Transhumanists as Nihilists

Posted by Jesse Reynolds January 16, 2008
Biopolitical Times

Yesterday, the World Transhumanist Association released its third survey [PDF] of its members. Some of the results are predictable: The respondents were 90% male, for example. (Fortunately, no questions were asked about Star Trek.) But the results of two questions surprised me with what amounts to, at the very least, an acknowledgment of the limitations of the organization's philosophy. Almost a third of the respondents predict "that emerging technologies will cause an abrupt, cataclysmic, worldwide social change by 2040" (emphasis mine). Thus a large minority seems  to be happy to promote technologies and policies that they think will lead to dramatic, widespread, and negative results.

Similarly, only 46% agree that "believe humans and posthumans will be able to coexist in one society and polity," implying that a majority foresee that the path they advocate will lead to significant social conflict among the enhanced and "naturals." Sounds like the prediction by George Annas at the 2001 World Conference against Racism. Annas asserted that such strife would lead to "genetic genocide":
This is because, given the history of humankind, it is extremely unlikely that we [the "naturals"] will see the posthumans as equal in rights and dignity to us, or that they will see us as equals. Instead, it is most likely either that we will see them as a threat to us, and thus seek to imprison or simply kill them before they kill us. Alternatively, the posthuman will come to see us (the garden variety human) as an inferior subspecies without human rights to be enslaved or slaughtered preemptively.

It is unclear to what extent the transhumanist survey respondents fully thought through the implications of the answer to their question. Yet one need not be radically dystopian to see that once one segment of society believes it is biologically superior to the rest, then trouble if not violence is a likely consequence.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: