You’ve likely heard a word tossed about in the narrative of late that has you somewhat dumbfounded: transhumanism.
What on earth does that mean?
What is Transhumanism?
While the term has been around for decades, it’s always been a fringe aspect of the scientific community. And by fringe, I mean fringe of the fringe. Nobody knew what transhumanism was. However, now the movement is growing like never before, and the well-informed American needs to know what it encompasses.
The end goal of transhumanism: defeat suffering, pain, disease, inequality, and death through biotechnological implants.
Do you remember the Borg from Star Trek? While perhaps not as grotesque, transhumanism seeks a similar path to reach its end goal. In some cases, you can see aspects of transhumanism in today’s culture. Ever seen anybody with a prosthetic leg? Transhumanists would claim them as one of their own.
But that only scratches the surface of the situation. A true transhumanist wants to see things go much further. Brain implants, neural links to the internet, and much more are all part of their ultimate goals.
And what is the ultimate goal?
The Difference Between Posthumanism and Transhumanism
It’s important to note that there is a difference between transhumanism and Posthumanism. Yet, just as socialism is the stepping-stone to communism, one is the stepping-stone to the other.
Transhumanism seeks to use technological implants to improve the human condition.
Posthumanism aims to eradicate humanity as we know it altogether.
Within the realm of Posthumanism, the ultimate end goal is the death of death – to become immortal. And for that to happen, you have to become a machine. Such is the end goal of Posthumanism.
What Are the Aspects to Usher in a Transhumanist World?
There are several talking points transhumanists will reference when discussing how to reach their end goals. Chief of these are:
- Nanotechnology – If you’ve ever seen Johnny Depp’s Transcendence and witnessed how nanotechnology was used in medicine there to make the sick well, the injured whole, and the weak strong, this is precisely what they are talking about.
According to transhumanists, using nanotech to become stronger, smarter, and teleport are all potential uses for such science.
- Molecular assemblers – This is the creation of living material or lifeforms. 3D bioprinting could somewhat be an aspect of this. If you have a burn victim who needs a skin graft but whose burns are so complete that he doesn’t have any locations to harvest from, then 3D bioprinting could print the skin graft for him.
Designer babies would probably fall under this umbrella as well. Imagine the notion of showing up to a fertility clinic and choosing the traits you want your child to have (boy, blue eyes, athletic, intelligent, etc.) and then having a scientist compile those genetic traits together for you into an embryo. According to transhumanists, the end goal is a healthier child that meets your expectations and wishes.
- Epigenetics – This is the act of changing genes. While this is already possible (and happens) by the lifestyle you live, transhumanists want to take things a step further. They actively want to change your DNA to improve your disease resistance, to make you stronger, smarter, and so on. If you’ve seen Iron Man 3 with the fire people, it’s pretty much the same concept.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Regularly touted as a means for improving our knowledge base, AI is argued as being the perfect scientist, and thus, the ideal means of further improving our condition. Done via the generation of a ‘superintelligence,’ a self-conscious AI connects to the internet. The AI quickly gains more knowledge than all of humanity combined, throughout all of history. This type of knowledge would mean we’d get sooner access to improvements in surgery, medicine, fuel, and the like.
- Uploads – This is a concept considerably pushed by Ray Kurzweil, likely the most famous transhumanist around. It’s the point at which mankind melds with machines, entering a virtual world.
What’s the Background Story Here?
To my knowledge, the earliest notions of transhumanism can be found in a 1929 article by JD Bernal titled The World, The Flesh, and The Devil. Bionic implants, cognitive enhancement, and space colonization were all discussed here. While there are arguments made for transhumanism being a thought process even further back, I think this paper is the most modern example.
However, the first self-described transhumanists didn’t meet until the early 1980s in Los Angeles at the University of California. The movement continued to spread as Nick Bostrom founded the World Transhumanist Association in 1998 (now Humanity+).
Milestones were made for the movement. Among those were:
Kevin Warwick has a 100-electrode array implanted into the nerves of his left arm in 2002 that directly linked his nervous system to the internet.
Artist Neil Harbisson had a curved antenna implanted into his brain, allowing him to see infrared and ultraviolet colors.
The Journal of Posthuman Studies was started in 2017 by Penn State Press.
As you can see, transhumanist thought has been around for quite some time. As time goes on, it will become more frequently and openly discussed. You can check out Steve Quayle’s book on the subject for more information.
Are There Moral Conundrums With Transhumanism?
Just as with anything, there will be pros and cons, and transhumanism is no exception here.
What are your thoughts on:
George Washington having wooden teeth?
What about a little girl getting a cochlear implant?
Are you ok with a little boy getting a prosthetic leg after a freak accident leaves him missing his original?
What are your thoughts on braces?
All of these situations had a problem solved by an implant/addition created by current technology. It’s hard to have a problem with such.
But do transhumanists take things a step further? I believe they do.
How Far Are Transhumanists Willing to Go?
Uploads: Remember, this is the melding of man with machine. Ray Kurzweil points out in his book The Singularity is Near, this is when your consciousness is uploaded to a cloud. Uploads enable a person to theoretically teleport and manifest anywhere on earth. These capabilities are made possible by an ever-present cloud of nanobots that reassemble the person.
Can the soul be transferred out of your body to a machine, though? Nope. To me, that is mass murder/suicide. A simulation may predict how you would react in every situation. However, it wouldn’t be the real you. The real you would have died at the moment of upload.
Nanotechnology | Epigenetics: If ever-present nanotechnology is a goal, what about those who don’t consent to such. Is this not akin to a sheddable vaccine? Is it not a violation of informed consent? If I don’t want nanotechnology interacting with my body, what right does anyone have to force me to do so?
Molecular Assemblers: What could be the cost of tinkering with genetic material? What if problems arise we can’t undo? Could we very easily end up with a Will Smith I Am Legend type scenario? Or, humans being genetically engineered to be tiny dolls, super polite waitresses, or other one-shot entities like those in Cloud Atlas?
Artificial Intelligence: How much of your autonomy are you willing to give up to a machine? Eventually, one should ask, “How much government control should we hand over to artificial intelligence?”
Are There Dangers to Transhumanism?
Aside from the moral qualms, there are some veritable dangers to transhumanist philosophy as well.
The Singularity: As pointed out above, this would be mass suicide/murder. In a world where climate change is a chief concern, though, it could be argued the more uploads we have, the more negligible effect we’ll have as a whole on the planet. Could mandatory uploads result? This point is most certainly very remote and far out. However, if transhumanists are going to raise it, we should think of some response aforehand, should we not?
Nanotechnology: Both Michael Crichton and Nick Bostrom have pointed out the dangers of self-replicating nanotechnology – something many transhumanists favor. How do you get self-replicating nanotechnology to stop? Does it reproduce indefinitely, becoming a new problem? Could nanotechnology be hacked? What’s to stop somebody from using your body’s nanobot to drill a hole through your heart, eat your pancreas, or cause a blood clot? What if you were given nanotechnology with capabilities you weren’t entirely made aware of?
Epigenetics: DNA is notoriously complex. While one may believe they’ve created a solution, what if they’ve made a bad genetic trait that’s not revealed till 30 years down the road? Puberty is genetic, striking 13 years or so after birth. Baldness is genetic, striking decades after birth. Who’s to say they won’t create something more severe like psychosis that spontaneously demonstrates at the age of 25?
We literally have no idea. Why? Because it’s never been done before? What if the bad trait created becomes inherited? Perhaps it’s that somebody’s arm rots off when they turn 38. We end up with a whole generation of kids who are bound to suffer the same fate. Once more, while that’s an extreme example, it gets us to think about the host of potential possibilities that need to be considered before engaging in such an action.
What is the Future of Transhumanism?
According to Klaus Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to a fusion of our physical, digital, and biological identity.”
Istvan’s Coffin Shaped Immortality Bus
Some wonder if this is verification the Great Reset is foundationally driven towards transhumanism. We’ve most certainly seen it’s a growing movement. In 2016, noted transhumanist Zoltan Istvan actually ran for US president.
So where are we going to turn next? It’s hard to say. I believe that nanotechnology will be one of the prime movers in the near future. However, I do know this: transhumanism is here to stay, and it is only going to gain even more momentum within the next few years.
It pays to stay well-informed on what is happening here. This movement is going to impact your life.