Guest post: Disability and transhumanism

The following is a guest blog post submitted by Steven Tiffany:

Last week I stumbled across a blog posting reviewing a new documentary that takes an in depth look at the relationship between disability and impairment and the relatively new movement known as “transhumanism.” What exactly is transhumanism? Well, in a nutshell, it is the utopian idea that at some point in the near future, humans will go beyond simply being human, and due to advances in technology, genetics and other areas of science, will find themselves living in a world where humans and machines have become inseparable and indeed are one and the same. While proponents of this theory believe that the event in which this union should occur (referred to as “the singularity”) is one to be anticipated and celebrated, detractors (especially those in the disability community) have urged people to approach the idea with restraint, and to at least consider the societal implications of such an event.

The approach of the filmmakers in the documentary mentioned above seems to be an analysis of the issue from several sides, while allowing the viewer to make the final judgement on whether transhumanism is truly desirable for our society.

What is the relevance of transhumanism to Social Role Valorization? While there are several connections that can be made, here is one that I was able to tease out:

Transhumanism assumes that the human experience is deficient, especially for people with disabilities. It is through interaction with machines that disabled people will be able to use their bodies and minds to the fullest potential. The most recent relevant example of this is that of South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, referred to in the media as the Blade Runner. Pistorius, despite missing the bottom half of both of his legs, has had a successful career as a sprinter in regular sporting events due to the implantation of ‘blades’ in place of where his lower legs would be.

This issue presents a conflict for practitioners of SRV theory. While it has been very role valorizing for people like Pistorius to take advantage of modern technologies to “improve” their bodies, what will be the impact of such measures on disabled people as an overall class? Will such measures serve to further devalue those who do not have the latest implants and technologies at their disposal? One can envision a future in which disabled people are further subdivided into those who can afford to improve their bodies and those who cannot.

Posted on September 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , ,

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