Dale Carrico has a wise and literate essay on the transhuman future and the perpetual requirements of culture, government and the permanence of limits:
- We human beings have always been defined both by our limits and by the strategies we use to cope with and sometimes overcome them. But many people who are fascinated by technological development have recently begun to share the suspicion that we are on the verge of a profound technological transformation of what have long been deeply definitive human restrictions.
Some see in biotechnology the fledgling arrival of tools to reshape our bodies and capacities, to eliminate diseases and renegotiate lifespans, to render traits of basic morphology and temperament more or less discretionary, to reinvent agriculture to feed burgeoning populations or to engineer microorganisms to help reverse the damage of primitive industries on the planet’s ecosystem. Some see in new digital networked information and communication technologies the fledgling arrival of tools to reshape our cultures and economies, to facilitate collaboration and to proliferate intelligence, invention and criticism, to reshape commerce, borders and the reach of law, to reinvent or to possibly destroy personal privacy.
Although I am keenly aware of the dangers many of these developments pose, in general I embrace them in consideration of their promise to humanity. People who share this kind of optimism and enthusiasm about the possibilities of radical technological development within the lifetimes of millions now living often describe themselves as transhumanists. Sometimes I have used the term to describe myself.
But it seems to me that many transhumanists, in their zeal to embrace the prospect of the technological transformation of current human limits, have sometimes been seduced as well by a dream of the outright transcendence of all limits. Glib expressions of the faith that technology has to put literally every limit up for grabs are actually so commonplace in transhumanist literature that it’s hard not to get caught up in the marvelous enthusiasm and momentum of it all. But it is important to remember that transformation is not transcendence.
….Definitely I sympathize with the transhumanist idea that genetic, prosthetic and cognitive modification is now and will long remain the frontline in the ongoing battle to preserve and expand individual human freedom. But I know that the dangers we rightly fear from technology are less fearsome the more people are collaborating to oversee the risks, troubleshoot for errors and ensure that costs are widely and flexibly distributed. I know that innovation will arrive more quickly the more people are inspired to take on the project of bringing it about. And I know that those benefits are richest that are as widely and as fairly shared as possible.
“The future,” writes science fiction author Bruce Sterling, “isn’t an alien world, it is this very world.” It’s the kind of insight that you never knew you needed to hear, until you actually hear it said. The future will be here, not elsewhere. And it will be shared. “The future is a process,” Sterling goes on to say. That process, whatever our wishes in the matter, will never amount simply to a process of scientific discovery or of engineers solving problems. Technological development is also always a space of social struggle. It is articulated by politics and rendered intelligible through culture.
Progress is not a wave for you to ride on or a Truth for you to die for, but a project that needs many collaborators to succeed. I want to change the world, not to leave it. I want transformation, not transcendence. In this column, “Progressive Futures,” I hope to say a little bit more about what I think that means and what I think that it implies. [Betterhumans]
I have no problem with using technology to make humans more perfect, but that won’t change anything at all in the big picture – there is no end of history.