The Desire to Transcend Ourselves

Why do we feel the need to ‘improve’ our selves?

What does it even mean to ‘improve’ a human?

The human desire to augment our power, abilities, wealth, and riches.

Alexander the Great

It seems this desire is a good one. If we didn’t have the desire for more, we would probably still be in a cave somewhere munching on acorns, instead of eating all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ and using the internet and shooting photos.

What does it mean to “improve” a human?

The strange thing:

We think that somehow we humans are inadequate.

Where does this come from? First from Christian morality:

You are born a sinner, and your purpose of life is to cleanse yourself of sin, and go to heaven after you die.

In some ways, our naturalistic instincts are slandered.

The technological desire

eyes closeup crop glasses

To have technology (internet, computers) is to make us into demi-gods. 2/3rds human, and 1/3rd god.

Consider, if having a smartphone with internet access with the entire sum of human knowledge (thus far) accessible in your front pocket isn’t godlike, I don’t know what is.

With technology our desire is to continually augment our power, abilities, and to transcend our simple fleshy bodies.

But what do we really want?

It seems the simple Bay Area tech desire:

To constantly become more and more productive, in order to make more and more money, in order to purchase more things and tools.

But it does seem that the ultimate goal is:

Augment ourselves and abilities in order to make more money.

And why this obsession with money? We see wealth as a “quantification” of our power. Even kings of the past would hoard hundreds and thousands of oxen, tonnes of gold, slaves, women, and kingdoms in order to continually augment their sense of power.

So it seems what we really want is more power, not more money.

More power for what?

Do we really want more power for the sake of more power? Perhaps.

At the end of 1984, the confession was:

Those in power want more power for the sake of more power. They don’t want it for money or other things. Power itself as the ultimate intoxicant.

It is common in organizations when we hear of someone “power tripping”. Power is the most potent drug — and we always want more of it.

Practical applications of power

But what can we practically do with the power?

  1. Get people to do for us what we don’t want to do for ourselves (for example Uber drivers to drive for us, or people to clean our houses, or cook our food)
  2. For some people, desire for sexual power or dominance.
  3. Power as self-freedom and autonomy: Not to be coerced what we don’t want to do. To do whatever we want with our free time and human metabolism.
  4. The desire for transcendence: The desire for immortality, to transcend our bodies, and the desire to propagate our genes (our desire to have children and pass down our DNA to future generations).


I will continue to philosophize on power:

  1. Why have power?
  2. What are our practical applications of power?
  3. How much of power is related to other human beings. For example, perhaps we can think of ‘power’ as simply having control over other human beings.
  4. Is it possible for us to have “independent power”– power that doesn’t involve other humans?
  5. The importance of physical strength and power.


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