What is Transhumanism?By Adam Sinicki
'Transhumanism' (often symbolised as H+ or >H) as defined by the World Transhumanist Association is:
'The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.'
'The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.'
At the time of writing (4th October 2008) Wikipedia describes it as:
'An international, intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and overcome what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death. Transhumanist thinkers study the possibilities and consequences of developing and using human enhancement techniques and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Possible dangers, as well as benefits, of powerful new technologies that might radically change the conditions of human life are also of concern to the transhumanist movement'
In other words, it is a school of thought that favours the use of technologies that enhance human ability and that could eventually lead to 'posthumanism'; a condition where an individual has been altered to such an extent that he may no longer be considered human in the classic sense. To this end transhumanists devote time and energy to considering the technological and ethical problems involved in such a transition. It is seen by some as the natural extension of humanism.
Though this may seem like science fiction, many transhuman technologies are nearer than one might imagine. For instance it is widely speculated that we may see gene doping techniques, which could make athletes permanently faster and stronger via a single injection, in use as soon as the 2012 Olympics. Meanwhile, in an attempt to help paralyzed patients, researchers have already developed computer/human interfaces that can be controlled by the power of thought alone - an area that the military have shown interest in.
Other examples of transhuman technologies include: gene doping; implanting microchips; the use of drugs to extend life spans or increase cognitive ability; methods to remove pain, illness or old age; or further in the future even the 'uploading' of human consciousness. To an extent human cloning, designer babies and other technologies are transhuman and even some currently available procedures have a decidedly transhuman bent such as plastic surgery and performance enhancing drugs.
All these technologies have massive implications for athletes, the military, business and the general public. It is possible that we are heading towards a 'genetic age' where human enhancement could have as big an impact on society as the internet has today; where gene doping is affordable and widely available. Obviously there are many ethical issues surrounding such procedures and a surprisingly limited amount of literature for such a controversial and contemporary topic.