I wrote this piece a while ago for a website I was going to be a part of. Well, that never happened, but I’d still like to share it with someone.
Trans-humanism is a movement that rejects the commonly-held belief that the definition of “human being” is static (transhumanism.org). In other words, trans-humanists don’t believe we have to limit our physical and mental capabilities to that of natural biology. They want to expand on our human abilities using technology to enhance our existence. Such technologies include: cryonics, cybernetics, virtual reality, and other futuristic means of self-preservation (acceleratingfuture.com). There are many people that strongly disagree with such modifications to the human condition. The loudest argument is mostly from individuals who believe technology can be used in ways that would lead to unintended consequences, such as population control. Implanted microchips might be accessible by more than just the owner of the chip, which would have a devastating result on personal freedoms (rense.com).
As an alternative to a traditional trans-humanist philosophy, I am proposing one which requires no technology at all. This may sound nothing like trans-humanism, but it is. It may be possible to ascend beyond our physical bodies without even leaving it at all through the evolutionary acquisition of another sense.
Our species is quickly reaching a point where we will no longer be able to sustain our own technological advancement. To cope, it is assumed that we will create an artificial intelligence that can improve upon itself, and ultimately, do our thinking for us (mindstalk.net). This “event” will not be due to lack of natural, financial, or creative resources (though those things may hinder progress), but rather, because the human brain will not have the capacity to understand the most complex mathematical and scientific calculations necessary to make sense of our universe. As thinking individuals, this may seem very disturbing. But evolution has taught us, if nothing else, that it is possible for creatures (including humans) to adapt to their situations.
While evolution tends to be a very slow process, there are scientific studies indicating that our brains are changing quickly based on the new ways we are using them (dailymail.co.uk). The brain is a highly adaptive organ. Because of this, it can be assumed that eventually, when repeatedly faced with the inability to think in the deeply abstract terms that emerging physics demands, it will create a totally new method of experiencing the universe. It will improve upon itself in such a way that will be immediately beneficial to humanity.
The technological singularity should not be feared. We do not need to be so impatient that we insist on having a direct hand in our own evolutionary process. Doing so would lead to catastrophic consequences, as it usually does when we try to control things we do not understand. So rather than focusing on how to create an artificial intelligence to develop powerful technology for us, we should train our minds to evolve on it’s own. This is not a difficult task. Just like your muscles, if you don’t use your mind, it becomes flabby. If our minds are only being used for passive entertainment, there are no new neural connections being made, and therefore, our evolution stagnates. We can’t rely on a small handful of people to perform the most complex thought processes, we have to collectively try to challenge the limits of the human brain. We should discipline ourselves to balance our entertainment and education.
As you can see, the single most valuable object in this philosophy is the human brain. That, however, does not mean we should ignore all other aspects of philosophy that are currently of value. As mentioned earlier, balance is a particularly important aspect of a practical philosophy. One cannot sit at home reading all day without exercising once in a while. A healthy body is a healthy mind.
In addition, instead of completely dismissing technology, we should value it as a stepping stone rather than an end of itself. We can compensate for the negative effects it has on our brains (for example: lack of attention) with discipline and practice. Nothing of value ever comes easy. There is no quick fix for our shortcomings. It is not necessary to be passive with nature and expect our problems to be solved eventually, but we should stop thinking we can continually modify our bodies until we reach a level of perfection it would take nature millions of years to achieve. Not only is it unethical, but it is also highly impractical. Technology is neither the enemy nor the savior. It is simply a manifestation of the combined creativity of humanity.
Creativity and education seem to be extremely devalued in current Western culture, even though it is evident that a healthy society must have ample doses of both. Of course, there are those who independently pursue their own intellectual goals, but a majority of individuals would rather find ways to mindlessly entertain themselves. Whether by design or as an unintended side-effect of progress, it is important for the continued existence of humanity that we learn to balance learning with earning a living and enjoying our lives. In fact, thinking creatively is not always such an unpleasant endeavor. Creating something, even just a drawing or short story, can be immensely satisfying.