A Transhumanist’s Essays: I Can Lead You by the Hand but These Are My Eyes


I can lead you by the hand through some ideas, possibilities, and consequences of transhumanism, but these are my eyes. I cannot see with yours. I don’t know what you want to see. This is what I see.

I can lead you by the hand but you might not like what you see. I’m writing about the future and emerging technologies that lead like mile markers to destinations that must change us. Or kill us all.

I can lead you by the hand but we’re taking a detour to the past. My past. Yes, this is also my memoir. You might not want to give me your hand. To tell you the truth, my truth, I have to get personal about this, because technology was there almost from the very beginning. My first memory is of a dog named Nick and the vista from a farm in Lyle, Washington. My second of cats or chicks (I remember newborn chickens hatching in the hay in the loft in the barn, but my parents tell me that’s impossible.) A memory of my little brother, maybe having gotten stuck between a bed and the wall. And the next vivid one is of planets, robots, and science fiction in 1977 when I was four. I was already technology’s most glad advocate before I considered identifying as a transhumanist.

Transhumanism, but I’ll write about being beaten as a child, about being devoted to pseudoscience and the Face on Mars, about Carl Sagan and Richard Hoagland, about falling up, about being gay, about being naive, about anxiety, about being an atheist, a skeptic, a writer, about collecting these identities but why “transhumanist” is the one identity I think fits me the best, about how my thoughts on technology and its impact on humanity were shaped, and about the tropes I love the most in speculative fiction and in transhumanism because I need to believe that the future can be better.

I can lead you by the hand to meanings for the words “transhumanism” and “transhumanist” and others besides, but these are often English words and my upbringing is American Pacific Northwest and my coming-of-age is upstate New York bluntness. I can only see through the narrow slit of my own experience. I’m sorry. The past got personal and it gave me tunnel vision. I have my own definition of transhumanism because I want it to be something that maybe you won’t want it to be.

I can lead you by the hand but do you want to be transformed? Do you want you and your family and your friends to be? Do you want to see technological change writ large upon the world itself and inside of you? Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is even worse when it’s straight out of science fiction and there is no reprieve as there is when you close the book or turn off the TV. Maybe you are just fine with the way things are today. You might even wish for yesterday. I’m on my own timeline, one foot in the present, a slightly more firm stance then when I was younger, but always with the other emphatically in the future. I live in the future, and I’ll write about that, too.

I can lead you by the hand and you might ask me why I choose this particular path. All I can tell you is I thought this path was the better way. For me. But I’m also thinking of you. You as audience. I’m thinking of the way other people write about transhumanism and how I want to approach the topic differently, I hope for your benefit. It might seem lonely, this path we’re taking. Isolated. Sorry about that. I’m not really apologizing. You made it this far.

I can lead you by the hand and you can lead me by the hand. Or you can cast me off. What is transhumanism anyway? Why are journeys always so melodramatic? Who asked?

I can lead you by the hand and it’ll be intimate, because I’m terribly lonely and you were the only one who read this far and began to ask yourself Is this the future I want, a future of reading these essays? Do I want his future, too, a little piece shared from it, even as I head rapidly toward my own?

I cannot predict the future. I can write about it. I’ll write about the past, where it started for me, other beginnings. I’ll write about the present and where we are today. I’ll write about the road ahead and how it’s gloomy with not knowing for sure until it’s here. I can lead you by the hand but I’m very much afraid. I never wanted to take this journey alone. I’m afraid of what you will think about me. About these essays. About the future. Are you going to take my hand?

These are my eyes and this is what I see.

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), his Micro.blog (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).