Transhumanism

Future Surge is grounded in the philosophy of active transhumanism.

“Transhumanism” – what does it mean?

The word “transhumanism” recognises that a major transition is imminent in the human species. This is no mere change in our economic or political circumstances, but a transformation in core aspects of the human condition.

Given the acceleration of technology, humanity needs to prepare for a transition to a state of coexistence with AI systems that display superintelligence.

For a formal definition of the term, this is what philosopher Max More wrote in 1990:

“Transhumanism is a class of philosophies of life that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations, by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting values.”

The 2021 book Vital Foresight gave this definition:

Transhumanism, defined: The recognition that humanity is at a relatively early stage in the progress of conscious life. The observation that there are deep flaws in human nature which, when coupled with emerging new technological capabilities, could cause catastrophic damage. The call to take urgent collective action to steer the intelligent design of the transhumans and posthumans who are on the point of emerging, and the redesign of the humans who are alive today. A movement that can be seen as the culmination of many previous historical forces, including both religion and humanism.

This video by the British Institute of Posthuman Studies introduces three core areas of transhumanist thought: super longevity, super intelligence and super wellbeing.

This video by Transpolitica provides a positive transhumanist vision for the future of politics.

The values of active transhumanism

To guide us in the deeply challenging task of the intelligent redesign of human nature, consider what has been called “the thirteen core transhumanist values”. They split into:

  • Four statements highlighting the most important features of the present context
  • Three foundational values for outcomes to be pursued
  • Three statements about the means adopted in pursuit of these outcomes
  • Three key generalisations and extensions.

The context:

  1. Radical opportunity: The near future can be much better than the present situation. The human condition can be radically improved, compared to what we’ve inherited from evolution and history.
  2. Existential danger: The near future can be much worse than the present situation. Misuse of powerful technology can have catastrophic consequences.
  3. Human agency: The difference between these two radical future options depends critically on human agency: wise human thinking and concerted human action.
  4. No easy options: If humanity gives too little attention to these radical future options, on account of distraction, incomprehension, or intimidation, there’s a high likelihood of a radically bad outcome.

Outcomes promoted:

  1. Human wellbeing: In all decisions, actions should be preferred that lead to the increase of human wellbeing. As for what wellbeing involves, how to measure it, and how to improve it, these are enquiries that remain open and ongoing. Wellbeing involves vitality, liberty, creativity, health, intelligence, awareness, happiness, collaboration, and bliss – but extends beyond these separate traits. Over time, our understanding of the conditions and possible expression of human wellbeing will surely evolve and improve. That’s as it should be.
  2. Individual wellbeing: Individual wellbeing should never be sacrificed or subordinated in favour of collectivist goals. Individuals should never become cannon-fodder in service of some tribal, national, ethnic, religious, or ideological quest. In short, individuals are ends not means.
  3. Mutual responsibility: It’s in our mutual interest to protect and elevate all members of society. Rather than keeping quiet about impending dangers about to befall someone, or major opportunities they are about to miss, we should find ways to speak up, just as we would ourselves like to be alerted to such dangers or opportunities in an equivalent circumstance. We’re stronger together, rather than in isolation or a state of war.

Means to be adopted in pursuit of these outcomes:

  1. Science, data, and rationality: To improve our decisions, it’s important to seek, publish, and review objective data, respecting the best scientific principles, rather than accepting the say-so of would-be pundits or celebrities.
  2. Openness: In deliberations between conflicting insights, no book, thinker, or tradition should be given any absolute priority. Society needs to remain open to the possibility that our current favoured ideas and methods will be superseded. Of course, respect can be shown to books, thinkers, or traditions with good track records as sources of insight. But that respect should be tempered with caution. Runs of success can come to an end – especially in new circumstances or new contexts.
  3. Proactive vigilance: We need to expect the unexpected – in other words, to keep monitoring for new risks and new opportunities. Where possible, actions should be preferred that are reversible, lest surprises arise. In anticipation of the possibility of changes in plan, we should design for change, rather than with certainty in mind.

Finally, the key generalisations and extensions:

  1. Sustainability (generalising from the present into the future): Our plans need to enable, not only wellbeing today, but also wellbeing tomorrow – and the days and years that follow. Hence the need to avoid actions that reduce the possibilities for future wellbeing.
  2. Consciousness (generalising the previous principles beyond present-day humans): In all decisions, actions should be preferred that lead to the increase of the wellbeing of consciousness. To the extent that animal or artificial minds possess core attributes of consciousness, these minds deserve at least some of the same care and support as human minds. This care includes possibilities for growth and development, and the reduction in needless suffering.
  3. Diversity: These above principles leave many questions unanswered. They define a broad envelope that can accommodate a multiplicity of different viewpoints. That diversity is, itself, something to embrace. Hence the final core principle: within the overall transhumanist framework, diverse opinions and lifestyles should be cherished and nurtured. It’s from interactions between diverse subcultures that some of the most important insights and experiences are likely to arise.

Becoming involved

If you find yourself in agreement with these core values, consider joining Future Surge

  • See our Connect page for more details