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Metaphysical Monday: Transhumanity

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The issue of Transhumanity is of great interest to me and it’s something I’ve given a good amount of thought to over the past few years. The song “Artificial Immortality” is about this issue and my thoughts have changed since then (4 years ago).

Transhumanity, shortened to h+, “is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” -Wikipedia

Many within the h+ movement expect humanity to advance to such a state that it would merit the term “posthuman.” Some also expect to see, within our lifetime, some humans live indefinitely. That is, not eternally, but that they won’t be limited by normal aging processes because what wears out, science can replace.

The issue has gained considerable momentum, most notably evidenced by Time Magazine making Transhumanity it’s cover story for the February 21, 2011 issue.

Below is the message I sent to friend in a conversation about this very thing. Please comment, and if you disagree, be able to defend your viewpoint. I have many other things to suggest about the h+ community and singularity and even Ray Kurzweil (I used to play a Kurzweil keyboard, which he created). But there is not space here. Maybe a follow up article? Anyway, here’s the message:

“I’m afraid the whole transhumanity concept is a complex web of beliefs that rests on lots of other perceptions. It’s the cherry on the top of a delicately built dessert, if you will. To discuss it at length would take an inordinate amount of time just to set the foundation on which a proper conversation about Transhumanity could be had.

I think the basics of it, however, boil down to where you believe our souls reside and what aspects of us make us human. Man being created in the image of God could mean many different things and that definition is essential to defining what humanity really is. I now believe that it means that we have self-awareness like God has, which the lesser creatures do not have.

Look at it this way: if a man loses his arm, he is no less of a man. Therefore, his organic body must not be what we refer to when we speak of the human essence. Artificial Immortality disagrees somewhat with that point, saying “I am an organism, I am a beast.” and that was CS Lewis’s view. Although I nearly worship CS Lewis, I think this is one of those rare subjects on which I must disagree with him.

Ray Kurzweil and the transhumanity movement may have questionable aspirations, but I think they are correct in their basic assumption: humankind is identified by its ability to reason: it’s brain.

There can be arguments made to the contrary (the gut is now found to be a “second brain” that operates independently from the brain and communicates with the brain as its own entity. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gut-second-brain for more info on that). But I think those arguments break down because, again, a man without a stomach is still a man. A man only ceases to be a man when he has lost the power of his brain. As unromantic as it seems, this is where his personality dwells and the complex elements of his personhood are seated there in his mind. We like to say “heart” in reference to feelings as if that’s where the soul is seated, but you can surgically exchange any organ, heart included, and your man is still the same man, soul intact.

So if the soul is seated in the brain and the rest of the body is merely organic growth given to our minds to command, much like tools, shouldn’t we then push forward in science and learn all we can about how to progress? Is it not incumbent upon us to unravel these possibilities of what humanity is capable of?”

Those are my current thoughts. Ideas?