The Contradictions of Transhumanism Transhumanism is a complex phenomena crosscutting through a variety of philosophies and ways of life It evolved over time on the basis of humanist philosophies and by also incorporating new ideas and even arguments from its critics There is not one “transhumanism” so it may be said that it is a specific “ way” ( 道 ) in the East Asian meaning of “way” = “approach”, “way to/of” (e.g. Judo ( 柔道 ) = flexible way, Chado ( 茶道 ) = way of tea (tea ceremony)) Transhumanism as “way of improving human characteristics and capabilities with the means of science and technology”. “ Trans” stands for transitional in the context of “transhuman”
The Contradictions of Transhumanism
Postmodern ... but with a “Grand Narrative of the future”
Secular and materialist ... but with spiritual/quasi religious elements
Humanistic ... but considers non-human rights
Elitist ... but pluralistic with democratic goals and socialist elements
Reductionist ... but holistic
Male ... but does not care about gender
Individualist ... but with a global network
Technology oriented ... but much concerned about social/ethical issues
Future-oriented ... but has its roots in the enlightenment era
Hedonistic ... but with ascetic elements and emphasis on rationalism
OR Transhumanism is…
The Contradictions of Transhumanism
A “Grand Narrative of the future” ... but with postmodern elements
Spiritual ... but basically secular, agnostic and materialistic
Non-human rights advocate ... but humanistic
Pluralistic and social/liberal democratic ... but also elitist
Holistic ... but with scientifically reductionist tendencies
Gender neutral ... but the majority is male
A global network ... but individualistic
Much concerned with social/ethical issues ... but technology-oriented
Historic with a tradition in the enlightenment era ... but future-oriented
Rationalist with ascetic elements ... but for the enjoyment of life
Humanism and Transhumanism * e.g. equality, human rights freedom (of thought), peace and scientific rationale ** that includes a considerably extended healthy life span, the alteration of (individually) undesired human biological/neurological traits (human enhancement), a technologically advanced post-scarcity environment, more opportunities for humans to create their lives. Humanism puts the human (and human welfare) in the centre and strives to improve the living situation of humans. The main goal is the improvement of human society; the betterment of the human character is a means. Death is a fact so life is important. It is focused on the present. Transhumanism has the goal of improving the human being as a biological/cognitive entity and as aggregation effect humanity as such. Humanist ideals* are seen as a necessary condition for achieving a good outcome of the envisioned “transhuman condition”**. Life is important so death has to be overcome. It is focused on the future.
Characteristics of a ”Trans/Posthuman” The Superman: Entity with super-human capabilities, mostly focused on strength and physical capabilities. The Cyborg: Human that has been physically/cognitively enhanced through cybernetic/robotic/computer technology fused with or attached to the biological organism. The genetically designed human: special/improved human traits are genetically selected or engineered. More focused on cognition, perceptive abilities, health and appearance.
Characteristics of a ”Trans/Posthuman” The “Maitreya”: A human who has achieved complete enlightenment, becomes a perfect being (mentally, physically and spiritually) and help humanity to achieve this state. The “Eternal Mind”: A human mind/’consciousness’ transferred to a (ever)lasting medium (e.g. computer) to continue existing, thinking, developing and communicating. The “relative god”, with characteristics found in ancient Greek/ Roman religion or Hinduism: Possesses superhuman capabilities (e.g. control nature), but is still rather similar to humans and can fail and even die.
Some Observations Not all transhumanists think that “transhumanist technologies” (e.g. life extension, memory preservation, human enhancement and a post-scarcity economy) will be realized (within their lifetime), probably due to socio-political reasons Many are also concerned about the technologies they are principally advocating Transhumanism has “thought leaders” and founders of several organizations but no real founder of “transhumanism” as such Some prominent persons, firms and organisations are affiliated with transhumanism It cuts through a large deal of the political spectrum (except very conservatives, far right, nationalists and strictly religious parties) different religious thoughts (besides agnostics/atheists esp. Buddhists, liberal Christians and Eastern traditions) and basically all nationalities, regions, ethnicities and genders (incl. transgenders)
Some Observations Transhumanism evolved from web-based “special interest groups” The internet has been a major factor for its development and growth and is still the most important means of communication Transhumanist public web-presence is rather fragmented with limited enthusiam on public forums A large share of transhumanists are academics with a dominance of natural scientists, ICT scientists, engieers, social scientists and philosophers and many are cross-cutting/inter-/multidisciplinarily trained Transhumanism does not transport its ideas through large social actions such as demonstrations, political activism and proselytization (conferences and conventions are more directed towards the transhumanist community than the general public)
(Mis)understanding Transhumanism Human enhancement, “future human”, eliticism, utopianism, “technocracy”, “social/artistic futurism” Facism? Individualism, “morphological freedom”, liberalism, DIY, minimal state, trans-/post-genderism, freedom Liberalism, anarchism? Cosmopolitan, global, diversity, “utopia” (no place) Internationalism? Human rights, human wellbeing and health, human improvement/enhancement, pacifism Humanism? Transhumanist Element Contemporary Category Equal access and opportunities, minimal guaranteed Income, global welfare Socialism? Animal rights (and AI rights), vegetarian, risk concerns, environmental improvement, alternative energy Environmentalism?
(Mis)understanding Transhumanism Rationality, science-technology-oriented Scienticism, Reductionism? Modernity? Singularity, immortality, belief-systems, “ grand narrative of the future”, meditation practice Religion? Enlightenment, science-technology-orientation, belief in progress, proactionary principle Transhumanist Element Contemporary Category Relativism, integration, diversity, freedom, holism, individualism, individual spirituality Post-Modernity? Rationalism, reductionist, science-oriented, no-belief in supernatural, disagreement with religious arguments Anti-religious?
A Collection of Self Contradictions? Cryonics Life Extension Uploading Vegetarian Animal Rights AI/Robot Rights Cosmopolitan Elitism? Alternative energy Transgenderism Liberalism? Open Source DIY Minarchism Democracy Socialism? Basic Income Pacifism Post-Scarcity HET Healthy Aging Cyborgism Morphological Freedom DIY H+ Meditation Yoga, T’ai Chi etc. Non Smoking Personal Health Fitness, Bodybuilding Plastic Surgery Technocracy Foresight Physical Immortality Hedonism Calory Restriction Individualism Post-genderism Proactionary Non-human centricism Genetic engineering Facism? Anarchism? Environmentalism? Humanism? Modernity? Scientism? Religion? Post-Modernity? Singularity Internationalism? Anti-religious
Maybe Transhumanism can be better understood through Eastern
philosophy that can better deal with seeming contradictions.
Understand transhumanism as a new concept
It is neither modern nor post-modern
It is neither non-spiritual nor spiritual (denies all supernatural)
It does not belong anywhere in space (no nation) nor time (future-oriented)
Mind and body are important, but there is also a dissatisfaction with them
It is humanistic but considers the point beyond being human
(Mis)understanding Transhumanism TRANSHUMANISM possesses a lot of seeming contradictions and thus cannot be clearly defined according to standard binary categories of Western thought, e.g.