As a long time fan of dystopian science fiction like Blade Runner, Deus Ex, or Neuromancer, the idea of humanity advancing forward in both form and function has always been an interest of mine. How will it impact the average person’s view of the world? Their life span? Their priorities? It was only a decade ago that I found out concepts like these had a collective term. Transhumanism. So, generally speaking, what is Transhumanism?
According to the literal definition on Brittanica, Transhumanism in its broadest terms is the ‘social and philosophical movement devoted to promoting and development of robust human-enhancement technologies. Such technologies would augment or increase human sensory reception, emotive ability, or cognitive capacity as well as radically improve human health and extend human life spans’. So, what does that mean for the average layman? It means science that revolves altering the human body to meet specific criteria.
Replacing Parts And Stopping Death In Its Tracks
Granting a blind man sight with specifically crafted optical implants, or vat-grown replacements. Replacing failing organs for machines that perform those functions, or simply growing another is one of the many ways in which a focus on transhumanism could extend the human lifespan or outright end the process of ageing. That, however, may come with distinctly dystopian caveats. What would happen to population growth? With the absence of natural death, would childbirth have to be strictly controlled to ensure that the resources available on this small rock of ours orbiting the sun would be available to all? What about psychological impacts? What will happen to the human psyche after the impact of a thousand years alive? Were our brains designed to live that long? And if that’s the case, maybe this next point may answer a few of those questions.
Will Humanity Remain Human?
With a focus on expanding cognition through Artificial Intelligence, it’s only a matter of time before we all humans will need to interface with machines to be able to keep up with the demands of advanced computing. We already see it now with the prevalence of social media. It’s, in a rough sense, a version of ourselves entirely distinct from the sense of self we have in our own minds. We’re now at a point where our own technology out-competes us, and if we as a species want to stay relevant, we may have to start looking at blending the two.
This begs the question: When humanity and AI inevitably intertwine, will we cease to be considered humans as we know them? The wave of neurons trapped in a prison of organic matter. Will we break free from that prison? many writers, critics and scientists are tried to answer this question. Maybe humanity regulates itself and we enter a stage of evolution similar to the book series Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan (Later adapted into a hit Netflix series). What makes us human is defined by a small device (called stacks) which makes up our memories, mannerisms and personality, while the human body itself becomes a shell in which we inhabit. A shell that can be donned and shed as easily as changing clothes. If this is the sort of humanity that awaits us, how will social and financial inequality work? Would the rich simply have a monopoly on the young, strong bodies while the poor are confined to natural birth and death, or perhaps worse, weak and failing bodies that make every day a struggle?
Designer Babies And The Introduction Of Genetically Modified Humans
Designer Babies are becoming a modern problem and represent a potentially dark future for humanity that feels like it’s drawing closer with every second. As science advances, humans have been able to alter their genetic code more and more. It’s not hard to see a future similar to the 1997 film Gattaca, where altering humanity’s next step has gone so far that a dystopian form of eugenics has taken hold. Where those with selective genetic codes are considered superior to those who have traits considered undesirable and therefore make up a higher cast of society. It’s a future that I believe many would rather didn’t come to fruition.
Transhumanism is a topic way too broad to get into the minute details in one article, but it’s an interesting (and oftentimes worrying) topic of conversation that needs to be had by people in positions of power. I’m assuming that I’m echoing the concerns of those reading this article by saying that if humanity is going to advance to the next stage, it needs to be in an ethical and egalitarian manner. But who knows, maybe the rapid destruction of our own habitat that we’re engaged in right now will leave us with a new dark age. Or worse, no future at all.