Trans-Human Bodies and Post-Human Sex

Transhumanism is not a particularly coherent movement, and you’ll find many disagreements between individuals in the transhumanist “herd of cats.” In the last few years, there has been a growing divide between “leftist” Transhumanists and “right-wing” (primarily Libertarian or Laissez-faire capitalist) Transhumanists.

In this divide, there seem to be more leftists in Europe, and more rightwingers in the US. Most people who label themselves left-oriented (or progressive) Transhumanists seem to be social-democrats with a soft spot for European political values.  The circles around Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity University can be characterized as relatively corporatist (which does not necessarily imply a desire for free markets these days).

There are other growing divisions in Transhumanism. The bigger Transhumanism gets, the more it seems to generate heated international debates and some old-timers in the field meet these diatribes with amusement. For the Paleo-Transhumanist crowd, heated debate is quite enjoyable until the backchatter turns feudal. Since most Transhumanists are little else than fans of the core ideas, Transhumanism is in large part about endless talk on various forums, gatherings, and Facebook.

Transhumanism Is Gradually Catching On Worldwide

Wired headEssentially Transhumanism unifies Science Fiction fans, Cryonics-advocates, Life Extension advocates, Space Industrialization radicals, Political Radicals, Technology fetishists and similarly “oddly spotted memetic predators.”

People in Transhumanism tend to be colorful, a bit narcissistic and convinced they bring a unique signal to the movement. Many people who discover Transhumanism tend to conclude “I have been thinking this kind of stuff all along” and feel right at home in the ongoing interchange.  Transhumanism mixes the various outré viewpoints of its adherents in a complex world view. Transhumanists believe that the various components of their personal ideologies add up to expectation about technology and the future. Some Transhumanists believe we’ll see radical progress in our lifetimes. Some Transhumanists believe that technological progress will far exceed anything we have seen in the last few decades and will culminate in the often quoted revolutionary transition that has become known as “The Singularity.” More transitional Transhumanists postulate something like a Singularity in the second half of the 21st century, while more radical Transhumanists expect a completely uncontrollable technological runaway as soon as ten or fifteen years from now.

Also read: An Irreverent Singularity Funcyclopedia, by Mondo 2000’s R.U. Sirius

Transhumanists tend to be cautious on whether or not people can stop (or legislate) runaway technology. Libertarian minded Transhumanists insist that any attempt of the state, to constrain various technological revolutions, will only add unnecessary social pain to the already convulsive change and want less state, no matter the consequences. More socialist-minded Transhumanists often debate solutions such as Basic Income to mitigate the social upheaval that is almost certain to emerge in the next decades. Most Transhumanists think the “spiking” effect in technology and progress will be quite difficult to control, and some Transhumanists might even concede that, as humanity staggers ever closer to The Singularity, a lot of people might end up in considerable distress, or die.

Some Transhumanists imagine “Existential Threats” and large numbers of human beings dying as a result of violent technological advance.  Some in the field of Existential Threats think most or all of humanity is likely to go extinct shortly before or during a Singularity. It is fascinating to see that this view has recently trickled up in mainstream articles from major scientists.

Transhumanism is all about patching up various aspects of human nature and making them better. The best metaphor for that is upgrading a car by adding quality accessories. – humans will remain recognizably human but they will be enriched with various prosthesis,  augmented with Virtual Reality (VR), nanotechnology components, or neural interface hacks.

In this regard, Transhumanism borrows heavily from Cyberpunk, although Transhumanists are consistently more Utopian. Cyberpunk is notoriously depressing and dystopian – most Transhumanists are Utopian-minded to a fault.

Become Male and Do Sex on Weekends

In comparison, the newly emerging Post-Humanist ideology is making assertions about the long term results of all that. Post-Humanists speculate about a radically new evolutionary phase where agents are no longer meaningfully “human,” and any remaining “human qualities” are chosen. As just one example, many Post-Humanists speculate about future sexuality. It is no surprise that Post-Humanists treat sexuality and gender as optional – something that will eventually become a consumer choice.  Some Post-Humanists wish to switch off gender entirely, or making it some kind of software application that’s “run” only in a strictly recreational capacity. In weekends, you become “male” and “do sex,” while other days you are out working hard dismantling asteroids or something like that.

Post-humanism is closely linked to the idea of uploading minds. In Post-Humanist speculations, people will become a blend of nanobots, synthetic organs, and hard metallic shapes. Some Post-Humanists might not even (want to) remain consigned to purely humanoid bodies, and choose more outlandish designs instead – intricate clouds of limbs, swarms of collaborative micro-bots, or post-individualist group minds distributed over multiple bodies.

Of course, there’s is massive overlap between Trans-Humanists and Post-Humanists. Most Post-Humanists speak their mind only within the overall community, for fear of being labeled as techno-religious crackpots. Of course, even “mild” Transhumanist ideas are seen as outlandish by average people, so the more radical Post-Humanist ideas tend to come across as nothing short of science fiction talk in casual water-cooler conversation at the office.

What needs to be said is that we already live in absurd times. The degree of progress that we take for granted in 2014 is already magical compared to a few decades ago. Just a casual comparison between technologies in the 1970s and today suggests that a similar amount of progress in the next decades would be at the very least unpredictable and traumatizing.

That is the most compelling argument that Trans-Humanists and Post-Humanists have when engaging “average Janes and Joes”. There is no actual evidence that the Trans-Humanist or Post-Humanist predictions are based on reality – both viewpoints are essentially revolutionary ideologies and belief systems. Both Trans-humanists and Post-humanists wish to improve the world in ways that outsiders may not understand or consent to, and these ways are critical when looking at the destiny of the human species.  Does humanity actually have a “destiny,” or are we just flotsam washed along by unknown probability currents? Is our trans and post-human future inevitable, or is the technological progress of the last century merely accidental?

These are profound and troubling questions. Trans-Humanists and Post-Humanists ask questions that arouse emotions.  Quite a lot of people hate anyone raising these questions, and understandably so. These ideological frameworks (beyond being speculative and fantastic) are exclusive. It’s like being pregnant – you can not have a world that is “just a little bit Trans-human or Post-human.” If all that stuff is plausible, it will saturate every aspect of our lives in mere decades from now.  Even more alarmingly, extremely uncomfortable choices will be forced on the average Janes and Joes. Will the Jane and Joe of the year 2114 be the Jane and Joe that used to be alive a century before (life extension) and how will they have changed? It may be that the person, who used to be you a century before, will have evolved into something incomprehensibly alien. For average Janes and Joes, that is good reason to instinctively want to reject the core value systems of Trans-humanism, let alone Post-Humanism.

But their rejection won’t remain common for long. It will be not more than a decade before the core ideas of Trans-humanism become commonplace, plausible and mainstream. By the late 2020s, Trans-humanism discussions may dissolve in mainstream debates about the future, technology and progress. By the 2040s, the movement may well be extinct as a result.

Images from Shutterstock.

Khannea Suntzu describes herself as cosmist, cosmicist, upwinger, socialist-libertarian, hedonist and abolitionist. Khannea is transgendered, and currently lives in the Netherlands.