Posthuman Dignity

The source I’m sharing is “In Defense of Posthuman Dignity” by Oxford professor Nick Bostrom. It discusses arguments against posthumanism (which is basically transhumanism – the jargon change comes from the idea that transhumanist technology will make us more than human, therefore posthuman is a more appropriate name) and posthuman dignity, and describes why the author thinks these arguments are wrong.

He refutes the arguments that 1. becoming posthuman is degrading and dehumanizing, and 2. the existence of posthumans would create a dangerous tension between “normal” humans and posthumans, which can lead to dangerous, perhaps genocidal results. He refutes these by arguing that 1. nature is not objectively good (see our own weakness to disease, or tendency of hurting each other) and 2. society already has functioning laws in place to protect those who are considered different or less capable.

Beyond these arguments, he discusses posthuman dignity (the name of the article), specifically responding to the question: is human dignity incompatible with posthuman dignity? Human dignity here not only meaning worthy of respect simply for being, but also our moral worthiness, how good we are as humans. To the first point, Bostrom suggests that history has constantly changed the definition of who is worthy of human dignity (in American history from wealthy white men, moving incrementally to include all citizens), so it is not worth looking at today’s standards and suggesting they won’t ever change. To the second point, he argues that this isn’t a new problem at all. People will always use technology for good or for bad, so the question of dignity here isn’t specifically dangerous in terms of posthumanism.

I hesitate to post my opinion because I haven’t quite formed one yet. This is a really difficult topic to even think about (to imagine such technology, that is), let alone form a specific, educated stance. But overall, this article was a really interesting read and I hope everyone can take a look.

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One Response to Posthuman Dignity

  1. Samantha MacBride says:

    Thanks Rebecca, very sophisticated.

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