My Novels

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Here comes a rant on a topic I've written about before: transhumanism. If you don't know what that is, type the word into a search engine and you'll quickly learn.

This article: How perfect do we want to be? is what prompted my rant. For example, here's a few excerpts:

"Transhumanists" (Google gives 15,100 hits for the term) believe that the info-bio-nano-robotic-AI (artificial intelligence) technology revolutions will converge to alter the fundamental nature of being human. We and all our most important values and beliefs will be changed beyond present recognition.

For transhumanists, being human is not the end of evolution, but the beginning. Technoscience provides them with a strong "No" to the existential question, "Is this all there is?" Transhumanists are techno-utopians. They want to do good -- as they put it, to expand technological opportunities for humans to live longer and healthier lives and to enhance their intellectual, physical, psychological and emotional capacities.

But the ultimate goal is articulated more fully in a transhumanist Web site, Incipientposthuman, which speaks of "unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity," of being "potentially immortal," and of being "a person who no longer can be classified usefully with homo sapiens [because they have undergone] sweeping modifications to inherited genetics, physiology, neurophysiology and neurochemistry."

Transhumanists and I have completely different and contradictory views of what it means to be human.

So what?

I believe that we must have a profound respect for the natural -- especially for human nature itself. And we must have strong justification for interfering with it. Further, we must not radically change it so as to destroy its essential essence.

Oh, I understand. This woman is a human who is under the delusion that humans SHOULD NOT seek (scientifically or technologically) to improve themselves. However, wanna bet she's the first in line for a heart or kidney transplant if she ever needs it? And pray tell, WHY should a human object to improving the quality and length of life? Ah yes, lurking back there in the mind is that weird religions thing: 90% of humans ALREADY think they are immortal, cause their 'souls' will live eternally after the flesh perishes. (Prove it, I say.)

We all want to live with a high quality of life for as long as we can. But no lesser person than Dr. Leon Kass, chair of the (U.S.) President's Commission on Bioethics, has argued against radical life extension. "Human life without death would be something other than human," he says; consciousness of mortality gives rise to our deepest longings and greatest accomplishments.

This issue is intentionally front and centre on the pro-technology agenda, because if, as we will be sorely tempted to do, we accept radical life extension, then why not cloning? Or designing our children? Or reproducing entirely by artificial means? Or enhancing our intelligence with computer chip implants? Or eventually being superceded by robots that are infinitely more intelligent and durable than we are?

Whether or not we agree with the transhumanists, they are doing us a major service in making us aware of the enormity the new technoscience could effect. They see no reason why the future development of human nature itself should be limited to traditional humanistic methods, like education and culture. They want us to use technology to discover and create our authentic (technological) selves. You and I, flawed natural humans, are what the posthumanists will call "un-debugged humans" -- unmodified by technology to improve us.

Why is it that humans object to going extinct? I have NO PROBLEM with the end of humanity as we know it, for we ARE in fact flawed...and why isn't it conceivable that a robotic being could solve problems we can't? The violence and destruction we've unleashed on our fellow beings is more than enough reason for the robotic beings to simply get rid of us as a race, since they could possibly do more for survival of "intelligent life" than we have done in the past.

Soon DH and I will go on our afternoon drive, and it will be nice to get out of the house for awhile! :-)

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