Reflections on "Transhuman Hybridisation"
By Raffaele Del Riccio
Our age is characterised by an uncontrolled expansion of technology, which goes beyond borders aiming to control life and expelling the fragilities and the diseases of the body. Consequently, we assist in creating new forms of “transhuman hybridisations” through innovative technologies, genetic engineering, surgery, and everything involved in neuroscience; the psyche and soma also seem to gain the role of a container of discoveries.
In the Ancient Greek world, the psyche is considered as the soul, the vital breath that gives humans life, while the soma is considered to be the body. The soma without the psyche, therefore, does not live. This is also later recognised in the 15th century by French mathematician and philosopher Descartes, who described the soul, or the psyche, as the res cogitans; and the soma, or the body, the res extensa.
For instance, let’s consider transplant patients, people receiving implants or gender transition or those at elevated risk of genetic disorders. It is necessary to deal with the psychological trauma these people may suffer from after their various treatments and surgeries, or in other words, the problems with the psyche as a result of the disadvantages of their soma.
Hybridisation is a term we borrow from chemistry, and it is the process of combining human material with technological one. Post-humanism is the transition phase towards a total hybridisation, represented by trans-humanism. These two movements, the first in a line of transition, the second as a final goal, have the enhancement of human characteristics, such as intelligence, strength, and ageing, as their objective. The myth of Icarus and Daedalus is a perfect example of hybridisation since it explains the tension of men to overcome their limitations.
More advanced forms of post-humanism and trans-humanism are moving towards an acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life that surpasses the limits of natural evolution. Areas such as biotechnologies, tissue genetic engineering, cloning, molecular nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence, virtual or augmented reality, singularity, which is the point of intersection between human intelligence and that of machines, from this encounter comes trans-humanism, and cryonics, which is the storage of bodies, to be revived in the future when the technology is available an example of post-humanism. Trans-humanist culture recognises the myth of Icarus and Daedalus as its source of inspiration.
The myth of Icarus and Daedalus starts with the imprisonment of Daedalus with his son Icarus in the labyrinth of Crete by King Minos. To escape, he and his son build wings with wax and feathers to fly away. This is a clear example in the Greek mythology of transhuman hybridisations.
"The barely imagined beings", quoting Caspar Henderson (2018), have always surrounded us. In his book "The Book of the Barely Imagined Beings", he describes extraordinary animals, with bizarre shapes, unknown, so "barely imaginable", hard to imagine, but in his universe, they exist.
Reality and fantasy intertwine and overcome human borders in a centrifugal sense towards the Earth and the Universe and the deepest layers of the psyche. ‘Barely imaginable’ humans will make a mark in the following decades. Robotics, biotechnologies, and artificial intelligence will manipulate human material to advance the human race, but various ethical and legal issues may arise.
Another thing to consider is the heightened five senses of post-humanism humans. They will be able to listen to sounds of all wavelengths, possess superhuman strength, and will be able to see and live in augmented realities.
These technologies are becoming a more significant part of our lives. By hybridising our homes with technology, we already see the most enriching and beneficial aspects of hybridisation, such as using artificial intelligence in the alias of Siri and Alexa, to make our lives just a bit easier. Thus it will be interesting to witness the wedding between man and technology in the coming years.
Nevertheless, men have always struggled to accept their destiny as mortal beings. The possibility of building more technologically advanced bodies paints an illusion of being able to conquer death. Man will always fight against it! However, while we are immersed in this pandemic, in which human destiny reveals itself as merciless, death, as part and fate of life, shows itself as inevitable.