Transhumanism (H+), has made some progress recently. Well, at least progress in creating careers, generating PhD theses, raising money and generally attempting to become mainstream. Indeed, I would not be surprised if as much as 1% of the educated population have heard of it. However, a price has to be paid and it seems to be that of giving up H+ and even in some cases appearing to oppose its traditional goals. The techniques of doing so involve a weird kind of cognitive dissonance.
On one hand all the grand visions of artificial intelligence, uploading, raising the dead, re-engineering the cosmos and creating new species of PostHumans are being downplayed as somewhat embarrassing fantasies. Even the term “Transhumanism” is being dropped while at the same time those doing the dropping appear to want to exert a stranglehold on how it is defined. On the other, the big money spinner seems to be playing up the dangers and offering to protect the public from us crazies. Meanwhile, the attitude is one of “responsible” commentary which is shorthand for not rocking the boat and upsetting the gravy train, to mix metaphors. Those who do are castigated for every crime one can imagine, especially if the subject touches upon taboo mixes of H+ and non-mainstream politics, religion, sex, drugs and maybe even rock’n’roll (well, I exaggerate the latter…).
There is also disdain for muddying the pure waters of H+ by “dumbing it down” and attempting to seek an audience that is wider than the existing H+ community (an oxymoron). It seems nobody should have an opinion on anything unless it is rubber stamped by one of the “traditional” orgs as well as the author having a PhD in an approved subject. The fear seems to be that H+ is being adopted by politically incorrect “extremists” who might frighten normal people, or rather, wealthy normal people aka “cash cows”. We also have a kind of censorship-by-pressure where prominent members of dissenting organizations (e.g. Zero State) are taken aside for a “quiet word” (and occasionally not so quiet) and told to reign in the crazies. At least it is better than in the past, where there were only a couple of big organizations and all they had to do was kick someone off their mailing list in order to shut them up for breaking the unwritten rules.
Well here is the good, or bad, news. It’s not going to happen. The crazies are loose and are not going back into their cages. Transhumanism is not going to stay defined by the old WTA or ExI documents. Indeed, there is considerable opposition in some quarters to the definition of the name itself as meaning “Transitional Humanism”. There is nothing inherently H+ about Humanism as a philosophy – it’s the tech that matters. I rather like “Transcending Humanity” as an alternative. It’s memetic warfare and may Darwin be the referee. We want to move H+ into every niche of Human society as well as the mainstream, and the easiest and most responsive sectors are always the extremists, because they are the people who actually want to change the world. But it’s going to be our Transhumanism that expands. Not the “ethical” politically correct, watered down, apologetic, suit and tie, version now on sale for $$$.
And we have one final word on the matter – The future of Transhumanism is not Transhumanists.