The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future 1st Edition
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“The book, with the exceptions mentioned, may be read by nearly anyone. It is a simple and straight way to make oneself an idea about a movement it is now impossible not to know.” (Metapsychology, 19 November 2013)
“Edited by the internationally acclaimed founders of the philosophy and social movement of transhumanism, The Transhumanist Reader is an indispensable guide to our current state of knowledge of the quest to expand the frontiers of human nature.” (LIS Trends, 8 March 2013)
Review appeared in The Guardian 1st July 2013
―Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick for Wired
“Transhumanism has moved from a fringe concern to a mainstream academic movement with real intellectual credibility. This is a great taster of some of the best emerging work. In the last 10 years, transhumanism has spread not as a religion but as a creative rational endeavor.”
―Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
“The Transhumanist Reader is an important, provocative compendium critically exploring the history, philosophy, and ethics of transhumanism. The contributors anticipate crucial biopolitical, ecological and planetary implications of a radically technologically enhanced population.”
―Edward Keller, Director, Center for Transformative Media, Parsons The New School for Design
“This important book contains essays by many of the top thinkers in the field of transhumanism. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the future of humankind.”
―Sonia Arrison, Best-selling author of 100 Plus: How The Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything
- Publisher : Wiley-Blackwell; 1st edition (May 6, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1118334299
- ISBN-13 : 978-1118334294
- Item Weight : 1.94 pounds
- Dimensions : 7 x 1 x 10 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,357,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book opens with an appetite-evoking explanation: “By thoughtfully, carefully, and yet boldly applying technology to ourselves, we can become something no longer accurately described as human – we can become posthuman. … Posthuman beings would no longer suffer from disease, aging, and inevitable death (but they are likely to face other challenges). They would have vastly greater physical capability and freedom of form – often referred to as “morphological freedom”. Posthumans would also have much greater cognitive capabilities, and more refined emotions (more joy, less anger, or whatever changes each individual prefers). Transhumanists typically look to expand the range of possible future environments for posthuman life, including space colonization and the creation of rich virtual worlds. (p. 4).
However, when reading the first and last parts of the book I concluded that the most fateful required frame oI thinking is grossly neglected, namely: humankind becoming an agency having the power to impact significantly on its future as a species. Compared to this macro-historic evolutionary perspectives many of the issues discussed in the book are of secondary importance. To put it bluntly: the welfare of the present and next generation are less important than fateful impacts on the long-term evolution of the species as increasingly shaped by human choices on using of emerging technologies instead of “natural” evolution.
To give one illustration out of many, an interesting chapter states that that “biocultural capital refers to the various ways in which biotechnologies and the body/mind modification sciences are providing tools through which people can alter themselves to more adequately pursue their life goals” (p. 296). But, given the human species perspective, the statement should read: “…through which the present and coming generation can alter themselves to assure a desirable evolutionary trajectory for the human species, while also trying to pursue their life goals.”
The book includes many interesting philosophic chapters on various rights to reshape one’s self and their alternative bases. But missing is the overriding question who is entitled to make such choices and how to enforce them globally so as, first of all, to prevent as far as possible humankind self-termination; and, secondarily, increase the long-term range of choices for individuals and humanity as a whole. I think this would lead inevitably to recommendations on a selectively authoritative global regime lead by a morally and cognitively highly qualified and widely supported elite – thus, in part, returning to a new version of Plato (different from the discussion on pages 349 ff).
In addition to this fundamental lacuna some parts of the book made me feel that the authors and I live in different worlds. Thus:
1. Much of the discourse is naïve on the actual characteristics of human individuals and collectives, their wishes and understandings. E.g, humans are viewed as eager to improve their minds, while in fact most are mainly interested in pleasure, status and commodities. And only a minority fits the statement “Many of us expend life-long effort to educate and ennoble our sentiments, to build our character, and to try to become better people” (p. 37).
2. The fundamental values of fairness and equity are not seriously faced. The glib assertion that equal access to self-improving technologies is assured because their costs will go down may take a long time to become true and may not apply to some demanding technologies. Therefore, preventing a social caste structure it may be necessary to redistribute capital – a process hardly possible peacefully.
3. Unacceptable are views such as “[n]o organization, no policy, no person should have the absolute power and authority to hinder scientific and medical advances that can and do help millions of people throughout the world” (p. 23). It contradicts the proposed emphasis on the future evolution of our species and also the well-presented Proactionary Principle (chapter 26).
4. I agree that “people who are already endowed with above-average cognitive capacities are at least as eager, and, from what I can tell, actually more eager, to obtain further improvements in these capacities than are people who are less talented in these regards” (p 36); and “For many cognitive faculties, it appears that the marginal utility of improvements increases with capacity levels” (p. 39). But the text ignores the elitist implications of this reality -- which are very relevant for developing a pluralistic meritorious elite which should be in charge of fateful choices shaping the future of the human species, as noted. Not “politics as usual,” free markets or public opinions can realize the important Transhumanist Declaration (pp. 54 ff) with the added emphasis on a human species evolution perspective.
In the main body of the book, some chapters are good and many are fair. However some chapters propose hocus-pocus. Thus, repeated assertions that “I am persuaded” do not validate spiritual superficiality; and outlook mass markets are an absurdity.
All in all, my assessment is that the book includes important ideas and material, but does not do confront adequately the challenges posed by the emerging epoch of human evolution which is strongly shaped by human choices on using powerful Singularity technologies.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
And if you are a trans-humanist like me this book will help you rethink, self criticize, judge and solidify your arguments in defense of transhumanism.
It can be called the Trans-humanist Manifest, it after all tells of a coming revolution and the paradigm shift that moves along with it.
Read it and get ready for the new era, because its coming and no one will be able to stop it, those who will dare to take the next step will enjoy its benefits for the rest the only advice is "Resistance will be futile"
It's not *exciting* (it's actually scientifically exciting to me) as the fiction series Post-human (which is excellent) and not philosophy disguised as exciting Sci-Fi like The Transhumanist Wager, but it deals with what it will really take to reach a world in which we may never see death as long as we take care of ourselves now.
A lot of Transhuman talk I see these days focuses solely on the immortality aspect of it. Personally, I'm more excited about what to do once we can achieve a state where taking greater risks that would end our lives now would be possible in the future. This book cites real world examples of what Transhuman technology might do for us on top of hard driving essays about the moral structure of the future, of the now and of each other.
A must read for anyone who wants to truly understand what it means to be Transhuman, it'll give you many points to jump to from there.