What is Transhumanism anyway?

One of the first things I’m often asked when talking about Evadot is

“What’s Transhumanism?”

My favorite one was “Evadot sounds awesome, but I had to look up Transhumanism”.

Sounds a little like some crazy religious idea doesn’t it?  Transhumanism means different things to many people, but for the purpose of Evadot, it’s using science and technology to enhance humans.

It’s not the stuff of science fiction at all.  People are being augmented by science and technology today in a number of ways and been doing it since the beginning of written history.

We use technologies to extend or abilities, extend our lives, replace limbs and organs every day.  Correcting our eyesight is probably the most common and widely accepted example.   We’re not just talking about lazer eye correction either.  Glasses and contacts are technologies we use use pervasively to augment our abilities and have for a very long time.

Aimee Mullins says her legs give her super powers, and I agree, they really do.

The part that becomes scary for people is when we start realizing that it wont be long before we have the capability to  enhance so much that we challenge what it means to be human.  When that happens, do we become something else, or does the definition of human change?

Now that’s an interesting discussion, but probably not one we’ll all agree on.

14 thoughts on “What is Transhumanism anyway?

  1. Even before we start arguing about semantics (and an intriguing argument it will be), I predict Transhumanism backlash from some people within the disability community… I say “some” because it would be irresponsible (and plain incorrect) to generalize.

    Working for a disability-services NPO for eight years, I met plenty of people, most of whom had congenital disabilities, who considered their disabilities vital parts of who they are… it’s the difference between thinking there’s something “wrong” with someone v. accepting that they do things differently. For example, the Deaf community has very strong feelings about cochlear implants: a whole Deaf culture would disappear if hearing loss were eliminated, and not everyone thinks that’s a good thing.

    And, whose to say what’s wrong or right? That’s part of the beauty of individual freedom. I will say, when I looked up Transhumanism, the idea of selecting characteristics of our offspring freaks me out… it’s a little too “Brave New World” for me.

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  2. Even before we start arguing about semantics (and an intriguing argument it will be), I predict Transhumanism backlash from some people within the disability community… I say “some” because it would be irresponsible (and plain incorrect) to generalize.

    Working for a disability-services NPO for eight years, I met plenty of people, most of whom had congenital disabilities, who considered their disabilities vital parts of who they are… it’s the difference between thinking there’s something “wrong” with someone v. accepting that they do things differently. For example, the Deaf community has very strong feelings about cochlear implants: a whole Deaf culture would disappear if hearing loss were eliminated, and not everyone thinks that’s a good thing.

    And, whose to say what’s wrong or right? That’s part of the beauty of individual freedom. I will say, when I looked up Transhumanism, the idea of selecting characteristics of our offspring freaks me out… it’s a little too “Brave New World” for me.

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  3. As a disabled Veteran with a largely reconstructed spine, titanium and all, I’d say that my disability is a part of me I wish wasn’t.

    It is in fact part of who I am, but without the medical advances and enhancements, who I’d be now without them would be paralyzed.

    This example is of course different from the part of this discussion that will cover when people will want to get new legs because they will be able to run faster, or like you point out AK, selecting what our babies look like.

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  4. As a disabled Veteran with a largely reconstructed spine, titanium and all, I’d say that my disability is a part of me I wish wasn’t.

    It is in fact part of who I am, but without the medical advances and enhancements, who I’d be now without them would be paralyzed.

    This example is of course different from the part of this discussion that will cover when people will want to get new legs because they will be able to run faster, or like you point out AK, selecting what our babies look like.

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  5. As seen in Spiderman 2 when Doc Ock “fuses” with his mechanical arms and loses (some) of his humanity. That movie is an Evadot double-play: energy (fusion) and transhumanism!

    In all seriousness, though, it’s a fascinating discussion topic. Surely it’s not the mechanical enhancements that we fear might make us less (by becoming more) than human, even if we become dependent on them for survival–a pacemaker, eg. I think it has to do with the moment that we lose some of our moral/ethical sensibilities because of the enhancement.

    Staying with the theme of movies, we see (at least) two different varieties of this fear: the disembodied, cold, artificial-but-real, amoral consciousness of a HAL or even the Architect of the Matrix, or the opposite–a merciless cyborg lacking a consciousness from any number of films, say the Terminator. That, I think, is where the fear lies–the loss of a moral compass. And once that happens, all we’ll be fit for is a career in politics.

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  6. As seen in Spiderman 2 when Doc Ock “fuses” with his mechanical arms and loses (some) of his humanity. That movie is an Evadot double-play: energy (fusion) and transhumanism!

    In all seriousness, though, it’s a fascinating discussion topic. Surely it’s not the mechanical enhancements that we fear might make us less (by becoming more) than human, even if we become dependent on them for survival–a pacemaker, eg. I think it has to do with the moment that we lose some of our moral/ethical sensibilities because of the enhancement.

    Staying with the theme of movies, we see (at least) two different varieties of this fear: the disembodied, cold, artificial-but-real, amoral consciousness of a HAL or even the Architect of the Matrix, or the opposite–a merciless cyborg lacking a consciousness from any number of films, say the Terminator. That, I think, is where the fear lies–the loss of a moral compass. And once that happens, all we’ll be fit for is a career in politics.

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  7. Andrea, your comment reminds me of the movie Gattaca. Futuristic time, kid wants to be an astronaut but he’s a “love child” – that is, a kid conceived spur of the moment with no genetic modification. Because he is what he is, he’s seen as inferior in society and can’t get a job above a janitorial position. It’s a good movie and pretty well thought.

    As far as implants and “borg” like additions to the human body go, I think they’re fantastic so long as they’re used to enhance a person and not harm them or others. I would have a problem with the sort of “master race” genetic alterations. I think it is our differences that make our world strong- that includes the handicapped.

    Would Stephan Hawking be as brilliant as he is if he didn’t have all day to sit around and think crap up? That may sound harsh, but it’s true.

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  8. Andrea, your comment reminds me of the movie Gattaca. Futuristic time, kid wants to be an astronaut but he’s a “love child” – that is, a kid conceived spur of the moment with no genetic modification. Because he is what he is, he’s seen as inferior in society and can’t get a job above a janitorial position. It’s a good movie and pretty well thought.

    As far as implants and “borg” like additions to the human body go, I think they’re fantastic so long as they’re used to enhance a person and not harm them or others. I would have a problem with the sort of “master race” genetic alterations. I think it is our differences that make our world strong- that includes the handicapped.

    Would Stephan Hawking be as brilliant as he is if he didn’t have all day to sit around and think crap up? That may sound harsh, but it’s true.

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  9. Stephen Hawking has said many times over the years that he often considers his disabilities crucial to his success as a physicist. He’s amazing, no doubt about it.

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  10. But here’s a question. Should Hawking’s parents have had the option of removing his disabilities, or genetically engineering him before his birth, would we still have his genius today? (this is assuming that his disabilities are a genetic disorder. I actually don’t know enough about the man either way. However, hypothetically assuming that they are genetic, my question stands.

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  11. But here’s a question. Should Hawking’s parents have had the option of removing his disabilities, or genetically engineering him before his birth, would we still have his genius today? (this is assuming that his disabilities are a genetic disorder. I actually don’t know enough about the man either way. However, hypothetically assuming that they are genetic, my question stands.

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