The rapid development of so-called NBIC technologies - nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science - are giving rise to possibilities that have long been the domain of science fiction. Disease, ageing and even death are all human realities that these technologies seek to end.
"[...]...transhumanism becomes a kind of "techno-anthropocentrism", in which transhumanists often underestimate the complexity of our relationship with technology. They see it as a controllable, malleable tool that, with the correct logic and scientific rigour, can be turned to any end. In fact, just as technological developments are dependent on and reflective of the environment in which they arise, they in turn feed back into the culture and create new dynamics - often imperceptibly. "
They may enable us to enjoy greater "morphological freedom" - we could take on new forms through prosthetics or genetic engineering. Or advance our cognitive capacities. We could use brain-computer interfaces to link us to advanced artificial intelligence (AI).
Nanobots could roam our bloodstream to monitor our health and enhance our emotional propensities for joy, love or other emotions. Advances in one area often raise new possibilities in others, and this "convergence" may bring about radical changes to our world in the near-future.
"Transhumanism" is the idea that humans should transcend their current natural state and limitations through the use of technology - that we should embrace self-directed human evolution. If the history of technological progress can be seen as humankind's attempt to tame nature to better serve its needs, transhumanism is the logical continuation: the revision of humankind's nature to better serve its fantasies.
As David Pearce, a leading proponent of transhumanism and co-founder of Humanity+, says:
If we want to live in paradise, we will have to engineer it ourselves. If we want eternal life, then we'll need to rewrite our bug-ridden genetic code and become god-like ... only hi-tech solutions can ever eradicate suffering from the world. Compassion alone is not enough.But there is a darker side to the naive faith that Pearce and other proponents have in transhumanism - one that is decidedly dystopian.
There is unlikely to be a clear moment when we emerge as transhuman. Rather technologies will become more intrusive and integrate seamlessly with the human body. Technology has long been thought of as an extension of the self. Many aspects of our social world, not least our financial systems, are already largely machine-based. There is much to learn from these evolving human/machine hybrid systems.
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