Transhumanism, a tech-centric philosophy of humanity, has grown so rapidly in popularity in recent years, it even boasts its own 2016 presidential candidate. But what does Transhumanism truly aspire to? What is the core of the transhumanist manifesto? According to philosopher, futurist, and overall cool guy Jason Silva, Transhumanism is all about harnessing technology to overcome the limitations of humanity. For example, our lives are limited by the mortality of our physical bodies. Transhumanists would therefore support the creation of technology that transfers your consciousness into an immortal coil, like software being run on better hardware. At the core of this philosophy is the idea that there isn’t really anything that separates the natural from the artificial, that technology is not something external from our experience. Technology is us. And why wouldn’t we want to use it to upgrade humanity to the next level?
For more from Jason Silva, be sure to check out “Brain Games” from National Geographic.
Jason Silva: Transhumanism is essentially the philosophical school of thought that says that human beings should use technology to transcend their limitations. That it's perfectly natural for us to use our tools to overcome our boundaries. To extend our minds, to extend our mindware using these technological scaffoldings. The philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers talk about technology as a scaffolding that extends our thoughts, our reach, and our vision. Ray Kurzweil reminds us 100,000 years ago in the savannahs of Africa when we picked up a stick on the floor and used it to reach a fruit on a really high tree, we’ve been using our tools to extend our reach. Technology is us. Technology is our extended phenotype as [Richard] Dawkins says. Technology is our second skin. We’re not the only species that does so. You know the termites build these enormous termite colonies, which are temperature-controlled. I mean our cities like the termite colony are really who we are, you know.
If you’re able to like make that cognitive shift and transcend what Andy Clark calls the skin bag bias and realize that we don’t end where our skin tissue ends, but that we are tethered to our technological surroundings and to our dwellings. And that what we design, designs us back because what we design is us ultimately. You start to realize that technology — we are a technology-making species the same way a spider is a spider web-making species, you know. Kevin Kelly, who co-founded Wired magazine, describes technology as the seventh kingdom of life. He calls it the technium. He says that it's subject to the same evolutionary forces as biological evolution, you know. That’s the craziness here is that we’re finding more and more that our technological systems are mirroring some of the most advanced natural systems in nature. You know the Internet is wired like the neurons in our brain, which is wired like computer models of dark matter in the universe. They all share the same intertwingled, filamental structure. What does this tell us? That there is no distinction between the born and the made. All of it is nature; all of it is us. So to be human is to be transhuman.
The reason we’re at a pivotal point in history is because now we’ve decommissioned natural selection, you know. This notion that we are now the chief agents of evolution, right. Edward O. Wilson reminds us we now get to decide who we become. Freeman Dyson — in the near future a new generation of artists composing genomes with the fluency that [William] Blake and [Lord] Byron wrote verses. You know with biological, biotech transformation we’re talking about software that writes its own hardware. Life itself, the new canvas for the artist. Nanotechnology, patterning matter. Programmable matter. The whole world becomes computable. Life itself programmable, upgradable. What does this say about what it means to be human? It means that what it is to be human is to transform and transcend. We’ve always done it. We’re not the same species we were 100,000 years ago. We’re not going to be the same species tomorrow. Craig Venter recently said we’ve got to understand that we are a software-driven species. Change the software, change the species. And why shouldn’t we?