I recently had a heated discussion with my friend about biohacking, transhumanism and this sort of stuff. In a nutshell, her position was this: technology is all well and good, but she would never let anyone to “invade” her body with technology because this would mean giving up her humanity.
However, I would like to ask you this: don’t you think we are already transhuman? For someone from the 18th century we would be the people of the distant future. How would they see us? Would they be appalled by how inhuman and unnatural we’ve become? To what extent we’ve allowed technology to invade our bodies?
You know, the robotic arm of unnatural strength that you control with your thoughts? Or a leg that never gets sore muscles? I know that people with bionic limbs would probably prefer the ones they were born with. However, accidents happen, and isn’t it cool that we can give survivors of those accidents their mobility and dexterity back, even if partially?
People with bad hearing wear a hearing aid and are able to function as people with excellent hearing, hear announcements at airports and cars signaling in the street. Children deaf from birth can have a hearing aid. Just look at up all those viral videos of infants who, thanks to this technology, hear the voices of their parents for the first time. Isn’t that the sweetest and the most human thing there is?
If you are only alive because of a tiny battery-operated device in your heart, you are a functioning cyborg, my friend. It is literally a piece of tech implanted to the innermost part of your body to make you tick. As of 2016, it was estimated that there were about 1.14 million pacemakers globally.
My uncle has a pacemaker that keeps him alive to the utter delight of the entire family whom he loves and who loves him dearly. You can’t get more human than he is.
Over 4 billion adults in the world wear glasses. About 75 percent of the adult population worldwide uses vision correction products, and 64 percent of them wear glasses, another 11 percent wear contacts. That’s A LOT of people who rely on technologically advanced tools for something as important and natural as sight. Those numbers could be even higher if it weren’t for laser correction surgeries. That’s the use of technology to augment human abilities, at least in my book. Would it be something drastic if contacts were to be internet-connected or capable of improving your night vision?
If we will be using bionic eyes to give the sight to blind people, it that giving up our humanity?
This is a piece of technology that we use to find a way in the city, to learn new stuff, to find romantic partners, to entertain ourselves, to keep in touch with our friends, to work, to create our online avatar presence on social media, to buy essential stuff, to cover up for college mess-ups. We do everything via smartphones.
We have almost fused with those already. If we will have a chip in our wrist to control and locate it, will it make that much difference? I mean, we already share our bacteria with it, it recognized our biodata: our face, our retina, or our fingerprint. It stores a history of our locations, physical activity, our sleeping patterns, our preferences in consumer goods, what we liked on social media and what we didn’t admit we liked but viewed dozens of times.
Even fully able-bodied people who don’t need any aid wear devices to track their biodata – every heartbeat, every step, every glass of water. Quite literally. Why? Just because we can. Just think when you have seen someone who doesn’t either smartwatch or at least a fitness tracker.
We get physical signals (vibration) from the things on our wrists when someone tries to contact us. We look at our wrists to read messages or just to know the time. It’s such an instinctive gesture! You do it all the time even when you know that your watch is in the service. You are just like: “I wonder what time it is now?” and you shake wrist. You don’t look at the sun or stars, friend. You shake your wrist, you cyborg!
“Yeah,” I hear you say, “but I can take it off. I don’t want science to mess up my natural biology.” I hear you. Yet think about this: technology gave us vaccines. Doesn’t it mess with your biology the good way? They take a metal thing, stick it under your skin and update your immune system, that’s what shot is. An update.
More than 8 million babies born from IVF since the world's first in 1978, including yours truly. I am transhuman because I would never have been born if it weren’t for the lab and an electronic microscope, and all the science that messes with biology. I don’t mind, do you?
Of course, if you think about transhumanism in a sort of “Ghost in the Shell” light, it can be problematic. If your body is manufactured and even your brain is nothing but a super-powerful computer, are you human? If memories and personalities can be uploaded and downloaded, can you be sure they are really yours? Even if you were born a human, but then upgraded part by part, where is the line when you are no longer a living thing? These are intriguing questions that we will need to answer in the future.