What is transhumanism?
Transhumanism is a philosophical school that concerns the true nature of human beings and technological developments. Essentially, it is concerned with the transformation of humans into new or enhanced beings due to the deployment of current and futuristic technologies. In some cases, this sort of technology will enhance the physiology of people, rather like how bionic implants are already able to deal with certain disabilities, for example. However, transhumanism goes beyond the merely physical and postulates a future in which humans will use similar technologies to improve their intellectual capacities, such as the ability to learn and retain knowledge faster. Some people imagine a world in which transhumanism has taken place and the human race has been surpassed by a new range of superior beings. This is known as the post-human world.
Where did transhumanism originate?
As you might expect, transhumanism originally came about through science fiction writing, much of which has been devoted to the idea of cyborg technologies. J D Bernal, a pioneer of x-ray technology, was one of the first academics to take the concept seriously back in the late 1920s. In the 1960s, the New School in New York City began to be a focal point of transhumanism from a philosophical point of view. The first symposium of transhumanism took place at the University of California in 1980.
When will transhumanism occur?
Some transhumanists argue that it is already occurring because of how human thought is now so widely shared in an almost organic sense thanks to a global technology like the internet. Indeed, there are plenty of examples of technology being deployed into people's bodies that suggest self-improvement by body modification is something that is already a reality. Technologies like three-dimensional bio-printing and mind uploading are already in development for future deployment in the sphere of transhumanism. When they become widespread, however, is anybody's guess.
What are the ethical aspects of transhumanism?
One of the ethical issues that come up in transhumanism is where human rights begin and end. Do technologies used in people count as part of them, or are they separate? If so, how do laws cover a bio-printed body part compared to a 'natural' one? Transhumanists take different ethical stances but, broadly speaking, they advocate for a wider definition of what it is to be a person that includes technology alongside, and a part of, biology.
Will human identity be lost if transhumanism takes off?
Some people worry about what will make humans different from any other technological system if they become transhuman at some point. Clear ideas surrounding individuality and the idea of a unique soul certainly become murkier when you consider how mass-produced technologies may impact people. Some point out that transhumanism may end up with unintended results for the concept of human identity, citing works like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley as an example of potential pitfalls.