In this article on transhumanism, the use of science and technology to enhance the human body and/or mind, the author discusses the virtue of challenge, why we seek it out, and how enhancements may or may not change human challenge in the future.
"I began taking martial arts seriously, particularly Brazilian jiu-jitsu, right around the time I started to take philosophy seriously. The two were my first genuine tools of self-exploration, and though I don’t see them as necessarily connected, it’s been interesting to me to use the martial arts spirit as a kind of lens to explore or test philosophical ideas. ... [M]artial arts usually involve the learning of moral standards alongside the acquisition of physical skills. Although these moral codes may not be articulated in the same way from one martial art to the next, some underlying values of ‘the martial way’ appear more consistently than others. ... The ability to overcome difficulties and opponents is a core aim of nearly every system of martial arts. Crucially, the obstacles to overcome include our own limitations. Self-surpassing in physical and mental training is a hallmark of all martial arts. ...
"Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that promotes the benefits of using science to enhance the human body and mind, often seeing this as the next stage in human evolution. This can include mechanical implants and cybernetics aimed at increasing the strength and agility of our bodies; medical and genetic enhancements aimed at producing longer, healthier lives (eventually, it is hoped, to include virtual immortality); and enhancements to our brains to improve our mental capabilities. One of the most common criticisms of transhumanist thinking – a response I believe many martial artists might have – is that it’s a shortcut, or a lazy person’s way to grow, or it represents a hope or wish to make life easier for those who are weak of will. From scientists to philosophers and beyond, I find that conversations on transhumanism contain the criticism that it’s looking for gain without work. ...
"Consider this analogy. When cars were invented, many scoffed that those who purchased them must either be too lazy to look after a horse, or too proud to actually put in real work to get from point A to point B. However, I don’t believe that cars have made people lazier. In fact, they might be seen as a step forward in human potential, permitting us to do more in more places, and divert our limited physical and mental resources to tasks other than fixing wagon wheels and horseshoes. ... The reasonableness of this proposition is supported by the fact that we might already be on this path. In a great number of ways our kinds and amount of challenges are indeed already augmented. At one point, we were no longer challenged by foraging for food from shrubs, and instead became challenged by agriculture and tending to animals. At a different point, most people became free of the challenge of farming directly, and instead civilisations divided their labor amongst different groups to handle government, military concerns, education, and the like. ... Undoubtedly, each overcoming of one kind of challenge was met by the resistance of some who believed that this transition would make us softer, would make us less fulfilled or weaker by easing our living. But very few people now would argue that the life of the Middle Ages was better than the relatively advanced lives we live today. Fewer still would argue that we should return to hunting and gathering. From my experience, people mostly aim not to revive some ideal past state of balanced hardship and ease, but instead have an instinct to preserve what they’re used to, and resist whatever changes are taking place."
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