How VR is helping prepare human beings for transhumanism
Transhumanism is a touchy subject. The idea that technology can enhance the human race has raised controversy and sparked ethical and moral debates. Just dive into the dark corners of the internet — you might find peculiar rants and conspiracy theories on the subject. Some may also dismiss transhumanism as too theoretical and sci-fi.
Yet consider initiatives like CRISPR, which are pioneering advancements in genetic modification. Consider the progress made in fields like assistive AI and wearable tech.
It’s not that farfetched to assume we’re already well on our way to transhumanism.
Indeed, we’re already surrounded by transhumanist-like applications. Smartphones, for example, have become a sort of extension of ourselves. For better or worse, humans have become quite reliant on the computational power in our pockets.
We could even argue this technological familiarity has set the foundation, almost primed us, for the human race to operate at an entirely new level.
So, what does this have to do with VR?
That’s a good question. Transhumanism and VR share a key conceptual assumption: the self is somewhat enigmatic.
Let’s consider how you experience VR. Sometimes, you find yourself in a setting where you inhabit an avatar or vessel. Other times, you’re simply a disembodied point of consciousness with limited expression, perhaps nothing more than a pair of virtual hands.
In both, you still inhabit the space mentally and intellectually. Yet the way you perceive yourself has changed.
The enigmatic self could actually help build open-minded and diverse platforms with equitable and fair-minded communities. After all, VR is a relatively new technology and likely to become more mainstream down the line. Those raised with VR will be part of the communities most used to the idea of transcending their own physicality.
It’s these users that may, perhaps, be the most equipped to be part of the integrative technological and biological evolution of mankind.
The direction we’re heading as a species
The conversations around transhumanism explore how we interact with the world. They consider the senses we experience from having a physical body and how those could be augmented, perhaps by being uploaded as a consciousness within a machine.
And what about today’s technology? Augmented reality, for one, is an enhancement of the physical world, providing us with an almost second sight over our standard biological vision. Almost everyone has seen a superhero movie at some point in their life. We know these heroes have superpowers like regeneration or supersonic vision or hearing.
The incredible thing is that researchers are already working on this stuff. We may soon experience new sensations and senses.
Let’s consider the Ted Talk presented by Neuroscientist David Eagleman. He covers mind-blowing research into how technology can transmute sound for those with impaired hearing by turning it into a physical sensation experienced through a wearable vest.
There are hundreds of examples of artificial biologies, such as with hearing aids which are commonplace and accepted as the norm today. At one point, people probably disliked the idea of placing a foreign object on their body. Yet they’ve become part of our everyday life.
Technology hasn’t always been electronic and as advanced as today, but it has always been a part of our evolution. AR is already providing a basis from which possible applications could lie. VR is preparing us for a shift in perception and helping us get further accustomed to transhumanism.
Ciaran Foley is CEO of Ukledo and Immersive Entertainment, Inc. a Southern California virtual reality software company developing a new virtual engagement platform called Virtual Universe (VU).
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