Transhumanism

By Taylor Schlacter

There’s a certain sense of warmth that I get when I see people look down at their phones and smile.

I think to myself how amazing it is that something so small can communicate such strong personable emotions between people without so much as verbally speaking a word. When considering this from a greater perspective, I wonder how shocking and awe-inspiring it would be for someone in any other time period than our own to view our current level of technology and how integral it is in our daily lives.

The great minds of the renaissance could never have conceived touchscreens, terabyte hard drives and other modern technological marvels which we take for granted on a daily basis. Perhaps the most amazing part of modern technology is how rapidly it has evolved and integrated itself into society. Think about it – we’ve only really had the Internet for two decades or less. In the grand scheme of humanity, that’s a very brief period of time. If we’ve progressed so much over such a short period of time, where will we be in another decade or two? There’s a popular theory held by futurists called transhumanism which seeks to address this question.

Transhumanism is the idea that in the near conceivable future, humans will endure another paradigm shift in our evolution. Rather than a subtle, natural physiological adaptation, however, transhumanism says that humanity will utilize technology to stop aging, eradicate disease and improve our overall functionality. To even contemplate the implications of such a reality is overwhelming, yet many great contemporary minds fervently subscribe to this possibility.

Take, for example, Ray Kurzweil, a prominent American inventor referred to by the Wall Street Journal as “the restless genius.” In the documentary, “The Transcendent Man,” he described that the theory of transhumanism is so accurate and near existence, that he believes he will not die (despite the fact that he is over the age of 60).

Before you start scoffing at the craziness of this bold claim, consider a small tidbit of Kurzweil’s accomplishments and contributions to society. He has received 19 honorary doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents and four of the six books he’s written have been national best sellers, not to mention his smorgasbord of computer science-related breakthroughs and inventions. His claim to immortality seems to hold some ground but the science behind his belief is way over this writer’s head.

Could the world’s resources sustain a population that ceases to die from natural causes? How will the increased interfacing of bio-technology alter society’s functions such as education, politics and war? Will transhumanism (if it actually happens) turn out to be more beneficial than detrimental to humanity? Such questions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what may come to be. The controversial nature of this issue has created a lot of well-crafted arguments from proponents which cannot even begin to be explained in this forum.

Nonetheless it is a very exciting point in time. It almost seems like it is out of one of Arthur C. Clarke’s books. With genius minds like Kurzweil who strongly believe in the practicality of transhumanism, it seems like the only factor left unknown is the timing of it all. When will we change the face of humanity forever? When will we become Homo Evolutis?

Taylor Schlacter is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]