On becoming posthuman

Big history and the future

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  • Published 20190507
  • ISBN: 9781925773620
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

YOUR 185-MILLIONTH GREAT grandparents were fish. Your descendants will not be human forever. In a world of climate change, rising automation, gene editing and advanced artificial intelligence, modern humans are experiencing unprecedented technological disruption and global transformation. At this juncture, biological evolution is no longer the major driver of change in the biosphere – as a toolmaking, technologically advanced species, we find ourselves holding the evolutionary reins. Although we stumbled into this role unwittingly, we are increasingly aware of our power and significance in the broader evolutionary sequence. With brains capable of inventing modern computers and artificial intelligence, we have begun to semiconsciously seed new types of intelligent beings: technological ‘mind children’ that many experts predict will one day far eclipse us. The roboticist Hans Moravec believes that ‘within the next century’ our mind children ‘will mature into entities as complex as ourselves, and eventually into something transcending everything we know’.[i] They will be our post-biological offspring and we, their human parents, will fade.

Such prospects are not easy subjects to engage with. Although change is an evolutionary constant, most of the changes in planetary and human history have happened over many generations, if not millions or billions of years. Never before have humans been faced with the possibility of transcending human nature in the span of a single lifetime. At this transformative juncture in history, it is imperative that we cultivate robust, scientifically informed worldviews that can help explain how we got here, why things are changing so rapidly, and why, barring any major setbacks, we will ultimately become superhuman – or develop more advanced forms of posthuman life that will supersede us.

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About the author

Elise Bohan

Elise Bohan recently completed a PhD in big history and transhumanism. She has taught at Macquarie University and wrote the introduction to Big History...

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