What is transhumanism?
Transhumanism is a philosophical construct that has undergone a process of global proliferation, advocating for the utilization of scientific advancements and technological innovations to augment the capabilities of the human physique. The proposed movement advocates for the utilization of technological advancements to address the challenges associated with aging, death, and disease. In a more restricted interpretation, transhumanism advocates for the adoption of diverse bodily changes for various purposes. These modifications encompass the substitution of deteriorating memory caused by Alzheimer’s disease with a computer algorithm, the digitization of memories, the replacement of wounded or absent limbs with prosthetic alternatives, and similar interventions. This movement advocates for the widespread availability and comprehensive application of life-enhancing technologies. The concept of “transhumanism,” denoting the idea of surpassing the limitations of human nature, was initially introduced by Julian Huxley, an English evolutionary scientist, in his work titled “Religion Without Revelation” in 1927. It is worth noting that Julian Huxley is the elder brother of Aldous Huxley, the renowned author. During the period of composition, emerging technologies were commencing to permeate the field of medicine, hence presenting more prospects to exert influence over the established natural order. The notion that augmenting human capabilities through technological advancements may emerge as a novel form of religion gained favor among contemporaries. However, it was during the 1960s, following the conclusion of the war, that a significant surge occurred. This period witnessed a distinct reimagining of the applications of scientific advances. During the 1960s, various phenomena emerged that mutually reinforced one another in a synergistic manner. These included the rapid advancement of technology, the proliferation of works in the science fiction genre, the establishment of cryonics as a field of research, and the exploration of human consciousness. In 1957, Huxley revisited the concept of transhumanism, which subsequently garnered interest from scientists Robert Ettinger and Evan Cooper. Their contributions set the groundwork for the field of cryonics, and this concept was further embraced by subsequent futurologists. Transhumanism posits that the entitlement to enhance one’s capacities is inherent to all individuals, as opposed to solely addressing the replacement of deteriorating organs due to illness or the effects of aging. Hence, an individual possessing an implant for the purpose of digitizing memories or equipped with a mechanical arm, exoskeleton, or computerized ocular device would not be classified as disabled, but rather as a transhuman or cyborg.
The contemporary prospects of transhumanism
According to experts in the field of futurology, transhumanism is anticipated to contribute to the alleviation of human suffering and agony, while also augmenting an individual’s agency and control over their own life. This would encompass an individual’s capacity to make choices regarding the timing of their existence and the option to terminate their life or discontinue their participation in life completely. In a more expansive context, transhumanism encompasses not alone the transformation of people into cyborgs via prosthetics and exoskeletons, but also encompasses the regulation and alteration of internal processes.
Improvement of brain capabilities
Currently, individuals have access to nootropic substances that have the potential to enhance cognitive function and induce a modified state of consciousness. In addition to pharmacological interventions aimed at enhancing cognitive abilities, researchers are also exploring the potential of neuroprosthetics, which are implantable devices designed to restore and augment brain functions.
The management and enhancement of the body’s internal functioning, including the regulation of circadian rhythms and metabolism, can be achieved by various approaches such as behavioral practices and pharmaceutical interventions.
The utilization of pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate physiological and psychological distress, alleviate anxiety, and assuage dread. In addition to the application of pharmacological substances, the implementation of palliative care is expected.
Enhancement of physical performance
The augmentation of physical strength and speed of movement has been observed through the utilization of implants, bionic prostheses, and exoskeletons.
Digital immortality and digital learning
The process of digitizing memories and transferring certain cognitive functions onto digital platforms, such as learning, as depicted in the film “The Matrix”. The process of capturing and preserving one’s personal attributes through the digitization of social media footprints, followed by the subsequent reconstruction of a digital replica of oneself.
Cloning and bioprosthetics
The concept of generating a personal clone for various purposes has been contemplated, such as delegating attendance to business meetings or acquiring additional organs for transplantation, as depicted in the film “The Island”.
Inducing anabiosis in an individual as a means of mitigating the effects of aging or potentially preventing mortality.
What concerns do critics of transhumanism harbor?
Despite garnering significant support from a multitude of individuals worldwide, who advocate for transhumanism, establish political factions, and suggest its use as a means to address pressing global issues such as the “silver tsunami” phenomenon and the escalating proportion of aged individuals within populations, transhumanism remains subject to severe criticism. For instance, given the premise of transhumanism which entails the ongoing enhancement of human capabilities, it raises the question of whether the fundamental aspects of human individuality can be preserved. Specifically, one would contemplate whether an individual whose brain has been placed onto a hard disk drive can still be regarded as a person. Alternatively, may one consider the scenario of a brain in which half of its composition has been substituted by an implant? Would an individual of this nature be regarded as competent and possessing inherent human qualities? The second obstacle is to the issue of inequality, namely concerning the potential consequences for individuals who lack the financial means to access improvements. Is there a possibility that their desirability as employees will decrease upon being hired? Is it economically advantageous for firms to obtain life insurance policies, and will financial institutions be willing to extend loans to them? These inquiries collectively imply that technology has the potential to introduce novel forms of inequality that have not been previously observed. Conservationists express concerns over the implications of transhumanism, as they contemplate if advancements in technology may contribute to a rise in environmental catastrophes. The exact answers to many of these concerns remain elusive; yet, the concept of transhumanism is gaining prominence in the contemporary consciousness. There are divergent perspectives about the potential of this approach in addressing numerous challenges within the realm of healthcare. On one hand, proponents argue that it presents a viable resolution to various issues, while on the other hand, advocates contend that it offers a promising avenue for enhancing the well-being of a substantial population, provided that technologies, pharmaceuticals, and bodily enhancements are made accessible to the general public.