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  Wikipedia: Transhumanism

Wikipedia: Transhumanism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Transhumanism is an emergent school of speculative philosophy that is predicated on the idea that the human species is not confined to what biological evolution has thus far produced, and instead suggests that humanity has entered a new era, sometimes referred to as the post-Darwinian era, in which the species has the power to direct its own evolution.

The term was coined by Julian Huxley in 1957, though the concept designated by it differs substantially from the one transhumanists have been using since the 1980s. The Transhumanist FAQ (2.1), one of the most authoritative transhumanist documents, formally defines transhumanism as follows:

(1) 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.

(2) 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.

Transhumanists generally support present-day technologies such as genetic engineering (including of humans), cryonics, and advanced uses of computers and communications; as well as future technologies such as space travel, cloning and uploading of human minds into computer simulations. Typically, transhumanists believe that the rapid advances in technology will lead in the foreseeable future to the creation of Artificial Intelligence beyond anything conceived of in the Turing Test, and that this will lead inexorably to radical progress in such fields as nanotechnology and sub-molecular engineering.

The pace of technological development is steadily increasing, leading many forward-thinkers to speculate that the next 50 years will yield remarkable and radical technological advancements. Consequently, a new paradigm for thinking about humanity's future has begun to take shape. The "human condition," it holds, is not the constant it appeared to be, and future innovations will allow humans to shape their physical, emotional and cognitive characteristics as they see fit.

Transhumanism maintains that this is good and that humans can and should become more than human through the application of such technological innovations as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, neuropharmaceuticals, prosthetic enhancements and mind-machine interfaces.

"Transhumanism is more than just an abstract belief that we are about to transcend our biological limitations by means of technology; it is also an attempt to reevaluate the entire human predicament as traditionally conceived," says transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom. "And it is a bid to take a farsighted and constructive approach to our new situation."

Enlightenment and humanistic roots

Following in the tradition of Enlightenment-influenced 19th century political, moral and philosophical thought, transhumanism seeks to build upon the global knowledge base for the betterment of all humankind.

Derived in part from the philosophical traditions of secular humanism, transhumanism asserts that humans should be viewed as the "center" of the moral universe, and that there are no supernatural forces that guide humanity. While largely a grassroots and broadly based movement, transhumanism does tend toward rational arguments and empirical observations of natural phenomena; in many respects, transhumanists partake in a culture of science and reason, and are guided by life-promoting principles and values.

Specifically, transhumanism seeks to apply reason, science and technology for the purposes of reducing poverty, disease, disability, malnutrition and suppressive governments around the globe. Many transhumanists actively assess the potential for future technologies and innovative social systems to improve quality of all life, while seeking to make the material reality of the human condition fulfill the promise of legal and political equality by eliminating congenital mental and physical barriers.

Beyond humanism

There exists an ethical imperative for humans to strive for progress and improvement, argues transhumanism. If humanity enters into a post-Darwinian phase of existence in which humans are in control of evolution, random mutations will be replaced with rationally, morally and ethically guided change.

To this end, transhumanists engage in interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and evaluating possibilities for overcoming biological limitations. This includes the use of the various fields and subfields of science, philosophy, economics and natural and sociological history.

Transhumanist spirituality

The very concept of transhumanism brings to mind a sense of overcoming odds. Since one of the largest and broadly based odds for humanity is many wars around the world and problems developed by and through religious dogmas and political strife, transhumanism seeks to move beyond such restrictions that bind us to the past. In this regard, transhumanists have an innate sense of spirituality, but for the most part, do not partake in religious protocol. In fact, most transhumanists are agnostics or atheists.

Herein, in many respects transhumanism seeks to actualize the goals and hopes traditionally espoused by religions. Many transhumanists describe themselves as being very spiritual. Further, a considerable number of transhumanists follow Eastern philosophical traditions, especially secular Buddhism.

Rather than trusting in the existence of a transcendent soul, materialist transhumanists believe in the computational compatibility of biological minds with future machine minds -- with the theoretical implication that human consciousness can someday be uploaded into alternative mediums. Consequently, most transhumanists subscribe to personhood bioethics.

Rather than believing that immortality can be achieved after death, transhumanists strive for immortality by not dying; through the development of radically advanced health technologies and anti-aging medical practices, transhumanists hope to establish an open-ended lifespan, to make death a purely voluntary decision.

And rather than hoping for eternal bliss in heaven, many transhumanists strive for a technological singularity, techno-utopia or, at the very least, a future world filled with much less suffering and strife than today's.

History of Transhumanism in Current Times

"Transhumans," the early transhumanists, were formally meeting In the early 1980s at the University of California Los Angeles, which became the central watering hole for transhumanists. It was here that FM-2030 (formerly FM Esfandiary)lectured on the futurist ideology of Upwingers. John Spencer at Space Tourism Society organized many transhuman space-related events. Natasha Vita-More (formerly Nancie Clark) exhibited "Breaking Away" at EZTV Media, a venue for transhumanists and other futurists to meet. FM, John and Natasha met and soon they began holding gatherings for transhumans in Los Angeles, which included students from FM-2030 transhuman courses and audiences from Natasha artistic transhuman productions and the space and astrophysics community.

Across the planet in Australia, Damien Broderick, science fiction author, wrote The Judas Mandala. In 1982, Natasha authored the Transhumanist Arts Manifesto, and later produced the cable TV show "TransCentury UPdate" on transhumanity. With a viewing audience of over 100,000, this boutique talking head show reached 100,000 people.

In 1986, Dr. Eric Drexler's famed book on nanotechnology, Engines of Creation, was published in hardcover by Anchor Books. Alcor Foundation’s Southern California location became a nexus for futurist thinkers and Northern California’s tech-heads were carrying copies of Engines of Creation. Yet, not all activists who were interested in improving the human condition were involved in "transhumanism." Some didn’t know of the world "transhuman," although they were certainly pioneering in what is now transhumanism.

In 1987, Max More moved to Los Angeles from Oxford University in England, where he established the first European cryonics organization, known as Mizar Limited (later Alcor-UK), to work on his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Southern California. More met Tom Bell at the USC, and together they pursued ideas about the future. Tom coined the term "Extropy" to reflect these ideas and Max authored the philosophy of Extropy as "An evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition."

In 1989, "Extropy The Journal of Transhumanist Thought" was published, which formally brought together the most daring, futurist thinkers of the time to write about AI, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, superlongevity, Uploads, Idea Futures, Robotics, Space Exploration, politics and economics of transhumanism. Soon alternative media began reviewing the magazine and the magazine attracted interest from likeminded thinkers. Later, More and Bell co-founded Extropy Institute, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 educational organization. ExI was formed as a networking and information center to use current scientific understanding along with critical and creative thinking to define a small set of principles or values that could help make sense of the confusing but potentially liberating and existentially enriching capabilities opening up to humanity."

By 1990, Extropy Institute’s email list was launched in 1991 and in 1992, began producing the first conferences on transhumanism, and affiliate members throughout the world who began organizing their own transhumanist groups. Extro Conferences, meetings, parties, on-line debates, and documentaries have continued to get the idea of the transhuman to the public. But the cyberculture across the Internet became the most fertile breeding ground for people interested in exploring new tools with websites such as Extropy Institute, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Foresight Institute, and Transhumanist Arts & Culture.

In the mid-1990s, transhumanity continued to spread on the Internet through the networking of Extropy Institute’s conferences. If LA was the spawning place of transhumanity, the Internet became the womb. From a few hundred people to many thousands of people, transhumanist ideas are spreading with the help of media awareness and continued hard work of all involved. Today there are other organizations that have joined Extropy Institute to further transhumanist ideas such as Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Foresight Institute, Transhumanist Arts & Culture, Aleph in Sweden, TransVision in Europe, and World Transhumanist Association, The Singularity Institute, and numerous other organizations currently being developed.

In 1997, Nick Bostrom and David Pearce co-founded the World Transhumanist Association, with a slightly different flavour from the Extropians. "It was to be an autonomous and more broadly based grouping that would share the technological liberatory concerns of the Extropians, but allow for more political and ideological diversity than tolerated by the Extropians," noted James Hughes, who became the WTA's secretary. The WTA brand of transhumanism has been dubbed Liberal Democratic Transhumanism.

The WTA quickly established the Journal of Transhumanism and began working toward the recognition of transhumanism as an academic discipline. More recently, it elected a board of directors, renamed its journal the Journal of Evolution and Technology and launched a Webzine called Transhumanity.

Acting as an umbrella organization, the WTA has spawned a host of chapters around the world, including active chapters in New York, Toronto, Chicago. In total there are nearly two-dozen formed or forming local groups -- one on virtually every continent. A dozen transhumanist groups in the US, Europe, South America and Asia have also formally affiliated with the WTA, including the Extropy Institute.

As the culture of transhumanism grows, it is imperative that transhumanist organizations work together. Diversity is welcomed but cooperation is essential. That transhumanist organizations not push one political or spiritual view on their members or transhumanity as a culture. In order to encourage sustainability, we must not get caught up in political jargon or positioning. A futuristic political plan must consider all of transhumanity, as well as humanity. Cooperation in making sure that no one’s foot is being stepped on and that we consider basic economics — supply and demand, a conscientious efforts in spreading accurate information, and understanding that no one person or organization is going to be on top, but that the culture of transhumanity must be networked and transparent

Transhumanist Declaration

The first actual transhumanist declaration was authored by FM-2030 in his "Upwingers Manifesto," (1978) as an optimistic view of the future and a reference to the political idea that neither right nor left will bring about the changes needed for a positive future.

Another manifesto or "Transhumanist Statement" was authored by Natasha Vita-More in 1983, which pertained to the growing culture of transhumans and written as an arts manifesto.

"We are transhumans Our art integrates the most eminent progression of creativity and sensibility merged by discovery.

Transhumanist Arts represent the aesthetic and creative culture of transhumanity. Transhumanist Artists are developing new and varied modes of art. Our aesthetics and expressions are merging with science and technology in designing increased sensory experiences.

Transhumans want to improve and extend life. We are designing the technologies to improve and extend life. Emotions are integral to our senses and understanding. We are designing the technologies to enhance our senses and understanding.

The transhumanist ecology and freedom exercises self-awareness and self-responsibility. If our art represents who we are, then let us choose to be transhumanist not only in our bodies, but also in our values. Transhumanist Artists embrace the creative innovations of transhumanity. We are ardent activists in pursuing infinite transformation, overcoming death and exploring the universe.

Transhumans want to improve and extend life. We are designing the technologies to improve and extend life. Emotions are integral to our senses and understanding. We are designing the technologies to enhance our senses and understanding.

As Transhumanist Arts come into focus As more artists join our efforts As more designs are produced As more music is composed As more stories are written As the tools and ideas of our art continue to evolve, So too shall we.

In 1990 more concretized and formal code for transhumanists is in the form of the Transhumanist Principles of Extropy. They are in brief:

1. Perpetual Progress: seeking more intelligence, wisdom, and effectiveness, an open-ended lifespan, and the removal of political, cultural, biological, and psychological limits to continuing development. Perpetually overcoming constraints on our progress and possibilities as individuals, as organizations, and as a species. Growing in healthy directions without bound.

2. Self-Transformation: affirming continual ethical, intellectual, and physical self-improvement, through critical and creative thinking, perpetual learning, personal responsibility, proactivity, and experimentation. Using technology — in the widest sense to seek physiological and neurological augmentation along with emotional and psychological refinement.

3. Practical Optimism: fueling action with positive expectations – individuals and organizations being tirelessly proactive. Adopting a rational, action-based optimism or "proaction", in place of both blind faith and stagnant pessimism.

4. Intelligent Technology: designing and managing technologies not as ends in themselves but as effective means for improving life. Applying science and technology creatively and courageously to transcend "natural" but harmful, confining qualities derived from our biological heritage, culture, and environment.

5. Open Society: supporting social orders that foster freedom of communication, freedom of action, experimentation, innovation, questioning, and learning. Opposing authoritarian social control and unnecessary hierarchy and favoring the rule of law and decentralization of power and responsibility. Preferring bargaining over battling, exchange over extortion, and communication over compulsion. Openness to improvement rather than a static utopia. Extropia ("ever-receding stretch goals for society") over utopia ("no place").

6. Self-Direction: valuing independent thinking, individual freedom, personal responsibility, self-direction, self-respect, and a parallel respect for others.

7. Rational Thinking: favoring reason over blind faith and questioning over dogma. It means understanding, experimenting, learning, challenging, and innovating rather than clinging to beliefs.

In 1999, with help from such contributors as Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, Max More, Anders Sandberg, and Kathryn Aegis, the WTA compiled the Transhumanist Declaration. It declares the following:

  1. Humanity will be radically changed by technology in the future. We foresee the feasibility of redesigning the human condition, including such parameters as the inevitability of aging, limitations on human and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, suffering, and our confinement to the planet earth.
  2. Systematic research should be put into understanding these coming developments and their long-term consequences.
  3. Transhumanists think that by being generally open and embracing of new technology we have a better chance of turning it to our advantage than if we try to ban or prohibit it.
  4. Transhumanists advocate the moral right for those who so wish to use technology to extend their mental and physical capacities and to improve their control over their own lives. We seek personal growth beyond our current biological limitations.
  5. In planning for the future, it is mandatory to take into account the prospect of dramatic technological progress. It would be tragic if the potential benefits failed to materialize because of ill-motivated technophobia and unnecessary prohibitions. On the other hand, it would also be tragic if intelligent life went extinct because of some disaster or war involving advanced technologies.
  6. We need to create forums where people can rationally debate what needs to be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented.
  7. Transhumanism advocates the well-being of all sentience (whether in artificial intellects, humans, nonhuman animals, or possible extraterrestrial species) and encompasses many principles of modern secular humanism. Transhumanism does not support any particular party, politician or political platform.

Transhumanism has no rigid doctrines, but the Transhumanist Declaration is a good summary of its core ideas.

Contemporary Transhumanist Culture

As proponents of personal evolution and self-creation, transhumanists tend to utilize technologies and techniques that improve cognitive and physical performance, while engaging in specific routines and lifestyles designed to extend health and prolong life.

Many transhumanists seek to become posthuman, the next significant evolutionary step for the human species. It is supposed that specific biotechnological and nanotechnological innovations will facilitate such a leap by the midpoint of the 21st century. Depending on their age, some transhumanists worry that they will not live to reap the benefits of these future technologies, however. Accordingly, they have a great interest in life-extension practices and, as a last resort, cryonic suspension.

Transhumanists are also forming regional and global networks and communities to provide support and forums for discussion.

Fictional depictions of Transhumanism

A role-playing game called Transhuman Space is written by David L. Pulver, illustrated by Christopher Shy, published by Steve Jackson Games and is part of the "Powered by GURPS" line. [1]

Opponents and Critics of Transhumanism

Transhumanists may characterize their opposition as Luddites, and point to such notorious examples as Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who was convicted of sending parcel bombs to prominent people in key technology industries, killing three people and severely wounding two others. Although he published a long manifesto that critiqued the ideal of giving up human powers to machines, it should be noted that Kaczynski wrote in his private journals "I believe in nothing, I don't even believe in the cult of nature-worshipers or wilderness-worshipers." His doctrine was itself mostly a negation, and his actions did not demonstrate any great breakthrough in ethics.

A more notable critic, if not opponent, is Bill Joy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who argued in his essay "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us"[1] that human beings would guarantee their own extinction by transhuman means.

British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees cautions in his book Our Final Hour that advanced science and technology brings as much risk of disaster as opportunity for progress. Rees does not advocate a halt to scientific progress, but tighter security and perhaps an end to traditional scientific openness.

Advocates of the precautionary principle, such as the Green movement, favor slow, thorough progress or a halt in potentially dangerous areas.

The conservative political economist Francis Fukuyama wrote in the book Our Posthuman Future that transhumanism (and posthumanism) may critically damage the progressive ideas of transhumanists including the many political systems that are open to making the future a better place for humanity through the alteration of human nature and human equality.

A proponent of transhumanism who shares most of Bill Joy's analysis but not his fears is Hugo De Garis, who nonetheless predicts "a gigadeath war" in which those who seek to remain humans or remain safe as unaugmented humans will fight to the death to destroy the proponents of transhumanism, e.g., wave after wave of smarter Unabombers killing every last AI researcher. According to De Garis, however, the transhuman program is so appealing that it will ultimately survive, and triumph, regardless of violent opposition.

See also: posthumanism, superhuman, transhumanist socialism, cyborg

External links

There are several transhumanist organizations in existence, including Good transhumanist portal sites include Transhumanist blogs: Some Transhumanists include: Other related links:


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