What is Transhumanism?
Defining transhumanism is a tricky subject. Depending on what website or what book you choose to consult, you’ll find yourself with wildly varying answers. Even stranger, each of those wildly varying answers is often just as correct as any other.
The real trouble is this: transhumanism has come to embrace such a wide range of ideas, philosophies, and technologies that it is difficult to pin it down to any specific definition. Even the fundamental principles of transhumanism – ideas such as bioethics and personal freedom – are themselves massive ideas. The essence of transhumanism is often lost in the chaff of its own expansive scope.
Instead of attempting to define transhumanism in term of essential technologies or essential beliefs, we can instead start with the overly-simplistic definition that “transhumanism is a movement which supports and promotes the transition to and establishment of a posthuman society.”
That definition obviously raises the immediate question of, “What is a posthuman society?” That is perhaps even more difficult to specifically define, but speaking broadly, we can say that a posthuman society is one which has overcome the negative aspects of the human condition.
This puts us in a philosophical area that we can actually grapple with. Although the human condition is itself a whole can of worms, the negative aspects of the human condition can be generally well agreed upon. It is no stretch to say that the three largest and most fundamental, negative aspects of the human condition are a fear of death, a fear of the unknown, and our basic psychological and material needs. These three might share significant overlap, but they are undoubtedly at the core of the human condition, and they are issues that we all face. Viewed in this light, a posthuman society would be one in which death is such a remote possibility so as to be beyond any conceivable concern, our knowledge of the world around us and the future is practically absolute, and all our basic needs are met to the absolute limits of our satisfaction. Essentially, transhumanism is about building Heaven, instead of praying our way there.
Sounds far-fetched, huh? In many ways, it is. But just because the ultimate goal of transhumanism is a lofty one, hardly makes it any less worth striving for. The transition towards that ultimate posthuman society is one which is itself bookmarked by countless, world-altering achievements. Whether it’s the extension of human lifespans by an order of magnitude, the development of nanotechnology to meet the demands of our consumption, or creating artificial intelligences capable of vastly expanding our capacity for learning and development, transhumanism provides a clear path forward towards progress.
In the end, it’s pretty simple. Want to know if you’re a transhumanist? Just ask yourself three questions:
Do I believe in overcoming death? Not just for myself, but for the whole of humanity.
Do I demand to know the answers about the world around me? Not just some of them, all of them.
Do I believe that every person is entitled to be free of concern for their necessities? Not just the basic, physiological needs, but their emotional and psychological needs as well.
Some people call these radical ideas. But if you’re like me – if you’re a transhumanist too – then you probably just call it “being human.”