What is Transhumanism?


I plan to write this to reflect my views on transhumanism and the role of transhumanism in modern society. This is meant to be a practical exercise and I write this addressing and with present socio-economic situations in mind (not future speculation and pie in the sky optimism). This will likely be an ongoing series, and I’ll make sure each post is connected appropriately.

Section 1: What is Transhumanism to me?

To me transhumanism (or just h+) is a political & philosophical ideology that considers all of human technology and from this consideration proposes a path to transcending our human limitations and suffering, hence the ‘trans’ part (opposed to posthumanism, which though related is different and would refer to a state where what was once humanity is no longer anything that can be considered as such. What this would look like, is by definition, entirely alien to my [currently] human sensibilities).

I should begin by offering my definitions. By technology I wish to use the definition one of my philosophy professors gave me during my undergraduate study. Technology is any artifact created by humanity, tangible or not, which is used to serve a specific purpose. This is an interesting definition and worth pointing out that it is considerably more inclusive than perhaps most may view technology as being. Under this definition we can find such concepts as culture, economics, education, etc. all as forms of technology, as well as the traditionally viewed artifacts, such as cellphones, the internet, and robot arms*.

Tying this definition back to H+, technology should be viewed as a tool, or tools, used to uplift humanity . Transhumanism exists, first and foremost, as a means of destroying the demons of old, those monsters whom we have been host to for so long that we can scarcely consider their extermination a plausible avenue of action:

  • Starvation
  • Disease (its worth noting I include senescence here)
  • Abject Poverty (My standards on what this includes will also be outlined)
  • Suffering (physical & emotional- an attempt at an objective definition to follow)
  • Any other barriers to uplifting us all to better lives (it may be worth defining what I mean by a better life, if it isn’t abundantly clear from this list, but I will save that for another day, if at all. It may also be worth clarifying what I mean by us, but for now I will leave it ambiguous)

Therefore, transhumanism is the application of our technology, by the definition given above, towards defeating these demons and making life better for all of us, in a myriad of ways. So where do we start?

*Robot arms is always a go to joke I make with friends when we discuss h+ in popular media (the most obvious sign someone is merging with machines is always robotic limbs – a la Deus Ex: Human Revolution as well as other games/shows/movies). I also tend to use it informally to poke fun at shotty transhuman scifi, that embraces the superficial transhuman concepts, but not the less obvious ones, such as social reform, IP law reform, etc. (the cyberpunk transhuman dystopia is very played out in my opinion, but is also one of my guilty pleasures -Jimmy Desoto died on Innen).

Section 2: Definition of Demons to be Slain:

  1. Starvation: For this demon, I will offer my own definition (though lay it may be): The deprivement of nutrients necessary for acceptable bodily function (i.e. to avoid any and all impact to health, based on deprivement, up to and including mental abilities). I want to try to keep this as applicable as possible, so I have kept it brief, as I suspect that the definition and baseline for starvation may be adjusted as time goes on (which, as long as it is in a positive direction -better health related outcomes-, is a good thing).
  2. Disease: This would be any detrimental condition that impacts the health, comfort, well-being, continued existence, mental faculties, or any other aspect of a person that constitute being healthy. (again, left general as I highly suspect disease will be a category that will only grow as time goes on, as things like aging are added).
  3. Abject Poverty: Poverty of the lowest level present within society (hence the use of ‘abject’). This is distinctive from poverty in general in that it does not address the entire concept of poverty, but rather the most extreme forms of poverty. This would include any such financial/economic conditions that a person may experience that inhibit the slaying of both demons 1 and 2 (therefore even the lowest acceptable level of poverty will need to provide necessities for preventing starvation and disease for all. Regardless of socio-economic status), as well as being too poor to participate and/or benefit from economic activities in any meaningful way. (Again I will leave this more vague than it could be, as I suspect this too is subject to rising standards, especially with the introduction of concepts like post scarcity).
  4. Suffering: As I noted above, here I refer to both physical and emotional suffering. Note that this would also be inclusive of 1, 2, & 3 while also encompassing much more. This would include physical pain of any sort, and/or any physical sensations that are not desired, along with emotional pain. **
  5. These type of demons are not so apparent, and the method for slaying each will depend entirely upon the demon itself, as identified by an openly transhuman society that has all of its citizens best interest in mind, slaying demons 1-4 and beyond. Such demons that may be included in this category may include but are, as should be apparent, not limited to monstrosities such as racism (and more broadly discrimination of any sapient being, whether homo sapien in origin or not), violence (as in violence that is not covered by 1,2,3,& 4), infringements on information access, infringement upon any freedoms that an openly transhuman society deems rights, to name but a few potential demonic candidates.

**Its worth noting that I realize #3 and #4 are both very subjective. That is intentional. I would leave these up to society and the individual. I am hesitant to give too much specificity in the interest of avoiding an inapplicable or unwieldy definition.

Section 3: Technology as the Demon Slayer

Given the definition I have chosen to adapt of technology above, the tools that are at our disposal to do away with these demons holding us back from being more are numerous and profound.

Starvation is the oldest demon that humanity, and indeed all life, has faced. There are none out there immune from the potential suffering caused by a lack of access to nutritional sustenance. However starvation is also the most apparently slayed demon, though with some major caveats***.

Thanks to innovations dating back to the mid 1900’s, such as the green revolution, agricultural output has so greatly increased that it has managed to (in general) keep pace with the increasing human population.

These technological innovations are not always as apparent as they may seem, with smaller aspects, such as crop rotation or regulation of fishing industries, having monumental impacts in terms of sustainability.

As with all technology, the tools being used to fend off starvation for good are also constantly being developed and improved upon as well. If there is any apparent evidence that can always be the beacon of the transhuman flame, it is our triumph over starvation, slow and ongoing, we have still managed to address a plague that has killed countless of our ancestors back to the very first cells to have evolved, marking a remarkable achievement that should not be overlooked or under appreciated.

As demonstrated above, technology may play a key role in the slaying of these demons that have been placed upon us. While some technologies may be less obvious, such as the green revolution, others are entirely more apparent, such as the internet or the automobile.

These demon slayers are not themselves to be left unscrutinized, and the many cautionary tales about the dangers of advanced technologies are worth heeding, though too are the considerations based a future not based on the embracing of technology:

Consider a future where the average person has advanced augmentations that make them faster, smarter, and more connected than a bio-basic human would be, however there is still social inequality so apparent that demons 1-5 are not slayed in entirety, and while some are able to soar far higher than any early man could have dreamed, many are left without access to the

***Starvation may have been greatly reduced within humanity at large, but it is still present and there are unfortunately still those that go without basic nutritional sustenance (at the time of my writing this), and although cheap calories have become accessible to many, these calories are not all created equal, and there has been a whole wave of problems with the introduction of these cheap calorie sources (largely issues pushed up the list of demons to 2 & 4); though it is worth noting that these issues have arisen alongside far fewer humans dying or suffering from starvation, and I would not personally consider the trade off to be equivalent, marking clear progress towards the complete slaying of starvation.