In the quest to transcend humankind’s limits and take humanity to its next level of development physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, much is written and discussed about topics such as life extension and human augmentation. And this is for good reason, as humans have strived, since the beginning of time, to overcome their limits, do more, and be better. This includes, of course, living longer and healthier, which is among the most noble of all human goals.
However, in the midst of all this, there is a topic that is seldom discussed in Transhumanist circles, and that is the topic of depression, a condition which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affects more than 300 million people worldwide.
Making matters worse is the fact that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, a major contributor to disease, and in some cases, leads to suicide.
Given these facts, one would think more should be done to combat the plague of depression, but alas, we appear to be stuck with outdated treatments for a condition that cripples large segments of humanity and for many, threatens the very possibility of living longer and healthier.
Contrary to what many people may believe, an individual suffering from depression cannot simply “snap out of it,” and there is, as of yet, no established cure for depression, as there is for diseases such as smallpox. Indeed, depression is a particularly thorny problem to solve for many reasons, which include the fact that diagnosing it isn’t as cut and dried as other conditions, but also that the treatments for it have thus far not been very efficacious.
Those treatments include pharmacological (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft), non-pharmacological (cognitive behavioral therapy), and technological (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) solutions. However, if we are honest with ourselves, the data reveals that what we have been doing hasn’t been very effective, given that depression is on the rise worldwide. According to the WHO, the total estimated number of people living with depression worldwide increased by 18.4 percent between 2005 and 2015 to 322 million. Even if this increase is due to better and more accurate diagnoses, the incidence of depression isn’t decreasing, which is cause for concern.
Given these statistics, it is time to do something other than what has been done before. It is time for a new approach and a new way of thinking when it comes to treating and curing depression. Transhumanism may offer that light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, Transhumanism may very well be humanity’s best hope for a cure for depression, because it leaves no stone unturned in the quest to live a life of fewer limits, as well as improved health, and greater happiness and fulfillment. Imagine what could be done to solve depression if we approached treatment and a cure not in the standard ways, but by harnessing the full power of science and technology to do whatever it takes to assist the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering.
For instance, why is the technology of deep brain stimulation approved for treating Parkinson’s Disease, which, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation, affects 10 million people worldwide, but not approved for treating depression, which affects more than 300 million people globally? Scientific and technological breakthroughs should be leveraged to relieve the suffering of all people, and not just a few. This is the promise of Transhumanism – that all humans are worthy of a cure for what ails them, and therefore, all people inflicted with depression should get the help they need so that they can transcend the condition that threatens to wreck their lives.
Why is it that the most commonly-prescribed treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are the SSRIs Paxil and Zoloft, require daily dosing for many weeks to months, and have little to no effect in curing PTSD? On the other hand, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), has been proven to treat PTSD successfully in two to three sessions, yet it remains illegal as a Schedule 1 drug. This is the promise of Transhumanism – that we should look for creative, out-of-the-box ways to relieve suffering, which includes pharmacological, non-pharmacological, technological, and scientific methods.
If we are really serious about curing depression, as opposed to just putting bandages on a gaping wound in humanity’s well-being, we will have to do much more than we are doing right now, and we will have to reassess the way we are treating depression.
But why focus on depression, besides the fact that it destroys the lives of many millions of people and the treatments so far have been ineffective in curing it? Because depression does not care whether you are young or old, whether you are black or white, whether you are rich or poor, and whether you are physically healthy or not. Depression is an equal-opportunity destroyer of life. While heart attacks and pancreatic cancer may end lives quickly, depression ends lives slowly, ruthlessly robbing people of their happiness, sadistically stripping away their dignity, and mercilessly beating and drowning them in a dark, dreary swamp with little hope for a better future.
It is inhuman to ignore the plight of those suffering from depression and to give up the fight for a brighter, happier future for every individual on Earth. Transhumanism not only offers hope for a better future through inspiring and motivating humans to transcend their limits, but it also encourages us to look at problems from many different angles, and to dedicate our efforts toward actually resolving the challenges that humanity is facing.
Many Transhumanists are, understandably, focused on life extension and reversing aging, since life is the most precious thing we have. But life is a lot less beautiful when one is trapped in an inescapable labyrinthine nightmare, enfeebling one’s mind and tormenting one with endless movie-like scenes of their perceived past failures. In a sense, some people with depression feel there is not much point in attempting to extend their lives when they are continuously engulfed in profound sadness.
But the truth of the matter is that it is not people suffering from depression who have failed; it is we as a society who have failed them.
One of the ways we can rectify this situation and offer a real solution for those battling depression is by advocating for and creating breakthrough technologies and medicines that will successfully treat and cure this dreadful condition that has ruined so many precious, promising lives. Transhumanism is not just about advocating for life extension, it is also about advocating for a better quality of life through leveraging advances in science and technology to treat conditions such as depression.
Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.