As long as we have known death, we have dreamed of life without end. In The Future of Immortality, Anya Bernstein explores the contemporary Russian communities of visionaries and utopians who are pressing at the very limits of the human.
The Future of Immortality profiles a diverse cast of characters, from the owners of a small cryonics outfit to scientists inaugurating the field of biogerontology, from grassroots neurotech enthusiasts to believers in the Cosmist ideas of the Russian Orthodox thinker Nikolai Fedorov. Bernstein puts their debates and polemics in the context of a long history of immortalist thought in Russia, with global implications that reach to Silicon Valley and beyond. If aging is a curable disease, do we have a moral obligation to end the suffering it causes? Could immortality be the foundation of a truly liberated utopian society extending beyond the confines of the earth—something that Russians, historically, have pondered more than most? If life without end requires radical genetic modification or separating consciousness from our biological selves, how does that affect what it means to be human?
As vividly written as any novel, The Future of Immortality is a fascinating account of techno-scientific and religious futurism—and the ways in which it hopes to transform our very being.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the William A. Douglass Book Prize in Europeanist Anthropology, Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Anya Bernstein is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University and the author of Religious Bodies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism.
"Bernstein uses history as well as the contemporary landscape to riase questions about the chaging status of the category "human" in increasingly medically engineered bodies. In wonderfully thought-provoking passages, she muses over the relationships between body and mind, biology and technology to rethink, enlarge and playfully undermine the understanding of life itself."—Kate Brown, Times Literary Supplement
"A magic dwells. . . By holding these different viewpoints up against each other, [and] Bernstein shows us just how intricate the question of what makes us human really is."—Justine Buck Quijada, Politics, Religion, & Ideology
"Bernstein's radiant ethnography captures the intensity and ingenuity of people striving to conquer personal mortality via cryogenic freezing of the body or antiaging procedures, and connects such singular efforts to broader anxieties about the death of the planet, global extinction, and the loss of all human futures."—Alaina Lemon, University of Michigan
“Magnificent, brilliant, and compelling, this is a work of the highest erudition, spanning many different areas of ethnography, science, and history.”—Nancy Ries, Colgate University
"With extraordinary ethnographic detail and theoretical depth, this remarkable book tells the story of the Russian immortalists—champions of life extension and universal immortality. By positioning them within a rich history of Russian thought on the questions of life, death, and ethics, and vis-à-vis current debates in anthropology and science studies, it demonstrates that what is at stake is a biopolitical remaking of the relationship between body and mind, biology and technology, and the very status of the human. It is a must-read!"—Alexei Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation
“A brilliant, carefully documented, and elegantly written book about contemporary Russian visionaries who are striving to make human immortality a reality. Bernstein has taken on a complex, multifaceted subject that has deep Russian roots and global relevance.”—Michele Rivkin-Fish, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill