Should attempts at transhumanism be banned


Module icon
event SE Current topics in sports biomechanics
author Elimada Patricia Afram
Project topic Sport as a "competition of the gods !?" - Transhumanism
expert Prof. Bockrath


People today are offered many opportunities to optimize themselves. The economic principles of our society are based on the motto of the ancient Olympics "citius, altius, fortius". It is always about improving human abilities. The new technologies seem to overcome the natural limits of humans and to have a solution for every problem. A revolution in comprehensive body doping seems to be emerging. This wiki will deal with the influence of the new technical movement systems on sport and society. The question of the human image of our society is raised and what significance the change and the development of improved movement systems have for sport. The topic should be illustrated using the example of the simulation of biological movement behavior in technical systems, as well as the neuromuscular control of movements in the field of prosthetics. The aim of this wiki is to clarify the need to reflect on technical achievements, as well as their clear definition and the impact they have on people.

Introductory example - "Contest of the Gods"

In ancient times, the Olympic Games were held in honor of the gods. The competitions were carried out according to the Olympic motto “citius, altius, fortius”, meaning “faster, higher, further”. The participants were celebrated only for the victory. The athletes were spurned for participation or second place, because only the victory, the best performance, was important, because it was said that the winners were favored by the gods. True to the original motto, today's sporting competitions continue to take place. However, the participants no longer leave the outcome to "any" gods. In the spirit of transhumanism, the participant must become a deity himself and benefit himself. The participant builds his own skills with the help of technologies of all kinds and improves them as far as possible. He creates an optimized form of himself and thus would have favored himself and the competition would be decided according to who has used and implemented the best combination of tools.

Could the traditional sporting competition be changed to the present day in one way or another without destroying the basic idea of ​​sport? Wouldn't this simply be the adaptation to the technological age and thus a further development? Thinking through such a hypothetical scenario can be very amusing. Imagine superheroes or deities at the start line and everyone could use their skills in various disciplines. Doesn't the different abilities lead to a kind of fairness again? Would this result in a fair weather battle in which each participant competes with his own “divine superpowers”? Wouldn't that mean the same competition, just on a different level?

Fig.2: Olympic Super Heroes

Figure 2 shows the Marvel superheroes with the Olympic rings who caricatured this idea. With this fictional example I would like to point out the problem of techno-doping, as well as the problem of drawing a precise line. The rapidly advancing technological developments urge us to grapple with this topic, as the following examples by Oscar Pistorius and Markus Rehm make clear.

2 The image of man in our society

"Before we 'mess' into our humanity, we should perhaps think about what makes us who we are", so the message of many scientists, bioethicists and theologians (cf. Naisbitt et al., 1999, p. 156) . The question of what it means to be human is a central topic that underlies the discussion about healing or improvement with technological means. What is it that makes a person? What is the most human and therefore most valuable thing about people? Is it reason that Kant ascribed so much at the time of the Enlightenment? Is it perhaps our minds and the ability to reflect? Aristotle formulated in his Nicomachean Ethics a circular concept about the functioning of the optimizing character formation of the human being, which could bring about and secure happiness. Through the ability to make well-considered decisions, humans differ from instinct-controlled animals and are able to optimize their own happiness by weighing up within each situation (cf.Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1097b ff.) Is it really the mental abilities, that make up people? What about our body, the biological qualities, the symmetry or is it precisely the physical diversity? Perhaps what is most human about people is also that which cannot be grasped or measured, such as morality, goodness or love.

Who decides about it? The bioethicist Doerflinger dealt with the question of what constitutes humans and expresses himself critically: “I don't know of any agreement about what is most human or valuable in human beings. I do not believe that we mortals are equipped to determine what kind of people we need for a better society ”(cf. Naisbitt, 1999, p. 156). It is questionable whether that can even be determined. Does the individual form society or does society force the individual into uniformed values?

Figure 3, inspired by an anti-discrimination banner, aims to highlight the natural differences between people in a group. However, as a member of today's society, everyone is equal before the law. According to this principle, every member has the same starting position and the same opportunities to live out, train, prove etc. within this system as well as to meet the performance requirements of a functioning society. The idea of ​​equality, however, is sabotaged by nature. The genes decide which starting position a person will really have in society. What kind of person should be good or better for society, however, is the question. If you think back to the Spartans, it was a certain physiology, size, broad shoulders, etc. that counted as criteria. People are made objects by developing a concept of the quantifiable ideal form. This means that ideal measures for sexual attractiveness, symmetry of the face, etc. but also for intelligence are created in order to make perfection measurable. If the perfect can be measured, the average should also be measurable. With the help of this calculated numerical value, it should be possible to evaluate and categorize the quality of a person or a society. But what about morality or goodness, as well as love? These human characteristics cannot be quantified and cannot be expressed in numbers.

Peter Sloterdijk's anthropology describes humans in general as being who actively intervene in their environment and change it. Within society, people are individualized, self-reliant entrepreneurs on their own behalf. They are actors and producers of their own fate and are therefore fully responsible for the success and failure of their life projects, that is, the person is producer and product in one. He creates a technical and cultural world and thus at the same time creates himself (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 138). From this one could answer the question of what it means to be human or what role this person plays in society, according to Sloterdijk's thesis.

Quarks & Co .: Human 2.0 - How we become machine people. R .: Harald Spieß. Script: Dirk Gilson, Ulf Kneiding, Sebastian Koch, Uta Meyer, Daniel Münter, Denis Nasser. Production country (D): Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln 2014. TC: 00: 07: 19-00: 10: 44

Everyone is the self-determined creator of himself as well as that of his environment and thus designs himself the constraints and ideals with which he restricts himself. The question remains whether this is in the “nature of man” or whether there is any “nature of man” at all. Another question arises from this question: Is a disability considered to be a deviation from the “species norm” if there were a human nature?

2.1 Deficient human being

Human nature is based on the fact that it uses artificial means with which it can survive in nature and in its civilization despite its "(defective) nature". It follows that human nature indicates that man is not a purely biological being. Sloterdijk divides the practices of shaping oneself and the world into two categories. The first is the immune strategy, which is used to defend against and overcome dangers, the second to increase and improve human abilities (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 129). He draws a picture of the human being, which characterizes him as a defective being. To this end, he wrote a “cripple anthropology” which states that all people are cripples in different ways. The cripple holds up the mirror to mankind and shows it their limitations. From this he developed the motto “You have to change your life!”. Human beings would need prostheses to survive. According to Sloterdijk, these so-called prostheses do not only refer to aids attached to the body. According to Sloterdijk, institutions that bring a certain order to coexistence or a structure to society are also a type of prosthesis that are useful for survival (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 132). Man is subject to natural decay. Although there is a natural inequality due to genetic advantages and disadvantages, ultimately all people age, are prone to disease and fundamentally imperfect.

Assuming a "normal" average body, with two eyes, two arms, two legs, etc., one has to consider not only the inequalities that already exist in this case, but also those that have other physical deficits, such as missing limbs or psychological instability, etc. The question is how this is dealt with in a society in which objectified bodies, ideal dimensions and productive efficiency are in charge. Do these "flawed bodies" also mean flawed people? Hugh Herr had both lower legs amputated, but it was clear to him: “At that time, I didn’t see my body as broken!” He believes that human deficits must be remedied with the help of technology. Because “a person can never be broken! You can transcent disablelity. ", With the help of the technologies (, accessed on May 12, 2014 at 8:35 am).

3 Technologized Society

In this section we shall now discuss the extent to which the new technologies influence human behavior and the way of thinking. After the terms technology and anthropotechnics have been explained, I will go into the merging of humans and technology, where I will raise the question of whether technologies are becoming more and more similar to humans or humans to technology. Furthermore, I will take up the term enhancement, take a closer look at it and relate it to prosthetics. Ethical aspects or the ethical evaluation also play an important role in connection with the advancing technologies. At the end of this section, I will address a medical utopia and explain and examine the movement of transhumanism.

3.1 Explanation of terms


The term technology is derived from the Greek words techne (art, craft) and logos (teaching, science). In the general understanding, technologia is translated as the "teaching of the craft". In 1957, Brockhaus defined the term technology as "process knowledge". The mechanical technology deals with the purely mechanical processes for the treatment of materials and building materials ... The technical processes for the induction and control of chemical reactions deal with the chemical technology according to Brockhaus. However, this narrow description has changed over the years. It was later placed in a larger context. At Austrian universities, technology was defined as follows in 1999: “Technology is the study of the development of technologies in their social context” (cf. Naisbitt et al., 1999, p. 34). In the meantime, however, it is no longer enough to describe technology as process science if you want to clarify what it summarizes as a whole. In the Duden there are currently four definitions that are intended to explain the term. First of all, technology is the science of converting raw materials into finished products. The next explanation explains technology as a methodology and a procedure in a particular research area. Next, it is defined as the totality of the processes required for the extraction and processing or deformation of substances. All three explanations are very broad and yet do not say exactly what technology is definitely. The last definition is a reference to the word technology, which is also described several times. Technology is therefore also what technology should be, ie "the totality of measures, facilities and processes that serve to make scientific knowledge practically usable". In addition, it is the “trained ability, artistry that is necessary for the correct exercise of a thing” etc. (cf. Duden, 2001). All of these definitions are formulated so openly that a concrete description is not possible. This may be due to the fact that it is not yet clear what will or can be covered by this term in the future.


Sloterdijk has formulated two definitions for the concept of anthropotechnics. The first describes anthropotechnics as an applied branch of biology, which aims to improve the physical and mental condition of humans. The second describes the application of data from anthropometry and psychotechnics for the purpose of professional selection. It is not only about psychological aspects, but also about somatic peculiarities of the body structure. The dynamics of the organism, mobility, strength, dexterity etc. are taken into account (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 18f). The concept of anthropotechnics will be discussed in more detail in the later section, in the expert interview with Prof. Bockrath.

3.2 Fusion of people and technology

Man has acquired the ability to change both the material world around him and himself. This development has brought about nanotechnology, geo-engineering and enhancement technologies, among other things. Nanotechnology is "an interdisciplinary science from physics, chemistry and biology that uses effects and phenomena that arise or are made possible due to the causal relationship between structure sizes up to 100 nm and the properties of a material." (Http: // world- accessed on May 12, 2014 at 10:23 am). “Geo-engineering is the term used to describe technical interventions in biogeochemical or geochemical cycles of the environment.” (Http:// accessed on May 12, 2014 at 10:32 am). And the enhancement technologies are those that are used when it comes to changing something in people themselves. Michelangelo's Creation of Adam is a popular template used to replace Adam brought to life by God the Father. Figure 4 shows the section of the hands, with Adam's hand being replaced by an artificial one, which can be seen as a symbolic representation of man's technical achievements. This development broadens people's horizons in many directions, but also raises new ethical questions, which will be discussed in the later section.

The achievements of modern technology offer people countless comforts, a so-called "cushioned life", according to Naisbitt. Technology would give us what our physical and psychological pleasure centers would eagerly desire. According to Naisbitt, it enjoys a special status “as if it were a law of nature, an inalienable right that our daily life, our experiences, even nature are destined” to be influenced or even to benefit from it (cf. Naisbitt et al., 1999, p. 8). It is so firmly anchored in our lives that it is often not even consciously perceived because it is taken for granted and cannot be imagined without it. It starts with cosmetics, visual aids or medicines and can be carried out in all areas of our life.

This development has resulted in an anthropomorphization of technology. This means that technical systems are no longer developed just for our, possiblyfaulty organic system, such as how glasses can compensate for a visual impairment, but that these are generally developed along the lines of organic systems in order to even be able to replace them. The areas of artificial intelligence, artificial life, robotics and also prosthetics fall into this category. Here the attempt is made to imitate organic and human systems with technical means. In this way, the technology becomes, in some ways, more like humans. On the other hand, however, it could be seen that humans become more technology-like. There is an artifactibilization of the human being ( accessed on 07/30/2014 at 20:29).

With the help of technologies, an endless supply of quick solutions is provided for every problem. Even without existing problems, the properties of completely healthy people can be expanded by medicinal means. Technology vows to make people more beautiful, smarter and happier, as well as to improve their performance. With the help of technologies, humans can be and achieve all this and more. The possibility arises to achieve what one may have failed before, to look like genetics did not dictate it and a lot more. The problem that Gordijn wants to point out in this regard is the result of existential confusion. The problem would increasingly arise of categorizing oneself and distinguishing it from technical systems. Usually humans distinguish between nature and culture, natural and artificial, organic and non-organic. These elements of the human self-image would have to be reconsidered if a symbiosis between humans and technology is assumed (cf. Gordijn, 2010, pp. 201f.). Figure 5 is a drawing by Jonas Stewens on the subject of “today's image of man”. He represents the increasing importance of technology for people through a physical fusion with them.

Fig. 5: Drawing "Cyborg" (Jonas Stewen)

Hugh Herr, the director of MIT’s Biomechatronics Research Group and founder of BiOM, presented his personal story at the TED Conference in March 2014. Mr. himself lost both lower legs in a mountain climbing accident and is now wearing prostheses himself. Through his company he would like to commercialize prostheses and thus make them accessible to everyone. He tries to make it clear that technologies are tools that can and will improve the quality of life. People with disabilities in particular should have the right to lead their lives as they want without being hindered by any physiological restrictions if they perceive them as such. Mr. describes a basic physiological functionality as a human right, which can be realized through technology.

Fig. 6: Wired Magazine Cover

Hugh Herr and athlete Amy Mullins pose for the Wired cover in Figure 6. On this subject he will present the “Bionics” lower leg prostheses, which he himself also wears, and will explain how a connection between an electromechanical prosthesis and the organic human body can close the gap between physical disability and physical ability. He is of the opinion that human boundaries can be overcome with it. Society can make this possible provided that people are not considered disabled. A person can never be "broken" because the body does not make a person. Technologies can help people to realize themselves and to lead the life that nature or an unfortunate event has denied them. The amalgamation of humans with appropriate technologies, including invasive ones, does not raise a question of identity for Herr. It enables individual people to live their identity first (, accessed on May 12, 2014 at 8:35 am).

3.3 Enhancement

The term enhancement should now be considered. It is difficult to explain the concept of enhancement with just the German translation, as an optimization or improvement. The ethicist Chadwick distinguishes four important interpretations of the term enhancement. On the one hand there is the definition of the term used by the President's Council for Bioethics, which published the report “Beyond Therapy” in 2003, which deals with the topic that many technologies that have been developed for therapeutic purposes are also used beyond treatment can be. In this regard, Gordijn gives the example of the development of a drug for memory problems in Alzheimer's patients, which may also improve memory performance in a healthy person. The second interpretation of enhancement is the idea of ​​a purely quantitative change, according to Chadwick. What is meant is when a person grows, for example by taking growth hormones. The next mode of interpretation is that of qualitative change. An example of this would be the use of enhancement technologies to change the “quality of people”, to improve them morally, so to speak. The fourth interpretation is the term enhancement as a generic term that includes a whole range of different interventions (cf. Gordijn, 2010, pp. 194f.). In general, with each interpretation, the question arises as to when therapy ends and at what point enhancement begins.

The development that people are increasingly able to improve beyond therapy, i.e. can also expand the properties of completely healthy people, raises many ethical and political questions. This does not mean that the attempt to improve human characteristics is wrong or even bad, it is problematic to generalize something like this, as the areas and their developments are very different. The so-called “smart drugs” like Ritalin and Modafinil are an obvious problem because they are used by students, among others. There are discussions about banning such enhancers, but such a ban must be accompanied by further considerations, such as the question of whether doping tests should be introduced at universities before exams ( broadcastings / uebersichtmenschzweinull100.html accessed on 07/30/2014 at 9:06 pm). Such developments make it clear that the question must be asked what exactly is to be achieved. Are enhancers supposed to make people's lives better so that they can have a "good life" or be happier? Or should people feel happy with the help of enhancers, no matter if their life is good, since they are only supposed to make it appear?

If enhancement were generally allowed and everyone could use it to increase their performance, can we still speak of fraud? According to Caysa, people would live in a “doped society” in which everyone “cheats” with performance-enhancing agents. Our civilization is based on the principle of increasing performance through man-made and artificial means. It is an illusion to believe in a person who only progresses or achieves through pure natural achievement. It is also only a product of our culture and thus a self-imposed limit (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 109).

The development of technologies leads to the fact that there is an aesthetic of feasibility. This means that people choose to do things because they can do it. For example, they change their appearance because anyone can do it and if they do it too, they will not be at a possible disadvantage. Caysa formulated the questions: “Why don't you do what is feasible? Why do they let themselves go? ”That would go hand in hand with not using artificial aids. This is supposed to mean that the feasibility aesthetic, as Caysa calls it, creates a pressure of feasibility that gives the word “real” a new meaning. “The real thing always counts as the feasible”, which is why people are expected to be able to do what they should. ”So people would have to use tools if they want to keep up with society, if Caysa is right with this thesis. He is also of the opinion, like Gordijn among others, that this leads to deep insecurity in people, since the question arises of what “real” personal contribution was when, for example, something was achieved (cf. Bockrath, 2012, P. 112). Gordijn fears a loss of identity and describes it as an existential confusion of people, as technologies would have a significant impact on a person's social role. The industrialization of the body fundamentally destroys the idea of ​​its natural state. Sportiness, science, diverse talents, etc. are questioned. However, Caysa also notes that enhancement is associated with utilitarianization of society. This means that, for example, various means such as Ritalin, Viagra, etc. are essential carriers of this utilitarian idea, which would make more happiness possible for more people in society. Basically, this is not a bad thought, as it is about the greatest possible happiness for the largest possible part of society (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 114). But the preservation of equal opportunities should not be ignored! What about the people who work without artificial aids, write exams, etc.? Are these deprived of equal opportunities if the results of other people who have achieved better results with artificial help are also rated better? Or does it continue to exist because the decision for or against aids would be free? Caysa, like Gordijn, warn of emerging inequality and the subsequent problem of justice.

It becomes clear that the goal of what we want to achieve with enhancement must be clearly defined. If it is really about becoming happier or making a good life possible for people, it is important to take a step back here as well and to define social agreement about what a “good life” entails. According to Gordijn, this is currently not available, but necessary because the questions have arisen for which no solution has yet been found (cf. Gordijn, 2010, pp. 206f.). One of these questions arises in the field of sport and has sparked many discussions. It is about the use of prostheses in sports and whether athletes with prostheses are allowed to participate in competitions by non-disabled athletes.

3.3.1 Prosthetics

Prostheses are an artificial replacement for damaged or lost body parts or organs. For some people it is even possible to live through technology that is built into the body. Pacemakers and insulin pumps are just a few examples that enable survival today. Prostheses outside the body, such as leg prostheses, make life easier and are both cosmetic and functional. More information on lower limb prosthetics can be found in the wikis WP1312 Prosthetics Basics, WP1212 Lower Limb prostheses and WP1314 Sprint with lower limb prosthesis. I am going into the problem of the hand / arm prosthesis here.

The following video example shows a prosthesis from Ottobock and how it is adapted to the patient. The patient himself says: "I am in no way inferior to others!"

The difficulty in constructing an artificial human hand is due to the highly developed fine motor skills. Since there is no feedback from the prosthesis about pressure, position, tension, etc., it is difficult to develop a prosthesis that is perceived as realistic for the wearer. The aim is to create a connection between the person and the prosthesis that enables signals to be conducted. For such a link, nerves must be brought into direct communication with the usual electronic connection of a prosthesis. A new process made this connection possible, with the help of nanotechnology and tissue engineering, by building a kind of bridge between nerves and the artificial body part. Since there was no sensory feedback, every movement of the prosthesis had to be monitored and deliberately controlled. The connection point, the so-called interface, between the nervous system and the prosthesis must enable the exchange of motor and sensory information in both directions. The previous prosthetic hands received the signals for movement control in an indirect way. By repeatedly tensing and relaxing the muscles in the chest or arm stump, the prosthesis wearer could operate special switches via electrodes attached there ( accessed on 07/30/2014 at 10:12 p.m.).

So far, the brain has been used as a signal source. However, there are two connection options within the nervous system. On the one hand the central nervous system, which requires a connection to the brain or spinal cord, and on the other hand the peripheral nervous system, which concerns the nerve that originates from the spinal cord and, before the amputation, supplied the hand to be replaced. After an amputation, the nerves do not die, they simply retract a little. An attempt is made to connect the prosthesis to these original motor nerves in order to be able to control them. The advantage of this option is that there is no need for an invasive intervention in the brain itself. The less invasive procedure of placing electrodes under the skull on the meninges is also eliminated. Electrodes on the scalp are too susceptible to interference with signals from surrounding electronic devices and also only provide a very rough indication of brain activity. This method has been tested on many people. The advantage of the variant of wanting to connect the peripheral nervous system with the prosthesis is that it involves individual fibers, axons. These severed sensory nerves can continue to emit signals, from which the so-called phantom pain comes from. This is the sensation that the missing extremity is still there and hurts. The signals emitted by the misfiring sensory axons, connected to the prosthesis, could possibly be readily interpreted by the brain and recognized as a hand or arm. Since the motor axons of the peripheral nervous system are still able to control movement, the brain should be able to assemble these motor signals into orderly movements. If there is a target, severed axons can even grow back to make contact. The researchers are trying to use these natural abilities to develop a bridge that serves as a link between the person and the prosthesis. . The polymer threads are shown in red in Figure 7 and the neurons grown in the laboratory are shown in green.

Fig. 7: Neural bridges (Jean-Francois Podevin)

Several steps are necessary to create a so-called neural bridge:

1) The nerves grown in the laboratory are made to attach to electrically conductive bundles of polymer fibers

2) Then the axons are stretched. With the "stretch-grow" method, the neurons are carefully pulled apart

3) The end of the bridge on the nerve side is brought close to the severed nerve

4) The nerve grows along the bridge and makes contact with the polymer fibers

 The effect: the signals from the brain flow via the spinal cord and the contact point to the prosthesis and back!

Fig. 8: Connection between person and prosthesis through neural bridges (Emily Cooper © 2013)

The principle can be seen again in Figure 8. The cultivated neurons (green) are attached to the polymer fibers (gray) and the cut nerve (red) should grow along this bridge and make contact with the fibers. In individual cases, these living bridges helped rats to move paralyzed body parts again. After the transplant, they were still present and did not trigger an immune response, which turned out to be a major concern. The experiments show that the biohybrid approach is a very promising method. Further experiments and studies test the longevity and tolerance of the immune system in the long term ( connection-ans-nervensystem/1186735 accessed on August 23, 2014 at 15:57). The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has managed to establish a connection between the person and the prosthesis, in which there is feedback.

We can now speak of something like a technical evolution. The more people get involved with technology, the more it changes their perception or themselves. This is particularly evident in the field of medicine. Artificial body parts that simulate the anatomy and performance, but also implants, such as the cochlear implant or an artificial retina, restore performance or make it possible in the first place. Exoskeletons could make paraplegics mobile again in the future and brain implants could help Parkinson's patients to bring uncontrolled tremors under control.These are just a few examples of how far the technology has developed and to what extent it can be used for positive purposes (, accessed on July 30, 2014 at 9:06 pm).

Apart from the functionality of a prosthesis, how they perceive the prosthesis is very important for the wearer. This has a major impact on the well-being of those affected. Improvements in the design of prostheses can be found in WP1312 Prosthetics Basics. Those affected no longer hide. This is particularly evident in the field of sport. But also in everyday life the new attitude towards life of those affected becomes clear. Due to the improvement and further development of the prosthesis, it is even possible that they are no longer perceived as a part that is being used, but as part of the wearer themselves. You can even identify with them. The color blind Neil Harbisson wears an eyeborg to hear colors. "I am the Eyeborg!" Said Harbisson to express how he identifies with the device.

Quarks & Co .: Human 2.0 - How we become machine people. R .: Harald Spieß. Script: Dirk Gilson, Ulf Kneiding, Sebastian Koch, Uta Meyer, Daniel Münter, Denis Nasser. Production country (D): Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln 2014. TC: 00: 01: 58- 00:05:47

With fairings, the concept developed by Scott Summit, many other affected parties also express themselves. Prostheses are not hidden, but designed according to the individual. Figures 9 to 11 show just a few examples. Further examples can be found in the sources of the list of figures.

But of course there is also a downside to this development. It should be noted that the development of prosthetic technology is closely related to the current military situation. The US Department of Defense, for example, financially supports prosthetic research for the C-Leg. The C-Leg was actually developed for civilians, but should now also enable soldiers to walk longer marches and carry higher loads. However, it is not only the military who expect the technology to improve human abilities ( accessed on 07/30/2014 at 10:12 pm ).

3.3.2 Transhumanism

Technology has moved ever closer to people, to their bodies. Computers became laptops, laptops became smartphones and these are now to be replaced by data glasses. People no longer just have technology with them, they sometimes even put them on. The next logical step would be for the technology to be built into the body. Transhumanism is a movement that advocates the development of technologies to extend the human lifespan ( accessed on July 30, 2014 at 9:06 pm) . These should lead to the improvement of the cognitive, psychological and physical characteristics of humans. Gordijn sees the transhumanists in the tradition of humanism. Some strands of humanism abolished the concept of an existence from God. They believed that humans are the alpha and omega of all things that matter. Transhumanism reintroduces the concept of God through a back door, Gordijn said. Humanism abolished God and transhumanism reintroduces it by making man a god. The idea is that humans can improve themselves to the point where they overcome their biological limitations. The belief in the limitless perfection of sensory experiences, motor possibilities, vegetative functions and cognitive abilities gives rise to the urge to transcend everything human, including all the problems associated with it. By becoming transhuman, we become gods (cf. Gordijn, 2010, pp. 193f.). With the help of technology, the transhumanists want to overcome human biological limits. They don't want a decrepit body, they don't want aging, they don't want to die.

The followers of transhumanism want to create something new, something superior, like God. They want to improve healthy people with the help of technology. The group believes that the next evolutionary stage of humanity is the merging with technology and a new race, the cyborgs, will replace the homo sapiens. A conscious self-evolution would take place, in which the human being strips off his biological, frail shell and thus frees himself from pain, defects and limits.

Nietzsche described humans as the bridge between animals and superman. The transhumanists see humans as a deficient intermediate stage of evolution, a vehicle for information that is exchanged as soon as there is a better vehicle like the cyborg. The consciousness should be able to be downloaded from the brain and then played on a technical data carrier so that a virtual body can be chosen. A new, self-created race would emerge. A race of gods that is omnipotent, perfect, immortal, and unlimited. Figure 12 shows a popular motif of evolution in the sense of transhumanists.

But the visions of transhumanism go much further. This sounds like science fiction to the general public, but there is actually the lobbyism of transhumanists, which is clearly evident in medicine. The field of robotics, especially prosthetics, aims to find out how machines can be connected directly to nerves in order to expand humans with artificial limbs and sensory organs. Brain research is also very strongly financially supported for the transhumanist "Human Brain Project", as well as other medical areas, which I will not go into in more detail ( -die-greatest-danger-for-humanity.html accessed on May 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm). More information on this subject is available from the links below.

The movement of transhumanism is intended to illustrate the point at which our society has reached and where it is possibly developing. Will unoptimized people be second class people then? What position do non-optimized and even disabled people get? Transhumanism offers plenty of material for discussion, but reflection should also take place before the development of technologies.

3.4 Ethical aspects

The high speed of the advancing development of technologies makes ethical reflection difficult. According to Gordijn, this has so far mostly concentrated on individuals and their actions and concepts of institutional responsibility have yet to be further developed. There are basically three important questions for assessing a technical development:

1) Are the goals one is trying to achieve with the development and application of a particular technology really valuable?

2) How big is the chance that a certain technological project will achieve its goals?

3) Can the ethical problems that are likely to arise with the development of a technology be dealt with? Can we get along with them?

As technologies tend to develop faster than they can be reflected on, forward-looking ethical reflection is necessary. This can create a basis for regulations in order to steer a technical development in a desirable direction (cf. Gordijn, 2010, p. 189). Using the example of the brain-computer interface (BCI) implant for paraplegics, for example, it becomes clear that this is not that easy. The overarching set of ethical questions deals with the prerequisites for the justifiability of research into a BCI-based motor neuroprosthesis, as well as border-drawing questions such as: "How much mechanization can humans tolerate?" This also includes, for example, the assessment of the military use of BCIs and how far science wants to be an "accomplice" of military objectives. The use for goals beyond therapy is also to be expected. Use of the BCI to improve the human constitution beyond the "normal", that is, to increase already existing abilities, thus to use them as enhancers (cf. Clausen, 2006, p. 30). What has to be decided is where is the line between the justifiable and unjustifiable use of the technology?

4 anthropotechnics in sport

Anthropotechnics are generally aimed at productive enhancement. With the help of this, the given should be able to reach a state that is considered to be better. If this is transferred to the field of sport, one encounters a specific problem of this complex, the so-called "techno-doping".

This problem again raises the question of the differentiation and delimitation of therapy and enhancement. The debate deals with the problem of fairness raised by the use of technical aids. A clear differentiation between legitimate and illegitimate techniques is necessary in order to make fair decisions. The examples of Oscar Pistorius and Markus Rehm are intended to make it clear that this is still not clearly regulated today. This problem gave rise to the idea of ​​the “Bionic Olympics”, which was scheduled for 2016 and is to take place in Switzerland. Figure 13 can be used as an example of a bionic athlete as they might compete in the future. The following video explains the idea of ​​the Bionic Olympics:

The following interview with Prof. Bockrath on the subject of “anthropotechnics in sport” makes it clear that the limits are difficult to grasp.

4.1 Interview - Prof. Franz Bockrath

[Sport as a "competition of the gods !?" - transhumanists]

1) Sports philosophy as a branch of sports science is rarely taken into account. Why shouldn't the philosophy of sport be neglected?

Bockrath: In the public perception, the sport philosophy plays almost no role. The media, on the other hand, are more interested in it, but in sports science it is a discipline that is hardly significant. This has to do with the fact that the so-called reflective sciences do not meet the standards of sports science so much, which is interested in increasing performance and optimizing processes. There is, however, the critical accompanying research that also exists in other sciences, but it is neglected in sports science, which indicates that this discipline hardly plays a role. In Germany there is only one chair for sports philosophy, this is in Cologne, but there is still a junior professorship in Leipzig. Here, too, there are colleagues who are interested in the topic and are working on it. We have published a series of books ourselves: “Reflexive Sports Science”, because we are of the opinion that you don't necessarily have to come from philosophy in order to be able to work reflexively, but on the contrary, there are also different disciplines that recognize critical potential let which we want to put together by asking questions that are not asked in this way within the framework of the disciplines. However, the question arises: "Why the need for reflection?" - since it is a disturbance that is introduced with it. I believe that these disturbances are already present to a large extent due to the regular process. The task of reflective science is to critically accompany it again. Every form of technology, every form of optimization, every form of systematization of objects always produces counter-effects. And if you leave them to their own devices and not accompany them, then an important moment is missing. Therefore, from my point of view, reflection is necessary. If only one-dimensional thinking, in the direction of optimization, then the other side is missing, which considers the costs of the process.

2) How do you define the concept of anthropotechnics?

Bockrath: The term anthropotechnics is a term that was first introduced in sports science by Eugen König. At Sloterdijk there are two definitions of anthropotechnics. On the one hand, with its origins in design science, that is, the design of processes between people and the environment. How can you best design these processes so that they are as accessible and functional for people as possible, which has a long tradition in sports science. The other definition refers to any human-applied technique that contributes to optimization. In my understanding, technologies are never only meant from the outside. There is the term “logo” in it, which accompanies the technology. Günther Anders, for example, does not understand technology in terms of technology and domination, but rather technology as domination. That is, the logos concept, which is applied here to technology, which is here an expression of technical forms, is, so to speak, a moment of domination, which man constructs himself, but then sometimes outgrows his own head.

3) The "organic" man seems to be deficient due to his deficits. Isn't it naive to trust the abilities of one's mind?

Bockrath: The body doesn't always work like the mind. The concept of deficiency has a long tradition in philosophical anthropology, as anchored in Arnold Gehlen. Whereby the “old way of thinking” still prevails, so that people use technology like an instrument to change, achieve or produce something, like the hammer in the hand that is used to drive a nail. Technology in contrast to technology, however, has a different character. An environment is created, a bios is created in which the human being appears only as part of this overall structure, without being able, so to speak, as an individual to still be able to oversee or handle this whole. With Günther Anders it is of course the experience of the atom bomb, in his writings about the antiquated nature of man, that is emphatically in the consciousness, that is, that man can completely destroy himself with the products he creates. This of course scratches the ego of the person because he creates something that turns against him. At the same time, it is a paradigm that humans also create things on a small scale that can only be mastered technocratically, that experts use and use, who use a certain language that is no longer comprehensible to others. The communicative action is undermined by processes of technical development that can only be controlled technocratically, that is, an expertise that requires a specialism, which only overlooks and sees through certain sub-areas and the "whole" is completely out of sight. At the same time, however, the whole is also designed so that it affects everyone - that would be the example of the atomic bomb. 3.1) So basically we rely on our mind, whereby it develops things that we can neither control nor foresee their extent? Bockrath: You can go back a long way to antiquity and say that logic is a first form of technology. If the process is linked back to the development process, then one could go so far that the logic aimed at accuracy and identity, so to speak, causes processes that can no longer be controlled by humans. From a historical point of view this is interesting because in antiquity the local gods were replaced by the idea of ​​a unified reason, a unified understanding in philosophy, which then also takes the place of the local gods and, as it were, expresses a certain claim to rule. While individual professional groups, such as craftsmen, have focused on certain deities in order to ask that a good product be created, for example, it is increasingly the logo that takes this place and takes on the function of unified thinking. One finds this very nicely done in Socrates. In one of the dialogues, for example, the craftsmen ask: “When you make a jug, how do you do it? And what is a good mug? ”This quickly leads to the question“ What is the good thing? ”. But Socrates also indicates that I, as the questioner, cannot answer the question either, but it may be precisely about recognizing the good behind things. The claim of the logo is, as it were, to find the dimension behind the concrete. This could mark the starting point of this development, where thinking gains power over reality and claims it. What then gets a very real meaning with the technological possibilities that humans create for themselves in the course of their development. But that doesn't mean that individual people are responsible for it. It is a development process that goes hand in hand with it, which may have its origins in the claim of the logo.

3.2) The development process leads to an understanding of the good?

Bockrath: The process in general leads to the question of what is unified, what underlies what cannot be experienced through physical processes.

4) What is the ultimate goal of continuous pursuit of improvement? What do people (our society) want today?

Bockrath: In the Middle Ages, humans hardly played a role in their physicality. The body was something that you ignored, that was ephemeral, that was a resource that was relatively idle and that you didn't have to use. That changed in the Age of Enlightenment, when the body was suddenly recognized and used as a resource, as a potential. With Hegel it is called "the work of the negative", if one understands the body as the negative from the Christian / Scholastic conception of the Middle Ages, one would say that one does not have to worry so much about it, the salvation of the soul is much more important and that what happens after death is what matters. In the Age of Enlightenment, it is the body that comes into focus and as a resource to be used that cannot be left lying idle. The body is not rejected; on the contrary, it is valued. It is made productive and usable by exhausting its potential. The body is no longer devalued, but discovered, as it is today, with programs that aim to "make people healthy". From an economic point of view, one has to take care that it does not become too fat, that it looks as attractive as possible, etc. These are all processes in which the body is valued in a strange way and at the same time also devalued because it is subjected to certain disciplinary processes. There is a strange ambivalence.

5) Is the transhumanist's idea realistic / understandable? What do you think of the idea of ​​merging with technology? (limitless perfection?)

Bockrath: This is a very old thought. I wouldn't speak of the mind either, but of the culture, because more things are summarized in culture. You can even go very far back and use authors who are not initially suspected of being transhumanists. Popper, for example, with his theory of three worlds, which also emphasizes that the third world, the world of culture, preserves that which exceeds the individual human being. So if they make a discovery and then die and have this written down somewhere, other people can fall back on this knowledge in the sense of cultural appropriation and make it usable. One could say that man is perishable as an individual, but what he creates remains, even if it changes or if it is overturned again. But first of all it is something that points beyond the individual. This would be an idea of ​​transhumanism. But after it has been established in philosophy that God is dead, it actually makes sense to assume that man puts himself in this place. The idea of ​​anthropomorphization has also been around for a long time, although today it has acquired a new quality. We are habitually so closely connected to technology that we are no longer aware of it and we no longer even notice it. What I find interesting about the new developments is what Peter Sloterdijk calls “home engineering” in an essay. It is about technology in small doses, whereby large-scale technology is no longer looked at, so to speak, where the subject is only part or an appendage of machine processes, as in industrial society, but where technology affects the smallest areas and, so to speak, also in the body is implanted and at the same time grows together with it. Sloterdijk assumes that new ways of dealing with technology can arise in this way, in that people find playful ways of dealing with it, as it were, when the subject is not subject to technology, but instead enters into an interaction with the technology itself. It is also interesting that physical perception processes also play a role, which must be distinguished from purely mental ideas. This means that there is an interrelationship between the device and the physiology of the body and for this one also has to know how the perceptual processes work in the body in order to be able to adapt prostheses precisely, for example.

6) How do sport / competition and enhancement fit together?(distorted competition !?)

Bockrath: Sport is a very good example of such processes, because this area is about increasing performance and optimizing. That's why you can learn a lot from sport. Take sports medicine: normally medicine is recovery medicine. Sports medicine is very attractive to many because it extends the process, as it were, in the direction of optimizing people. At the moment it is the soccer world championship, there are doctors, psychologists, etc. who accompany the athletes and with their measures aim to optimize the athletes' performance. In other words, enhancement is actually already included in this systemic prerequisite. So I would say that sport is a field in which optimization processes for other areas of life can also be studied well, otherwise the question of whether one should do without enhancement is hardly ever asked. The opposite is true. In other areas, the question arises as to whether technologies make sense and how they can be used. In sport, however, there is a great tendency to also use prohibited technologies - keyword doping. This goes well beyond the classic human exercise behavior. If you have the idea that someone is training towards a certain goal and you look at modern processes, how many specialists surround the athletes, how many people are involved and the conditions are created accordingly so that optimal performance can be achieved, you can go from speak in concerted action. I would no longer speak of subjective achievements, but of parasubjective achievements. The service is no longer to be understood as an individual service, as interdependencies are at work. Everything interacts. That of course makes the sport interesting again, the winners are in the spotlight later and you can personalize the performance again, but actually it's about something else: it's the whole conglomerate that works together there, besides chance, which it still is gives. That is what makes the sport so exciting. Incidentally, in my view the athletes are not pure machines, they are machines, so to speak, that also show emotions. This is what makes the sport particularly interesting for the media. If you have a technical instrument, so to speak, and you are enthusiastic about it and read an article, for example, it is exciting, but does not show any emotions. Perhaps it triggers emotions, while athletes who now act like machines themselves possess and embody emotions. That is what makes it so exciting. Athletes are not just purely executive organs. You have to think along, have to act, have to take responsibility for the body and the processes. Sloterdijk showed a very one-sided expression of sport. There is a very subtle criticism of the sport at Sloterdijk. Despite the critical undertone, the criticism of sport at Sloterdijk is not in the foreground, but is presented one-sided, but without seeing the costs and burdens of the process.

6.1) Sloderdijk speaks of the limit to the impossible, but also of self-destruction when it comes to optimization. The question arises, is sport and its optimization still good in the sense of Socrates? Consider doping, which not only occurs in top-class sport, but is also widespread in the amateur field.

Bockrath: The real doping problem does not take place in top-class sport, but in amateur sport. Mass doping is widespread there, of course also in top-class sport, but above all there and there it is much more powerful than in the small area of ​​top-class sport that is heavily publicized. Sloterdijk would not even ask the question of the good. At first it is like a seismograph and records the waves, but does not evaluate them whether they are good or bad. He says we cannot avoid participating in these training and optimization processes. We are condemned to do so, so to speak. Socrates, on the other hand, would like to ask the question in which direction this is going and whether this is to be advocated, even if there is a strong pull upwards (see allegory of the cave). Personally, I would say that as a scientist you cannot actively influence this process in the sense of writing a book or drafting a theory to stop the processes that I see as wrong or problematic. What you can do is to have a very small influence at one point or another by saying that you are not only pointing out the benefits, but also the costs that the process causes. Think about top-class sport. What we see is only a small excerpt, what we do not see is the roughly nine tenths or more parts of efforts that do not come into the public eye, that may also bring about things like injuries, like retirement, like disappointed expectations where a lot of time is invested. To at least point out these processes, that is where I see the function of science. Because these cannot be perceived by the media and are also not perceived by the actors themselves. I don't think there is much more that can be done. This is relatively little, it seems vanishingly small given the problems we create, but that's what remains.

7) Will Kant's categorical imperative be replaced by that of Günther Anders in the future? - "Act in such a way that the maxim of your actions could be the maxims of the apparatus of which you are or will be part." Do you think this is our future?

Bockrath: Maybe this is already our present. If we think about what “apparatus world” has already streamed in on us this morning, including the way here, then one would probably say that we had to adapt to so many processes, whether consciously or unconsciously, probably rather unconsciously. Let us take the example of the road user: Even if we would have liked to drive across the field, that is not possible or we obey the road traffic regulations and stay on the road. The adjustment processes therefore actually take place everywhere. Sport was at times the field where you thought there were opportunities for an outbreak, but the sport has developed in exactly the opposite direction. At least competitive sport represents the highest form of adaptation to such processes. So I would say that Günther Anders' categorical imperative is not just the future, it is still the present. However, this does not rule out the possibility that there may be small fields or areas where this is not the case, but you have to look for these with a magnifying glass.

Many Thanks!

4.2 Anthropotechnics and disability

Our society works mainly on the principle of separation. In every area, it is sorted out, whether at school, at work or also during sports. Physically handicapped people are also "sorted out" and form a group for themselves, which in most areas is kept outside of society. The right to inclusion, i.e. to a life together, not only integrates them, but now includes them by law.

In the field of sport, inclusion is a very topical and much discussed topic, as it is about the participation of disabled athletes in competitions by athletes without a handicap. Despite the official international set of rules, which states that technical aids that relate to the restoration of functionality are permitted, on the other hand forbidden if they have a performance-enhancing effect and thus provide an advantage (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 141). Such a prosthesis can be seen in Figure 14.

Fig. 14: Advantage of a leg prosthesis?

The cases of Pistorius and Rehm show, however, that here too the lack of a clear boundary through a clear distinction between therapy and enhancement transforms the regulation into a meaningless formulation. There is no clarity and thus the central problem of fairness cannot be solved. Here is a short video from the sports information service:

4.2.1 Examples of Pistorius and Rehm

The world record holder in the sprint, Oskar Pistorius, qualified for participation in the 2008 Olympic Games for non-disabled athletes. Due to the accusation of techno-doping, the already granted right to participate was withdrawn. The Cheetah prostheses that the bilateral lower leg amputee wears would give him an unfair advantage over other athletes and his performance is based on an enhancement measure. In order to clarify the facts of whether the prostheses are now considered technical aids and are therefore illegal, Pistorius underwent a series of tests by the German Sport University in Cologne. The results showed an advantage of the prosthesis, but the opinion was questioned. After further investigations and explanations, the participation ban was lifted in May 2008. Pistorius prostheses are understood both as therapy and as techno-doping (cf. Bockrath, 2012, p. 143f.).