Have you heard of the transhumanist movement?
Can you imagine if one of the movies you watch came to be and humans are able to become immortal or indestructible?
Does it sound too grandiose? Well, not for transhumanists.
Transhumanism is a physical, cultural, and social movement that supports the use of science and technological advancements to enhance the physical and mental attributes of humans. The end goal of transhumanism is to rid the world of diseases, sickness, death, aging, and disability; characteristics of humans that they believe are unnecessary in the future of humanity.
The spectrum of human enhancement technologies that exist is aimed at the enhancement of human cognitive ability, emotions, sensory receptors, and all in all improve the quality and span of human life.
Transhumanist beliefs find root in the protection of humans from potential global catastrophic risks such as a nuclear war or an asteroid collision. Millions of dollars have been invested to pursue the transhumanist movement, and unsurprisingly, there are people who do not support or agree with the core and tenets of transhumanism.
These opponents strongly believe that Transhumanist belief is an aberration that pushes the limits of human capabilities and a recipe for untold chaos. No doubt, knowledge of the existence of beliefs like transhumanism will spread and become accepted or rejected by various schools of thought.
What does this matter to humanity?
Historically, transhumanist impulses have been expressed through concepts such as immortality, or early quests for the fountain of life and elixir of youth. It is correct that the idea of technological enhancements for humans is not new. Examples include hearing aids, wooden legs, false teeth, and other forms of ‘improvised’ body parts, and they have been a thing for many generations. The striking difference between those and new wave transhumanism is that the letter proposes even more sophisticated implants in the body and brain to enhance senses.
The term ‘transhumanism’ itself was coined in 1957 in an essay written by Julian Huxley, an English philosopher, and biologist. There have been numerous precursors of transhumanism as well as early-stage developments of the concept. One of the notable incidents that shaped the core of what transhumanism has become was the concept of Russian Cosmism which became popularized in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The first time an official meeting was held by self-described transhumanists was in the early 1980s at the University of California, Los Angeles. At this meeting, one of the first professors of futurology and an avid believer in transhumanism named FM2030 (originally born Fereidoun M. Esfandiary) gave a lecture on his third way futurist ideology. In the year 1998, philosophers David Pearce and Nick Bolsostrom founded an international non-governmental organization called the World Transhumanist Association aka WTA (later called Humanity+). This organization was founded for the purpose of making transhumanism a recognized subject of scientific inquiry and public policy. A few years later in 2004, they modified and adopted ‘The Transhumanist Declaration’ where they gave two formal definitions of transhumanism.
How Transhumanism will change the world
You already have a comprehensive idea of what transhumanism is about and the goals it aims to achieve. It can be deduced that the effects of transhumanism will affect three major areas of humanity: our thoughts, our behavior, and our bodies. Here is a detailed list of possible ways the world might change if transhumanists succeed in propagating and establishing their philosophy.
Enhanced / Augmented bodies:
So far, this has been the most dwelled-on focus of transhumanism. They aim to enhance the human body with the use of advanced science and technology, maybe even Artificial Intelligence (AI). Seeing as transhumanism has become a pretty popular philosophy, a lot of its thinkers have varying ideas of different levels of intensity. They really just want an advanced society where humans are so evolved that things like disability and disease will be reduced. These capabilities will make humans smarter and stronger than they are today. Some believe that utilities such as the apple watch or fit bit are just early stages and that soon people will move to implants. It would be good to point out that these theorists are not wrong. As of today, there are individuals who identify as transhumanists who already have implants to augment their bodies. They have microchips installed in their hands to serve as key cards to their houses, business cards, or ‘smart hands’ (similar to smart TVs or smartphones). It is predicted that there will be three categories of body augmentation, namely external wearables, internal implants, and Biological augmentation through genetics.
Examples of these may include exosuits that increase strength, contact lenses that take pictures and videos, earbuds that can translate all languages, mind-controlled prostheses, and brain microchips. Biological augmentation may even be more powerful than external and internal implants because it may lead to such things as advanced IVF technology that could allow pregnant people to pick the most intelligent embryos for themselves.
Increased thought process in individuals:
Scientific advancements that may lead to increased thought processes are already in development. For example, Elon Musk (famous entrepreneur)’s Neuralink project; a device that aims to pair up human intelligence with artificial intelligence through a device implanted in the brain. Other examples are Facebook’s brain-computer interface that can accurately translate the brain signals to text form and DARPA’s brain initiative. These Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMI) have the potential to alter how humans communicate with one another, as well as with their digital devices. For example, with a well-developed and accessible BMI, one could simply think of a text message and it is sent with no hindrances of having to actually type out the message.
A more empathetic species:
There are two ways to look at this possibility. The first is through the use of BMIs. BMIs could be used to communicate directly with other people’s brains and make it easier to understand and empathize with them. There need not be oral communication hindrances such as miscommunication. The second way is through the use of virtual reality. If BMIs are a possibility in this future, then virtual reality might as well be. With virtual reality, people will be able to directly insert themselves in certain situations such as bomb survivors, homeless people, refugees, and find it easier to feel compassion and empathy for them having lived their lives.
In a transhumanist future, personalization can be extended in areas such as careers. For example, AI transmitters will be able to track career paths as well as interests and emotional capability and use those to recommend careers for an individual. Diets, medical treatment, and other products can also be tailored specifically to individuals due to the vast amount of information available. This already exists in simpler forms with brands letting people customize the kinds of products they want like bathing soaps, shampoos, conditioners, etc. This advanced technology can also be used by marketers to tailor adverts to people based on their interests and moods.
Increase in human productivity:
With all these technological advancements, it is easy to see why increased productivity is a high possibility in this world. The human mind will already work harder and easier. There will be physical and mental augmentations to aid faster results at workplaces such as Exo suits to enhance strength and the BMI technologies. The use of behavioral science could also be employed by companies to encourage high levels of productivity.
Focus on societal values:
Again, with all these advancements to the human body, its thought processes, and behaviors, it is only natural that societal values as a whole will begin to shift. Conversations will rise on what advanced individuals will consider most important to them and this will shape the futures of those societies as well as their relationships with other societies. For example, if a country decides to focus on medical enhancements for the sick but another country is only focused on creating high technology superhumans; this could make the first society reassess its focus.
Change in business ventures:
The introduction of BMI will most definitely affect the workplace. It is very likely that AI becomes a very integral part of every company. In fact, there is likely going to be at least one AI worker in every progressive organization. Since the whole point of transhumanism is to enhance human life, humans will not be replaced by AI or robots but will rather work with them to ensure better results.
Closely monitoring the world’s evolution, it is highly likely that we are slowly transforming into a transhumanist society, even in the smallest of ways.
It can be seen in the example of the young generation who are already very attached to digital technology and see people who aren’t as strange and unusual. In the end, what matters is that the transhumanist approach is neither forceful nor violent. Just progressing and being accepted by people who find it in tune with their outlooks on humanity. It is also important that transhumanists are kept in check by opposing ideologists. This will create a balance that will challenge both sides’ beliefs to become better, more acceptable versions of what currently gives.