The Biggest Worry About Transhumanism

Will technology and science that make our species more transhuman be used to create a deeper divide in society for the haves and have-nots?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The transhumanism movement is rapidly catching on around the world. Everywhere I look -- whether it's in university laboratories, major news websites, or the boardrooms of tech companies -- the concept is being excitedly discussed and explored. The word "transhuman" literally means beyond human. Advocates want to use science and technology to radically improve our species, even if it means significantly altering the human being and how people experience the world. Only a decade ago, many laypersons found the concept of using transhumanist science to upgrade the human body and conquer death unbelievable and creepy. Now, many are wondering what the movement can do for them, and if it's the natural destiny of our species.

Despite the growing global acceptance of transhumanism, one major concern is repeatedly voiced by many people everywhere. The leading transhumanist science and technology is likely to come from large companies and elite universities, many of which are mostly controlled and administered by the uber-rich. It's therefore natural to ask: Will the uber-rich -- the wealthiest 1 percent of people on the planet -- freely share with the rest of the world the transhumanist technology they develop? Or will they take it for their own and attempt to create an Aldous Huxley Brave New World scenario, where they become the bonafide rulers through radical technological advancements that others can't access.

Frankly, since I don't belong to that 1 percent, I worry about this exact thing myself. The concern is no longer just a classic science fiction movie plot or a fringe conspiracy theory. Luckily, history does provide us with clues about our future when civilization makes massive leaps forward. Just consider the effects of society harnessing electricity, embracing jet air travel, or the ubiquitous use of the Internet. Those leaps have proven highly favorable for the species as a whole.

According to a 2013 World Bank report:

The number of people living on less than than $1.25 a day has decreased dramatically in the past three decades, from half the citizens in the developing world in 1981 to 21 percent in 2010, despite a 59 percent increase in the developing world population.

Mortality rates have dropped dramatically too -- about 1 percent a year for the last 40 years -- according to a detailed 2010 study in journal The Lancet.

Many of these living standard improvements for the world's population can be attributed to increased economic growth, which has been largely driven by technological innovation.

Consider some of the most pervasive technologies and medicines we have: cell phones, automobiles, vaccines and antibiotics. Most people on the planet, no matter how poor, have access to much of this technology, all which can be considered transhumanist-themed. Cell phones, for example, can be found being used by nomads living in African deserts. Another example is the many NGO and government-sponsored groups in Asia and Latin America vaccinating millions of street children for diseases such as Polio and Measles.

"Measles remains a major cause of death in children age five years and younger," says Dr. Scott J. Cohen, M.D., Founder and Medical Director of Global Pediatric Alliance.

Prior to 2000, there was more than 1500 child deaths everyday due to measles in under developed countries. Since 2000, more than 1 billion children in developing countries have been vaccinated against measles through mass vaccination campaigns. The measles death rate in developing countries has now dropped to about 330 per day, according to the World Health Organization.

Clearly, such broadly shared modern advancements are improving the world and helping the poorest. Another fact that encourages me about the future of science and technology are the personalities creating it. Mostly gone are the days of brazen, monopolistic tycoons such as John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, or Andrew Carnegie, who often operated on a "survival of the fittest" business model, sometimes at disregard to their employees and the public. Entrepreneurs today, like Larry Page of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Elon Musk of Tesla, are more sensitive to the public, to a civil business environment, and to democratic ideals. These are people whose top priorities include supporting the use of technology and innovation to open the world and to improve lives.

Despite this, people continue to worry that technology and science that make our species more transhuman will be used to create a deeper divide in society for the haves and have-nots. Those worries are unfounded. A close examination of the issues show that transhumanist technology and science liberates us, brings us better health, and has improved the living standards of all people around the world. If you value liberty, equality and progress, it makes sense to embrace the coming age of transhumanism.

Support HuffPost

Popular in the Community