Monday, May 10, 2010

The Gradual Transhuman

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."

Futurist Jamais Cascio tells io9 he thinks this word is "a term with more weight than meaning".
Posthumanity ... will always be just over the horizon. Always in The Future. When the systems and augmentations we now consider to be posthuman hit the real world, they will have become simply human in scale.

That's because augmentation - the development of systems and technologies to allow us to do and to be more than what our natural biology would allow - is intrinsic to what it means to be human.
Jamais points out in the article and in this NYC Future Salon video that the human species has already greatly augmented itself with technology (this includes words and complex abstractions, like science and math), so it's hard to pin down a static definition of "human" when we're actually evolving dynamically.

I agree and salute you, Jamais.

Our genes have changed to better take advantage of linguistics, numbers, and tools.  The cloud is an extension of our thought processes.  We're already significantly "post" and "trans" to what we were 100,000, 10,000,  1,000, and 100 years ago.

Yes,  technology, information and perhaps even intelligence are growing at an accelerating rate, but the prospect of accelerating near-term change, even a digitization scenario, does not erase that which has already occurred.

So let's achieve consensus on the term "human" to inform our concept of that which is not human, or more than human.  (This should also help clarify things in regard to that pesky "Singularity" term, another concept house built on shaky definitional foundations.)

About Alvis Brigis

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Alvis Brigis is a media specialist and futurist residing in California. Most recently, he was Story Producer on History Channel’s Invention USA and Executive Producer for The Future of Facebook, the first Open Foresight project to be funded and released to the public. He’s produced and written for TV networks including NBC, VH1, THC and Sundance Channel. Brigis co-founded Future Scanner (a prediction harvesting tool), Swarmado (a mobile content-sharing app for events) and has developed a variety of forward-looking startups. He serves on the advisory board of Acceleration Studies Foundation and blogs about the social side of accelerating change at Social Node. He’s also an avid sci-fi, comedy and quest adventure writer + co-creator of animated silicon valley satire Steve Ice.