Friday, 2 May 2014

What on Earth is: Transhumanism?

Transhumanism is an interesting movement that believes that the human race is heading towards a new age of humanity, in which human and machine is united to form a new super race of bionically enhanced humans, or post-humans. Now this idea has been around for years and years, I'm sure most of you reading this have thought about the future of the human race.

h+ or H+ is a common abbreviation for the transhumanist movement

While largely inspired by Science Fiction movies and novels for a long time, the actual science is starting to catch up with the ideas of transhumanists. I've briefly touched on this topic before with how humans can gain sensations but the transhumanists believe there will be an even more intimate connection with technology than most of us would be comfortable with. 

The ideas brought forward vary wildly; from cyrogenic suspension to bionic eyes, to telekinesis and smart drugs. even had their own transhuman week, which I strongly recommend giving a read! 

The Beginnings of Transhumanism is Already Here

The rise of transhumanism as a movement comes as no surprise to those aware of the advances of technology, there are countless examples of the beginnings of transhumanism emerging on an almost daily basis! 

We have Google Glass, Driverless Cars, Cochlear Implants, advanced prosthetics, 3D printed organs, smart watches, bionic eye prototypes, trials for suspended animation,smart drugs, voice controlled everything, the internet of things, mind controlled robots even NASA is working on the plausibility for a warp drive! 

Where do Transhumanists Believe We Are Headed?

While most of us will admit that these advances are exciting, and also a little scary. The Transhumanist movements goes way further than this; they believe that we will have Whole Brain Emulation (WBE), essentially uploading our brains and being emulated on computers- essentially making us immortal AI. 

This brings us onto another major view of (and prerequisite to) transhumanism, strong AI. That is Artificial Intelligance that is equal to or greater than human intelligence.  
Bionic mind replacement is another dream of the transhumanists, being the idea that you could replace pieces of the brain bit by bit with the appropriate technology, so as to immortalise the mind while being sure that the mind is the same as the one that it started with. 

Radical Life Extension is another idea held dearly by transhumanists, some are even bold enough to say that the world's first 1000 year old human has already been born! 

What Are The Problems with Transhumanism?

While it is undeniable that we are heading relentlessly towards a more technologically advanced world, many people do not buy the promises announced by transhumanism, or even disturbed by the hopes of this movement. 

There are numerous ethical and scientific problems with the predictions and hopes of transhumanists. Firstly, these are largely people who take a glimpse of what science can do and runs with it, without really looking at limitations like ethics, technical problems and unforeseen problems that might come about. After working in a genetics lab for 9 months, it is clear that scientific progress is much much slower and has many many more unforeseen problems than transhumanists would like to believe. This is particularly relevant when it comes to AI and brain emulation, where the discipline of neuroscience plays a very important role. While decades of research has gone into the understanding of how the brain works, many of the findings have basically said that the brain is vastly more complicated than we could have ever imagined, we couldn't even emulate the brain of a sea slug at this point- let alone a human! 

However the main problem is this, even if we could do all of these things, would we want to? would it be ethical? what if it went wrong? Most transhumanists would answer "yes, yes and it won't". This, frankly, is dangerous. Just imagine how dangerous it would be to create an AI that was more intelligent than any human! What would it really be like to live for 1000 years? There has also been numerous comparisons to eugenics, creating a master race of super-humans and severe inequality (especially when it comes to their stance on human cloning and genetic engineering). What right do we have to upload our brains to the internet and become immortal, when others can't even find clean water to drink? Then of course, there are the many religious objections that transhumanism faces, many religions forbid people from accepting blood donations, so how on Earth would they be allowed to become immortal!?!

Transhumanism is being compared more and more to other extremist groups, such as militant creationists and climate-change deniers, often flying in the face of the very science they claim supports their views. This is even before we get to the really scary stuff, like re-calibration of our mood centres and personality pills!

While I am clearly skeptical of this movement, please take the time to come to your own views by looking at least at these sources.


Post a Comment