I got about six minutes into a documentary about transhumanism, Technocalpys, before stopping.
I'll probably be posting, soon, about how we have a bias towards technologies that are expensive, hard, fast and energetic and how this limits our understanding of technology, but this was definitely on my mind when watching, y'know, the first six minutes of the Technocalpys.
What really lost me is that some talking head was saying that humans are beginning to cheat nature's limitations. Which . . . is very much baffling to me because humans have been reshaping themselves for thousands of years. Pretty much the first time a person decided that they didn't want the body that nature and their own unconsidered habits gave them – the first time a human set about exercise – the decision was made to transform us from the coincidence of our genetic inheritance and circumstance into something different. Likewise, the first time a human set out to consciously discover something, they started the process of education which created a vastly different kind of person. To a paleolithic human, we are transhuman.
Sure, compared to the future, the ttechniques humans use to improve themselves will be considered crude. Much in the same way an abacus is crude compared to a laptop. But the continuum is there – the ancient Greeks invented progressive weight training, a conscious way to develop and improve physical strength. They decided to be more than nature made them, to be stronger, to be better, shaped by their own conscious desires. To me, that's the pivot upon which transhumanism moves and it started moving long ago.
The bias is, as I hinted above, primarily the bias we have for technologies that are expensive, hard, fast and energetic. For instance, I believe that steroids and human growth hormones intermediary between simply progressive exercise and cybernetic or genetic manipulation for improved strength. If you take steroids intelligently, you become slightly superhuman. If you take them intelligently combined with progressive exercise techniques, you might as well be superhuman. Seriously, take a look at the abilities of professional athletes and the way their abilities tend to increase over time. Much of that improvement is due to various performance enhancing drugs. Compared to the athletes of yesteryear, modern athletes are slightly superhuman.
But, y'know, that's cheap. It is also hard on a personal level. I suppose that we also tend to approve of technologies that make things easier for us. I'm sure the first robot bodies won't actually be better than the bodies of elite athletes – the primary difference will be that to be an elite athlete takes an awful lot of work whereas, in people's minds, having your consciousness transferred to a robot will be relatively quick and painless.
At any rate, when I realized that the documentary was going to be so tone deaf as to make no connection between historical and present efforts to reshape our bodies and minds past their natural states, I realized that it had nothing to teach me or, I think, too much interesting to say.
They also used a lot of Burning Man imagery and I've never met anyone who's gone to Burning Man who is capable of seriously talking about futurism. Just sayin'.