While it has languished in relative obscurity over the past two decades, it seems that transhumanism is finally starting to be taken seriously by the academic and political mainstream. Media outlets, academic conferences and political activists have been mentioning transhumanism or transhumanist ideals with an increased frequency, leading to a growth in public awareness and exposure.
A recent example of this growth comes in William Saletan’s recent piece in Slate entitled “Among the Transhumanists: Cyborgs, self-mutilators, and the future of our race.” Saletan attended the recent Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights conference at Stanford and was reporting on what he saw and heard there.
Apparently the more serious-minded transhumanists don’t like being called weird. Not certain what to make of the article, the IEET has posted a response entitled “Thanks for Back-Handed Compliments.”
Saletan has almost no sense at all at how out of touch he is with the change that is in the wind. And so, when he goes on to ridicule the progressive politics of many of the participants of the Conference he is unlikely to realize the work of legitimation such comments are likely to do for readers who may have long dismissed technology discourse precisely because it has rarely been progressive enough hitherto.
Yes yes, Saletan fails to give the big ideas discussed at the conference the seriousness they likely deserve, but he is talking about them. The “liberal Republican” sat at a conference and listened to people talk about morphological freedom, human and non-human enhancement, and the duplicity of American drug discourse, and he left with new ideas deeply planted in his head. How is this not good news?
Sorry guys. Transhumanism is weird. It’s at least as weird as the rest of the human condition, and it’s just getting weirder. Allowing morphological freedom along with the enhanced creative capabilities of a posthuman mind would open up avenues that make even Saletan’s wildest vision of the transhumanist freakshow look tame.
Bring on the weird. I think all but the most conservative among us are slowly getting ready to embrace it.
Update: BetterHumans has made a list of mainstream articles covering the conference. Thanks!