posthuman space of possible modes of being

In the space of possible modes of being, the ones accessible to human beings form a tiny subset. Our biological constraints impose real limitations on what thoughts we can think, what emotions and enjoyment we can experience, and how long we can remain healthy and alive.

Just as much of the richness of human life and human relationships is foreclosed to the comprehension of even the smartest chimpanzee, so too there are possible values that lie beyond our own comprehension - this is, at least, seems like a modest and plausible conjecture. These values are currently unrealizable. If and when we learn how to develop new capacities and extend the ones we have, we might be able to access these wider regions of modes of being, and perhaps discover some that are fantastically desirable.

To significantly modify our biological constraints, we will need to use technology. Many of the requisite technologies can be foreseen, but we do not know how long it will take to develop them.

Posthumanism (or transhumanism to use the standard term) is the view that we ought to try to develop - in ways that are safe and ethical - technological means that will enable the exploration of the posthuman realm of possible modes of being. Transhumanists believe that all people should have access to such technologies. The choice of whether to use them, however, should normally rest with the individual.

The word "posthumanism" has also been used in other senses, for example to refer to a critique of humanism, emphasizing a change in our understanding of the self and its relations to the natural world, society, and human artifacts. Transhumanism, by contrast, advocates not so much a change in how we think of ourselves, but rather a vision of how we might concretely use technology and other means to change what we are - not to replace ourselves with something else, but to realize our potential to become something more than we currently are. Just as a child grows up and develops the capacities of an adult, new technological options might one day allow adults to continue to develop and to mature into beings with posthuman capacities.

The human species is still young on this planet, and it is possible that we have as yet seen little of what is possible for us to become. But success in this enterprise is far from assured, because we still have only our rather limited human wisdom and compassion to guide us through the transition. To develop greater practical and moral understanding would seem to be a first priority. This, along with development of human enhancement tools, efforts to reduce catastrophic risks, and work to alleviate the more immediate sources of human suffering, is enough the fill the days of responsible transhumanists and others who strive to improve the human condition.

Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up
After some definitions and conceptual clarification, I argue for two theses. First, some posthuman modes of being would be extremely worthwhile. Second, it could be good for human beings to become posthuman. [Forthcoming in Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity, eds. Bert Gordijn and Ruth Chadwick (Springer), 2007] [pdf]
Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges
Cognitive enhancement comes in many diverse forms. In this paper, we survey the current state of the art in cognitive enhancement methods and consider their prospects for the near-term future. We then review some of ethical issues arising from these technologies. We conclude with a discussion of the challenges for public policy and regulation created by present and anticipated methods for cognitive enhancement. [with Anders Sandberg] [Forthcoming in Forbidding Science?, ed. Gary Marchant] [pdf]
Letter from Utopia
One of your possible future selves writing to you. [pdf] [Also in Italian, Spanish]
In Defense of Posthuman Dignity
Brief paper, critiques a host of bioconservative pundits who believe that enhancing human capacities and extending human healthspan would undermine our dignity. [Bioethics, 2005, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 202-214] [html | pdf] [also in Italian, Slovenian]
Technological Revolutions: Ethics and Policy in the Dark
Technological revolutions are among the most important things that happen to humanity. This paper discusses some of the ethical and policy issues raised by anticipated technological revolutions, such as nanotechnology. [pdf]
Transhumanism: The World's Most Dangerous Idea?
According to Francis Fukuyama, yes. This is my response. [Short version in Foreign Policy, in press; full version in Betterhumans, issue 10/19/2004] [Also in Italian] [html]
A History of Transhumanist Thought
The human desire to acquire new capacities, to extend life and overcome obstacles to happiness is as ancient as the species itself. But transhumanism has emerged gradually as a distinctive outlook, with no one person being responsible for its present shape. Here's one account of how it happened. [Journal of Evolution and Technology, 2005, Vol.14, No. 1] [pdf]
Recounts the Tale of a most vicious Dragon that ate thousands of people every day, and of the actions that the King, the People, and an assembly of Dragonologists took with respect thereof. [J Med Ethics, 2005, Vol. 31, No. 5, pp 273-277] [Also in Hebrew, Finnish, Spanish, French, Slovenian] [html | pdf]
Wonderful ways of being may be located in the "posthuman realm", but we can't reach them. If we enhance ourselves using technology, however, we can go out there and realize these values. This paper sketches a transhumanist axiology. [Preprint, Ethical Issues for the 21st Century, ed. Frederick Adams, Philosophical Documentation Center Press, 2003; reprinted in Review of Contemporary Philosophy, 2005, Vol. 4, May] [html | pdf]
A transhumanist ethical framework for public policy regarding genetic enhancements, particularly human germ-line genetic engineering [The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 493-506] [html | pdf]