All posts by holyshitmoments

H+ and Gods

At first glance,  the ideas of religion and transhumanism oppose each other – the rejection of the forms given to us by God, etc., etc. Some transhumanists argue that transhumanism replaces religion and requires no gods – it allows humans to assume godlike roles in controlling our being and destiny. In a survey conducted by the World Transhumanist Association, most transhumanists were atheists or otherwise secular.

But there are many in the h+ community who choose to hold their transhumanism and their religion together.

The Christian Transhumanist Association recently published their Affirmation, detailing that;

1. We believe that God’s mission involves the transformation and renewal of creation, including humanity, and that we are called by Christ to participate in that mission: working against illness, hunger, oppression, injustice, and death.

3. We recognize science and technology as tangible expressions of our God-given impulse to explore and discover, and as a natural outgrowth of being created in the image of God.

In this way we are Christian Transhumanists.

The  CTA has put their money where their mouth is, funding projects to curb infant  mortality rates. They put forward that technology like this – man-made technology that enhances the human condition – enacts Christian values of valuing human life. Some argue that cryonics may allow a future Noah to save God’s creations as was done in Genesis. The basic principle of Christian Transhumanists is that the values of love, sacrifice and compassion are what will prevent the techno-apocalypse presented in the media.

The Mormon Transhumanist Association draws strong parallels between  the ideas of transfiguration in the Mormon faith and the desire for transhumanists to ascend beyond their human form. Both aim to move beyond the limitations of the human body to achieve a higher form, and Mormonism adds a spiritual level to the transcendence of physical contraints – an aim of transhumanism – by linking it to religious beliefs that this overcoming of the physical allows one to commune with God.

Buddhist transhumanism holds that the implementation of technologies to relieve suffering, material confinement, stress, negativity and ill-will creates a confluence between h+ and Buddhism. An ability to control of physical function may also allow us to control our vices and failings.

“Then it might be possible to use future neurotechnologies to systematically make ourselves more truthful or compassionate. The use of neurotechnologies to consistently avoid vices and practice virtues would be useful in cleansing the mind of klesas or mental impurities.” (Hughes, 2013, p30)

In essence, these groups agree largely that religion and H+ are compatible, joining in the idea of ethical and mindful use of technologies. While these are minorities within their larger religious structures, we can accept that the fundamental principles outlined above may indeed have a positive influence on the future of transhumanism. Moreover, they provide an interesting framework for considering how H+ can work to increase happiness.

Sources

Hughes, J 2013, ‘Using Neurotechnologies to Develop Virtues: A Buddhist Approach to Cognitive Enhancement’, Accountability in Research: Policies & Quality Assurance, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 27-41

See hyperlinks.

Every day transhumanists

Transhumanism as a movement is interested in enhancing the human condition and the lives of humans with man-made technologies. In previous posts, I discussed some radical examples.LED  lights under the skin, RFID chips – one artist even had a camera attached to his head to turn colours into sounds.Technologies like these make transhumanism seem scary and confronting to others.

But transhumanism covers so much more than just implanted cameras and creepy glasses. That cup of coffee or can of energy drink you grab in the morning, the prescription medication you take with breakfast, even the clothes on your back are all examples of man-made technologies that improve human life and allow us to operate on a higher level, live longer than imagined by societies of the past.

In my last blog, I said I wanted to understand the day-to-day of transhumanism. It was this article that made me realise I am living the experience every day, alongside most of the women I know. A while ago, I was implanted with a tiny piece of technology that allows me to control my biological functions to improve my life – an IUD. Whether it’s the pill, the Implanon or an IUD, most girls I know have been hacking their bodies since their teens. My brother, who has a Ritalin prescription for ADHD, has been hacking his body since he was a child.

Transhumanism aims to improve the human condition through “genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, anti-aging therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable computers, and cognitive techniques” (Bostrom, 2003, 2)

h+ collage

Most people are already living the H+ lifestyle. In fact, we couldn’t imagine our lives without some technologies. The idea of creating solutions to the inefficiencies of the human experience is as old as the wheel, and transhumanism is here. The future approaches, and the biggest decision we have to make is how much we want to freak out about it.

 

Sources

Bostrom, N. 2003. The Transhumanist FAQ, v. 2.1. Oxford: World Transhumanist Association

Cochlear image

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blausen_0244_CochlearImplant_01.png

Metformin image

By User:Ash (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMetformin_500mg_Tablets.jpg

ns.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=488192

Gene therapy image

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=488192

IUD image

Fitbit image

http://www.fitbit.com/au/home

Coffee image

https://pixabay.com/en/a-cup-of-coffee-coffee-beans-coffee-399480/

 

How They Look v How They Live

In both the Transhumanism and the Neo-Luddism movements, what we see portrayed or discussed in the media are often extreme examples.

Victor
Cyborgs in Dollhouse Season 2 http://dollhouse.wikia.com/wiki/Anthony_Ceccoli
simpsons_14_19_p1
Amish in Simpsons Season 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with such an extreme dichotomy in the way we discuss these two differing approaches to life, my questions turned towards the principles of each movement. My interest is with how each philosophy affects ones happiness, and so my research turns towards the day-to-day experiences of Transhumanists and Neo-Luddites.

The principles of Transhumanism, on a basic level, are to use technology to enhance human experience. “Transhumanists recognize that their bodies are a kind of machine – one that can be studied, understood and subjected to hacks.” – Dvorsky, 2008

For some Transhumanists, it’s a solid 3 minutes of taking vitamins to extend, using smartphones to enhance efficiency, using recording devices to make up for a lack of memory power. For others, it’s bio-hacking with implantable chips or designer drugs.

The Notes Toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto point out a few simple principles of a modern approach to Neo-Luddism. First, hat it is not anti-technology, but “opposed to the kind of technologies that are, at root, destructive of human lives and communities.” Secondly, it recognises that all technology is political, that is “consciously structured to reflect and serve specific powerful interests in specific historical situations.”

In the day-to-day, this might mean refusing to use social media, or even just having scheduled device-free hours, or buying handmade or locally grown produce instead of going to supermarkets.

 

For my project, I aim to create a transmedia project that will reflect the daily experiences of each group. This format is most suitable to accommodate both philosophies in a way that can still be presented easily as an assessment task.

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.

iphone-6-launch-lo_3044263b
Thousands queue for the release of the iPhone 6 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/11109023/Why-was-it-only-men-who-queued-for-an-iPhone-6.html

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.