Some notes on Heidegger, Technology and Transhumanism (found while working on my new book)

While researching the key trends impacting the relationship of man and machine in the future, I  ran across this really interesting paper by Jesse I. Bailey, from  July 2014, entitled “Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”. There are a few really powerful statements in this rather long paper, and I have capture some of them below(high-lights are mine). Be sure to read the whole thing; it’s well worth it. I will add more quotes as I digest them:)

Under transhumanism, the body is enframed as an external, technologically modifiable product. I indicate some of the problems that might arise when our own bodies no longer appear as central to our identity as embodied beings. Further, I argue that, by treating aspects of our own Screenshot 2015-08-11 16.51.26consciousness as technologically modifiable, we will be driven into a commodified and inauthentic relation to our identities. I argue that by threatening to obscure death as a foundational possibility for Dasein, transhumanism poses the danger of hiding the need to develop a free and authentic relation to technology, Truth, and ultimately to Dasein itself.

Transhumanists often make one of two claims: Either the body we inhabit now will be able to live for hundreds of years or our consciousness will be “downloadable” into multiple bodies. Either of these positions (in subtly, but importantly, different ways) alienates human experience from central aspects of the finitude of embodiment, and the proposed outcomes would radically alter our existence.

Further, in the hypothetical future depicted by transhumanist thinkers we might lose what I will call the “fleshiness of experience.” When we begin to see ourselves as technological products of our own rational calculative control and creation, we face a very real danger of being consumers of identity (to an even deeper extent than is already the case), and we stand to lose the orientation by which we discover the need to wrestle with our finite nature. This struggle plays an important role in human behavior, and the technologies advocated by transhumanists hold the promise of radically altering our relation to both our embodiment and our mortality.

Humans become what we are by struggling with a natural, physical world that does not immediately respond to our desires. The world resists us, and demands that we flow with it, and deal honestly with the organic. When we enframe the organic, transforming it into more mechanical technology to be readily manipulated, we lose that orientation. When our own bodies become enframed through a technology that defies even death, what will become, for example, of the desire for transcendence that has been one of the most historically powerful forces leading to the creation of art, philosophy, and drives the need for making interpersonal connections? What happens when the development of identity is enframed within an economy of commodification in which we buy alterations of our identity?

We shall be questioning concerning technology. And in so doing, we would like to prepare a free relationship to it. The relationship will be free if it opens our human existence to the essence of technology. When we can respond to this essence we shall be able to experience the technological within its own bounds. (Heidegger 1977, 287)”

 

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