[one] on the one hand: the "transhumanist" who feels a moral obligation to "enhance" human capacities, morphologies, and lifeways by means of emerging genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive techniques to better facilitate the project of engineering the homo superior of the "posthumanity" with which they identify, andThese projects to facilitate particular parochial conceptions of humanity with which they identify through emphatic recourse to or repudiation of medical technique, seem to me in both cases profoundly eugenic (it pays to remember that in foreswearing emerging forms of medical technique, "bioconservatives" are enshrining as "natural" the norms and practices that currently contingently guide kinship and reproduction in the service of patriarchy and other traditional hierarchical social forms, a selective breeding program no less technical and artificial for having lasted in most places for many thousands of years).
[two] on the other hand: the "bioconservative" who feels a moral obligation to ban such "enhancements" and such techniques to better facilitate the project of preserving the homo naturalis of the parochial and static vision of "humanity" with which they identify.
"Transhumanist"-identified readers often object to my characterization of their viewpoint as eugenicist. (It is a sore spot with them: after all, they get a lot of that... but if the shoe hurts, you're wearing it.) It is true that few of them openly advocate coercive or involuntary programs of medical intervention to facilitate their engineering of an "optimal" "enhanced" posthumanity (although even self-declared "democratic" transhumanists like James Hughes advocate the suppression of, say, non-hearing prospective parents who would "screen" for an atypical but certainly both valuable and nonlethal while scarcely demonstrably disadvantageous non-hearing child as an expression of gratitude for and solidarity with their own non-hearing lifeway, for example). Indeed, some transhumanists declare in exasperation that their viewpoint amounts to more or less my own (when it palpably does not).
I believe that to value human lifeway diversity and human stakeholder equity as people of the secular progressive democratic left in an era of prosthetic/therapeutic polyculture demands neither  pretensions to knowing what ideal human optimality properly consists of and pressuring human plurality into reflecting it nor  pretensions to knowing what ideal human normality consists of and pressuring human dynamism into conformity with it, but instead  always only the struggle for more informed, nonduressed consent, peer to peer. What is wanted in my view is a politics that will shore up the scene of informed, nonduressed consent in therapeutic contexts, and celebrate the proliferation of wanted human capacities, morphologies, and lifeways that will be sure to eventuate from such a consensual scene. Against the eugenicism of the elitist "transhumanist" optimizers and the eugenicism of the elitist "bioconservative" preservationists, I have proposed the better alternative of a more informed, nonduressed consensual secular democratic prosthetic polyculture.
I disagree that "transhumanists" are in accord with my view here, but before I elaborate why let me first address the question of coercion that some "transhumanists" believe gets them off the eugenicist hook despite their overconfident belief that they know what optimal human health, abilities, and ways of life will look like and their advocacy of that optimality as an "objective standard" that should function as a norm in public discourse, in administrative policy, and shaping professional and institutional formations.
It is not only those who go so far as to actively advocate involuntary modification who are typically described as eugenicist in my understanding. There are disciplinary pressures beneath the threshold of conspicuous coercion that will yield eugenic effects just as surely, and often more efficaciously, than blatant force will do. Certainly programs of involuntary medical intervention constitute the most hideous and heartbreaking end of the eugenicist spectrum, but one can easily observe comparable homogenizing and restrictive effects arising from popular misinformation, from social stigma, from mass mediated promulgation of norms, from uncritical and inertial workings of orthodox institutional healthcare mechanisms. And the workings of these unexamined orthodoxies do no small amount of the work enabling more conspicuously coercive interventions, by marginalizing and befuddling objections to them and sanctifying their "best intentions" as only natural.
Not everybody needs, as some "transhumanists" apparently seem to do, literally to see a Nazi brandishing a firearm or cracking a whip in the service of genocide before they will grant that even now society is conspiring unnecessarily and at great human cost to cast certain perfectly liveable and dignified and legible human capacities, morphologies, and lifeways as less-than-human, as offenses to humanity demanding "remedy" whatever those who incarnate them might have to say in the matter.
As far as I can tell, "transhumanists" who hide behind their restraint from conspicuous coercion to protect themselves from the "eugenicist" charge for all their glib talk about what objectively counts as a life worth living and a capacity worth "enhancing," have simply arbitrarily accepted a far too-restrictive conception of what can count as eugenics and then pretend everybody else agrees with that conception when almost nobody actually does.
In my view the very idea of a discourse of morphological or lifeway "improvement" in the abstract -- rather than and apart from discourses and practices of actually diverse, actually wanted, actually expressed, informed nonduressed consensual prosthetic/therapeutic interventions -- is dangerously eugenic in its implications.
To treat as "settled" or as "neutral" value questions that are and should remain under contestation about what human ends are worth optimizing for and what human lifeways are actually wanted is to circumscribe the terms of what is humanly possible and important in a profound violence that tends to precede and indeed function as the precondition for certain techno-fixated and techno-transcendental eugenic discourses on "enhancement" that like to promote themselves as celebrations of choice. Theirs is a choice impoverished from the outset, offering always only choices to enhance competitive performance or to enhance the consumption of available entertainments, always in the paradoxical service of incumbency figured as "the future." Freedom reduced to the "freedom to enhance" risks the foreclosure of freedoms in the name of freedom and, worse, looks so to misconstrue freedom as an engineering matter rather than a political experience that it threatens to undermine freedom altogether
Apart from all this, I want to add that while many "transhumanists" pay lip service to consent, few actually demonstrate a substantive commitment to that value by actually talking about it apart from occasions when they are being accused by critics of indifference to it, few seem interested in celebrating actually wanted actually existing lifeway diversity in the world they share as against their personally-preferred visions of an engineered diversity they project onto "The Future" world that never seems to arrive, few actually devote their time and energy otherwise to discussions of the way consent might be practically, politically, institutionally facilitated in reality and so on. It's hard to escape the sense that this is because they don't really care much about these topics. In the absence of such substantial exhibitions of concern, they will please spare me the manufactured outrage at being "misrepresented" on this score, just because they can fling out pious vacuities when challenged and mumble about how they are pro-choice and can we now talk about Shiny Robots some more, please? They are hereby invited to put their money where their mouths are.
I'll believe "transhumanists" who claim to advocate consensual therapeutic multiculture as I do when more of them show anything like real concern about the ways in which savagely unequal distributions of authority, resources, reliable information, and legal redress stratify our grasp of the diversity of viable and flourishing lifeways in the world as well as duress the actually existing scene of consent in the present day.
I'll believe "transhumanists" who claim to advocate consensual therapeutic multiculture as I do when they demonstrate equal zeal championing those who would undertake a non-"normalizing" procedure they recognize as non-lethal and compatible with ongoing consent but not "enhancing" of desirable capacities by their own lights, or who would refrain from choosing a non-risky and "normalizing" procedure -- or even an "enhancing" procedure by their lights -- as they do in championing procedures that are either normalizing or enhancing on their personally preferred terms.
I'll believe "transhumanists" who claim to advocate consensual therapeutic multiculture as I do when more of them propose as part of their presumed championing of consent to address these deficiencies with a strong defense of general welfare, public education, access to reliable information, basic income or a truly living wage, health care, equal access to law and democratically accountable govrnment, a respect for democratic outcomes even when these frustrate the pace of development by their lights, and a celebration of actually lived diversity rather than idealized outcomes in their rhetoric.
I'll believe "transhumanists" really believe as I do in people making their own actually informed, actually non-duressed choices about what they themselves take to be prosthetic "enhancement" (whether the prostheses in question are medical, educational, or otherwise cultural) when fewer of them advocate free market feudalism, when fewer of those who know better stop choosing such feudalists as their political allies, and when fewer of them deploy bioreductionist formulations to rationalize feudal attitudes toward women, workers, diversity, and humanistic values.
It is no surprise that advocates of "optimality" that declare themselves committed to the usual libertarian conceptions of impoverished voluntarism and vacuous consent will nonetheless propose policies in which the individual choice to maintain or craft a "suboptimal" morphology or capacity (on competitive productivist and consumerist terms that are neither settled nor neutral) is to be treated as generating an externality imposing social costs that must be re-internalized: This amounts to the proposal of a punitive legal and incentivizing regulatory framework naturalizing a permanent arms race of force-amplification in the service of eternal accumulation as an unexamined end-in-itself.
The democratic value of equity-in-diversity (and the interminable democratic contestation over its terms and forms) is neither equality-as-homogeneity nor aspiration-toward-optimization. To be indifferent to issues of consent or, just as bad, to advocate vacuous forms of consent, while at once advocating strong norms pretending to the status of scientific objectivity concerning human capacities, morphologies, and lifeways that aspire toward an "optimality" that earns them the designation "enhancement" -- in the abstract and apart from actually expressed preferences and exhibited stakes of actual people incarnating or wanting these capacities, morphologies, and lifeways -- is indeed a eugenic outlook, dangerously vulnerable to authorizing institutional eugenic practices that diminish the human equity and diversity on which democratic freedom depend in fact. They should be understood and opposed by people of the democratic left on just those terms.