“Transcendings of homo sapiens. Immortality, Infinity, Inhumanity?”
This project is dealing with the human urge to transcend its limitations, which, in the 21st century seems to have transgressed in multiple ways, irritating the very basic fundamentals that the anthropological being is depending on. Climate Change, Digitalization, Artificial Intelligence, Genome Editing and Search for Life on other Planets are just some of the various phenomena that represent and stimulate a rethinking of what it means to be human or how a human life might look like. The lines between man and the multiple others are more than ever questioned. One way to approach this extensive dissolution is the analysis of perspectives towards the future. Using the findings of scientific futures studies gives a glimpse at the hidden dynamics and imminent changes as well as the hopes and fears of a world in the process of taking shape. For the current situation, humanity is looking at rough times ahead. In contrast to man’s euphoria and confidence since mid-20th century fueled by cybernetics, atomic energy, space travel, discovery of DNA, the rise of computer technology and other emerging scientific developments; the third millennia appears to be a rather dystopian age marked by overall geopolitical uncertainty, increasing risks in economy and ecology, the lack of a unifying goal or direction and even “the end of history and the last man” as Fukuyama put it. Indeed the signs are increasing, which indicate the end of humanity as we know it and Transhumanists even predict the evolution of a new species. It is not yet clear how this anticipated new form of being will turn out, but it certainly becomes clearer in which ways it will substantially differ from the present homo sapiens. Regardless of whether or not one is inclined to follow the lofty ideas of superhumans, it is the shift of perspective as well as the contingency concerning the concept of humanity which marks the fundamental fissure in human self-perception, no matter if this is labeled as Trans-, Meta-, Super- or Posthumanism. With the transcendence of fundamental frames like time (cryonics, radical life extension), space (colonization of cosmos, mind-upload) and life (AI, Cyborg, lifeforms on other planets) the former understanding and existence of homo sapiens can no longer be the same. In this project, I would like to identify the socio-historical key-factors, which are stimulating these paradigm changes and therefore figure out why the persistence of mankind seems questionable and why now. By using sociology of knowledge and discourse analysis as a tool to examine the past, present and future ways of human transcendence, the specific relations between anthropological self-perception and cultural knowledge production will be revealed. Daring to project those findings further into future, it is also planned to give some ideas for the potential self-conception of humanity after its proclaimed elimination of fundamental boundaries.
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Author: Justus Pötzsch