Cishumanism

wounded soldier

Through the continuing mass media exposure, transhumanism or transhumanist themes have been criticized as being “escapist” or having “contempt for the flesh.” Because of this, transhumanism is a subject panned by the American public and has even been called “the world’s most dangerous idea” by Francis Fukuyama. But has the subject been delivered to the public in the right way? When approaching the public with radical topics, such as mind uploading and immortality, that individuals may feel alienated or nervous. These feelings are the resultant of improper delivery, and require a more palatable approach than what has previously been done.

Cishumanism, like transhumanism, is based upon the enhancement of human capabilities beyond the capability of normal humans. Unlike transhumanism, cishumanism is also based upon the idea that the human body shouldn’t be enhanced without proper reason. Within the concept of cishumanism, the same technologies that are accepted by transhumanists are useful and may be required but shouldn’t be used unless needed. This could be due to their comprehension that, for such things to occur, more resources must be acquired and results in wasteful behavior. Therefore, the use of enhancement technologies should be used sparingly and on those who need it the most.

For example, the technology of replacing our limbs with mechanical analogs is readily available. Knowing this, the transhumanist hastily undergoes this replacement at the cost of his already existing limb. If a superior replacement is available, then he/she should pursue it. On the other hand, the cishumanist sees this as a necessity  when he/she loses function of his/her existing arm. If his/her arm is fully functional then there is no need to replace it.

(image of Claudia Mitchell from HowStuffWorks.com)

The term “cishumanism” draws influence from cis-trans isomerism, a concept in organic chemistry, and the idea of cisgender identity. Like the cissexual, the cishumanist accepts their form as it is with no interest in changing it. That being said, neither concept should contain a negative connotation. If someone is born as a human, then it should be their choice to stay human. It is not to be seen as an antithesis to transhumanism, but rather a complementary idea that accepts the technologies accepted by transhumanism and disagrees on how often they should be used. The cishumanist believes in the idea of human identity and refuses to give it up.

Cishumanism is a concept that can be applied in certain situations. One such situation is with universal health care, where certain enhancements can be made available through medicinal means. Despite the uproar over and fallacies of Obamacare, universal healthcare is practiced in other countries and has been a successful endeavor. In the case of transhumanism, obtaining enhancements won’t be made possible through universal health care. The system won’t pay for the procedure and materials because they would be considered a frivolous expense.

For cishumanism, the enhancements would be possible in the scenario of the individual requiring them for everyday living. In the replacement arm example, the system would not pay for the transhumanist’s procedure because said person doesn’t need it and would be considered a frivolous expense. For the cishumanist, the procedure would be possible at the time he/she needed it. In this scenario, the case between what is needed and what is desired should be considered the defining factor.

19 Comments

  1. the very first enhancement should be a c-section enabled organ under the ribs. if men had to give birth through their HIPS this would have been taken care of a century ago.

  2. Allow me to add some clarity:

    1. Cishumanism is meant to serve as the more conservative analog of the augmentation spectrum (something I will touch upon in a later article). To allow people the option of adding exceptions and intricate details, I left the general idea to be rather vague. We must take into consideration that transhumanism, like most other movements, has its strain of radicals. The “you’re either a Transhumanist or a Luddite” argument is something that I have encountered several times before and I felt that needed to be addressed. Even though many transhumanists are rational individuals, many are not.

    2. The usage of the term “cisgender” was meant to serve as an example of the trans-cis isomer concept being applied in other ways. The concept of sexuality isn’t on-topic and shouldn’t be.

    3. The paragraph on universal healthcare should’ve been taken off the piece. I didn’t think to do that so that’s my error.

    4. Sometimes it takes a little “spin control” to generate interest. Interest = funding, so do you want to pander a little and make things happen or not and let things die off?

    5. I do not believe in most of these concepts myself, but I’m sure people do. Besides that, someone has to play the Devil’s Advocate.

    I like the criticism though. It gives me something to think about.

    -Dustin

  3. I’m not really a fan of this term.

    Is cishumanism like light beer?

    It seems loaded with the reference to gender and popular use of the “cis” prefix in certain academic writings.

    It also seems to me a bit strange to suggest that transhumanism includes the idea that replacing a part with a lesser quality or lower fidelity replacement would be desirable. I don’t think so. This is why many people think some of the stuff that the grinders have done is a bit off course. (see http://hplusmagazine.com/2013/10/21/grinder-update-tim-cannon-implants-circadia-1-0/)

    The body modification subculture is not identical with transhumanism although obviously there are some overlaps in areas of interest.

    Finally, the important idea of morphological freedom suggests that each person should decide what they want to do, whether that is to enhance with available technology, wait for something better, or even do nothing at all. “What it is, is up to us.”

  4. I see transhumanism as a necessary intermediate step for humans to become supreme entities (which will most likely come with a free gift attached: immortality). I believe that Kurzweil won’t hit the Jackpot — the highly popularized and financed by Google – Singularity — by 2029 since he hopes that humans will design the smart(er than humans) machines, while, so far, humans have NEVER been able to create a creative AI. It’s a transhuman, with a 10 to 15% (the number has to be determined) higher IQ than the highest genius IQ we’re aware of, that will be able to design an entity able to create a smarter entity — and from that very moment on we’ll be gods — as explained at http://www.fit-dna.com/

  5. What I find confusing about this article is that it is making an assumption and a claim about what is transhumanism that are a bit overbroad. For example, making the claim that transhumanists don’t like human flesh is simply not true. If it were, why would so many transhumanists invest enormous time and energy studying nutritional diets, physical fitness, advanced dietary methods and strategies, etc? I think it was back in the mid-1990s when a foolish journalist claimed this because of the idea of uploading (Hans Moravec) and further investigations on uploading (Robin Hansen) transhumanist theme of enhancement that is not novel, and my own work with Primo Posthuman in the late 1990s, which theorized and prototyped a future human non-bio body, which would be an alternative body to full bio-systems. While there certainly can be said that this ridiculous notion was mentioned more than once, it simply is illogical at best. Why? Because in order to live a healthy and meaningful life, a person needs to have a healthy body. A second argument why this is BS is because transhumanists enjoy sexual and sensual activities. If transhumanists monopolized the sexual preference of non-sex, then I could see where you might use this as a viable argument. But that simply is not true. An active and healthy sex life is valued by all but one transhumanist that I know and the numbers are in the thousands, so this could not be true, right? What other argument could there be? That transhumanists want to forego biology or the meat body for cyberspace or virtuality and other synthetic systems. Some might, others might not. But one could say the same about non-transhumanists. Since most people today (in the developed world this amounts to 90% of the population) use microchips throughout their daily lives, then we have already enhanced beyond biology. This is what I call the exo-peripheral nervous system.

    In respect of your article which is a fun read, I don’t want to come down too hard and I think you offer a unique term to promote. Nevertheless, the arguments you pose are simply not valid to support the claim.

  6. Disclaimer: I will probably sound like an arrogant git by the end of this. Please keep in mind that I truly value your opinion and would love constructive feedback. My ideas are hardly refined or perfectly molded and pride myself on being able to listen and reflect. Bash away!

    Cishumanism… I’m not sure I see the point. Sure, people have to get used to the idea of transhumanism, but why stoop to spin doctoring the idea? Soon enough supporting technologies will be cheap and available – average Joe will find himself tempted no matter what. I don’t think appeal is our problem but rather that the tech might be ready before we are. There’s also the folks who are fundamentally challenged and/or averse to the idea for some reason (religion, anyone?).

    I hesitate to pursue replacement limbs, but not because I am prejudiced or struggle with the concept in other ways. I want to make sure I’m not spoiling the possibility for cooler upgrades to come. Also, I’d rather not pioneer such things… I want extensive research and a long incubation period before jumping on the bandwagon.

    As of yet we haven’t mastered much of anything and I think the available units are too intrusive. I don’t want to risk replacing an arm now only to have to wait for regrowth technology to switch to better technology. When we have a proper symbiotic relationship between man and machine, I’ll be standing in line…

    The machine is already closing in on our brains in the form of smartphones – we’ll likely progress towards more immersion until we have brain machine interfaces that take care of most things. I envision monitoring all the processes in my body, having direct access to the world memory bank, helper functions for every conceivable task and so on.

    In the end I’m just a kid waiting for Christmas… And I’ll be pissed if there’s not a better shell in which to insert my brain.

  7. I wonder if the notion that when the body is unable to support the brain, which is still viable, that we ought to be furnished a full body prosthesis, is cishumanism, or transhumanism.

    Furthermore, it begs the question of what you think is health – is it just repairing obvious illness, or is it achieving perfect health that would be unobtainable without “augmentation” therapy.

  8. I think a good middle ground is transgenics. Mainstream will be far more accepting of altering DNA to make subtle changes over a time than lopping off limbs or casting off the flesh all together. It will be a long time before radical artificial replacements will be accepted.

  9. Transhumanism is the intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition THROUGH APPLLIED REASON, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

    • Excellent! Just one small comment: “to eliminate aging” could be argued. A formative way of explaining this would be “to reverse, stall and affirm optional aging.” I make this point because one size does not fit all. There may be people what want to age to a certain degree and Morphological Freedom is a consequential right for transhumanists.

  10. That’s fine, but I don’t think it’s what inspires most people about transhumanism. The inspiration is more Nietzschean — the desire of already healthy people to enhance themselves and become superhuman.

    Why do transhumanists seem afraid to admit this? Why this constant need to justify ourselves in Judeo-Christian or populist terms? Transhumanism doesn’t need to be a populist movement or seek the approval of petty moralists; it only needs support by those with the vision, intelligence, resources to realize its potential.

    The reality is that transhumanism is probably too radical for the masses, and should remain the province of a visionary elite for now. Nearly all our human institutions and ideologies are fundamentally hostile to transhumanism, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. So I think the approach that Heinlein described in his novella “Gulf”, in which a cabal of savants work covertly toward transhumanist goals, is probably the best approach.

    Ad homo superior, ad astra!

  11. Bioconius vulgaris. There is no reason for anger, negativity or treating them uncivilly… but hold them by their word. ‘If someone is born as a human, then it should be their choice to stay human’ – watch like a hawk for attempts to bait&switch that ‘choice’ for an obligation or enshrine ‘minimum interference’ arbitrary removals of augmentations as foreign objects by doctors even more than it is now. With people like these trust me you want to do like Alain Delon in Red Sun – deal the cards with your left hand and leave the right for…the occasion if things don’t go as smoothly as you wanted. Trust a veteran. Btw this war, specifically in a form of explicit, declared war, is going on since 1976 and not learning from nearly half a century of a stable pattern is not something you want to do.

  12. That’s Claudia Mitchell. Would be nice to include that. It’s rarely cited, and she’s the human in the transhuman portrait.

    • Thanks for the feedback. We’ll add the citation.

      • That’s great Peter, thanks! I think that we need to set an example for society with this type of work in particular. Too many TV news bites just show several of the people working with modern prosthetics and do not give them names. That will only serve to put more distance between the general public and what we all want to do in H+ circles. Thanks again.

  13. Great a pussy version of progress, that’s sure going to help! It’s thinking like this that has stunted us in areas like Stem Cell research while countries like China and Korea take the lead.
    You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Hypocrite luddites like this would be the first to complain if the modern technology currently available to them was suddenly taken away. If we listened to them in the past we wouldn’t have the Internet for them to moan on nor the electricity the run the computers they use to do it.
    No guts no glory folks.

    • Just to make it clear I was talking about Fukuyama not the writer of this post.

  14. This sounds like a way to call biochauvinism something other than what it is.

    Also, Obamacare is not universal healthcare as it is known in other civilized countries. It is a mandate to buy a service whether you can afford it or not. Believe me, as a member of the working poor I would love to have universal health care or “Single Payer” as it was called when the debate was going. I stood with Kucinich. Unfortunately this is just a sham to increase the profits of insurance companies, their stock prices sky-rocketed when this piece of corporatist gossar got became law.

Leave a Reply