This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

April 30, 2003

More than a Human

Technology that can enhance human function is moving to a higher level. The emerging field of study and philosophy embracing human enhancement is called "transhumanism." Essentially, transhumanists believe that technology can and should be used to enhance human abilities. Principal technologies involved are nanotechnology, including biological, material science and computer applications; genetic engineering, both somatic and germline; and pharmacology, involving the use of drugs to enhance function and extend life.

Does this scientific approach include cloning of human beings? Not yet. Members of the World Transhumanist Association, the largest and best-respected organization in the field, do not condone human cloning in its current state. They also recognize the value of having governments regulate potential hazards like nanotechnology pollution.

So what's coming? We've long heard about microscopic machines that can clear a blocked artery or eliminate a gall or kidney stone or the use of gene therapy to eliminate awful diseases like cerebral palsy and diabetes. But the transhumanists also defend individuals' right to use future drugs, gene therapies and nanorobotics that radically extend our life span and increase our intelligence.

Founded in 1998, The World Transhumanist Association (, will hold a conference on "The Adaptable Human Body: Transhumanism and Bioethics in the 21st Century" at Yale University in June, co-sponsored by the Yale Interdisciplinary Bioethics Program's Working Group on Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology and Transhumanism.. A groundbreaking event, this conference will feature discussion between the transhumanist movement and their critics and supporters from professional bioethics, anti-technology movements, and the social sciences. Possibly the most intriguing to us is the closing keynote, "Who's Afraid of PostHumanity?: The Politics and Ethics of Genetically Engineering People."

What will the human body be like in 50 years? How may changes to our bodies change our life experience? How will we adapt the body to our needs and to the environments in which we live? Will we have conquered sickness, aging, and death for all or only for the lucky few? Will people migrate to silicon platforms or pursue enhanced biological existence-both or neither? Lots of questions. Perhaps these transhumanists have some of the answers?

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