Humanity Plus: The New Synthesis
Lately, I love it when people out there in the general population ask me what I do. I tell them that I’m working on a transhumanist webzine and then pause — offering no further explanation — as if a transhumanist magazine were as comprehensible as a magazine about real estate or pet monkeys.
It’s a sort of test. Will anybody ever have a clue as to what I’m talking about? So far, the answer is no. Not one stranger — or person outside certain in-the-know social circles — has had even a nano-hint of a clue.
By the way, I’m not talking here only about people who barely know how to turn on a computer. The conversations I’m referencing have included those with people who work at Google and Microsoft, people who make digital art, and even one guy who owns a multi-million dollar technology startup.
After enjoying a few moments of puzzlement in my conversational partner, I am likely to mention the idea that we might be able to stop aging — or I might mention “The Singularity.” Aha! On a rare occasion, there may be a glimmer of recognition. Someplace, sometime, my conversational partner had read or heard something: a vague memory, something noted while sucking at the firehose of endless infotainment.
Clearly transhumanists have some work to do, if the idea that humans may be on the verge of self-directed evolution is to become common currency. But why does this matter? Why is it important to get more people to start thinking about humanity plus?
There are probably dozens of answers to that question, but I want to emphasize just one of them — the importance of multidisciplinary, synthetic reasoning and perception in preparing for the near future.
Our species faces a virtual agora of lifealtering, paradigm-changing developments in science, technology, and culture. Whether it’s germ-line engineering or molecular computing; advanced AI or cyborg bodies (replaceable parts); engineered hyperlongevity or high-quality performance -enhancing drugs, the body politic is likely to experience the near future as a series of isolated shocks to prior assumptions unless we suffuse the public discourse with a different view.
The glory of transhumanism is that it’s not just a movement of immortalists, or singularitarians, or advocates of digital democratization, or experimenters in selfenhancing technologies. Transhumanism reminds us that all — or at least many — of these developments are coming online at about the same time, that they impact each other, and that they will be remaking our societies and our personal experiences of the world in tandem. It represents nothing less than an attempt to have a realistic discourse about the human future while most of our leading intellectuals and politicians are still looking at that future through the rear-view mirror.
Our responsibility, then, is to cover the events and ideas — the discoveries and the cultural expressions — that are taking place on the borderline between the human and the post-human world. It is for us to give expression to an emergent cultural/technological sensibility — and to do it within an intentionally compressed space through the deliberate creation of an online “artifact” — a digital magazine organized within the traditional magazine format.
So welcome to the first edition of H+. We hope you find value in this publication. But please — don’t just be a consumer. As with any initiatory effort, there is plenty of room for improvement via feedback and participation. So we ask you to increase the value by spreading the word and by adding your own ideas and content to the mix.
The Chinese epigram “May you live in interesting times” was considered a curse. But that’s old thinking. More recently, Americans have been reasurring themselves with the straightforward saying “Life is good.” Indeed. But it could be a whole lot better.
Make it so.
Addendum: H+ Magazine is published by Humanity+. However, not all the views and ideas expressed in this publication are the views of that organization. While the general mission of this online periodical is to spread transhumanist news and ideas, this periodical will also enclose dissenting views, darker visions, irreverent humor, and quirky observations. Anything less than that would be stiff, boring, and dishonest.