What is the Good of Transhumanism?

Broadly speaking, transhumanism is a movement seeking to advance the cause of post-humanity. It advocates using science and technology for a reconstruction of the human condition sufficiently radical to call into question the appropriateness of calling it “human” anymore. While there is not universal agreement among transhumanists as to the best path to this goal, the general outline is clear enough. Advances in genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology will make possible the achievement of the Baconian vision of “the relief of man’s estate,” as they allow us to conquer disease, eliminate unhappiness, end scarcity and postpone, perhaps indefinitely, death itself. But fulfilling such long-standing dreams is only the beginning of what our new powers will make possible. Left to itself, the present trajectory of technological development necessarily aims at a future incomprehensible to beings such as we are – at no distant date an evolutionary leap in the way intelligence is embodied, and what it can accomplish. Transhumanism seeks to make sure no atavistic scruple obstructs this momentum, and to maximize its benefits and minimize its admitted risks. While there is no lack of illuminating print works advocating transhumanism, that its public face should be on the World Wide Web is as much a matter of course as once would have been the use by similar movements of the printed broadside or the public lecture. On the websites of the World Transhumanist Association (www. transhumanism.org) and the Extropy Institute (www.extropy. org) – premier among transhumanism’s many organizations – one finds authoritative statements explaining and justifying the transhumanist project. If transhumanism were primarily an academic school or a professional association, it would not be entirely fair to turn to these admittedly popular presentations for a critical look at the transhumanist vision. But as these are the documents by which transhumanism presents itself to the public as a movement, and through which it hopes to gain adherents, it is legitimate to make....
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