What are examples of new utopias

The new man

Sascha Dickel

To person

is a research associate at the Friedrich Schiedel Chair for Sociology of Science at the Technical University of Munich. [email protected]

Creating new people - that was once reserved for the gods. But in utopian thinking, the new man is brought to earth. In it he symbolizes the break with the present reality in favor of alternative inner-worldly conceived possibilities. [1] Utopian thinking found its most prominent expression in the social utopias of modernity. Ideally, the social utopia can be understood as an alternative construction of social order that is supported by collectively binding values ​​and norms. An imperfect reality is countered by a state of perfection. In the mirror of utopia, society should reflect on its own imperfections and initiate a change for the better. In the state novels of the early modern period, this alternative order was shifted to distant island realms, [2] but in the course of the Enlightenment the utopia wandered into the day after tomorrow. Space utopias became time utopias. [3] Utopia became the ideal of a future to be strived for. The currently impossible should become possible in the future.

People and society are always thought of together in social utopias. Depending on their utopian interpretation, the new people of utopian societies are happier, smarter, more altruistic or freer than the old people. [4] The instruments of transformation that are to produce the New Man are social technologies: policies and educational methods. Your application should produce a new type of person. This corresponds to a decidedly modern image of human beings, in which they are understood as tabula rasa, as "indefinite negativity" [5] which only becomes a subject through society: the human being is then what the social order makes of him. If you change these, you change them at the same time human condition. Last but not least, this utopian idea was inscribed in the great revolutionary movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. The new human being displaced into the future was to serve as a model for the elderly, which was to be striven for and realized.

Human Enhancement: Reinventing the New Human

But the socio-technological dream of the New Man is largely over. [6] At the latest with the fall of the real existing socialism, the utopian energies of modernity seemed to be exhausted. Some authors therefore came to the conclusion that modern utopias with society-wide claims have been a transition phenomenon that is now slowly falling victim to modernization itself. [7] Francis Fukuyama's thesis of the "end of history" formulated in 1989 is paradigmatic for this position. After the historic victory of democracy and capitalism, the striving for an alternative new world and a new person came to an end. Instead, we would have to see ourselves as the "last people". [8]

But a few years later, Fukuyama was forced to withdraw. He acknowledged that the social technology tools may have been "simply too crude to effectively alter the natural substratum of human behavior." In contrast, the case could arise that "within the next generations, biotechnology will provide us with tools with which we will achieve what the social engineers of the past were unable to do". [9] Fukuyama expressed the idea that future, scientifically based Sachtechnologies could do something with past Socialtechnologies - for better or for worse - did not want to succeed. The new utopian project that Fukuyama outlines with warning intent is "Human Enhancement" - the improvement of people through the use of technological interventions in the body: [10] through pharmaceuticals, implants, prostheses, bio- and nanotechnology.

The term "human enhancement" has established itself in the international bioethical discussion as a generic term that encompasses a wide variety of technological options for improving the body. [11] The central distinction is the difference between improvement and therapy. In the context of this difference, those practices that do not serve to restore the normal state of health, but rather aim to change this normal state in certain respects, are considered to be enhancement, i.e. improvement. Based on this distinction, therapy and enhancement can then be differentiated on the basis of their action goals. In order to frame an action as a therapeutic intervention, the identification of a pathological problem is essential. The goal is to treat it. The goal of enhancement, on the other hand, is determined by the construction of possible improvement options without the presence of a disease to be treated - here it is already evident that the horizon of the goal of "improvement", in contrast to therapeutic goals, is open to the top.

Current technical applications discussed under the heading "Human Enhancement" are, for example, aesthetic interventions, performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals that improve mental abilities (such as concentration and memory) or implants (such as magnets) that are supposed to provide new sensory impressions. The latter example already leads us to the transhumanistic ideas for the future, [12] which are linked with enhancement - namely the visions of an increase in human abilities beyond what is currently humanly possible. [13] While current enhancement options often only move within the range of the current human potential, for example to achieve a brief concentration boost, transhuman enhancement technologies aim to expand the human scope of possibilities. This is precisely where the utopian moment lies: what is currently physically impossible should become technologically possible in the future.

Transhumanist visions of the future shape the discourse about enhancement immensely, because even incremental technical applications can be interpreted as preliminary stages to and pioneers for a transhuman future - if the time horizon is only sufficiently extended. Enhancement utopians and enhancement dystopians agree on this: While the former rave about golden bridges to a transhuman future, the latter warn of dam breaks and slippery slopes[14] Enhancement utopians and enhancement dystopians consider the future possible of what is currently impossible to be possible - they only differ in their assessment of this possibility.

Three transhuman paths

What visions are you talking about? What can the technically optimized and transformed new person look like? Which technologies should produce it? Three speculative paths are currently being discussed in bioethical discourses, popular scientific writings, but increasingly also in broader social circles:

The genetically new person: designer babies
The current technological breakthroughs in genome editing (a method of removing, inserting, and modifying DNA) have revived a discourse that has been going on for more than a century under ever new auspices: the discourse about the production of new people through biotechnical interventions. In the context of a "liberal eugenics" [15], however, the genetically new human no longer has to be a product of collective state decisions, but can also be thought of as an aggregate of a number of parental decisions. For a long time, the debate about such "designer babies" was determined by the idea of ​​selection - in its liberal version, a selection of the "best" offspring by the parents on the basis of pre-implantation diagnostics. But with the new methodological instruments of the genome editing the possibility of direct genetic manipulation in the germline appears to be within reach again. [16] What enhancement utopians hope and what their opponents fear is that genetic manipulation, which has been continued over generations, could give rise to people whose characteristics are radically different from people of the present. [17]

The Implanted New Human: Cyborgs
The genetically new human is the product of a future that is still very distant. But for several decades another transhuman vision has been in circulation that contains the promise (or threat) that even people of the present (and not just their descendants) can become new people: namely through prostheses and implants. In this vision of the future, the expected convergence of bio, nano and information technology leads to a whole range of improvement options that a person can use in the course of his life. [18] Neuro-implants are intended to be used to increase cognition. An artificial eye could enable humans to see better and perceive parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that were previously inaccessible to them. Analogous to this, an artificial ear could enable the perception of sounds that were previously inaudible to humans. It would also be conceivable to network the artificial sensory organs of different people with one another so that one would be able to process the sensory information of other people. Bioelectronics could also give the body additional power, for example to improve the running speed or the carrying capacity of a person. [19] After a few decades, today's humans could hardly be recognized: swarms of nanorobots wander through their bodies, making them more resilient and durable. It is possible that certain parts of the body are no longer (or at least no longer completely) organic. The implanted New Human has gradually become a cyborg, a hybrid of human and machine. [20]

The digital new person: uploads
While genetic manipulation and "cyborgization" require a gradual process, what is probably the most radical transformation vision imagines a sudden transition from human to new human being through the complete digitization of human consciousness. This process is known as "uploading" or "whole brain emulation" [21]. The crucial premise of those who believe in uploading is that the brain can ultimately be described as replaceable hardware for the software of consciousness. The possibility of a neuroscan, which can completely emulate the brain and thus transfer it to a computer without loss, does not appear to be ruled out either: humans should migrate to a superior carrier medium. In the end, digital immortality is hoped for, because the new person created in this way should be able to make any number of backups of himself, even if his material foundations fall victim to the ravages of time. But it is not just about an extension of human life, but about an all-encompassing dissolution of boundaries: freed from the shackles of biology, the digital new person should also be able to exponentially improve his own intellectual abilities and transform and expand himself at will - he becomes himself self-shaping artificial intelligence. [22]