — at least, according to the transhumanists themselves, who reject the financier outright.
“This is the largest media coverage we have ever experienced,” Zoltan Istvan, founder of the Transhumanist Party, told the Telegraph. “But this is the worst type of coverage. Lots of damage control is being done right now.”
To put it briefly, transhumanists believe in the use of technology to extend and improve human life. Jack Ebersole, 26, a Chicago-based physicist, blogger and redditor on the forum r/Transhuman, says while the community is loose-knit, transhumanists share a goal to “move toward a world without” death, disease, war and poverty, and to achieve this “with science, technology and social policy.”
So it doesn’t matter if Epstein, who allegedly trafficked hundreds of underage girls to his private properties for sex, started out “with a reading of transhumanist philosophy and ended at ‘pedophile breeding-fetish sex cult,'” Ebersole says. “Or [if] he was just a delusional narcissist who latched on to the aesthetic of transhumanism to justify his actions to himself. The fact remains that very few if any transhumanists want what he’s selling.”
First and foremost is Epstein’s reported desire to “seed the human race” with his DNA, reports the New York Times:
On multiple occasions starting in the early 2000s, Mr. Epstein told scientists and businessmen about his ambitions to use his New Mexico ranch as a base where women would be inseminated with his sperm and would give birth to his babies, according to two award-winning scientists and an adviser to large companies and wealthy individuals, all of whom Mr. Epstein told about it.
These selfish purposes run counter to the transhumanists’ goals. “As for Epstein’s (ugh) ‘baby ranch’ (barf) idea, I don’t I need to explain in great detail why Epstein’s fantasy of having sex with 20 women at a time in order to ‘spread his genes’ isn’t really doing a whole lot to improve the human condition, or really anything besides gratifying his perverted fetishes,” Ebersole explains.
“I assume this is because Epstein believes his DNA is superior to most people’s,” says Jake, 23, a regular contributor to the r/Transhuman subreddit. “And while I think people are generally a bit too quick to equate genetic engineering with eugenics, fathering as many children as possible certainly isn’t something I’ve ever heard advocated in a transhumanist context.”
Epstein was reportedly against helping ill or starving people for fear of overpopulation, Jake points out. “Being against help and healthcare for starving and ill people is, in my view, a fundamentally anti-humanist — and therefore anti-transhumanist — stance. The goal shouldn’t be to ignore one problem so another doesn’t crop up. It should be to solve both problems.”
The community was unhappy when reporters uncovered Epstein’s donations to the World Transhumanist Association, later rebranded as Humanity+. According to Jake, transhumanists are tired of seeing their movement conflated with eugenics. “People misunderstand [our imperative to] improve the human condition,” Ebersole says. Transhumanism doesn’t mean “make ‘better’ humans.” This flawed but common association “gets people worried about things like designer babies and Nazi-era pseudoscience about which humans are biologically ‘better.'”
“In its worst incarnation, [eugenics] consists of limiting people’s ability to have children if they’re undesirable to whoever’s in power,” Jake explains. “Transhumanism, on the other hand, has the goal of increasing liberty as much as possible.”
Ebersole, a socialist, says the transhumanist community aims to combat what he calls eugenics in American government. This type of eugenics is “not through cloning and designer babies,” he explains, “but through welfare cuts that make poor people unable to afford children or funding cuts that have led to a school system that is now more segregated than it’s ever been since the end of the Jim Crow era.”
Some detractors of transhumanism are less optimistic about technology’s role in bettering the human race. In a capitalist society, they argue, the rich and powerful minority will inevitably weaponize transhumanist tools to further segregate themselves against everyone else. Because of this, Jake admits, the Epstein connection is a nightmare scenario for transhumanists.
“To the extent that there is a transhumanist movement, these revelations about Epstein are a severe setback,” Ebersole agrees. “Most people in the mainstream have never heard of transhumanism and aren’t going to be aware of [the reasons Epstein is not a transhumanist], so there could not possibly be a worse way for them to be introduced to transhumanism.
“Sadly, the transhumanist community isn’t really organized enough to produce a real counternarrative in response to accusations like these or to make a collective statement disavowing people like Jeffrey Epstein,” he continues. “[Some transhumanists] can’t quite seem to understand why talking about ‘human enhancement’ sounds sinister and off-putting.”
Ebersole hopes the incident at least unites the transhumanist community to do some soul-searching “about messaging, political organization, media optics and the representation of women, minorities and other disenfranchised groups within the movement.”
Maybe it’s time for them to rebrand. They should “partially drop the transhumanist label for advocacy purposes and instead focus on more immediate sub-issues,” Jake says.
To hammer home the point that Epstein doesn’t belong in the transhumanist community, Jake concludes that Epstein is just “a delusional crank who happened to have enough power to act on his delusional beliefs. I don’t really think he believes anything other than whatever flimsy justification he needs in a given moment to justify his own actions and self-aggrandized attitude.”
Does any part of transhumanist philosophy apply to Epstein’s alleged plan to achieve immortality by freezing his head and penis? What’s more, how exactly did Epstein plan to return from a cryonic grave as virile as ever?
I reached out to Marji Klima, executive administrator for cryonics and “life extension” lab Alcor, who tells me cryonics labs do not offer penis freezing — and it wouldn’t actually accomplish anything if they did. (Sperm, as most people know, is not stored in the shaft.)
“Cryonics, the idea of keeping someone’s body at an extremely cold temperature after legal death so they can, hopefully, be revived using more advanced medical technology, is in line with transhumanism, though I haven’t heard anyone apart from Epstein say that they want specifically their head and penis preserved,” Jake says. “You’d think at a point when people can be revived from just a frozen head, we should be able to make better artificial ones anyway.”
Still, Ebersole adds, freezing Epstein’s head is “one way to get rid of him. I fully encourage him to try it out as soon as possible.”