The Coming of the Future of Humanity

(Bostrom, 2009, p. 20)

Edward Bulwer-Lytton The Coming Race (1871), is set in an Utopian underground world discovered by a miner and his companion. A accident leaves the miner dead and the companion alone to explore the underground, where he soon encounters a new world and a new species, the Vril-ya.

The body of the vril-ya is described as taller and more beatifull than the human, they radiate superior intellect and mild mannerliness, appearing almost godlike. The vril-ya seems to have mastered technology through the power of vril, which is the all permeating fluid of life and destruction, through which they have managed to engineer, among other crafty inventions, wings for themselves and mastered the art of flying. These wings are fashioned in a way in which they are almost a part of their bodies and it takes quite some time before we find out that the wings are not a natural part of the vril-ya’s bodies. This wing-construction obviously bears some resemblance to a more modern comprehension of cyborgian imrpovements on the body.

If we look at The Coming Race through the 5 criterion posted about Posthumanity by Nick Bostrom(2009) in Future of Humanity, we see little description in term of life expectancy and population mass. We do however see a significant increase for the vril-ya in cognitive capabilities, control over sensory input and decrease in psychological suffering.


Bostroms 5 criterion for Posthumanity:

  • Population greater than 1 trillion persons
  • Life expectancy greater than 500 years
  • Large fraction of the population has cognitive capacities more than two standard
    deviations above the current human maximum
  • Near-complete control over the sensory input, for the majority of people for most of
    the time
  • Human psychological suffering becoming rare occurrence
    (Bostrom, 2009, p. 20)


The vril-ya have cognitive capabilities far superior to the human, learning the language compared to learning the human language is a far bigger task, just based on the inconceivability of the concepts on which their language builds.

War, politics and discrepancies are no longer an issue for the vril-ya, through the power of the vril, they have become enlightened beyond what is humanly possible, and there seem to be no psychological suffering, with the exception of one fit of jealousy, which haven’t reoccurred for 2000 years.

The vril-ya seems to control sensory input in a radical different and more complete manner than humans, they are able to enter into trances and likewise enter others into trances, in the book they map the human language through such a trance state.

In this way The Coming Race really does seem to encapsulate many of the contemporary ideas of the Posthuman capabilities.



Lytton, E.B(1871) The Coming Race. cpt. 1-12

Bostrom, N,(2009) Future of Humanity. Published in New Waves in Philosophy of Technology, eds. Jan-Kyrre Berg Olsen, Evan Selinger, & Soren Riis (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2009)

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Maja Tingberg Kruse
Hi Kim! Thank you for your post! Very interesting to draw in Bostroms definitions of posthumanity. I agree, as was the focus of my own essay, that the focal point of their posthumanity seems to be expressed most obviously in their emotional (psychological suffering) differences from present-day humanity, their control over sensory input due to the force of Vril, and their greater cognitive abilities. The exerpt we have written don’t mention (as far as I recollect at least) anything about their life expectancy, but taking all the other examples of the power of Vril into consideration, it seems very likely… Read more »