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SCIENCE TO THE LIMIT OF POSSIBLE


transhumanismo@sapo.pt

Transhumanism = Scientific current trying to improve Man's Intelligence, and Happiness.
Terça-feira, 15 de Setembro de 2009
TRANSHUMANISM AND INTERCULTURALITY

António Carvalho, PhD (University of Exeter)

 

Science and the technology are absolutely crucial for the contemporary societies. The model of linear evolution, associated to the galloping proliferation of new instruments, techniques and easiness in the mediation between human beings and nature, must, however, be questioned. Instead of thinking in terms of continuity, linearity and teleological consumption, we can incorporate some ideas extracted from the debates within philosophy, history and sociology of Science and Technology that contribute for the quarrel with terms such as paradigm, rupture, localization, situation or ethnicity.
A certain tension is associated with questions such as: What is knowledge? Who can produce it? Where shall it be developed? Who shall take usufruct of it? It is also notorious the constraint provoked by the dissemination of other knowledge and cultures with distinct epistemological conceptions.
Transhumanism, assuming itself as a movement aiming at reaching the post-human-being state, must take into account the existence of other approaches, that can be designated as non-technological, to the human improvement. The integration of these other conceptions can confer an intercultural and universal load to the improvement of the human being, rejecting the conception of Transhumanism as a by-product of the advances reached in the “orthodox” Science and Technology of the “developed” countries.
Being impossible to catalogue all the non-western forms of approach to Transhumanism (and some of them are even western, however in a state of “anachronism” or non-conventional), we can allude to the practices connected to Yoga, meditation, the control of breath, the alteration of the corporal functions through all a series of exercises that transform the being of the subject. These practices, united under the aegis of what Foucault called “technologies of the self”, depend on an investment of the human will in which the individual takes for itself the full responsibility of its performance: they are, in this sense, an intensification of the agency of those who practice them.
Although they are quite distinct (a naive vision on these “other” practices could lead to their simplification and crystallization), these procedures depend on the interaction between human will and (psychophysical) condition, with the aim to “improve” the last one. They are and integrant part of an approach to knowledge and spiritualitythat values the embodied and experiential dimensions through a project of access to the “truth”.
These visions of improvement, carried out by individuals throughout specific periods of their lives, and which result in an amelioration of the mental aptitudes, better physical performance or development of paranormal capacities, shall be placed side by side with narratives extracted from the genetic engineering, the emergent technologies and hypotheses extracted from imagined future applications. We can, through the intercultural relation with other approaches to transhumanism, identify some interesting indications to rethink one of the great ethical concerns associated to the technological transformation of the human condition: the loss of the agency. In fact, the aprioristic redesign of the human biology, the introduction of technological devices in the body or the chemical stimulation of the neurophysiologic processes for the creation of states of higher pleasure, can imply the dissolution of a will and a consciousness associated to the image of the rational animal. These concerns still promote bigger distrusts when dystopias, present in the popular imaginary, are glimpsed, in which technological innovations are recruited by authoritarian regimes to format the citizens, facilitating and speeding the investments of power. The promotion of interculturality must ally practices of intensification of the “will” to the appropriation of the possibilities offered by the non-human artefacts and devices, opening, on the one hand, new possibilities for the human agency but, on the other hand, maintaining the anthropologic referent , avoiding the risk of what an author designated as “the organic totality”.

The hypotheses of improvement of the human being, in a global society, doubtlessly reflect the perplexities generated by the multiplication of perspectives on what is Man and what must be the future of his condition. The hypotheses supplied by the scientific and technological applications must, in a multicultural paradigm, be allied to a panoply of procedures that are recruited by individuals to modify their condition as spiritual beings. However, we cannot ignore that new associations between humans and non humans will give rise to new synergies and, eventually, to the reconfiguration of what it is understood as Ethics.



Published by Transhumanismo às 14:16
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2 comments:
De Transhumanismo a 13 de Janeiro de 2011 às 09:21
António Carvalho: “The model of linear evolution, associated to the galloping proliferation of new instruments, techniques and easiness in the mediation between human beings and nature, must, however, be questioned.”
Rui Barbosa: I agree partially due to the fact that much of the underlying research is aimed to the North American Defence.
António Carvalho: “Instead of thinking in terms of continuity, linearity and teleological consumption, we can incorporate some ideas extracted of the debates within philosophy, history and sociology of Science and Technology, that contribute for the quarrel with terms such as paradigm, rupture, localization, situation or ethnicity”
Rui Barbosa: No doubt: it is necessary to debate the theme in the adequate environments (and there are other besides those cited, among them Theology) and not in the labs.
António Carvalho: “It is shown up a certain tension associated with questions as: What is knowledge?”
Rui Barbosa: Knowledge Theory shows its limitations… Which is essential for the debate on the value of Transhumanism …
António Carvalho: “Who can produce it? Where shall it be developed?”
Rui Barbosa: Only in the occidental universities?
António Carvalho: “Who shall take usufruct of it?”
Rui Barbosa: The pretended target of the knowledge of the Transhumanists is Humanity in its whole; which is not enough informed, less consulted (Could it be in the Future and when? Because Communications don’t cover everyone … Also, will the others, and when, interested in debating it? …).
António Carvalho: “It is also added the constraint provoked by the dissemination of other knowledge and other cultures with distinct epistemological conceptions.
Transhumanism, assuming itself as a movement aiming at reaching the after-human-being state, must take into account the existence of other approaches, that can be designated not-technological, to the human improvement. The integration of these other conceptions can confer an intercultural and universal load to the human will to improve the human being, rejecting the conception of Transhumanism as a by-product of the advances reached in the “orthodox” Science and Technology of the “developed” countries.”
Rui Barbosa: Very synthetically, I think that Transhumanism addresses nearly exclusively to the materialistic-occidental perspective of Man, while other approaches of the present-future of the human being address to its spiritualistic-oriental side; being thus, I think that the subject must be thought as complementary perspectives and not as mutually exclusive ones… To develop more quickly the material side without the spiritual one would be an error, and vice versa. See the excellent post of Beja Santos “After the Hiper-consumption, what?” in this blog.
António Carvalho: “Being impossible to catalogue all the non-occidental forms of approach to Transhumanism (and some of them are even occidental, however in a state of “anachronism” or non-conventional), we can allude to the practices connected to Yoga, meditation, the control of breath, the alteration of the corporal functions through all a series of exercises that end transforming the being of the citizen. These practices, united under the aegis of what Foucault called “technologies of the subject”, depend on an investment of the human being will in which the citizen takes for itself the full responsibility of its performance: they are, in this sense, an intensification of the agency of those who practice them.
Rui Barbosa: Perhaps there is an important exception to this last point: the procreative freedom, in which the father takes decisions on the future of the son.


De Transhumanismo a 13 de Janeiro de 2011 às 09:21
António Carvalho: “We can, through the intercultural relation with other approaches to transhumanism, identify some interesting indications to rethink one of the great ethical concerns associated to the technological transformation of the human condition: the loss of the agency. In fact, the aprioristic redesign of the human biology, the introduction of technological devices in the body or the chemical stimulation of the neurophysiologic processes for the creation of states of bigger pleasure can imply the dissolution of a will and a conscience associated to the image of the rational animal.”
Rui Barbosa: Very important point that I see treated for the first time… the Will and the Conscience are critical elements of the definition of Man… unhappyly many transhumanists, not to say the majority, speak of Man as if it was a Robot…
António Carvalho: “These concerns still promote bigger distrusts when dystopias are glimpsed, present in the popular imaginary, in which technological innovations are recruited by authoritarian regimes to format the citizens, facilitating and speeding the investments of power.”
Rui Barbosa: Minsky defends the democraticity (from the Research and Development phase). There are Transhumanists that defend, in a similar situation, that we should go beyond democraticity in the direction of the use of these technologies to be left to the individual conscience instead of being imposed by law, in all cases except in the extreme ones.
António Carvalho: “The promotion of the interculturality must ally practices of intensification of the “will” to the appropriation of the possibilities offered by the non-human artefacts and devices, opening new possibilities for the human agency but without leaving the anthropologic referent in what an author designated “the organic totality” …
We cannot ignore that new associations between humans and non humans will give rise to new synergies and, eventually, to the reconfiguration itself of what it is understood as Ethical.”
Rui Barbosa: Regarding the referred synergies, which is already of a great and urgent importance, I refer the work made by the Professor of Philosophy of Sorbonne and author of a book just edited about After-human beings (1), who considers that the interaction with Informatics (Communications, Computers, Robots, etc.) already has been transforming ourselves (I hope not irreversibly) into Communications, Computers, Robots, etc. since it demands us to imitate those devices to be able to interact with them…
In conclusion, I attribute a great importance to the post of António Carvalho especially when it raises 2 of the most important themes to be debated on Transhumanism: its epistemological validity and the danger of the loss of agency on the part of Man due to itself or authoritarian regimes. This first contribution he gave launched a new phase in this debate that I didn’t see yet contemplated in the international and national references that I know, and that is, therefore, also a new phase in the Portuguese Chapter of the World Transhumanist Association
(1) Jean-Michel Besnier, Professeur de Philosophie, à l'Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), Directeur du Master Professionnel "Conseil éditorial et Gestion des connaissances", Chercheur au CREA (CNRS / Ecole Polytechnique) tél. prof. : 01 53 10 57 91, 0140463303 ou 01 55 55 86 23 e-mail : jean-michel.besnier@paris-sorbonne.fr, Jean-Michel.Besnier@shs.polytechnique.fr



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