Up@dawn 2.0

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Transhumanism Today (Part II) by DEVIN ATKINS

     Quite a lot of what was once science fiction has become a reality today. In many

ways much of this new technology has quietly become a natural part of us and our

society. Artificial organs and implants were once considered horror, however today

pacemakers and fake hips are common among nice grandparents. We saw a man with

no feet run in the Olympics, and he was considered a hero.

     The alterations do not stop at the physical though. Mental augmentations have

become commonplace with anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and attention improving

drugs. There is some debate with over-prescription of these drugs, however I doubt that

many in the medical field would want to get rid of them completely. Simple and cheap

anti-depressants have given hope to millions to move past a rough point in their lives,

and often allow them to continue with therapy until the drug is no longer needed. Anti-

psychotics have allowed people that would have previously been locked away in near

prison-like institutions to function as normal human beings.

     Not all of these advancements are simply to bring up the less fortunate to a more

“natural” stage though; sometimes we alter average in an attempt to go beyond.

Cosmetic surgeries are becoming increasingly common, to where we can’t always tell -

but always assume – that our favorite Hollywood actors have had some work done to be

so unnaturally attractive. And not just rich actors get cosmetic alterations: how many

braces did you see on kids in gradeschool? Exoskeletons are starting to see some use in

the medical field to make nurses strong enough to safely move patients, well beyond

what the average human can easily lift.

     All of these are some more clearcut examples of transhumanism in our lives

today. It’s how we use technology to move beyond what nature “intended” for us, and

allow us to forge our own path. Many of these people would have been wiped out in the

animalistic world of natural selection. Today however we have moved beyond it. We

advance our knowledge to bring up all of humanity as a whole, improving even those

who centuries ago would have been outcasts to move beyond what was thought humanly

possible. And that is exactly what transhumanism is: humanity transforming itself to

become more than human, and go beyond what was possible into the fantastic.

     Here is an interesting TED talk with Aimee Mullins. The entire video is quite

interesting; I highly recommend you watch it all (less than 10 minutes). She is a double

amputee, missing the lower part of both of her legs. However she does not consider

herself handicapped. Because of technology, she actually has many advantages the rest

of us don’t, such as being able to easily alter her height depending on the occasion (to

which her friend responded “it’s not fair!” with jealousy). Another subtle yet key point

she makes is moving beyond simply emulating natural human legs into other forms of



     When we talk about human alterations, it seems scary, but when viewed with

someone that has already lost a part of their body, it’s much easier to see how moving

past baseline human bodies does not need to be feared, but is only reaching our

potential. Often in Western fiction, cyborgs and the like are seen as having lost some

aspect of their humanity, as being less than human. However when we look at a

“handicapped” individual, someone missing a leg or an arm, we do not see them as less

than human. They are not missing a soul or what-have-you. They are people, just like

everyone else. Our bodies may be human, but they do not make us people. Our

personhood is something else entirely. And so when we see someone like Aimee Mullins

filling in an empty spot with something non-human, it’s easier for us to see how that

doesn’t make her less of a person. It allows us to see how in the future, the same may

apply to us.


Click here for Blog Post I


  1. "pacemakers and fake hips are common among nice grandparents" - not being nice disqualifies candidates?

    More impressively beautiful than altering leg size is sheer perseverance in the face of literally crippling adversity. Pershonhood is much more a quality of character than of the provenance of our "parts" - let us dare to expand our characters!

    1. Haha, "nice grandparents" was meant to be a contrast to "horror." I'm sure there are even people that never had children with pacemakers. Good joke though, you did make me chuckle.

      I thought that was a brilliant TED talk, one of my favorites, and it compliments this post well I think by helping me approach some aspects of transhumanism from a different angle.

  2. I never understood what transhumanism was fully until now and I see what you mean Devin. We are definitely going above and beyond to make improvements and give capabilities to people who were unfortunate not to recive them.