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The coming of transhumanism

Doctors have used technology to repair or improve human bodies for decades, and this has been uncontroversial. However, soon the technology will be available to be stronger, to better resist illnesses, and to live longer.

Real vs. fiction: Technology has been used to overcome or improve malfunctions of the human body for decades. How far should we go? (Image credit: National Deaf Children’s Society, UK, and “Seven of Nine” character in Star Trek)

This voluntary transhumanism is different – and it will become controversial. Should we do everything that we technically could? Is it right? Will it be only for the rich? Are we playing god? These are questions that we need to start exploring.

Rena Seiler recently tackled the topic in a paper entitled “Transhumanism – the vision of the technological evolution of humans” at the Institute for Digital Business of HWZ University Zurich. You can read the English version here, or her original article in German here.

Rena argues that this technology is being developed no matter what and that we as a society must seize the opportunity of the early stage to discuss the use of transhumanism. Otherwise, there is a risk that the technology will be exploited for selfish personal and strictly commercial reasons, which will exclude many from the benefits they might enjoy. She proposes that there should be a broader discussion of the topic and that this will require a dedicated effort to educate ourselves about the multiple areas touched by the applications. Another way is inclusion in educational programs. The objective should be to reap the most benefits from the ethical, social, and transparent use of transhuman technologies.

Real vs. real: Once a technology exists, what applications of it are acceptable and which ones are not? (Image credit: The Roslin Institute and NPR/Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

“It is a very complex topic to comprehend, which is the basis needed to form an opinion in the first place,”  says the author. “The complexity of transhumanism stems from the fact that it touches many areas, is developing in a highly dynamic fashion, and from the fact that you need expertise in the topic to understand it.”

She sees the reason for our current inability to deal with transhumanism in the different levels of information among society at large on the one side and the few who form an affluent technological elite on the other. The complexity of the topic comes from the many areas it touches: Medicine for healing and enhancing performance and potentially prolonging life, politics to regulate and ensure access for everybody, the media, and education because of the new jobs it creates. Among other approaches, Rena proposes the inclusion of transhumanism in technical, ethical, and sociological educational programs.

We’ll have to figure out transhumanism’s implications and determine where we want to set its boundaries. What do you think about this topic? I’d love to hear from you. Write to me at

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