Humans, Trans and Post. Some Questions - Technology, Part 2


Continuing from the previous post, the next best step is, I believe, discussing the subjects and some of the many questions that, over the years, have lead to my re-examination of "technology". That's what this post is about:     

If we survive another 200,000 years, will future descendants resemble anything like us? If humans have evolved into the genus Homo through a series of characteristically different forms, isn’t natural to assume that these same forces are still at work and will eventually lead to further taxonomically distinct species evolving out of humans? Or have we peaked? 
   
We’ve barely crossed an important barrier, we’re still in the early stages of a consciousness that promises incredible new depths of knowledge with entirely different sets of boundaries and potentials for human expansion. Or, could we really be close to knowing all that we can know? Once we find that Higgs-Boson particle and validate M-theory, is that it? Will it be the end, business as usual, the beginnings of a mutation, or will god appear?

Given all that we’ve been able to accomplish in the last 100 years alone, if anything, the epistemological implications of recent scientific breakthroughs clearly hint at the possibility that there are infinitely more things we don’t even know that we don’t know about than there are things we do know we know nothing about. Therefore, although it is very unlikely that we will reach the dead-end of knowledge any time soon, surely, this explosive, exponential growth in awareness we’re experiencing will reach a plateau, our cerebral limitations preventing further progress. Is this a good thing? Are we meant to see it as a sign of futility and misdirection or are we meant to press on by any means at our disposal? Facing such limitations, is the human spirit without its inquisitive nature still human? Does our race reach a “Peter Principle” level of evolutionary incompetence or are we equipped to adapt, i.e. will evolution take care of us, our brains and mental capacities naturally increasing as they’ve done 195,000 years ago, or should we assume that evolution was kind enough to give us the knowledge necessary to adapt, the rest is up to us?

Posthumanism, considered to be an optimistic world stance, is a futurist philosophy espousing the belief that, eventually, humans will develop into beings whose capabilities will so greatly exceed ours, and exhibiting behaviours so dissimilar as to be incomprehensible to us, that they will deserve a new label.  In this context, posthuman doesn’t refer to a period where humans are extinct, but rather, to a future where humans will have attained a new form.
Will changes occur gradually, imperceptibly or in leaps and bounds?  What if we played an active role in guiding these changes? Certainly, our faith and growing reliance on medicine and science is bringing about a shift from laisser-faire Mendelian genetics and evolution towards increasingly Extropianistic outlooks that encourage certain improvements made to the human condition, so how far off are we from wanting to play a direct role in shaping the future incarnation of our race?  

Transhumanisn, a subset of posthumanism, advocates the deliberate use of technology to allow us—through individual applications and collective, conscious efforts—to overcome our biological limitations and rid us of pain and suffering, believing that it is our responsible duty to re-engineer humans using techniques provided by modern eugenics, including genomics and genetic engineering, as well as chemical or nanotech neuro-restructuring, bionics, etc., plus any means heretofore undiscovered.  It is their belief that our efforts and sacrifices will lead to a happier, disease-free, longer-living, and more efficient, self-sustaining posthumankind.  Transhumanism concerns itself with promoting such technological endeavours and the ethics that should guide “transitional” humans towards this new state.
Under these circumstances, would posthumans be artificial or the natural, expected result of thousands of years of mental progress?  Will we have surpassed nature or simply prevented it from achieving greater wonders than any posthuman we could have cooked up?    

Philosopher Francis Fukuyama claimed, in an article that appeared in the Set./Oct. 2004 issue of Foreign Policy, that philosophies promoting posthumanism as its goal, particularly transhumanism, are “the world's most dangerous ideas.”  But, other than tranhumanists’ destabilizing insistence on wanting to re-engineer the human race faster than what may prove to be humanly possible, do such philosophies genuinely offer new ideas per se, or unabashed opinions on the course we should adopt to reach what appears to be our unconscious goal?  If so, are we heading towards bliss or techno-Nazism?

Extropianism or Transhumanism, the line is thin.
We’ve reached a point in our evolution where, whether or not we want it, and whether or not we realize it, transhumanistic aspirations and topics are anything but pipe dreams and empty rhetoric. We're seeing their reality slowly take shape in diluted forms, increasingly so as further generations grasp the infitinite depths of our potential universe and certain perceptions become common knowledge, and consequently, so do some concepts of theories like Spontaneous Order, Boundless Expansion, Intelligent Technology, and Self-Transformation. 

We may still not have accumulated enough trees to see the proverbial forest, but considering all that has led us to the now and our growing obsessions with: Ritalin, anti-depressants, Viagra, and pharmaceuticals; illicit drugs, alcohol and any other anaesthetic; our continual search for new, more complex forms of entertainment; cryonics and anti-aging creams; Lasek, steroids, diet pills, Botox, and cosmetic surgery; vaccines, antibiotics, and eradicating disease; the self-help market; our growing acceptance of bionics and organ farms—from artificial limbs to dentrites, anything that needs replacing; communications and connectivity, etc., as unappealing as it may seem, is it really far-fetched to believe that one day many will be willing to construct their kids à la carte and undergo neuro-augmentation surgery that will slow down aging and double our mental processing capacities, and while we're at it, get a chip-inplant that will intensify orgasms and make them last hours? What's next? 

And it’s easy to say that arms should be arms and not grow back ‘til it’s your own or your kid’s stump you’re looking at. Likewise, it’s easy to believe that kids with Down Syndrome should be left to be born with the disease until the decision rests in your hands. Etc., etc.
Unless humans stop being humane, medicine will continue to serve as a gateway, continually forcing a piece-meal acceptance of transhumanistic ideals through increasingly permissive medical applications. As such, it doesn’t matter if Betty or Bob Now doesn’t want anything to do with genetic manipulation or any other fancy techno-biowizardry; because of it, eventually, they will die, and certain concepts and technologies that were offensive to our period will have permeated the popular culture and gained tolerance, and when the time is right, future generations may one day think of us as primitive beings for having had to live without an iHead brain insert. 
And once the technology is "out there", if it created or fills a profitable need, bans and laws are only truly efficient in terms of defining the crime, not halting its development.

Our attitudes towards flesh, sex, and pornography demonstrate this idea well—a hundred years ago, anyone would have been lynched (or worse, excommunicated (hehe)) simply for suggesting that one day we’d be able to sit at home and, with a few clicks on a screen, watch a stranger have sex with a horse and 3 guys. These days, as long as kids aren’t involved, it’s anything goes! Sites, groups, resorts and a whole lot more now cater to any perversion, meanwhile, blowjob parties and sex on the Internet are the new, trendy-teen-things to do.
Does the parallel limit itself to a gradual breakdown and restructuring of cultural taboos, or is transhumanism an extreme form of the same depravity and a natural extension of the isolation and loss of identity fostered within cultures submersed in increasingly stultifying forms of pornography?
  
And, whether or not we accept it, despite last-ditch creationist efforts and still-bedazzling turnouts on the Pope’s world tours and, regardless of all the “please, lord, just this one time” prayers still simultaneously muttered across the globe each and every second, or the head-spinning number of guns and bombs and molestations that continue under the name of religion, we are quite clearly shifting away from systems of beliefs based on deities and faith, new generations increasingly embracing eupraxophical systems in their stead—systems that reject ideological authoritarianism while relying on rational and scientific methods as the basis for providing meaningful philosophical frameworks of belief. 
Things have certainly changed, so much so that, for all we know, Jesus may have come back three years ago but, since his first encounter with the law, he’s drooling on himself in some institution, doped up on drugs doctors believe will cure him of what can only be some form of schizophrenia.
So, are eupraxophies truly free of all the trappings that plagued our pagan and religious modes of conceptualisation? In a way, aren’t we just shifting “god” towards "science"? Is this an indications of our limitations, a necessary component of a natural transitional phase we are witnessing, or an unwarranted anchor on humankind’s ability to attain ameliorated states of being and awareness?

Science has provided tremendously innovative methods of perceiving the world that have continually challenged religious and mythical/transcendental world views. From a flat world and heliocentric system to molecules, space-time and 7 new dimensions of reality, who knows what we’ll believe just 50,000 years from now.

But, for the moment, transhumanism or bioconservativism?   
The more informed Transhumanists claim that this is beneficial to the human condition provided we embrace these new possibilities, thus guaranteeing a more ethical course of developments achieved through a greater understanding of all key factors necessary towards the development of regulatory policies.
It may seem absurd that a philosophy that espouses such sci-fi visions is down-to-earth enough to profess a need for establishing ruling principles, but, like I said, we’ve reached that point. Why wait till it’s too late this time? As such, groups like Humanity+ (previously, World Transhumanist Association) and related publications like H+ Magazine, now represent important viewpoints and voice on the matter, albeit one that is far from neutral. Unfortunately, opposing voices usually offer weak, reactionary arguments that translate into an unwillingness to accept change or that make a reference to some god and faith while offering very little sensible options as cultures nonetheless rush towards this reality. Stubborn, emotionally-based rebellion can be just as dangerous as blind acceptance.

And indeed, Tranhumanist zeal and its gut-triggered opposition are both the reasons why I believe, as mentioned in the previous post, that we need to rethink our perception of technology. By doing so, key concerns with the transhumanist philosophy are brought to surface, unbiased by religious or bioconservative arguments. 
Along with a definition for technology, I’ll be examining these aspects in greater detail in the next few posts, and looking at answers to all those questions above.  


Keep on clicking!
PDL


© 2011, Pascal-Denis Lussier
Photo credit: © 2009, filosofie 

2 comments:

François Bussière said...

It'll eventually be like in old sci-fi movies. Super-computers will analyse the stuff we can't.

And in the end they will either light up the green or the red light as an answer. We understand that sort of answers.

D'un autre côté, nous sommes déjà arrivés à l'endroit où nous n'évoluons plus comme les autres espèces. Au lieu d'évoluer, nous évoluons l'extérieur de notre carapace de chair. Les risques sont sur à peu près tous les horizons que, cessant de s'adapter en tant qu'organisme, nous deviendrons bientôt notre propre talon d'Achille. L'espèce la plus uniformément mal organisée pour faire face aux changements. Égaux, en ce sens.

Sylvie Perron said...

The Human Body generates much more than what man can ever invent. We have knowledge of this & yet not a lot of us use this LIFE FORCE.

Very good questions are asked here...my humble Bravo to you.

I agree to a certain extent with Fukuyama.
I think Life Force will do it's "thing" no matter what transcends over the years.

Adaptation is the key word here!

Good one with Jesus! LOL!

Again Bravo PDL!


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