Never before has the future of the human race seemed so bleak. It seems like we’ve been on the precipice of another world war since 2001, and the rate at which new diseases appear increases every year. But with those nightmare scenarios comes an exponential uptick in the creation of new technologies, and a desire to use them to change the world for the better. That’s more or less where transhumanism comes in.
If you’re scratching your head and letting out an exaggerated “Say whaaaaaat?” at your computer screen right now, don’t worry, everything will be explained in due time. (Also, stop doing that because it’s weird.)
You’re living in a time when science fiction is becoming reality, and the walls that separate humans from technology are gossamer-thin, but are you ready to take the plunge to become more human than the human? Keep reading to find out.
Depending on how old you are (sorry, Grandma), it’s likely that you’ll live to see the moment when humanity and technology converge to usher in an entirely new era. That moment is just over the horizon, and as much as scientists have theorized about what it’s going to mean to be transhuman, no one knows for sure. It could mean people with PDAs built into their fingertips, or there may not be any people left at all. There’s no way to know for sure what the age of transhumanism might bring. The only thing you can do is ingest these mind-bending facts about transhumanism and start thinking about where you want to install a USB port on your body.
Transhumanism means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but basically, it is an intellectual crusade to evolve humanity into an advanced version of ourselves by adapting our minds and bodies to sophisticated technologies. Sort of. You know what, this is already confusing, so it's probably best that you either continue reading or upload your brain to this list so you become the list.
Theories about the singularity have been circulating since the mid-'60s, when I. J. Good speculated that as computers increase in power, the possibility of people building a machine that is more intelligent than humanity increases exponentially. That idea is one of the bases of transhumanism. Thanks to things like ever-expanding VR technology, online avatars, and tiny computers that we can jam in our pockets, people are transitioning out of being humans and into something that's more closely connected with technology. We just need that extra push to actually become one with a machine.
Some philosophers believe that the singularity will occur when we finally discover how to combine things like plastic surgery and computer technology into a Borg-like humanoid structure, while other theorists think we'll simply evolve past the need for bodies at all and be able to upload ourselves to a server. Whatever form (or forms) transhumanism takes, it's coming soon.
One of the main tenets of some forms of transhumanism is the possibility of extending human life to a near infinite amount of time, making humans effectively immortal. But is living forever something that we should really be trying to do? Will it make us better people if our consciousnesses never blink out of existence? What happens when we stop grieving the loss of a loved one because there's no longer such a thing as loss? There are certainly people who believe that mankind can benefit from never leaving this mortal coil, but sticking around forever just because you can seems pointless.
How will people treat each other when we no longer consider ourselves people? Look at the cavalier attitude people have the moment they get on Twitter. When someone no longer identifies themselves as a person, but rather as an avatar, they feel like it's okay to act like a bag of screaming rats. And even if you don't log into Twitter and immediately start trying to set the world on fire, you still become the thing you want people to believe you are. When humans evolve past what we are now, will the ethics of the Golden Rule still apply? Or will we simply become a digital tornado of gnashing teeth?
Aside from worrying about how we'll treat each other when we exist as a new species, what if people don't want to become posthuman? Should they be treated like Ludditic tribespeople? Should transhumanists forcibly push others into an enlightened realm? Because we haven't traveled past the horizon there's no way to know how the issue should be handled.