July 25, 2004

Toronto Star: Evolution's Next Stage?

The Toronto Star's Olivia Ward has penned an article on transhumanism and the upcoming TransVision conference. Titled "Evolution's Next Stage?," Ward quotes WTA executive director James Hughes, cyborg Steve Mann and biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey in the article.

The article is not great, but it could have been a lot worse. Frustratingly, Ward mistakenly put the start of the conference at August 8 (it starts August 5), and notes that both the WTA and Extropy Institute are sponsors, when in fact the WTA is organizing the event with ExI sponsoring.

And Ward closes with some unbelievably lame comments from Joshua Kunken and Margaret Somerville--a likely attempt to close the article with some "sensible" balanced reporting and perspectives.

Ah well, at least the article is out, and hopefully it'll generate some interest in the conference.

Here's some blurbage from the article:
But now, experts say, another scientific quantum leap has transported us from the human to the transhuman era — a time when humankind itself is being manipulated and enhanced, leading to an unknown future where man, machine and technology will merge with startling results.

"What's happening in the 21st century is a natural progression of the invention of fire," says James Hughes, secretary of the World Transhumanist Association. "Human tool use has always extended the capability of doing what we weren't biologically intended to do. But now the possibilities are infinite, and they're making some people feel scared."

Next month, Hughes, a bioethicist at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., will take part in an international conference at the University of Toronto, titled ``TransVision 2004: Art and Life in the Posthuman Era.'' Sponsored by the transhumanist association and the Texas-based Extropy Institute, the four-day event opens Aug. 8 [Aug. 5].

For many people the very concept of transhumanism is vague, unsettling or downright off-putting, suggestive of sci-fi films such as I, Robot, in which a new generation of homicidal androids swarms Chicago in an anti-human hatefest.

That, advocates say, is the very opposite of what transhumanism means: rather than a potentially destructive force, it is "a nascent approach to bioethics, futurism, art and culture whose adherents affirm the use of technology to overcome the limitations of the human body."

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