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The Story of Rome - Becoming Posthuman

Updated on December 14, 2013

You cherish your improved health: you feel stronger, more energetic, and more balanced. Your skin looks younger and is more elastic. A minor ailment in your knee is cured. You also discover a greater clarity of mind. You can concentrate on difficult material more easily and it begins making sense to you. You start seeing connections that eluded you before. You are astounded to realize how many beliefs you had been holding without ever really thinking about them or considering whether the evidence supports them. You can follow lines of thinking and intricate argumentation farther without losing your foothold. Your mind is able to recall facts, names, and concepts just when you need them. You are able to sprinkle your conversation with witty remarks and poignant anecdotes. Your friends remark on how much more fun you are to be around. Your experiences seem more vivid. When you listen to music you perceive layers of structure and a kind of musical logic to which you were previously oblivious; this gives you great joy. You continue to find the gossip magazines you used to read amusing, albeit in a different way than before; but you discover that you can get more out of reading Proust and Nature. You begin to treasure almost every moment of life; you go about your business with zest; and you feel a deeper warmth and affection for those you love, but you can still be upset and even angry on occasions where upset or anger is truly justified and constructive.

As you yourself are changing you may also begin to change the way you spend your time. Instead of spending four hours each day watching television, you may now prefer to play the saxophone in a jazz band and to have fun working on your first novel. Instead of spending the weekends hanging out in the pub with your old buddies talking about football, you acquire new friends with whom you can discuss things that now seem to you to be of greater significance than sport. Together with some of these new friends, you set up a local chapter of an international non-profit to help draw attention to the plight of political prisoners. By any reasonable criteria, your life improves as you take these initial steps towards becoming posthuman. But thus far your capacities have improved only within the natural human range. You can still partake in human culture and find company to engage you in meaningful conversation. Consider now a more advanced stage in the transformation process... You have just celebrated your l7oth birthday and you feel stronger than ever. Each day is a joy. You have invented entirely new art forms, which exploit the new kinds of cognitive capacities and sensibilities you have developed. You still listen to music ? music that is to Mozart what Mozart is to bad Muzak. You are communicating with your contemporaries using a language that has grown out of English over the past century and that has a vocabulary and expressive power that enables you to share and discuss thoughts and feelings that unaugmented humans could not even think or experience. You play a certain new kind of

game which combines yR-mediated artistic expression,
dance, humor, interpersonal dynamics, and various novel
faculties and the emergent phenomena they make possible,
and which is more fun than anything you ever did during
the first hundred years of your existence. When you are
playing this game with your friends, you feel how every
fiber of your body and mind is stretched to its limit in the
most creative and imaginative way, and you are creating
new realms of abstract and concrete beauty that humans
could never (concretely) dream of. You are always ready to
feel with those who suffer misfortunes, and to work hard to
help them get back on their feet. You are also involved in a
large voluntary organization that works to reduce suffering
of animals in their natural environment in ways that permit
ecologies to continue to function in traditional ways; this
involves political efforts combined 4th advanced science
and information-processing services. Things are getting
better, but already each day is fantastic.
As we seek to peer farther into posthumanity, our ability
to concretely imagine what it might be like trails off. If,
aside from extended healthspans, the essence of
posthumanity is to be able to have thoughts and
experiences that we cannot readily think or experience with
our current capacities, then it is not surprising that our
ability to imagine what posthuman life might be like is very
limited. Yet we can at least perceive the outlines of some of
the nearer shores of posthumanity, as we did in the
imaginary scenario above. Hopefully such thought
experiments are already enough to give plausibility to the
claim that becoming posthuman could be good for us.

In the next three sections we will look in a little more
detail at each of the three general central capacities that I
listed in the introduction section. I hope to show that the
claim that it could be very good to be posthuman is not as
radical as it might appear to some. In fact, we will find that
individuals and society already in some ways seem to be
implicitly placing a very high value on posthuman
capacities ? or at least, there are strong and widely
accepted tendencies pointing that way. I therefore do not
regard my claim as in any strong sense revisionary. On the
contrary, I believe that the denial of my claim would be
strongly revisionary in that it would force us to reject many
commonly accepted ethical beliefs and approved behaviors.
I see my position as a conservative extension of traditional
ethics and values to accommodate the possibility of human
enhancement through technological means.


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