What really is Transhumanism? Are you already partly Transhuman?

By Tony Czarnecki | 24 October 2021
Medium

(Credit: Dreamstime.com)

Transhumanism is quite often linked to something that has nothing to do with it, like a transgendered sex. Confusion may arise because there are many definitions of Transhumanism, like this one on the Wikipedia: “Transhumanism shares many elements of humanism, including a respect for reason and science, a commitment to progress, and a valuing of human (or transhuman) existence in this life”. The US Transhumanist’s website Humanity+ describes it as follows: “Transhumanism challenges the human condition. This condition asserts that aging is a disease, augmentation and enhancement to the human body and brain are essential to prevail, and that well-being is essential to prosper within safe and healthy environments”.

Unfortunately, none of these definitions is complete. It is not enough to say that Transhumanism ‘challenges a human condition’ or it is about ‘valuing human existence in this life’. We must also identify its ultimate end goal, i.e., where such a transition ends. Therefore, on the Sustensis website, we are more specific saying that: “Transhumanism is about Humanity’s transition to its coexistence with Superintelligence until humans evolve into a new species”.

One of the most comprehensive visions of Transhumanism can be found on the Transhumanist UK website, and in particular in David Wood’s book — Vital Foresight — The Case For Active Transhumanism. But Transhumanism can also be seen as three ‘Super…’: Superlongevity, Superintelligence and Superwellbeing, which is excellently illustrated in this short video by the British Institute of Posthuman Studies:

Transhumanists propose to achieve those goals in two stages:

1. Instilling a peaceful transition of humanity into the future. This is a passage to a new civilisation, and it has already started. An almost exponential pace of the advance of technology, especially the Artificial Intelligence (AI), will create a much more equitable society, culminating in the world of unimaginable abundance. That is the Superwellbeing. At the same time, a similar rapid pace of advancement in medicine will enable very significant extension of healthy life, allowing people to live well over 100 years. That is the Superlongevity. However, to achieve all that, we need to maintain global peace by a significant reform of democracy and a gradual federalization of the world. We must finally behave like the citizens of the planet, rather than strengthening national borders.

2. Completing a transformation of humans to a new evolutionary form. That is the ultimate goal of Transhumanism, which will be achievable once the first objective has been sufficiently advanced. As this description suggests, it is not just a passage to a new civilisation due to socio-technological progression over millennia, e.g., from an agrarian to an industrial era, when Humans as a biological species remained unchanged. It is about becoming a new species, following not just an earthly evolution, but a cosmic evolution when matter transcends itself in a non-organic intelligence. That will be enabled by an exponentially advancing Artificial Intelligence, the third interconnecting door of Transhumanism, which in just a few decades will become Superintelligence.

That process has already begun. Some of you are already budding Transhumans. If this is the first time you read about Transhumanism and Transhumans and think ‘this is just incredible’ (to put it mildly), then just think about yourself. Most of us are already partly Transhumans. Our smart phones give us enormous extra intelligence, that we could not dream about even 10 years ago. The only difference is that the extra intelligence is currently external.

There are already about 10,000 early Transhumanists in Sweden alone, who have implanted chips in their hands allowing them to use such chips for verifying their identity instead of using passwords for banking, purchases or passing security gates. There are thousands of epilepsy sufferers who have electrodes implanted in their brain and connected to digital devices, which control their epilepsy attacks. There are also tens of thousands of people controlling their diabetes by devices implanted in their bodies. Two years ago, in October 2019, a completely paralyzed person wearing an exoskeleton, started to ‘walk’ using the implants in his brain. Since then, even more powerful Brain-Computer-Interface devices enable cognitive or motoneuronal disabilities disappear thanks to these devices.

Over this decade, Transhumans’ cognitive capabilities (e.g., memory and processing power leading to a much faster decision making) will increase so much that they will become the most intelligent and capable humans. Using Brain-Computer-Interfaces some of them may become invaluable, if selected by international bodies, such as the UN, to help us pass in relative peace the most dangerous period in human existence. In a few decades, the body of Transhumans will become more and more non-biological and their brain more digitally integrated with the emerging Superintelligence. By the end of this century, the whole brain of the willing Transhumans’ may be digitized and fused with a purely digital Superintelligence, becoming oneness . Unless there are some physical obstacles e.g., related to porting consciousness into digital chips, an entirely new, non-organic species — Posthumans will emerge.

At this point you will probably be asking a question: why we have to choose that path of human evolution. For many, of you this might be an instant call to arms — stop it! But to surprise you, I would also have been among those calling to do just that, since for me that weird future is not something I would like for my children and grandchildren. We think and feel in a human way and cannot imagine that one day future generations may not have any privacy or even identity as we understand it today.

Unfortunately, we no longer have the ability to stop that process, unless we destroy in some way our civilisation, returning perhaps to the age of steam (and then facing the same dilemma in the next century). Mrs Thatcher once said, ‘we cannot uninvent a nuclear bomb’. Neither can we uninvent the Internet. We cannot really stop anymore because that’s how it was designed, nor can we entirely destroy Google database, or stop exponentially improving AI. Any global ban on a further development of AI would be futile. A dozen of top AI specialists supported by deranged billionaire of Dr Strangelove-type, not to mention rouge states such as N. Korea, would be capable to continue clandestinely further improvements to AI agents, until such day, when they would use it to help them rule the world. Therefore, we have no other option but continue develop AI but under strict human control, thus having some say regarding our evolution.

So, how are we going to navigate that pathway to a Transhuman world? In his interview in May 2020, Elon Musk confirmed indirectly his long-term aim: “Even in a benign AI scenario we are being left behind. So how do you go along for the ride? If you can’t beat them, join them.” This can be interpreted as something like, we shall have ‘proper’ Transhumans within a few years’ time and we desperately need them because they may be our best safeguard against a malicious Superintelligence. In that sense, the key role in that transition falls to the first selected Transhumans who will be responsible as Superintelligence’s Supervisors and later on as Humanity’s Governors for delivering a benevolent Superintelligence.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Tony Czarnecki is an economist and a futurist – a member of the Chatham House, London, deeply engaged in global politics and the reform of democracy, with wide range of interests such as politics, technology, science and culture. He is also an active member of London Futurists. This gives him the necessary insight into exploring complex subjects discussed in the three books, of the POSTHUMANS series. He is the Managing Partner of Sustensis, London – a Think Tank for inspirations for Humanity’s transition to coexistence with Superintelligence.

Transition to a more sustainable and harmonious world – Tony Czarnecki

Elon Musk’s Message on Artificial Superintelligence – ASI

Artificial Superintelligence Documentary – A.G.I

Is Superintelligent AI an Existential Risk? – Nick Bostrom on ASI

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