Kyle Munkittrick writes to me and sets out what it would mean for transhumanism to arrive or succeed:
…Transhumanism is definitely more of a philosophy than
an objective, though it is a political philosophy like feminism or
libertarianism. There are specific goals, like extending life span,
creating true A.I., and animal uplift, and then broad ethical goals,
like ending suffering.
If I had to come up with specific criteria, however, I'd suggest the following three:
Medical modifications that permanently alter or replace a function of
the human body become prolific. LAZIK eye surgery, internal
defibrillators, and prosthetic limbs are all examples. The key
difference is that these modifications would either result in a return
to initial quality (as in LAZIK) or enhance/augment the original
condition. Landmark moment: When a runner with prosthetic cheetah
blades competes in the traditional Olympics and wins a medal.
2. Our social understanding of aging loses the "virtue of
necessity" aspect and society begins to treat aging as a disease.
Concepts like "aging well" and "golden years" would be as
counter-intuitive as describing someone with cancer or MS as "diseasing
well." I have no idea what the consequences would be socially, but you
can bet things like "mid-life crises" and "adult learning" would take
on entirely new meanings or become meaningless. When we have a
generation of people expected to live to 150, that'll be a good sign
this is on the way to happening.
3. The recognition of an individual with citizenship and/or
personhood and the criteria for that recognition would change
dramatically from the status quo. Rights discourse would shift from who
we include (i.e. should homosexual have marriage rights?) to a system
flexible enough to easily bring in sentient non-humans. A good litmus
test for flexibility is: how would we incorporate an intelligent alien
race into our rights/ethics system?
Those are the three landmarks I'd look for when trying to answer
that question…I'm a big fan of MR, so it prides me
to see transhumanism as a topic you've enough interest in to mention.
Advocates, is that a good account?
I'm not a Luddite (at all) but I've never been taken by transhumanism as a systematic philosophy. I'm more worried that we will fail at "humanism," namely the simple requirement that we treat other people decently. It's worth asking whether the promotion of transhumanism makes us more or less likely to meet basic canons of decency and consideration. I would be more likely to favor a transhumanism that made us painfully aware of our personal vulnerability in a way that would expand our circle of benevolence. I worry that transhumanism can be used to cloak that vulnerability, assert its contingency, and instill a false sense of personal control or denial.
Was Michael Jackson a transhumanist (cut to 3:54)?