Adenine. Cytosine. Guanine. Thymine. It’s still rather hard to believe, but on June 26, 2000, the entire human genome—over 3 billion pairings of these four base molecules—was decoded by the Human Genome Project. Little more than ten years later, due to continued groundbreaking scientific advancements in biotechnology, subjects normally relegated to the pages of science fiction such as human perfection and even immortality have become topics of renewed interest and serious debate.
The quest for human improvement through biomedicial means indeed appears to be unstoppable in the developed world, and the promises of transhumanism—slowing or eliminating aging, and greatly enhancing human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities—are now much more tangible and achievable goals than ever before.
The imperfect human clay that has thus far given shape to our minds and bodies is now in the midst of profound potential transformations. With startling advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, telecommunications, and genetic engineering, to name only a few, we are entering an age where technology isn’t merely an extension of ourselves, but a part of ourselves.
Yet this drive towards the “post-human” has also raised red flags and given rise to heated discussions, debates, conflicts, and a great deal of research on the future of the human species. Should there be a limit to human improvement? Are “upgrades” going to be available for everyone, or only the rich? How far are we willing to go in order to change ourselves? Are we ready for these changes? Will they alter human nature?
In this issue of Research Perspectives, “Our post-human future,” our researchers will explore these questions and other key issues associated with emerging technologies, in light of the game-changing developments that are occurring—both in their respective fields, and in their research here at the University of Ottawa — developments that promise to fundamentally change individuals, communities, and perhaps even humanity itself.
It is my hope that the thought-provoking discussions presented in this issue give you the opportunity to reflect on our post-human future.