October 2nd, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] What do you think of transhumanism?

The philosophy of transhumanism is something I've been thinking about. What is it? Anders Sandberg's transhumanism home page is a good guide, with his introductory page, with its links to various articles, is worth reading.

Transhumanism has many forms, sometimes apparently contradictory. Its essence is in my opinion, that we humans can, and should continue to develop ourselves in all possible directions. The bodies and minds evolution has given us are wonderful, but far from perfect. They can be improved in many ways, and this can be done in a rational manner using science and technology. In the same way many other parts of the "Human Condition" may be changed through new methods and visions. In the long run, we will no longer be human anymore, but posthuman beings.

Of course, not all people would like to go this far. Some might want to improve themselves somewhat, but still remain essentially as before. Others might reject any improvements outright for various reasons. From a transhumanistic standpoint, this is no problem. If they don't want to go in our direction, they are welcome to remain humans. What we cannot accept is other people putting restrictions on our quest towards transhumanity; in that case we have to prevent them from interfering, probably by simply avoiding them. In no way do we want to force anybody to anything.

Nick Bostrom, another transhumanist of note, goes on to define transhumanist goals.

Attention is given to both present technologies, like genetic engineering and information technology, and anticipated future ones, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The enhancement options being discussed include radical extension of human health-span, eradication of disease, elimination of unnecessary suffering, and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities. Other transhumanist themes include space colonization and the possibility of creating superintelligent machines, along with other potential developments that could profoundly alter the human condition. The ambit is not limited to gadgets and medicine, but encompasses also economic, social, institutional designs, cultural development, and psychological skills and techniques.

Bruce Sterling reproduced a detailed critique of transhumanism by a Christian group that saw the ideology as dangerous; Science Not Fiction defended transhumanism against charges that, if implemented, it could seriously destabilize society and great new divisions; Centauri Dreams referred to Freeman Dyson's suggestions that space colonists, instead of creating Earth-like environments, instead adapt themselves to the environments of other worlds and space.

So. What do you think of transhumanism? Have you heard of it before? Do you think it's capable of good, more so than it's capable of harm? Or vice versa?