Transhumanism is a philosophical belief which states that human limitations can be surpassed through adaptation and alteration using modern technologies. Transhumanists believe that the humans we are today are not the peak of evolution, rather we are an early stage in it.
The main thesis of Transhumanism is that eventually, humans will be able to enhance their physical and psychological abilities to match those of the ideal “posthuman”. Transhumanist thinkers study the dangers and benefits that may come with new technologies. They are influenced by works of modern science fiction and come from all sorts of different backgrounds.
The roots of this movement’s contemporary form can be found way back in the 60s. Where FM-2030, also known as Fereidoun M. Esfandiary. He was a Belgian born Iranian-American. He became a full-fledged transhumanist in 1970. When he changed his name to FM-2030, stating that he was launched a century too early and that this name was a representation of him casting aside the social constructs such as name and gender.
It also represented his belief that he will live to be a hundred years old and that by then he will be immortal as technology would advance to that point. Unfortunately, he died on the 8th of July 2000. At the age of 69. His legacy lives on, as his book, published in 1989, became a sort of manifest of the Transhumanist idea.
The precursors to transhumanism come from a time far gone. The first transhumanistic thought is believed to be found in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and his search for the Elixir of Immortality. Similar ideas were found later in myths of the fountain of youth and similar ways of avoiding death.
It is debated whether Friedrich Nietzsche can be considered an influence on the development of the Transhumanist idea, even though his work “Übermensch” (overman) was exalted because it focused on self-actualization rather than altering one’s self through science. In the late 19th to early 20th century, some ideas from Russian Cosmism are added to the core of Transhumanism.
The first ideas of early transhumanism erupted in 1923. In the essay “Daedalus: Science and the Future” written by J.B.S. Haldane. He predicted that the most important scientific developments would be achieved by applying advanced sciences to human biology, even though he realized such a practice would be considered vile and perverse.
In particular, he was interested in applying knowledge of genetics to make the average human more intelligent and healthy. The academic world was sent into turmoil by this one piece of literature. A crystallographer on Cambridge, J.D. Bernal was inspired to write “The World: The Flesh and The Devil”. It dealt with similar themes as the work of Haldane, but it focused mostly on space colonization through technological application to the human body. Julian Huxley is the man responsible for founding
Transhumanism as a movement, even though the term was used seventeen years before, in 1940 by W.D. Lightfall. Huxley regarded the human race to be ugly as it is plagued by misery. He says that technology is what will allow humans to evolve, not sporadically, but as a species.
Since the 1980s however, his definition of the movement was replaced, as the influence of science fiction writers began to grow since the 60s. Arthur C. Clarke subverted the idea in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Noboru Kawazoe suggests that humankind acts like a singular organism and by the use of technology we can encourage the metabolic development of our society. He believes that in the near future individual consciousness will disappear, and only humanity as a whole will remain.
As this movement progressed artificial intelligence started to spark people’s interests. Some perceived it as a bad thing, as AI could evolve to the point where it could make even smarter machines. This is called a technological singularity and it suggests that a supermachine is the last thing man would need to invent. Others, however, believed it to be just another way to evolve as the more radical Transhumanists believe that the end goal is the complete automatization of thought.
You can learn more about this movement through many different mediums. There are plenty of writers which have a great book with both belletristic and philosophical values. Certain movies, such as “The Matrix” entertain the idea of one of the end goals of Transhumanism, the complete integration of humanity into a transcendent computer-like system which allows no escape from order and the norm.
For those that seek more engagement, there are plenty of video games which will challenge you both mechanically and philosophically. These games offer an interesting story, a new view of the world and a different perception on right and wrong. They give a pretty good insight into the mind of a Transhumanist.