Anthropological Interventions in Transhumanism

Chris Kelty over at the excellent anthropological blog Savage Minds has written a thought provoking piece on why and how anthropologists should engage with transhumanism. He notes that current critiques may be sound but may be missing the boat not only when it comes to some broader ethical questions but when it comes to even identifying the locus and importance of transhumanism. I have provided a short snippet below:

Most of the critiques of transhumanism center around its more speculative aspects, like the notion of the singularity, the emergence of artificial intelligence etc. But I think there is increasingly an opening here for thinking about what we do and what we do not have control over as humanity evolves. Most transhumanist rhetoric seems to imply that there is no control—-it’s just the next stage of evolution—-but when push comes to shove, whatever “evolution” means to them, it isn’t simply your basic genetic-species evolution, but involves culture and technology as well. And there are some interesting bridges between transhumanism and anthropology as well. I often wonder what transhumanists would think of Carl Elliot’s Better than Well as a kind of middle ground between transhumanism and Foucault… especially since the motto of the World Transhumanist Organization is… “Better than Well.” […]

Consider a few examples where the issues of transhumanism might be relevant:

1) corn, high fructose corn syrup and ethanol: Corn is domesticating us as we monoculture it beyond all reasonable limits. It’s changing our bodies, it’s changing our ecosystem, it’s changing our technology, and it itself is becoming unrecognizable (i.e. most of it is no longer edible off the stalk, but has to be processed to be used). This is transhumanism, no?

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One thought on “Anthropological Interventions in Transhumanism

  1. A few comments
    1) Yes as with many far out tech visions the first line of rejection argument is “it will never happen” (see discourse between the anti aging crowd and the immortality crowd I call that the Berlin Wall Syndrome. That was the same. The wall will never come down…. and so one acted on this ‘truism’ and was utterly unprepared for its fall and actually had set the stage for the fall in the worst possible way by promising all kind of stuff under the assumption one would never have to deliver.
    2) There are people who question the social dynamic of transhumanism but one can only do this if one questions today already existing social dynamics as most visions of transhumanism are just an extension of existing visions and actions and realities and no radically new notions. And because one can only critique the social dynamic and social vision of transhumanism if one critiques the status today that is not very popular and the ones who do it in this way get little visibility
    3) Transhumanism is abilitycentric and as that for certain abilities I covered in some of my writings the transhumanization of anthropology.
    4) I do not think that transhumanist say there is no control. Its the opposite . Its about controlling evolution taking ones fate into ones own hands
    5) Car Elliot critiques the better than well and the disease mongering and the increased medicalization of the ‘normal’
    Furthermore Elliots and the Anti disease mongering crowd still assumes species typical as the measure. Transhuman is abolishing species typical as the norm and with that they would see that there can be no “better than well” as well is if one has the newest upgrade to the body. I think that they use the slogan on the webpage as a red herring because they don’t want the ‘well’ people to feel deficient right now as transhumanism as a social dynamic is not that mainstream yet and not secure but its obvious if you want all the enhancements you can’t feel well and ones jobs or achievements are depending on the upgrades you also can’t be well economically… you became the techno poor impaired and disabled person (I can send to whoever is interested some stuff on that term) the deficient product.
    6) the transhumanist would say we change our bodies way of functioning so we can eat the corn from the stalk again.
    Well i better stop here

    Gregor

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