Transhumanism is defined by Anders Sandberg in “Transhumanism and the Meaning of Life,” the opening chapter of Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement:
Transhumanism, broadly speaking, is the view that the human condition is not unchanging and that it can and should be questioned. Further, the human condition can and should be changed using applied reason. As Max More explained, transhumanism includes life philosophies that seek the evolution of intelligent life beyond its current human form and limitations, using science and technology. (Sandberg, 2015, p. 3)
Transhumanism, therefore, can be seen as an effort to change ourselves in physical, fundamental ways. It is an ideology based in a faith in future technology and its ability to transform. It is a movement which seeks to establish the bridge between who we are now and who we have the potential to be.
A multitude of technological and ideological movements can be considered transhumanist in nature. The anti-aging movement, for example, seeks to eliminate old age and aging in general (Vincent, 2014, p. 30). Postgenderists seek the destruction of gender as a biological and social institution (Dvorsky, 2008). Singularitarians believe in the inevitable creation of superintelligence, entities surpassing human reasoning abilities and representing a massive shift in our history (Yudkowsky, 2000). These and other movements are united by a common desire to reconstruct humanity’s identity and existence.
Transhumanism, then, is a composite movement or trend in our history composed of many sub-movements and trends. Transhumanism as a general concept has no central and concrete goal other than altering the human condition and bridging humanity with posthumanity. Rather, it is these sub-movements and sub-sub-movements which contain the more digestible and practically attainable goals. Additionally, it is certainly easier to quantify steps toward less general goals.
What are the steps, then, that can and are being taken toward a posthuman existence? The true meat of this process is, of course, in the menagerie of technological innovations across numerous human-centric fields which both influence and are influenced by societal forces. These innovations which serve to directly overcome out natural limits can be considered under the term of human enhancement or augmentation technologies. Human enhancement technologies can be split various ways depending on the perspective of the observer. One such split is outlined in the New Waves in Philosophy of Technology article “Human Enhancement and Personal Identity”:
A basic distinction can be made between bodily and mental or psychological enhancements, where the former include improvements of the body, and the latter improvements of the mind and behavior. Bodily enhancements can be further divided into physical and cosmetic enhancements, and mental enhancements into cognitive, affective and personality enhancements.
Physical enhancements are enhancements of human physical capacities, which are capacities for physical action and for the maintenance of a good physical condition. They include capacities like strength, speed, agility, endurance, precision, and resistance against heat and cold. Cognitive enhancements are enhancements of human perceptual and cognitive capacities. They enhance human abilities for sensory perception, memory, decision-making, thought and imagination. Affective and personality enhancements are enhancements of mood, personality traits, and (social) behavioral tendencies, such as tendencies to tendencies to have positive moods, to have greater confidence, or to be more sympathetic. Cosmetic enhancements, finally, are aesthetic enhancements of features of the body. Existing cosmetic enhancements include a variety of cosmetic surgery procedures, like eyelid and breast surgery, and focus on visual beauty. They could conceivably also be targeted at nonvisual features like voice and smell. (Brey, 2008, p. 3-5)
The article also goes onto categorize the techniques by which such enhancements are installed: prosthesis, pharmacological treatment, and genetic engineering (Brey, 2008, p. 4). This categorization will prove useful to keep in mind when considering specific instances of transhumanist technology in the examined works.