(Oops, I sent this out under wong heading, sorry for the duplication.)
I'm glad this subject came up on the list because in working on the FAQ,
we need to better determine and explain what a transhuman is by today's
standards. While I give credit to FM for his early definition and I
think that it should be respected and acknowledged, it seems that many of
us have different concepts on how we define transhuman.
In replying to the posts, I gave a lot of thought to more than just the
obvious differences in interpretation. I also considered my
background and both the professions and interests of others who have
responded. While it stands to reason that there will be fuzzy areas
and even cross-overs between human/transhuman/posthuman, and there will
also be some subjective views based on our own unique areas of study and
interest, it would be best in light of Reason's comments that we don't
dilute the original definition too much.
Today, I think Max More's philosophical understanding of the transhuman
period is beneficial. It parallels my own in many ways, but we
still differ on several points pertaining to the transition period but
agree on others (he's a fine sounding board); that I'd like to bring up
at some point this weekend. While I never fully agreed with FM, I
fully understand why we need to be clear in developing a more
finely-tuned understanding of the word. I'd also like to include Damien
Broderick' because it was Damien who wrote about transhuman some years
ago also. While FM wrote in an ideological context, Damien in a
science fiction context, myself in a cultural context, Max coverer
these ideas in his dissertation and afterwards very
In the FAQ (Transhumanist) that I am working on, I think its
important to include a number of ideas as well as agree on a
substantial representation of where we are today.
* * * * *
>From an essay I wrote some years ago:
"T.S. Eliot wrote about the risks of the human journey in becoming
enlightened or illuminated as expressed by the character Julia in his
play "The Cocktail Party" _The Complete Poems and Plays 1909
- 1950_, published by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York.
"You and I don't know the process by which the human is
Transhumanised: what do we know of the kind of suffering they must
undergo on the way of illumination?"
Undoubtedly, there may be elements of angst in our evolutionary journey
of becoming transhuman and eventually posthuman, but not be the type of
suffering that many humans need to assuage the fear of having too much or
being too successful. Contrarily, the suffering transhumans experience
comes from the constraints of a short life span and the crippling nature
of death, not of the journey to enlightenment.
The actual concept of transhuman as an evolutionary transition was first
expressed by FM-2030. His trilogy, _Up-Wingers, Telespheres_ and
_Optimism One_ (1973) constitutes the beginnings of the
transhumanist philosophy, as well as his contributing final chapter in _
Woman, Year 2000_ (1972) Ideas about humanity and evolution were
explored by Julian Huxley in his writings on evolutionary humanism in the
book <i>Evolution: The Modern Synthesis_ (1942) and Teilhard de
Chardin in <i>The Future of Man_ (1959). In 1966, FM-2030 (formerly,
F.M. Esfandiary) outlined an evolutionary transhuman future while
teaching "New Concepts of the Human" at the New School for
Social Research, New York City. Abraham Maslow referred to transhumans in
_Toward a Psychology of Being_, (1968), Robert Ettinger also
referred to transhumans in _Man into Superman_ (1972), my own
writings in the "Transhuman Statement" (TransArt) (1982), and
by Damien Broderick in _The Judas Mandala_ (1982). The ideas of man,
or the humans overcoming their limits has been a life-long desire of of
humanity through civilization. Today, we have the technological tools to
begin overcoming human limits. But this is not all. We need to develop
the mindset for which to explore the new technologies. FM-2030 used the
words "multi-track" to break though single-track thinking.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, De Bono, William Calvin and Carl Sagan were also
creative thinking strategists who worked toward developing, each in his
separate discipline, ways to encourage new thinking patterns for the
The _Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedia Dictionary_ (1966) defines
"transhuman" as meaning "surpassing; transcending;
beyond". In the _Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary_
(1983), "transhuman" is defined as meaning
"superhuman," and "transhumanize," meaning "to
elevate or transform to something beyond what is human". Yet, these
are not a complete and contemporary meanings.Today, we refer to
transhuman as meaning an evolutionary transition from being biologically
human toward our merger with technology, as set forth by FM.
FM defined transhuman as "a new kind of being crystallizing from the
monumental breakthroughs of the late twentieth century. ... the earliest
manifestations of a new evolutionary being." Later he authored the
book _Are You A Transhuman?_ (1989).
Transhumanism has a slightly different beginning. Julian Huxley’s book
written in 1956, _New Bottles For New Wine_, contains the essay
"TRANSHUMANISM" which sets out to explain how humans must
establish a better environment for themselves. He also alludes to a new
species that the human might eventually become. The difference in
Huxley’s transhumanism and Max More’s transhumanism is that Huxley states
"man remaining man but transcending himself." Transhumanism as
defined by Max More explains the overcoming of human limits and the
transformation from being human to becoming posthuman. Although Huxley
had a vision of a possible future for humanity, he single-tracked the
future when he saw man remaining man.
How did the memetic spreading of transhumanity begin? What started as
futurist ideas taught by FM at the New School University eventually
became evolving ideas held by thousands of individuals linking across the
Internet. FM has an enormous following of individuals fascinated by his
particular visionary views. At the University of California Los Angeles,
FM brought together hundreds to discuss ways to "flash foward"
to the coming decades. Transhumanist Arts reached out to culture with
electronic arts and images of space and evolution. The cyberculture
became the most fertile breeding ground for people interested in
exploring new tools. Extropy Institute spearheaded extropian transhuman
influence academically, in print and throughout the Internet. The Extro
Conferences, meetings, parties, on-line debates, and documentaries have
continued to get the idea of the transhuman to the public.
While the scientific community embraced the new concepts in human
evolution, the art community focused on exploring new tool of electronics
to enhance our senses and develop alternative realities. Soon
evolutionary memes such as extropy, nanotechnology, biotech, A-Life, AI,
SI, VR, transhuman, automorph, extreme-life, avatar, singularity, and
thoughts of new types of sexuality and genders arose. Like meme spores
infiltrating culture with words well known in the scientific world,
artists have been exploring the ideas of evolution and giving them the
art of life.
Transhuman history is comprised of knowledge of events transforming our
species, and in particular, of our creativity, science and technology.
>From the earliest plebeian cultures—to the advanced complexities of
social systems—the future has been unfolding.
Our evolution has been a cumulative process. Footprints across time have
left traces of our reach beyond ourselves for something better. Today we
are on the threshold of the present evolution - the
* * *
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