Dummies’ Guide to Transhumanism: Epic or Epic Fail?
If there was a way for humanity to achieve a stage where there were no diseases, viruses, human frailties or any form of intellectual incompetence, why wouldn’t you want to stretch your hand and grasp it? But how far would you stretch it -is the question. Would you be willing to let go of humanity as we know it today?
The intricacies and nuances of the discussion are, of course, endless. Reasons both for and against it are just as meaty and relevant on both sides. Let’s begin with what Transhumanism essentially aims to achieve.
Transhumanism simply refers to a philosophy which seeks to improve the efficiency and capability of mankind using technological advancements. If you’ve ever wondered about cryogenics, you’ve had a brief fling with the notions of this philosophy. If evolution has led us to where we are today as a species, what should stop us from taking over from here and determining where we go next?
Achievements of Transhumanism:
Lasik eye surgery: Poor eye-sight is a handicap in itself and anybody who has suffered from it would understand the importance of the convenience of leading a life where glasses are not required for clear vision. Needless to say, Lasik eye surgeries have made lives easier for many people with zero or negligible side-effects at an affordable price.
Vaccination: Diseases like Smallpox and Rinderpest have been completely eradicated with the help of vaccinations. An enhanced immune system and protection from disease causing viruses is an outcome of scientific as well as technological advancements, thereby part of transhumanism.
Hearing Aids: Technology has ensured to set right impairments wherever it can, and this includes partial or complete deafness. Hearing aids have been around for a while now and have changed the lives of countless people all over the world.
Artificially Developed Limbs: Another contribution of transhumanism is prosthetic limbs. They have been developed as a direct offshoot of technological advancements for those who have undergone any kind of bodily amputation. It is an ever growing, ever expanding field of the medical industry and continues to make improvements with every passing day. Bionic men and cyborgs don’t seem that far a reality in contemporary times, do they now?
Iron Man: Need we say more? Go ahead and feast your eyes post all that serious tech-jargon.
A Cool Example of Transhumanism:
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been the talk of the town for a while now. This is a technique for speeding up reaction times and learning speed by -wait for it- supplying your brain by a very weak electric current. It has been practised by the US military to train snipers. This practice has its fair share of haters, and with good reason. But that doesn’t make it any less intriguing.
A Not So Cool Example of Transhumanism:
Transhumanism grapples with the idea of uploading your memories and thoughts to a computer -a la Dumbledore and his pensieve, just not as cool and a more than a little disturbing. Hollywood has given us enough examples on how wrong this can go, latest being the Johnny Depp starrer Transcendence.
Growth and Stagnation: Transhumanism is often viewed as the epitome of growth and progress. Transhumanists believe humans are a work in progress of sorts and therefore why should our current stage be the final stage of evolution? Why shouldn’t we control the direction of evolution from here? The instinctive human need is to move forward, develop and evolve, but what if transhumanism is not a step towards evolution but towards stagnation instead?
If we truly manage to achieve a world with no diseases, perfect immunity and consequently, a drastically reduced or nil death rate, it would be interesting to see what becomes of our overly-populated planet. If we decide to let go of procreation to deal with the problem of limited space, it leaves us with a world frozen in stagnation. Not exactly what we had in mind when we set out with the growth proposition, is it now?
Dehumanization: Humans would cease to be what they are the moment external tampering with not simply a body part but the very core of existence begins, which is what transhumanism aims at. However, we are not sure if that’s exactly a bad idea or not.
Inequality: The fact that technology would be used for enhancing intelligence or the mortality rate also implies that it would entail a certain financial cost. This inadvertently means that money would determine intelligence and mortality of an individual, once again sparking off a whole set of debates about the consequent inequality this will lead to.
The Unknown Ahead: Honestly, no one has any clear idea of where we are headed with transhumanism. Those who endorse it may conjure up eutopic visions of a perfectly healthy and prosperous society, but the opposite side of the spectrum is also taken care of by those who reject transhumanism. Something as small and apparently harmless like smartphones have completely turned our lifestyle on its head, and given rise to a parallel reality of the virtual world. Let’s see where we end up with transhumanism.
A world of eternal life, superhuman strength, complete eradication of diseases and highly advanced mental faculties is what transhumanism seems to be offering. It has insidiously embed itself in our lives with present technologies like genetic engineering, information technology, and those in their more nascent form like molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence; all of it is a part of transhumanism. The question is, how much you will be willing to risk or get absorbed in.
Let us know in the comments below.