Volume 8, No. 2, Fall 2013
The Future of Humanity and the Question of Post-Humanity
Index and Editors' Introduction
Transhumanism, Post-Humanism, and Human Technological Enhancements: Wither Goes Humanitas?
Gregory J. Walters| Saint Paul University, Ottawa
This essay introduces seven articles on transhumanity from a Jaspersian perspective, discusses the meaning, nature, and scope of transhumanist and post-humanist philosophies, and critically engages ideas concerning enhancement technologies and enhanced human/trans/post-human beings.
Keywords: Transhumanism; transhuman; post-humanism; post-human; human; humanitas; technology; technological enhancement; Jaspers, Karl; bioconservatives; futurology; social inequality; economic inequality; life expectancy; equality; public health; social determinants of health; kindness; care; ethical values; moral resources.
Hyperagency as a Core Attraction and Repellant for Transhumanism
Max More | Alcor Life Extension Foundation
A few thinkers have given voice to a range of deeply felt but largely unarticulated concerns that may explain much of the resistance and opposition to transhumanist goals. This essay examines those concerns and how they interrelate, primarily looking at the issues as presented by Michael Sandel in "The Case Against Perfection", and Leon Kass in Beyond Therapy. The concerns revolve around a fear that human nature and personal identity will become unglued, losing all shape and meaning. Many of these concerns come together in Sandel's discussion of hyperagency and in his contrast of this "Promethean aspiration" with his ideals of humility, solidarity, and responsibility, and the concepts of beholding, giftedness and "the given," authenticity, and identity. We should give genuine and careful attention to these concerns. The idea of hyperagency appears to be a focal point both for people's attraction to and repulsion from transhumanism.
Keywords: Sandel, Michael; Kass, Leon; hyperagency; transhumanism; morphological freedom.
Contested Culture: The Plausibility of Transhumanism
Natasha Vita-More | Humanity+
Transhumanism seeks the continued evolution of human life beyond its current lifespan and supports technological intervention of selective human enhancement. At the core of contestation is deep-rooted concern about tampering with human nature and the unknown element of who we might become. Nevertheless, if humans have been in a continued state of transmutation from our earliest time, then this process is species-typical. What comes into play is the issue of what we desire and what is feasible for biological modification as it relates to life extension and preservation of one's autonomy. Even if transhumanism advocates life-promoting principles and values, the risks include our own evolvability. While the outstanding issue of what we might become if we live longer is an unknown, it is plausible that the transhumanist aim of radical life extension will be realized. Copyrights reserved © 2012 Natasha Vita-More.
Keywords: Life extension; human enhancement; species-typical; autonomy; evolvability risk.
Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms: Differences and Relations
"Posthuman" has become an umbrella term to refer to a variety of different movements and schools of thought, including philosophical, cultural, and critical posthumanism; transhumanism (in its variations of extropianism, liberal and democratic transhumanism, among others); the feminist approach of new materialisms; the heterogeneous landscape of antihumanism metahumanism, metahumanities, and posthumanities. Such a generic and all-inclusive use of the term has created methodological and theoretical confusion between experts and non-experts alike. This essay will explore the differences between these movements, focusing in particular on the areas of signification shared by posthumanism and transhumanism. In presenting these two independent, yet related philosophies, posthumanism may prove a more comprehensive standpoint to reflect upon possible futures.
Keywords: Posthumanism; transhumanism; antihumanism; metahumanism; new materialism; technology; future; posthuman; transhuman; Cyborg.
Are we Ethically Required to be Transhumanists?
John P. Sullins|
Sonoma State University
Technology is giving those who possess it the ability to make conscious choices about the next steps in human evolution as a species, especially in terms of radical life extension techniques. Since the choices we make when engineering our future evolution are not entirely forced on us by nature and are freely taken, these decisions come with strong ethical and moral duties that cannot be ignored by those with the power to take us into the transhuman future. This essay uses the philosophical thoughts of Karl Jaspers to critique the claim that we must, as a species, aggressively pursue technologies that will expand our biological capabilities and lead us inevitably to a transhuman future. It is acknowledged here that there are many paths to transhumanity and some of those paths are more ethically palatable than others. Toward this goal the essay demonstrates that some form of transhumanity seems inevitable; and yet, a reading of Karl Jaspers' thoughts on death, deathlessness, and spiritual transcendence can help advance this discussion in determining which path will lead to a more ethically justifiable future. Jaspers' thoughts lead to an argument that suggest that as technology proceeds to occlude one's experience of an authentic human lifeworld, the ability to comprehend spiritual transcendence is lost and replaced entirely by a desire for perfectionment through the coercive force of modern techniques. We find that for Jaspers, what matters is the phenomenological state that transcendence places us in and that a life worth living is not entirely achieved through some form of technologically induced deathlessness.
Keywords: Transhuman ethics; Existenz; human augmentation; posthuman condition; healthspan augmentation; longevity; life extension.
Post-Humanism, Technology, and Education
Stephen A. Erickson| Pomona College
A component of post-humanism is the notion that humanity is a construct, not a given. Jaspers was concerned that technology might increase such dehumanization. Could technology serve as the prime medium through which we reach self-understanding? A technological medium will heighten discursive intelligence, decrease contextual comprehension, and erode empathy. As a medium for Bildung, philosophy will undergo constricting pressures. In the absence of a parallel religious education or an institutional grounding for the internalization of "wisdom literature," it is unlikely that spiritual nutrition could be absorbed later in the lifecycle. The human may undergo marginalization in a highly competitive digitized civilization.
Keywords: Axiality; enlightenment; Existenz; metanarratives; posthumanism; prophetic philosophy; Cassirer, Ernst; Heidegger, Martin; Jaspers, Karl; Kant, Immanuel.
Futurological Discourse and Posthuman Terrains
University of California, Berkeley
Seven basic distinctions seem to me key to grasping futurology as both a discursive and a sub-cultural phenomenon: (1) technologies and technology: the actual constellation of artifacts and techniques in the diversity of their stakes and specificities as against technology as a de-politicizing myth disavowing these specificities; (2) progress and destiny: techno-developmental social struggles in the service of avowed political ends in a material historical frame as against a paradoxical naturalization of progress into destiny, autonomy, convergence, and/or accelerationalist momentum; (3) mainstream futurology and superlative futurism: hyperbolic techno-fixated norms and forms that suffuse popular marketing, promotional, consumer discourses as well as neoliberal administrative, developmentalist discourses as against the futurist amplification of this speculativeness, reductiveness, and hyperbole into faith-based, techno-transcendental, putatively scientific but in fact pseudo-scientific, quasi-theological aspirations toward superintelligence, supercapacitation and superabundance; (4) superlativity and supernativity: posthuman/transhuman against bioconservative/naturalizing futurisms, highlighting continuities and inter-dependencies of the two, as distinguished in turn from legible democratizing technodevelopmental social struggle, consensus science and sustainable public investment; (5) posthumanism and transhumanism: post-humanisms as variations of superlative futurology against post-humanisms as variations of the critique of humanism, amounting to a distinction of moralizing prevalence as against ethical reconciliation; (6) futurist discourses and subcultures: material differences in the objects and archives of discursive as against subcultural formations; (7) futurity and The Future: distinguishing between the political openness inhering in the present in the presence of ineradicable stakeholder diversity as against instrumentalizing projections of parochial fears, fantasies, and stakes that would disavow and so foreclose futurity.
Keywords: Arendt, Hannah; eugenics; futurology; futurism; futurity; Lewis, C.S.; posthumanism; progress; public relations; technology; transhumanism.
Human Nature as Seen from a Transhumanist Perspective
Michael Hauskeller | University of Exeter, UK
There are two very different conceptions of human nature underlying the transhumanist endeavor to pave the way for posthumanity. One understands nature as that which confines us, setting limits to what we can do and be (and which we encounter mostly in form of our own bodies that are fragile and ultimately condemn us to death), while the other understands nature as that which allows and indeed urges us to overcome all limits and boundaries. In a way those two natures are working against each other: one is seen bad as it confines us, the other is good as it frees us. The essay shows the inconsistency of these views.
Keywords: Transhumanism; nature; human enhancement; Lewis, C.S.; control; Oxytocin; power; social reality.