Friday, March 14, 2008


One of the focuses of my introductory philosophy class is on something called Transhumanism, which is really interesting stuff to be sure.

The transhuman period is the name which some philosophers and scientists give to the era between the human and posthuman eras. The exact times when each of these eras actually begin and end is probably not widely agreed upon, but this is not a new problem in history. The dates of other eras, such as the beginning and endings of the dark ages, the renaissance, et cetera, differ depending on which textbook you read, although there is a loose consensus among historians . . . but we can at least pin down what century the renaissance began in. Whether or not we will be able to do this with the transhuman age is still an open question.

The basics which we've been learning about transhumanism over the past few weeks in my philosophy class are that humans are on the verge on a significant step in evolution. We are slowly moving from 100% organic beings to animals which incorporate the synthetic. We do this to extend and enrich our lives. Of course, we've been doing this sort of thing for a while: we have added extra layers of skin for warmth and fashion, which we call clothes; we inject dead microorganisms into our bodies to give our immune system a preemptive advantage against foreign germs; we add synthetic components to out bodies also, either for aesthetic purposes (like breast implants, piercings, and tattoos) or for health purposes (pacemakers, hip replacements, artificial blood vessels, and so on). This is why it's not exactly easy to say when and how we begin this transhuman period. It's not as if we have already stopped being human and started being transhumans. Rather, if the transhuman age is to lead to any sort of posthuman age at all, it will be on a very slow gradient. It will be difficult to say when exactly we officially become something altogether different, if we do at all.

It has been interesting to speculate in class about what, if anything, we humans might eventually end up as (if we do not destroy ourselves first). Perhaps we will achieve significantly longer lifespans; perhaps we will finally conquer disease; it may be that we will be able to someday transfer human consciousness to some type of artificial brain, making the immortality of our minds a possibility (a la The Matrix); maybe we will become a race of cyborgs like The Borg of Star Trek; the possibilities are varied and interesting.

I can't wait to study this in a more in-depth fashion in my future years at university.

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