The Post-Human Condition

Transhumanism is a philosophy that deals with the application of science to solve or reduce human limitations and human suffering. It's a wide-ranging subject that runs from the fairly obvious applications of technology to medical sciences all the way to human-machine interfaces and the potential for the human species to transcend it's very nature. As a philosophy it enjoys the necessary licence to blur the lines between reality and science fiction, but only does so where there appears to be a meaningful potential for those dreams and possibilities to be realised. It's purpose is after all not to merely speculate, but to attempt to educate the way we think about technology to benefit us all as a species.

While some of the more outlandish transhumanist notions may never be a reality, some of them already are and some of the developments we may have dismissed as unrealistic science fantasies are actually, slowly, becoming more and more plausible. Take nanotechnology, which probably saw it's science-fiction golden age in the last decade or so. It's featured in programs such as Star Trek, for example; yet the notion we had of nanotechnology where tiny machines perform all manner of tasks for us has proved to be a misguided dream. In reality these nanobot's were not the achievable application of nanotechnology, but engineering new materials with amazing properties such as the much lauded 'graphene' has really proven to be far more interesting, with the potential to revolutionise the way we build and operate anything from housing to helicopters.

What may be most important about transhumanism as a discipline is how it influences the choices we make when developing and applying new technologies. It should drive us to tackle moral questions as well as ensure that the benefits derived are meaningful. The best known cure for Sleeping Sickness was not mass produced to be used as a drug, and yet may be produced in volume now that it's application as a hair-growth retardant which can be sold for cosmetic purposes has been discovered. Hopefully, a society that worked towards the betterment of the species would have produced this because it saved lives, and not because it reduced their grooming obligations.

I can't say that I'm a diehard transhumanist, but the concepts really appeal to me. There are so many technologies in development with the potential to radically alter the human experience from mind-computer interfaces to screening for genetic diseases. It's hard to miss the potential for awesome improvements and augmentations as well as some spectacular tragedies in the making. The future of radical new technology is something we all need to be mindful of, even devices as taken for granted as the common smartphone have altered the way we communicate. The internet has changed the nature of the information we share with each other and allowed us to do it in realtime. It's only a matter of time before a technology with far more tangible ramifications becomes a part of our lives, whether that's using implants to restore muscle memory, drugs that eliminate our chemical requirement for sleep or fully functional prosthetic limbs.