Transhumanism: A good or evil?

The avid skeptic in me is still choking on this being a factual intercourse but let us roll with it anyways. Maria Montessori possibly the greatest educator the world has ever known was told she could not become a Doctor, because she was a woman. After achieving this morally reprehensible act, she went on to create a system of education which is now known to be the most effective way of educating children. This is not an isolated incident. Many of the most critical advancements have been achieved by people who were out to prove the world wrong: Jesus Christ, Alexander Graham Bell, and Martin Luther King Jr… People who were told that they cannot achieve something because of the way they were born. The son in this discourse is no different. So what you were born mortal and mediocre, you want to become a super-human super hero, do it. That is what humanity is all about, the pursuit of a better existence.

Transhumanism in popular criticism is seen as the inherent evil of enhancement. The repeating meme being “what if” someone did something bad with it; I respond “what if” no one was able to something good with it in return? I don’t subscribe to Islam-Christian theology but enjoy using what little logic they incorporate against their own arguments. If God made us imperfect, and made the success of our eternal lives based on attaining a state of perfection, then did God mean for our lives to be a pursuit of enhancement. (Of course not good, bad, intent are attributes we assign, but flow with the logic of xenophobia.) Since God does clearly request that you pursue attaining the most good for others that you can with your own life, where is the line that transhumanism crosses and falls off the edge of our flat Earth? Don’t some people attempt great evil through the Holy Scriptures? Aren’t they only defeated by those choosing to use the same tools for good? Perhaps the triumph of good over evil is just a convenient perception?

The intent of good and evil are strictly human conceptions. Knowledge, technology, culture have no inherent moral standing. Are there evil plants? Is there a good type of predator? Whether or not transhumanism is good or evil is not a valid question. The real questions are: Whether good or bad humans will enter the singularity? What aspects of humanity will transhumanity emulate? Will transhumanity mirror humanity at all? Will transhumans still reflect upon themselves as being good or bad and pursue a better existence?

The short answer is we don’t know. We haven’t seen it, but we can extrapolate. Both decent and immoral are likely to enter the Singularity and transcend into transhumanity. Simply because nothing is two sided, everything is among a spectrum. Even if only good people enter, when you take this new subset some will be better and the less good become the new standard for evil. That being said what emerges through the Singularity will have a clean slate from which to be judged. There is no evidence to suggest that any level of transhumanism will fundamentally change the self reflective process of improvement that has brought us to the level of civility we enjoy in modern society. In fact it is exactly that charted growth of spiritual and physical enhancement that leads us to acknowledge and suggest transhumanism as a developed stage of our evolution.

Current studies tell us that much of who we are is determined at a young age, that being assumed, we can see transhumanism allowing deeper stronger pursuits of the pre-existing interests. However it is easily conceivable that being “reborn transhuman” will be like a second childhood. The massive expansion of mental capacity will trigger a childlike ability to learn and a radical redefinition of the self will commence. This is of course feeding from a xenophobic conception of what transhumanism means, one does not have to completely convert to the synthetic to be transhuman, or even make any neural adaptation. Transhumanism is already present and accepted within our daily lives. From shoes to sunglasses even the staunchest critics of transhumanism are literally up to their necks in enhancements to their “God-given” bodies. Is transhumanism good or evil? I don’t think so, but I’d be evil if I didn’t give you the freedom to decide for yourself

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2 thoughts on “Transhumanism: A good or evil?

  1. Thank you, Terasemian, for these thoughts and the links that go with them!

    The first three examples in this fascinating discussion (the super-hero concept in general and how mothers feel about them, Maria Montessori’s achievements and Galileo’s punishment by the church for his ideas), all reflect the difficulties of “natural selection at work”, and stand in opposition to the lofty goal of “pursuing a better existence” and “free choice to decide for yourself”.

    The superhuman is usually depicted as using his or her great powers to “protect against evil”, usually with villains as the enemy. But isn’t this an attempt to stand in opposition to the idea that in evolution, the mother fox (the villain) must kill the cute rabbit (the victim) to “feed the little foxes”? Wouldn’t the “pursuit of a better existence” be one in which it became unnecessary for foxes to eat rabbits because there were even more tastier “artificial meat” the foxes found more tempting, growing on trees everywhere?

    And, aren’t transhumanists just the perfect people to create a world where it works this way? In such a world, the villains (foxes) would no longer have to exploit victims (rabbits), due to technology created by the “technology super-heros” (the transhumans). Metaphorically speaking, the rabbits and foxes could curl up together during cold winters and frolic together during warm springs and summers.

    If super-heros could be redefined as those who solved problems not by fighting evolution but by helping former enemies rise above the need to be so, then maybe the mothers of small children who worshipped super-heros would be more enthusiastic about their doing so.

    Maria Montessori provided an environment in which children’s natural curiosities and tendencies to be inventive were the “tastier artificial meat” and diverted their drives from dominating and being cruel to each other to synergism in which those of slightly greater levels could derive satisfaction and achievement by helping those at lesser levels see what they had already been able to grasp. Their energies poured into doing the things that our “technology super-heros” of the future might do with awesome technologies now springing into existence so rapidly that we can barely keep track of them.

    In this sense, Maria Montessori could be a great role model for what mothers, who want to nurture the best in their children, could bring about, if the goals of transhumanism were visibly to become a stronger and stronger force for good (pursuit of a better existence) for all, in our society. If we could help women adopt the goal of becoming “superhero Maria Montessori’s”, encouraging compassionate capacities in their children to create a better world, free of the “dog-eat-dog” attitudes that have always been the heart of natural selection, maybe mothers’ resistance to their children turning into transhumanist “super humans” would not just lessen but go away.

    It would take changing the image of what a super-hero does (beat up villains) to something else (a world in which they created soybean bananas that tasted better than chicken and grew everywhere, so chickens were no longer needed as high-protein food but could curl up and frolic with rabbits and foxes). Still here, we’re up against the fact that at our deepest subconscious levels, we’re “programmed” to behave more like foxes, rabbits and chickens, than a joyful society that has risen above what these animals are presently programmed to be and do.

    Churches would love a world like that, and might give punishing people like Galileo who as transhumanists could make it unnecessary for people to live as they still do (living too much like animals, in too many ways). Still, as in the case of Galileo, churches will defend their dogmas (to the extent they are ruled by them) in any way they feel they must. And transhumans of even the most compassionate and creative, productive kind will have a hard time convincing them otherwise.

    Perhaps such an outcome can come about only when transhumanists in the great majority shift their self-images from becoming better than humans as they are now in general, to becoming more and more able and inclined to build a better world, in which at any moment the transhumanists are like children in Montessori schools are or should be, ready to help anyone else to do so, who wants to ‘join the team’?

    If the most visible spirit of transhumanism were that each of us seeks to bring more joy and less pain into the lives of others, transhumanism could be seen as something that “lifts us all” and inspires all who grasp that vision to want to transcend their current limitations, not just to enjoy life more personally, focused on self-centered greed, but to rise above that and relish the sense of achievement that can come from increasing the joys of everyone else,.

    Thanks, Terasemian, for starting these conversations, on this blog. We need to see a lot of “light at the end of the tunnel”, and help others see it too. We need to finally get to the end of this tunnel we’ve been trapped in for so long (dog eat dog natural selection), and come out into the sunlight of a future where the world is more like a big family than one of slum dwellers fighting over scraps in garbage cans for survival and making rules everyone has to follow, most of the time by politics that are only a shade better than gang-wars.

    The two of us haven’t even gotten to the “read more” portion of this posting, but it will no doubt stimulate more thoughts like these, and we’ll be intrigued to see what others might have to say! Those of us who can see things in this light can make a huge difference in what happens over the next twenty to thirty years, and at the rate things are developing, there’s no time to waste!

    Fred & Linda Chamberlain

  2. Pingback: Would you upgrade? « Elle's Musings

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