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Transhumanism

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Abstract

In his famous paper, Julian Huxley gives the outline of what he believes future humanity could – and should – look like. By pointing out the numerous limitations and feebleness the human nature is – at the time – prone to, and by confronting them with the possibilities humankind has, Huxley expresses the need to research and put into use all possible measures that would enable man achieve utmost perfection.
TRANSHUMANISM*
SIR
JULIAN
HUXLEY
As
a
result
of
a
thousand
million
years
of
evolution,
the
universe
is
becoming
conscious
of
itself,
able
to
understand
something
of
its
past
history
and
its
possible
future.
This
cosmic
self-awareness
is
being
realized
in
one
tiny
fragment
of
the
universe
-
in
a
few
of
us
human
beings.
Perhaps
it
has
been
realized
elsewhere
too,
through
the
evolu-
tion
of
conscious
living
creatures
on
the
planets
of
other
stars.
But
on
this
our
planet,
it
has
never
happened
before.
Evolution
on
this
planet
is
a
history
of
the
realization
of
ever
new
possibilities
by
the
stuff
of
which
earth
(and
the
rest
of
the
universe)
is
made
-
life;
strength,
speed
and
awareness;
the
flight
of
birds
and
the
social
polities
of
bees
and
ants;
the
emergence
of
mind,
long
before
man
was
ever
dreamt
of,
with
the
production
of
colour,
beauty,
com-
munication,
maternal
care,
and
the
beginnings
of
intelligence
and
insight.
And
finally,
during
the
last
few
ticks
of
the
cosmic
clock,
something
wholly
new
and
revolutionary,
human
beings
with
their
capacities
for
conceptual
thought
and
language,
for
self-conscious
awareness
and
purpose,
for
accumulating
and
pooling
conscious
ex-
perience.
For
do
not
let
us
forget
that
the
human
species
is
as
radically
different
from
any
of
the
microscopic
single-celled
animals
that
lived
a
thousand
million
years
ago
as
they
were
from
a
fragment
of
stone
or
metal.
The
new
understanding
of
the
universe
has
come
about
through
the
new
knowledge
amassed
in
the
last
hundred
years
-
by
psychologists,
biologists,
and
other
scientists,
by
archaeologists,
anthropologists,
and
historians.
It
has
defined
man's
responsibility
and
destiny
-
to
be
an
agent
for
the
rest
of
the
world
in
the
job
of
realizing
its
inherent
potentialities
as
fully
as
possible.
It
is
as
if
man
had
been
suddenly
appointed
managing
director
of
the
biggest
business of
all,
the
business
of
evolution
-appointed
with-
out
being
asked
if
he
wanted
it,
and
without
proper
warning
and
preparation.
What
is
more,
he
can't
refuse
the
job.
Whether
he
wants
to
or
not,
whether
he
is
conscious
of
what
he
is
doing
or
not,
he
is
in
point
of
fact
determining
the
future
direction
of
evolution
on
this
earth.
That
is
his
inescapable
destiny,
and
the
sooner
he
realizes
it
and
starts
believing
in
it,
the
better
for
all
concerned.
What
the
job
really
boils
down
to
is
this
the
fullest
realization
of
man's
possibilities,
whether
by
the
individual,
by
the
community,
or
by
the
species
in
its
processional
adventure
along
the
corridors
of
time.
*
Copyright,
1957,
by
Julian
Huxley.
Reprinted
by
permission
from
Julian
Huxley
and
Harper
&
Brothers,
New
York.
Originally
titled
New
Bottles
for
New
Wines,
reprinted
as
Mentor
Book
by
arrangement
with
Harper
&
Brothers
under
the
title
Knowledge,
Morality
&
Destiny.
73
Every
man-jack
of
us
begins
as
a
mere
speck
of
potentiality,
a
spherical
and
microscopic
egg-cell.
During
the
nine
months
before
birth,
this
automatically
unfolds
into
a
truly
miraculous
range
of
organization:
after
birth,
in
addition
to
continuing
automatic
growth
and
develop-
ment,
the
individual
begins
to
realize
his
mental
possibilities
by
building
up
a
personality,
by
developing
special
talents,
by
acquiring
knowledge
and
skills
of
various
kinds,
by
playing
his
part
in
keeping
society
going.
This
post-natal
process
is
not
an
automatic
or
a
pre-
determined
one.
It
may
proceed
in
very
different
ways
according
to
circumstances
and
according
to
the
individual's
own
efforts.
The
degree
to
which
capacities
are
realized
can
be
more
or
less
complete.
The
end-result
can
be
satisfactory
or
very
much
the
reverse:
in
particular,
the
personality
may
grievously
fail
in
attaining
any
real
wholeness.
One
thing
is
certain,
that
the
well-developed,
well-integrated
personality
is
the
highest
product
of
evolution,
the
fullest
realization
we
know
of
in
the
universe.
The
first
thing
that
the
human
species
has
to
do
to
prepare
itself
for
the
cosmic
office
to
which
it
finds
itself
appointed
is
to
explore
human
nature,
to
find
out
what
are
the
possibilities
open
to
it
(includ-
ing,
of
course,
its
limitations,
whether
inherent
or
imposed
by
the
facts
of
external
nature).
We
have
pretty
well
finished
the
geographical
exploration
of
the
earth;
we
have
pushed
the
scientific
exploration
of
nature,
both
lifeless
and
living,
to
a
point
at
which
its
main
outlines
have
become
clear;
but
the
exploration
of
human
nature
and
its
possi-
bilities
has
scarcely
begun.
A
vast
New
World
of
uncharted
possibilities
awaits
its
Columbus.
The
great
men
of
the
past
have
given
us
glimpses
of
what
is
possible
in
the
way
of
personality,
of
intellectual
understanding,
of
spiritual
achievement,
of
artistic
creation.
But
these
are
scarcely
more
than
Pisgah
glimpses.
We
need
to
explore
and
map
the
whole
realm
of
human
possibility,
as
the
realm
of
physical
geography
has
been
ex-
plored
and
mapped.
How
to
create
new
possibilities
for
ordinary
living?
What
can
be
done
to
bring
out
the
latent
capacities
of
the
ordinary
man
and
woman
for
understanding
and
enjoyment;
to
teach
people
the
techniques
of
achieving
spiritual
experience
(after
all,
one
can
acquire
the
technique
of
dancing
or
tennis,
so
why
not
of
mystical
ecstasy
or
spiritual
peace?);
to
develop
native
talent
and
intelligence
in
the
growing
child,
instead
of
frustrating
or
distorting
them?
Already
we
know
that
painting
and
thinking,
music
and
mathematics,
acting
and
science
can
come
to
mean
something
very
real
to
quite
ordinary
average
boys
and
girls
-
provided
only
that
the
right
methods
are
adopted
for
bringing
out
the
children's
possibilities.
We
are
beginning
to
realize
that
even
the
most
fortunate
people
are
living
far
below
capacity,
and
that
most
human
beings
develop
not
more
than
a
small
fraction
of
their
potential
mental
and
spiritual
efficiency.
The
human
race,
in
fact,
is
surrounded
by
a
large
area
of
unrealized
possibilities,
a
challenge
to
the
spirit
of
exploration.
The
scientific
and
technical
explorations
have
given
the
Common
74
Man
all
over
the
world
a
notion
of
physical
possibilities.
Thanks
to
science,
the
under-privileged
arc
coming
to
believe
that
no
one
need
be
underfed
or
chronically
diseased,
or
deprived
of
the
benefits
of
its
technical
and
practical
applications.
The
world's
unrest
is
largely
due
to
this
new
belief.
People
are
determined
not
to
put
up
with
a
subnormal
standard
of
physical
health
and
material
living
now
that
science
has
revealed
the
possi-
bility
of
raising
it.
The
unrest
will
produce
some
unpleasant
conse-
quences
before
it
is
dissipated;
but
it
is
in
essence
a
beneficent
unrest,
a
dynamic
force
which
will
not
be
stilled
until
it
has
laid
the
physio-
logical
foundations
of
human
destiny.
Once
we
have
explored
the
possibilities
open
to
consciousness
and
personality,
and
the
knowledge
of
them
has
become
common
property,
a
new
source
of
unrest
will
have
emerged.
People
will
realize
and
believe
that
if
proper
measures
are
taken,
no
one
need
be
starved
of
true
satisfaction,
or
condemned
to
sub-standard
fulfilment.
This
pro-
cess
too
will
begin
by
being
unpleasant,
and
end
by
being
beneficent.
It
will
begin
by
destroying
the
ideas
and
the
institutions
that
stand
in
the
way
of
our
realizing
our
possibilities
(or
even
deny
that
the
possi-
bilities
are
there
to
be
realized),
and
will
go
on
by
at
least
making
a
start
with
the
actual
construction
of
true
human
destiny.
Up
till
now
human
life
has
generally
been,
as
Hobbes
described
it,
"nasty,
brutish
and
short";
the
great
majority
of
human
beings
(if
they
have
not
already
died
young)
have
been
afflicted
with
misery
in
one
form
or
another
-
poverty,
disease,
ill-health,
over-work,
cruelty,
or
oppression.
They
have
attempted
to
lighten
their
misery
by
means
of
their
hopes
and
their
ideals.
The
trouble
has
been
that
the
hopes
have
generally
been
unjustified,
the
ideals
have
generally
failed
to
correspond
with
reality.
The
zestful
but
scientific
exploration
of
possibilities
and
of
the
techniques
for
realizing
them
will
make
our
hopes
rational,
and
will
set
our
ideals
within
the
framework
of
reality,
by
showing
how
much
of
them
are
indeed
realizable.
Already,
we
can
justifiably
hold
the
belief
that
these
lands
of
possi-
bility
exist,
and
that
the
present
limitations
and
miserable
frustrations
of
our
existence
could
be
in
large
measure
surmounted.
We
are
already
justified
in
the
conviction
that
human
life
as
we
know
it
in
history
is
a
wretched
makeshift,
rooted
in
ignorance;
and
that
it
could
be
tran-
scended
by
a
state
of
existence
based
on
the
illumination
of
knowledge
and
comprehension,
just
as
our
modern
control
of
physical
nature
based
on
science
transcends
the
tentative
fumblings
of
our
ancestors,
that
were
rooted
in
superstition
and
professional
secrecy.
To
do
this,
we
must
study
the
possibilities
of
creating
a
more
favour-
able
social
environment,
as
we
have
already
done
in
large
measure
with
our
physical
environment.
We
shall
start
from
new
premisses.
For
instance,
that
beauty
(something
to
enjoy
and
something
to
be
proud
of)
is
indispensable,
and
therefore
that
ugly
or
depressing
towns
are
immoral;
that
quality
of
people,
not
mere
quantity,
is
what
we
75
must
aim
at,
and
therefore
that
a
concerted
policy
is
required
to
prevent
the
present
flood
of
population-increase
from
wrecking
all
our
hopes
for
a
better
world;
that
true
understanding
and
enjoyment
are
ends
in
themselves,
as
well
as
tools
for
or
relaxations
from
a
job,
and
that
therefore
we
must
explore
and
make
fully
available
the
techniques
of
education
and
self-education;
that
the
most
ultimate
satisfaction
comes
from
a
depth
and
wholeness
of
the
inner
life,
and
therefore
that
we
must
explore
and
make
fully
available
the
techniques
of
spiritual
development;
above
all,
that
there
are
two
complementary
parts
of
our
cosmic
duty
-
one
to
ourselves,
to
be
fulfilled
in
the
realization
and
enjoyment
of
our
capacities,
the
other
to
others,
to
be
fulfilled
in
service
to
the
community
and
in
promoting
the
welfare
of
the
genera-
tions
to
come
and
the
advancement
of
our
species
as
a
whole.
The
human
species
can,
if
it
wishes,
transcend
itself
-
not
just
sporadically,
an
individual
here
in
one
way,
an
individual
there
in
another
way,
but
in
its
entirety,
as
humanity.
We
need
a
name
for
this
new
belief.
Perhaps
transhurmanism
will
serve:
man
remaining
man,
but
transcending
himself,
by
realizing
new
possibilities
of
and
for
his
human
nature.
"I
believe
in
transhumanism":
once
there
are
enough
people
who
can
truly
say
that,
the
human
species
will
be
on
the
threshold
of
a
new
kind
of
existence,
as
different
from
ours
as
ours
is
from
that
of
Pekin
man.
It
will
at
last
be
consciously
fulfilling
its
real
destiny.
76
... The rapid and unpredictable progress of technology reveals the need to put forward new definitions for concepts in social sciences. The concept of transhumanism has emerged as a result of (Huxley, 1968). ...
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... Not surprisingly, the quantified self movement has been noted as a leading front in the advancement of a transhumanist worldview (Danter, 2020;Pilsch, 2017;Vita-More, 2019). Specifically, enabled by the proliferation of wearable technologies, this movement epitomises an emerging transhumanist vision of leveraging technology to inform and mould a conscious phase of human evolution (Huxley, 1968;Pilsch, 2017). ...
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Humans are now entering a post-human era. Through technological advancements and their applications for humans themselves, humans as homo sapiens might change into a different species. Depending on individual decisions about whether to embrace certain technologies, the co-existence of humans and post-humans is also possible. Christians and theologians must ponder this trajectory for the technology will affect all domains, including religions, in society at large. In this regard, this article introduces and examines transhumanism. Transhumanism is a movement based on the convergence of ideology and scientific technology which aims to liberate humans from their biological constraints (i. e., disease, aging, and death), thereby bringing about human well-being. This article argues that the transhumanist ideology should be critically examined while its technology can be embraced and even supported from a theological perspective because this ideology determines the direction of technological advancement and application. Regarding ideological problems, I highlight transhumanists’ disembodiment propensity, optimistic belief in the progress of human civilization, and individualism. These features are embedded in and originate from transhumanism’s succession of classical humanism and the Enlightenment. If these features are not rectified, transhumanism and its technology might repeat disastrous incidents in human history such as eugenics and exacerbate social inequality. As a theologian, I critically examine the ideological features of transhumanism, proposing an alternative understanding with regard to human beings and existence. This effort helps to remedy potential problems of transhumanism in the future, relieve anxiety relating to these problems, and prepare a dialogue between transhumanism and Christian theology. This dialogue will eventually contribute to the robust development of transhumanism and the opening of a new era of the post-human.
Article
Appeals to ‘nature’ have historically led to normative claims about who is rendered valuable. These understandings elevate a universal, working body (read able-bodied, white, producing capital) that design and disability studies scholar Aimi Hamraie argues ‘has served as a template […] for centuries’ (2017: 20), becoming reified through our architectural, political, and technological infrastructures. Using the framing of the cyborg, we explore how contemporary assistive technologies have the potential to both reproduce and trouble such normative claims. The modern transhumanism movement imagines cyborg bodies as self-contained and invincible, championing assistive technologies that seek to assimilate disabled people towards ever-increasing standards of independent productivity and connecting worth with the body's capacity for labor. In contrast, disability justice communities see all bodies as inherently worthy and situated within a network of care-relationships. Rather than being invincible, the cripborg's relationship with technology is complicated by the ever-present functional and financial constraints of their assistive devices. Despite these lived experiences, the expertise and agency of disabled activist communities is rarely engaged throughout the design process. In this article, we use speculative design techniques to reimagine assistive technologies with members of disability communities, resulting in three fictional design proposals. The first is a manual for a malfunctioning exoskeleton, meant to fill in the gaps where corporate planned obsolescence and black-boxed design delimit repair and maintenance. The second is a zine instructing readers on how to build their own intimate prosthetics, emphasizing the need to design for pleasurable, embodied, and affective experience. The final design proposal is a city-owned fleet of assistive robots meant to push people in manual wheelchairs up hills or carry loads for elderly people, an example of an environmental adaptation which explores the problems of automating care. With and through these design concepts, we begin to explore assistive devices that center the values of disability communities, using design proposals to co-imagine versions of a more crip-centered future.
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