ADSactly Tech News: An Exploration of Transhumanism
The concept of 'transhumanism' is becoming increasingly discussed and explored.
Scientists and technologists are exploring concepts around extending human lifespans and delaying death or potentially eliminating it through the use of technology.
For centuries philosophers and academics have tried to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes us human. Is it our compassion? Or the notion that human beings have souls? Is it our ability to work together and overcome obstacles or the never ending pursuit of improving ourselves?
In this article I'd like to discuss a topic that is unknown to many, a topic referred to as 'transhumanism' and what it means for the future of society.
In Mark O’Connell's book which was appropriately named 'To Be a Machine,' the transhumanist movement is summed in a very clear and concise way. “It is the belief that we can and should eradicate ageing as a cause of death; that we can and should use technology to augment our bodies and our minds; that we can and should merge with machines, remaking ourselves, finally, in the image of our own higher ideals.”
Lets take a moment to explore this idea in more detail before delving deeper into the issue shall we? There are people on this planet working everyday in an effort to stop the ageing process in the pursuit of essentially eliminating it as a cause of death. Who wouldn't want to live forever? Well now we have entered a real philisophical dilemma that has been discussed and debated by many.
But if scientists and technologists are able to accomplish this feat wouldn't this technology only be reserved for the uber-rich? I mean, if everyone in the world lived forever, wouldn't that cause untold havoc on the environment further increasing the problem of overpopulation? It certainly would.
So what is transhumanism exactly? From the literal translation it is the application of change to the human species. But what type of change are we talking about here? Well basically it amounts to the idea of technologically enhancing our bodies. If this sounds completely foreign to you, in actuality this is not a new concept and scientists are getting closer to this goal as technology advances exponentially as it has the past century. You could even apply this concept to inventions already existing and being used on our planet, things like wooden legs, hearing aids, spectacles and false teeth. We generally think about technology in terms of electronic devices. In actuality the word technology refers to tools that we use to accomplish goals.
In future, we might use implants to augment our senses so we can detect infrared or ultraviolet radiation directly or boost our cognitive processes by connecting ourselves to memory chips. Ultimately, by merging man and machine, science will produce humans who have vastly increased intelligence, strength, and lifespans; a near embodiment of gods.
I'm not sure how readers feel about these ideas presented above. Detecting radiation may be useful but I hope we don't live in a world where it is necessary. Increasing cognitive processes sounds appealing but I'm not sure I'd enjoy having a 'memory chip' implanted in my brain.
The problem I see with all this revolves around competition. If people start merging with machine to increase their intelligence, strength and lifespans, how can we compete with them without doing the same... Maybe it would be better to just live in the jungle and go against the herd if that truly does become our future reality?
We must ask the question, is this what we want? Apparently the advocates of transhumanism argue the fact that there are incredible benefits to be reaped from integrating man and machine. However, if we make this move and completely blur the line between man and machine, entering a true age of transhumanism, it leaves a whirlwind of ethical problems and dilemmas that these same advocates are reluctant to discuss.
The interesting thing about this topic is that whether you like the notion of transhumanism or not, it is happening all around us, slowly and methodically. For example at an exhibition entitled 'The Future Starts Here' which opens at the V&A museum in London this month, a new line of technology designed to assist human beings will be unveiled.
Items on display will include “powered clothing” made by the US company Seismic. Worn under regular clothes, these suits mimic the biomechanics of the human body and give users – typically older people – discrete strength when getting out of a chair or climbing stairs, or standing for long periods.
I guess nobody needs to worry until the first consumer line of implant devices hits the market and you start to see them advertised between your prime time television shows. I'm just pointing out how a movement like transhumanism can creep up upon society with it actually realize what is taking place. Need another example?
In many cases these technological or medical advances are made to help the injured, sick or elderly but are then adopted by the healthy or young to boost their lifestyle or performance. The drug erythropoietin (EPO) increases red blood cell production in patients with severe anaemia but has also been taken up as an illicit performance booster by some athletes to improve their bloodstream’s ability to carry oxygen to their muscles.
Again its not a perfect example I suppose if you are trying to connect transhumanism with the idea of implanting electronic devices in our bodies but medicine can definitely be described as technology if we follow the idea of a tool designed to expand the ability range of the person who uses it. Transhumanism is apparently being applied to athletics according to the statement above.
“We are now approaching the time when, for some kinds of track sports such as the 100-metre sprint, athletes who run on carbon-fibre blades will be able outperform those who run on natural legs,” says Blay Whitby, an artificial intelligence expert at Sussex University.
Running on carbon-fibre blades... We are certainly entering a new and strange age full of possibilities.
Not everyone in the field agrees with this view, however. Cybernetics expert Kevin Warwick, of Coventry University, sees no problem in approving the removal of natural limbs and their replacement with artificial blades. “What is wrong with replacing imperfect bits of your body with artificial parts that will allow you to perform better – or which might allow you to live longer?” he says.
I'm not so sold on replacing our body parts with artificial substitutes. I mean when does it end? I really loved Michael Jackson's music but he clearly underwent one plastic surgery after another. It came to the point where I hardly could recognize the pop star he was in the song 'Thriller' I used to love jamming out to back in the day... Could transhumanism take us down that same slippery slope?
I don't know what my fellow @ADSactly society members think about all this but there is certainly a cause for debate around this subject!
What are your opinions about transhumanism and do you think this is where we are headed? How comfortable would you be replacing limbs or body parts with high performance cyber-implants?
Here's a chance for the @ADSactly community to leave their thoughts and opinions on this topic!
Thanks for reading.
Authored by: @techblogger
In-text citations sources:
"No death and an enhanced life: Is the future transhuman?" - The Guardian
The Guardian, Pexels
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