"Transhumanism" is essentially a techno-transcendental digital-utopian and/or "enhancement"-eugenicist futurological discourse and futurist sub(cult)ure. (Sometimes, I understand that the term has been used in connection with some trans activism as well, but that is not what I am talking about here -- and I want to be clear that I have devoted a lifetime of activism and writing and teaching to resisting sexist, heterosexist, cissexist patriarchy.) I have chosen the following handful of pieces as providing a condensed critique of the various "movement transhumanisms." This is the aspect of my anti-futurological critique which seems most interesting to most folks (for better or worse). Hundreds of posts, arranged by futurist topic as well as by the individual futurological author getting skewered are also to be found in my Superlative Summary for the real gluttons for punishment among you. While transhumanism is, strictly speaking, just one of the sects in the superlative futurological Robot Cult archipelago (others include the Extropians, Singularitarians, techno-immortalists, crypto-anarchists and bitconartists, cybernetic totalists, nano-cornucopiasts, geo-engineers, and so on) transhumanism does overlap considerably with most of the others and exhibits a certain rhetorical and subcultural representativeness.
As someone who respects real science and advocates real public commitments to science and critical thinking education and real public investments in research and sustainable infrastructure, I am annoyed of course with the deranging futurological frames and narratives of techno-transcendentalists (immortal cyberangels! nano-magick utility-fog!) and disasterbators (Robocalypse! grey goo!) who cater to the fears and fantasies of the uninformed and skew policy priorities (for instance, the futurological enablement of reactionary talk about raising the retirement age), not to mention the straightforward pseudo-scientific blathering of uploading circle-squarers (my critique in a phrase: you are not a picture of you) and cryonics cranks, cheerleading over drextechian genies-in-a-bottle, GOFAI-deadenders (my critique in a phrase: Moore's Law isn't going to spit out a sooper-intelligent Robot God Mommy to kiss your boo boos away, sorry), geo-engineering apologists for corporate-military eco-criminals, facile evo-devo reactionaries, not to mention all manner of digital utopian hucksters and TED-squawkers.
But to step back from the obvious, I also regard mainstream futurology as the quintessential discourse of neoliberal global developmentalism, market-mediation, and fraudulent financialization. There is a certain strain of delusive utopianism that drives neoliberalism's callous immaterialism (eg, its focus on branding over labor conditions, its focus on fraudulent financialization over sustainable production) and hyperbolic salesmanship through and through, but what I describe as superlative futurological discourses represent a kind of clarifying -- and also rather bonkers -- extremity of this pseudo-utopianism. While there is obviously plenty that is deranging and dangerous about such techno-transcendental or superlative futurological discourses and the rather odd organizations and public figures devoted to them, what seems to me most useful about paying attention to these extreme and marginal formations is the way they illuminate underlying pathologies of the more prevailing mainstream futurological discourses we have come to take for granted in so much public policy discussion concerning science, technology, and global development.
Among these parallel pathologies, it seems to me, are shared appeals to irrational passions -- fears of impotence and fantasies of omnipotence -- shared tendencies to genetic reductionism, technological determinism, and a certain triumphalism about techno-scientific progress. I also discern in both mainstream and superlative futurology a paradoxical "retro-futurist" kind of reassurance being offered to incumbent and elite interests that "progress" or "accelerating change" will ultimately amount to a dreary amplification of the familiar furniture of the present world or of parochially preferred present values. Also, far too often, one finds in both mainstream and superlative futurology disturbing exhibitions of indifference or even hostility to the real material bodies and real material struggles in which lives, intelligences, lifeways, and human histories are actually incarnated in their actual flourishing diversity.
An easy way to think of the relation I am proposing between these two modes of futurology is to say that mainstream futurology suffuses our prevailing deceptive hyperbolic corporate-military PR/advertising discourse, while superlative futurology amplifies this advertising and promotional hyperbole into an outright delusive promise of personal transcendence (superintelligence, superlongevity, superabundance) of human finitude and this fraudulent speculation and public relations into outright organized sub(cult)ural religiosity.
The first four pieces below subsume transhumanism within the terms of my critique of superlative futurology, the next one focuses on the structural (and sometimes assertive) eugenicism of transhumanist "enhancement" discourse, and the final piece tries to provide a sense of the more positive perspective out of which my critique is coming:
A Superlative SchemaMore recent pieces, Ten Reasons to Take Seriously the Transhumanists, Singularitarians, Techno-Immortalists, Nano-Cornucopiasts and Other Assorted Robot Cultists and White Guys of "The Future" and Ten Things You Must Fail to Understand to Remain A Transhumanist for Long may provide more accessible, certainly more pithy and snarky, summaries of many facets of the critique. Of course, if pithy is what is really wanted, my mostly aphoristic Futurological Brickbats anthology is possibly worth a look.
The Superlative Imagination
Understanding Superlative Futurology
Transhumanism Without Superlativity Is Nothing
Eugenics and the Denigration of Consent
Amor Mundi and Technoprogressive Advocacy
For those who are interested in the always controversial but not really very deep issue of the "cultishness" or not of the various superlative futurological sub(cult)ures, and just how facetious I am being when I refer to these futurological formations as "Robot Cults," I recommend this fairly representative post dealing with those questions (which do pop up fairly regularly). Perhaps more serious, at least potentially, there is this rather disorganized and muckraking archive documenting and exploring key figures and institutional nodes in the Robot Cult archipelago, exposing some of their more patent ties to reactionary causes and politics.