Transhumanism growing?

Technology and biology combined might be a dangerous one


How Transhumanism Works

The transhumanist philosophy sounds really great on the surface. You get to live a long time. You get to be happy and completely healthy. Maybe you can even have a virtual reality programmed where you wake up to an ocean view everyday. Not bad. But digging a little deeper, this philosophy may bring about several societal problems.

First, implementation of many of these technologies will be expensive. For example, preserving the body through cryonics currently costs several hundred thousand dollars [source: Alcor].

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Is transhumanism the future of evolution?

By Joe Harker

Transhumanism is a philosophy that the development of technology will allow us to improve our bodies by upgrading ourselves with new advancements.

In theory our species can break free of the physical and mental barriers imposed by biology.

However, the philosophy faces criticism of dangerous meddling with the natural order of things and it's also incredibly expensive. Is it the future, or a false dawn?

The Claim:

The BBC reports that an increasing number of people are upgrading themselves.

They spoke to Winter Mraz whose first "cyber-enhancements" came when she was in a serious car crash, needing her back bolted together and a 3D printed replacement for a knee.

Now her left hand contains a microchip that works as a key for her front door while her right hand is implanted with another chip that works as a business card and could store other important information. She also has a magnet in one of her fingers so she can sense electro-magnetic fields.

They also spoke to Steven Ryall, who wants to have "smart hands" and believes in the next five years people will become far more interested in upgrading their own bodies.

The pair think there's a logical step from people having all sorts of devices like Fitbits and smart watches which can monitor health to having implanted devices that do something similar.

The Counter Claim:

However, you can take modern devices off and decide not to use them any more if that's what you really want. It's harder to change your mind about a device embedded in your body.

The technology people would be upgrading themselves with is very expensive, meaning that for now transhumanism is available only to the very interested or the very rich.

There is potential for new technologies to widen the gap between rich and poor as one group can do things that the other physically cannot simply because they can afford to enhance themselves.

Another concern is that transhumanism will lead to people living longer at a time when overpopulation and resource consumption is already threatening the planet. Transhumanists recommend the solution of expanding into space, much easier said than done.

The biggest argument against it may be that the technology is in an early state of development and not all effects are known. If there are hazards it will be the early adopters who are in the most danger.

The Facts:

The idea of upgrading the human experience is very old. Immortality or greater health have been pursuits of many throughout history, though the technology for transhumanism hasn't been available until very recently.

One could argue that the mythical Fountain of Youth was an early example of transhumanism, though the idea in its current form didn't really take proper form until the 1920s when several pieces were published on the ways technology might change the human experience.

Since then ideas such as cryogenics, bionics, life extension and technological interfacing have grown. Technology exists for people to do things that transhumanism wants to achieve, but most are still external devices.

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