Friday, February 28, 2014

Transhumanism: people may yet embrace it

Zoltan Itsvan has good ideas.

He is a philosopher by background, a transhumanist, and is the author of The Transhumanist Wager (I'm going to read it...really I am...just as soon as I'm done teaching this semester.)  Recently, he wrote an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post called "Despite Skepticism, Many People May Embrace Radical Transhumanist Technology in the Future."

I liked the piece...despite its bloated title...for several different reasons.  For one, Itsvan does a fair job of explaining transhumanism to those who might not have had much exposure to the concept or to those so fusty that they perceive it as a campaign to force everyone to stop being human.  Of course in the case of the latter, there probably isn't much that anyone could do to persuade them otherwise (Alex Jones, I'm looking at you.)  As Itsvan writes, "a transhumanist is a person who aims to move beyond the human being via science and technology."  No more, no less.  He illustrates this through comparisons to popular culture, which isn't a bad way to do.  For example, the idea of mind uploading can be seen in The Matrix and armored exoskeletons in Iron Man.

An interesting aside: In announcing that Chicago will become a hub for developments in technology and commerce, President Obama quipped, "we're building Iron Man."  Makes me wonder how overzealous anti-transhumanists on the Far Left take that.  But I digress...

Another aspect I liked about the post was its subtext, pointing out that skeptics are, in a way, "being mad at water for being wet."  What I mean by that is that transhuman and cybernetic technologies are a reality.  They exist.  They will not be going away so they must be dealt with as the physical realities that they are.  Itsvan cites as example the work being done at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden where cybernetic prosthetics are being connected directly to the human nervous system.  It's happening, folks.  The transhuman genii is out of the bottle.  What we do with it is the big question.

Related to that is Itsvan's philosophical concept of the "futurization of values."  He defines this as people living "according to where they believe they are going in life, and not only where they actually are."  Sort of a "law of attraction" (and I hope that Zoltan Itsvan would not be offended by that comparison) sense of pulling yourself to where you want to be.  

Wow.  I really like that concept.  For indeed transhumanism is an ever-growing and progressing reality.  One may choose to be as involved or not involved with it as they want, just as one may opt out of being a participant in social media although even that is growing harder and harder to do.  A basic question I might ask someone regarding transhumanism is "What do you want out of it?"  If the answer to that is "nothing" then that's fine.  By the same token, however, do not then argue to restrict someone else from integrating with such technologies...even if that means allowing them to upload their entire consciousness.  As Istvan ends with:

"Rather than mock and shrug off such advances that will soon be a part of our lives, we might consider instead what their value is and how they might improve our lives and those of our loves ones."

Preach, brother Zoltan.

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  1. On FB, Graymalkin said: "Even my dad is reading Kurzweil's 'The Singularity is Near!'"

  2. On FB, FrankR said: "I'll embrace it if only so that someone can say 'I love you only for your exoskeleton.'"


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