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Be Very Afraid: Cyborg Athletes, Transhuman Ideals and Posthumanity (2003)

Be Very Afraid: Cyborg Athletes, Transhuman Ideals and Posthumanity (2003)



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Published by Professor Andy Miah
published in the Journal of Evolution and Technology
published in the Journal of Evolution and Technology

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Published by: Professor Andy Miah on Nov 05, 2008
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Be Very Afraidhttp://www.jetpress.org/volume13/miah.html1 of 152/11/06 15:25
A peer-reviewedelectronic journalpublished by the
Institute for Ethics andEmerging Technologies
ISSN 1541-0099
contentscall for paperseditorial boardhow to submit to
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Be Very Afraid:Cyborg Athletes, Transhuman Ideals & Posthumanity
 Journal of Evolution and Technology
- Vol. 13 - October 2003 -PDF Versionhttp://jetpress.org/volume13/miah.htm
 By Andy MiahLecturer in Media, Bioethics, and CybercultureUniversity of Paisley at Ayr,Scotland, UK. Please contactemail@andymiah.netfor correspondence. 
This paper argues that transhumanism lacks persuasivenessbecause its futurological underpinnings are met with skepticism,not due to a lack of applicability, but for the lack of clarity abouthow transhumanity can become manifest within a cautioustechnological society. It is considered that the integration oftranshuman ideals within social praxis is problematic in a variety ofsocial contexts, but that sport offers an example wheretranshumanism can be applied and where posthumanity isalready realised. Sports perpetuate a sufficiently ambiguousconcept of humanness so that value within sports is afforded bythe transhuman qualities of athletes and their ability to transcendknown boundaries of human capability. Sports tend towards,endorse and depend upon the physical transcendence ofhumanness. In this respect, sport offers a unique environmentwhere transhumanism can gain social credibility and where itsideals become manifest and normalised. “The transhuman condition is not about the transcendence of the humanbeing, but concerns its non-teleological becoming in an immanent processof ‘anthropological deregulation’” (Annsell-Pearson, 1997, p.163). 
Be Very Afraidhttp://www.jetpress.org/volume13/miah.html2 of 152/11/06 15:25
The motivation for the ensuing argument derives from an interest indefending transhumanism as a pertinent philosophical framework for understanding and preserving human value. This argument is provided as asubstantive response to the claim that transhumanism is not a desirablephilosophy for society to embrace. The intention is to demonstrate thattranshumanism is far from being a marginal philosophy and thatposthumanity is not a futuristic aspiration. Examples of present-daytechnology reveal the relevance of transhumanism now. This is articulated asbeing most profoundly evident within the realm of the elite sporting industry.On this premise, it might seem contradictory that the title of this paper borrows from a prominent example of dystopian technological discourseabout the metamorphosing human. Taken from David Cronenberg’s filmre-make of
The Fly
(1986), the quote has gained cult status and is seen as awarning to aspiring Dr. Frankensteins. Indeed, the salience of Mary Shelley’s
is crucial for understanding entrenched, dystopian visionsabout new technology, particularly technologies of the body.[1]Yet, theintention of this paper is to identify the inconsistency of this way ofapproaching technology, while also noting its inherent dangers – not for concerns about humanness (in the biological sense), but for concerns aboutpersonhood – or for the source of what gives value to being human.Moral perspectives on contemporary and emerging technology areirrelevant in this discussion. It is taken for granted that new technologies, atbest, give rise to a precautionary method of decision-making, mostfrequently based on fear of change. Additionally, it is assumed that suchfear often subsides as either the technology becomes integrated with socialhabits, or as rational, objective facts become known which reveal thetechnology to be desirable. This does not imply the complete andindiscriminate acceptance of technology. Rather, it is to note that ‘fearingthe Other’, is more frequently a rational and justified fear of the unknown,than a genuine (and, again, rational) concern for understood anddetrimental consequences that any technology might provoke. Perhaps aclear example of this is the hysteria concerning the use of human cloning,which has generated substantial worries about the prospect of de-valuinghuman life and ‘playing God’. Indeed, in most cases, fears are perpetuatedby sensational stories about renegade scientists who ignore the dominantmedical codes of conduct. Interestingly, this again is a consequence of theFrankenstein metaphor and so cannot be taken as serious moralcondemnation for the technology.This paper also challenges the medical distinction betweenhuman-alteration for health, and the use of medicine for enhancement, asa criterion of moral differentiation. It is suggested that medicine has alreadytransgressed this boundary in its attempt to preserve human health (More,1993b). In such cases, an interesting irony is that medicine is justified on thepremise that it is life supporting rather than life enhancing
Yet, thedistinctions are tenuous.
The Assault on Transhumanism
Be Very Afraidhttp://www.jetpress.org/volume13/miah.html3 of 152/11/06 15:25
Being against transhumanism is not commensurate with technophobism. AsBostrom (1998) outlines, transhumanism is a philosophy that is directedtowards specific kinds of technology, frequently upon technologies that arecurrently emerging from theoretical possibilities such as cryonics,nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. For this reason, beingunconvinced by transhuman aspirations entails the rejection of fantasticaltechnologies as being unrealiseable or undesirable for the interests ofhumans, rather than the complete rejection of technology. On this basis, itcan be understood why transhumanism remains marginal as a philosophicaldiscipline though, ironically, this is for all the wrong reasons. On the basis ofthe technologies of concern to transhumanists, it is not clear howposthumanity can become realiseable. The possibilities of time-travel or teleportation remain the business of science fiction.[2]Moreover, if the basisof the transhumanist philosophy has something to do with critiquing thefixedness of the human condition, then it might still be argued that thesetranshuman technologies do not, in fact, go beyond humanity; they mightsimply alter it.It is for this reason that arguments concerning transhumanism must articulatehow “our posthuman future” (Fukuyama, 2002) can become recognised asour posthuman present (perhaps to the disappointment of Fukuyama).Importantly, it is not necessary to look at the future or even at the morefantastical technologies with which transhumanists are often moreconcerned, even if they are an important and defining characteristic oftranshumanism. In addition, technologies that might facilitate posthumanitymust first become enculturated within significant human practises beforeany change in beliefs about human-altering technologies can take place.Although societies might make use of various technologies, and use them totheir advantage, such activities do not necessarily entail a shift in beliefsabout the sanctity of the human body. Before it is possible for transhumanismto become a persuasive narrative of human ontology, it is necessary for thetranshumanist technologies and ideals to be applied at the quotidian levelof social experiences.
Medical Transhumanists
Perhaps one of the most pervasive examples of transhuman technology isfound in medical science. Ever since the mass production of pharmaceuticalproducts, conventional medicine has encouraged a symbiotic relationshipbetween humans and technology – a relationship that is already one wherethe human subject is submissive to the technology. Recent times havedemonstrated the transplantation of human limbs (Hawkes & Maynard,1998), the growth of organs (Murray, 1997), the manipulation of genes (Harris,1998), the emergence of advanced prosthetics (Mayes, 1995), and thedevelopment of countless medicines that can prolong existence, make itmore bearable, or, perhaps, eventually make it immortal (Ettinger, 1964).Such technologies have the benefit of a long history of human-technologysynergism, where the technologies have been legitimised because it hasbeen concluded that they are beneficial for humans by correctingdysfunction (as opposed to adding enhancement). On this premise of‘repair’, one might conclude that human-altering technologies areconstitutive of human existence, since even the very elementary methods ofillness remedy might be seen as human-altering technologies (Ettinger, 1972).Consequently, such domains where the technologies are already being

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