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H+/-: Transhumanism and Its Critics Paperback – January 25, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Metanexus Institute (January 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1456815652
  • ISBN-13: 978-1456815653
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Introduction to this 2011 book defines Transhumanism as the view that "human nature is improvable through the use of applied science and other rational methods, which may make it possible to increase human health-span, extend our intellectual and physical capacities, and give us increased control over our own mental states and moods." It adds, "Humanity Plus or Minus (H+/-) explores this debate with sixteen essays for and against the bioengineering of an improved humanity."

One ("against") essayist suggests that "I for one believe that we should not put our efforts into reengineering cell biology so as to postpone aging indefinitely; rather, we should recognize the beauty of the life processes and the cycle of birth, maturation, aging, and death." (Pg. 47)

Another ("for") essayist says that "there are even greater dangers associated with not creating posthumans... I would venture to suggest there is a 90 percent chance of civilization surviving the next two centuries if we follow the transhumanist path, while I would put the chances of civilization surviving a steady-as-she-goes policy at less than 20 percent. But then, I am an optimist." (Pg. 108)

An "against" essayist argues that transhumanist assumptions regarding progress "are naive because they fail to operate with an anthropology that is realistic regarding the human proclivity to turn good into evil... (because) these technologies can become perverted and bent toward destructive purposes." (Pg. 148) A different but sympathetic essayist suggests that the transhumanist movement "is a kind of secular religion promoting its own apocalyptic and messianic vision of the end times... (it) is continuous with other messianic movements throughout human history." (Pg. 264)

This book is a well-balanced, excellent introduction to the debates about posthumanism/transhumanism.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found that while reading this book - for the degree of contention is such around a issue like transhumanism - that I was predisposed to favor a side, from the beginning. Such a side is against the most virulent form of transhumanism - the conquest of aging, disease, death & sustenance of the human by virtual means.

A quick word, though, before too much of my views. This book is well organized representing both pro & anti transhumanism sides of the story & also has a neat arrangement of essays & counter essays. Then it has some interesting little essays on transhumanism as represented in science fiction etc. Quite a neat, little collection.

Like I said, the nature of the polemic is such that I was unable to be very objective. Regardless, a pattern emerges very soon. Those for transhumanism come across as die hard individualists & those that oppose it seem to worry about larger social implications of an idea like this.

Some pro transhumanism tricks are obvious. No one in their right minds would want congenital diseases in their children, for example. Genetically engineered babies would guarantee this. So transhumanism. Some others are more sophisticated. For example, the assertion that continuing to be way we are would most certainly wipe us off, so transhumanism is our only chance regardless of the risks it poses, & so transhumanism etc.

Some anti transhumanism rhetoric is just as banal. Like religion is not, & more importantly never has been, opposed to technological progress or that capitalism will simply ensure that this kind of technology only widens the inequalities in society.

Outside of some of this playing the gallery kind of stuff, the rest of the content is quite good & interesting.
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I enjoyed this collection of essays despite my disappointment in some of the weaker essays. The good ones made up for the ones inserted by noted advocates who provided diluted and disjointed essays.

The good ones were engrossing and I believe lay out the framework of this debate very nicely and in compelling terms. Those persuaded by either side of the argument will find information that will console and confront.

Intense interest in this issue will continue to increase - our developing world must find better methods and modes of thinking about our new technological capabilities than relying upon rehashes of the past two hundred years of social and political discourse. Reading this collection of essays will stimulate you to consider new ways of considering how to deal with technology's advance.

Neither the rapture nor the singularity provide sufficient ways of considering our way forward.
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Not having read much about this subgroup of philosophers and futurists, I was interested to read this compilation of essays for and against the making of superhumans using medical breakthroughs, technology and genetic manipulation. The concerns about unintended consequences from experimental attempts to correct mistakes and diseases leads to well founded fears as well as the hopes for a better future for humanity. It was a reasonably well presented perspectives on this topic. I am glad I read it. I can see the optimistic, championing this approach, while those who have learned from experience to fear 'noble attempts' at fundamental changes that have undesirable risks,sounding the alarm. It makes me wary of any unregulated movement in this field but it does not make me want to call for a prohibition of creativity in the service of improvement of our condition.
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