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The Divide of Transhumanism

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The Divide of Transhumanism

We can become the gods we’ve always been striving to be. We might as well get good at it.

This is a line said by Adam Jensen, the player character in the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, published in 2011 (Berman, 2000, Deus Ex: Breathing a new life into a tired genre). Adam is the chief of security for the powerful Sarif Industries, the main manufacturer of the human augmentation technology. Long story short, the company was attacked, and Adam would have died without having gone through an extensive augmentation procedure, which also gave him superhuman abilities. The game presents a reality in which the ideology of transhumanism faces an interesting problem, one of inequality.

First off, let’s establish what “transhumanism” is. For the sake of argument and the purpose of this essay, “transhumanism” is the idea that because humans fundamentally change the world for the better, improving human drastically through technology will have drastic positive impact on the world. The end game here is to extend the human organisms to “posthumans”, beings whose abilities so far exceed those of humans as they are now that the former can no longer be considered “humans”(Humanity+, 2015, Transhumanist FAQ). The forms which these “posthumans” take hold varies from fundamentally augmented human bodies or a single “hive mind” enhanced by synthetical intelligence, to which individual consciousness are uploaded. It is also noteworthy that the concept of “transhuman” is defined to be the transitional stage from “human” to “posthuman”, and there are arguments that given our medical and technological advances that enable us to do things that were beyond the imagination of humans from a thousand years ago, we are already in a “transhuman” phase(Humanity+, 2015).

Deus Ex tackles the most important assumption that transhumanism proponents make:all humans, everywhere, will simultaneously be enhanced at the same level, and the difference between individuals is generally marginal. In the game, Sarif Industries makes the augmentations available to all of the public, but at very high prices. Moreover, the best augmentations are extremely expensive, and only the richest people are able to afford them. At the end of the game, the world descends into a dystopian future, in which everyone scrambles for any piece of augmentation that they can find, and the companies who are in possession of the technology like Sarif Industries hold all the power. They dictate how society works, who to give the augmentation to, and manipulate the government. This outcome, despite its extremity, is not at all unlikely in our reality.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that countries that are the most technologically advanced will be the first to integrate transhuman enhancements to their citizens, of whom only the wealthiest will be able to experience these enhancements. This will only serve to increase the gap between the international powers and other countries, as well as the gap between the super rich and everyone else(McKibben, 2003, Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age). Even when the enhancements are distributed universal, it is arguable that those with more resources can afford enhancement with much better quality. At a point at our technology advancement curve, these enhancements can improve a human being so radically as to make other qualities such as natural talents and hard work irrelevant. Essentially, wealth to afford these enhancements become the sole most important factor determining an individual’s success in life. Such conditions can widened the gap between the “have” and the “have nots” so much as to change from a “class divide” to a “genetic divide”(McKibben, 20013). This ultimately puts tremendous amount of power and influence to those who holds the technology that enables augmented humans.

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