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What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

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What is Transhumanism?

Transhumanism – RationalWiki

You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God. Julie from Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

Transhumanism (or H+), an intellectual movement, is greatly influenced by science fiction and presents an idealistic point of view of what technology could do for humanity in future, not what it can do; it’s all hypothetical.[1] Transhumanism explores the benefits and repercussions of what technology could do for humanity; however, it assumes the technological boundaries are nonexistent.[2]

How plausible is transhumanism? In the 1930s, many sensible people were sure human beings would never get to the Moon and that was just one of many predictions that turned out incorrect.[3] Early 21st century people do not know one way or the other what will be possible in the future. However, the scientific claims of transhumanism still need to be examined critically, because some of these technoscientific prophecies may not be plausible.[4]

While frequently dismissed as mere speculation at best by most rationalists[5] (especially in light of the many failures of artificial intelligence), transhumanism is a strongly-held belief among many computer geeks, notably synthesizer and accessible computing guru Ray Kurzweil, a believer in the “technological singularity,” where technology evolves beyond humanity’s current capacity to understand or anticipate it, and Sun Microsystems founder and Unix demigod Bill Joy, who believes the inevitable result of AI research is the obsolescence of humanity.[6]

Certain recent technological advances are making the possibility of the realization of transhumanism appear more plausible: Scientists funded by the military developed an implant that can translate motor neuron signals into a form that a computer can use, thus opening the door for advanced prosthetics capable of being manipulated like biological limbs and producing sensory information.[7] This is on top of the earlier development of cochlear implants, which translate sound waves into nerve signals; they are often called “bionic ears.”[8]

Even DIY transhumanism or ‘biohacking’ is becoming an option, with people installing magnetic implants, allowing them to feel magnetic and electric fields.[9] Others have taken to wearing belts of magnets, in order to always be able to find magnetic north. Prosthetic limbs with some level of touch are also now being developed, a major milestone. [10] One notable individual whose received magnetic finger implants is Zoe Quinn; [11] the current scientific consensus seems unclear, although humans are not thought to have a magnetic sense, there is a cryptochromeprotein in the eye which could potentially make humans capable of Magnetoreception, like certain other mammals such as mice and cows appear to be. [12]

“Whole brain emulation” (WBE) is a term used by transhumanists to refer to, quite obviously, the emulation of a brain on a computer. While this is no doubt a possibility, it encounters two problems that keep it from being a certainty anytime in the near future.

The first is a philosophical objection: For WBE to work, “strong AI” (i.e. AI equivalent to or greater than human intelligence) must be attainable. A number of philosophical objections have been raised against strong AI, generally contending either that the mind or consciousness is not computable or that a simulation of consciousness is not equivalent to true consciousness (whatever that is). There is still controversy over strong AI in the field of philosophy of mind.[13]

A second possible objection is technological: WBE may not defy physics, but the technology to fully simulate a human brain (in the sense meant by transhumanists, at least) is a long way away. Currently, no computer (or network of computers) is powerful enough to simulate a human brain. Henry Markram, head of the Blue Brain Project, estimates that simulating a brain would require 500 petabytes of data for storage and that the power required to run the simulation would cost about $3 billion annually. (However, in 2008, he optimistically predicts this will be possible in ten years.[14]) In addition to technological limitations in computing, there are also the limits of neuroscience. Neuroscience currently relies on technology that can only scan the brain at the level of gross anatomy (e.g., fMRI, PET). Forms of single neuron imaging (SNI) have been developed recently, but they can only be used on animal subjects (usually rats) because they destroy neural tissue.[15]

First, let me say that Im all in favor of research on aging, and I think science has great potential to prolong healthy livesand Im all for that. But I think immortality, or even a close approximation to it, is both impossible and undesirable.

Another transhumanist goal is mind uploading, which is one way they claim[17][18] we will be able to achieve immortality. Aside from the problems with WBE listed above, mind uploading suffers a philosophical problem, namely the “swamp man problem.” That is, will the “uploaded” mind be “you” or simply a copy or facsimile of your mind? However, one possible way round this problem would be via incremental replacement of parts of the brain with their cybernetic equivalents (the patient being awake during each operation). Then there is no “breaking” of the continuity of the individual’s consciousness, and it becomes difficult for proponents of the “swamp man” hypothesis to pinpoint exactly when the individual stops being “themselves.”

Cryonics is another favorite of many transhumanists. In principle, cryonics is not impossible, but the current form of it is based largely on hypothetical future technologies and costs substantial amounts of money.

Fighting aging and extending life expectancy is possible the field that studies aging and attempts to provide suggestions for anti-aging technology is known as “biogerontology”. Aubrey de Grey has proposed a number of treatments for aging. In 2005, 28 scientists working in biogerontology signed a letter to EMBO Reports pointing out that de Grey’s treatments had never been demonstrated to work and that many of his claims for anti-aging technology were extremely inflated.[19] This article was written in response to a July 2005 EMBO reports article previously published by de Grey[20] and a response from de Grey was published in the same November issue.[21] De Grey summarizes these events in “The biogerontology research community’s evolving view of SENS,” published on the Methuselah Foundation website.[22]

Worst of all, some transhumanists outright ignore[citationneeded] what people in the fields they’re interested in tell them; a few AI boosters, for example, believe that neurobiology is an outdated science because AI researchers can do it themselves anyway. They seem to have taken the analogy used to introduce the computational theory of mind, “the mind (or brain) is like a computer.” Of course, the mind/brain is not a computer in the usual sense.[23] Debates with such people can take on the wearying feel of a debate with a creationist or climate change denialist, as such people will stick to their positions no matter what. Indeed, many critics are simply dismissed as Luddites or woolly-headed romantics who oppose scientific and technological progress.[24]

Transhumanism has often been criticized for not taking ethical issues seriously on a variety of topics,[25] including life extension technology,[26] cryonics,[27] and mind uploading and other enhancements.[28][29] Francis Fukuyama (in his doctrinaire neoconservative days) caused a stir by naming transhumanism “the world’s most dangerous idea.”[30] One of Fukuyama’s criticisms, that implementation of the technologies transhumanists push for will lead to severe inequality, is a rather common one.

A number of political criticisms of transhumanism have been made as well. Transhumanist organizations have been accused of being in the pocket of corporate and military interests.[31] The movement has been identified with Silicon Valley due to the fact that some of its biggest backers, such as Peter Thiel (of PayPal and Bitcoin fame), reside in the region.[32][33] Some writers see transhumanism as a hive of cranky and obnoxious techno-libertarianism.[34][35] The fact that Julian Huxley coined the term “transhumanism” and many transhumanists’ obsession with constructing a Nietzschean ubermensch known as the “posthuman” has led to comparisons with eugenics.[36][31] Like eugenics, it has been characterized as a utopian political ideology.[37] Jaron Lanier slammed it as “cybernetic totalism”.[38]

Some tension has developed between transhumanism and religion, namely Christianity.[citationneeded] Some transhumanists, generally being atheistic naturalists, see all religion as an impediment to scientific and technological advancement and some Christians oppose transhumanism because of its stance on cloning and genetic engineering and label it as a heretical belief system.[39] Other transhumanists, however, have attempted to extend an olive branch to Christians.[40] Some have tried to reconcile their religion and techno-utopian beliefs, calling for a “scientific theology.”[41] There is even a Mormon transhumanist organization.[42]Ironically for the atheistic transhumanists, the movement has itself been characterized as a religion and its rhetoric compared to Christian apologetics.[43][44] Interestingly the word transhuman first appeared in Henry Francis Careys 1814 translation of Paradiso, the last book of the Divine Comedy as Dante ascends to heaven during the resurrection. [45]

The very small transhumanist political movement has gained momentum with Zoltan Istvan announcing his bid for US president, with the Transhumanist Party and other small political parties gaining support internationally.

The important thing about transhumanism is that while a lot of such predictions may in fact be possible (and may even be in their embryonic stages right now), a strong skeptical eye is required for any claimed prediction about the fields it covers. When evaluating such a claim, one will probably need a trip to a library (or Wikipedia, or a relevant scientist’s home page) to get up to speed on the basics.[46]

A common trope in science fiction for decades is that the prospect of transcending the current form may be positive, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End or negative, as in the film The Matrix, with its barely disguised salvationist theme, or the Terminator series of films, where humanity has been essentially replaced by machine life. Change so radical elicits fear and thus it is unsurprising that many of the portrayals of transhumanism in popular culture are negative. The cyberpunk genre deals extensively with the theme of a transhumanist society gone wrong.

Among the utopian visions of transhumanism (fused with libertarianism) are those found in the collaborative online science fiction setting Orion’s Arm. Temporally located in the post-singularity future, 10,000 years from now, Orion’s Arm is massively optimistic about genetic engineering, continued improvements in computing and materials science. Because only technology which has been demonstrated to be impossible is excluded, even remotely plausible concepts has a tendency to be thrown in. At the highest end of the scale is artificial wormhole creation, baby universes and inertia without mass.[47] Perhaps the only arguably positive depiction of transhumanism in video games is the Megaman ZX series where the line between human and reploids has begun to blur. Defining at what point the definition of the the singularity was met in the centuries long Megaman timeline can be a useful way of illustrating how nebulous the terminology is during a debate.

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Transhumanism – RationalWiki

Humanity+ Mission

Humanity+ is dedicated to elevating the human condition. We aim to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps. Our programs combine unique insights into the developments of emerging and speculative technologies that focus on the well-being of our species and the changes that we are and will be facing. Our programs are designed to produce outcomes that can be helpful to individuals and institutions.

Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.

Mission Statement: Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.

Where does Humanity+ advocate the ethical use of technology? What are the human capacities to be expanded? How does Humanity+ foster people being better than well? The following is written by Natasha Vita-More:

Humanity+adopted theTranshumanist Declaration.The Transhumanist Declaration was a a joint effort between members of Extropy Institute, World Transhumanist Association, and other transhumanist groups worldwide. TheTranshumanist Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) is located at Humanity+’s website and is a collection of contributions by numerous authors, later edited by Nick Bostrom, and is updated as necessary by others. There are other FAQs on transhumanism, such asThe Transhumanist FAQwas developed by ExI and members of Humanity+ and earlier WTA.

Approximately 6000 people follow Humanity+ (including members and newsletter subscribers). Humanity+ followers come from more than 100 countries, from Afghanistan to Brazil to Egypt to the Philippines.Supporting and sustaining memberselect the Board, and participate in Humanity+ leadership and decision-making. Humanity+ members also participate in more than four dozenchaptersaround the world.

First, join Humanity+, and subscribe to the Humanity+ newsletter.

You may also enroll in one of our discussion lists and join one of our local H+ chapters, which can be found in countries and languages all over the world.

Mailing Address: Humanity+, Inc. 5042 Wilshire Boulevard Suite 14334 Los Angeles, California 90036

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Humanity+ Mission

Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

With all its morbid decadence, the richly-layered Gothic imagination and cosmic horror of Bloodborne tends to overshadow some of its more (post)modern influences. Bloodborne isnt a traditionalist, after all, but a punk: or to be more precise, a cyberpunk. It may not havesinister corporations or hackers, yet this sci-fi renegade still conjures the rebellious ghost in the machine.

Most obviously, theres the overpowering presence of that looming megalopolis Yharnam as dependent on monumental, almost brutalist architecture as any good futuristic urban sprawl. The social dynamics within Yharnam echo the politics of cyberpunk, the hegemonic power of the Healing Church pitted against the social outcasts roaming the grimy streets. Dangerous social experiments and unchecked technological advancements have led to a Victorian dystopia. There are even cyberspaces, simulated, subordinate worlds in the form of the Dreams, which can be accessed and even hacked by those who are privy to secret knowledge.

Yharnham:

Ridley Scott’sBlade Runner:

And just like cyberpunk, the world of Bloodborne is held captive by the promise of transhumanism the idea that humankind will, one day, be able to transcend our fleshlylimitations and become something more. Whether it is Deus Ex or Bloodborne, the tool for this quasi-religious endeavour is cutting edge research and technology. In Deus Ex, that means body modification through nanotech or even merging consciousnesses with an omnipresent AI. In Bloodborne, its the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth researching into the old ones and their blood that drives this change: aiming to transform humans, in theory, into celestial beings that have entirely discarded their humanity. Not unlike in Blade Runner, the eye becomes an omnipresent symbol of self-directed evolution and the dangerous knowledge necessary to pursue it.

However, Bloodborneisa punk that refuses to slavishly follow in the tracks of those that came before. The differences are the most fascinating thing here. The futuristic vision of transhumanism, whether it is presented as a utopian promise or a dystopian threat, is seen as an evolutionary culmination or perhaps even singularity that severs the umbilical cord that connects us to our evolutionary history. The human is a product of natural processes, distant cousin of the apes. The posthuman the product of transhumanism is something different (strangely, it is our human arrogance that leads to this fallacy of teleological evolution.)

Blade Runner

Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter

Bloodbornes idea of transhumanism is recognisable, but different. Its still a morally complex idea, both pursued by individuals and institutions while also causing societal upheaval, but its vector is in the opposite direction. The path to transcendence doesnt lead the inhabitants of Yharnam away from humankinds evolutionary history, but confronts it head-on in a retrogressive journey. The first enemies our hunter encounters are beastmen, many of them recognisably human but some, like the werewolves or Vicar Amelia, almost devoid of human characteristics. Theyre hairy and canine, clearly mammalian despite their deformities. So far, this is in keeping with stories like Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or H.P. Lovecrafts tales of human degeneracy, such as Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, in which a British nobleman burns himself alive after discovering that one of his ancestors was an ape goddess from the Congo. These stories play with our post-Darwinian revulsion at being the offspring of mere animals.

But as you progress through Bloodborne, the hunter descends deeper down the evolutionary ladder. Soon, enemies resemble snakes, insects, arachnids. Later, they become more alien still, strange variations of squids, snails, slugs (that is, molluscs) or even fungi. They have names like Celestial Emissary, or Celestial Child and are closely related to the Great Ones, some of whom, like Ebrietas or Kos, share similarities with the games mollusc-like creatures. Bloodborne displays a special fascination with mushrooms and molluscs, as well as the creatures of the ocean (especially in The Old Hunters DLC). These creatures are associated with the primordial, the early origins of life on earth, and their strange forms, both beautiful and disturbing, gives them a semblance of otherworldliness. And since they dont seem to belong to this world, perhaps they originally visited earth from unknown regions of the cosmos?

Kos

Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos

Celestial Child

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Kubaryana. Photo by Nick Hobgood

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Cristata. Photo by Chriswan Sungkono.

Nudibranch, Tritoniopsis Elegans. Photo by Sean Murray.

From this anthropocentric perspective, becoming like these creatures means getting closer to the miraculous origins of life, when the earth and the cosmos had yet to be disentangled. The transhumanism of Bloodborne thus turns the usual teleological view of human evolution on its head; the forces of evolution, whether natural or self-directed, will not bring humans closer to the gods, but have instead distanced them from the celestial spring of life. To fulfil their atavistic yearning to return to the lap of the cosmos, the inhabitants of Yharnam must regress to earlier evolutionary stages. The horror and tragedy of turning into wolf-like beasts, therefore, isnt just due to a revulsion to our animal ancestors or the destruction they cause, but the knowledge that those beastmen didnt regress far enough. If only they hadnt gotten lost in this evolutionary valley, they could have emerged on the other side as transcendental beings, as kin not of the earth, but the cosmos. At least, thats one way of looking at the complex picture Bloodborne paints.

The transcended hunter as slug-like Great One in Bloodbornes true ending

The beautiful thing about this is that it doesnt just fly in the face of transhumanism as it is usually understood, but the most problematic aspects of Lovecrafts work, too. The ugly concept of degeneracy, with all its overt racism, was an integral part of Lovecrafts fictional worlds. The ancient and unambiguously evil powers of the Great Old Ones is tied to primitives and mongrels, marginalised humans seen as genetically impure and degraded. They are easily manipulated by the old gods and worship them in the hidden and remote corners of the earth.

In Bloodborne, the blame of Yharnams ruin is dramatically shifted. The hidden corners of worship arent foreign jungles or secluded villages, but the sacred spaces of a church that is the backbone and centre of a sprawling megalopolis; the mysteries of the Great Ones are still secret knowledge, but secrets of a powerful, manipulative elite (as you would expect in the conspiracy-filled worlds of cyberpunk stories). But while this elites endeavours clearly lead to a horrific dystopia, the moral issues of this regressive transhumanism stay ambiguous throughout. The degenerate beastmen are hapless, unfortunate victims rather than villains. The experiment of transcendence through reverse evolution seems doomed to fail, but it is not at all clear whether that goal is inherently misguided. After all, the Great Ones seem amoral rather than evil (not unlike the people of Yharnam), and the hunter is no stranger to the allure these celestial beings exert through their disturbing kind of beauty. Perhaps their apparent darkness stems purely from the human minds failing to comprehend their true nature? Either way, Lovecrafts ideas of degeneracy doesnt entirely fit into Bloodbornes world.

Being kin to both the Lovecraftian as well as cyberpunk, Bloodborne, too, is a kind of mongrel. But this impurity is precisely what enables it to distinguish itself and comment meaningfully on its ancestral genres. It reshapes its influences by letting disparate ideas collide and creates something fresh from the wreckage. Its not unique in its subversion of transhumanist idealism or Lovecraftian racist tropes, but the way it combines these separate issues in a seamless if ambiguous whole is entirely original.

Bloodborne is both a cyberpunk dystopia in which the end point of self-directed evolution is not a disembodied mind, but a slug or a squid, as well as a tale of cosmic horror where that dubious degeneracy stems not from shady outsiders or social outcasts, but squarely from within organised mainstream religion and science. It shares with cyberpunk an awareness and distaste for the unequal power dynamics in a world governed by the amoral ambitions of hegemonies, but, like Lovecraft, looks backwards to our distant origins rather than to the future. And soBloodborne transcends its influences, and challenges us on new planes of existence.

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Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

Stronger, smarter, happier – what if a drug could make you a better version of yourself? – CBC.ca

Tuesday August 22, 2017

If there werea pill that made yousmarter without studying, stronger without exercising, and happier without trying, would you take it?

That’s the premiseof the 2011movie, Limitless,in which actor BradleyCooper plays astruggling writer who is offered a drug that promises him access to the full capacities of his brain.

Soon enough Cooper’s character hasfinished writinghis book, acquired a wide range of newof skills, and is on his way to becoming one of the richest and most powerfulpeople in the country.

The fictitious scenario isfarfetched, but the idea of using drugs for self-enhancement is completely grounded in reality and it’s possible you’re participating in self-enhancement without even knowing it.

When thinking about LSD, your mind probably conjuresup images of the Beatles oruntethered hallucinations.

But there are also people some of them prestigious jobs with high stakeswho are using LSD to boost their performance at work.Microdosinginvolves taking small doses of LSD far less than you would use to have a full on hallucinatory trip in order to boost productivity and focus.

PJVogt, host of the hitpodcastReply All, and show producer PhiaBennindecided to put microdosing to the test, all while hiding their social experiment from their colleagues to see whether anyone would notice.

Thetales of the paranoia, accidental ‘macrodosing,’ and the very mixed results that ensued are all documented in a hilarious Reply All episode thatyou can listen to here.

Caffeine has been shown to boost athletic performance. (Unsplash/Kyle Meck)

Of course, regular LSD doses, however small, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

But there’s also a legal, relatively safe drug that has been proven to make athletes perform better. It can also make you more alert and focused,and there’s a pretty good chance some of it is already in your system right now.

If you haven’t guessed yet it’s caffeine.

Terry Graham,professor emeritusat the University of Guelph, spent years studying the effects of caffeine. After Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified fordoping at the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, Graham asked for funding to study whether caffeineaffects athletic performance with the hypothesis that its positive effects would be inconsequential.

“I was absolutely, 100 per cent wrong,” he said. “Caffeine was a tremendous stimulant to exercise endurance and performance.”

The boost provided by caffeine occurs within the muscle itself. Muscles are made up of motor units groups of muscle cells that contract all at once. When caffeine is present, each of those units produces a little more tension than usual, making the entiremuscle contractionstronger.

“Many of the substances that athletes can use to promote a better performance only act within acertain window, it could be strength, sprinting, or a prolonged activity. Butcaffeine seems to be able to influence all of these types of activities, so it’s quite universal,” he explained.

If tiny doses ofLSD, and big doses of coffee don’t appeal to you as means of self-enhancement, there’s always transhumanism abroad movement that aims to overcome our human limitations.

People involved with transhumanism believe that humans can be improved through things like smart drugs and gene editing. The three major strands aresuperintelligence, superlongevity, and superhappiness.

As explained by David Pearce, a philosopher and prominent figure in the transhumanist movement, this re-alignment of the basic human conditionshinges on something called the hedonistic imperative.

“Each of us has this approximate hedonic set point, some people are very, by today’s standards, fortunate. They’re pretty cheerful and they vacillate with a relatively high hedonic set point. Other people are more depressive and gloomy, and seem to fluctuate around gradients of ill-being.”

“Nature didn’t intend us to be happy, at least permanently happy, And we’re just starting to decipher the particular genes and alleles associated with having either a high or low hedonic set point. Iwouldvery much hope that every future civilization would be based on everyone enjoying a high hedonic set point.”

If you’re trying to figure out your hedonic set point, Pearcesays toimagine a time in your life where you were happier than usual then imagine if you could feel that way all the time.

“If suffering were a recipe for nobility of character perhaps there would be some kind of case for obtaining it, but … typically prolonged suffering tends to embitter. So we can argue what it actually means to be human. If we abolish suffering, would it have taken away our essential humanity?”

“Nature is exceptionally miserly with pleasure, an I see the challenge ahead isdelivering an extremely rich quality of life for everyone, but doing so in ways that don’t compromise social responsibility or intellectual progress.”

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Stronger, smarter, happier – what if a drug could make you a better version of yourself? – CBC.ca

What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

More:

What is Transhumanism?

Humanity+ Mission

Humanity+ is dedicated to elevating the human condition. We aim to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps. Our programs combine unique insights into the developments of emerging and speculative technologies that focus on the well-being of our species and the changes that we are and will be facing. Our programs are designed to produce outcomes that can be helpful to individuals and institutions.

Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.

Mission Statement: Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.

Where does Humanity+ advocate the ethical use of technology? What are the human capacities to be expanded? How does Humanity+ foster people being better than well? The following is written by Natasha Vita-More:

Humanity+adopted theTranshumanist Declaration.The Transhumanist Declaration was a a joint effort between members of Extropy Institute, World Transhumanist Association, and other transhumanist groups worldwide. TheTranshumanist Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) is located at Humanity+’s website and is a collection of contributions by numerous authors, later edited by Nick Bostrom, and is updated as necessary by others. There are other FAQs on transhumanism, such asThe Transhumanist FAQwas developed by ExI and members of Humanity+ and earlier WTA.

Approximately 6000 people follow Humanity+ (including members and newsletter subscribers). Humanity+ followers come from more than 100 countries, from Afghanistan to Brazil to Egypt to the Philippines.Supporting and sustaining memberselect the Board, and participate in Humanity+ leadership and decision-making. Humanity+ members also participate in more than four dozenchaptersaround the world.

First, join Humanity+, and subscribe to the Humanity+ newsletter.

You may also enroll in one of our discussion lists and join one of our local H+ chapters, which can be found in countries and languages all over the world.

Mailing Address: Humanity+, Inc. 5042 Wilshire Boulevard Suite 14334 Los Angeles, California 90036

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Humanity+ Mission

Transhuman – Wikipedia

Transhuman or trans-human is the concept of an intermediary form between human and posthuman.[1] In other words, a transhuman is a being that resembles a human in most respects but who has powers and abilities beyond those of standard humans.[2] These abilities might include improved intelligence, awareness, strength, or durability. Transhumans sometimes appear in science-fiction as cyborgs or genetically-enhanced humans.

The use of the term “transhuman” goes back to French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote in his 1949 book The Future of Mankind:

Liberty: that is to say, the chance offered to every man (by removing obstacles and placing the appropriate means at his disposal) of ‘trans-humanizing’ himself by developing his potentialities to the fullest extent.[3]

And in a 1951 unpublished revision of the same book:

In consequence one is the less disposed to reject as unscientific the idea that the critical point of planetary Reflection, the fruit of socialization, far from being a mere spark in the darkness, represents our passage, by Translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the Universe: not an ending of the ultra-human but its accession to some sort of trans-humanity at the ultimate heart of things.[4]

In 1957 book New Bottles for New Wine, English evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley wrote:

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 transhumanism 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 Peking man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.[5]

One of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, who taught “new concepts of the Human” at The New School of New York City in the 1960s, used “transhuman” as shorthand for “transitional human”. Calling transhumans the “earliest manifestation of new evolutionary beings”, FM argued that signs of transhumans included physical and mental augmentations including prostheses, reconstructive surgery, intensive use of telecommunications, a cosmopolitan outlook and a globetrotting lifestyle, androgyny, mediated reproduction (such as in vitro fertilisation), absence of religious beliefs, and a rejection of traditional family values.[6]

FM-2030 used the concept of transhuman as an evolutionary transition, outside the confines of academia, in his contributing final chapter to the 1972 anthology Woman, Year 2000.[7] In the same year, American cryonics pioneer Robert Ettinger contributed to conceptualization of “transhumanity” in his book Man into Superman.[8] In 1982, American Natasha Vita-More authored a statement titled Transhumanist Arts Statement and outlined what she perceived as an emerging transhuman culture.[9]

Jacques Attali, writing in 2006, envisaged transhumans as an altruistic vanguard of the later 21st century:

Vanguard players (I shall call them transhumans) will run (they are already running) relational enterprises in which profit will be no more than a hindrance, not a final goal. Each of these transhumans will be altruistic, a citizen of the planet, at once nomadic and sedentary, his neighbor’s equal in rights and obligations, hospitable and respectful of the world. Together, transhumans will give birth to planetary institutions and change the course of industrial enterprises.[10]

In March 2007, American physicist Gregory Cochran and paleoanthropologist John Hawks published a study, alongside other recent research on which it builds, which amounts to a radical reappraisal of traditional views, which tended to assume that humans have reached an evolutionary endpoint. Physical anthropologist Jeffrey McKee argued the new findings of accelerated evolution bear out predictions he made in a 2000 book The Riddled Chain. Based on computer models, he argued that evolution should speed up as a population grows because population growth creates more opportunities for new mutations; and the expanded population occupies new environmental niches, which would drive evolution in new directions. Whatever the implications of the recent findings, McKee concludes that they highlight a ubiquitous point about evolution: “every species is a transitional species”.[11]

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Transhuman – Wikipedia

Transhumanism – RationalWiki

You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God. Julie from Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

Transhumanism (or H+), an intellectual movement, is greatly influenced by science fiction and presents an idealistic point of view of what technology could do for humanity in future, not what it can do; it’s all hypothetical.[1] Transhumanism explores the benefits and repercussions of what technology could do for humanity; however, it assumes the technological boundaries are nonexistent.[2]

How plausible is transhumanism? In the 1930s, many sensible people were sure human beings would never get to the Moon and that was just one of many predictions that turned out incorrect.[3] Early 21st century people do not know one way or the other what will be possible in the future. However, the scientific claims of transhumanism still need to be examined critically, because some of these technoscientific prophecies may not be plausible.[4]

While frequently dismissed as mere speculation at best by most rationalists[5] (especially in light of the many failures of artificial intelligence), transhumanism is a strongly-held belief among many computer geeks, notably synthesizer and accessible computing guru Ray Kurzweil, a believer in the “technological singularity,” where technology evolves beyond humanity’s current capacity to understand or anticipate it, and Sun Microsystems founder and Unix demigod Bill Joy, who believes the inevitable result of AI research is the obsolescence of humanity.[6]

Certain recent technological advances are making the possibility of the realization of transhumanism appear more plausible: Scientists funded by the military developed an implant that can translate motor neuron signals into a form that a computer can use, thus opening the door for advanced prosthetics capable of being manipulated like biological limbs and producing sensory information.[7] This is on top of the earlier development of cochlear implants, which translate sound waves into nerve signals; they are often called “bionic ears.”[8]

Even DIY transhumanism or ‘biohacking’ is becoming an option, with people installing magnetic implants, allowing them to feel magnetic and electric fields.[9] Others have taken to wearing belts of magnets, in order to always be able to find magnetic north. Prosthetic limbs with some level of touch are also now being developed, a major milestone. [10] One notable individual whose received magnetic finger implants is Zoe Quinn; [11] the current scientific consensus seems unclear, although humans are not thought to have a magnetic sense, there is a cryptochromeprotein in the eye which could potentially make humans capable of Magnetoreception, like certain other mammals such as mice and cows appear to be. [12]

“Whole brain emulation” (WBE) is a term used by transhumanists to refer to, quite obviously, the emulation of a brain on a computer. While this is no doubt a possibility, it encounters two problems that keep it from being a certainty anytime in the near future.

The first is a philosophical objection: For WBE to work, “strong AI” (i.e. AI equivalent to or greater than human intelligence) must be attainable. A number of philosophical objections have been raised against strong AI, generally contending either that the mind or consciousness is not computable or that a simulation of consciousness is not equivalent to true consciousness (whatever that is). There is still controversy over strong AI in the field of philosophy of mind.[13]

A second possible objection is technological: WBE may not defy physics, but the technology to fully simulate a human brain (in the sense meant by transhumanists, at least) is a long way away. Currently, no computer (or network of computers) is powerful enough to simulate a human brain. Henry Markram, head of the Blue Brain Project, estimates that simulating a brain would require 500 petabytes of data for storage and that the power required to run the simulation would cost about $3 billion annually. (However, in 2008, he optimistically predicts this will be possible in ten years.[14]) In addition to technological limitations in computing, there are also the limits of neuroscience. Neuroscience currently relies on technology that can only scan the brain at the level of gross anatomy (e.g., fMRI, PET). Forms of single neuron imaging (SNI) have been developed recently, but they can only be used on animal subjects (usually rats) because they destroy neural tissue.[15]

First, let me say that Im all in favor of research on aging, and I think science has great potential to prolong healthy livesand Im all for that. But I think immortality, or even a close approximation to it, is both impossible and undesirable.

Another transhumanist goal is mind uploading, which is one way they claim[17][18] we will be able to achieve immortality. Aside from the problems with WBE listed above, mind uploading suffers a philosophical problem, namely the “swamp man problem.” That is, will the “uploaded” mind be “you” or simply a copy or facsimile of your mind? However, one possible way round this problem would be via incremental replacement of parts of the brain with their cybernetic equivalents (the patient being awake during each operation). Then there is no “breaking” of the continuity of the individual’s consciousness, and it becomes difficult for proponents of the “swamp man” hypothesis to pinpoint exactly when the individual stops being “themselves.”

Cryonics is another favorite of many transhumanists. In principle, cryonics is not impossible, but the current form of it is based largely on hypothetical future technologies and costs substantial amounts of money.

Fighting aging and extending life expectancy is possible the field that studies aging and attempts to provide suggestions for anti-aging technology is known as “biogerontology”. Aubrey de Grey has proposed a number of treatments for aging. In 2005, 28 scientists working in biogerontology signed a letter to EMBO Reports pointing out that de Grey’s treatments had never been demonstrated to work and that many of his claims for anti-aging technology were extremely inflated.[19] This article was written in response to a July 2005 EMBO reports article previously published by de Grey[20] and a response from de Grey was published in the same November issue.[21] De Grey summarizes these events in “The biogerontology research community’s evolving view of SENS,” published on the Methuselah Foundation website.[22]

Worst of all, some transhumanists outright ignore[citationneeded] what people in the fields they’re interested in tell them; a few AI boosters, for example, believe that neurobiology is an outdated science because AI researchers can do it themselves anyway. They seem to have taken the analogy used to introduce the computational theory of mind, “the mind (or brain) is like a computer.” Of course, the mind/brain is not a computer in the usual sense.[23] Debates with such people can take on the wearying feel of a debate with a creationist or climate change denialist, as such people will stick to their positions no matter what. Indeed, many critics are simply dismissed as Luddites or woolly-headed romantics who oppose scientific and technological progress.[24]

Transhumanism has often been criticized for not taking ethical issues seriously on a variety of topics,[25] including life extension technology,[26] cryonics,[27] and mind uploading and other enhancements.[28][29] Francis Fukuyama (in his doctrinaire neoconservative days) caused a stir by naming transhumanism “the world’s most dangerous idea.”[30] One of Fukuyama’s criticisms, that implementation of the technologies transhumanists push for will lead to severe inequality, is a rather common one.

A number of political criticisms of transhumanism have been made as well. Transhumanist organizations have been accused of being in the pocket of corporate and military interests.[31] The movement has been identified with Silicon Valley due to the fact that some of its biggest backers, such as Peter Thiel (of PayPal and Bitcoin fame), reside in the region.[32][33] Some writers see transhumanism as a hive of cranky and obnoxious techno-libertarianism.[34][35] The fact that Julian Huxley coined the term “transhumanism” and many transhumanists’ obsession with constructing a Nietzschean ubermensch known as the “posthuman” has led to comparisons with eugenics.[36][31] Like eugenics, it has been characterized as a utopian political ideology.[37] Jaron Lanier slammed it as “cybernetic totalism”.[38]

Some tension has developed between transhumanism and religion, namely Christianity.[citationneeded] Some transhumanists, generally being atheistic naturalists, see all religion as an impediment to scientific and technological advancement and some Christians oppose transhumanism because of its stance on cloning and genetic engineering and label it as a heretical belief system.[39] Other transhumanists, however, have attempted to extend an olive branch to Christians.[40] Some have tried to reconcile their religion and techno-utopian beliefs, calling for a “scientific theology.”[41] There is even a Mormon transhumanist organization.[42]Ironically for the atheistic transhumanists, the movement has itself been characterized as a religion and its rhetoric compared to Christian apologetics.[43][44] Interestingly the word transhuman first appeared in Henry Francis Careys 1814 translation of Paradiso, the last book of the Divine Comedy as Dante ascends to heaven during the resurrection. [45]

The very small transhumanist political movement has gained momentum with Zoltan Istvan announcing his bid for US president, with the Transhumanist Party and other small political parties gaining support internationally.

The important thing about transhumanism is that while a lot of such predictions may in fact be possible (and may even be in their embryonic stages right now), a strong skeptical eye is required for any claimed prediction about the fields it covers. When evaluating such a claim, one will probably need a trip to a library (or Wikipedia, or a relevant scientist’s home page) to get up to speed on the basics.[46]

A common trope in science fiction for decades is that the prospect of transcending the current form may be positive, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End or negative, as in the film The Matrix, with its barely disguised salvationist theme, or the Terminator series of films, where humanity has been essentially replaced by machine life. Change so radical elicits fear and thus it is unsurprising that many of the portrayals of transhumanism in popular culture are negative. The cyberpunk genre deals extensively with the theme of a transhumanist society gone wrong.

Among the utopian visions of transhumanism (fused with libertarianism) are those found in the collaborative online science fiction setting Orion’s Arm. Temporally located in the post-singularity future, 10,000 years from now, Orion’s Arm is massively optimistic about genetic engineering, continued improvements in computing and materials science. Because only technology which has been demonstrated to be impossible is excluded, even remotely plausible concepts has a tendency to be thrown in. At the highest end of the scale is artificial wormhole creation, baby universes and inertia without mass.[47] Perhaps the only arguably positive depiction of transhumanism in video games is the Megaman ZX series where the line between human and reploids has begun to blur. Defining at what point the definition of the the singularity was met in the centuries long Megaman timeline can be a useful way of illustrating how nebulous the terminology is during a debate.

Originally posted here:

Transhumanism – RationalWiki

Stronger, smarter, happier – what if a drug could make you a better version of yourself? – CBC.ca

Thursday August 10, 2017

If there werea pill that made yousmarter without studying, stronger without exercising, and happier without trying, would you take it?

That’s the premiseof the 2011movie, Limitless,in which actor BradleyCooper plays astruggling writer who is offered a drug that promises him access to the full capacities of his brain.

Soon enough Cooper’s character hasfinished writinghis book, acquired a wide range of newof skills, and is on his way to becoming one of the richest and most powerfulpeople in the country.

The fictitious scenario isfarfetched, but the idea of using drugs for self-enhancement is completely grounded in reality and it’s possible you’re participating in self-enhancement without even knowing it.

When thinking about LSD, your mind probably conjuresup images of the Beatles oruntethered hallucinations.

But there are also people some of them prestigious jobs with high stakeswho are using LSD to boost their performance at work.Microdosinginvolves taking small doses of LSD far less than you would use to have a full on hallucinatory trip in order to boost productivity and focus.

PJVogt, host of the hitpodcastReply All, and show producer PhiaBennindecided to put microdosing to the test, all while hiding their social experiment from their colleagues to see whether anyone would notice.

Thetales of the paranoia, accidental ‘macrodosing,’ and the very mixed results that ensued are all documented in a hilarious Reply All episode thatyou can listen to here.

Caffeine has been shown to boost athletic performance. (Unsplash/Kyle Meck)

Of course, regular LSD doses, however small, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

But there’s also a legal, relatively safe drug that has been proven to make athletes perform better. It can also make you more alert and focused,and there’s a pretty good chance some of it is already in your system right now.

If you haven’t guessed yet it’s caffeine.

Terry Graham,professor emeritusat the University of Guelph, spent years studying the effects of caffeine. After Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified fordoping at the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, Graham asked for funding to study whether caffeineaffects athletic performance with the hypothesis that its positive effects would be inconsequential.

“I was absolutely, 100 per cent wrong,” he said. “Caffeine was a tremendous stimulant to exercise endurance and performance.”

The boost provided by caffeine occurs within the muscle itself. Muscles are made up of motor units groups of muscle cells that contract all at once. When caffeine is present, each of those units produces a little more tension than usual, making the entiremuscle contractionstronger.

“Many of the substances that athletes can use to promote a better performance only act within acertain window, it could be strength, sprinting, or a prolonged activity. Butcaffeine seems to be able to influence all of these types of activities, so it’s quite universal,” he explained.

If tiny doses ofLSD, and big doses of coffee don’t appeal to you as means of self-enhancement, there’s always transhumanism abroad movement that aims to overcome our human limitations.

People involved with transhumanism believe that humans can be improved through things like smart drugs and gene editing. The three major strands aresuperintelligence, superlongevity, and superhappiness.

As explained by David Pearce, a philosopher and prominent figure in the transhumanist movement, this re-alignment of the basic human conditionshinges on something called the hedonistic imperative.

“Each of us has this approximate hedonic set point, some people are very, by today’s standards, fortunate. They’re pretty cheerful and they vacillate with a relatively high hedonic set point. Other people are more depressive and gloomy, and seem to fluctuate around gradients of ill-being.”

“Nature didn’t intend us to be happy, at least permanently happy, And we’re just starting to decipher the particular genes and alleles associated with having either a high or low hedonic set point. Iwouldvery much hope that every future civilization would be based on everyone enjoying a high hedonic set point.”

If you’re trying to figure out your hedonic set point, Pearcesays toimagine a time in your life where you were happier than usual then imagine if you could feel that way all the time.

“If suffering were a recipe for nobility of character perhaps there would be some kind of case for obtaining it, but … typically prolonged suffering tends to embitter. So we can argue what it actually means to be human. If we abolish suffering, would it have taken away our essential humanity?”

“Nature is exceptionally miserly with pleasure, an I see the challenge ahead isdelivering an extremely rich quality of life for everyone, but doing so in ways that don’t compromise social responsibility or intellectual progress.”

To subscribe to the podcastand hear more episodes of CBC On Drugs, follow the linkhere.

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Stronger, smarter, happier – what if a drug could make you a better version of yourself? – CBC.ca

Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination – The American Conservative

Last week in TAC, Zoltan Istvan wrote about The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism linking the transhumanist movement with all of its featureslike cyborgs, human robots and designer babiesto the ideas of liberty. To say Mr. Istvan is mistaken in his assessment is an understatement. Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution.

We begin with Mr. Istvans definition of transhumanism:

transhumanism is the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic worlda world that consists of biohackers, cyborgists, roboticists, life extension advocates, cryonicists, Singularitarians, and other science-devoted people.

The ultimate task, however, is nothing less than overcoming biological human death and to solve all humanitys problems. Throughout much of Mr. Istvans work on this issue, he seems to think these ideas are perfectly compatible with libertarianismself-evident evenso he doesnt care to elaborate for his befuddled readers.

While most advocates of liberty could be considered, as Matt Ridley coined it, rational optimistsmeaning that generally we are optimistic, but not dogmatic, about progressit is easy to get into a state in which everything that is produced by the market is good per se and every new technology is hailed as the next step on the path of progress. In this sense, these libertarians become what Rod Dreher has called Technological Men. For them, choice matters more than what is chosen. [The Technological Man] is not concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires.

Transhumanists including Mr. Istvan are a case in point. In his TAC article he not only endorses such things as the defeat of death, but even robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets. Need more of his grand ideas? How about brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech? At no point he wonders if we should even strive for these technologies.

When he does acknowledge potential problems he has quick (and crazy) solutions at hand: For example, what would happen if people never die, while new ones are coming into the world in abundance? His solution to the fear of overpopulation: eugenics. It is here where we see how libertarian Mr. Istvan truly is. When his political philosophythe supposedly libertarian onecomes into conflict with his idea of transhumanism, he suddenly drops the former and argues in favor of state-controlled breeding (or, as he says, controlled breeding by non-profit organizations such as the WHO, which is, by the way, state financed). I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a drivers licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.

The most frustrating thing is how similar he sounds to communists and socialists in his arguments. In most articles you read by transhumanists, you can see the dream of human perfection. Mr. Istvan says so himself: Transhumanists want more guarantees than just death, consumerism, and offspring. Much More. They want to be better, smarter, strongerperhaps even perfect and immortal if science can make them that way.

Surely it is the goal of transhumanists that, in their world, the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. You can just edit the genes of the embryo in the way that they are as intelligent as Aristotle, as poetic as Goethe, and as musically talented as Mozart. There are two problems, though: First, the world would become extremely boring, consisting only of perfect human beings who are masters at everything (which perhaps would make human cooperation superfluous). Second, that quote was famously uttered by the socialist Leon Trotsky.

As Ludwig von Mises wrote sarcastically, the socialist paradise will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. This has always been the mantra of socialists, starting with utopian thinkers like Charles Fourier, but also being embraced by the scientific ones like Marx, who derived his notion of history in which communism is the final stage of humanity from Hegel. Hegel himself believed in the man-godnot in the way that God became man through Jesus, but that man could become God one day. Intentionally or not, transhumanists sound dangerously similar to that. What they would actually create would be the New Soviet Man through bio-engineering and total environmental control as the highest social goal. In other words, you get inhuman ideological tyranny taken to a whole new level.

It should be noted that sometimes transhumanists recognize this themselvesbut if they do, their solutions only make things worse (much worse). Take Adam Zaretsky as example, who says that these new human beings shouldnt be perfect: Its important to make versions of transgenic human anatomy that are not based on idealism. But his solution is frightening: The idea is that you take a gene, say for pig noses, or ostrich anuses, or aardvark tongue, and you paste that into a human sperm, a human egg, a human zygote. A baby starts to form. And: We could let it flow into our anatomy, and these peoplewho yes, are humansshould be appreciated for who and what they are, after they are forced to be born in a really radically strange way. Its no surprise that Rod Dreher calls Mr. Zaretsky a sick monster, because he truly seems to be one when it comes to his transhumanist vision. He wants to create handicapped human beings on purpose.

If this were what libertarians think should happen, it would be sad (thankfully its mostly not). As Jeff Deist notes, it is important to remember that liberty is natural and organic and comports with human action. It doesnt require a new man. Transhumanists may say that the introduction of their idea is inevitable (in Istvans words, Whether people like it or not, transhumanism has arrived) but that is not true. And in this sense, it is time for libertarians to argue against the notion of extreme transhumanism. Yes, the market has brought it about and yes, the state shouldnt prohibit it (though giving your baby a pig nose could certainly be a violation of rights), but still, one shouldnt be relativist or even nihilist about such frightening developments. It would be a shame if the libertarian maxim of Everyone should be able to do whatever one wants to (as long as no one is hurt by it) becomes Everyone should do whatever one can do just because it is possible.

Finally, it comes as no surprise that transhumanists are largely, if not all, atheists (or as Mr. Istvan says: Im an atheist, therefore Im a transhumanist. This just proves what the classical liberal historian Lord Acton talked about when he said, Progress, the religion of those who have none. In the end, transhumanism is the final step to get God out of the way. It would be the continuation of what Richard Weaver wrote about in Ideas Have Consequences: Instead of seeing nature, the world and life overall as a means to get to know God, humans in the last centuries have become accustomed to seeing the world as something that is only there for humans to take and use for their own pleasures. Transhumanism would be the final step of this process: the conquest of death.

You dont have to be religious to find this abhorrent. As we have seen, it would be the end to all religion, to human cooperation overall, in all likelihood to liberty itself, and even the good-bye to humanity. It would be the starting point of the ultimate dystopia.

Kai Weiss is an International Relations student and works for the Austrian Economics Center and Hayek Institute, two libertarianthink tanks based in Vienna, Austria.

Continued here:

Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination – The American Conservative

Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

With all its morbid decadence, the richly-layered Gothic imagination and cosmic horror of Bloodborne tends to overshadow some of its more (post)modern influences. Bloodborne isnt a traditionalist, after all, but a punk: or to be more precise, a cyberpunk. It may not havesinister corporations or hackers, yet this sci-fi renegade still conjures the rebellious ghost in the machine.

Most obviously, theres the overpowering presence of that looming megalopolis Yharnam as dependent on monumental, almost brutalist architecture as any good futuristic urban sprawl. The social dynamics within Yharnam echo the politics of cyberpunk, the hegemonic power of the Healing Church pitted against the social outcasts roaming the grimy streets. Dangerous social experiments and unchecked technological advancements have led to a Victorian dystopia. There are even cyberspaces, simulated, subordinate worlds in the form of the Dreams, which can be accessed and even hacked by those who are privy to secret knowledge.

Yharnham:

Ridley Scott’sBlade Runner:

And just like cyberpunk, the world of Bloodborne is held captive by the promise of transhumanism the idea that humankind will, one day, be able to transcend our fleshlylimitations and become something more. Whether it is Deus Ex or Bloodborne, the tool for this quasi-religious endeavour is cutting edge research and technology. In Deus Ex, that means body modification through nanotech or even merging consciousnesses with an omnipresent AI. In Bloodborne, its the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth researching into the old ones and their blood that drives this change: aiming to transform humans, in theory, into celestial beings that have entirely discarded their humanity. Not unlike in Blade Runner, the eye becomes an omnipresent symbol of self-directed evolution and the dangerous knowledge necessary to pursue it.

However, Bloodborneisa punk that refuses to slavishly follow in the tracks of those that came before. The differences are the most fascinating thing here. The futuristic vision of transhumanism, whether it is presented as a utopian promise or a dystopian threat, is seen as an evolutionary culmination or perhaps even singularity that severs the umbilical cord that connects us to our evolutionary history. The human is a product of natural processes, distant cousin of the apes. The posthuman the product of transhumanism is something different (strangely, it is our human arrogance that leads to this fallacy of teleological evolution.)

Blade Runner

Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter

Bloodbornes idea of transhumanism is recognisable, but different. Its still a morally complex idea, both pursued by individuals and institutions while also causing societal upheaval, but its vector is in the opposite direction. The path to transcendence doesnt lead the inhabitants of Yharnam away from humankinds evolutionary history, but confronts it head-on in a retrogressive journey. The first enemies our hunter encounters are beastmen, many of them recognisably human but some, like the werewolves or Vicar Amelia, almost devoid of human characteristics. Theyre hairy and canine, clearly mammalian despite their deformities. So far, this is in keeping with stories like Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or H.P. Lovecrafts tales of human degeneracy, such as Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, in which a British nobleman burns himself alive after discovering that one of his ancestors was an ape goddess from the Congo. These stories play with our post-Darwinian revulsion at being the offspring of mere animals.

But as you progress through Bloodborne, the hunter descends deeper down the evolutionary ladder. Soon, enemies resemble snakes, insects, arachnids. Later, they become more alien still, strange variations of squids, snails, slugs (that is, molluscs) or even fungi. They have names like Celestial Emissary, or Celestial Child and are closely related to the Great Ones, some of whom, like Ebrietas or Kos, share similarities with the games mollusc-like creatures. Bloodborne displays a special fascination with mushrooms and molluscs, as well as the creatures of the ocean (especially in The Old Hunters DLC). These creatures are associated with the primordial, the early origins of life on earth, and their strange forms, both beautiful and disturbing, gives them a semblance of otherworldliness. And since they dont seem to belong to this world, perhaps they originally visited earth from unknown regions of the cosmos?

Kos

Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos

Celestial Child

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Kubaryana. Photo by Nick Hobgood

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Cristata. Photo by Chriswan Sungkono.

Nudibranch, Tritoniopsis Elegans. Photo by Sean Murray.

From this anthropocentric perspective, becoming like these creatures means getting closer to the miraculous origins of life, when the earth and the cosmos had yet to be disentangled. The transhumanism of Bloodborne thus turns the usual teleological view of human evolution on its head; the forces of evolution, whether natural or self-directed, will not bring humans closer to the gods, but have instead distanced them from the celestial spring of life. To fulfil their atavistic yearning to return to the lap of the cosmos, the inhabitants of Yharnam must regress to earlier evolutionary stages. The horror and tragedy of turning into wolf-like beasts, therefore, isnt just due to a revulsion to our animal ancestors or the destruction they cause, but the knowledge that those beastmen didnt regress far enough. If only they hadnt gotten lost in this evolutionary valley, they could have emerged on the other side as transcendental beings, as kin not of the earth, but the cosmos. At least, thats one way of looking at the complex picture Bloodborne paints.

The transcended hunter as slug-like Great One in Bloodbornes true ending

The beautiful thing about this is that it doesnt just fly in the face of transhumanism as it is usually understood, but the most problematic aspects of Lovecrafts work, too. The ugly concept of degeneracy, with all its overt racism, was an integral part of Lovecrafts fictional worlds. The ancient and unambiguously evil powers of the Great Old Ones is tied to primitives and mongrels, marginalised humans seen as genetically impure and degraded. They are easily manipulated by the old gods and worship them in the hidden and remote corners of the earth.

In Bloodborne, the blame of Yharnams ruin is dramatically shifted. The hidden corners of worship arent foreign jungles or secluded villages, but the sacred spaces of a church that is the backbone and centre of a sprawling megalopolis; the mysteries of the Great Ones are still secret knowledge, but secrets of a powerful, manipulative elite (as you would expect in the conspiracy-filled worlds of cyberpunk stories). But while this elites endeavours clearly lead to a horrific dystopia, the moral issues of this regressive transhumanism stay ambiguous throughout. The degenerate beastmen are hapless, unfortunate victims rather than villains. The experiment of transcendence through reverse evolution seems doomed to fail, but it is not at all clear whether that goal is inherently misguided. After all, the Great Ones seem amoral rather than evil (not unlike the people of Yharnam), and the hunter is no stranger to the allure these celestial beings exert through their disturbing kind of beauty. Perhaps their apparent darkness stems purely from the human minds failing to comprehend their true nature? Either way, Lovecrafts ideas of degeneracy doesnt entirely fit into Bloodbornes world.

Being kin to both the Lovecraftian as well as cyberpunk, Bloodborne, too, is a kind of mongrel. But this impurity is precisely what enables it to distinguish itself and comment meaningfully on its ancestral genres. It reshapes its influences by letting disparate ideas collide and creates something fresh from the wreckage. Its not unique in its subversion of transhumanist idealism or Lovecraftian racist tropes, but the way it combines these separate issues in a seamless if ambiguous whole is entirely original.

Bloodborne is both a cyberpunk dystopia in which the end point of self-directed evolution is not a disembodied mind, but a slug or a squid, as well as a tale of cosmic horror where that dubious degeneracy stems not from shady outsiders or social outcasts, but squarely from within organised mainstream religion and science. It shares with cyberpunk an awareness and distaste for the unequal power dynamics in a world governed by the amoral ambitions of hegemonies, but, like Lovecraft, looks backwards to our distant origins rather than to the future. And soBloodborne transcends its influences, and challenges us on new planes of existence.

Continue reading here:

Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

Transhuman – Wikipedia

Transhuman or trans-human is the concept of an intermediary form between human and posthuman.[1] In other words, a transhuman is a being that resembles a human in most respects but who has powers and abilities beyond those of standard humans.[2] These abilities might include improved intelligence, awareness, strength, or durability. Transhumans sometimes appear in science-fiction as cyborgs or genetically-enhanced humans.

The use of the term “transhuman” goes back to French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote in his 1949 book The Future of Mankind:

Liberty: that is to say, the chance offered to every man (by removing obstacles and placing the appropriate means at his disposal) of ‘trans-humanizing’ himself by developing his potentialities to the fullest extent.[3]

And in a 1951 unpublished revision of the same book:

In consequence one is the less disposed to reject as unscientific the idea that the critical point of planetary Reflection, the fruit of socialization, far from being a mere spark in the darkness, represents our passage, by Translation or dematerialization, to another sphere of the Universe: not an ending of the ultra-human but its accession to some sort of trans-humanity at the ultimate heart of things.[4]

In 1957 book New Bottles for New Wine, English evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley wrote:

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 transhumanism 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 Peking man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.[5]

One of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, who taught “new concepts of the Human” at The New School of New York City in the 1960s, used “transhuman” as shorthand for “transitional human”. Calling transhumans the “earliest manifestation of new evolutionary beings”, FM argued that signs of transhumans included physical and mental augmentations including prostheses, reconstructive surgery, intensive use of telecommunications, a cosmopolitan outlook and a globetrotting lifestyle, androgyny, mediated reproduction (such as in vitro fertilisation), absence of religious beliefs, and a rejection of traditional family values.[6]

FM-2030 used the concept of transhuman as an evolutionary transition, outside the confines of academia, in his contributing final chapter to the 1972 anthology Woman, Year 2000.[7] In the same year, American cryonics pioneer Robert Ettinger contributed to conceptualization of “transhumanity” in his book Man into Superman.[8] In 1982, American Natasha Vita-More authored a statement titled Transhumanist Arts Statement and outlined what she perceived as an emerging transhuman culture.[9]

Jacques Attali, writing in 2006, envisaged transhumans as an altruistic vanguard of the later 21st century:

Vanguard players (I shall call them transhumans) will run (they are already running) relational enterprises in which profit will be no more than a hindrance, not a final goal. Each of these transhumans will be altruistic, a citizen of the planet, at once nomadic and sedentary, his neighbor’s equal in rights and obligations, hospitable and respectful of the world. Together, transhumans will give birth to planetary institutions and change the course of industrial enterprises.[10]

In March 2007, American physicist Gregory Cochran and paleoanthropologist John Hawks published a study, alongside other recent research on which it builds, which amounts to a radical reappraisal of traditional views, which tended to assume that humans have reached an evolutionary endpoint. Physical anthropologist Jeffrey McKee argued the new findings of accelerated evolution bear out predictions he made in a 2000 book The Riddled Chain. Based on computer models, he argued that evolution should speed up as a population grows because population growth creates more opportunities for new mutations; and the expanded population occupies new environmental niches, which would drive evolution in new directions. Whatever the implications of the recent findings, McKee concludes that they highlight a ubiquitous point about evolution: “every species is a transitional species”.[11]

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Transhuman – Wikipedia

Transhumanism – RationalWiki

You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God. Julie from Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

Transhumanism (or H+), an intellectual movement, is greatly influenced by science fiction and presents an idealistic point of view of what technology could do for humanity in future, not what it can do; it’s all hypothetical.[1] Transhumanism explores the benefits and repercussions of what technology could do for humanity; however, it assumes the technological boundaries are nonexistent.[2]

How plausible is transhumanism? In the 1930s, many sensible people were sure human beings would never get to the Moon and that was just one of many predictions that turned out incorrect.[3] Early 21st century people do not know one way or the other what will be possible in the future. However, the scientific claims of transhumanism still need to be examined critically, because some of these technoscientific prophecies may not be plausible.[4]

While frequently dismissed as mere speculation at best by most rationalists[5] (especially in light of the many failures of artificial intelligence), transhumanism is a strongly-held belief among many computer geeks, notably synthesizer and accessible computing guru Ray Kurzweil, a believer in the “technological singularity,” where technology evolves beyond humanity’s current capacity to understand or anticipate it, and Sun Microsystems founder and Unix demigod Bill Joy, who believes the inevitable result of AI research is the obsolescence of humanity.[6]

Certain recent technological advances are making the possibility of the realization of transhumanism appear more plausible: Scientists funded by the military developed an implant that can translate motor neuron signals into a form that a computer can use, thus opening the door for advanced prosthetics capable of being manipulated like biological limbs and producing sensory information.[7] This is on top of the earlier development of cochlear implants, which translate sound waves into nerve signals; they are often called “bionic ears.”[8]

Even DIY transhumanism or ‘biohacking’ is becoming an option, with people installing magnetic implants, allowing them to feel magnetic and electric fields.[9] Others have taken to wearing belts of magnets, in order to always be able to find magnetic north. Prosthetic limbs with some level of touch are also now being developed, a major milestone. [10] One notable individual whose received magnetic finger implants is Zoe Quinn; [11] the current scientific consensus seems unclear, although humans are not thought to have a magnetic sense, there is a cryptochromeprotein in the eye which could potentially make humans capable of Magnetoreception, like certain other mammals such as mice and cows appear to be. [12]

“Whole brain emulation” (WBE) is a term used by transhumanists to refer to, quite obviously, the emulation of a brain on a computer. While this is no doubt a possibility, it encounters two problems that keep it from being a certainty anytime in the near future.

The first is a philosophical objection: For WBE to work, “strong AI” (i.e. AI equivalent to or greater than human intelligence) must be attainable. A number of philosophical objections have been raised against strong AI, generally contending either that the mind or consciousness is not computable or that a simulation of consciousness is not equivalent to true consciousness (whatever that is). There is still controversy over strong AI in the field of philosophy of mind.[13]

A second possible objection is technological: WBE may not defy physics, but the technology to fully simulate a human brain (in the sense meant by transhumanists, at least) is a long way away. Currently, no computer (or network of computers) is powerful enough to simulate a human brain. Henry Markram, head of the Blue Brain Project, estimates that simulating a brain would require 500 petabytes of data for storage and that the power required to run the simulation would cost about $3 billion annually. (However, in 2008, he optimistically predicts this will be possible in ten years.[14]) In addition to technological limitations in computing, there are also the limits of neuroscience. Neuroscience currently relies on technology that can only scan the brain at the level of gross anatomy (e.g., fMRI, PET). Forms of single neuron imaging (SNI) have been developed recently, but they can only be used on animal subjects (usually rats) because they destroy neural tissue.[15]

First, let me say that Im all in favor of research on aging, and I think science has great potential to prolong healthy livesand Im all for that. But I think immortality, or even a close approximation to it, is both impossible and undesirable.

Another transhumanist goal is mind uploading, which is one way they claim[17][18] we will be able to achieve immortality. Aside from the problems with WBE listed above, mind uploading suffers a philosophical problem, namely the “swamp man problem.” That is, will the “uploaded” mind be “you” or simply a copy or facsimile of your mind? However, one possible way round this problem would be via incremental replacement of parts of the brain with their cybernetic equivalents (the patient being awake during each operation). Then there is no “breaking” of the continuity of the individual’s consciousness, and it becomes difficult for proponents of the “swamp man” hypothesis to pinpoint exactly when the individual stops being “themselves.”

Cryonics is another favorite of many transhumanists. In principle, cryonics is not impossible, but the current form of it is based largely on hypothetical future technologies and costs substantial amounts of money.

Fighting aging and extending life expectancy is possible the field that studies aging and attempts to provide suggestions for anti-aging technology is known as “biogerontology”. Aubrey de Grey has proposed a number of treatments for aging. In 2005, 28 scientists working in biogerontology signed a letter to EMBO Reports pointing out that de Grey’s treatments had never been demonstrated to work and that many of his claims for anti-aging technology were extremely inflated.[19] This article was written in response to a July 2005 EMBO reports article previously published by de Grey[20] and a response from de Grey was published in the same November issue.[21] De Grey summarizes these events in “The biogerontology research community’s evolving view of SENS,” published on the Methuselah Foundation website.[22]

Worst of all, some transhumanists outright ignore[citationneeded] what people in the fields they’re interested in tell them; a few AI boosters, for example, believe that neurobiology is an outdated science because AI researchers can do it themselves anyway. They seem to have taken the analogy used to introduce the computational theory of mind, “the mind (or brain) is like a computer.” Of course, the mind/brain is not a computer in the usual sense.[23] Debates with such people can take on the wearying feel of a debate with a creationist or climate change denialist, as such people will stick to their positions no matter what. Indeed, many critics are simply dismissed as Luddites or woolly-headed romantics who oppose scientific and technological progress.[24]

Transhumanism has often been criticized for not taking ethical issues seriously on a variety of topics,[25] including life extension technology,[26] cryonics,[27] and mind uploading and other enhancements.[28][29] Francis Fukuyama (in his doctrinaire neoconservative days) caused a stir by naming transhumanism “the world’s most dangerous idea.”[30] One of Fukuyama’s criticisms, that implementation of the technologies transhumanists push for will lead to severe inequality, is a rather common one.

A number of political criticisms of transhumanism have been made as well. Transhumanist organizations have been accused of being in the pocket of corporate and military interests.[31] The movement has been identified with Silicon Valley due to the fact that some of its biggest backers, such as Peter Thiel (of PayPal and Bitcoin fame), reside in the region.[32][33] Some writers see transhumanism as a hive of cranky and obnoxious techno-libertarianism.[34][35] The fact that Julian Huxley coined the term “transhumanism” and many transhumanists’ obsession with constructing a Nietzschean ubermensch known as the “posthuman” has led to comparisons with eugenics.[36][31] Like eugenics, it has been characterized as a utopian political ideology.[37] Jaron Lanier slammed it as “cybernetic totalism”.[38]

Some tension has developed between transhumanism and religion, namely Christianity.[citationneeded] Some transhumanists, generally being atheistic naturalists, see all religion as an impediment to scientific and technological advancement and some Christians oppose transhumanism because of its stance on cloning and genetic engineering and label it as a heretical belief system.[39] Other transhumanists, however, have attempted to extend an olive branch to Christians.[40] Some have tried to reconcile their religion and techno-utopian beliefs, calling for a “scientific theology.”[41] There is even a Mormon transhumanist organization.[42]Ironically for the atheistic transhumanists, the movement has itself been characterized as a religion and its rhetoric compared to Christian apologetics.[43][44] Interestingly the word transhuman first appeared in Henry Francis Careys 1814 translation of Paradiso, the last book of the Divine Comedy as Dante ascends to heaven during the resurrection. [45]

The very small transhumanist political movement has gained momentum with Zoltan Istvan announcing his bid for US president, with the Transhumanist Party and other small political parties gaining support internationally.

The important thing about transhumanism is that while a lot of such predictions may in fact be possible (and may even be in their embryonic stages right now), a strong skeptical eye is required for any claimed prediction about the fields it covers. When evaluating such a claim, one will probably need a trip to a library (or Wikipedia, or a relevant scientist’s home page) to get up to speed on the basics.[46]

A common trope in science fiction for decades is that the prospect of transcending the current form may be positive, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel Childhood’s End or negative, as in the film The Matrix, with its barely disguised salvationist theme, or the Terminator series of films, where humanity has been essentially replaced by machine life. Change so radical elicits fear and thus it is unsurprising that many of the portrayals of transhumanism in popular culture are negative. The cyberpunk genre deals extensively with the theme of a transhumanist society gone wrong.

Among the utopian visions of transhumanism (fused with libertarianism) are those found in the collaborative online science fiction setting Orion’s Arm. Temporally located in the post-singularity future, 10,000 years from now, Orion’s Arm is massively optimistic about genetic engineering, continued improvements in computing and materials science. Because only technology which has been demonstrated to be impossible is excluded, even remotely plausible concepts has a tendency to be thrown in. At the highest end of the scale is artificial wormhole creation, baby universes and inertia without mass.[47] Perhaps the only arguably positive depiction of transhumanism in video games is the Megaman ZX series where the line between human and reploids has begun to blur. Defining at what point the definition of the the singularity was met in the centuries long Megaman timeline can be a useful way of illustrating how nebulous the terminology is during a debate.

Read more:

Transhumanism – RationalWiki

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Humanity+ is dedicated to elevating the human condition. We aim to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps. Our programs combine unique insights into the developments of emerging and speculative technologies that focus on the well-being of our species and the changes that we are and will be facing. Our programs are designed to produce outcomes that can be helpful to individuals and institutions.

Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.

Mission Statement: Humanity+ is an international nonprofit membership organization which advocates the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.

Where does Humanity+ advocate the ethical use of technology? What are the human capacities to be expanded? How does Humanity+ foster people being better than well? The following is written by Natasha Vita-More:

Humanity+adopted theTranshumanist Declaration.The Transhumanist Declaration was a a joint effort between members of Extropy Institute, World Transhumanist Association, and other transhumanist groups worldwide. TheTranshumanist Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) is located at Humanity+’s website and is a collection of contributions by numerous authors, later edited by Nick Bostrom, and is updated as necessary by others. There are other FAQs on transhumanism, such asThe Transhumanist FAQwas developed by ExI and members of Humanity+ and earlier WTA.

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First, join Humanity+, and subscribe to the Humanity+ newsletter.

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Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

With all its morbid decadence, the richly-layered Gothic imagination and cosmic horror of Bloodborne tends to overshadow some of its more (post)modern influences. Bloodborne isnt a traditionalist, after all, but a punk: or to be more precise, a cyberpunk. It may not havesinister corporations or hackers, yet this sci-fi renegade still conjures the rebellious ghost in the machine.

Most obviously, theres the overpowering presence of that looming megalopolis Yharnam as dependent on monumental, almost brutalist architecture as any good futuristic urban sprawl. The social dynamics within Yharnam echo the politics of cyberpunk, the hegemonic power of the Healing Church pitted against the social outcasts roaming the grimy streets. Dangerous social experiments and unchecked technological advancements have led to a Victorian dystopia. There are even cyberspaces, simulated, subordinate worlds in the form of the Dreams, which can be accessed and even hacked by those who are privy to secret knowledge.

Yharnham:

Ridley Scott’sBlade Runner:

And just like cyberpunk, the world of Bloodborne is held captive by the promise of transhumanism the idea that humankind will, one day, be able to transcend our fleshlylimitations and become something more. Whether it is Deus Ex or Bloodborne, the tool for this quasi-religious endeavour is cutting edge research and technology. In Deus Ex, that means body modification through nanotech or even merging consciousnesses with an omnipresent AI. In Bloodborne, its the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth researching into the old ones and their blood that drives this change: aiming to transform humans, in theory, into celestial beings that have entirely discarded their humanity. Not unlike in Blade Runner, the eye becomes an omnipresent symbol of self-directed evolution and the dangerous knowledge necessary to pursue it.

However, Bloodborneisa punk that refuses to slavishly follow in the tracks of those that came before. The differences are the most fascinating thing here. The futuristic vision of transhumanism, whether it is presented as a utopian promise or a dystopian threat, is seen as an evolutionary culmination or perhaps even singularity that severs the umbilical cord that connects us to our evolutionary history. The human is a product of natural processes, distant cousin of the apes. The posthuman the product of transhumanism is something different (strangely, it is our human arrogance that leads to this fallacy of teleological evolution.)

Blade Runner

Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter

Bloodbornes idea of transhumanism is recognisable, but different. Its still a morally complex idea, both pursued by individuals and institutions while also causing societal upheaval, but its vector is in the opposite direction. The path to transcendence doesnt lead the inhabitants of Yharnam away from humankinds evolutionary history, but confronts it head-on in a retrogressive journey. The first enemies our hunter encounters are beastmen, many of them recognisably human but some, like the werewolves or Vicar Amelia, almost devoid of human characteristics. Theyre hairy and canine, clearly mammalian despite their deformities. So far, this is in keeping with stories like Robert Louis Stevensons The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or H.P. Lovecrafts tales of human degeneracy, such as Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family, in which a British nobleman burns himself alive after discovering that one of his ancestors was an ape goddess from the Congo. These stories play with our post-Darwinian revulsion at being the offspring of mere animals.

But as you progress through Bloodborne, the hunter descends deeper down the evolutionary ladder. Soon, enemies resemble snakes, insects, arachnids. Later, they become more alien still, strange variations of squids, snails, slugs (that is, molluscs) or even fungi. They have names like Celestial Emissary, or Celestial Child and are closely related to the Great Ones, some of whom, like Ebrietas or Kos, share similarities with the games mollusc-like creatures. Bloodborne displays a special fascination with mushrooms and molluscs, as well as the creatures of the ocean (especially in The Old Hunters DLC). These creatures are associated with the primordial, the early origins of life on earth, and their strange forms, both beautiful and disturbing, gives them a semblance of otherworldliness. And since they dont seem to belong to this world, perhaps they originally visited earth from unknown regions of the cosmos?

Kos

Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos

Celestial Child

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Kubaryana. Photo by Nick Hobgood

Nudibranch, Nembrotha Cristata. Photo by Chriswan Sungkono.

Nudibranch, Tritoniopsis Elegans. Photo by Sean Murray.

From this anthropocentric perspective, becoming like these creatures means getting closer to the miraculous origins of life, when the earth and the cosmos had yet to be disentangled. The transhumanism of Bloodborne thus turns the usual teleological view of human evolution on its head; the forces of evolution, whether natural or self-directed, will not bring humans closer to the gods, but have instead distanced them from the celestial spring of life. To fulfil their atavistic yearning to return to the lap of the cosmos, the inhabitants of Yharnam must regress to earlier evolutionary stages. The horror and tragedy of turning into wolf-like beasts, therefore, isnt just due to a revulsion to our animal ancestors or the destruction they cause, but the knowledge that those beastmen didnt regress far enough. If only they hadnt gotten lost in this evolutionary valley, they could have emerged on the other side as transcendental beings, as kin not of the earth, but the cosmos. At least, thats one way of looking at the complex picture Bloodborne paints.

The transcended hunter as slug-like Great One in Bloodbornes true ending

The beautiful thing about this is that it doesnt just fly in the face of transhumanism as it is usually understood, but the most problematic aspects of Lovecrafts work, too. The ugly concept of degeneracy, with all its overt racism, was an integral part of Lovecrafts fictional worlds. The ancient and unambiguously evil powers of the Great Old Ones is tied to primitives and mongrels, marginalised humans seen as genetically impure and degraded. They are easily manipulated by the old gods and worship them in the hidden and remote corners of the earth.

In Bloodborne, the blame of Yharnams ruin is dramatically shifted. The hidden corners of worship arent foreign jungles or secluded villages, but the sacred spaces of a church that is the backbone and centre of a sprawling megalopolis; the mysteries of the Great Ones are still secret knowledge, but secrets of a powerful, manipulative elite (as you would expect in the conspiracy-filled worlds of cyberpunk stories). But while this elites endeavours clearly lead to a horrific dystopia, the moral issues of this regressive transhumanism stay ambiguous throughout. The degenerate beastmen are hapless, unfortunate victims rather than villains. The experiment of transcendence through reverse evolution seems doomed to fail, but it is not at all clear whether that goal is inherently misguided. After all, the Great Ones seem amoral rather than evil (not unlike the people of Yharnam), and the hunter is no stranger to the allure these celestial beings exert through their disturbing kind of beauty. Perhaps their apparent darkness stems purely from the human minds failing to comprehend their true nature? Either way, Lovecrafts ideas of degeneracy doesnt entirely fit into Bloodbornes world.

Being kin to both the Lovecraftian as well as cyberpunk, Bloodborne, too, is a kind of mongrel. But this impurity is precisely what enables it to distinguish itself and comment meaningfully on its ancestral genres. It reshapes its influences by letting disparate ideas collide and creates something fresh from the wreckage. Its not unique in its subversion of transhumanist idealism or Lovecraftian racist tropes, but the way it combines these separate issues in a seamless if ambiguous whole is entirely original.

Bloodborne is both a cyberpunk dystopia in which the end point of self-directed evolution is not a disembodied mind, but a slug or a squid, as well as a tale of cosmic horror where that dubious degeneracy stems not from shady outsiders or social outcasts, but squarely from within organised mainstream religion and science. It shares with cyberpunk an awareness and distaste for the unequal power dynamics in a world governed by the amoral ambitions of hegemonies, but, like Lovecraft, looks backwards to our distant origins rather than to the future. And soBloodborne transcends its influences, and challenges us on new planes of existence.

Read the rest here:

Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk – Kotaku UK (blog)

Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination – The American Conservative

Last week in TAC, Zoltan Istvan wrote about The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism linking the transhumanist movement with all of its featureslike cyborgs, human robots and designer babiesto the ideas of liberty. To say Mr. Istvan is mistaken in his assessment is an understatement. Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution.

We begin with Mr. Istvans definition of transhumanism:

transhumanism is the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic worlda world that consists of biohackers, cyborgists, roboticists, life extension advocates, cryonicists, Singularitarians, and other science-devoted people.

The ultimate task, however, is nothing less than overcoming biological human death and to solve all humanitys problems. Throughout much of Mr. Istvans work on this issue, he seems to think these ideas are perfectly compatible with libertarianismself-evident evenso he doesnt care to elaborate for his befuddled readers.

While most advocates of liberty could be considered, as Matt Ridley coined it, rational optimistsmeaning that generally we are optimistic, but not dogmatic, about progressit is easy to get into a state in which everything that is produced by the market is good per se and every new technology is hailed as the next step on the path of progress. In this sense, these libertarians become what Rod Dreher has called Technological Men. For them, choice matters more than what is chosen. [The Technological Man] is not concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires.

Transhumanists including Mr. Istvan are a case in point. In his TAC article he not only endorses such things as the defeat of death, but even robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets. Need more of his grand ideas? How about brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech? At no point he wonders if we should even strive for these technologies.

When he does acknowledge potential problems he has quick (and crazy) solutions at hand: For example, what would happen if people never die, while new ones are coming into the world in abundance? His solution to the fear of overpopulation: eugenics. It is here where we see how libertarian Mr. Istvan truly is. When his political philosophythe supposedly libertarian onecomes into conflict with his idea of transhumanism, he suddenly drops the former and argues in favor of state-controlled breeding (or, as he says, controlled breeding by non-profit organizations such as the WHO, which is, by the way, state financed). I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a drivers licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.

The most frustrating thing is how similar he sounds to communists and socialists in his arguments. In most articles you read by transhumanists, you can see the dream of human perfection. Mr. Istvan says so himself: Transhumanists want more guarantees than just death, consumerism, and offspring. Much More. They want to be better, smarter, strongerperhaps even perfect and immortal if science can make them that way.

Surely it is the goal of transhumanists that, in their world, the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. You can just edit the genes of the embryo in the way that they are as intelligent as Aristotle, as poetic as Goethe, and as musically talented as Mozart. There are two problems, though: First, the world would become extremely boring, consisting only of perfect human beings who are masters at everything (which perhaps would make human cooperation superfluous). Second, that quote was famously uttered by the socialist Leon Trotsky.

As Ludwig von Mises wrote sarcastically, the socialist paradise will be the kingdom of perfection, populated by completely happy supermen. This has always been the mantra of socialists, starting with utopian thinkers like Charles Fourier, but also being embraced by the scientific ones like Marx, who derived his notion of history in which communism is the final stage of humanity from Hegel. Hegel himself believed in the man-godnot in the way that God became man through Jesus, but that man could become God one day. Intentionally or not, transhumanists sound dangerously similar to that. What they would actually create would be the New Soviet Man through bio-engineering and total environmental control as the highest social goal. In other words, you get inhuman ideological tyranny taken to a whole new level.

It should be noted that sometimes transhumanists recognize this themselvesbut if they do, their solutions only make things worse (much worse). Take Adam Zaretsky as example, who says that these new human beings shouldnt be perfect: Its important to make versions of transgenic human anatomy that are not based on idealism. But his solution is frightening: The idea is that you take a gene, say for pig noses, or ostrich anuses, or aardvark tongue, and you paste that into a human sperm, a human egg, a human zygote. A baby starts to form. And: We could let it flow into our anatomy, and these peoplewho yes, are humansshould be appreciated for who and what they are, after they are forced to be born in a really radically strange way. Its no surprise that Rod Dreher calls Mr. Zaretsky a sick monster, because he truly seems to be one when it comes to his transhumanist vision. He wants to create handicapped human beings on purpose.

If this were what libertarians think should happen, it would be sad (thankfully its mostly not). As Jeff Deist notes, it is important to remember that liberty is natural and organic and comports with human action. It doesnt require a new man. Transhumanists may say that the introduction of their idea is inevitable (in Istvans words, Whether people like it or not, transhumanism has arrived) but that is not true. And in this sense, it is time for libertarians to argue against the notion of extreme transhumanism. Yes, the market has brought it about and yes, the state shouldnt prohibit it (though giving your baby a pig nose could certainly be a violation of rights), but still, one shouldnt be relativist or even nihilist about such frightening developments. It would be a shame if the libertarian maxim of Everyone should be able to do whatever one wants to (as long as no one is hurt by it) becomes Everyone should do whatever one can do just because it is possible.

Finally, it comes as no surprise that transhumanists are largely, if not all, atheists (or as Mr. Istvan says: Im an atheist, therefore Im a transhumanist. This just proves what the classical liberal historian Lord Acton talked about when he said, Progress, the religion of those who have none. In the end, transhumanism is the final step to get God out of the way. It would be the continuation of what Richard Weaver wrote about in Ideas Have Consequences: Instead of seeing nature, the world and life overall as a means to get to know God, humans in the last centuries have become accustomed to seeing the world as something that is only there for humans to take and use for their own pleasures. Transhumanism would be the final step of this process: the conquest of death.

You dont have to be religious to find this abhorrent. As we have seen, it would be the end to all religion, to human cooperation overall, in all likelihood to liberty itself, and even the good-bye to humanity. It would be the starting point of the ultimate dystopia.

Kai Weiss is an International Relations student and works for the Austrian Economics Center and Hayek Institute, two libertarianthink tanks based in Vienna, Austria.

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Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination – The American Conservative

Ambrosia: the startup harvesting the blood of the young – The Guardian

The study is reminiscent of Robert Boyles 17th-century suggestion to replace the blood of the old with the blood of the young. Photograph: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

What we now call intergenerational fairness has suffered a lot lately, and its not about to be improved by the news that the Baby Boomers are sucking the blood of the young. Although, in fairness, they are only after the plasma.

In Monterey, California, a new startup has emerged, offering transfusions of human plasma: 1.5 litres a time, pumped in across two days, harvested uniquely from young adults.

Ambrosia, the vampiric startup concerned, is run by a 32-year-old doctor called Jesse Karmazin, who bills $8,000 (6,200) a pop for participation in what he has dubbed a study. So far, he has 600 clients, with a median age of 60. The blood is collected from local blood banks, then separated and combined it takes multiple donors to make one package.

Its no coincidence his scheme is based near San Francisco. The idea has become faddish in tech circles. While anti-ageing products usually hold more appeal with women, two-thirds of the more than 65 participants who have signed up for this trial are men. Mike Judges Silicon Valley sitcom recently parodied the notion, with arch-tech guru Gavin Belson relying on a blood boy following him around to donate pints of sticky red at inopportune moments.

That fictionalised account may well be based on the real-life adventures of Peter Thiel, the PayPal founder, who has expressed interest in having transfusions (Gawker even reported that he was spending $40,000 (31,000) a quarter on regular transfusions from 18-year-olds).He, and various other thinkers who radiate out towards the death-evading transhumanist movement, are fascinated by heterochronic parabiosis the sewing together of two animals in order to create a living chimera. Studies going back decades show the regenerative effects of one organism being joined to another. In the 17th century, Robert Boyle he of Boyles Law suggested replacing the blood of the old with the blood of the young.

In 2012, the University of Cambridges Dr Robin Franklin led a group that showed blood from young mice could replace myelin sheaths crucial for combatting MS in older mice. But it was a 2014 Harvard report that seems to have kickstarted the present revival of interest in transfusions. There, scientists injecting old mice with the plasma of a younger generation found it improved their memory and their ability to learn. Conversely, injecting old blood into young seemed to knobble the young rodents.

The scientific community has rolled its eyes at the trial element of Ambrosia. There is no control group and, with participation costing so much, no one involved is very randomised. Despite these criticisms of the science, Dr Karmazin is still reporting positive results. His team has found that levels of carcino-embryonic antigens fell by around 20%, as did the level of amyloids proteins involved in cancer and Alzheimers disease respectively.

Improvements in sleep seem to be the most glittering prize to emerge so far: As people get older, they have much more difficulty sleeping, Dr Karmazin noted. Improve that and you get benefits in mood, immune system, weight management and much else.

It answers the question: how do you sleep at night after leeching the blood out of busboys and students? Just fine, thanks.

See the article here:

Ambrosia: the startup harvesting the blood of the young – The Guardian


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