My Grandma is a 98 year-old Transhumanist

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with my wife's 98 year-old grandmother. The occasion was an LDS temple sealing of my niece and her, now, husband. As we waited for the party to arrive, I made my way over to where "GG" (great-grandma) sat next to her rather modern-looking walker which doubles as a portable oxygen system -- a machine extending her life. Once she recognized people who sat down next to her, she was eager to have very lucid and engaging conversation with the wisdom of a 98 year-old smile and laugh.

She asked about how my wife and I and our kids were doing. She asked about my job, and she was interested in what "distributed computing" was, asking very good questions. The event being a religious occasion, conversation naturally gravitated towards each other's faith and hopes. She talked about the afterlife as if it were a destination she already had a ticket to. I guess we all have that ticket. She talked about hopes and apprehensions of meeting long lost friends, family, spouses, etc. But she also hoped there were opportunities for forgiveness and repentance in Christ to mend relationships that were left frayed.

She spoke of the art she created as she painted -- many in the family have her lovely paintings in their homes. She showed me how if you ever wanted to learn about something, that one of the best ways to do so is to paint it. I sat awed by just how engaged I was with someone removed not just by a different generation and era but multiple generations and eras from me.

Wondering how a 98 year-old woman would reflect on her life experience, I asked her,

"What has been the biggest change you've experienced in your life?"

Without hesitation she said, "Oh, definitely computers."

This was from a woman who remembers being pulled by horse carriage as her family's primary means of transportation. Someone who lived with only outdoor plumbing early in her life. Who lived through WWI, WWII, prohibition, FDR, JFK, the Cold War, a space race, expansion of commercial aviation, the great depression, woman's suffrage, television, anti-segregation, and much more -- to say nothing of her courageous personal life. She even mentioned she is writing a poem on what she has seen and experienced in her life. "I have it all finished in my head," she said proudly.

"Computers?", I replied, somewhat elated. "Why?"

She talked about how amazed she is at the things we can do with computers, that computers are getting smarter and more powerful every day. We talked about the great amounts of computing resources used to make possible LDS temple work, which is driven by genealogies. She mentioned that things that took years before are now at people's fingertips. She worried about the negative aspects of technological power and the need for us to find good ways to use it.

I brought up how computers keep getting smaller, more powerful, and cheaper. She said she can remember when computers were the size of large rooms and only did basic things and that now we carry tremendous computing power literally in our pockets. I asked her what she thought the future of computers might hold; suggesting that, perhaps, we might have computers the size of our cells. She said she wouldn't be surprised.

I rhetorically asked her,

"I wonder if God, with all of this technology, is helping us learn the tools of the resurrection."

Her eyes lit up and she said, with a smile,

"Oh, absolutely!"

I suddenly had the realization that I was talking to the oldest transhumanist I'd ever met: a 98 year-old Mormon transhumanist.

Futurists and transhumanists often wonder what might humanity do with technology and long life. I felt like I caught a glimpse of a possible answer as I sat and talked to a woman whose own life has been greatly affected and extended by technology as she reminisced about the joy and sorrow of human relationships across generations and the grave, the enduring aesthetic knowledge of art, empowering exponential technologies, human strivings for forgiveness, and a future where all of these find realization in the hope for an instrumented resurrection.