What is #Transhumanism?

what-transhumanism

Within the confines of SparkRayGun, I tend to throw around the word “Transhumanism” much like my dog, Katie the Wonder Schnauzer, throws around her favorite toy — often and in unpredictable directions.

I consider myself a Transhumanist without reservation, but it occurs to me that new readers may have no idea what I mean by this rather esoteric, yet increasingly popular, term.

So, in the interest of clarity, let’s dive into the world of Transhumanism, where we’ll learn that, like most -ism’s, our journey may raise more questions than answers.

My personal definition of TH is: “Human effort to improve the human condition.” Off the bat, this is I realize incredibly subjective — improve compared to what?

In general, I would reply: “better than our current state, which is rife with disease, short lifespans, limited opportunities for positive growth — opportunities required to benefit the individual, the species and the planet.” Again, still room for pedantic quibbles (define “benefits and “positive growth, smart guy). However, I think it’s clear that TH holds these human values as its foundation.

To dig a bit deeper, let’s examine how other thinkers view Transhumanism.

Transhumanist Party

Zoltan Istvan has crafted one of the most concise and comprehensive definitions I have encountered. Writing for Newsweek earlier this year, Zoltan said:

Transhumanism is a movement that aims to use technology to enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological capabilities. This can be achieved through anything from brain implants and bionic eyes, to stem cell technology and exoskeleton body suits.

avzsrxe4You might call Zoltan the Poster Boy of Transhumanism. This past year, he ran as a U.S. presidential candidate under the aegis of the Transhumanist Party.

“While I never expected to win the US elections in 2016, I saw my campaign as a way to share transhumanism with the world and to help launch a crucial aspect of futurism that was missing: transhumanist activism.” Zoltan writes.

I will say that I sometimes find Zoltan’s vigorous presentation of TH a bit over the top. However, I also understand that in order to publicize a movement, it’s often necessary to go over the top; so I’m glad he’s out there sharing the message in his own exuberant way — right down to his coffin-shaped bus.  Not to mention — Zoltan is a helluva wonderful name when you think of a futuristic guy.

Humanity +

Like any movement, Transhumanism birthed a magazine a few years ago.

logoH+magazine is the publication of Humanity +, a non-profit dedicated to “developing knowledge about the science, technology, and social changes of the 21st century.”

Humanity + aims to “deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps.” The group offers up a new label for TH with the H+ brand but the message is essentially the same. H+ also offers an excellent — albeit densely packed — resource with a Transhumanism FAQ.

H+ relies on a 1990 definition crafted by Max More, a British philosopher, futurist and founder of the Extropy Institute.

“Transhumanism is a class of philosophies of life that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values.”

More’s definition brings the field of philsophy into the fold — a move I hope will in turn attract philsophers to chime in on the TH movement with a diversity of opinions.

To avoid the dreaded tl;dr, I’ll close now. If you’re new to the world of Transhumanism, I hope this primer gives you a nice starting point.

Most people are already benefiting from Transhumanism in some small way, whether it be the recipient of an artificial knee, a mental-health patient made whole by innovative meds or simply a person who can improve her health by daily using data from an exercise tracking device.

At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for humanity. Here’s to making a #BetterWorld (Note: By browsing this hashtag, you’ll no doubt notice our species holds a VAST diversity of views on what defines “better.”)

If you would like to continue the conversation about Transhumanism, please contact me via Twitter

 

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