"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer.
What is Transhumanism?
Transhumanism is a social and intellectual movement based on the principle that human life can be radically improved by technology. These advances represent an overcoming of the limits traditionally imposed by our shared human nature. Our mental and physical capacities are limited by our brain and our body, but they can be quickly transcended due to technological progress.
This fundamental idea is both one of the greatest hopes for the future of humanity, as well as a great source of risk if we make mistakes while applying such technologies. In this article, we will examine the great hopes that transhumanism can provide for all of humanity. In a later article, we will examine its potential risks.
Many transhumanists argue that transhumanism has three fundamental pillars: Superintelligence, Superlongevity, and Superhappiness. We will examine each of these pillars in order.
The intelligence of machines already surpasses us by far in specific domains, such as in mathematical operations, restricted games such as chess or Go, detecting diseases, driving vehicles (cars, trucks, boats, planes, etc.), facial recognition, translation between hundreds of languages, navigating traffic (GPS) or carrying out repetitive tasks. This is called Weak Artificial Intelligence, as it is limited to specific domains in terms of applicability. They are mechanical and simple tasks, which can be carried out by an algorithm (a sequence of steps that is always the same), since computers outperform us by several orders of magnitude in terms of processing power. That is, if a human being can perform a mathematical operation in 10 seconds, a machine can perform multiple mathematical operations in thousandths of a second. Today, it is not uncommon for a computer to calculate 120 million chess moves per second. No human being can compete against a computer in chess anymore. [i] And the gap between humans and machines in many tasks will close over time.
Going beyond Weak Artificial Intelligence, many futurologists predict the rise of Strong Artificial Intelligence in the current century. For example, the engineer and futurologist Ray Kurzweil predicts the arrival of Strong Artificial Intelligence in 2045. This type of Artificial Intelligence will not be limited to carrying out specific tasks. It will be able to carry out, in principle, any task that a being human is capable of performing today.
Many argue that this will lead to human-machine convergence, what we often call cyborgs. That is, implanting devices in our bodies (medicines, microchips, nanotechnologies, implants) to combine and supplement human abilities with the processing power and abilities of future computers. This relationship would greatly benefit of humanity, since the efficiency of our productive activities will reach levels never seen before, which will also greatly increase our quality of life.
Many people resist such ideas, considering that they change something "essential" to human beings. However, we must consider that we have already begun to adopt such measures since the beginning of humanity, although sometimes they are not as dramatic as implementing them in our bodies. We must not fall into the mistake of thinking of human beings as "natural" and "pure" entities. We already live in a heavily modified environment, and most of our great advances are due to cultural and technological advancements. Let's think about how many "unnatural" tools we use for our daily life and in society:
agriculture and livestock,
life in a town or a city,
vehicles (cars, boats, planes ...)
furniture (chairs, tables, beds, shelves ...)
utensils (pencils, forks, pots, glasses ...)
medicines and surgical operations,
and so on and so forth.
In fact, it is difficult to think about which aspects of our lives have not been touched by technology. It is likely that if you look around you while reading this, you will not see a single inch that has not been modified by humans in some form. Almost anything we can think of has been changed by our technology and society. Historically, all these advances have been perfected by thousands of generations of human beings to get out of life in the wilderness that was plagued by hunger, cold, disease, wild predators, and other violent human tribes. For this reason, it is argued that modern man is a "Homo Faber", the man that makes and builds.
Transhumanism, in its Superintelligence form, will be a way of "not becoming outdated" in a world where technology grows at an exponential rate, while biological evolution advances at an extremely slow pace, since it takes thousands or millions of years to bring about substantial changes.
[i] It is fairly entertaining to watch computer vs. computer chess championships at https://tcec-chess.com/, which show how many moves are being analyzed per second on their charts.