ٍTranshumanism and a Tribute to Fereidoun FM Esfandiary
Transhumanism with trans meaning transition from human to post-human is no longer an unknown philosophy, and it has important supporters, such as the WTA association or public figures such as K. Eric Drexler, the founder of the field of nanotechnology and author of the book Engines of Creation, and Marvin Minsky, a cofounder of the field of Artificial Intelligence and author of the book Society of Mind.
The famous scientist and futurist of our times, Ray Kurzweil, in his recent book Fantastic Voyage, which he has co-published with Terry Grossman, the ideas of transhumanism about the future of human biological existence are shown with scientific research, and he has introduced the view that within 20 years, immortality is within the reach of human beings.
A few years ago, in "About Futurism and Third Wave Terminology", I noted that the founder of the idea of transhumanism, and the one who for the first time, used this term, was an Iranian by the name of Fereidoun Esfandiary, in 1966, when he taught at New School for Social Research in New York. [P.S. Some people think Julian Huxley in the first essay of his 1957 book New Bottles for New Wine is the one who had first used this term, even if true, FM-2030 was the one who popularized it with his active promotion of transhumanism.]
Fereidoun Esfandiary was born in 1930 in Belgium and till the age of 11 had lived in 17 countries and called himself citizen of the universe and believed that "there are no illegal immigrants, only irrelevant borders," and in June 2000 he died in the U.S. and his body is cryogenically preserved at the Alcor foundation. He thought that he was a 21st Century human accidentally born in the 20th Century and had changed his name to FM-2030.
A reporter of Time magazine, who in those years, has reviewed Esfandiary's 1965 book, The Beggar, notes that FM Esfandiary had made such a telling critique of social and political conditions in Iran of that time, which was 14 years before the 1979 Revolution, that the author had "found it inadvisable to live in Iran." Later, Esfandiary in 1973, wrote his Up-wingers-A Futurist Manifesto where he expounded his views of the left and right and proposed *Up* wingers as the alternative.
Of course, the discussions of Esfandiary in the above book and in his other books of that time basically revolved around transhumanism and the social and political issues of human society within the current limitations of the existing human condition were not his focus. In other words, human engineering and the significance of the conscious changing of human body and its impact on society was his focus. In other words, human body was not assumed constant, whereas for other principle futurists of the time such as Daniel Bell, the main issue of futurism was the economic and social changes of the post-industrial society and not the human biological changes.
It is interesting that although Fereidoun Esfandiary introduced very radical ideas in the political academic circles of Berkeley and UCLA in the 70's and 80's, and that he was familiar with the social and political issues of Iran, and even previously had been in sports and Olympics, as well as diplomatic politics of Middle East at the United Nations, nonetheless, not only among the Iranian intellectuals inside Iran there was no familiarity with his views, but even among the Iranian political students' movement abroad which was very active those years in Berkeley and UCLA, there was no familiarity with Esfandiary's views. FM2030 was very far ahead of his times.
I read Esfandiary's works in 1982. For me, his attention to human engineering seemed excessive, and at the time, many of the discussions in his Up-wingers-A Futurist Manifesto seemed like science fiction to me. Today after the new works in the area of genetics, cloning, and nanotechnology, Esfandiary's discussions have found a new importance for me.
As I recently noted in the new introduction to my Intelligent Tools paper, one can no longer discuss the social freedom and justice of future society as separate from the physical changes of human body. In fact, within 50 years, human in the current sense of the word, will not exist. If the evolution of humans from primates needed 100 thousand years, evolution of human to post-human, has already started, and it is even in a goal-oriented way.
Furthermore, it is no longer just the genetic research of the cell nucleus and its changes, that I discussed in my paper Post-Anthropocentric Production, but even projects such as re-inventing life at the MIT have started, which are beyond the production of DNA strands that have the limitations of their natural production.
In fact, the most basic impacts of changing of human body, can already be seen with regards to issues such as artificial kidneys, where its artificial production can remove the technical basis of using natural parts of body as transplants, and the society can end the material basis of the savagery in the trade of human parts for money, which is so common place in many backward countries like Iran, and this way these kinds of issues, whether from the angle of freedom or justice, will be in the focus of the society, where the average age is getting higher and higher.
In my opinion, the discussions of World Transhuman Association WTA are very important for Iran's futurist movement and it is good if issues of Future Human Evolution be discussed in the Iranian intellectual circles.
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
January 24, 2005
Secularism & Pluralism-Essays