Transhumanism is a 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 of concern to the transhumanist movement.
The term “transhumanism” is symbolized by H+ or h+ and is often used as a synonym for “human enhancement.” Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “Posthuman.”
The transhumanist vision of a transformed future humanity has attracted many supporters and detractors from a wide range of perspectives. Transhumanism has been described by one critic, Francis Fukuyama, as the world’s most dangerous idea, while one proponent, Ronald Bailey, counters that it is the “movement that epitomizes the most daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic aspirations of humanity.”
In 1998, philosophers Nick Bostrom and David Pearce founded the World Transhumanist Association (WTA). The Transhumanist FAQ, prepared by the WTA, gives two formal definitions for transhumanism:
1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.
Like the IEET, WTA officials believed that social forces could undermine their futurist visions and needed to be addressed. A particular concern was the equal access to human enhancement technologies across classes and borders. In 2006, a political struggle within the transhumanist movement between the libertarian right and the liberal left resulted in a more center-leftward positioning of the WTA under its former executive director James Hughes. In 2008, as part of a rebranding effort, the WTA changed its name to “Humanity+” in order to project a more humane image. Humanity Plus and Betterhumans publish h+ Magazine, a periodical edited by R. U. Sirius which disseminates transhumanist news and ideas.
Transhumanists are also concerned with the possible dangers of extremely rapid technological change and propose options for ensuring that advanced technology is used responsibly. For example, Bostrom has written extensively on Existential risks to humanity’s future welfare, including risks that could be created by emerging technologies.