THE FIRST INSTALLMENT OF OUR H+ GUEST SERIES
WHAT IS TRANSHUMANISM AND H+?
Transhumanism is a philosophy and cultural movement, which suggests that it is both possible and desirable to enhance the human body and mind through the application of technology and science.
Transhumanism seeks to improve the human condition, enhance human flourishing, extend our lifespan, and even to transform the nature of humanity itself. Transhumanism proposes that we can use reason and critical thinking to imagine and create desirable futures; those that enhance or expand our joyful experience, longevity, intelligence, wisdom and knowledge.
Humanity+, sometimes also know as “H+”, is a membership based not for profit organization that promotes the philosophy of transhumanism and seeks to educate people around the world regarding real world developments and especially areas that require further research and investment.
We focus on the benefits of transhumanist technologies and research developments especially surrounding the so-called NBIC technologies – nanotech, biotech, information technology and cognitive technologies.
WHAT DO TRANSHUMANISTS BELIEVE?
Transhumanists value morphological and cognitive freedom but generally seek to improve their bodies and minds using whatever means are available to them. That implies that individuals should be able to choose how they appear, how they enhance themselves with technology, what they consume and so on. This includes the use of chemical enhancement such as nootropics, implanted cybernetic enhancements, body modification including gender modification, etc. Imagination is the limit not technology.
Transhumanists also seek life extension and desire longevity up to or even including “immortality” such as it might exist and be possible within the laws of physics. We already live much longer than our ancestors; and average life expectancy has doubled over the past 200 years for both men and women in developed nations. As a result of continuing advances in understanding human biology and medical science, it is not unreasonable to expect another near term doubling in life expectancy.
Transhumanists also consider the application of technology to health therefore. We don’t just seek to live longer but also healthier lives. For example, through the use of new sensing technologies we can generate very accurate real time pictures of our health and well-being. In the not very distant future, artificial intelligence and crowd sourced human experts will give us medical advice and help us decide on personalized treatments, which we will then administer to ourselves.
Already the populations of many nations are living longer, and reproducing less, leading to demographically older populations in almost all developed countries. This trend will continue and accelerate as medicine advances and aging is eventually halted and reversed. But through age reversal technologies, even people that are over 100 years old will appear to be young adults or at most middle aged. Soon it will become hard to tell how old someone is from their physical appearance alone.
Importantly, transhumanism rejects the notion of a fixed human nature. Instead we see human nature as a dynamic evolving process. Within this context, we have the important idea of the self or ourselves, which we want to preserve. And protect.
However, the self is recognized by transhumanists to be in part a culturally and experientially determined artifact; that is, it is an illusion and this fact can be experimentally demonstrated, i.e. via the rubber hand illusion. Somewhat surprisingly our everyday idea of the self actually includes things outside of the body such as tools we use and perhaps even apparently immaterial and ephemeral effects such as our utterances and actions. Objects that we wear or value may become so important, so intimate with our self-conceptions, that they are for all practical purposes parts of our body. This includes being literally mapped as part of our body within the neural structures responsible for identifying the boundary of the self. This has, for example, been demonstrated experimentally to occur with tool use. Consider our addiction to mobile devices and social media in this context; and this is just the beginning of the new emergent world of direct emotional and social signaling and connectivity.
Transhumanists consider, as another example, that we might extend our sensory inputs and deploy them across multiple bodies; that is, one mind might control multiple avatars appearing in both physical and virtual worlds. We will employ artificial intelligence to aid and extend our ability to sense and take actions in the world,; our AI agents and “second selves” will act for us online and in the real world, allowing us to appear to be in many places at once. We’ll share experiences or reintegrate our agents’ memories into our own so that we’ll remember what they’ve done.
It is important to distinguish transhumanist designs and concepts from our darker cousin “cyberpunk” with which transhumanism is often confused. While trasnshumanism and cyberpunk sometimes overlap and explore similar themes, i.e. greater than human artificial intelligence, virtual reality, DIY body and bio-hacking, neural implants, are often included in both; transhumanism is a positive future oriented philosophy, while cyberpunk is a literary genre often exploring near term effects of technologies on human nature and culture.
As a literary genre, cyberpunk tends to provide more exciting environments for storytelling; cyberpunk stories are usually thrillers of one sort or another, and take place in what are largely dystopias, that is, dark visions of possible future worlds where people must overcome great odds, i.e. fight against super human machines, where the very nature of being human is questioned, etc.
In contrast to this, transhumanism suggests that positive futures are possible, and that more importantly it is up to us to help shape and decide upon the sort of future we are going to have. Transhumanist founding father FM 2030 differentiated his view from traditional political viewpoints, right and left wing, by calling it “up wing”. We consider the potential that the future can be better than it is today, and we apply reason, critical thinking, and effort to reach our objectives. When problems are encountered, instead of becoming mired or trapped, we look for approaches that “obsolete” or render irrelevant the dilemma.
“WITH GREAT POWER THERE MUST ALSO COME -- GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.” - STAN LEE
“WHAT IT IS -> IS UP TO US.” - HOWARD RHEINGOLD
"OBSOLETE THE DILEMMA!" - BEN GOERTZEL
To read more articles about Transhumanism, and Posthumanism, from H+ Magazine, click here.
And, to learn more about the Humanity+ Organisation, as well as upcoming conferences and events, go here.
The Primo Post-Human Graphic is by H+ chair, Natasha Vita-More.