This book looks interesting - as regular readers know, I am not a fan of transhumanism, but I remain curious about their position and perspectives. On the other hand, the problem for me is that a LOT of books look interesting, so take that for what it's worth. My Amazon Wish List is VERY long.
The Techno-Human Condition by Braden R. Allenby & Daniel Sarewitz
(The MIT Press, 2011), 192 pages, $24.95
Review by: Jende Andrew Huang
Published in the July / August 2011 Humanist
Growing up I always considered the interaction of humanity and technology presented in the original Star Trek series as a fairly accurate representation of the way things would someday go. Technology would continue to cocoon humanity while maintaining a strict boundary between the two. Then came the Next Generation’s Borg, an antagonistic cybernetic race that subsumed other species by implantation of technology into unwilling victims. Not until I encountered transhumanism did I realize that my earlier understanding of the relationship between humanity and technology might be off. Indeed, with the way things are going, our future may have more in common with the Borg.
The word “transhumanism” has been attributed to Julian Huxley who, among other things, was Humanist of the Year in 1962. In his 1957 book, New Bottles for New Wine, he wrote
The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself—not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way—but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.
In the present, transhumanism is better understood as a movement of techno-enthusiasts who not only anticipate that emerging technologies will have the power to alter and enhance “the human condition,” but who very much embrace the idea. I’ve always been sympathetic to transhumanists—not simply because of their vision, but because it’s so easy to see how their techo-enthusiasm would, in the minds of others, overshadow the serious thought they were putting into the ways emerging technologies could fundamentally (or subtly) alter human existence. This misunderstanding of transhumanism is exemplified in a new book, The Techno-Human Condition, by authors Braden R. Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz, both of Arizona State University.
As they define it, there are two separate “dialogues” concerning transhumanism, the first being “the ways in which living humans use technologies to change themselves, for example, through replacement of worn-out knees and hips, or enhancement of cognitive function through pharmaceuticals.” The second such dialogue is where the authors’ main interest lies. Transhumanism, they contend, is a “cultural construct that considers the relations between humanness and social and technological change.”
These two dialogues give rise to a “definitional ambiguity,” which leads Allenby and Sarewitz to conclude that coming up with a more precise definition for transhumanism is less important than dealing with the implications of this ambiguity.