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Постхуманно ли е бъдещето?

Сечил Йозерган 

 

 Introduction

The progress of digital technologies has significantly impacted almost every aspect of our lives. As a result, various scholars have contended that we are on the verge of a new era driven by technological advancements, particularly in artificial intelligence. Many thinkers so far have proposed that humanity stands at the threshold of a new chapter in its history. Some suggested that our current times mark the beginning of a "posthuman" era, while others referred to it as a "transhuman" age. There have been arguments suggesting that we have already stepped into the "posthuman" domain and are moving towards the concept of "technological singularity", a term that thinkers such as Yuval Noah Harari described as "the point beyond which our imagination completely fails" (Harari, 2019).

In the age of rapid technological advancement, there has been a growing interest on the concept of a posthuman future. This vision mostly suggests a world where humans transcend their biological limitations through the integration of technology, blurring the lines between human and machine. In this essay, we delve into the reasons behind claims that the future is posthuman and examine the notion of posthuman.


The Claims for a Posthuman Future

The notion of a posthuman future has gained momentum due to various technological advancements. Accordingly, some thinkers argued that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and human-computer interfaces are blurring the boundaries between humans and machines, potentially leading to the evolution of human beings by integrating them with machines. This transformation is often linked to the idea of transcending human limitations and enhancing our physical and cognitive abilities.

Among the posthuman future scenarios we can refer to a world where humans merge with machines, lead significantly longer and potentially happier lives and transcend the constraints of biological mortality.  The proponents of a posthuman future emphasize the potential for enhanced cognitive abilities, expanded sensory experiences, and even the possibility of uploading human consciousness into digital substrates.

Transhumanists are a vocal group when it comes to the so-called posthuman future. This growing “intellectual and cultural movement, whose proponents declare themselves to be heirs of Humanism and Enlightenment philosophy” (Bishop, 2010, p: 700) broadly supports human enhancement technologies. Overall, Transhumanists argue that, until now, human beings were only able to shape and control their exterior environment simply because they could not do more. According to them, “people will eventually be able to control and fundamentally change their bodies and minds with the help of new technologies”. (Masci, 2016)

In its general framework, Transhumanism emphasises the continuation of human evolution through science and technology. The proponents of this philosophy believe that technology will enable human beings to transcend their current form and fundamentally improve the human condition. In sum, this movement emphasises the desirability of developing technologies that can “eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities” (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 3).

Transhumanism can be seen as a non-religious philosophy that rejects faith, worship, or any kind of supernatural belief. As the proponents declare themselves to be the heir of the Enlightenment, they mainly emphasize “reason, science, progress and valuing the existence of our current life” (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 4). Transhumanist groups acknowledge that the development of this philosophy wouldn’t be possible without the use and development of the scientific method as well as the ideas of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment contains various views about the nature of progress. These views range from inevitability to the view that humanity must work hard to maintain it. In this context, Transhumanists believe in progress (particularly in accelerating technological progress), but the inevitability of this technological progress is questionable among the supporters of the Transhumanist movement (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 10).

Transhumanism also bases itself on Humanism; however, the word “Transhumanism” itself indicates this philosophy goes beyond Humanism. Overall, Max More sees Humanism as “a major step in the right direction, yet containing too many outdated values and ideas” (More, 1990). In the “Transhumanist Reader”, it has also been argued that “Humanism tends to rely exclusively on educational and cultural refinement to improve human nature, whereas Transhumanism wants to apply technology to overcome limits imposed by our biological and genetic heritage (More and Vita-More, 2013, p:4)

According to Transhumanists, we are currently living in a transhumanist era as we experience unprecedented and significant technological and scientific changes. Yet, they believe the future will be posthuman.  To sum it up, Transhumanists aspire to be posthumans, and they believe “the posthuman condition would be very good for humanity” (More and Vita-More, 2013, p.4).

What Transhumanists mean by being posthuman is exceeding the limitations of being human and promoting (according to transhumanists) the more desirable aspects  such as "greater cognitive capabilities, and more refined emotions (more joy, less anger, or whatever changes each individual prefers)" (More and Vita-More, 2013, p.4). Transhumanist circles believe that posthumans will lead a better life and will no longer suffer from illnesses, ageing or inevitable death. In this context, they discuss parameters for measuring a better life. For example, Nick Bostrom makes the comparison as follows:

"The life of a person who dies from a painful illness at age 15 after having lived in extreme poverty and social isolation is typically worse and has less value than that of a person who has an 80-year-long life full of joy, creativity, worthwhile achievements, friendships, and love. Whatever terminology we use to describe the difference, it is plain that the latter kind of life is more worth having. One way to express this platitude is by saying that the latter life is more valuable than the former" (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 31).

In this framework, Bostrom appears to believe that some lives are more valuable than others and being posthuman would significantly improve our condition. In this context, the future posthuman appears to have a lot larger lifespan significantly more cognition and emotion capacities than any human being. In other words, the capabilities of a future posthuman will exceed the maximum capacities that are attainable by any current human being on Earth (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 2), and the posthuman will have different experiences than we currently have.

According to this view, expanding ourselves to future environments, such as existing in virtual worlds (perhaps gaining immortality through digital existence) or living on other planets, will enable us to have possibilities that were never possible for human beings historically. This can be achieved through technologies such as artificial intelligence, as it will allow us to make more discoveries and exceed our limits further. In sum, all these "exciting" posthuman future scenarios are driven by technological advancement. The belief is that emerging technologies will profoundly benefit humanity as they will allow us to live longer, healthier and potentially happier.

Accordingly, future technologies will allow users to increasingly shape themselves into the people they would like to be. Neuro-technologies, implants and cognitive drugs promise to improve attention span and concentration, mental energy, as well as moral character (Kyrre, Pedersen, and Hendricks 2013, p: 554).

The promise is that in the future, people will be able to alter the deficiencies of their human bodies and improve their intelligence, mood, and character with the help of technology. Some future technologies also give the promise to enhance human bodies, and arguably, this can give human beings more freedom than ever before. Accordingly, human beings will have more time to improve themselves, focusing on what they like or spending more time with their communities, as the machines will do the time-consuming tasks.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom, for example, invites the sceptics about such developments to think twice and question whether their scepticism is about the feasibility or timescales (Kyrre, Pedersen, and Hendricks 2013, p: 555). Bostrom admits that some of these technologies are and will be very difficult to develop, yet, according to him; this doesn't mean they will never be developed. He believes that if we manage to escape an existential catastrophe, humanity will have a long future ahead (whether on Earth or somewhere in space). In this context, he doesn't think it is realistic to believe that human nature will not eventually be transformed technologically into a posthuman nature (Kyrre, Pedersen, and Hendricks 2013, p: 555).

Artificial intelligence appears to play a significant role in this potential transformation, and many researchers have been arguing that Superintelligence is highly likely to follow these developments. Digitalisation at global scale has already been an ongoing trend at least for the past few decades, and the attempts to digitalise human consciousness have intensified, especially with the developments in brain-computer-interface (BCI) technologies.

According to Bostrom, "uploading could be done gradually by replacing parts of the brain with prosthetic chips or by creating a detailed three-dimensional map of the neuronal network in a particular brain and emulating this computational structure on a powerful computer" (Kyrre, Pedersen, and Hendricks 2013, p: 555). A human upload could have an indefinitely long lifespan as it would not be subject to biological senescence. Periodic backup copies could be created for security. Speed-up of thought processes would result from implementing the upload on a faster computer, so an upload might, for instance, experience a year of subjective time over the course of one hour. Uploads could live in virtual reality, or they could use a robotic body to interact with the physical world.' It could also be possible vast numbers of conscious computer-simulated people with experiences similar to those typical of an early-twenty-first-century human and create a computer simulation of posthuman civilisation" (Kyrre, Pedersen, and Hendricks 2013, p: 555). If this scenario, which sounds like a sci-fi dream, is achieved as a species, we will escape the so-called "imprisonment of the body". Yet, the question remains: in this way, wouldn't we imprison ourselves in a kind of computer simulation?

Another scenario is that human civilisations will go extinct before becoming posthuman (maybe due to Singularity). Or perhaps we already live in a kind of simulation which reminds us of Descartes' evil genius argument (or, in this case, the evil genius could perhaps be a Transhumanist who controls the computer simulation).

There is also another possibility for humanity's posthuman future, which is space colonisation. If life on Earth ends due to any reason, human beings will be able to escape and continue life outside this planet. As human cognition will be uploaded to computers, it will be able to find a new body or a robot body and continue living even if a catastrophe situation happens on Earth. The advancement of machine intelligence and other relevant technologies could enable us to travel and potentially colonise other planets and stars. Relevant infrastructure could be built, yet it is still a mystery waiting to be prevailed what kinds of lives and experiences would human beings have there (if they can be called human beings any more).

According to some thinkers, mainly the supporters of the Transhumanist movement, our future depends on how we can accelerate our evolution, and they suggest doing it through technology and by merging with machines.

 

Transhumanism and Technology

In general, Transhumanists approach technological developments with optimism. Within this context, they refer to technology as "the primary means of effecting changes to the human condition, which can be understood broadly to include the design of organisations, economies, polities, and the use of psychological methods and tools. (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 4) Overall, they have a very broad and encompassing understanding of technology.

Although they do not favour a particular type of technology, they acknowledge that some technologies are particularly relevant to their goals. "These include information technology, computer science and engineering, cognitive science and the neurosciences, neural-computer interface research, materials science, artificial intelligence, the array of sciences and technologies involved in regenerative medicine and life extension, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology" (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 4).

Transhumanists believe these technologies and other future technologies that are in the horizon will enable human beings to radically augment themselves. Notably, they believe these augmentations are a part of the continual process of human evolution, which would involve merging human biology with machines and artificial intelligence as well as existing in different shapes and forms or virtually.

The developments in artificial intelligence, in particular, are integral to the Transhumanist goals. As mentioned earlier, "superintelligence" and AI potentially surpassing human beings in every task are ongoing discussions. Yet, there are pessimists and optimists in these matters.

For instance, in 1970, Marvin Minsky offered somewhat optimistic predictions about the arrival of super-intelligent artificial intelligence (AI). Later, in a 1994 Scientific American article, he elaborated on why significantly extended life spans would necessitate the replacement of our biological brains with more advanced computational devices (More and Vita-More, 2013, p:12). Discussions about replacing human brains, sometimes referred to as our "ape brains" within such circles, with super-intelligent machines as a means to drastically enhance ourselves and extend our life spans are encountered among certain factions of Transhumanism.

Overall, Transhumanist goals can be seen as follows: extending human life using various technologies, enhancing humans through different human enhancement methods, potentially uploading human minds into computers, and transferring them into different bodies that can biological or non-biological. Trying to restore life through cryonics can also be added to this list. These objectives aim to address issues such as ageing; illnesses and dying that are inherently linked to our biology.

 

The “Posthuman” Future and Risks

Although there is a significant optimism and excitement among Transhumanists when it comes to technology, there is also an acknowledgement that future technologies can bring many risks. Transhumanists tend to focus on the potential benefits of future technologies and advocate for the active pursuit of technology-driven transformations, even if they go against cultural norms and consensus (More and Vita-More, 2013, p.13). However, there has been a shift within the Transhumanist movement towards more consideration of potential risks. Many Transhumanists now emphasize the importance of acknowledging and addressing these risks and uncertainties while striving to minimize the negative consequences while benefiting from the positive potential of these technologies.

Here we can note that, Transhumanists, despite their growing awareness of potential future risks, remain firm in their stance against bio-conservatives and other opposing groups. They advocate for pushing ahead with technological progress and embracing technology-driven human enhancements. They argue that attempting to halt or obstruct this advancement would not be effective and could actually heighten the associated risks.

Transhumanist thinkers believe our future depends on how we can accelerate our evolution and they suggest doing it through technology. In this context, they believe the future comes with significant threats as well as opportunities (Kyrre, Pedersen, and Hendricks 2013, p: 555). For Transhumanists, the future possibilities are endless. Yet, what is clear is that the decision we make and actions we take can have serious consequences not only for ourselves, but also for the future of next generations.

 

Posthumanism

Having discussed how Transhumanists see the posthuman, it is now time to explore the confusion around the term “posthuman”. The term has gained significant importance especially in contemporary academic discourse due to the necessity for a comprehensive re-evaluation of the concept of humanity. This re-evaluation has arisen in response to the scientific and biotechnological advancements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The traditional understanding of the term "human" has encountered substantial challenges, while "Posthuman" and "Transhuman" have emerged as subjects of philosophical investigation (Ferrando, 2020, p. 21). Posthumanism and Transhumanism can be confused, as they both employ the term "posthuman," but they convey distinct meanings.

 

Defining and Understanding Philosophical Posthumanism

Philosophical Posthumanism represents a multifaceted approach encompassing ontology and epistemology, as well as ethical considerations. It intentionally discards dualisms and hierarchical traditions. Within this context, Posthumanism challenges the conventional humanist tradition that tends to generalize and universalise humanity (Ferrando, 2020, p: 53).

It also refers to the idea of decentering the human in relation to the nonhuman world. Philosophical posthumanism addresses that throughout history the human species has often been placed at the apex of hierarchical scales and granted ontological privileges in various accounts of humanity. Lastly, it advocates for a shift away from rigid dualistic thinking that confines identity within binary oppositions (Ferrando, 2020, p: 53).

Posthumanism emerged in the wake of and during the era of Postmodernism. It arose as a result of the radical deconstruction of the concept of the "human." This deconstruction initially began as a philosophical and political endeavour in the late 1960s and subsequently evolved into an epistemological pursuit in the 1990s (Ferrando, 2020, p: 24). Within this historical context, Posthumanism represents a departure from the traditional notion of the "human," which has its roots in the historical development of "humanism."

Posthumanists assert that humanism was built upon hierarchical frameworks and exhibited an unquestioning adherence to "anthropocentrism," which itself rested on hierarchical constructs based on speciesist assumptions. According to Posthumanist perspectives, these assumptions about the centrality of humans and the hierarchy of species in humanism's worldview were problematic and needed to be critically examined and challenged.

Within the context of Posthumanism, a fundamental and critical premise revolves around challenging the notion that humans are inherently a superior species within the natural order. It's important to note that in this context, the term "post" in Posthumanism doesn't necessarily imply a movement beyond humanness in a biological or evolutionary sense. Instead, it suggests a shift in perspective.

The primary objective of Posthumanism is to scrutinize and reconsider what has been omitted or neglected within an anthropocentric worldview. Overall, Posthumanism seeks to broaden understanding of existence beyond the confines of human exceptionalism and anthropocentrism. In doing so, it encourages us to re-evaluate our relationship with the natural world, recognizing the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life forms, rather than asserting human superiority within the natural order.

In this context, Posthumanism is closely intertwined with the examination of differences. It is associated with fields of study that emerged from the deconstruction of the notion of a "neutral subject" within Western onto-epistemologies (Ferrando, 2020, p. 24). Posthumanists believe that, to envision a "post" in relation to the concept of the "human," it becomes imperative to acknowledge the differences that constitute the human experience. They suggest, these differences have been historically erased by the alleged objectivity of dominant narratives. In summary, Posthumanism owes its insights to reflections cultivated on the margins of this centralized notion of the human subject.

 The term “Posthumanism”

The terms "posthuman" and "Posthumanism" initially emerged within the realm of postmodern literature. Notably, the literary theorist Ihab Hassan played a pioneering role in introducing these concepts. He first used the term "Posthumanism" in his 1977 article "Prometheus as Performer: Toward a Posthumanist Culture?" and further developed it in his book "The Postmodern Turn" in 1987. In this specific linguistic context, Hassan observed a distinct pattern in the Western world: a profound, revisionary impulse that unsettled and resettled established codes, canons, procedures, and beliefs, hinting at the possibility of a "post-humanism" (Ferrando, 2020, p: 25).

Hassan foresaw how the investigations of the postmodern era could evolve into a broader Posthumanism. When referring to Postmodernism, he noted that on a deeper level of its transformations, it still reached for something larger, something beyond, which some characterized as "Posthumanism".

Hassan's contributions to Posthumanism highlighted key aspects, including the ongoing deconstruction of the concept of the human, an openness to explore the possibilities inherent in the "post," and a rejection of dualistic thinking in favour of recognitions of differences rather than assimilations.

By the late 1990s, a distinct perspective on the posthuman transition began to take shape, primarily emerging from the realms of gender studies, cultural studies, and literary criticism. This particular interpretation of the posthuman shift had its roots in feminist reflections.

One pivotal work that introduced what would later be termed "Critical Posthumanism" to mainstream academic discourse was Katherine K. Hayles' book "How We Became Posthuman," published in 1999. Hayles' work carried a critical feminist perspective that significantly contributed to the development of this intellectual movement (Ferrando, 2020, p: 54).

In the years following 2000, Posthumanism evolved into a distinct philosophical inquiry that brought together various fields of thought, including the humanities, sciences, and environmental studies. It's important to recognize that Philosophical Posthumanism is an ongoing and rapidly developing reflection. Rather than being a monolithic movement, it is better understood as a pluralistic approach that encompasses related currents of thought.

As a consequence of these developments, the academic studies previously categorized as "human sciences" or "humanities" may now be seen as transitioning towards a new phase characterized as "post-human sciences" or "posthumanities" (Ferrando, 2020, p: 55).

 

Posthumanism vs. Transhumanism

Transhumanism and Posthumanism indeed emerged as intellectual movements in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and they both focus on similar themes concerning the nature of humanity and its potential evolution. However, it's important to note that they have distinct origins, goals, and perspectives, despite sharing a common recognition of the human condition as non-fixed and mutable.

As discussed earlier, Transhumanism is primarily a techno-optimistic philosophy that centres on the idea of using advanced technologies, particularly biotechnology and artificial intelligence, to enhance human capabilities and transcend the limitations of the human condition. Transhumanists often advocate for interventions like genetic engineering, brain-computer interfaces, and life extension technologies to achieve a post-human state characterized by enhanced physical and cognitive abilities.

Posthumanism, on the other hand, is a broader and more inclusive term encompassing various intellectual currents. It explores the evolving nature of humanity in a broader cultural, philosophical, and ethical context. Posthumanism often critiques the assumptions of humanism, challenges anthropocentrism, and questions traditional boundaries between humans and non-humans. It encompasses diverse perspectives, including those from critical theory, feminism, environmentalism, and more.

While both Transhumanism and Posthumanism acknowledge the fluidity of the human condition, they diverge in their approaches and underlying philosophies. Transhumanism is more technology-focused and seeks to actively enhance and extend human capabilities, while Posthumanism engages with a wider range of philosophical and cultural issues related to the changing nature of humanity.

At this point, we can examine their differences in more detail in sub-categories.

     a) The term “posthuman”

The concepts of "posthuman" and "Posthumanism" can be a source of confusion, particularly because they are shared by both Transhumanism and Posthumanism, and their meanings can vary depending on the context in which they are used.

In Transhumanist literature, the term "posthuman" often refers to the next stage of human evolution, where human capabilities are significantly enhanced or extended through various technologies, including regenerative medicine, radical life extension, mind uploading, and cryonics. Transhumanism envisions a radical transformation of the human condition, where individuals may transcend the limitations of a single biological body, embracing diversity and multiplicity through technology.

In contrast, within Posthumanist literature, the term "posthuman" takes on a different meaning. It signifies a symbolic shift beyond the traditional human-centered worldview, embracing a post-anthropocentric perspective that recognizes the role of technology and the environment, among other factors, in shaping the human experience. Posthumanism is not solely concerned with enhancing human capabilities but with redefining what it means to be human in a broader cultural and philosophical sense.

These distinctions highlight the divergent focuses and goals of Transhumanism and Posthumanism, even though they share some terminology related to the evolving nature of humanity.

      b) Are we presently “posthuman”?

According to Transhumanism, we are not yet posthuman. Instead, we are humans, and some individuals may be considered transhuman as they increasingly merge with technology and view the human condition as an open project that can be redesigned

Transhumanists envision the redesign of the human in various ways. Concepts like "morphological freedom" emphasize the ability to alter bodily form at will through technologies such as surgery, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and mind uploading. This suggests that, from a Transhumanist perspective, the transition to posthumanism is an ongoing process

For example, Natasha Vita-More, a prominent figure in the Transhumanist movement, has been actively involved in designing a posthuman bodies, as she believes that human nature is at a crossroads, with the bonds to our biological past rapidly dissolving.

The Posthumanist perspective on the other hand, focuses more on moving beyond humanism and embracing a post-anthropocentric approach that challenges humanist views. Unlike Transhumanism, Posthumanism encourages to think about the present and past while envisioning the future. It also emphasizes broader societal issues, such as gender and race (Ferrando, 2020, p: 37).

Overall, Transhumanism is oriented towards enhancing and redesigning the human, while Posthumanism is concerned with transcending the human-centric perspective and embracing a more diverse worldview. Whether we are presently posthuman depends on which of these philosophies we adhere to and how we interpret the evolving relationship between humans and technology.

      c) Views on the Enlightenment ideas

The principles of progress and rationality that were central to Enlightenment ideals continue to be embraced by Transhumanism, which claims to take its roots from the Humanist tradition. In this context, Transhumanism takes Humanism to the next level by challenging human limits through the use of science and technology, coupled with critical and creative thinking (Ferrando, 2020, p: 33). Transhumanists adhere to the notion of "reason" as a fundamental aspect of their philosophy. They believe in the power of reason to advance human capabilities and transcend the limitations of the human condition.

Posthumanism criticises this and embraces the consequences of the historical and material deconstruction of the notion of the human (Ferrando, 2020, p: 28). In this context, Posthumanism departs from the universalist rhetoric of humanism, recognizing that humans are inherently diverse, and this diversity is not hierarchical. Pluralism within Posthumanism does not equate to relativism; it means that people can be united in their differences and enriched by their diversity.

Posthumanists also distance themselves from a singular and generalized approach to the human. They reject the idea that one specific type of human can impose their experiences, views, and perspectives as absolute characteristics of the entire human species. This critique challenges the historical assumption that the white, male, Western-centric perspective represents the central position to describe the universal human experience (Ferrando, 2020, p: 45). In this context, Posthumanists align with critical race studies, feminism, and animal studies, among other fields, in highlighting how the emphasis on the human as a rational animal has been historically used as a discursive tool to justify the mistreatment, domination, and enslavement of certain humans and most nonhuman animals (Ferrando, 2020, p. 34). In essence, Posthumanism seeks to challenge and transcend these legacies associated with traditional humanism.

d)           d) Technological Enchantment

Technology plays a central and unifying role within diverse groups of Transhumanist thought. Regardless of the specific school of thought or perspective within Transhumanism, there is a shared deep interest and emphasis on the transformative potential of technology in advancing the human condition. Technology is seen as the primary driving force toward the next stage of human evolution.

As argued previously, Transhumanists view technology as a means to transcend the inherent limitations of human life, including the finitude of life itself. The human body is regarded as an ongoing project with the potential for continual progression through technological interventions. This perspective encompasses ideas such as achieving radical life extension and digital immortality, fundamentally altering the way we perceive and experience life.

One prominent Transhumanist thinker, David Pearce, advocates the "hedonistic imperative." This concept outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology can be harnessed to eliminate suffering in all sentient life. Pearce envisions a future where technology enables the complete abolition of suffering in Homo sapiens, a concept he refers to as "Paradise engineering".

Posthumanists do share the concern of alleviating suffering, and in this context, they can sympathise with David Pearce's efforts to eliminate suffering through technology. However, they approach the idea of humans redesigning the global ecosystem, guided by their perceptions of concepts like "happiness" and "paradise," with caution and criticism. From a Posthumanist perspective, such endeavours can be seen as rooted in a hyperbolic form of humanistic exceptionalism, moral anthropocentrism, and absolutism, which may not be desirable (Ferrando, 2020, p: 35). Posthumanism advocates for a more inclusive and diverse approach that transcend anthropocentrism and recognize the intrinsic value of non-human entities and ecosystems.

Posthumanists also raise concerns about the enchantment with technology, especially within Transhumanist groups. Overall, Posthumanism advocates for a more critical perspective on the role of technology in shaping human experiences and challenges the idea that technology alone can lead to transcendence or salvation. It emphasizes the importance of considering the broader ecological and ethical implications of human actions and technological developments.

In other words, from a Posthumanist perspective, there is room for Transhumanism to benefit from a more substantial critical approach, not only toward the humanist paradigm but also toward the very notion of technology, which is central to the Transhumanist movement (Ferrando, 2020, p. 34).

      e) Transcendence of biology

The Transhumanist emphasis on technology often leads to the view which seeks to transcend the limitations of biology. For instance, figures like Ray Kurzweil, a key figure in the Singularity movement, have proposed ideas that separate the "minds" (often equated with software or digital consciousness) from the "bodies." This perception envisions a future where human existence transcends the perceived limitations of fleshy human bodies (Ferrando, 2020, p. 37-38).

In the Transhumanist discourse, much of the focus is directed toward rethinking the human through technology, with technology assuming an ontologically primary role in the evolution of humanity.

Ray Kurzweil's perspective, as expressed in "The Age of Spiritual Machines," further reinforces this viewpoint. He presents human intelligence as "evolution's grandest creation" and asserts that technology is the next stage of evolution. This viewpoint can be seen as placing technology above other forms of life and attributing a privileged role to human intelligence in shaping the future of the humanity and the planet (Ferrando, 2020, p. 38). Yet, it is important to note that not all Transhumanists adopt a dualistic perspective. Functionalism, which views mental states as functions of the physical body or brain, is widely accepted among Transhumanist groups.

Overall, functionalism is a perspective within philosophy of mind that suggests mental states or cognitive processes are not intrinsically tied to a specific biological substrate but are instead defined by their functions. This view allows for the possibility of preserving mental states and consciousness in non-biological substrates, such as advanced artificial intelligence or digital systems, as long as these systems perform the same functions as the biological brain.

Transhumanists who adhere to functionalism often reject dualism, which suggests a fundamental separation between the mind or consciousness and the physical body. Instead, they emphasize the importance of function over the specific physical material of the substrate. This perspective challenges conventional notions of the self as indivisible and unitary and questions the idea that the self must be contained within a biological body. Transhumanists who follow this view are open to the concept of a fluid continuity of self, which can potentially exist in various forms, whether biological or non-biological (More and Vita-More, 2013, p: 21).

This perspective aligns with the broader Transhumanist goal of transcending biological limitations and exploring the potential for enhancing and extending human consciousness and cognitive abilities through technological means. It is part of a larger discussion within Transhumanism about the nature of identity, consciousness, and the implications of advanced technology for the human experience.

The Posthumanist perspective on the other hand, seeks to re-evaluate the relationship between humans, technology, in a more holistic and interconnected manner. Posthumanism critiques the uncritical perpetuation of anthropocentric and dualistic tendencies, which could lead to biases and delusions that prioritize technology at the expense of a more balanced understanding (Ferrando, 2020, p: 38).

Posthumanism acknowledges that technology is a characteristic of the human experience but does not reduce its theoretical approach to techno-reductionism. It does not view technology as the sole or primary focus of human existence. In contrast to extreme positions that either fear or reject technology, Posthumanism seeks a middle ground. (Ferrando, 2020, p: 39). It does not see technology as an external source that guarantees humanity a place in post-biological futures but rather as an integral part of the human experience.

One concept shared by both Transhumanism and Posthumanism is "technogenesis." This idea suggests that technology is involved in a dynamic process of co-evolution with human development. This view, articulated by Katherine Hayles, recognizes the intricate and mutually influential relationship between humans and technology (Ferrando, 2020, p: 39).

Posthumanism also emphasizes the non-separateness between the human and the technological realm. It investigates this interconnectedness anthropologically and ontologically, drawing from the work of philosophers like Martin Heidegger. This perspective encourages a deeper exploration of how technology shapes and is shaped by human existence without reducing human identity to a mere product of technology

Posthumanists view Transhumanism, with its emphasis on reason, progress, and mastery, as a potential example that aligns with Martin Heidegger's criticism of technology. They believe that Transhumanism's pursuit of mastery over technology may fall into the same category that Heidegger criticized. Posthumanism, on the other hand, seeks to engage with technology in a way that allows for alternative possibilities.

Heidegger's reflection on technology suggests that technology cannot be reduced to mere means or reified as an object to be mastered. This perspective becomes particularly relevant in the contemporary context of concerns about the potential dominance of artificial intelligence and technological beings. The fear of AI takeover, where technology becomes dominant and replaces human control, is a topic of discussion today.

Heidegger's insights add a different layer of understanding to this discussion, as he argued that the will to mastery becomes more urgent precisely when technology threatens to slip from human control. This implies that the pursuit of mastery over technology might exacerbate the very issues it seeks to address, and that alternative ways of engaging with technology should be considered.

Overall, Posthumanism draws on Heidegger's critique of technology to highlight the importance of critically evaluating our relationship with technology and exploring different approaches that go beyond the narrow pursuit of mastery. This perspective encourages a more critical consideration of the implications of advanced technology, including AI, on the human experience, considering the complex relationship between humans, technology, and the broader natural world.

 

Conclusion

Whether the future is posthuman is a complex question, and the answer depends on the philosophical perspective one adopts. In this paper, we examined distinct visions of the human future presented by Transhumanism and Posthumanism. We also focused on their differences and how they use the term posthuman.

Transhumanism, rooted in Enlightenment ideals and the embrace of reason and progress, envisions a future where human capabilities are significantly enhanced and extended through advanced technologies. For Transhumanists, the future is posthuman in the sense that humans will use technology to transcend the limitations of their current biological condition. This includes radical life extension, enhancements, and the potential for fundamentally altering how we perceive and experience life. In this view, the future represents a radical transformation of the human condition, where individuals may transcend traditional boundaries and embrace diversity and multiplicity through technology.

Posthumanism, on the other hand, challenges the conventional humanist tradition, critiquing anthropocentrism and calling into question the hierarchical constructs upon which humanism was built. In this perspective, the future is not solely about enhancing human capabilities through technology but is a broader cultural, philosophical, and ethical re-evaluation of the concept of humanity.

In conclusion, the question of whether the future is posthuman is inherently tied to one's philosophical stance. Transhumanism envisions a future where the human experience is radically transformed and enhanced through technology, while Posthumanism emphasizes a more interconnected understanding of the human condition, beyond just technological enhancements. The future's posthuman nature, therefore, depends on the extent to which society embraces different philosophical perspectives as well as how it responds to technological developments. How these developments affect our future invites continued debate and exploration as our relationship with technology and our understanding of humanity continue to evolve.

 

References:

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