Lincoln Cannon is religious about human enhancement.
‘We’re on the cusp of a biotech revolution that will make the information technology revolution of the late 90s / early 2000s look like a small thing in retrospect.’
Cannon, a philosopher and technologist, is a founder, board member and former president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, the world’s largest advocacy network for the ethical use of technology and religion to extend human abilities. He is also CEO of Thrivous, a company on a mission to connect customers to technologies to improve brain and body, starting with a range of cognitive enhancing nootropics.
He recently told The Eternities podcast, ‘I think [society’s] going to see [its] pills become smarter and enable us to integrate our bodies and brains with our information technology [so] we can interact with them with the same sort of precision that we interact with our desktop computers.
‘You’ll be able to make changes to what it’s doing in your body “on the fly”. You might pull out your smartphone and say, “Hey, I need some more energy”, and it would communicate with, say, the nanobots that were put in your body through the pill you took, and they start affecting your biochemistry differently based on that request.’
Cannon’s vision for technology’s transcendental potential can be traced, he believes, to his beginnings. ‘I was raised in a Christian home, Mormon, and my father was a computer software engineer. So I was raised religiously and with a high esteem for technology. Mormons tend to regard technology in a very positive light as a tool that should be used to do good in the world. [Mormonism] on a metaphysical level is a very materialist religion; heaven is something to be made here on earth, God in Mormonism is an embodied being.
‘When you take these ideas and couple them with technology, a lot of Mormons are raised in a way which is implicitly transhumanist, with this notion that there is something grander, something more loving, compassionate and creative that we can become – and that God wants us to become – in part through the application of technology. So I was raised with the attitude that technology is a good thing and there is religious grounds for that. I feel like I had implicitly been [a transhumanist] my entire life.’
On the topic of human enhancement in the present, he said, ‘While there might be some really amazing things we can do in human enhancement say 25, 50, 100 years from now, there are practical things that we can today to improve our cognition, to improve our wellbeing, to mitigate the effects of ageing. There are many things that good, sound scientific evidence demonstrates can be done today to improve your focus, your memory, your mood, your attention, [and] decrease the risks of cognitive ageing. Those are the kinds of things that we’re trying to focus on [with Thrivous].’
His company’s range presently consists of nutraceuticals as opposed to pharmaceutical ‘smart drugs’, and each product allegedly based upon the most current scientific research available.
‘Some people have the mistaken notion that pharmaceuticals are always more effective than nutraceuticals [but] there’s actually evidence to the contrary.
He goes on, ‘A lot of [nootropics] companies historically have hidden their dosages and ingredients in proprietary formulas, and so people consuming these things don’t really know how much of the ingredient they are taking nor how effective they are because they’re not really based on good human studies.
‘We’ve decided to reposition ourselves in contrast of all of that with full open source formulas, with dosages that are clearly indicated on the labels and that match the dosages that have been used in clinical trials.’
The approach has paid off with Thrivous recently receiving important endorsements from the nootropics community, with inclusion upon the reliable suppliers lists with both the notoriously scrupulous Nootropics Subreddit and the oldest Nootropics Facebook group.
But why try to support and tweak the system in this manner anyway? Cannon comments, ‘If I’m anxious, moody, I can’t focus, my work suffers. My ability to interact with people I love, and to serve them, or just to enjoy the things I like in life – all those things can suffer when my mental state is poor.
‘I would say that this actually isn’t a new thing. People have been using nootropics for thousands of years. We haven’t called them nootropics until recently, and we haven’t had good scientific evidence for identifying the most effective ones until recently. But people for a very long time have used herbs, minerals and various types of diets to try to improve their mental states so that they can do all these things.’