Transhumanism, literally meaning “beyond human,” is a philosophical, scientific, and technological expression of humanity taking control of its evolutionary destiny. Note: If you don’t “believe” in evolution, stop reading now. Go to school, take some online classes, and go read some books written by actual scientists, then come back. If you want some recommendations, contact me.
CHECK OUT: Death By Robot. More questions than answers.
Morphological freedom is having the choice and ability to alter your body in whatever way you want. For transhumanists, there are a couple of conditions to ensure the “freedom” part of the term.
First, there can be no coercion. The person having their body altered must do it of their own volition. This includes the artist / surgeon / technician conducting the procedure. Also, a third party should not be harmed because of the alteration. As an extreme (and silly) example:
Jane may choose to have jets of fire implanted in her arms. Even if she and the person who installed the mini-flamethrowers aren’t harmed by the processes, other people could get burnt, buildings could be damaged, and it would be hell on some 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.
The second component of morphological freedom is privacy. If the above conditions are met, what a person chooses to do with their body is no one else’s business. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks the person looks “strange” or “weird.” One person’s religion or philosophical worldview has no bearing on how another person chooses to look. Humans should be free to change their appearance to what pleases them most.
Body alterations are nothing new: tattoos, piercings, and lip plates have existed for thousands of years. Problems arise when one group of people attempt to exert control — thus limiting the freedom — over another group.
The Body Theory
Tying personhood to the human body is problematic. While physical death ends a biography — here lies Alex Hamilton 2000–2043 — other changes to the body don’t stop a person from being themselves.
If you get your haircut today, are you different person from yesterday? Of course not. You may look different, but you’re still you.
What if you lose your arm in a tragic car accident and get a prosthesis? Are you less you? Less human? While you may suffer from PTSD, pain and depression, you are still participating in the continuity of your life’s story.
The question becomes one of how much your body can be changed while still remaining you. The answer: all of it.
A building explodes. You need multiple internal organs and new skin; a bionic eye is installed to replace the one pierced by flying shrapnel. When you wake up, your name is the same and your past remains the narrative of your history. Human, animal or artificial organs have no bearing on your personhood and humanity.
Even examining your body at the molecular level doesn’t change who you are. If you had an identical twin with the same DNA, you would remain an individual person. They would not be you.
Me vs. You
Absolute freedom isn’t a viable option for society, hence the limiting factors tied to morphological freedom. Someone can choose to go on a murderous rampage, but if caught, there’s a societal price to be paid.
When soldiers return home with war-ravaged bodies, science and technology tries to put them back together again. Instead of being called a “freak”, they’re called “heroes.” Society pities and celebrates their sacrifice by trying to make their bodies whole again.
It’s when body alteration is preferencial that certain parties get offended. I’ve heard old people complain about young people’s choice of hair color (though the old women can go blue and purple). I had a Christian parent tell me they taught their kid that tattoos were the mark of the devil: a handstamp straight to hell. A previous generation doesn’t get the current generation’s piercings. The derision arises from the ignorance of despising the different. The social sciences call this “othering”.
Transhumanism is life affirming. It wants to shape human destiny, freeing our species from the slavery of a biological lottery. Human freedom includes an individual’s right to alter their body as their conscience dictates.
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Originally published at www.governmentfishbowl.com on January 28, 2015.