Published On: May 25, 2023 09:00 AM NPT By: Bimal Pratap Shah
The allure of Mars travel and settlement has captured widespread interest, leading to the sale of Martian land by various companies. While many envision a future where humans can travel to and live on Mars, renowned astronomer Martin Rees presents a contrasting perspective. He contends that our current human capabilities will not suffice for space travel and settlement. Instead, Rees posits that cyborgs have the potential to traverse the cosmos. Given the transformative potential at hand, it is crucial for Nepali Members of Parliament (MPs) to actively recognize and comprehend the implications of this paradigm shift before Nepal lets this opportunity slip away.
Martin Rees, a distinguished British cosmologist and astrophysicist who held the positions of Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom from 1995 to 2020, President of the Royal Society from 2005 to 2010, and served as the 39th Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, is an esteemed alumni of Cambridge University.He has made substantial contributions to our understanding of the universe, specifically in the areas of galaxy formation, active galactic nuclei, and cosmic structure. His work on the cosmic microwave background radiation, which offers crucial evidence for the Big Bang theory, is highly recognized.
The idea of purchasing land on Mars stems from the interpretation of the "Outer Space Treaty," an internationally agreed-upon agreement signed in 1967.The treaty explicitly states that celestial bodies, including Mars, cannot be subject to sovereign ownership. At the same time, the treaty does not explicitly forbid the sale of land on celestial bodies to private individuals or entities. This legal loophole has led entrepreneurial ventures to capitalize on the marketability of extraterrestrial land, often as a novelty or symbolic gesture. Initially, Martin Rees expressed skepticism about the viability of human settlement on Mars. However, in recent times, he has put forth the argument that traveling and settling on Mars would likely necessitate a transformation into transhumans.
Julian Huxley coined the term "transhumanism”In 1957.Transhumanism, at its core, advocates for the enhancement of human capabilities through the integration of technology and science. It envisions a future where humanity surpasses its biological limitations and evolves into a new form, often referred to as post-human. This movement seeks to utilize advancements in fields such as genetics, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence to augment human physical and cognitive abilities. The pursuit of transhumanism aligns with the ambition to explore and colonize other planets, particularly Mars, in our quest for interplanetary habitation.
Transferring human consciousness into machines or other forms will revolutionize human existence. Such transformations could increase the likelihood of humanity surviving and thriving for eons, navigating the cosmos with enhanced safety measures. The safe transfer of consciousness to computers holds great potential and offers significant advantages. Human enhancement and transhumanism offer immense possibilities to enhance well-being and propel us towards a future where the limits of our existence are surpassed.
Transhumanism also arises from humanity's relentless desire to reshape our innate biological aspects, aiming to surpass inherent limitations.It acknowledges the interdisciplinary nature of this effort and the possibilities presented by technological advancements. At the core of transhumanism is the idea that technology can be integrated into the human body, leading to a symbiotic union between humans and machines. According to transhumanist philosophy, this union represents the next stage of human evolution, marking the point at which human space travel becomes a reality.
One aspect where transhumanism intersects with space travel is the need to adapt and enhance the human body to withstand the challenges of space exploration. The harsh conditions of space, including microgravity, radiation exposure, and physiological changes, pose significant risks to human health and performance. Transhumanist technologies, such as genetic modifications, advanced prosthetics, and regenerative medicine, could help mitigate these challenges and ensure the well-being of astronauts during extended space missions. Also, through bioengineering and cybernetic enhancements, astronauts could enhance their cognitive abilities, improve sensory perception, and interface more seamlessly with advanced spacecraft systems.At the same time, as human enhancement and transhumanism progress, it is essential to acknowledge and tackle the associated ethical challenges. Given the potential for cyborg technologies to enhance human wellbeing, it is imperative that these technologies are made accessible to all.
James Hughes, the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, is a proponent of "democratic transhumanism." This social-democratic form of transhumanism merges the principles of the egalitarian enlightenment with contemporary enlightenment political initiatives. Its vision entails utilizing cognitive enhancement and digital democracy to foster a governance system that is more inclusive and decentralized.
In 2004, James authored "Citizen Cyborg'' with the aim of defining the ideological position of democratic transhumanism, which embraced both traditional social democratic values and future transhuman possibilities. Since then, the people in that space have adopted the much more elegant term “technoprogressive.” Like social democrats, techno progressives believe that democracy requires strong guarantees of civil liberties and minority rights, a relatively egalitarian distribution of wealth and power, a strong state accountable and transparent to its citizens, and a process for deliberation and decision-making that is open to all competent individuals.
On the contrary, transhumanists argue that democratic societies should prioritize the adaptation and funding of emerging technologies, ensuring their universal accessibility once their safety has been established.Additionally, transhumanists advocate for the implementation of universal basic income (UBI) guarantees, recognizing the need for such measures alongside public pensions, unemployment, and disability insurance, as the advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence render an increasing number of individuals structurally unemployable.This serves as a warning sign for countries like Nepal that heavily rely on remittances as a significant source of income.
Transhumanism has been the target of criticism, as it possesses the characteristics of a political ideology. Transhumanists seek to transcend the limitations of human nature through technological enhancements, aiming for a genetically and neurologically modified posthuman existence integrated with machines. This proactive approach rejects the precautionary principle and advocates for the rapid integration of emerging technologies with an ultimate goal to create a new human species and a new society.
Transhumanism poses challenges to the welfare state, democracy, and the rule of law, potentially undermining regulations and limits to democracy. As the line between humans and machines blurs, new relations of production and capital-labor relations will emerge, leading to dehumanization of work and workers becoming just tools of production, potentially escalating struggles between employers and trade unions.Moreover, the gradual transition towards a posthuman capitalism has the potential to disrupt interpersonal relationships, work dynamics, the functioning of the state, and even the essence of humanity. Consequently, governments and political parties worldwide exhibit cautiousness and lack of support towards this radical concept.
Transhumanism has now evolved into a major political project with widespread ideological dissemination, surpassing academic debates. It seems that the transformation to a posthuman, technologically enhanced being integrated with machines is already perceived as inevitable. The World Economic Forum (WEF) envisions a future "augmented society" governed by digital identity and transhumanism through the Internet of Bodies. WEF emphasizes DIGITAL IDENTITY is necessary in building trust online and proposes extending its reach beyond the digital realm to encompass all aspects of our lives, even going as far as implanting it beneath our skin.
The Nepali parliament should initiate discussions on transhumanism to tackle its ethical, social, and legal implications, and to safeguard human rights in light of technological progress. Transhumanism, with its focus on the fusion of technology and humanity, has the potential to fundamentally transform our society, raising concerns and implications that cannot be overlooked.As the custodians of governance and legislation, the members of the Nepali parliament have a responsibility to delve into the ethical, social, and legal dimensions of transhumanism and engage in a parliamentary debate to shape the discourse and establish regulations that balance progress with our shared values and identity.
It is imperative for the parliament to transcend mere rhetoric and translate words into tangible actions and familiarize themselves with the implications and potential of transhumanist ideals for the future.
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