Transhumanism

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This article is speculative. It covers topics that are not straightforwardly derivable from current knowledge. Take it with a grain of salt. See: "exploratory engineering" for what can be predicted and what not.

This page will discuss the concept of "transhumanism" primarily in light of atomically precise technology and maybe delve a bit into philosophical aspects.
For a general introduction please visit the extensive Wikipedia page about the topic.

Possible problems with the term "Transhumanism"

In general the problem with all sorts of "*isms" is that they tend to bunch together many views and equally many prejudices. Fulfilling the problematic human desire for having explanations for everything even if it means that they are simper than possible and thus plainly wrong.

Here's an example for a negative connotation of ism: "scientism"

Also problematic may be that "trans"human is linguistically near to "in"human.

Minimal introduction

Transhumanism is basically about the idea of extending humans with technology. We already are cluttered with extensions / pseudo-prosthetics / tools like e.g. cloths, reading glasses, cars, smartphones, and many kinds of other tools ... but these are mild extensions that are slowly and unnoticeably creeping in. The extensions transhumanism focuses on do not stop with mild extensions but do overstep many scary points and taboos (usually with good intentions).

Many people show an especially emotional reaction on:

  • Invasive surgery on healthy persons (many "transhumanists" may not view this as desirable)
  • Tampering with genes ("transhumanists" are usually advocating this in various degrees)
  • Attempts to overcome the natural lifespan limitation of humans. (this is more of a core point of "transhumanism")

The many many stories that end with the moral "do not attempt to defy death or else very very bad things will happen" which are told in all human cultures show very clearly what kind of deep rooted fears transhumanism dares to touch.

The behavior of trying to defy death was and still mostly is considered insanity because of overwhelming evidence of futility. There where always some people believing that death could be cheated. Answering the question whether today's existing and reliably predictable parts of tomorrows technology shows early signs that for the first time something could actually be done or not is left for the reader.

  • Today a common view is like the following:
    Old people loose value for society and their death gives free the scarce resources for new generations.
  • Transhumanists view it more like:
    Every death is like the burning of a library - the older the person was the richer was the library

Note: The "cheating death aspect" of transhumanism is not about gaining "eternal life"/"immortality". At least for most transhumanists it's "just" about prolonging life. But in principle while there certainly is a limit it might be arbitrarily high. It's not about a few years/decades but more like about several orders of magnitude.

A hard and fundamental physical limit seems to be the second law of thermodynamics causing the thermal death of the universe. But going into these realms speculations are considered to be just entertaining SciFi even by most transhumanists – hopefully.

Cryonics

At some point overcoming the natural lifespan limitation of humans is clearly not possible anymore today. Thus transhumanism values the idea of preservation the human body (or just brain) by deep freezing it (cryonics) long enough such that technology will be able to repair enough damage such that life can be continued. (As a minor side-note there's also the less known method of plastination.) Judging the chances of this plan to succeed is left to the reader.

Many people show an especially emotional reaction on the unconventional treatment of the inanimate. While transhumanists call the frozen bodies "patients" opposing factions stress the term "corpses". Perfidious hostility against transhumanistic views can be seen e.g. in statements like "Isn't it evil to give false hopes?" Many transhumanists like to call "aging" an "illness" to raise awareness. Thereby deliberately or unintentionally awakening sleeping counter-forces.

As mentioned for the idea of cryonic preservation to succeed a technology needs to come up that can repair biological damage on an unprecedented level. This naturally brings up the topic of atomically precise technology. Well actually only vague perceptions of it (usually spawned from the old book "Engines of Creations") since transhumanists come from all kinds of educational backgrounds, very very view have really dug through the technical aspects in Nanosystems or read parts of the wiki you are reading here.

One could say: An often rather twisted version of atomically precise technology comes with the "believe package" of transhumanism. Of course the capabilities of APM are not defined by the wishes and desires of transhumanists. That faulty train of thought just unjustifiedly damages the image of APM. Transhumanist goals can guide the direction of fact based investigation of potential capabilities though. Robert Freitas work on what he called "Nanomedicine" targets medicine on the still animate but it would be would be applicable here. (TODO: check details)

Fully synthetic replacement

One should note that the as sensible determined far term goal of APM is (at its gem-gum machine phase core) actually quite incompatible to soft biological systems. Thus it would be much better suited to make completely artificial replacement "bodies" (See: Multi limbed sensory equipped shells) rather than repairing heavily damaged biological tissue which might turn out to be hellishly difficult.

Going for completely artificial replacement "bodies" draws in a whole series of other issues though. Like e.g. brain uploading, continuity of perception, sensory upward compatibility, psychologically perceived inhumanity of such replacements "bodies" with well hidden roboticism at the nanoscale and likely even more.

Relation to telepresence

What seems to be not widely realized yet is that at the point where telepresence becomes indistinguishable from reality (not just fully immersive) one basically has sufficient technology for upward compatible replacements. This is a creeping effect.

Restoration of original

The option of attempting the restoration of the original biological body seems to be what the overwhelming majority of transhumanists seem to focus on today (2017). This narrow focus may be due to a lack of knowledge about the option and nature of gem-gum metamaterial replacement "bodies".

For the restoration of biological bodies one would need gemstone based autonomous nanobots (as described in Robert Freitas book "Nanomedicine"). But these gemstone based autonomous nanobots are actually likely even one step beyond the far term goal of gem-gum factories.

What makes these nanobots compatible with soft "machinery" of molecular biology (biotechnology) will be

Note that what today (2017) are called nanobots (for promotional effectiveness) are actually ridiculously simple foldamer nano-machinery at best (e.g. a box with a hinge).

Interaction between the two options "replacement" and "restoration"

Warning! you are moving into more speculative areas. When assuming drastic decline in birthrate due to wealth created by APM (See: "Human overpopulation" for details) and of course evasion of total collapse of civilization, then an interesting question arises like so: Will human population last long enough that there will be "natural" ways (a continuous transformation) for biological humans to switch to gemstone based artificial bodies. Or will by the time the technology reaches that point humanity already have severely declined?

Ethical dangers

  • An implicitly enforced necessity for self modification to not fall behind and "under the wheels".
    Just like today refusing to learn to deal with computers is not optional for many.
  • Exclusive accessibility for an elite
    (for this one needs to take the assumption of scarcity – what timeframe?, what location?)

Dangerous ideologies

  • "one dimensional" beauty ideal – loss of diversity
  • detrimental obsession with what is believed to be ideal "beauty"
  • detrimental obsession with physical force – super soldiers

Regarding brain computer interfaces

  • Hackability of minds.
    This is especially scary, given the horrible character of today's computer systems and especially the main mobile OS "android". Closed source creep (Virus, Trojan, Spyware heaven), Monopolistic (one calendar in the cloud for all), Imprisoning (Youtube-app external links are a NoNo), Partonizing (UI forced upon you is constantly improved for the worse), Actively against you (rooting is time consuming not easy and dangerous) (TODO: move that rant somewhere more apropriate)
  • The classic hive mind horror scenario

Regrading the mind in general

There is the danger of mental over aging getting stuck in mental one-way streets and building up solidified opinions. A common view is that often only after the old generation dies a new (research) paradigm can thrive.

Philosophical

  • Is there a risk that biological humans lose "something" important when they move into completely artificial bodies (brains)?
  • If all our descendants have artificially created minds (no biological origin and no childhood – this may involve a lot of copy paste figuratively speaking) will they lack "something"?

Related

External links