Thursday, October 1, 2015

Transhumanism: being a machine is not bad


Perpetual opponents to transhumanism often recycle the same argument: transhumanism will take away our humanity.

This typically raises my ire to one of those points where I have difficulty discussing the matter intelligently and maturely. For the good luck of all, Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan has made the counterargument for me with his article, "Why I Advocate for Becoming a Machine." He begins by examining the very real limitations of the human body.

"For example, our eyes can only see about 1 percent of the light spectrum. Our ears aren’t much better: they are unable to register many noises that other animals like dogs, dolphins, and bats can hear. Our sense of touch basically only works if we’re actually touching something.
Despite all these obvious physical inabilities, humans insist what we experience is “reality.” However, reality to someone with built-in microscopic or telephoto vision and hyper-sensitive hearing is potentially many times more complex and profound than anything a natural human being might experience."

Indeed to someone who has telescopic or infrared vision or hypersonic hearing afforded to them through cybernetics, that perception of "reality" greatly changes. This is already happening with implants for the visually impaired and Cochlear implants that detect what others would find to be almost inaudible sounds. In a day an age where privacy is of great concern, this no doubt raises espial concerns, but that should not, once again, be a reason to halt cybernetic developments altogether.

This is all well and good but Istvan raises an important...and honestly befuddled and all-too human...fact of how human beings perceive themselves:

"The good news is I think most people would agree that even replacing most every inner organ in your body is not becoming a cyborg or something machine-like. But mess too much with the outer body, and everything changes quickly. When we propose electively replacing limbs, for example, most people feel something has fundamentally changed in the human being. A line has been crossed that cannot easily be undone. We may still have a mind of flesh, but our eyes tell us we are now partially a machine and something very different than before. And that freaks people out."

Don't mess with the outside. That's what makes us human, y'know. That makes no bloody sense, but yet there it is.

I will keep saying it for as long as it takes for enough people to listen. Transhumanism is about finally having a choice. Don't want to be limited by frail human physical nature? There's reason that you should be. At least not as long as we have the intelligence to develop the means to overcome these frailties. After all, what is the human body really but a machine? We upgrade machines all the time. There is nothing written that says we can't afford ourselves the same opportunities.

In fact, the future may one day regard our ambitions here as simple, standardized medical practices. Modifications to our bodies will not be meant as replacements but rather as preventative enhancements. The sensors in the fingertips of your cybernetic arm will be just as much...probably more...sensitive to stimuli as its meat counterparts. As Istvan so eloquently puts it: "Transhumanism is not the end of the human age. It is the expansion of it."

As most transhumanists say: Onward.

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