Is the Future ‘Human’, ‘Posthuman’ or ‘Transhuman’

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 17:45
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Steve FULLER, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
It is a postmodern commonplace that we live in times of blurred and blended social identities. However, recently the very category of ‘human’ has started to show some fuzzy borders, as advances in medicine and prosthetic technologies (including brain chips) point in the direction of an ‘enhanced’ human, or ‘humanity 2.0’, which challenges the able/disabled normative divide. At the same time, the privilege attached to being human is coming under increasing critical scrutiny. Thus, we see the rise of groups campaigning for the ‘rights’ of animals, nature more generally and, last but not least, advanced machines (so-called ‘artificial intelligences’). All of these developments share a broadly ‘futuristic’ orientation which, in some cases, promise solutions to already existing social problems, but which in other cases displace or replace those problems. In this talk, two meta-sociological problems of this emerging world-view of ‘humanity 2.0’ will be considered: (1) Is the future about extending the human as far as possible (‘transhumanism’) or resituating the human as one among many life-forms in a common environment (‘posthumanism’)? (2) Will it be possible to maintain, if not re-invent, the classical liberal idea of tolerance in a world where the value of the being human – and what counts as human -- is so much up for grabs?