Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

Innovation Ecosystems in Emerging Economies

A Viral New World Disorder

Combatting Ebola: Moving beyond the hype

Procedural Due Process and the Dangers of Predictive Analytics

The Future of Robotic Automated Labor

Consciousness and Neuroscience


ieet books

Virtually Human: The Promise—-and the Peril—-of Digital Immortality
Author
Martine Rothblatt


comments

Kris Notaro on 'A Viral New World Disorder' (Oct 25, 2014)

Kris Notaro on 'The Future of Robotic Automated Labor' (Oct 25, 2014)

instamatic on 'Why “Why Transhumanism Won’t Work” Won’t Work' (Oct 24, 2014)

Abolitionist on 'Is using nano silver to treat Ebola misguided?' (Oct 24, 2014)

cacarr on 'Book review: Nick Bostrom's "Superintelligence"' (Oct 24, 2014)

jasoncstone on 'Ray Kurzweil, Google's Director Of Engineering, Wants To Bring The Dead Back To Life' (Oct 22, 2014)

pacificmaelstrom on 'Why “Why Transhumanism Won’t Work” Won’t Work' (Oct 21, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Google’s Cold Betrayal of the Internet
Oct 10, 2014
(7584) Hits
(2) Comments

Should we abolish work?
Oct 3, 2014
(5212) Hits
(1) Comments

The Future As History
Oct 12, 2014
(4513) Hits
(0) Comments

Transhumanism and Politics
Oct 7, 2014
(4423) Hits
(0) Comments



IEET > Security > SciTech > Rights > Economic > Life > Access > Innovation > Vision > Technoprogressivism

Print Email permalink (13) Comments (6164) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


Saving the “Humanism” in Transhumanism


V.R. Manoj
By V.R. Manoj
Cyborg Fantasies

Posted: Aug 11, 2010

Should a person become a transhumanist before he is a humanist or is she to become a humanist first before becoming a transhumanist? A well-crafted question but one that deserves serious thought as to its purpose.

If you ask me, I would say that we are becoming transhumanists at a faster rate rather than the other way.

Humanism, ethics, and other associated emotionally-charged wellness packages have taken a back seat. The front row seats to the brave new world are filled with recombinant genes, neural interfaces, and supremely destructive weaponry.

Thanks to virtual worlds and virtual conferences, we no longer have to travel long distances and feel the physical comfort of a handshake or a comrade’s embrace. We can just as well sit in our recliners and keep getting obese on high energy GMO foods while we blog, chat, and even tweet our way into the future.

Soon, you need not be bothered with the racing of the heart when confronting a live human being in a vile argument. You might as well throw a few disgusting emoticons from the comfort of your home, office, or even your car.

It is more of the same regret being addressed again. Technology is replacing raw physical presence in the matter of human relationships. I cite all these usual complaints since I feel transhumanism in its original definition is slowly fading away.

Let’s see how Wikipedia defines transhumanism and humanism:

TRANSHUMANISM:

Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities. The movement regards aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death as unnecessary and undesirable. Transhumanists look to biotechnologies and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Dangers, as well as benefits, are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.

HUMANISM:

Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, or practice that focuses on human values and concerns.

happy man imageI feel both definitions somehow have drifted apart instead of a favorable fusion.

When I first became exposed to the transhumanist gravy train, I thought the advanced technologies being addressed or promoted would be for the betterment of all human civilization. However, as each year passes into the next great revolution, the transhumanist movement is increasingly becoming a passive observer in face of the rapid acceleration of technology. In fact, I guess the singularity movement has played it safe by stating that the wolf would come and it would come so fast that it would eat you up before you had time to react…the wolf being the singularity.

Before transhumanism, there was only bioethics. It still exists in the form of committees and legislations. However, the acceleration is so rapid that there is now absolutely no time to say we should proceed with caution. The one thing I can find comfort in is the fact that someone somewhere would have coined a word, a movement, and even a well balanced definition for this condition.

We are losing the battle to a safe utopia for all of us. We are losing track of what it means to be “us” anymore. Our fascination with social networking websites and self proclamations with “status messages” has replaced live conversations. We project our personas with the aid of cellular phones and portable music players onto a vast multitude of like-minded personas which really have no bearing beyond their pixelated existence. All of these are only stimulants of the senses without permanent purpose.

At best, we can say that we have effectively become “slaves” to the technology we create. The technology that is created is still inaccesible to the large majority of humanity. Even more disturbing is the fact that the technology being created is rapidly being owned not by governments but by corporations, which reaffirms the fears initially expressed by dystopian movies. We may not place much importance to the impacts of technology on our environment, but with every cough and toxic exposure, we do pay the price and will continue to do so.

Thus far, I have addressed very briefly the incredible promises of transhumanism and how distant it really is from humanism. Technological acceleration need not be regulated or curbed. thinker imageHowever, it would be better if it headed in a direction where everybody benefited instead of a minority of developed nations. All humans have the right to become transhumans. If not, then the transhumanist movement is no longer humanist. It is something else for which I am sure a new word will be framed.

So what is the solution? The easiest solution is to come back to ground reality. While it may be fanciful to imagine that we are living in a Matrix-like world and are dissociated from all of our peers, it would only take one simple power cut or an EMP pulse to sever all of the technologies to which we are so desperately tied up for self-expression.

While it is important to embrace technology and the cyborg fantasy, it is even more important to realize the value of our individual “self.” Let us at least from now, try to understand the real value of emergent technologies to the whole of humanity instead of hedonistically experiencing them. Think about it.


V.R. Manoj has a Ph.D in Environmental Biotechnology/Sciences from Anna University, Chennai, India. He has worked in the Renewable energy industry and currently teaches Environmental Sciences and Engineering to Engineering grad students in India. Dr. Manoj was an IEET Affiliate Scholar for 2010-2012.
Print Email permalink (13) Comments (6165) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


Amen





I’ve always said I was a Humanist before I am a transhumanist.  I want to preserve as many human lives as possible, regardless of technological development, I just see technological development as the best possible course to ensure the maximum number of lives saved.





Transhumanists justify ethical claims in terms of humanist ethical frameworks like liberalism and utilitarianism. These are predicated human capacities and propensities (e.g. moral autonomy) or capacities that humans share with other animals (e.g. the capacity for pleasure and pain). Transhumanists want to give added value and scope to our autonomy, relieve suffering and organize the world along more anthropocentric lines.

This anthropocentrism is morally problematic. Not least because transhumanists - as I argue in the current issue of JET- are committed to policies which might conceivably result in posthuman entities to which these frameworks are inapplicable.

http://jetpress.org/v21/roden.htm





I thought the initial question was indeed well-crafted and important. In fact, I’d recommend that the phrase “A well-crafted question but one that deserves serious thought as to its purpose” should have the word “and” instead of “but.”


> “Before transhumanism, there was only bioethics. It still exists in the form of committees and legislations. However, the acceleration (of technology, I presume) is so rapid that there is now absolutely no time to say we should proceed with caution.”

In my opinion, there’s always time to say we should proceed with caution.

> “The one thing I can find comfort in is the fact that someone somewhere would have coined a word, a movement, and even a well balanced definition for this condition.”

Pardon my confusion, but what condition are we talking about? And how is there comfort that someone would have coined a word for this condition?


> “Even more disturbing is the fact that the technology being created is rapidly being owned not by governments but by corporations, which reaffirms the fears initially expressed by dystopian movies.”

Wouldn’t it be just as disturbing to have the technology owned by governments? (Would they seize the technology from the corporations who invented it?)

> “Technological acceleration need not be regulated or curbed. However, it would be better if it headed in a direction where everybody benefited instead of a minority of developed nations. All humans have the right to become transhumans.”

The brilliant inventors who create this technology are not going to be happy if someone just gives it to the undeveloped nations. They’ll want to be paid handsomely. And they deserve to be.

> “While it is important to embrace technology and the cyborg fantasy”

The former for sure, but why the latter?

> “So what is the solution? The easiest solution is to come back to ground reality. “

Umm, what’s the solution again?





Technology should not belong to corporations, and it should not belong to governments. It should belong to the people.





@Veronica, Giulio just summarized the solution for you. Now about your comment “The brilliant inventors who create this technology are not going to be happy if someone just gives it to the undeveloped nations. They’ll want to be paid handsomely. And they deserve to be.”

The sad thing about inventors is that an inventor usually does not always get the sweet end of the deal. Say an inventor wants to protect his intellectual property and does it with a patent. His limited income is often not enough to sustain the rights for the patent for an extended period of time, wherein it will be immediately and often inevitably gobbled up by the corporations who have infinite resources to wait and sustain the patent.

More specifically about your comment..an example from real life. An important injection that needs to be given to a heart patient everyday to sustain his heart in India. He is only 20 years old and is the only earning member of his family and is a labourer without an education. This injection costs 200 dollars and is to be given everyday or he dies. He cannot afford it and so takes a chance with his life everyday when straining his heart with manual labour. This is the grim reality.

Does the innovator who made this drug or the corporation for that matter not have the moral responsibility to release the drug with a lowered price tag in other less developed countries ? I would call this drug a “life extension technology”. Why should it be limited to counties who can afford it ? Are the human beings in Asia or Africa of a different species ?

Of course, it is easier to complain and comment. The solutions and compromises have to be worked out. However, it is very important to not forget that all inventions must be sustainable and affordable by the majority of human beings and not by a minority.





> “Giulio just summarized the solution for you. “

Pardon my confusion, but it looks like his solution goes against what you wrote. You appear to favor government owning technology instead of corporations, while Giulio said neither should.

> “Say an inventor wants to protect his intellectual property and does it with a patent. His limited income is often not enough to sustain the rights”

If the inventor has a good product, his income usually won’t be so limited.

> “However, it is very important to not forget that all inventions must be sustainable and affordable by the majority of human beings and not by a minority. “

I’m sorry, but I don’t see any reason why the seat warmers in my medium-priced car must be made affordable to the majority of human beings.





>Pardon my confusion, but it looks like his solution goes against what you wrote. You appear to favor government owning technology instead of corporations, while Giulio said neither should.

Thank you. Let me put it this way. There must be balance in how much technology is controlled. I am quite positive that both government and corporations are composed of people the last time I checked. Therefore, technology belonging primarily to people would ensure that it is acted upon responsibly by it’s representation either as government or corporation.

>I’m sorry, but I don’t see any reason why the seat warmers in my medium-priced car must be made affordable to the majority of human beings.

Please do not argue for the sake of argument. Instead, please try to understand why it is important for some if not all technologies to become affordable, sustainable and most of all, available to all human beings.





Of course both government and corporations are composed of people. But, in both cases, these are people who look after their own interests and seek personal power and financial gain at the expenses of other people.

Technology should not belong to them, it should belong to us. I am for distributed, P2P citizen networks instead of large corporations and nation states.





> “Please do not argue for the sake of argument. Instead, please try to understand why it is important for some if not all technologies to become affordable, sustainable and most of all, available to all human beings.”

Lets say I agree that it is important for some “technologies to become affordable, sustainable and most of all, available to all human beings.” It’s just that you claimed that all should be, and I expressed my disapproval by giving a single, if unusual, example.





@Veronica .. I think for now we can settle for “some” technologies being affordable, sustainable and available. But my personal wish would be that someday “all” technologies be this way ! That would be a really wonderful thing wouldn’t it..perhaps it can be achieved by what Giulio describes as “distributed, P2P citizen networks”.





This seems to be a much against non-face to face meetings than much of anything else.  Many of us take it as a great boon that we do not have to drag our bodies into close proximity to interact together.

Transhumanism is in main part about [radically] bettering the human condition.  The claim that the only thing really real is the pre-tech stuff with the implied threat of all the tech crashing is more appropriate to 19th century romanticism than to a conversation about creating a vibrant and viable future.

Before we worry too much about whether it (whatever it turns out to be) is available to “all human beings” I think we need to produce “it” - produce real alternatives to the very real and pressing problems of being human such as automatic death sentence through mere accumulation of years.  The possibility existing much always proceed any talk or worry about its mass distribution.





>“Before we worry too much about whether it (whatever it turns out to be) is available to “all human beings” I think we need to produce “it” - produce real alternatives to the very real and pressing problems of being human such as automatic death sentence through mere accumulation of years.”

Well said Samantha ! and nice to see your post after a long time since WTA-Talk !





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Map of the Future 2010

Previous entry: Catching up with the X-Universe

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376