We have pretty well finished the geographical exploration of the earth; we have pushed the scientific exploration of nature, both lifeless and living, to a point at which its main outlines have become clear; but the exploration of human nature and its possibilities has scarcely begun. A vast New World of uncharted possibilities awaits its Columbus. – Julian Huxley
There is no way to stop the forward march of technology. The technological boom of recent years has created incredible phenomena that even a few decades ago we did not dare to dream about. Computers have assumed the functions of libraries, pencils, palettes, and musical instruments; they manufacture goods, play games, and simulate human beings. Once giant structures that filled several rooms, they are now smaller than credit cards.
The next inevitable step will be the penetration of technology into the human body – along with the vast consequences of same. Even today’s simple joint prosthesis is actually a milestone of great technological progress, joining state-of-the-art technology with first-rate surgical science. “Smart” implants will be the next step and, given the accelerating development of technology in the field of artificial intelligence, it is only matter of time before machines descend deeper into our bodies, finally becoming inseparable parts of us. It is only a small leap from the correction of handicaps and the curing of illnesses to the expanding of human abilities. Indeed, who wouldn’t like to be healthier, more intelligent, or more beautiful? Who wouldn’t like to substantially expand his or her lifespan?
The scientific/philosophical trend that focuses on the technological expansion of human abilities is known as transhumanism. Its ultimate end point is to turn man into a “posthuman,” a creature that would be the nexus of human biology and hi-tech inventions. Transhumanists have various visions and goals. Some look toward the extermination of illnesses, the creative manipulation of our genetic code, and the use of advanced implants that would expand human abilities. Other dream about the end of the “tyranny of human body” and seek to upload our minds to cyberspace and transform humanity into conscious, thinking software. On the road to these goals lie other necessary developments such as a deeper understanding of the human brain and the creation of machines that will likely be more fantastic than the wildest dreams of classic sci-fi authors.
As for transhumanists themselves, they belong to a wide range of types, from the scientists, philosophers and university professors who take a leadership role in the “movement” to artists, writers, and game designers who simply take inspiration from the idea, to severely handicapped or ill people who consider their bodies a curse rather than a temple. Regardless of their origins and leanings, transhumanists see their visions not as fairytales of an ideal future, but rather as an inevitable reality. Such is the speed of today’s technological progress that even this generation may be the witness to the advent of this brave new world. Perhaps it already has been.