Transhumanism and Enhancement


Humans have always sought to elevate the conditions of their existence. While ancient writers noted limited human contact with the divine, transhumanists believe that crossing from our ontological status to a higher plane is possible, even inevitable, through human technological ingenuity. Given their content and implications, further scrutiny of transhumanists' views is essential. Areas that should be addressed include transhumanists' own essentialism, the implications of existing brain science for transhumanists' more extravagant claims, and their constricted notions of knowledge and education. Further, not only would posthuman existence not be ours, but exuberant visions of that existence do not adequately heed the irreducible context in which humans pursue desires' fulfillment. Finally, when defending their positions, transhumanists must attend further to potentially grave risks, which, even where acknowledged, are downplayed.

Key Concepts:

  • Notwithstanding key differences, conservatives and transhumanists concur on significant points.

  • While proponents of strong enhancement challenge conservatives' views of human nature, they too are essentialists.

  • Transhumanists aim to shift humans' ontological status to a plane on which posthumans would be like the divine on two different ancient views.

  • Since posthuman existence could not be ours, questions of personal identity involving that stage are moot.

  • Current knowledge of the brain does not support extravagant claims about biotechnological boosts, whether cognitive or moral, and uploads.

  • Transhumanists' constricted views of human knowledge and education would extend to posthumans.

  • Our categorical incapacity to meaningfully anticipate what posthuman existence would be like deeply impacts the tenability of transhumanists' claims.

  • Even where transhumanists acknowledge the existence, even likelihood, of serious risks, they do not adequately attend to them.

Keywords: human nature; posthuman; biotechnology; artificial intelligence; knowledge; education; aspiration; information systems; genetics; neuroscience


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Levin, Susan B(Oct 2014) Transhumanism and Enhancement. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024136]