The most personal technological revolutions are probably those that happen in medicine. Keeping our bodies healthy and functional for as long as possible is an important issue for most people. Getting sick or injured is something that we rightly dread.
I often think to myself how lucky we are to be alive in an era of advanced medical science. I’m not even talking about the futuristic cutting-edge medicine, but simple things like having local and general anesthetic. Personally, I don’t fancy getting dental work done, much less actual surgery, without the lovely, pain-killing injection. Yet, for the great majority of human history, diseases or injury were truly dreadful and intolerable events.
Medicine, of course, is moving faster than ever before, and each year we seem to have new treatments that were unimaginable just a few years, or sometimes months, before. Illnesses that were death sentences when we were born are now curable or manageable. Imagine what we’ll be able to treat in a decade or three.
Why Transhumanists Care About Medical Revolutions
Transhumanism is very interested in making us live longer than humans have ever lived before, but part of that is preventing premature death. There are plenty of disorders and diseases that can be survived and fully recovered from today. Those people can go on to live their lives, and hopefully be happy and productive, until the day of their natural deaths. Because transhumanism and humanism are philosophically related, it means that transhumanists also care about relieving human suffering and improving quality of life. The difference, of course, is our emphasis on using science and technology to achieve that goal.
The Difference Between Medical Revolutions and Augmentation
It may seem that revolutionary medical treatments should just be lumped together with augmentations of the human body. The key difference is that these technologies are not aimed at making people better than a human is made to be, but to restore a human to the overall norm. If it happens that something like an artificial heart or genetic treatment for cancer also ends up augmenting a person in some way, that’s coincidental in this context since the intention is not to make people more than human.
Nonetheless, these amazing treatments often lay the groundwork for augmentation since, once your technology can restore the human norm, there is usually no scientific or technological reason you can’t keep improving it. Objections are usually on ethical grounds.
While I speak about life extension in another section, that section deals with making humans live longer. Rejuvenation deals with reversing the damage done through aging, disease, and the hardships of life. In my view, rejuvenation better fits under the category of medical revolutions than it does under the banner of life extension, since it is not aimed at making you live longer, but at keeping you in top shape while you are alive.
Have you ever wondered why we can’t grow some parts back? After all, there are plenty of animals out there that can regenerate organs and limbs in a way that humans simple can’t. This is the exciting world of regenerative medicine where you can return a person back to the way they were before they were sick or injured. Regenerative medicine is distinct from healing, which is taking someone from a life-threatening or untenable health situation to one where they can live well. Removing a cancerous lung is an example of healing, but the person now only has one functional lung.
Regenerative medicine also includes the solution to the problem of organ rejection, which can’t happen when the regenerated material is your own.
What’s in this Section
As you may expect, it’s difficult to keep clear dividing lines between different topic categories, since so many technologies overlap and work together. In this section this is even truer than usual; the other category sections I have made on this site also feature here for the most part. After all, nanotechnology, robotics, genetics, cybernetics, and even computer technology all have medical applications.
My main criteria, then, is that articles in this section of the site should be about medical applications of these technologies with the intent of restoring human normality. The augmentative aspects of these technologies are more likely discussed in other sections dealing explicitly with those types of technology.