Our ever-evolving world has greeted the most technologically advanced era that humanity has ever seen and many times, keeping up with everything is a big challenge. Humans are so vast in interest and thought, and you will find the most interesting discourses in the world began with one person just thinking “What if we did things this way?’
Hard work has gone into making humans a better version of themselves in every dispensation; which is why you will find that early age man was nothing like you. The spotlight of unique ideologies that have shaped the human outlook is on two initially outlandish but recently progressive theories known as transhumanism and extropianism.
Transhumanism and Extropianism, while similar in philosophy and act, are not entirely identical in truth. Although cases exist where the interchangeability of the two terms is permitted, generally speaking, there are some key distinctions between them; distinctions which shall be discussed to a respectable degree in the entirety of this article.
Transhumanism (usually by H+ or h+) is an intellectual and cultural movement supporting the application of science and technology to enhance human mental and physical capabilities and ultimately overcome what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition. These include but are not limited to aging, disease, disability, suffering, and involuntary death. Those belonging to the transhumanist school of thought study the possibilities, and potential consequences, of developing and using human enhancement techniques and other emerging technologies for these purposes.
Extropianism on the other hand also referred to as extropism or extropy, is defined as a constantly evolving framework of values and standards directed at a continuous improvement of the human condition. It follows the idea that advances in science and technology will at some point in the future enable people to achieve immortality, and that such developments are not too far off, with humans in this generation having a good chance of seeing that day. Extropianism describes a pragmatic consilience of transhumanist thought guided by a proactionary approach.
Extropianism vs Transhumanism
It’s not too difficult to notice the similarity between these two definitions; the last line of the defined extropian conviction bears a key point. It illustrates that the latter is a derivative of the former. Applying knowledge of set theorem, we could say that extropianism is a subset of the transhumanist philosophy. While transhumanist beliefs are somewhat broadened, those of the extropian are specific on the goals they wish to achieve—targeted human enhancement. Extropianism is a transhumanist philosophy.
Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “posthuman”. This prediction of some sort has led to transhumanism sometimes being referred to as “posthumanism” or a form of transformational activism influenced by posthumanist ideals. While a transhumanist may accept the possibility of future inferiority of the current human so long as evolution is fostered, extropian theory frowns upon that. Transhumanism stresses the evolutionary perspective, including sometimes the creation of a highly intelligent animal species by way of cognitive enhancement but clings to a “posthuman future” as the final goal of participant evolution.
One of the most famous pioneers of the transhumanist movement was FM-2030 (originally born as Fereidoun M. Esfandiary was a Belgian-born Iranian-American author, teacher, futurist, consultant, Olympic athlete, and most notably transhumanist philosopher. He became notable as a transhumanist with the release of his book: Are You a Transhuman?: Monitoring and Stimulating Your Personal Rate of Growth in a Rapidly Changing World, which he published in 1989.
In the mid-1970s F.M. Esfandiary legally changed his name to FM-2030 for two reasons: firstly, to reflect the hope and belief that he would live to celebrate his 100th birthday in 2030; secondly, and more importantly, to break free of the widespread practice of naming conventions that he saw as rooted in a collectivist mentality, and existing only as a relic of humankind’s tribalistic past. He had several reservations towards the current way of life of the human race and held true to an optimistic mindset on the future of the human race.
In his words, “Conventional names define a person’s past: ancestry, ethnicity, nationality, religion. I am not who I was ten years ago and certainly not who I will be in twenty years. […] The name 2030 reflects my conviction that the years around 2030 will be a magical time. In 2030 we will be ageless and everyone will have an excellent chance to live forever. 2030 is a dream and a goal.”
It’s fair to say he was some way of his evaluation of the apparent technological progress of species. Perhaps FM-2060 would’ve been a slightly more appropriate name. Nonetheless, regardless of his accuracies or the lack of them thereof, he laid the groundwork for the notable transhumanist and philosopher Dr. Max More to Verizon articulating the principles of transhumanism and extropianism.
Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr.More, The Principles of Extropy, Extropian thinking places a strong emphasis on rational thought and a practical approach towards optimism. According to More, these principles “do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies”. Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology, and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of indefinite lifespans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology or mind uploading, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved utilizing cryogenics.
The bottom line is that there is hardly a ‘versus’ in context.
Evolution has been going on since the inception of our universe as we know it, and rightly, this evolution will continue. The self-assigned job of the followers of transhumanism and extropianism alike is now to pursue an evolutionary future where technology plays a vital role in the improvement of species.
And while the focuses of these two philosophical schools may differ ever so slightly, the goal is ultimately the same, the same as we all actually, human survival.