Home / 2016 / Science Fortnightly: Trans-Humanism – Next Age of Human Evolution?

Science Fortnightly: Trans-Humanism – Next Age of Human Evolution?

I was browsing the web last week, when I decided to finally check out on a topic that I had recently heard about; Trans-humanism. I may not be an expert on it, but I decided it is well worth my time to sit down and introduce the term to a wider audience. Throughout this article I hope to introduce the term and it’s role in modern-day science.

Before the interesting parts, I will have to tackle the question; What is Trans-humanism? To answer this let us first recall what ‘humanism’ is. It is a word that first sprang up during the Renaissance era and is best summed up as our most sympathetic understanding and treatment of human nature. “History tends to repeat itself” is a widely accepted belief in modern society. Some scientists believe just as ‘Humanism’ fueled the drive away from the Medieval Era, ‘Trans-humanism’ will also one day bring about a huge change. Trans-humanism is thus widely accepted to be the ‘drive’ to fundamentally revolutionize what it means to be human by way of technological advancements.

As of now, technology is already integrated into the most fundamental aspects of human life. If you consider the life-cycle of a human in the modern society, we are surrounded by technology from the day one. As a species, we have climbed to the top of the food chain, has changed the geography of the world and traveled beyond our atmosphere into space. The idea of Trans-humanism goes beyond changing the surroundings, humans inhabit to changing human life itself. You can probably already guess how controversial this subject can be!

I may not be a ‘guru’ on the subject however, let’s break down the key fields in which trans-humanism research is taking some very slow yet firm steps! There are three main areas  trans-humanistic thinking is leading research in:

First on our list is Super longevity! Did you know that over 100,000 people die each day due to illnesses related to aging? Probably not! Probably, even after hearing this you would be calmly accepting the fact without another thought. But, ultimately isn’t it still 100,000 lives that we are talking about? What if instead of aging these 100,000 deaths were due to an outbreak of bird flu? Will you care then? My guess is you probably will. You would consider finding an antibiotic and curbing the spread of the virus a high-end priority. If that is the case, shouldn’t we also prioritize finding treatments to illnesses due to aging? It is really up to you, I am just giving you some food for thought.

It is exactly these consequences of aging that they wish to address through research in Super Longevity.  There is however a number of problems you could foresee if super longevity becomes a reality. In a world that is already struggling with over-population how will we cope with the further increase of population if super-longevity becomes a reality? Fuel, Food and Accommodation are already scarce resources. If population increases how will we cope with the lack of resources?

Let’s move on to the second key field of research – Super Intelligence! The computer and related technologies have developed at an exponential rate. Some Scientists believe the next step in this process will be to integrate small computers into our own bodies! Inspector Gadget and Cyborgs don’t seem too much like science fiction anymore, does it?

However, some still believe no AI related technologies can ever truly simulate human consciousness. Or what if as so many Science fiction story plot goes, the goals of AI related technologies differ from our own? If AI can think for themselves and go so far as to feel for themselves will people be able to accept technologies as independent beings instead of just tools?

The final area of trans humanism dwells in super-well being! What if you can determine your unborn child’s low risk levels of anxiety, depression, anger and jealousy? What if you can determine how smart and beautiful your child will be? As you can guess, we are entering quite a controversial area of thought. But, just as any form of science there is logic at play in this idea as well!

No matter how much our technology has developed biologically humans have not evolved as fast. Biologically speaking there is not much of a difference between the human who discovered fire or the modern human! So, it is fair to say that the DNA which codes for emotions like anger, jealousy and anxiety that were fundamental in surviving the harsh savannah grasslands is the same DNA possessed by modern humans. So, in this world where we can be satisfied easily with our basic needs we still pursue our survival instincts to feel anger and anxiety when we engage with other people. At the moment it is something we have no control over but what if in the future we can control it?

Hope you got some interesting information to ponder over!

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About Dinushi Mudalige

Hey!
I am a first year at UNSW and will write to Blitz about everything and anything related to Science!

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