What is Transhumanism?
I am a big fan of all thing techie. I marvel at the acceleration of our technological prowess, and imagine a world where one day we will merge with machines as the next level of our evolution. I believe now it’s a directed evolution for humanity.
I have been watching Fringe and they touched on a Transhumanism. I was fascinated. Is is hubris for us to think that we can develop further in technology? Will it foster eugenics? These are ethical debates which will fought as we come ever closer to advancing and joining with our technological creations.
What is Transhumanism?
Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities. The movement regards aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death as unnecessary and undesirable. Transhumanists look to biotechnologies and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Dangers, as well as benefits, are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.
The term “transhumanism” is symbolized by H+ (previously >H) and is often used as a synonym for “human enhancement”. Although the first known use of the term dates from 1957, the contemporary meaning is a product of the 1980s when futurists in the United States began to organize what has since grown into the transhumanist movement. Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “posthuman”. Transhumanism is therefore sometimes referred to as “posthumanism” or a form of transformational activism influenced by posthumanist ideals.
The transhumanist vision of a transformed future humanity has attracted many supporters and detractors from a wide range of perspectives. Transhumanism has been described by one critic, Francis Fukuyama, as the world’s most dangerous idea, while one proponent, Ronald Bailey, counters that it is the “movement that epitomizes the most daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic aspirations of humanity”.
It is a matter of debate whether transhumanism is a branch of “posthumanism” and how posthumanism should be conceptualised with regard to transhumanism. The latter is often referred to as a variant or activist form of posthumanism by its conservative, Christian and progressive critics, but also by pro-transhumanist scholars who, for example, characterise it as a subset of “philosophical posthumanism”. A common feature of transhumanism and philosophical posthumanism is the future vision of a new intelligent species, into which humanity will evolve, which will supplement humanity or supersede it. Transhumanism stresses the evolutionary perspective, including sometimes the creation of a highly intelligent animal species by way of cognitive enhancement (i.e. biological uplift), but clings to a “posthuman future” as the final goal of participant evolution.
Nevertheless, the idea to create intelligent artificial beings, proposed, for example, by roboticist Hans Moravec, has influenced transhumanism. Moravec’s ideas and transhumanism have also been characterised as a “complacent” or “apocalyptic” variant of posthumanism and contrasted with “cultural posthumanism” in humanities and the arts. While such a “cultural posthumanism” would offer resources for rethinking the relations of humans and increasingly sophisticated machines, transhumanism and similar posthumanisms are, in this view, not abandoning obsolete concepts of the “autonomous liberal subject” but are expanding its “prerogatives” into the realm of the posthuman. Transhumanist self-characterisations as a continuation of humanism and Enlightenment thinking correspond with this view.
Some secular humanists conceive transhumanism as an offspring of the humanist freethought movement and argue that transhumanists differ from the humanist mainstream by having a specific focus on technological approaches to resolving human concerns and on the issue of mortality. However, other progressives have argued that posthumanism, whether it be its philosophical or activist forms, amount to a shift away from concerns about social justice, from the reform of human institutions and from other Enlightenment preoccupations, toward narcissistic longings for a transcendence of the human body in quest of more exquisite ways of being. In this view, transhumanism is abandoning the goals of humanism, the Enlightenment, and progressive politics.
For more information: