By Kevin Gray
The first time I heard of Transhumanism it struck me as the product of too much coffee, too little sleep and far too much Star Trek. I still catch myself searching for The Onion logo when I spot a reference to it. After all, AI and robotics have yet to live up to their hype and even the cure for the common cold remains elusive.
Nonetheless, much of what we take for granted today was once undreamed of or deemed impossible. Heavier-than-air flight was scoffed at and “computer” was an occupational designation for humans. It seems like just the other day when we heard the iPhone would never sell…So while on the surface Transhumanism seems a bit far-fetched, I thought I’d take a closer look.
But first, what is it? According to Wikipedia:
Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as the ethics of using such technologies. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings.
Transhumanism comes in assorted flavors. Again, from Wikipedia:
- Democratic transhumanism, a political ideology synthesizing liberal democracy, social democracy, radical democracy and transhumanism.
- Extropianism, an early school of transhumanist thought characterized by a set of principles advocating a proactive approach to human evolution.
- Immortalism, a moral ideology based upon the belief that radical life extension and technological immortality is possible and desirable, and advocating research and development to ensure its realization.
- Libertarian transhumanism, a political ideology synthesizing libertarianism and transhumanism.
- Postgenderism, a social philosophy which seeks the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies.
- Singularitarianism, a moral ideology based upon the belief that a technological singularity is possible, and advocating deliberate action to effect it and ensure its safety.
- Technogaianism, an ecological ideology based upon the belief that emerging technologies can help restore Earth’s environment and that developing safe, clean, alternative technology should therefore be an important goal of environmentalists.
Imagine an ad suddenly popping up inside your head for a seminar on Posthuman Marketing? But maybe there would be no need for seminars – or marketing itself – in that sort of world. Imagine that our minds, memories and personalities one day are uploaded into a cloud of some sort…well it’s hard to imagine. The road to Posthumanism would surely be very jarring for the human race.
I have no technical or philosophical competence to comment in detail regarding the feasibility or potential consequences of Transhumanism or Posthumanism. However, I feel it’s something we should be thinking about because at least some of these dreams (nightmares?) may become reality in the not-too-distant future.
FYI, here are a few sources I dug up in my brief look into this fascinating yet disturbing subject:
- What is Transhumanism?
- Transhumanist Values (Nick Bostrom)
- TRANSHUMANIST PARTY
- Global Mind: Transhumanism, Freemasonry and the Internet as God (David Livingstone)
Eat, Drink, and be Merry, for tomorrow…???