Transhumanism is the idea that human potential isn’t yet fully realised, and that people can be enhanced through technology. Transhumanists advocate technology not just for therapy but for extension. As Humanity+, an umbrella group, puts it:
… the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. In other words, we want people to be better than well.
How big is the movement?
Humanity+ is the largest group with over 6,000 members. Singularity Network, a Facebook group has just over 12,000. So it’s small, but possibly fast-growing: “It’s grown by one thousand per cent in two years” hyperbolized one transhumanist in an interview.
Here’s a chart from Google of web searches as a proxy for interest, which does show a slight increase for transhumanism (plotted against against the slightly more popular ‘star fruit’ to give some sense of context) from 2004 onwards:
Googlers of the term transhumanism seem to live mainly in Austin, Philadelphia, Denver, Stockholm, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York.
Looking further back, Google’s nGram viewer lets us look at interest during the 20th century, using the term’s appearance in English language books as a proxy. This chart shows occurrences of the term (and case sensitive variations) between 1900 and 2008.
So again the concept isn’t that well known, but has been growing quickly since the 90s (although so is ‘star fruit’ if you were wondering). As the nGram also shows, transhumanism is an older idea than the last decade or so.
Coined by Julian Huxley, a biologist, in 1957, the idea’s seeds were sown earlier than that, probably by JBS Haldane in 1923. The bump during the counter-cultural 60s and 70s is perhaps due to futurists like FM-2030, who taught at The New School in the 60s.
Much more on transhumanism in future posts…