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When Will We Be Transhuman?
Kyle Munkittrick   Jul 21, 2011   Science Not Fiction  

I propose seven changes as indicators that transhumanism has been attained.

The future is impossible to predict. But that’s not going to stop people from trying. We can at least pretend to know where it is we want humanity to go. We hope that the laws we craft, the technologies we invent, our social habits and our ways of thinking are small forces that, when combined over time, move our species towards a better existence.

The question is, How will we know if we are making progress?


As a movement philosophy, transhumanism and its proponents argue for a future of ageless bodies, transcendent experiences, and extraordinary minds. Not everyone supports every aspect of transhumanism, but you’d be amazed at how neatly current political struggles and technological progress point toward a transhuman future.

Transhumanism isn’t just about cybernetics and robot bodies. Social and political progress must accompany the technological and biological advances for transhumanism to become a reality.

But how will we able to tell when the pieces finally do fall into place? I’ve been trying to answer that question ever since Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution was asked a while back by his readers: What are the exact conditions for counting “transhumanism” as having been attained?

In an attempt to answer, I responded with what I saw as the three key indicators:

1. Medical modifications that permanently alter or replace a function of the human body become prolific.

2. Our social understanding of aging loses the “virtue of necessity” aspect and society begins to treat aging as a disease.

3. Rights discourse would shift from who we include among humans (i.e. should homosexual have marriage rights?) to a system flexible enough to easily bring in sentient non-humans.

As I groped through the intellectual dark for these three points, it became clear that the precise technology and how it worked was unimportant. Instead, we need to figure out how technology may change our lives and our ways of living.

Unlike the infamous jetpack, which defined the failed futurama of the 20th century, the 21st needs broader progress markers. So, I’ve come up with seven things to look for in the coming centuries that will let us know if transhumanism is here.

When we think of the future, we think of technology. But too often, we think of really pointless technology – flying cars or self-tying sneakers or ray guns. Those things won’t change the way life happens. Not the way the washing machine or the cell phone changed the way life happens. Those are real inventions.

It is in that spirit that I considered indicators of transhumanism. What matters is how a technology changes our definition of a “normal” human. Think of it this way: any one of these indicators has been fulfilled when at least a few of the people you interact with on any given day utilize the technology. With that mindset, I propose the following seven changes as indicators that transhumanism has been attained…


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University. She developed encryption and network security software, which inspired the eHuman Trilogy—both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception are available at Amazon, the third installment is expected in early 2016. She is a member of the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


From the essay: “Using a scaled system based on traits like sentience, empathy, self-awareness, tool use, problem solving, social behaviors, language use, and abstract reasoning, animals (including humans) will be granted rights based on varying degrees of personhood.”

I’m wondering about something: If you found two people (and by “people”, I mean the way most people define it /nowadays/) and they had two different levels of empathy, self-awareness, tool use, problem solving, social behaviors, language use, or abstract reasoning, would you be in favor of granting them different levels of rights?

Abraham, I support the threshold theory of personhood, which means those above level x of personhood have set of rights 1, while those below level x but above level y have set of rights 2. Rights wouldn’t be as nuanced as to differ between those with a 120 and a 130 IQ, but someone with an IQ of 65 would have different rights than someone with an IQ of 90.

So, in short, yes, people with dramatically different levels of personhood would have different rights. They already do, personhood theory just codifies that into a coherent system.


There really seems something fundamentally wrong with your reply..

“Self-awareness” should be the only underlying and contributing factor that designates personhood to species - not Intelligence Quotient nor knowledge nor wisdom.

You may have to go back to the drawing board on this one?

I have to apologize Kyle. I should give your posts more attention.

I find your posts interesting, but most posting I do actually related to technology I do at

IEET I mostly post on the political/social issues.

I have started a thread there about your article:

Things every transhumanist should keep their eyes on, especially within this decade:

1) Aerogels/Hydrogels

2) Optoelectronics (this is broad enough to include spintronics, plasmonics, etc.)

3) Social Media

4) Solar Power/Fusion Power

5) 3D Rapid Prototyping

We might be encouraged by this recent advance:


Smart skin: Electronics that stick and stretch like a temporary tattoo (w/ video)

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