To fully understand Transhumanism first we need to know that Transhumanism and Posthumans (from now on I will refer to Posthumans by its abbreviation H+) are two different concepts; Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that promotes emerging technologies that offer morphological and reproductive freedom to erase the natural limitations of our bodies and achieve Post-humanity. Simply put, H+ is the goal of Transhumanism.
Max More, the first person to coin the term Transhumanism and founder of the Extropy Institute, defines Transhumanists as people who:
“… seek continual improvement in ourselves, our cultures, and our environments. We seek to improve ourselves physically, intellectually, and psychologically. We value the perpetual pursuit of knowledge and understanding.”¹
The Transhumanism fundamental beliefs are:
- Transhumanism is about improving nature’s mindless “design”, not guaranteeing perfect solutions.
- Transhumanism is about morphological freedom, not mechanizing the body.
- Transhumanism is about trying to shape fundamentally better futures, not predicting specific futures.
- Transhumanism is about continual improvement, not perfection or “Paradise”.
Every day we are witness to new technological advances in every scientific field, making it possible for biological modification to be achieved by the next few generations of scientists. This small yet real possibility puts scientists and philosophers in a place where they need to start to question what path humanity should go and if we are ready to pay for any of the consequences.
In the middle of this debate we can find on one side the Transhumanists, who fully endorse the continual improvement of emergent technologies that will allow for biological modification of our bodies and be a step closer to post-humanity.
And on the other side, we have Bioconservatives, a group of people who are skeptical of the technological advances that could lead to the creation of H+ and do not want any kind of human modification that would end up deteriorating human nature.
To understand the current situation we will explore both sides of the argument to elucidate some possible scenarios for humankind as a whole
The strongest argument Transhumanists present is the possibility of expanding and improving our lives by getting rid of the natural limitations our bodies carry since conception. They believe every aspect of our lives could be broken down to a biological level, from emotions and memories to our moral compass, and by editing our biology we could be able to reach the next step of evolution by maybe even leaving our human bodies behind.
Some other arguments they offer in favor of H+ are:
- Infinite health-span
- Intellectual improvement
- Control over our emotions
- Independence from our mortal bodies
- Morphological and reproductive freedom
- Creation of a more inclusive society as a consequence of the inclusion of H+
- A new set of talents and possibilities could be available to humankind
- It is cruel to keep letting “nature” or randomness give birth defects that we could do something to avoid
- Erasing the cruelty and randomness of nature by preventing birth defects
Some Bioconservatives consider that the creation of H+ will be the beginning of the end of humankind. They are concerned about the possible loss of human dignity and cases of discrimination or stigmatization that could happen between humans and H+. They highly value human nature and the duality that is intrinsic to it.
Some of their other arguments against the creation of H+ are:
- Religious or crypto religious sentiment of playing to be ‘God’
- Possibility of H+ being used for degrading or for self-harming purposes
- Technological progress does not always mean cultural or moral progress
- Homogenization of the gene pool
- Human Slavery/Slaughter by H+
- Inequity, discrimination, or stigmatization between races
- Creation of a superhuman that could take over the world
- Introducing new kinds of H+ might cause individuals to lose moral and legal status (e.g., children, mentally ill, etc.)
- Greater reproductive freedom could create paternal tyranny by limiting or removing freedom of choice to their children.
- Experiments with human nature whose outcome we cannot predict
While some of the arguments that Bioconservatives present against H+ are valid concerns, the majority of them are based on the fear of the unknown or science fiction. These are not strong enough to justify the interruption of the current technological progress.
One solution Bioconservatives offer regarding new emergent technologies is strict regulation in every level of investigation, from self-regulation to having an international agency oversee every single research to prevent Biohacking or Bioterrorism but the reality is that the dual use of technologies is inevitable.
Every day we grow closer to achieving H+, either purposefully or by accident, and that argument should be enough for considering it the only possibility we have for avoiding extinction and start preparing policies and regulations that will make it not only a technological progress but also a cultural one.³
- More, Max. True Transhumanism: A Reply to Don Ihde.
- Bostrom, Nick. In Defense of Posthuman Dignity.
- Walker, Mark. Ship of Fools: Why Transhumanism Is the Best Bet to Prevent the Extinction of Civilization.
- Ihde, Don. Of Which Human Are We Post?
- Fenton, Elizabeth. Genetic enhancement, a treat to human rights?
- Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. Engaging Transhumanism.
- Lee Sethi, Meera. Briggle, Adam. Making stories visible: The task for bioethics commissions.
- Balmer, Andrew. Martin, Paul. Synthetic Biology, Social and Ethical Challenges.