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Day by day, we find that the barriers between humans and animals are blurring and breaking. Humankind has lost claims of exclusivity on many of its traits to years of research and study. We find ourselves struggling to locate characteristics by which we can definitively define ourselves other than biological makeup. We need something to hold onto, something to convince us of our own uniqueness and importance.>
For me, humanity’s most important and defining traits are its ingenuity and persistence. We create to live and live to create. We have always sought new ways to improve our lives and enhance our abilities. As the years have progressed, each successive generation has built on the achievements of the past, and all of human science and technology is a Tower of Babel reaching toward the heavens.
We are at a pivotal moment in human history. Past technological and scientific achievements have really only had external effects. We used to create entities and systems that existed outside of ourselves. Now, these innovations have made their way not only into lives but into our very beings. Prosthetics, pacemakers, and wearable technology are all small but certain steps into a more integrated future. Barring extreme disaster or ideological revolution, it will only be a matter of decades before we find ourselves as something truly distinct from all we have been before.
The creation of technology which allows us to transcend the human condition will, as with all technological development, be informed by our past dreams and imaginations. Indirectly, religious and philosophical works have always played a hand in what and how we do. It is natural that the codes by which we live and think would influence our actions in reality. However, beyond such works there exists a sea of direct illustrations of a future humanity. As science fiction developed in the 20th century alongside new forms of media such as film and video games, there has been so shortage of works that have taken a look at our species’ potential fate. This website’s main purpose is to take a look at a few key works with transhumanist themes, examine their handling of and attitudes toward transhumanism, and gain insight into the ways in which media as a whole approaches and influences transhumanism.
The works below have been chosen for a few reasons. Firstly, they represent a decent smattering of variety in terms of medium. Secondly, they are relatively well known works whose merits are nearly universally acknowledged. Thirdly, they are works with which I am personally familiar and, as such, are works I feel most comfortable and invested in dissecting.
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Certainly the most prevalent theme of all of these works is the question of who we are collectively as a species. These works show not only the growing relevance of this question but also the different ways in which the question arises. Deus Ex and Ghost in the Shell spend their time depicting futures of humans modifying their own minds and bodies to better complete their goals. Blade Runner, meanwhile, does not consider this kind of personal enhancement. Rather than take a look at modified humans, the film takes a look at created humans. There is a distinction to be made between questions of identity that arise from the creation and existence of external entities versus self-directed modification and replacement.
The differences between these works illustrate the differences between what end-result “posthumans” can be. AI’s, replicants, or simply modified humans can all be considered posthuman in nature. The overlapping of these types of entities in the same universe (such as the presence of augmented humans alongside sentient AI’s in Deus Ex) suggests the potential for a future comprised of multiple types of posthumans.
These selected works have attracted so many fans due in no small part to the fantastic nature of their worlds. However, those who live their everyday lives within these worlds seem mostly adjusted and unaffected. In the present, we discuss with great excitement transforming our selves and our society. Inhabitants of these works, existing within a sea of technology we only theorize about, seem less transformed than we expect. Incredible advances are stalked by devastating problems. This suggests our future selves as being scientifically advanced but essentially encountering many of the same experiences as we do now, a suggestion equal parts terrifying and comforting.
These and other fictional images of our future do not exist in a vacuum. They are informed by the the past, of existing conceptions of and musings on morality, technology, science, religion, etc. As with every work in every medium, the familiar is combined with the unfamiliar to synthesize what we consider to be new. And just as the works of the present are influenced by the works of the past, so too are the works of the future influenced by the works of the present. As works on transhumanism permeate the social consciousness, their influence will be felt both consciously and unconsciously in the societies we create and the technologies we embrace.♦