Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Being Transhuman

Transhumanism, a definition:
"Transhumanism" or "human enhancement" refers to an intellectual and cultural movement that advocates the use of a variety of emerging technologies. The convergence of these technologies may make it possible to take control of human evolution, providing for the enhancement of human mental and physical abilities and the amelioration of aspects of the human condition regarded as undesirable. If these enhancements become widely available, it would arguably have a more radical impact than any other development in human history—one need only reflect briefly on the economic, political, and social implications of some of the extreme enhancement possibilities. The implications for religion and the religious dimensions of human enhancement technologies are enormous and are addressed in our consultation.

That being said, here (still!) are the major dissonances that I can see with Augmenting (they refer to as "enhancement") of people:

At what point have you gone beyond "Augmentation" and into "Construction"?
This is a valid kind of question. Various organisations, notably defense forces and a few universities, have recently begun to try and answer the question of when an autonomous and seemingly intelligent machine should start being afforded rights.

Similarly, at what point along the "enhancement" progression should a person legally cease to be recognised as a "person"?  Because, if there's no point along that line where a person ceases to be a person, then machines and animals are already persons, because the "technology" referred to can be as simple as grafting a few human neurons into a cow.  That would lead to some serious conflicts for me eating my steak and riding my scooter up onto kerbs or across puddles, so it really needs to be sorted out.

Ameliorate?  Enhance?  Desirable?  Undesirable?  
The next sticky ground.  Transhumanists say they want to "take control of human evolution, providing for the enhancement of human mental and physical abilities and the amelioration of aspects of the human condition regarded as undesirable."  What precisely does that mean?  As they say, they want to change the "human condition."  For me, I can see the advantage of Augmenting myself with lungs that are no longer full of holes from my stupid stupid smoking habit of yesteryear, that's a definite amelioration of one of my human conditions.  But where do you stop, when is it no longer a "human" condition?

Aging and dying are two aspects of the "human condition" that I bet many people would like to see "ameliorated."  So does that mean that "reproductive capacity" will be similarly "ameliorated" to prevent rapid overpopulation?  I know everyone is still thinking that "they" whoever they are will put "human" limits on this kind of modification, but suppose one person thinks "screw them!" and goes outside those limits anyway?  Can't you just foresee the day when the world's population consists of precisely one superhuman, immortal, and very ruthless person?  Who's "ameliorated" themselves all the way to that superhuman condition and then eradicated competition one by one?  

Pardon?  "Religious" technology? 
Yeah well.  I'll leave this particular piece of bullshit where it is, at the bottom of the heap.  All I'm going to say is that any religion that still can't accept evolution is going to choke to death on "amelioration," let alone technology...  Maybe restricted to Popes and above, but not acceptable at all in any lay circles I'd bet.

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