Anarchotranshumanism: This Machine Kills Ability
Anarchy and Capitalism, Briefly
In this paper I shall be advancing two arguments. First, I shall discuss and respond to some arguments that have been advanced both for and against transhumanism, and suggest that the arguments relate solely to a capitalist mindset that propagates ableism. Second, I shall advocate for an anarchotranshumanism that eliminates the category of ability entirely, thus eliminating the categories of disability and superability as well. (I use superability to mean ‘abilities that are above and beyond the present range for most, or all humans’. I use disability to refer to ‘abilities that are below the desired/expected/normal present range of most humans’.) Ableism is completely within the realm of transhumanism and can be actively supported by it, unless there are systems in place that can help mitigate the potential abuses. But even such mitigation is only that, a mitigation, not an end. Only with the complete abolition of the systems of domination, exploitation, and oppression can ableism truly come to an end. Thus it is that anarchotranshumanism is the most ideal system for ending ableism. The end of ableism does not take the form advocated by other anarchotranshumanists (e.g. Lexi Linnell); it is instead a system that may bypass many of the problems that exist under a capitalist transhumanism.
I begin with an explanation of the terms that I will be using in the paper, as several are of importance and the nuances of them are still being argued about. Particularly what is entailed when I talk about ‘capitalism’ and ‘anarchy’.
Anarchy and Capitalism, Briefly
Anarchy can be thought of as the inverse of capitalism (explained below). Anarchy is a system in which there is the complete absence of a hierarchical system of domination, where one is capable of ruling and having power over another. (An Anarchist FAQ A1, 8) The disdain towards oppression means that anarchists are opposed to things like corporations (bosses ruling over workers), the state (politicians ruling over constituents), racism (whites ruling over everybody), and all other forms of domination. This importantly means that anarchy is also opposed in principle to ableism (domination of disabled people by abled people). An anarchist vision of transhumanism would need to contemplate on how to keep out the ableism that appears in contemporary transhumanist circles, especially transhumanist circles that either espouse or do not deny the problems of capitalism in transhumanism.
On the other hand, according to Investopedia capitalism is “an economic system in which capital goods are owned by private individuals or businesses [and t]he production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market…” It further states that “….accumulation, ownership and profiting from capital is the central principle of capitalism….” Since these are the requirements put forth by a group that talks specifically about finances and marketing, this source is the kind that we should look to for our understanding of the capitalist system: a capitalist source. The goal, the ideal, of a capitalist system is to perfectly be all of the aforementioned qualities simultaneously. I recognise I may or may not put too much emphasis on one particular aspect or another of the capitalist economic system, to the potential degradation of the others; however, being a system that is as sufficiently complicated as capitalism, I believe that this is a good compromise because the debate about what ought to occur within a capitalist system is beyond the scope of this paper and so some assumptions must be made.
I have myself heard people say that they think that if they have to use a wheelchair they might as well just die because life ceases to be worth living. This line of thinking is heavily ableist and all but says that those who are disabled are not of value and that their lives are worthless. And within a capitalist system that measures the worth of a person by how much they can produce and by how much they are paid, being disabled actually is worth less than being able bodied and so the message that productivity=life-value is reinforced.
Though written in 1993 about the 1950s, the book No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement by Joseph Shapiro says what the state of ableism was at the time: “[d]isabled children were ‘damaged goods’ who had to ‘try harder’ to prove themselves worthy of charity and society’s respect… The worthy cripple was expected to overcome his or her disability.” (15) That this method of thought has continued into the present can be attested to throughout the work of Thomas Hehir in his article Eliminating Ableism in Education; though he mentions ableism mostly in an education setting, the traits and beliefs and practices are also present in many other institutions, as oppression of a group is not limited to a single area of life.
Transhumanists think that ableism can be ended (Linnell 2) or see as a positive the end of disability itself. (Tennison 406) At its core Transhumanism has been described as the view that, to quote Nick Bosman in his 2005 article In Defense of Posthuman Dignity, “…. current human nature is improvable through the use of applied science and other rational methods, which may make it possible to increase human health-span, extend our intellectual and physical capacities, and give us increased control over our own mental states and moods.” (202-203) There are several strands of transhumanism, but two forms in particular are important to consider for the purposes of this paper: capitalist transhumanism and anarchotranshumanism. For transhumanism, the route that technological advancement takes is irrelevant, insofar as whichever route chosen improves humanity in some fashion and also leads to the continual improvement of the human species. It is my belief that Bosman’s definition is an accurate statement of what transhumanism is, and thus when it is mentioned in the following pages, that is to what ‘transhumanism’ will refer.
There have been several arguments that have been posited about transhumanism. The overlooked source of these problems is in fact a capitalist worldview and therefore will be present, to a lesser extent, within any society that practices varying degrees of capitalism. Not all of the concerns are just capitalist in nature mind you; many may apply to anarchist societies as well. When applicable these will be noted, though the anarchist nature of the problems will be addressed in the following section.
1.) “[W]ill cyborgs, acting as post humans, regard humans akin to how humans presently regard cows or chimpanzees?”. “It will be the cyborgs themselves that will make the ultimate pro-human, anti-human decisions”. “[As long as one is] a cyborg [they can be] happy with the situation. Those who wish to remain human however may not be so happy… It is... difficult to imagine that this Cyborg would pay any heed to a human’s trivial utterances.” (Warwick, Cyborg morals, cyborg values, cyborg ethics 132; 136)
The treatment Warwick describes here is an expectation that the morality of cyborgs would mimic the morality that has thus far been set forth by western neurotypical cishet abled christian middle-and-upper class white adult men. Though it may be difficult for those in positions of power and privilege to imagine that there could be another way for society to run, there is. Though it is possible for cyborgs to react to humans in a similar manner as to how humans presently interact with cows or chimpanzees, Warwick ignores that humans do not even have an innate tendency to treat other humans as well as they treat certain animal groups. For extreme proof of this, one need look little further than the Neo-Nazi movements that cooperate with animal rights movements. (Foggo 2000)
However, these extreme cases do not per se address the point, for certainly the average individual that is not an extremist would not support such outlandish beliefs? But there are still discussions within medical ethics about whether people should be allowed full autonomy over their own bodies and the right to change them if they so desire (e.g. Bridy; Müller; Schramme; etc). Bridy acknowledges that the general public sees becoming disabled as something that is terrible and should be avoided at any cost, even though overall the public is in favour of the practice of self-determination and body modification. (155) This is because of a dislike that people have for those with disabilities. According to a poll most ‘Americans would rather die than live with a severe disability’. (Reuters Staff) What constitutes severe for one individual could be another’s daily life, thus potentially indicating that the person thinks that those who live life with that condition would be better off dead, and by extension that that would be doing them a favour in the process. This is also noted by Rhonda Wiebe, a co-chair of the ending-of-life ethics committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
As I had mentioned just before I began this section on Capitalist Transhumanism, about experiences I have had with individuals expressing ableist attitudes and thoughts in their determining of what makes their life worth living, those occurrences are not in isolate: similar happenings are seen about people of all kinds of minorities. Subjugation and oppression occur against all groups that exhibit some kind of difference. So why would it be up to the cyborgs to make the pro- or anti- human decisions? Humanity would require just as much of a say in their end as a cyborg would.
It is also necessary to address the changing definitions that are involved in the understanding of identities, in this case wherein a person wearing glasses (technology that augments their vision) could have been seen as cyborgian in the past, today they are just people. So too, in the future, might various implants be counted in an identical manner. In which case there would not necessarily be any cyborgs, but could very well be simply a continuum of people with varying amounts of implants (or lack of implants) who see themselves and everybody else fully as human beings, even if every part of said individual ended up being replaced with some technological implant.
However, I digress. The question Warwick asks about the animals is an interesting one. He takes for granted that humanity treats animals without thought, be it via destruction of their land, hunting for sport, raising in inhumane conditions just to eat, or capturing and placing in zoos (the first [‘Removing Native Americans From Their Land’] and last [Robinson] of which also happened in the recent past to minority groups of humans as well). What Warwick does not suggest is that the system of domination should be ended; instead, he seemingly rejoices in it and gives it his seal of approval, encouraging those groups who see themselves as being more powerful or deserving to dominate the lesser groups, or even eradicate them if the dominant group so chooses.
So would the cyborgs treat humans akin to how humans treat animals? Maybe. But then again, maybe not. For to be a cyborg one must be partially human as well, and a significant amount of writing has been done in the field of ethics on the topic of how humans ought to treat each other. Though the cyborg may in fact come from an entirely different lived experience that humans cannot comprehend if they did not grow up as a cyborg, so to do neurodivergent people compare to neurotypical people, and one culture to another, and literally any other identity. Having a different life experience does not by any stretch mean that one does not care for those who are different from them, does not pay them any attention, nor that they do not care for the protection thereof.
I shall later address the anarchist bent that must be taken to ensure a greater chance of not having cyborgs destroy humanity, suffice to say for now that it is not robotics that we should be afraid of in cyborgs, for technology is mostly benign. What we should fear about cyborgs is the human psyche that is still attached, for a malevolent psyche in a mechanical body is a dangerous thing, but a benevolent psyche in a mechanical body could be a wondrous thing. We need to change humanity before proceeding to robotic fearmongering (a la Ronald Green in his article Challenging Transhumanism’s Values (47)).
2.) ‘An individual human wearing a pair of glasses… remains... an autonomous being. Meanwhile a human whose nervous system is linked to a computer... puts forward their individuality for serious questioning [and potentially] allows their autonomy to be compromised.’ (Warwick, Cyborg morals, cyborg values, cyborg ethics 132)
The question of autonomy that is posed is an important one, especially as it relates to ableism. If one is not an autonomous being, how could they be held liable for their actions? Who should? Does having a compromised autonomy pose any relevant challenge? What makes a being autonomous versus not? Is any of this even relevant?
Being autonomous means to have “... the capacity to be one's own person, to live one's life according to reasons and motives that are taken as one's own and not the product of manipulative or distorting external forces”. (Christman) As Warwick stated, simply wearing a pair of glasses would still make a person an autonomous being without a doubt, as would having a glass eye or even a simple kind of artificial limb. A being that would not be autonomous would be a body that could be controlled by several distinct entities who could, even potentially, then coerce the body into doing something against the will of one or more of the other entities. Aside from those obvious cases, there are fringe elements as to whether one should be counted as autonomous or not: a person with a disability? a person who has their brain wired with the internet? and at the more sci-fi end of the spectrum, a person who downloads another person into their brain a la the Black Mirror episode ‘Black Museum’ (S5E6)?
Autonomy additionally is important in understanding the concept of ableism. Harkening back to the quote by Shapiro, disabled children were expected to try harder if they were not immediately and miraculously cured by some techno-medical treatment, and that being disabled indicates that you are not yet worthy of the respect of society that is simply given out freely to the abled citizens. (15) This implies that those who rely on others for things that most abled people would take for granted are less worthy of respect; the more you have complete control over your own life (more autonomy) the more you will get respect, the less control you have or the more dependency you have on others (less autonomy) the less you can get respect. This means that arguments about autonomy are grounded in an ableist view of the world: if you can do something yourself without outside help then you are allowed to be on the status of a true person, but if you need or get help then you are not.
But this need for help is potentially arbitrary. In the case of glasses and other commonplace technological items humanity already wears normally, there is no question of autonomy. The person can do what they want and are not forced to do anything they would rather not; their glasses or prosthetic could be taken off, or their false eye could be taken out if it was being tampered with. The cases of being not autonomous or potentially not-autonomous are where the difficulties lie. Beings that could be non-autonomous present a special problem in how to deal with the limits of autonomy. If a body is connected to a consciousness, for example, via the internet, it very readily lends itself to potential abuse because being hooked up to the internet could very well allow shared settings to occur or multiple consciousness downloads into the same body, and both situations suggest the ability for multiple individuals to control it at the same time. This problem though should apply to wheelchair users as well, however they tend to remain untalked about in these conversations, presumably because wheelchair users clearly have autonomy even though they utilise technological advancements that could potentially hacked and/or rewired to act in the place of a common bodily function that they are incapable of performing (or whose performance would be difficult) for some reason.
An anarchist view of autonomy would be to recognise humanity as the social species we are. We should not think of ourselves as being cut off entirely from the rest of humanity, as though our actions and/or beliefs have no effect on other people. Capitalist autonomy would be what endorses the individualistic approach to autonomy, for the actions of the individual are to be taken independently of the societal pressures, since society could very well be wrong and the violation of the taboos/mores/laws could advance profit.
Autonomy is important to self-discovery and self-expression, but it should not be taken as the ideal to be strived for; social interactions frequently limit autonomy because one cannot simply do what they want when they want where they want, the impact that their actions have on society must also be taken into consideration. So whilst autonomy is a fine consideration, how relevant is it in a society where people cannot do what they want because of consistent societal pressures (such as mores, taboos, and even a legal code)?
3.) “if the authorities employ [various] wide-ranging means of intelligence, they seem to set aside a right to privacy, … one of the characteristics of a liberal state... But the gain in security against terrorist attacks might be... worth this cost.” (Persson and Savulescu 666)
The assertion above by Persson and Savulescu is a valid one only in places that have an oppressive policing institution that infringes on the rights of others, along with a populace that is content with that infringement. The quote above is an almost ideal example of what I had been heretofore calling ‘the capitalist mindset’: oppression and violation of human rights is ok if it will help those who hold power over another. The assertion suggests the use of might is acceptable in the pursuit of ‘safety’. Some may call it idealistic, but a world that is run by hate cannot turn into a world of equality, for domination is necessary in hatred. It is taken as granted that anarchists of today, by and large, hate nazis. That is, they find nazism and fascism abhorrent, as well as those who practice or endorse it as a way of life. Anarchists want a world of equality and equity. Posed another way, anarchist hate hatred. Thus, an anarchist transhumanism would deny the entire basis for the mode of thought proposed by Perrson and Savulescu: security is seen as having been and currently being a positive name for profiling and oppression, taking away rights for the oppressed and keeping them for the oppressors.
4.) “[I]f only the wealthy can cognitively enhance themselves and their children this might exacerbate inequality. But... the preferred method to address these gaps should be to expand access to enhancement.” (Hughes 4)
This is a major problem for capitalist transhumanism, but not as much for an anarchotranshumanism. Hughes accurately recognises that a system in which technological body enhancements and alterations cost money, it will be those with the access to large amounts of money to gain said access to bodily alterations, and those who lack money will be thereby less capable of access. This would then exacerbate inequality because the people who have money to spend on the enhancements could then simply upgrade themselves to be more productive (whilst working), thus ensuring that they will gain more money than the individuals who do not have the same advancements, which in turn will make them more capable of gaining access to additional or better enhancements and the poorer unenhanced person less access, which then cycles in a loop.
I would posit that expanding access to enhancement would not change a system significantly enough to maintain an equitable system. The mere expansion of a system and expansion of access to these enhancements would invariably lead to some more individuals being able to afford them (e.g. the middle class, as opposed to just the upper class), but could also still inevitably leave many out of the system that it has not expanded to include (e.g. the lower class and the underclass). The only system that would not exacerbate inequalities would be a system in which there was no discrimination of people based on class by means of requiring payment for products of services rendered. This system could be achieved either by having all technological advancements and changes paid for by the government and done by private surgery facilities, having the surgeries paid for and done by the government, or by making it so that there is no charge at all for anybody for having the surgeries done.
In any of these options I would presume that this equality of access/payment would mean that the surgeons or engineers (or surgeon-engineer/engineer-surgeon) would thereby constitute a kind of governmental worker and be paid an hourly rate (because of the specialisation and that the government would not want the price to be hiked unnecessarily) or would merely go into that practice because they have a desire to help people live in a way that the person wants to live. No matter which form of system above is chosen, the system would be incompatible with Laissez-Faire capitalism (either by regulations set in place, or by being socialist/anarchist).
As such, capitalist transhumanism would be incapable of meeting the needs of the individuals and would also be incapable of respecting the bodily autonomy of particular individuals who did not have the monetary resources to pay for the procedures necessary to obtain their ideal selves. Capitalist Transhumanism is as such merely a system that allows the rich and powerful to further solidify the subjugation of those below them who are poor and less powerful, as well as reinforce all the various disparities that we as a society presently face. A world of subjugation, in which humans are run by cyborgian robotic overlords (as is feared by Warwick in the section above), I can confidently say is a world that few people would have a desire to live in, unless they were the ones doing the oppressing and subjugating. Transhumanism is therefore not compatible with capitalism if one desires people to have full bodily autonomy and has a care for the equality of persons.
Having shown that these problems all are based within a capitalist mindset that endorses hierarchy, devalues people based on their perceived deviance from the norm, and only measures the worth of a person in their ability to somehow obtain money (in ways that do not infringe upon the private/personal property rights of another); are we to assume that this economic model is merely the way that society has been or that society should be, as implicitly supported by the individuals responded to above, or should the capitalist system be brought down in its entirety and be instead replaced?
As I had said, many of the problems in the previous section were not simply exclusive to a capitalist system and could very well just as easily exist in any other economic modes of production as well. As an ideal, anarchy (a political philosophical thought that endorses the abolition of hierarchies and oppression) would oppose an ableist viewing of the world and ought not to accept or promote ableist assumptions within the writings produced therein. However such still happens, having at least one anarchist writer, Linnell, pointed out in the following section. I propose that an anarchotranshumanist society would have to dismiss ability identities in their entirety.
An anarchotranshumanist society would not have disabled individuals. In such a society those with disabilities, if they so wish, could alter their bodies to become more of what we would think of as abled or superabled. If a person’s difference causes them too much stress, irreguardless of what constitutes ‘too much’, and they decide without coercion that they want to change, then they ought to be capable of changing towards whatever they think fits their view of themself the best. This would include people who do not have legs getting prosthetics (or new legs), blind people receiving/regaining their sight, those with a mental illness gaining access to medications that alleviates their symptoms or finding a way to do away with the illness altogether. All of these potentialities are laudable goals in that they allow a person to alter themselves to become their ideal self.
However one cannot merely say that people have the choice and that their decisions are thus freely undertaken. Lexi Linnell, in her work This Machine Kills Ableism, states that we should not “limit ourselves to the diversity we were born with” and that the engineering of diversity necessarily means that “ableism itself no longer has any way of inserting itself into the conversation”. (2) There are still situations in which people would not want to live with some kind of debilitating disease or life altering condition (Wiebe). If one needs to conform to a particular standard to either be subject to societal acceptance or be able to get a job so as to not die of starvation, is that making the choice of one’s own free will? If there is still a system in place under which the people feel an expectation to alter themselves, how can it be said that the individual made the choice freely?
If we still exist in a society in which our value and worth is measured by our production value, selecting against traits of neuroatypicality would be ideal and sought after by most people simply because it assists them in advancing themselves, not necessarily because they truly would want to live their life in the manner that they undertake. In this kind of world, only those living with a great deal of privilege would be capable of undertaking the therapies or procedures that would cause them to become neuroatypical.
For example in the current world there are systems of oppression and subjugation around a whole slew of identities: race, ethnicity, ability, neurotypicality, language, class, skin colour, religion, etc. In some of these a switch away from a position of privilege towards a position of lacking privilege might not be one that is chosen intentionally (e.g. losing a leg, developing a mental illness, a sudden shift in one’s economic class) or it might be intentional (e.g. moving to a new country, speaking a non-native tongue, religious conversion). A change from one position to another in any of these cases is not necessarily a bad thing, merely a thing that occurs.
But in all situations doing so could decrease the pay a person receives or could even get the individual fired and thereby reduce their likelihood for employment in the future (Bureau of Labour Statistics), unless it was planned well beforehand and could be mitigated by other factors. Being neuroatypical with a billion dollars will be able to result in the individual most likely living their life in comfort, whereas being neuroatypical and homeless does not present people with the luxury of living comfortably or even easily making their way towards living comfortably.
Presently, many see themselves as not being disabled. If humanity lived in a world where people had night vision, heat sensory, echolocation, and/or did not need sleep, lacking one or all of those traits would make an individual disabled. With enough technological advancement and enough individuals partaking therein, those who are not capable of also, for whatever reason, partaking in the system would be considered to be disabled as well. These individuals would need to be fixed in order to have them be up to code with everybody else, or risk being told that they chose their lifestyle and the negative consequences they experience are their own fault.
Linnell is wrong when she states that ableism is not able to be brought up in conversations about transhumanism just because people will then possess the capability to alter themselves to be various states of more or less abled. (Linnell 2) In fact, the point of bringing up discussions of ableism become more important than they tended to be previously since people who would not have to experience societal fallout from their atypicality would begin altering themselves, to the detriment of those with atypicalities that they cannot do anything about.
An anarchist view of disability would point out that ableism is prevalent and does not simply cease to exist because we wish hard enough for it or it is theoretically potentially irrelevant. There are disabled people who presently exist, and a transhumanism that exists without a thorough backing of anti-oppression and anti-hierarchy (in short, an anarchist backing) will inevitably lend itself to ableist abuses.
In this same vein there would be no potential for superability within anarchotranshumanism either. As mentioned a little previously it is possible for sufficiently advanced technology to give individuals what would today be classified as superpowers: heat vision, night vision, the irrelevance of sleep, super strength, etc. With all of these abilities being open and available to literally anybody who desired them, there would be nothing ‘super’ about them; they would become mundane and dull. Going in to replace your heat sensor eyes with a device to sense the electric signals sent off by living creatures could theoretically become as commonplace as getting a new pair of glasses. If all abilities are within the potential range for all humans (because of the presence of technological devices that work alongside or within the human body), then the category of superability becomes a meaningless one since nothing could, by definition, be above that range.
It would nonetheless be undeniable that there would be differences between various individuals that would cause one person to be more capable of doing something than another person at any given time. Like presently there are people with different abilities (e.g. I am not capable of doing advanced mathematics but am pretty good at remembering facts about anarchism and lore of various fictitious worlds). But in an ideal transhumanist world the other person could (at least in theory) match those talents if that individual chose to do so. So disability does not exist, and neither does superability; is all that is left ‘ability’? Yes and no, but more no than yes.
Yes, because in getting rid of disability and superability all that is left is ability. Everybody has the ability, or the availability to ability, to be able to do what the others have. However the concept of ability itself becomes meaningless in such a situation when everything applies to it and nothing does not apply. Therefore the concept of ability will naturally fade away as humans begin to increasingly upgrade themselves and the technology becomes more available. I am in agreement with Lexi Linnell that anarchotranshumanism can kill ableism, (2) but our reasons are slightly different. Linnell says that ableism will end because people can simply alter themselves back and forth and that will eliminate ableism. (2)
Though true, it is not simply the ability to go from being abled to being disabled to being superabled at will that would cause ableism to end, it is the emergent understanding of ability that would come from slow upgrades of the body that would slowly make people realise that the others are still like them, just differently abled. Humanity would not become cyborgian overnight, it would logically be a slow process, and each change would be minor. As such, the machines would not recognise themselves as machines, but as merely being humans with slight alterations to their selves.
This variance in human abilities is present as a category with which we, as humans, concern ourselves because it puts some of us in a position of authority over the others, allowing the dominant group to tell the nondominant group what they ought to do, even though the former has never dealt with the challenges or experiences the latter has. I shall go into it a bit later as well, but we must get rid of this system of normalcy that exists. In its stead there should be a system that accepts people of all varying backgrounds who do what they would like, just because they exist and are unique persons.
An example of the lack of privilege experienced by disabled people is that places can presently save money if they do not have to take into account in their building plans or their hiring decisions those individuals who are in wheelchairs, blind, deaf, or other forms of disabled. By catering to the able bodied individual, the place maintains the largest segment of the people that partake of their services, without having to sacrifice too much under capitalism. But were we to live in a society in which the profit motive was not relevant, by virtue of money not existing, and people merely did things because they thought what they did was important and/or fun to do, then there would be less of a reason to dismiss the concerns of the disabled. There is no financial incentive to ignore the needs of the disabled, and so ignoring their needs would be less understandable since there would be no cost to making their location accessible. Making one’s establishment available and accessible to all would increase the use the establishment gets and would increase the popularity of the place, without the sacrifice of the builders or maintainers profits.
Similarly, should the economic system be kept as it is, if for example a significant number of individuals obtained technology that allows them to see in the dark, lighting could then be seen as unnecessary in many circumstances (that is, a waste of money). So if there is a reason to not make a store accessible to those who are not superhumans such a change should be taken, since a cost-benefit analysis could suggest that those who need the lights do not spend enough to need to justify replacing the lights.
I would like to end by addressing one final concern I have seen that must be considered important to anarchists, and was also pointed out by Ronald Green in his article Challenging Transhumanism’s Values, an article that brings up a number of points that should be taken into consideration. However, the central point of the article seems to be that ‘[transhumanism] focuses less on social improvement than the transformation of the individual human organism’ (Green 45).
This is a central argument about transhumanism: individual change. What it fails typically to take into account is the social aspect of humans that must also be accounted for, and instead creates an ideal world in which the views of the transhumanist proponents occur and are idyllic and utopian. There has been enough writing about how transhumanism can potentially benefit the lives of individual people and why going forwards towards such a future would be profitable and beneficial. We must start arguing that we need transhumanism because it is best for the full realisation of social and relational autonomy, and we must argue for a change in any system that stands in the way of achieving this goal. Anarchotranshumanism would suggest that it is the system of oppression and domination of one group of people by another that causes the discord to come about. As such, only a complete overhaul of the socioeconomic system would be capable of producing the change that anarchotranshumanists argue for. That change would come in many different forms: abolition of capitalism, abolition of prisons, transhumanism, an ending to gender prescriptivism, and a respect for the disabled or the ill that does not argue that death or the lack of disability could be good, but that life should be good and there should be an equality of access for all peoples.
Several arguments about transhumanism are missing the vital insight that can be gained via an anarchist observation of the system. These insights can be applied to capitalist or economic-neutral propositions, as well as applied to anarchist arguments that are still expressing ableist tendencies by propositioning, indirectly, that disabled people are inferior and ought to be the ones who have to change. Capitalism is insufficient to maintain a transhumanist system fairly; it is incapable of allowing the ‘have-nots’ to be treated equitably with the ‘haves’ in society.
I argue for a system in which there is not a disability (or a superability) because there is not even an ‘ability’. A system in which people see the differences between others as merely inconsequential differences and a lifestyle difference. Disability? Ability? Superability? None of it matters when the sliding scale of identity becomes broken and the sliding mechanism falls off; when one can and does pass cleanly and quickly between the labels and back again, and when people all have different abilities.
Within any system (capitalist, feudal, socialist, communist, anarchist, etc), technology is and will always remain naught but tangential and slightly irrelevant to the course of human action. Technology might give some direction or be the reason people choose to take particular actions (e.g. laying people off, or giving people more paid vacation time), but human actions will always, in the end, be the final say on what will happen to humanity. The fate of humanity is in our hands, and we must make sure to take ourselves on a path that will lead to a more equitable future for mankind.
To rephrase Lexi Linnell: This machine does not kill ableism. This machine kills ability.
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