Monday, October 27, 2008


Transhumanism, this is a term that is becoming more familiar to the average individual. However I am often surprised at how frequently I get a blank look when I mention the term. Transhumanism is a collection of studies including, but not limited to, philosophy, ethics, cybernetics, robotics, neurophysiology, quantum mechanics, computer engineering and research into artificial intelligence. As such, there is a lot of room to play with when discussing this topic. If I had to describe transhumanism as succinctly as possible, I would call it the movement to push humanity past its biological limits and take our future as a specie into our own hands.

While the reactions to the concept of transhumanism is rather varied, my personal view is one that is entirely in favor of. I see it as both the next step our specie should take and the greatest chance to reduce human (and non-human) suffering. Many of the technologies being developed from within the trasnhuman movement could very well eliminate horrors that we today accept as normal. Through a biological, mechanical, or fusion of the two paths, our specie looks to make disease, disabilities (both physical and mental), and suffering in general a thing of the past.

The biological path includes technologies as stem cell, tissue and organ regeneration, life extension, gene therapy (including recombinant DNA), trans-specie genetic integration, and other genetic engineering technologies. These technologies look not to only repair the ‘damaged’, but to improve humanity in general on a biological level.

The mechanical path includes neural integrated prosthetics, brain augmentation, medical nanomachines, sense augmentation, and many other augmentations. This path would allow for humans to merge with their creations. It is a path we have been on for generations already. We already interact with computers in a way that is nearly symbiotic. We implant machines in those with medical issues to allow them to live. It is not a very large step to imagine a time when we have merged with these machines on a more complete level.

There is a third sub-path of the mechanical one. This is the path of the mind. By augmenting our brains, we could have access to a whole new world, the cyber world. Everyone who is reading this now has experienced with the cyber world. Now imagine connecting with it not through sight and mechanical input (typing, cameras, microphones), but with neural input. Imagine logging your very brain onto the web. Imagine the transfer of ideas in their rawest form. Imagine interacting with people from across the planet in a fully artificial enviorment (think a less dystopic Matrix).

Once these technologies become available, we will have to revise what it means to be human. This is not a bad thing. We have been doing it for years. From the breaking of the boundaries of race, gender, mental and physical disability and creed we have learned that humanity is not a small group that is easily defined. As with the step of integration with machine, the expansion of the definition of human is something that we are already doing, and will continue to do so. I would love to hear people’s thoughts on this subject, be them for or against.

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