Harald Jezek

Owner, Nuada beauty+wellness

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Transhumanism: dangerous or visionary ?

Transhumanism is a loosely defined movement promoting the interdisciplinary approach to understanding the opportunities for enhancing the human condition and the human organism through technological means.

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    Dec 11 2013: Hello Jimmy Strobl, (wasn't sure how to place this comment under yours, further down)
    If we never say "no" to certain technologies, then we are left with "technological determinism"; ie: what technology can do, it must do - and I see no particular benign trajectory of technology (eg: latest revelations for using technology for a world-spying programme by the NSA, etc).
    But hey, someone somewhere is actually choosing to develop technology in a certain direction, and not in other directions, so we are giving yes/no to technology all the time. But who is "we"? We can push the off-button on the TV (I don't have one, so I'm guessing) and read a book instead, but "we" cannot stop abuse of technology should those at a certain level of power choose to develop it for some vision of power and control over others.
    Of course you are right, we have to adapt to whatever greater historical forces throw at us, but it is important to remember (for example) spying technologies did not HAVE to be developed; it was a deliberate choice at some level to choose that direction of development, rather than a different direction - or build schools and hospitals with the money instead.
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    Dec 11 2013: Here is the sensational news for you all. Do you think people will program themselves away from diseases and aging? How could we control the population then? How do people hold their private biological information without its being stolen or misused as well?
    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/10/business/ray-kurzweil-future-of-human-life/index.html?hpt=hp_c5
  • Dec 11 2013: I am looking forward to it. Even currently what would have happened to Stephan Hawking without technology. I can see people we "warehouse"/ignore making important contributions to humanity due to technology aiding them to overcome challenges.
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      Dec 11 2013: Yes, Stephen Hawking is a good example how technology can enhance our lives.
      Also prosthetic limbs went a long way from metal hooks replacing hands to what is used today.
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    Dec 10 2013: Thanks for the article. I will read it. This stuff makes me think of "Brave New World", not a place I want to live.
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      Dec 10 2013: I too had concerns about the possible dystopia of the world once, and I still do to some degree. But we decide what future we're going to live in, and the problem isn't technology, it's people's use of it.
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        Dec 11 2013: I hope we can . It seems that many people want a nanny state and so far they have outvoted us.
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      Dec 10 2013: I agree with Jimmy, virtually any technology (people probably already killed each other with stones, when stones were the only available technology) can be used for something good or something bad. We are responsible as a society to make sure that new technologies are used in a responsible manner.
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        Dec 11 2013: I don't know where you live but where I live we are losing much of our liberty to decide our future.
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          Dec 11 2013: So take it back Helen! Please take it back!
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          Dec 11 2013: I think it's all a question of perspective. I think in the US you have a lot of liberty that you consider normal but don't exist in other countries.
          I'm from Austria, lived in Germany, US, Brazil and Mexico (currently in Mexico). I can tell you that you certainly have less liberty in Mexico than in the US.
          I'm also curious as what exact liberties you think you are losing that could have an impact on how you create your future.?
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        Dec 11 2013: I guess you are not familiar with Nationalized health care, the NSA snooping into everyone's life, for instance they can pick up any phone call, any internet activity, follow you with GPS wherever you travel.
        they are playing Robin Hood with monetary distribution...producing a nanny state for those who could work, employment is low, debt is high...the president uses executive priviledge to circumvent the Constitution. these people want to confiscate our guns, The Senate is controlled by the liberals to the extent that sometimes what they say is laughable. Our president misleads people by misstating laws imposed on us. Has this happened before ? Not here but I think it has. Peace
        Yesd we still have more liberty than most but at this rate it won't last long !!!
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        Dec 12 2013: Do you REALLY think what I have said is untrue? BTW, I am not a Republican nor Democrat. I have no party affiliation
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      Dec 10 2013: "So where does it end and is it good ?"
      I suppose that's up to each of us and I hope the Terminator painted rather the worst case scenario. I'm a bit more optimistic ;-)

      Yes, we already use enhancements for quite some time, however, our technological advances are exponential. Just look how far we came in just the past 100 years or so.
      This means, that technology will play an ever more important role in our lives, whether we like that or not.

      As to steroid use in sports, I don't really see that as an enhancement but rather an abuse. Beside, steroids might bring some benefits, but they are easy compensated for by all the downsides.
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        Dec 10 2013: I think that we're going to see all kind of cyborg states as it becomes technically possible. Some are only prepared to go that far and others will go as far as they can. It mostly starts with the life saving stuff like pacemakers and artificial hearts. Did you know that the new generation of artificial hearts pump you blood continuously, not giving any pulse at all since the flow is constant.
        And we have the blind people, regaining their sight with artificial eyes, those are still a bit pixly and not that rich in color, but it won't be that long until artificial sight is better then our inherent. Making blind people have the choice of better sight then us...

        I think that you're right in your thoughts about the future Harald...

        Have you heard of Kevin Warwick? He's the worlds first cyborg, at least to some claims, and he's always trying to enhance.
        He's got a couple of extra senses (among other things), echolocation and infrared the last i heard...

        Here's his website http://www.kevinwarwick.com/
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          Dec 10 2013: Yes, I think you are right. There will be a gradually improvement such as hearing devices, pace makers and such. As a matter of fact that's already going on for some time. However, this trend is accelerating and technology will be increasingly important in our lives.
          Look at the latest addition, Google glasses. This is still a fairly crude enhancement, but I don't think it will take too long until the glasses are replaced perhaps by implants or at least devices small enough to be part of our daily life.

          No, I wasn't aware of Kevin Warwick. I'll check it out.
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        Dec 11 2013: Oh, he's even got a TEDx Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8HeFNJjuj0

        Edit: and a TEDx event named after him...
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          Dec 11 2013: I agree, but on the other hand we can't stop advancing technologically just because there are risks that the technology might be used for some sinister purpose.
          We need to find means to make sure that abuse and misuse remain at a minimum.
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    Dec 9 2013: For more on Transhumanism you could always visit http://www.reddit.com/r/transhumanism I think you'll like it. It has nearly 9000 subscribers...
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    Dec 9 2013: When you talk about "enhancing the human condition" in your introduction, what exactly do you mean?
    If the end-goal is an experience of life with enhanced inner peace and joy, then transhumanism has little to offer because it takes away the self-responsibility for such internal matters.
    However, if you are talking about enhancing mobility of people who need "repairing" after serious accidents, or strokes, etc, then transhumanism has a role to play.
    As an aside, it's good to remember that the danger of "enhancing" anything is that it is liable to enhance the negative as well as the positive.
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      Dec 9 2013: It can be lots of things Joshua. Genetic modification can be one (e.g. removal of inherited diseases). Another could be nano technology. For example nano machines could be used for organ repairs without the need of surgery.
      Another possibility could be enhancing our abilities with implanted microprocessors.
      It also includes the development of artificial intelligences that have a similar way (or better) of thinking as humans, including reasoning and the possibility to self improve .
      MIT engineer Eric Drexler envisions nano technology be used to build universal assemblers, based on the concept of living cells (with their protein based nano machines).

      Sure, as with any technology, there always will be a risk of abuse and misuse.
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        Dec 11 2013: Hi Harald,
        Thanks for your reply.
        With respect to your last comment which is undoubtedly true, given the human race's track record on using technology for abusive purposes (without denying its good uses), do you think we can risk a whole new level of technology that could be abused with consequences much more far-reaching than the current abuses?
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          Dec 11 2013: I'm not Harald but.

          I don't think that there's the slightest chance that we can stop the technological development, so we must adept and make the best of it.
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          Dec 11 2013: Joshua, as I just mentioned in another post, I think it would be wrong to halt our technological advance (which I don't think would even be possible) because there are risks for abuse and/or misuse. What we need to do is implement adequate policies to keep abuse at a minimum (since we probably can't avoid it completely).
          This works well for other technologies as well. Think about nuclear material. It appears the world community is doing a pretty good job keeping a lid on that pot.
  • Dec 9 2013: I think that a surgically altered human is fine but if the enhancements are performed on children I would be concerned. On the other hand we already install cochlear implants in infants so they can hear.

    I think that trans-humanism is preferable for existing individuals while eugenics would be preferable for the advancement of the species.

    I am personally not a great fan of either and I really do not like the idea of having robots replacing humans.
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      Dec 9 2013: As I mentioned in another post, transhumanism isn't only about robotics but all technologies that might help to improve humanity.
      Beside, robots are already used in many areas. Perhaps they don't call attention because in general they don't look human. Take for example the car industry. It runs mostly with robots doing the job.
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    Dec 8 2013: Okay.....
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    Dec 8 2013: And that way is......................?
    • Dec 8 2013: Law and punishment for those who break it, and less official social norms and social sanctions.

      A transhuman isn't going to be superman in a world full of normal people. If one acts out, that's what the police is for. If a large enough group of them acts out, that's why you have a military. It helps that much like we already have right now with arms and armor, the police and military are going to be much, much better equipped when it comes to the weapons grade stuff than anyone else.

      Transhumanism can be a complete and utter game changer in a lot of aspects, but use of force by civilians isn't one of them.
      And if you're concerned about the military using their shiny new robotic arms to take over, consider that they can pretty much already do it right now if a large enough faction bands together against the government. Zero sci-fi technology required.
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    Dec 8 2013: We see all the fraud that is committed by humans without transhumanism. How would you prevent the human robot from acting out violently ?
  • Dec 8 2013: Hello ..
    I want to learn English . what do you advise me ?
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    Dec 8 2013: We are homo evolutis already. There is an interesting TED book by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans by that name. I think Amazon has it in store as kindle book. Also this is related.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_shares_mindboggling_new_science.html

    It's dangerous because its a directed evolution where technology is taking over Nature. But it is visionary too. Flying is dangerous too but it revolutionized transportation.
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      Dec 9 2013: "...directed evolution where technology is taking over Nature! "
      We as humans are products of nature, so technology is something developed by an natural organism. This should mean that technology is natural too (although, this obviously doesn't mean it's always used for something benevolent).

      I think, almost anything can be dangerous if used improperly. That's true for a kitchen knife, a car or even water.
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        Dec 10 2013: I do not see technology as anything natural. As far as I see nature organizes systems (living ones) by huge trial and error of evolution where the basic rules are rather dumb and simple. While technology modifies systems by design defying natural environments (in most cases). Moreover technology is a tool for only a single species while nature works for all species.
        Pertinent to the OP here, spectacles used by humans or x-rays are directed evolution where a single species is defying the slow trial and error of the evolution of a human eye.
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          Dec 10 2013: Think about it Pabitra, even technology evolves. Look at the evolution of cars for example. There even is natural selection. What works continues on the market and what doesn't eventually disappears.
          We are able to produce technologically advanced stuff because we are humans but other organisms also produce stuff, although much simpler. Look for example at spider venons, flower fragrances, dyes produced by plants, etc.
          If we would produce the same stuff in a lab we'd call it "not natural", but in the end, there really is no difference.
          Spectacles could be seen as evolution. Instead of an organism (human) improving the eye, it produces something that improves sight without having to changer the eye itself.
          So, it's probably more a question as of how wants to define evolution. It can be strictly in the Darwinian sense or it could be interpreted somewhat broader.
          Btw, how do you distinguish between "natural!" and "not natural" ?
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        Dec 11 2013: Natural : Mutation by chance and evolution by selective pressure of environment.
        Not natural : Designed for a purpose defying selective pressure of environment.
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          Dec 11 2013: You have mutations and natural selection also in technology.
          Mutations:
          Video tapes: Once upon a time there was Beta, VHS and who knows what else for taping videos. Those were mutations from the basic concept of magnetic tape recording.
          Selection: the market chose to stick with VHS instead of any other system. The selctive pressure was the market pushing for one system vs. another one.
          Evolution: VHS was replaced by CDs, DVDs, etc
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        Dec 12 2013: Harald, I don't think VHS is a mutated form of magnetic tapes. It is a purposeful and designed improvement. Mutation works entirely differently.

        Mutations result from unrepaired damage to DNA or to RNA genomes (typically caused by radiation or chemical mutagens), errors in the process of replication, or from the insertion or deletion of segments of DNA by mobile genetic elements. Also, mutations play a part in both normal and abnormal biological processes including: evolution, cancer, and the development of the immune system. So from a systemic point of view mutation is a chance change, nothing designed with purpose. When the mutants survive (and others die) they appear as a purposeful design.
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          Dec 12 2013: Pabitra, I know, just try to think a bit outside the box ;-) It's an analogy. Obviously a VHS has no genes.
          The point I'm trying to make is that technology follows its own path of mutation, selection and evolution.
          Mutation doesn't necessarily have to be by chance but also can be on purpose.
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    Dec 8 2013: As I see it, the ultimate goal is eternal life. When we can build a computer more powerful than the human brain we can transfer the software from a human to a machine. Combine this with robotic technology & you have eternal life.
    All very well but where do we put the cntr/alt/del button. I think John MacInrow said it best. ... .... .. .......

    :-)
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      Dec 9 2013: Peter, no actual that's not the ultimate goal, although for some transhumanists it might be.
      The ultimate goal is improving our condition through technological advance, which includes the use of genetic modification, nano technology etc.
  • Dec 8 2013: Why can't be be both?
    No contradiction between being dangerous and visionary.

    Granted, I'm all for it, I think its worth the risks, but that doesn't mean those risks aren't very real.
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      Dec 9 2013: Fair enough, sure it can be both. As every coin has 2 sides that's probably true as well in this case.
      As so often it will depend on people what side of the coin the choose.