Refocusing the Debate on Transhumanism
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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