A posthuman or post-human is, according to the transhumanist intellectuals, a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."
The difference between the posthuman and other hypothetical sophisticated non-humans is that a posthuman was once a human, either in its lifetime or in the lifetimes of some or all of its direct ancestors. As such, a prerequisite for a posthuman is a transhuman, the point at which the human being begins surpassing his or her own limitations, but is still recognisable as a human person or similar.
Many science fiction writers, such as Greg Egan, Bruce Sterling, Greg Bear, Charles Stross and Ken MacLeod, have written works set in posthuman futures.
Posthumans could be a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence
, or uploaded consciousnesses
, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg
. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology
or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering
, life extension
therapies, neural interfaces
, advanced information management tools
, memory enhancing drugs
or implanted computers, and cognitive
At what point does a human become posthuman? Steven Pinker
, a cognitive neuroscientist
and author of How the Mind Works
, poses the following hypothetical, which is an example of the Ship of Theseus
Surgeons replace one of your neurons with a microchip that duplicates its input-output functions. You feel and behave exactly as before. Then they replace a second one, and a third one, and so on, until more and more of your brain becomes silicon. Since each microchip does exactly what the neuron did, your behavior and memory never change. Do you even notice the difference? Does it feel like dying? Is some other conscious entity moving in with you?
In this sense, the transition between human and posthuman may be viewed as a continuum rather than an all-or-nothing event.
A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of the "Posthuman God
"; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of "humanness
", might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by human standards. This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some soft science fiction
that a sufficiently advanced species may "ascend
" to a superior plane of existence
- rather, it merely means that some posthuman being may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that its behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination. The difference here is that the latter stays within the bounds of the laws of the material universe
, while the former exceeds
them by going beyond it.
Posthumans and humanity
As used in this article, "posthuman" does not necessarily refer to a conjectured future where humans are extinct
or otherwise absent from the Earth. As with other species who speciate
from one another, both humans and posthumans could continue to exist. However, the apocalyptic
scenario appears to be a viewpoint shared among a minority of transhumanists such as Marvin Minsky
and Hans Moravec
, who could be considered misanthropes
, at least in regards to humanity in its current state. Alternatively, others such as Kevin Warwick
argue for the likelihood that both humans and posthumans will continue to exist but the latter will predominate in society over the former because of their abilities.
- Nalesnik, Daniel (2005). " Posthumanity: Changing Our Species."
- Babin, Dominique (2004). PH1. Manuel d'usage et d'entretien du post-humain. Flammarion. (review in The Future Fire 1)
- Rahimi, Sadeq (2000). Identities without a Reference: Towards a Theory of Posthuman Identity., M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture , Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2000.
- Bostrom, Nick.(2005) In Defence of Posthuman Dignity, Bioethics, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 202-214.
- Dixon, Dougal (1990). Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future.
- Elhefnawy, Nader (2007) Nikolai Fedorov and the Dawn of the Posthuman in The Future Fire 9
- Nedkova, Iliyana; Byrne, Chris. (2004) Designer Bodies: Towards the Posthuman Condition, Art Research Communication
- Pepperell, Robert (1995). The Posthuman Condition: Consciousness beyond the brain