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Building Better Humans?

Refocusing the Debate on Transhumanism


Edited By Hava Tirosh-Samuelson and Kenneth L. Mossman

This is the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary, inter-religious, and critical engagement with transhumanism as a cultural phenomenon, an ideology, and a philosophy. Situating transhumanism in its proper historical context, the essays reflect on transhumanism from the perspectives of several world religions, ponder the feasibility of regulating human enhancement, tease out the philosophical implications of transhumanism, explore the interplay between technology and culture, and expose the scientific limits of transhumanism. Written by scholars of religious studies, philosophy, history, psychology, neuroscience, immunology, engineering, science/technology studies, and law, the volume encourages readers to examine transhumanism seriously and critically because of its ramifications for the future of humanity.


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Part IV: Transhumanism as a Futuristic Vision


357 The (Un)Likelihood of a High-Tech Path to Immortality Barry G. Ritchie Immortality as the Ultimate Goal of Technology in Transhumanism The array of technological human enhancements and therapies tagged for inclu- sion under the umbrella term transhumanism has proven contentiously flexible. Some argue that commonplace enhancements like contact lenses, knee replace- ments, and heart pacemakers fit into the “low end” of the spectrum of bodily additions or alterations qualifying an individual for inclusion in the new species of transhumans (Hames 2007, 162; Grundmann 2007, 85). Others counter that these same technologies merely represent medical progress and caution that claiming these advances fall within the definition of transhumanism amounts to a bait-and-switch strategy to legitimize the more fantastic and controversial ideas about the future of human enhancement (Hefner 2009; Nordmann 2007). Regardless of the disagreements about what represents the “low end” of the technological territory for transhumanism, the upper limit of that realm is usually accepted as self-evident: immortality. Since that particular word is eschewed sometimes due to perceived religious overtones or fears that word choice may sound too audacious, some prefer terms like indefinite lifespan, infinite lifespan, endless living, and so forth. Nonetheless, what is meant is the removal of death as the (currently) certain outcome of human life, with the proviso that the partic- ular life being extended indefinitely includes, at a minimum, an intact mind and personhood exhibiting the continuity of past experience we associate with being alive and conscious. Much of the media attention devoted...

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