Transhumanism

Transhumanism has been slipping into my heart over the past month. I’m enamoured with the promises of improved physical, mental and spiritual capacities, even though I do still hold skepticism for the movement, especially the proposed timelines.

So what is Transhumanism, anyway?

Transhumanism (sometimes abbreviated >H or H+) is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as disease, aging, and death. Transhumanist thinkers study the possibilities and consequences of developing and using human enhancement techniques and other emerging technologies for these purposes.
Wikipedia

Human enhancement is here now, and growing stronger. Already some of us are reshaping our bodies, both to maintain health and extend it. Neuro Pacemakers may soon help people suffering from severe depression and biosensors are monitoring patients after operations and could be internalized. Practical body modifications outside of the medical field, called body hacking, are emerging right now, with people already experimenting with magnetic vision, tooth implant audio, and other practical enhancements.

But you and I are likely already married to technology in an irreversible way. The internet is pervasive in our lives, we rely on our cellphones, our music players come with us, and older technologies provide our food, shelter, clothing, transportation, health and everything we take for granted. Much of transhumanism is a refinement of how we use technology. It is to become even more natural, more beneficial, more elegant and more beautiful.

One of my favourite visions of our future is at Human Upgrades, a mock site for a medical centre that offers upgrades of the sort many transhumanists (and myself) long for. The Simple Ear is purely sexy, no? I was seduced by it back in ’05.

Spirituality also can be enhanced through technology. Neurotheology has discovered many of the ways our brains physically house spiritual experiences (neurologically, an apple and godhead are both experienced as real), and this understanding is allowing neuromystics to more easily explore states thought of as spiritual. We will be able to experience exalted states normally reserved for dedicated mystics with the press of a button, opening ourselves to a more spiritual life. Already I am using binaural beats to safely enter into altered states of consciousness at least weekly. A specially made audio track is all I need to entrain my brain into states similar to those we only know in lucid dreaming, deep meditation or dreamless sleep. This is a valuable companion to meditation that has enhanced my spiritual practice significantly, and this is just the modest beginning of this technology to deepen our experience of the divine.

Not all proposals are so light. Genetic modification of our children will soon be possible and the debate over what is ethical in this field is complex. We must start to question how much we should enhance those too young to choose. “Homo Futurus: How radically should we remake ourselves – or our children?” is an example of the attention being given to this. And beyond that, we must reshape our cultures to embrace longer lives or immortality, which will have tremendous impact on every aspect of our lives and the well being of the world.

Some emerging worldviews, such as Conscious Evolution, are preparing us to live in a world where we set the pace of and decide the face of evolution. C4Chaos has proposed H++, a Transhumanism rooted in integral theory. Unlike the apparant mainstream of Transhumanism, these visions include spiritual, developmental and cultural considerations that are vital to a comprehensive stance. Only an integral approach, I believe, is adequate to respond to the increasingly complex dynamic we are entering into.

Technological and other advancements will perpetually unfold, giving us new tools that can allow us to increase our cognition, caring, beauty, and aptitude in all areas of life. Why would we choose not to benefit ourselves and others when we can safely do so? Transhumanism presents possibilities that could transform our world into a more radiant place, if we can rise to the occasion. There are real dangers, however, if we still hold pathologies and are not acting from ever higher altitudes.

Technology must be guided by cognitive, moral and other altitudes that are high enough to prevent catastrophy. In light of this, it is becoming ever more vital to our survival that we emerge into integral and higher stages. Anything else would be blind to dangers and most likely lead to our undoing.

There is no viable way to slow advancement without harming ourselves, so we must move forward with care, with great love and with an eye to the emerging potential that can help bring us into lives of more grace. We can direct our futures so they will be more Good, more Beautiful and more True, and we must step into that responsibility. Ken Wilber has imagined one future world that is worth becoming devoted to realizing, and I want to share it as a closing.

[A] truly enlightened future, in my opinion, would be one in which the center of gravity of the culture is at violet or higher, and states of consciousness are navigated at will, which would almost certainly be accompanied by brain/computer interfacing. Virtually all material wants will have been vanquished by nanotech (I’m with Ray Kurzweil on that), and the environmental crisis is long ended. The main concern for such a society is how to help individuals move up the great spiral of development and spectrum of consciousness because all exterior goods and needs have long ago been met.

Then, the extraordinary states and stages available today only to those who work incredibly hard (via meditation, therapy, yoga, etc.) will be commonplace to all. The very Ground of All Being will be as obvious as one’s original face, as vast Emptiness announces both Freedom and Fullness for all souls, an ecstatic release and quiet riot of spiritual radiance drenching each and all, as eternity falls in love with the productions of time all over again, so that looking deep within, one can find only the entire Kosmos, with galaxies swirling where you thought your heart was and supernovas exploding in the middle of what used to be your mind, and spirit itself as simple and obvious as the sound of the rainfall on what is left of the old and forlorn world, long gone in time, never found in space, this simple and ever-present feeling of Being, now and now and endlessly now.
Ken Wilber, via “Ken Wilber is a Transhumanist Borg

Lately I’ve had two primary sources of Transhumanist infusions; C4Chaos just wrapped up a Transhumanism Week and I’ve been faithfully reading Sentient Developments. Integral Options Cafe has also been pointing out some great transhumanist content. The art thumbed and linked to is via ~cyber-arts, ~whmurai and ~Onigoroshi on DeviantArt.I do owe the greatest debt to C4Chaos, as much of what I have recently learned in this field and shared here has been through his recent spree of blog posts.

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