DHAKA: Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations and this change happens in the genetic level which primarily manifests as diversity and in the long run this gives birth to a new species. We, Homo sapiens also have come into being from unicellular amoeba to today’s complex organism through various stages including Australopithecus to Homo erectus to Neanderthals through this complex process of evolution. In this process of evolution, we always have had invented tools to cope with our surroundings which in turn have influenced the process of evolution, mostly in processes unknown to us. But in these days, with our long line of achievements such as aeronautics, engineering, biological sciences, we are in a point of time where we can consciously use these tools to understand our surroundings and manipulate them for the betterment of life consciously.
If we go back three hundred years in time life around us would seem to move as if in a slow motion movie. Before the industrial revolution human life was way slower than we can imagine now. Think of the fastest means of transportation back then: a horse carriage! Life was all proportionate to the pace of the horse. Look at the way life is now. Super cars, bullet trains, rockets, internet, super computers, emails, smart-phones, tablet pcs … the list seems a never ending phenomenon. Now think of life three hundred years ahead in the future. With the exponential pace we are gaining everyday it is for sure whatever predictions we are putting on the checklist today will be cliché by that time. Our future is a sci-fi world beyond the grasp of our imagination today.
With the advent of new technologies in various fields every day we are advancing towards a world where human beings will be free of every shortcoming they have today. Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is a cultural and intellectual movement that believes in the improvement of human condition through the use of advanced technologies. To enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities through the use of genetic engineering, nanotech, cloning, and other emerging technologies is one of the core concepts of transhumanism. Transhumanist thinkers also study the potential benefits and dangers of technologies that could overcome natural human limitations. They as well study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.
Transhumanism is taking us towards a world that is post-human. The bionic heroes we encounter only in the films and comics today will be a reality by then. In the coming decades we will be forced to face serious ethical and existential questions concerning individuals whose abilities are radically modified by technologies. Even in today’s world there are steroids and drugs that can win you Olympic gold medals. People are working with artificial organs after losing their originals in accident or disease. Recently doctors in China were successful in growing a nose in a patient’s forehead that is soon to be transplanted in the place of the original nose. Our great scientist Stephen Hawking is living a prolonged life with the help of technologies. More seriously transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which speeds up reaction times and learning speed by running a weak electric current through your brain, has already been used by the US military to train snipers. Every now and then scientists are being successful in deciphering the mysteries of our body. Bionic man is in the process of making. Homo sapiens are evolving into a new species and the evolution is parallel to the momentous transformation of Homo erectus to Homo sapiens through various stages. The emerging life saving computer technologies and biomedicines are promising a prolonged life span for human beings, may be a life span for eternity. Moreover genetically controlled births will ensure a disease free society. The existence of Dolly (first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell) on earth opened a new horizon for the future of humanity. All these possibilities are celebrating the advent of a paradigmatic shift in the evolutionary process of mankind. The question is: Are we ready?
Despite the fact that transhumanism has brought about the emergence of these unimaginable possibilities it has also seriously forced us to reconsider and revaluate some of our cherished moral, and philosophical ideas. Human cloning is one of the most controversial moral issues of the time. Whether or not to go for a human cloning is a question that will change the future track of humanity. How to accept a bio-technologically improved man, who can do things better than us, is another important question we are going to face in the next few decades. In case of life extension and genetically controlled birth givings, if every human on earth suddenly stops dying, overpopulation will trigger a very rapid and dramatic socio economic disaster. Likewise as in the present time if only the rich have access to intelligence and strength boosting drugs and technologies, what would happen to society? All these questions would surely tend to spell ethical, psychological and socio-economical disasters for mankind. But are we to back off? No. Because it is this quality of adaptability that has made us what we are today. Human beings possess a capacity for infinite plasticity to adapt to their surroundings and to change the surroundings if necessary. Compared to the life of a seventeenth century common man our life is extremely unnatural. All the electronic devices we carry with us today would seem to him magical. What would have been the reaction of a seventeenth century man if he is suddenly transported to the twenty-first century and faced with the spectacle of a three-year-old handling a smart-phone successfully? Would he be able to accept the child as a normal natural one? Obviously not. Similarly what seems unnatural today would be very much natural tomorrow.
Regardless of the problems we are to face tomorrow, we can look forward to a superhuman future awaiting us. The problems we are to face in the new world are nothing new to humanity. We have been augmenting our humanity- our strength, our wisdom, our empathy- with tools since prehistory. We have always been spooked by technologies that seem unnatural or that cause us to act in inhuman ways- it’s simply human nature. So in the end transhumanism is taking us towards a ‘brave new world’, a world where humans will possess superhuman capabilities.
BDST: 1201 HRS, SEP 30, 2013