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What is Transhumanism?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 17, 2024
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Transhumanism seeks to strengthen characteristics, such as youth, creativity, and intelligence, by using medical technology to develop or eliminate certain genes, and other scientific innovations, such as robotics, to enable an enhanced human race. Transhumanists believe in altering the human genome to eliminate disease, weakness, and aging, thus sculpting later generations. These advanced humans, or posthumans, will be capable of achievements of which we can only dream.

Transhumanism philosophy employs technology we've developed for other means to enhance people's health, ability, life span, memory, happiness, and intelligence, using artificial techniques. They conceive of a category of transhuman along the path to becoming posthuman. A posthuman peacefully coexists with other humans, but reaps benefits ranging from altered DNA, selective reproduction, prosthetic limbs, nanorobotics, synthetic organs, sensory magnification, anti-aging regimens, portable telecommunication devices, and drug therapy. In its most extreme conception, the posthuman exists as an array of information in a memory bank.

One model of a posthuman might take weekly injections of an anti-aging serum that replenishes cells. The posthuman might also have a sophisticated telecommunication system that allows him to send text, voice, video, and large files quickly to any location. His eye may be fitted with an artificial oculus that measures not just color and depth, but heat and distance, and identifies objects and people. His DNA has been altered with gene therapy so he's protected from developing heart disease. His emotions are regulated by receptors implanted in his brain to free him from stress, paranoia, or depression.

In 1998, different branches of transhumanism united in the World Transhumanist Association to discuss their goals and debate their means. They welcome questions on ethics, eugenics, personal risk, threats to the wider ecosystem, dystopian scenarios, and strains on resources. They want to empower individuals to achieve their greatest potential by accessing all science has to offer. Technology can improve their productivity, quality of life, and possibly boost them to further levels of consciousness.

Critics of transhumanism question both the potentially dangerous technology and the associated value judgments. Nanorobots and gene therapy might pose hazards to humans, plants, and animals. Some traits will be labeled as desirable and others as undesirable in a way that may privilege ethnicity and wealth. Most people agree that certain conditions, such as diabetes, are undesirable. But should all disabilities be ideally eliminated? Other criticisms include the potential for creating a powerful, biologically superior species that controls unenhanced humans.

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Discussion Comments
By allenJo — On Nov 01, 2011

@miriam98 - That’s science fiction. I don’t think in real life society would set those kinds of barriers, with the perfect breeds in one corner and the sub breeds in another corner.

Transhuman technology is there to benefit people. I think of things like electronic visors or implants that can enable people who are visually impaired to finally be able to see.

I don’t envision the kind of world the article talks about, where people are “equipped” at every level with technology to enable them to do things. I think it would only be useful for remedying health problems.

By miriam98 — On Oct 31, 2011

Transhumanism seems to have become the subject of many science fiction movies, and in none of the movies is the result very good.

Years ago I watched a movie called Gattaca about this guy who had been genetically inferior from birth. Growing up, he wanted to be in the space program. However, the space program would not let you in if you were not a perfect genetic breed.

So this guy rips off the genetic identity of a perfect breed human and connives his way into the program. He borrowed the guy’s urine for the urine samples and other strange things like injecting himself with the guy’s DNA.

Well, that’s what a transhuman society would lead to – genetic perfection would be the coveted prize if you really wanted to succeed, and people would buy and barter DNA in order to have a chance at that kind of perfection. Is this what we want?

By turquoise — On Oct 31, 2011

I don't know why transhumanism is criticized so much. I mean, most of the technology that transhumanists talk about utilizing already exists or is under-development. So this is not a far-off imaginative idea at all. It's very much possible and I think it will happen sooner or later. Denying it or refusing to consider it isn't going to get us far.

What I'm more interested in is if transhumanism will be available to all of humanity equally? Considering the fact that there is still huge gaps in wealth among humans in different parts of the world, I'm afraid that transhumanism will only be available to wealthy nations. I don't like the idea of some humans being 'superior' to others because they have more access to technology and money.

By serenesurface — On Oct 30, 2011

@burcidi-- Actually, you are right that a transhuman would not be a human. Transhumanists agree with this too and it's not seen as something undesirable by people who conform to this idea.

If you ask me, the goal of transhumanism has a lot to do with evolution. I think transhumanists believe that we are currently still in the beginning of our evolution and have a long way to go. As we are able to apply more scientific, genetic and technological advances, humans will keep evolving and come closer to our actual potential.

I personally like the concept of transhumanism. Who can deny that we are still evolving and who wouldn't want to live longer, be affected by less illness and to improve the human functions? I think it's a great concept and it has a very optimistic view about the future of humanity. I like that.

By burcidi — On Oct 30, 2011

I don't think that transhumanism is possible. I mean look at nature. Whenever we try to eliminate something dangerous in nature, like a creature, a virus or bacteria, new ones emerge in a short time that undermines all of our work up to that point and we have to start over.

Similarly, if we were to eliminate disease and aging in humans, I'm sure new problems would come up that would still shorten our life span.

From a spiritual, religious point of view, it's not possible either because every living thing is destined to be born and to die at one point. A human that's void of disease and disability and that has numerous technological parts is not a human at all. It's essentially a robot, a machine.

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