The Social Implications of Transhumanism

The new study of transhumanism seems to be yet another attempt to overcome man’s greatest fears of inadequacy and death while at the same time providing for our innate sense of competition with the rest of the human race to ensure survival. The World Transhumanist Organization edifies “the development of and access to new technologies that enable everyone to enjoy better minds, better bodies and better lives,” while proposing to do so by making people into robots. I’m not sure about other women, but I don’t want laser guns surgically implanted into my breasts so that I can destroy attackers with beams from my nipples. I kind of like them just the way they are and have no problem with using pepper spray and dialing 911 (or my more fast-acting husband) for help.

While advocates of human cloning seem to say that the individual is so spectacular that there should be two or more of them, transhumanism seems to say the opposite: that individuals are not good enough just as they are. One of the major debates in human cloning is that, if scientists were successful, we could create a whole copied army to defend our nation, and none of us great individuals would have to die, only our clones would, and for such a noble cause! But what if clones actually have their own souls and personalities and want to live their own lives? There is nothing ethical about forcing any group of people to do anything against their will. Since that idea is out (and human cloning remains a failure), here comes transhumanism to upgrade’ humanity and make heroes of us all. I’m not sure it is such a good idea to increase our human ability to be violent against one other; we’re already so good at it. The ends of both transhumanism and human cloning seem to be the same: to have control over the one thing we can not control, life itself. Are we so afraid to be perceived as less than’ and then die that we can not be content with simply being human?

When I think of having a better body, I imagine losing ten pounds or maybe even getting a tummy tuck. I’ve seen those plastic surgery shows, and if transhumanism is going to do something different than that, I want no part in it. The whole idea is that we should want to be better than human or super human. Advertisements, in general, always tell us to get, or at least to want, whatever is bigger, faster, and stronger. Nothing we have is ever good enough, and now nothing that we are is good enough either. The effect of advertisements for things we can buy in stores, only affects our pocketbooks, but the effects of transhumanism (were it to be a truly successful endeavor) would be psychological. It is hard enough living in this world today trying to figure out the meaning of it all, or even just to make a house payment without adding the extra stress of upgrading ourselves as well as our computers. Personal growth is hard enough as it is.

I can only imagine what the message of transhumanism would do to a teenager who is already dying to look like the Cosmo girl. On top of the desire for a perfect body and sexual attractiveness, there is the dream of the transhuman life. “If only I could be transhuman, then I would be happy!” I shudder at the thought.

The idea of better mind is intriguing, however. What is suspect is the means. I have a feeling we are not talking about a daily Ginko supplement to enhance memory. If there is going to be a sort of calculator implant, I might be willing to accept that. Afterall, I might also be willing to accept a silicon implant. The two of them together would ensure both good service in restaurants and leaving an accurate 20 percent tip with out having to whip out my iPhone. But honestly, how would anyone ever be able to receive a compliment based on their mental abilities if they are simply enhanced? No one would ever be able to really take pride in their work if some sort of technology was the only reason that they were able to do it in the first place. God-given abilities and talents would become obsolete in a society that currently places such high value on those things. What would it do to the Olympics? To professional sports? Americans get so outraged when the truth comes out about players on steroids; will transhumans not be allowed to play or compete, or will every player and competitor be required to be transhuman? Is either option fair?

As with human cloning, the ethical questions and social implications of transhumanism are too far reaching in their scope to ensure that there will soon be any answers. Bioengineering has a history of being so controversial that progress is stunted by social groups who are radically and very vocally opposed to its means, if not its goals. In reality, any progress made in the realm of the transhuman sciences will probably be by private sectors who are individually funded, and the use of their products will be kept secret by the government until some huge mistake lets all of the robotic cats out of the bag.