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 the future, not what it can do; it's all hypothetical. Transhumanism explores the benefits and repercussions of what technology could do for humanity; however, it assumes the technological boundaries are nonexistent.
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. 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; after we got to the moon, people expected we'd have a permanent colony there by the end of the century.
While frequently dismissed as mere speculation at best by most rationalists (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.
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. This is on top of the earlier development of cochlear implants, which translate sound waves into nerve signals; they are often called "bionic ears."
Even DIY transhumanism or 'biohacking' is becoming an option, with people installing magnetic implants, allowing them to feel magnetic and electric fields. 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. One notable individual whose received magnetic finger implants is Zoe Quinn;  the current scientific consensus seems unclear, although humans are not thought to have a magnetic sense, there is a cryptochrome protein in the eye which could potentially make humans capable of Magnetoreception, like certain other mammals such as mice and cows appear to be. 
"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.
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 predicted this it would be possible ten years from 2008.)) 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.
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 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." It does, however, run directly into a similar problem, the "Ship of Theseus" problem: when all of the brain parts are replaced, is it still fundamentally the same as the original?
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. This article was written in response to a July 2005 EMBO reports article previously published by de Grey and a response from de Grey was published in the same November issue. De Grey summarizes these events in "The biogerontology research community's evolving view of SENS," published on the Methuselah Foundation website.
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", and taken it literally. Of course, the mind/brain is not a computer in the usual sense. 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.
Transhumanism has often been criticized for not taking ethical issues seriously on a variety of topics, including life extension technology, cryonics, and mind uploading and other enhancements. Francis Fukuyama (in his doctrinaire neoconservative days) caused a stir by naming transhumanism "the world's most dangerous idea." 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. 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. Some writers see transhumanism as a hive of cranky and obnoxious techno-libertarianism. 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. Like eugenics, it has been characterized as a utopian political ideology. Jaron Lanier slammed it as "cybernetic totalism".
Some tension has developed between transhumanism and religion, although there are many secular liberal people who are skeptical or opposed to transhumanism as well.[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. Other transhumanists, however, have attempted to extend an olive branch to Christians,  and the Christian Transhumanist Association group on Facebook has over 1,100 members.
Some religious transhumanists have tried to reconcile their religion and techno-utopian beliefs, calling for a "scientific theology." There is even a Mormon transhumanist organization. Ironically for the atheistic transhumanists, the movement has itself been characterized as a religion and its rhetoric compared to Christian apologetics. 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. 
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.[note 1]
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.
On closer inspection, this should not be surprising. Since transhumanism is ambitious about conquering age-related illnesses (extropianism), death (immortalism), ecological damage (technogaianism), gender differences (postgenderism) and suffering (abolitionism), a fictional world where this has already been achieved leaves a story with few plot devices to exploit. Additionally, it could be hard for the public to identify with flawless, post-human characters.
Among the utopian visions of transhumanism 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. 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 singularity was met in the centuries long Megaman timeline can be a useful way of illustrating how nebulous the terminology is during a debate.
See the original post:
- Dublin Theatre Festival reviews: The Great Hunger, and To Be A Machine - Irish Examiner - October 8th, 2020
- To be a Machine review: Experimental format well-suited to plays core theme - The Irish Times - October 8th, 2020
- The Honorable Dr. Dale Layman, Founder of Robowatch, LLC, is Recognized as the 2020 Humanitarian of the Year by Top 100 Registry, Inc. - IT News... - September 4th, 2020
- Transhumanism: The cyborgs and biohackers redefining ... - August 10th, 2020
- Silicon Valley, the start-up incarnation 4/5. Palmer Luckey, the geek who needed to make sure the army supremacy of the West - Pledge Times - August 5th, 2020
- Hi John. Will artificial intelligence replace humanity by 2084? - Eternity News - July 23rd, 2020
- The benefits and risks of AI and post-human life - Independent Australia - April 26th, 2020
- Whats the best way to prepare for the apocalypse? Dont ask these guys - Telegraph.co.uk - April 23rd, 2020
- Cosmodeism: Prologue to a Theology of Transhumanism - Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies - April 3rd, 2020
- Meet Ai-Da, the worlds first AI artist, who is almost human - Dazed - April 3rd, 2020
- What is transhumanism, or, what does it mean to be human ... - March 31st, 2020
- What is transhumanism? | CARM.org - March 31st, 2020
- Transhumanism: Pros and Cons - iGyaan - March 31st, 2020
- Zoltan Istvan: The Transhumanist Candidate - Roads and Kingdoms - March 17th, 2020
- Sleeve Into Altered Carbon: The Role Playing Game - Nerdist - March 17th, 2020
- Being alive: Institut Franais presents 'The Night of Ideas' - Daily Sabah - January 30th, 2020
- The 2010s were the decade of trans - The Spectator USA - December 21st, 2019
- Seattle faith groups reckon with AI and what it means to be truly human - Seattle Times - November 12th, 2019
- Transhumanism - Britannica.com - June 3rd, 2019
- Transhumanism | Conspiracy School - June 3rd, 2019
- Transhumanism Is TemptingUntil You Remember Inspector Gadget ... - June 3rd, 2019
- What is Transhumanism? - GenSix Productions - June 3rd, 2019
- Elevating the Human Condition - Humanity+ What does it mean ... - June 3rd, 2019
- transhumanism | Definition, Origins, Characteristics, & Facts ... - February 8th, 2019
- Transhumanism | Future | FANDOM powered by Wikia - February 8th, 2019
- Transhumanism - reddit - December 28th, 2018
- Transhumanism: The History of a Dangerous Idea: David ... - November 8th, 2018
- Transhumanism - H+Pedia - hpluspedia.org - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism - Mercurial Essays - July 16th, 2018
- TRANSHUMANISM Feral House - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism: The Anti-Human Singularity Agenda - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism by Dorian Mays on Prezi - July 16th, 2018
- What is Mormon Transhumanism? And is it Mormon? | Interpreter ... - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism Has Opened the Gates of Hell-Steve Quayle and ... - July 16th, 2018
- Transhumanism: Genetic Engineering of Man - the New ... - July 6th, 2018
- Transhumanism | social and philosophical movement ... - May 21st, 2018
- Transhumanism Is Despair Its an Ersatz Version of ... - May 21st, 2018
- Transhumanism - Catholicism.org - May 12th, 2018
- Transhumanism Foreign Policy - May 8th, 2018
- Hidden In Plain Sight - 4 Movies That Expose The Globalist ... - March 23rd, 2018
- Bloodborne, Transhumanism and Cosmic Cyberpunk - Kotaku UK (blog) - August 25th, 2017
- Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It's an Abomination - The American Conservative - August 22nd, 2017
- TRICOAST ENTERTAINMENT RELEASES FIRST ... - Digital Journal - Digital Journal - August 9th, 2017
- Pop music moves a step closer to eternal life - The Columbian - August 5th, 2017
- How the death of EDM brought pop music one step closer to eternal life - Washington Post - August 4th, 2017
- The MetroSpiritual: Creating super-humans through Transhumanism is becoming a reality - New York Daily News - July 29th, 2017
- Luton hate crime probe over St Thomas's church graffiti - BBC News - July 26th, 2017
- Fringe movements key to changing the world - Winnipeg Free Press - July 22nd, 2017
- Putting Infants Down Like Dogs - First Things - July 22nd, 2017
- Review: Poem 88's Correspondences series brings us back to balance - ArtsATL - July 7th, 2017
- Little Atoms at Wilderness - Little Atoms - June 29th, 2017
- Futuristic Thriller State of Mind Gets 15 Minutes of New Gameplay Footage - DualShockers - June 21st, 2017
- Peter Thiel is Funding the Comeback of the Woolly Mammoth - Inverse - June 21st, 2017
- The body electric - Arkansas Times - June 8th, 2017
- 4 life-changing emerging technologies to get excited about - Born2Invest - June 7th, 2017
- Transhumanism Is Just Fancy Sex-Shaming And Self-Loathing - The Federalist - April 8th, 2017
- Transhumanism: The World's Most Dangerous Idea? - March 11th, 2017
- The Reality Principle - Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies - March 11th, 2017
- Transhumanism Conference at Samford University - March 3rd, 2017
- Touring transhumanism 'To Be a Machine' - Maine Edge - March 2nd, 2017
- 'To Be A Machine' Digs Into The Meaning Of Humanity - WPSU - March 1st, 2017
- Buddhism and Transhumanism - Lankaweb - February 23rd, 2017
- Zoltan Istvan on transhumanism, politics and why the human body has to go - New Atlas - February 22nd, 2017
- Sociologist: 'Capitalism 2.0' about to slay liberalism's sacred cow - WND.com - February 8th, 2017
- Trexit?: Transnationalism and Transhumanism and why They ... - January 13th, 2017
- Transhumanism | Bioethics.com - January 3rd, 2017
- Transhumanism in fiction - Wikipedia - December 23rd, 2016
- WHAT IS TRANSHUMANISM? - Nick Bostrom - December 10th, 2016
- Transhumanism | Foreign Policy - December 10th, 2016
- Hidden In Plain Sight 4 Movies That Expose The Globalist ... - December 8th, 2016