Musings on what comes after “being human”

October 2, 2015 § 2 Comments

What would a world be like where no one died from cancer? Where everyone was too rational to bother with the idea of mutually assured destruction? Where populations were perfectly managed for their resources?

This would be the realm of the post-human.

Science-Fiction writers across the globe are perpetually drawn to the possibility of bettering (and some would say escaping) our humanity through science. Gene-recombination with alien species (as seen in Octavia Butler’s Dawn), robotic enhancement, and cloning the best of our race all could potentially contribute to the development of something beyond our run-of-the-mill man, aka the post-human.

But while Science-Fiction may revel in the potential of post-humanity, I for one am not so quick to assume that genetic modification can change our world into a utopia. After all, to successfully develop a post-human society, you’d have to assume that humans were capable of overcoming some of their basic flaws and systems. Big business couldn’t capitalize on certain desirable genes for profit. Individuals couldn’t reject new scientific modifications because of fear or moral conviction. Scientists would have to be wise enough to accurately predict the effects of combinations of gene modifications (if they didn’t have the help of some scientifically advanced alien third-party, of course).

The post-human, in this sense, may be limited to our tv screens and our imaginations, but this doesn’t limit its potential for influencing humanity’s betterment. Through the pursuit of scientific knowledge humanity learns much about the care and keeping of our race (shoutout to immunizations and gene therapy here!). Science and the idea behind the post-human can make daily reality better as we push towards a better quality of life and bettering our own biology. We may not be able to ever get past being human, but hey, post-humanity might just help us get closer and closer to our own limits.

-Laura Davia

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§ 2 Responses to Musings on what comes after “being human”

  • Demosthenes says:

    I really enjoyed how you pointed out the potential dangers that come with the “post-human.” As mentioned in various works of Science Fiction, the idea that the human being can be manipulated to become a stronger, better creature is a fascinating one. However, there are so many factors that would have to be controlled for, some of which you name. The most interesting one that you mentioned, in my opinion, was that we would have to assume humans are capable of overcoming some of their basic flaws and systems. I am not sure whether you meant it in this way, but I take it to mean that no matter the amount of genetic modification performed on a human being, there will still be a “human-like” quality or essence to him, which ultimately leads to him being flawed. I find that it is quite common to look at humans as flawed creatures, a point that the ooloi often brought up in Octavia Butler’s novel.

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  • There are so many ethical, moral, and logical implications that come into play when making these sorts of judgements, and that, of course, makes it such a debatable topic. Using genetic engineering and things of the like to create an improved “post-human,’ if possible, is likely to challenge the religious and personal beliefs of many. They might see it as “tampering” with God’s perfect design or an overstepping of human bounds. Some prescribe to the idea of a predetermined destiny for each human being, so altering one’s life expectancy may seem blasphemous to those who value fate. A society in which the entire population has immediate access to all needed resources and is equally healthy also poses observable consequences. There will be no desire to become stronger intellectually or challenge oneself. Like Wells described in The Time Machine, this aspect of competition is crucial to the development of the human race. Without it, there will be no drive to discover and create, no drive to be imaginative or invent. So although genetics can have a positive impact on one’s life in terms of increasing length of life, certain things in life may become valueless and time may be taken for granted if all disease was cured and everyone lived to be half a century older, and I agree that maintaining some of our own humanity, even if we’re flawed, is an important quality that pushes us to improve ourselves. Regardless of which side a person is on, it’s an interesting subject and certainly a point of contention.

    -Bushra Rahman

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