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History of transhumanism

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The history of transhumanism is complicated and relatively poorly documented prior to the internet age. However the dynamics of the movement are accelerating in recent years as more people are drawn to it without a strong sense of history.

High level analysis from Nick Bostrom talking about the evolution from the 90's and criticism of contemporary techno-optimism and the history of the World Transhumanist Association.

Sources

The following main sources were used in comprising this list:

Additional notable events have been added as necessary.

Timeline

Prehistory

1900 to 1940's precursors

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  • 1929 - British scientist John Desmond Bernal publishes The World, the Flesh and the Devil, introducing ideas central to transhumanism including liveable space habitats, and the future changes science could bring to human intelligence and physicality.
  • 1931 - Amazing Stories publishes "The Jameson Satellite", a short story by Neil R. Jones, about a man whose corpse is sent into orbit, where it remains near absolute zero for millions of years until a race of cyborgs discovers it, defrosts its brain, and installs it in a robot's body.
  • 1932 - Brave New World is published by Aldous Huxley, brother of Julian Huxley, describing a transhumanist dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and the opiate drug "soma" keep the population placid in a static, conformist caste society[1]
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  • 1945 - The reaction to the Holocaust where over 6 million Jews and other groups undesirable to the Nazi regime were systemically killed mostly marks the end of western affinity for eugenics and similar programmes[1]
  • 1948 - Inspired by "The Jameson Satellite" cryonics founder Robert Ettinger publishes his short story "The Penultimate Trump," in Startling Stories. In it, Ettinger proposes cryonics as "one-way medical time travel to the future."
  • 1949 - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, philosopher and Jesuit priest, paleontologist and geologist who coined the term Omega Point writes of man 'trans-humanizing' himself[2]

1950's to 1970's

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  • 1951 - Noted eugenicist and evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley uses the term "transhumanism" in a lecture delivered in Washington titled Knowledge, Morality and Destiny. Huxley describes his philosophy as "the idea of humanity attempting to overcome its limitations and to arrive at fuller fruition."
  • 1954 - Jerry Sohl publishes his sci-fi story "The Altered Ego," in which a man is able to make a digital duplicate of his mind and access it after his death. This marks the first appearance of mind-uploading in fiction.
  • 1957 - "The word “transhumanism” appears to have been first used by Julian Huxley, a distinguished biologist (who was also the first director‐general of UNESCO and a founder of the World Wildlife Fund). In his second edition Religion Without Revelation (1957), he wrote:
    The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself – not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way – but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature"[1]
  • 1959 - Physicist Richard P. Feynman presents the lecture, There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, suggesting the possibility of the manipulation of atoms in synthetic chemistry. The lecture will later inspire the field of nanotechnology.
  • 1964 - Robert Ettinger publishes "The Prospect of Immortality," a manifesto for cryonics. A small number of cryonics societies are established across the US.
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  • 1965 - Cryptographer and computer scientist Irving John Good publishes "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine," the first proposal for a possible future intelligence explosion in machine learning.
  • 1967 - Philosopher Harry Overstreet make the first mention "extropy" — the attempt to counteract the natural law of entropy — in a 1967 volume of the journal, Physis.
  • 1967 - The first person is cryogenically frozen at the Cryonics Society of California by the society's president — Robert Nelson, a television repairman. The operation was ultimately deemed unsuccessful and Nelson's clients were "lost."[3]
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  • 1972 - Fred & Linda Chamberlain establish the Alcor Society for Solid State Hypothermia, later renamed to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, in Los Angeles. Fred Chamberlain had previously worked as a space program engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • 1972 - Apollo 17 becomes the final manned mission to the Moon.
  • 1972 - The Club of Rome publishes The Limits to Growth, positing dire projections of a growing global population and dwindling resources.
  • 1973 - FM-2030, then known as Fereidoun M. Esfandiary, publishes Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto.
  • 1974 - Physicist Gerard K. O'Neil publishes "The Colonization of Space" in Physics Today. O'Neil advocates "finding high quality living space for a world population that is doubling every 35 years; finding clean, practical energy sources; preventing overload of Earth's heat balance."
  • 1975 - The L5 Society is established to continue O'Neil's work advocating for space colonization. Its members include Eric Drexler.
  • 1976 - The Cryonics Institute is established and freezes its first clients in liquid nitrogen.

1980's

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  • 1980 - The L5 Society helps defeat US ratification of the Moon Treaty, paving the way for private space exploration and resource exploitation of celestial bodies.
  • 1983 - Natasha Vita-More publishes The Transhuman Manifesto.
  • 1984 - The first definitive cyberpunk novel Neuromancer by William Gibson's marks a branching of futurist ideas away from techno-optimism
  • 1986 - Partly in response to The Limits to Growth, Eric Drexler, then research affiliate with MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, publishes The Engines of Creation, which proposes the theory of nanotechnology; "‘molecular assemblers,' devices capable of positioning atoms and molecules for precisely defined reactions in almost any environment," as a potential solution to Earth's limited resources.
  • 1986 - Eric Drexler and Christine Peterson establish The Foresight Institute to "ensure beneficial implementation of nanotechnology."
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1990's

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  • 1990 - Hans Morvac publishes Mind Children, predicting superintelligent robots by 2030.
  • 1991 - The Extropians Mailing list[4] is established, the first major online hub for transhumanist ideas to be exchanged. Several prominent writers, theorists, and technologists in the movement regularly post to the boards, which continues to be active today.
  • 1993 - Science fiction author, computer scientist, and mathematician Vernor Vinge publishes The Coming Technological Singularity,[5] popularizing the theory of the Singularity and predicting its arrival sometime before 2030.
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2000

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2001

2002

2003

2004

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2005

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2006

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2007

2008

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2009

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2010

2011

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2012

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2013

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  • Larry Page establishes Calico Labs with Arthur D. Levinson, ex-chairman of Apple, as part of Google (since restructured as a subsidiary of Alphabet). Calico pursues a cure for aging and associated diseases.
  • At the Global Futures 2045 International Congress, Ray Kurzweil predicts that human beings will achieve digital immortality through mind-uploading by 2045.
  • Zoltan Istvan publishes the dystopian science fiction novel, The Transhumanist Wager, about a future war between transhumanists and the US Government.

2014

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  • Elon Musk tells Aeon magazine there will be people living on Mars by 2040.[20]
  • Google CEO Larry Page tells TED Conference attendees that he would prefer to leave his fortune to Elon Musk than donate it to charity in order to ensure that people will get to Mars.[21]
  • Calico is the focus of one of the first ever transhumanist direct action events in 2014 when activists supported by Alexey Turchin in New York and California called for indefinite life extension.[22][23]

2015

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2016

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 A HISTORY OF TRANSHUMANIST THOUGHT Note, 'transhumanism' being coined in the 1927 edition of 'Religion Without Revelation' appears to be an error in the source, it is actually the 1957 edition
  2. http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=2287&C=2177
  3. http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/suspensionfailures.html
  4. http://www.extropy.org/emaillists.htm
  5. http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19940022855.pdf
  6. http://www.wired.com/1994/10/extropians/
  7. http://fennetic.net/pub/extropy/extro1_ad.pdf
  8. http://www.xprize.org/press-release/xprize-foundation-announces-plans-10-million-global-literacy-xprize
  9. http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/contemporary/Extropic-Art-Manifesto.html
  10. https://web.archive.org/web/20160402174821/http://www.transhumanism.org/tv/tv98/index.htm
  11. https://intelligence.org/transparency/
  12. http://www.alcor.org/cryonics/cryonics2000-4.pdf
  13. http://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/dangerous.html
  14. https://intelligence.org/2014/12/01/2014-winter-matching-challenge/
  15. http://www.seasteading.org/2011/01/the-thiel-foundation-pledges-1000000-the-seasteading-institute/
  16. Singularity University 'Origin Story'
  17. The Thiel Foundation
  18. http://www.wired.com/2013/04/kurzweil-google-ai/
  19. https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/495759307346952192
  20. Elon Musk argues that we must put a million people on Mars if we are to ensure that humanity has a future
  21. http://www.businessinsider.com/larry-page-elon-musk-2014-3
  22. First Ever Street Action For Transhumanism In the United States!
  23. Our “GooglePlex Action” for Radical Life Extension
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_on_Artificial_Intelligence
  25. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/11342200/Top-scientists-call-for-caution-over-artificial-intelligence.html
  26. http://rameznaam.com/2015/05/12/the-singularity-is-further-than-it-appears/
  27. Zoltan Istvan: Immortality Bus delivers Transhumanist Bill of Rights to US Capitol
  28. 15 Question Zoltan Istvan is Avoiding – why? what are the answers? (opinion)
  29. Elon Musk: Humans Need ‘Neural Lace’ to Compete With AI