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BioTalk, Episode 9: Transhumanism in Popular Culture

Transhumanist ideas are often spread in notable science/tech journals, magazines and even some conferences. And today’s rapidly-progressing technological world is making their goals more and more plausible.

However, as Rebecca put it recently, “To grease the wheels of the transhumanist technological utopia it will take getting a generation on board with radically changing the nature of humanity.”

That’s where the world of popular entertainment comes in.


In this episode of BioTalk we discuss how transhumanism is portrayed in some recent movies and television shows.

What we see is a mixed bag. Some seem to take the subject more seriously, showing the negative consequences of trying to enhance the human race beyond our nature. For others, the radical altering of an otherwise healthy human body is not only largely unquestioned, it’s sometimes portrayed as an act of patriotism.

However its portrayed, for good or for ill, we should use these forms of entertainment as an opportunity to have a serious conversation about our transhumanist future. Especially now such a future is not as far fetched as we once thought it was.

This has been a recurring theme in Rebecca’s writing lately. A few examples:

TV Show Intelligence: Patriotic Transhumanist Propaganda
Transhumanist Children’s Book Says “Death is Enemy of Us All”
Why I am not a fan of Captain America
New Disney Show Pushing Transhumanism
E. Christian Brugger on Transhumanism and Captain America


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• Researchers have discovered that instead of simply being an extra copy of each of the genes on chromosome 21, trisomy 21 has an effect on the expression of genes on other chromosomes. Rebecca Taylor observes how this new discovery has implications for the future of human genetic engineering.

• Judie Brown explains why personhood described as being “from the moment of conception” no longer applies to every human being thanks to modern reproductive technology.

• A new app-controlled device for people with hearing loss also improves normal hearing and conjures “images of a bionic future”.


BioTalk Episode 3 – Lance Armstrong: Cheater or Transhumanism Pioneer?

Should Lance Armstrong be “celebrated as a pioneer in human enhancement“? In this episode, Chelsea Zimmerman and Rebecca Taylor talk about the transhumanist movement, which seems to be starting in the world of sports with performance enhancing drugs. Taylor makes a great point about how we seem to have completely changed the concept of what sport is meant to be. Check it out:


Lance Armstrong should be celebrated as a pioneer in human enhancement
The Transhuman Paralympic Games

Rebecca’s response article:
Lance Armstrong: Cheater or Pioneer?

Previous episode: Three Parent Embryos and the Brave New United States

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Lance Armstrong: Cheater or Pioneer?

Heads up, party people! Rebecca Taylor and I will soon be recording another episode of BioTalk this weekend. This time we’ll be talking about transhumanism. We decided on this topic after coming across a recent Wired article suggesting that Lance Armstrong, who recently admitted to doping for much of his cycling career, should be “celebrated as a pioneer in human enhancement.” Andy Miah writes:

Why on earth should we make a fuss about doping technologies that make athletes perform better? This is the purpose of their activity. “But, it’s unfair!” I hear you cry. So, make it legal. Give everyone the same chance to use it and then let us focus on monitoring the risks. It will be easier, since the substances and techniques will be known — best practices for optimising doping will even be published….

Instead of a World Anti-Doping Agency to police the cheating athletes, we need a World Pro-Doping Agency to help invest more money into developing safer forms of enhancement. This agency would publish a list of permitted enhancements, rather banned ones. It would allow individuals who were not born with the physiological tendencies of the self-selecting elite athlete population to use technology to become competitive, not just in sport, but in any career where biology matters — and some would say that this is all of them.

Read the rest.

Rebecca has already responded to Miah’s piece in an article of her own. Consider it a little sneak peak at our next episode:

Unfortunately, the Wired tribute to Armstrong trots out the typical transhumanist claims that these kinds of enhancements will be available to everyone. As Miah urges, “Give everyone the same chance to use it and then let us focus on monitoring the risks.”

Except not “everyone” will have access. To lower classes in the developed countries or those in abject poverty in the third world, those augmentations for “everyone” will remain out of reach.

Miah also makes the well-worn fallacious argument that all of us are already “enhanced” because we have fluoridated water and get vaccinations. Since you are already “enhanced,” why not try this cognitive enhancing drug, or get yourself a cyber-brain in a fanny pack, or even chop off your perfectly good limb and replace it with a bionic one?

A lot of people fall for what I call the “transhumanist trap” because they cannot see that immunity and strong teeth are natural body responses to environmental stimuli. Natural is not what transhumanism is about. Transhumanists want to go beyond natural to things nature could never accomplish on her own.

Read more.

What do you make of all this? Do you have any questions about transhumanism that you’d like us to cover? Please, leave a comment here and let us know.