Transhumanist Thought – Root and Branches

“Transhumanism is a modern expression of ancient and transcultural aspirations to radically transform human existence, socially and bodily. Before the Enlightenment these aspirations were only expressed in religious millennialism, magical medicine, and spiritual practices. The Enlightenment channeled these desires into projects to use science and technology to improve health, longevity, and human abilities, and to use reason to revolutionize society (…)” (Hughes, 2012)

The Politics of Transhumanism and the Techno-millennial Imagination, 1626-2030

This article tracks the thoughts and ideas behind the transhumanist movement, from the ability to think in abstract terms to contemporary transhumanist branches like humanity+, singularitarians, technoprogressives, bioliberals and religious transhumanists such as the Mormon Transhumanist Association. It also discusses opposing reactions to transhumanism, such as the
“(..)bioconservative accusation that transhumanism is a hubristic form of humanism, replacing the worship of God with the worship of man.” (Hughes, 2012)

An underlying view seems to be that transhumanism is an enevitable evolutionary development that has its roots in one of the most defining characteristisc of the human:
“As soon as hominids developed the capacity for abstract thought, they began to imagine ways that their life could be radically improved.” (Hughes, 2012)

Taking this thought on step further, it seems to advocate a view that humanity has always been fundamentally transhuman, especially if transhumanism is understood in the definition of the 1960’s futurologist, FM-2030: “(…)people who adopt technologies, lifestyles and worldviews “transitional” to posthumanity as “transhuman” (‘Transhumanism’ Wkiki-page)

It is written by James J. Hughes, an American sociologist and bioethicist, who together with Nick Bostrom, has founded The Institute of Ethics and Emerging New Technologies.
“Rejecting bioconservatism and libertarian transhumanism, Hughes argues for a third way, “democratic transhumanism,” a radical form of techno-progressivism which asserts that the best possible “posthuman future” is achievable only by ensuring that human enhancement technologies are safe, made available to everyone, and respect the right of individuals to control their own bodies.” (‘James J. Hughes’ Wiki-page).

This becomes clear in the article when he describes his view on our current situation and his hopes for the furture:
“Perhaps our global economic crisis, with widening class divisions and deepening unemployment, will create the context for a new technoprogressive synthesis of egalitarian millennialism and technoutopianism, with promises of universal antiaging and cognitive enhancement, a basic income guarantee and shorter work weeks, a postgender transhuman social democracy with world government.” (Hughes, 2012)


Hughes, James J.
2012 ”The Politics of Transhumanism and the Techno-Millennial imagination 1626-2030″, Zygon – Journal of Religion and Science (viewed on 20.11.2016)

Wikipedia page on ‘James. J. Huge’: (viewed on 20.11.2016)

Wikipedia page on ‘Transhumanism’: (viewed on 20.11.2016)

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Eva Krarup
Eva Krarup

Hi Maja, thank you for the summary. What are your own thoughts regarding this “democratic transhumanism” that Hughes advocates? And his egalitarian ideas about a posthuman future with enhancement technologies available to everyone?