Human Happiness: Transhumanism vs Neo-Luddism

As technology becomes more ubiquitous in our day-to-day, more and more people are concerned with how to switch off and re-engage with the real world. We can see examples of this in the growing popularity of the ‘digital detox’, where participants aim to go device-free. More often, we have university lecturers instituting a no-device policy in classrooms, to encourage students to engage with the classroom environment. Workplaces encourage employees to disconnect for periods of time to encourage creativity and inter-personal interaction.

In my personal life, I’ve found myself confronted with these issues more frequently. Do my phone and Facebook genuinely make me happy? Or does my joy and wellbeing come from taking it slow, and just enjoying life?

For my DIGC335 research project, I will aim to investigate these issues by comparing examples at each extreme of these arguments.

Transhumanism is a movement that is interested in using technology to enhance humans and further overcome the limitations and capacities of the human condition. It seeks to use technology to extend life span, to improve quality of life, and to change the parameters of our experience.

In practice, this looks like RFID chips implanted under the skin that can act as a key. It looks like prosthetic and cybernetic artificial limbs that can be controlled by thought. It’s gene therapy, replacing a ‘malfunctioning’ gene that causes a disease with a new, working one.The Transhuman agenda is to use technologies such as these to ‘redesign’ the experience of being human.

On the other side of the spectrum are various anti-technology groups, such as the Neo-Luddite movement. At the heart of these movements is the concern that technology is being used to control, not enhance, our lives and experiences as social beings. Looking at the long lines of people waiting to shell out hundreds of dollars on the latest iPhone (despite its lack of improvement or innovation in the overall smartphone field) it’s easy to believe that technology is contributing to the rat race, rather than helping us overcome it.

Thousands queue for the release of the iPhone 6

My research this semester will be primarily concerned with a critical analytic comparison of the Transhumanist movement and the Neo-Luddite movement as competing theologies of how to live a happy and fulfilled human life.




One thought on “Human Happiness: Transhumanism vs Neo-Luddism”

  1. Building upon the idea of technology and education, and one that may interest you for your project, is that of cognitive enhancement. The ethical issues regarding cognitive enhancements and academic systems is subjective – is it cheating, or is one exercising a freedom of choice to improve their personal output for whatever reasoning. Additionally is it not better for the whole of society if individuals and organisations, such as the use of Modafinil by the Reserve Bank of Australia during the 2014 budget, use cognitive enhancers for the betterment of societal functions (Farr, M. 2014).

    For system functions such cognitive enhancements may ultimately become the norm. Interestingly as Vincent et al. (2014) states “Imagine you’re a surgeon about to perform a delicate, difficult, lengthy and ultimately risky operation, and that you could substantially improve your patient’s chances of survival by safely taking a pill that would increase your wakefulness, mental acuity, perceptiveness and ability to stay focused.” Would medical providers be negligent if they fail to partake in enhancement, and the patient was impacted negatively as a result.

    Farr, M. (2014) Public servants used drug, modafinil, to stay awake to complete the Federal Budget on time,, viewed 05.05.16

    Vincent, N. Jane, E. A. (2014) Put down the smart drugs – cognitive enhancement is risky business, The Conversation, viewed 05.05.16


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