The Two Faces of Transhumanism

A friend, Dorothy Deasy, emailed the following to me:

For me, there are two kinds of transhumanism. One is the traditional definition of radical life extension and merging with technology and/or a conscious machine intelligence. For me, that still sounds like science fiction, though all the bread crumbs for it to materialize are there.

The other kind of transumanism, though, is here today. We can already use science and medicine for some people to have increased life spans, augmented intelligence, a fairly high threshold for protection against disease and fertility and genetic treatments that work with/manipulate our DNA. I think of this as general transhumanism rather than specific transhumanism.

For me, the latter variety of transhumanism is easier to grasp.  Since I seem to be always doing something unintentionally distructive to my body and the doctors are having to put me back together again, life extension rings a bell.  If I had been born 100 years ago, I would be dead.  But since I’m 67 years old, “radical” life extension doesn’t resonate so well.  I will be dead before that happens.

However, the possibilities for science, medicine, and particularly computers (and the Internet) to improve the human condition are immediate, particularly in developing nations.  For example, futurist and transhumanist Ray Kurzweil is quoted in Time magazine as saying “a boy (and I assume he means girl also) in Africa has access to more information than the U.S. President had 15 years ago.”  Of course the child needs access to a computer, tablet, and/or smart phone.  When I travel to developing countries, which I do frequently, I wonder how many potential geniuses are selling pencils on the streets.  So much of the world’s brain power is being wasted.

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