Transhumanism: Looking to Improve Human Capacities

According to transhumanism, in only a few years, the "homo excelsior" will make an appearance. It refers to a genetically enhanced post-human species with great physical and intellectual capabilities.
Transhumanism: Looking to Improve Human Capacities
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Even though the transhumanist movement seems like a utopia, it’s safe to say that it isn’t. In case you didn’t know, it’s happening right now. We refer to applying new technologies and the most sophisticated scientific advances to enhance human capabilities. In this way, not only would it be possible to give an end to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, but also to shape an unnatural evolutionary leap.

What many call posthumanism or technogenesis is here to stay. Remember the presentation that Elon Musk made just a few months ago of his company Neuralink? It was aimed at developing interfaces that allow connecting the human brain to a computer. The cyborg world is a scientific and philosophical project that’s been in the works for plenty of years now.

Although the data may be surprising, technologically-improved people are all around already. One example of this is scientist, engineer, and professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, Kevin Warwick. He himself implanted a chip to connect his nervous system to a computer. His goal was to see if it was possible to gain knowledge to develop a cybernetic arm in people in need of one.

Also, artist Neil Harbison, who suffered from achromatopsia (inability to perceive colors) now lives with a chip in his skull. This chip allows him to “hear” the electromagnetic energy of colors. In other words, he now shows a type of synesthesia with which sounds are transformed into colors. Undoubtedly, this has allowed him to identify himself as one of the most avant-garde artists of the moment.

It’s terrifying and fascinating at the same time. The cyborg world is here to stay!

What does transhumanism refer to?

Transhumanism is a socio-political, intellectual, philosophical, and scientific movement that advocates using technology to “improve” the human being. Such improvement, this desire to optimize human capabilities to unsuspected limits, would give way to posthumans. This is a scary idea that keeps getting more and more popular. In fact, symposia, conferences, and studies on this topic are on the rise.

In this way, studies such as the one conducted by Allen Porter, Ph.D. of Texas Rice University points out something interesting. Basically, it’s of great importance that bioethics committees start analyzing, debating, and reflecting on this unstoppable reality. To this day, we see a clear antagonist between two groups of people: technoprogressive individuals (those who defend the validity of transhumanism) and bioconservatives (those who resist this transformation).

Let’s delve deeper.

Neil Harbisson.

Technoprogressive individuals and their need for technogenesis

Transhumanists focus on (and encourage) the use of two types of technologies. First, genetic engineering, and, secondly, brain-machine interfaces. This movement has been advancing and developing for decades thanks to the support of large companies, as well as the socio-political impulse.

  • Areas such as biogenetics, nanotechnology, cognitive sciences, robotics, and artificial intelligence have one goal: improving the physical, cognitive, sensory, and even emotional capacities of human beings.
  • Neurorobotics has been developing innovative mechanisms based on technology for years to rehabilitate or relieve the deficiencies that people with disabilities tend to suffer from.
  • In 1948, William Gray Walter, neurologist, and father of robotics, created his machina speculatrix, the first robot prototype. Since then, the advances have been unstoppable.
  • Likewise, this field is also working on the design of new drugs capable of controlling neurotransmitters with absolute precision. This, of course, would make it easier to modulate emotions. This would give way to eradicate the impact of mood disorders and trauma, among others.
  • Technoprogressive individuals appeal to Nietzsche’s postmodern philosophy to advocate for the development of a technologically-enhanced superhuman.

Homo excelsior and Sato in our evolution

So far, the evolution of the human being or hominization has followed the patterns of that slow, progressive, and natural biological progress of the species. In short, according to transhumanism, we’re the ones who can assume control and give way to homo excelsior.

  • According to a study by Dr. Fernando Llano of the University of Seville, this evolutionary leap from homo sapiens to homo excelsior happens by integrating different aspects. The first is that this new form of human beings may dominate the future.
  • The second urges us to reflect on what this entails. Genetic engineering would make it possible to fight and avoid deadly diseases.
  • The human being would improve in the sense that it could enjoy better health, live longer, and even stop aging.
  • According to transhumanism, the human being would more virtuous and overall happier.
A woman surrounded by green numbers.

Bioethical implications of transhumanism

The greatest exponent of this movement is Nick Bostrom, Professor at the University of Oxford and President of the World Transhumanist Association. According to him, this evolutionary leap controlled by man is inevitable. Several pieces of work are already on their way. For example, the creation of super-intelligent machines that’ll combine an organic part of the human being with artificial intelligence.

Likewise, this movement is also looking to give way to the resuscitation of patients in cryogenic suspension. All this implies entering into bioethical implications that have yet to be addressed in depth.

For example, many criticize the idea that human beings will be happier just because they have better capacities, live longer, or avoid diseases. In what way does this guarantee that people will be happier?

Moreover, there are other questionable aspects. For example, embryonic selection, the unanalyzed problems about nanotechnology applied to the brain, or how people will have absolute control of their emotions. Without a doubt, it’s also important to think about what will happen in the mind of the person who’s resurrected after having been cryogenized after death.

All this information opens up a deep and interesting but rather useless debate. The advancement of science and technology is unstoppable. There’s just no other way around it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.