“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.” (Max More 1990)
Is Transhumanism an exercise in Unnatural Selection?
By definition “Transhumanism” seeks to accelerate the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form. It is therefore in direct conflict with the established biological evolutionary processes responsible for the betterment of species. In a sense you could be excused for asking whether Transhumanism is in fact in competition with Mother Nature. And naturally, is this a bad thing?
The process of natural selection has served us well as a species; we are after all the result of some several billion years of biological evolution together with the multitude of life organisms that share the planet with us. This evolution has put us at the forefront of species in terms of intellect and it is this intellect that leads us to explore what now? We question our existence, our continued existence, the meaning of life, and the mechanics of the universe. These are fairly, or would appear to be to us, philosophical questions from an intellect one upgrade from our nearest species neighbors the Great Apes (chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas). But it is this budding intelligence that drives us forward to confront our mortality and weaknesses as a natural species. Without this intelligence we would be in the relatively blissful cocoon of “ignorance”, aware of and responsive to death perhaps, but not actively seeking to transcend it.
To transcend natural evolutionary principles, including death, we need to step out of the biological cycle, if not completely, at least partly. In order to accomplish this we have to look at unnatural methods of species progression and the “movement” (with all its negative connotations) of Transhumanism embraces these ideals. It boldly recognizes the human imperative, not the choice, required to progress our species and the derivatives thereof through rapid technological and scientific advances.
The plethora of technological developments currently evolving has the potential to effect this transition to a Transhuman reality in the immediate future – within a timeframe of decades. These developments certainly focus on unnatural life extension even immortality through genetic engineering and the widespread use of nano-medicines. In essence we are the agent of selection. But what are the rules of this unnatural selection? Who decides on the rollout of radical life extending medicines? Who governs the implementation of biological enhancements? Difficult questions that the Transhuman Ethics Committee will have some interesting debates on how to answer. The growing norm of societies is becoming an impatient one – breaking away from the controlling rules of governments they perceive to be riddled with inconsistencies, unfairness and demanding social equalities regardless of contribution. Consider the “I-Phone” generation transitioning to the “I-Life” generation in the space of decades.
In the transitional period perhaps Virtual Reality will allow for us to create and experience the virtual realities of Transhumanism, a training ground perhaps.
The Role of Inorganic Evolution in the future?
The Supermachines of the future will have intellectual capacity exceeding that of the current human brain. It isn’t too difficult to imagine, the I-Phone of today could be considered more intelligent than our species predecessors, even some of us. So a future in which a computer is able to reproduce, learn, question and improve is a reality in the waiting. How long is that wait? – Not too distant if one considers the rapid evolution of Artificial Intelligence, the exponential capability improvements suggested by Kurzweil and the single-minded pursuit of AI advance through the creation of evolutionary algorithms, robotics and reverse engineering of the human brain. The coupling of this machine evolution with Transhuman evolution will pose the most significant problem facing the newly evolving species – how do we ensure a seamless integration of the two resulting in in a transcendental species of Posthumans?
Survival of the Quickest – are we already in a race against time?
Time is an important driver, something that our evolved intellect has appreciated, leading us to recognition, not only of our own mortality, but the painfully slow progression of natural selection and evolution. It has taken us over a million years to progress from our ancestors Homo erectus to our species Homo sapiens. Our intellect and understanding of mortality produce a natural impatience, a need for more understanding, more life and ultimately more time.
But how much time do we have as humans in the conventional sense? Are our efficient but outdated norms of evolutionary progress hopelessly too slow in the race to a better future? Most likely they are as technological, medical and Artificial Intelligence is progressing at a rapid pace driven by our impatience to achieve the goals of Transhumanism and beyond. Homo sapiens face the real risk of being left behind unless we integrate developments across the species. Even so the ultimate aim of Transhumanism is in fact to transcend the limitations of Homo sapiens so either way Disruptive Evolution will result in the establishment of a new species with cognitive and physical abilities vastly exceeding ours.
The Transhuman movement is at a critical juncture with the understanding of the potential future spreading like wildfire in our internet connected world. Transhumanism is no longer a somewhat obscure “movement” but a philosophy which is becoming more widely shared amongst futurists, scientists and the collective self of the Internet.
It leads one to question what am I contributing to the advancement of our species, the fusion of technology, machines and humans towards a better future with the prize of immortality tantalizingly close?