What is Transhumanism?Speculative Design
As defined by Humanity+, an educational non-profit that advocates ethical transhumanism:
1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.
This means that transhumanism extends beyond technological fiction and the mechanical act of creating cyborgs; it contains within it a system of philosophy with a strong focus on using technology to enhance human potential while balancing this against the need to identify and analyse potential outcomes and consequences. The transhumanist movement contains within it certain ideological imperatives, finding natural evolution unnecessarily limiting and addressing the necessity to push the species forward using all available means – within reasonable ethical constraints of course.
The transhumanist declaration was originally created in 1998 and has since then been updated clarified multiple times. The latest version (updated in 2012) has been published in the Transhumanist Reader:
1. Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.
2. We believe that humanity’s potential is still mostly unrealized. There are possible scenarios that lead to wonderful and exceedingly worthwhile enhanced human conditions.
3. We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. There are possible realistic scenarios that lead to the loss of most, or even all, of what we hold valuable. Some of these scenarios are drastic, others are subtle. Although all progress is change, not all change is progress.
4. Research effort needs to be invested into understanding these prospects. We need to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications. We also need forums where people can constructively discuss what could be done and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented.
5. Reduction of risks of human extinction, and development of means for the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of grave suffering and the improvement of human foresight and wisdom, be pursued as urgent priorities and generously funded.
6. Policy making ought to be guided by responsible and inclusive moral vision, taking seriously both opportunities and risks, respecting autonomy and individual rights, and showing solidarity with and concern for the interests and dignity of all people around the globe. We must also consider our moral responsibilities towards generations that will exist in the future.
7. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise.
8. We favor morphological freedom – the right to modify and enhance one’s body, cognition, and emotions. This freedom includes the right to use or not to use techniques and technologies to extend life, preserve the self through cryonics, uploading, and other means, and to choose further modifications and enhancements.
In terms of attempting to understand the movement, one of the most helpful resources available is the Transhumanism FAQ. I will be referencing this a fair amount throughout project development.