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reconfiguring what it means to be human

Future Superhuman by Elise BohanCredits:

SCIENCE
Future Superhuman
Elise Bohan

NewSouth, $29.99

HG Wells once said that every time he saw an adult riding a bicycle, he no longer despaired for the future of the human race.

That looks like a rosy view of the relationship between human technology and human nature in the 21st century.

What would Wells have made of a Twitter feud, though? Or a combat drone?

Humans have accomplished incredible things, but we’re sitting on time bombs of our own devising. The problems that human nature causes may exceed the capacity of human ingenuity to resolve – but can we go beyond human? Become something better, something that doesn’t make the same mistakes? Future Superhuman makes the case for transformation.

Transhumanism as an academic field still carries a whiff of mad science, thanks largely to popular fascination with the most sensationalist possibilities. Killer cyborgs. cryogenics. A technological ‘singularity’.

A certain suspicion of the field should be expected. The line between science fiction and scientific rigour is often blurred, and transhumanism has attracted some truly eccentric adherents: you might remember the story of the Sydney ‘biohacker’ who implanted an Opal card in their body.

Elise Bohan takes pains to distance her work from the “foil-hat-wearing cranks” who often derail the conversation. As a research scholar at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, she may be one of the best-positioned people to assess the road ahead. She argues that as the rate of technological development gathers pace, so too does the urgency and relevance of transhumanist study.

Already, tech billionaires like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are deeply invested in explicitly transhumanist projects that seek to fundamentally alter our species, from brain-chip interfaces to extreme longevity. These projects, Bohan reasons, might sound fantastical, but then humanity couldn’t reasonably predict going “from horse-drawn carts to a global digital brain”.

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Future Superhuman by Elise BohanCredits:

SCIENCE
Future Superhuman
Elise Bohan

NewSouth, $29.99

HG Wells once said that every time he saw an adult riding a bicycle, he no longer despaired for the future of the human race.

That looks like a rosy view of the relationship between human technology and human nature in the 21st century.

What would Wells have made of a Twitter feud, though? Or a combat drone?

Humans have accomplished incredible things, but we’re sitting on time bombs of our own devising. The problems that human nature causes may exceed the capacity of human ingenuity to resolve – but can we go beyond human? Become something better, something that doesn’t make the same mistakes? Future Superhuman makes the case for transformation.

Transhumanism as an academic field still carries a whiff of mad science, thanks largely to popular fascination with the most sensationalist possibilities. Killer cyborgs. cryogenics. A technological ‘singularity’.

A certain suspicion of the field should be expected. The line between science fiction and scientific rigour is often blurred, and transhumanism has attracted some truly eccentric adherents: you might remember the story of the Sydney ‘biohacker’ who implanted an Opal card in their body.

Elise Bohan takes pains to distance her work from the “foil-hat-wearing cranks” who often derail the conversation. As a research scholar at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, she may be one of the best-positioned people to assess the road ahead. She argues that as the rate of technological development gathers pace, so too does the urgency and relevance of transhumanist study.

Already, tech billionaires like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are deeply invested in explicitly transhumanist projects that seek to fundamentally alter our species, from brain-chip interfaces to extreme longevity. These projects, Bohan reasons, might sound fantastical, but then humanity couldn’t reasonably predict going “from horse-drawn carts to a global digital brain”.

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