So this was initially going to be only one entry, than I realized I had a lot more to say on the subject, so I’m going to break it into a series of posts, coming out every monday. So please check back every week for the continuation of my meandering thoughts on the future!
I haven’t talked about Transhumanism much on this blog yet I realized recently. I’ve also been discussing Transhumanism, hereafter abbreviated as H+, with a new friend and have decided that I wanted to clarify some of my views on the future of society and how I see the H+ community fitting into this future.
To begin with, I should probably define my terms. By human I will mean humans as we mostly see ourselves today, wholly organic, complete with genetic defects, senescence, and all the limitations and strengths human biology entails. By transhuman I mean the intermediate phase between being human and reaching past our biology and humble origins to become post human; we will have begun to internalize our technology (both physical technology and ideas), and things like disease and aging will increasingly become ailments of the past. Post human meaning that humanity has been altered in such a way that a person of today would not recognize a post human as a human being at all, whether it be genetically, composition (a shift to a silicon substrate, for example), or even culturally. When I say improvement, I mean in empirically measurable and quantifiable ways, such as standard of living, lifespan, etc. By transcend, I mean going beyond the limitations of something, such as the limits of the solar system, our biology, our ideals, etc. in an entirely holistic and positive way, devoid of religious undertones. By post-scarcity I mean an socio-economic status that no longer relies on scarcity of resources as a driving force of the market, but rather innovation growth are spurred more by creativity and abundance, rather than trying to generate the most wealth with the least amount of effort, resources etc. So with these definitions I’ll attempt to articulate my thoughts on our transition from human to transhuman, leaving the path from trans to post human for another time (and possibly another person!).
The idea that our biology is a limiting factor and that we as intelligent beings possess the means to transcend these limitations first entered my mind as a child. I would often daydream about ways of improving myself, back then it was mostly the gift of flight I had always wanted, and the idea of grafting either flesh and bone wings or some kind of mechanical wings to my back sounded really amazing. I eventually moved on to other fantasies, integrating some aspects of comic book super heroes as well, such as super strength, super intelligence, and even omniscience. Eventually I put down these notions, and forgot about them for some time.
It wasn’t until about the mid 2000’s that I picked them back up, in full force, and really started embracing technology. I became a regular at my local library and would periodically read the new releases in the non-fiction section, specifically books speculating about the future. It was at that time I read two books that really altered my perception of what it means to be human. The first book being ‘Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100’ by the renowned physicist Michio Kaku. Although the book takes a much more conservative view than many other authors (such as Rai Kurzweil), the idea of curing cancer, having strong AI’s, disposable chip technology as pervasive as paper, and so on really excited me. After that I read a much more empirically/research grounded book called the ‘The Youth Pill’ by David Stipp. This book only looked at the hard evidence surrounding research being done into retarding senescence (aging) and the proposition of a longer life through things like caloric restriction; this book more served as a grounded and well documented in road to altering how I viewed the human condition, mainly that it is already possible (although to a very limited extent) to extend our lifespans beyond that of the average lifespan.
Taking these two books together, I had the fantastical introduction to the far reaching aspects of technology, when taken to an extreme end, and a reminder that some of these aspects weren’t so far off. I read a number of other books that followed similar themes as these books, but none altered my perception of technology and its role in my life more than these two books did (that is, until I discovered Charles Stross).
Shortly thereafter a friend introduced me to H+ and I realized it fit my view of technology and humanity’s future very well. At first I was mostly consumed with the promises of computer technologies, such as mind uploading, augmented thought, and so on. But the more I read the more I began to realize these technologies wouldn’t better humanity alone, for that other forms of technology were needed. This is where I began to think more about the role of law in how a society is shaped, and given my background (BA in philosophy, and at the time of writing this in year three of an MA of International Law) it seemed only logical.