The brave new world Part II: Transhumanist Research
The previous part of my article about Transhumanism was a short introduction of the movement that hopefully garnered a bit of interest for it.
The following is an elaboration on the introduction and another introduction for a third part that deals with one specific topic, that of the human form and related ideas about ethics.
However, let me begin by reiterating some basic tenets of transhumanism:
Transhumanists show a great interest in sceintif discovery and exploration, both of the external world around them and of themselves. Science fiction films and novels come to mind when one hears the word transhumanism, as it is implied that a lot of the concepts associated with this movement are revolutionary in a sense that they aim to go beyond the known, beyond what is even possible, beyond the human.
For this reason the movement has gained a lot of critics and skeptics. Since the movement focuses on such terms as future/enhancement/technology and on science, it is not very well understood and even often misunderstood and feared.
But little do critics take into account that without a spirit of endeavour and without transhumanist thought, the present as we know it would not have come into being, and perhaps not have come into existence so fast. For transhumanists often build upon the history of mankind and trace the roots of the movement back to the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.
Today various scientific fields are full of transhumanist thinkers that aim at using their skills to enhance the human (quality of life and sustainability, cognition and other skills). The follwoing fields are areas of interest for scientific exploration (in no particular order): Cybernetics, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Nanotechnology, Information Technology.
From cloning cells to creating robotic body parts, transhumanism is our constant companion in the quest for human enhancement and scientific discovery.
As is exemplified in the article ‘Japan’s cyborg research enters the skull’ (dated 17th April, 2008), researchers aim to use “real-time mind-controlled robotic limbs” to enhance motor skills for disabled patients. The way to do this is quite intrusive, but might yield a better quality life for the patient.
Enhancing the human is designing the human, re-shaping the human form and thus allowing for new concepts about what is human and how a human should/can perform. Scientific research and engineering (the practical and visible) spills over onto other fields as well, the Arts and Humanities, for example, where the concept of ‘Human’ is being re-adressed as part of the transhuman discourse. This might also have effects on other, not so obvious fields, such as Transgender Theory (eg. reassignment surgery) and Queer Theory (non-traditional ways of assigning gender).