Transhumanism in Israel

Ilia Stambler

First published in July 2020 Technoprog

The Israeli transhumanist community can be traced back to the emergence of the regional “Israel and Middle East” forum of the Immortality Institute (now Longecity) website in 2004. This was one of the first two regional life-extensionist forums (beside Russia and Eastern Europe) where Israelis interested in life extension and transhumanism could openly discuss their interests. From these discussions, there started the first live meetings of Israeli tranhumanists and life-extensionists. The first live meeting took place on January 27, 2006, a pioneering event in Israel.

From the beginning, the Israeli transhumanist community was mainly interested in life extension, rather than other traditionally “tanshumanist” topics, such as “enhancement” or “singularity” as it has been accepted that the prolongation of human life is the main condition and necessity for any kind of human development, and hence the promotion of life extension takes precedence. 

Then a series of such meetings (seminars), including lectures and discussions on life extension and transhumansim, took place over the course of several years, mainly in Bar Ilan University. The number of participants was not large, from a few people to a few dozen people, yet these meetings helped to form and maintain the core community and to attract new members. From these meetings, there emerged the first (and still the only) site in Israel, fully dedicated to life extension and transhumanism:

These were the two main foundational elements for the development of the community: First, the regular meetings that enabled us to maintain the community and attract new participants, and second, the creation of the dedicated website that enabled the general public to learn about the community and the ideas of transhumanism and life-extension and find their way to the community. 

This way, thanks to the meetings and the website, also Israeli journalists found out about the community and gave it coverage. And that gave the additional boost to the spread of the transhumansit/life-extensionist ideas in Israel. Starting from the first report in the prestigious Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” in April 2010 the media coverage of the transhumanist ideas and community has been constant. Notably, the reports have been largely sympathetic. 

Members of the Israeli tranhumanist community have been reliable and positive people, mainly students and research students. They articulated their ideas clearly and logically. They did not create an impression of strangeness or alienation, but established the vision of transhumanism as an optimistic and progressive philosophical and social movement, thinking and working for the long term to benefit the entire society, even though the technologies it envisions are only emerging, and not yet present in daily life. 

Thus, there is no shame or danger for one’s career to identify as a transhuminist in Israel (perhaps as it is in some other countries), but such an identification is also not common, as there are also no real benefits from such an identification. Therefore the “declared tranhumanist” community has never been numerous in Israel (perhaps just tens of people who have self-identified as “transhumanist”). Also the movement has never been formally incorporated. Moreover, in recent years, the meetings and publications explicitly branded as “transhumanist” have become more rare here. 

Yet, the core values of transhumanism, such as the striving for the extension of healthy life for the entire society by technological means, has been much more prevalent in Israel. These core values have continued to be promoted in all walks of Israeli society. The main strategy for their promotion has been to raise awareness and support for the most practical and feasible beneficial technologies for the present, such as geroscience-based therapies for healthy longevity, but never loosing sight of the larger perspectives and the longer term possibilities of development.

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