Beyond History and Humanity
Beyond History and Humanity
What is humanity? How is it evolving? And what's next for us humans? To explore these big questions, Elise Bohan, PhD Candidate at Macquarie University, is bringing together two increasingly influential fields: Big History and transhumanism. Kathryn Ford, Project Coordinator at the Big History Institute, spoke with Bohan about her research.
Bohan's research project puts Big History side by side with transhumanism to explore their shared concepts and ways of understanding the world and our place in it, including how we look at the past and narrate history and humanity.
"The core of that is the evolutionary sensibility in both stories, that humanity isn't this pinnacle of evolution, this fixed creation or ideal - it's an ongoing part of not just human evolution or biological evolution but cosmological evolution," Bohan says.
Bohan's path leading to her PhD topic was not a straight one. After completing an undergraduate degree majoring in English Literature and Creative Writing, Bohan began a Masters of Research in English Literature determined to complete a research project that challenged the idea of how we conceive of literature.
Bohan stumbled on the concept of Big History through a self-described "fortuitous accident" when she came across an article on the university website about Big History and founder David Christian. She appreciated the interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and research that Big History takes and had a definitive ah-ha! moment about the academic direction she wanted to move towards.
Influenced by the ideas behind Big History, she took her Master's thesis in a new direction that explored modern origin stories. Bohan has since found enthusiastic PhD supervisors in Big History founder, David Christian and Professor Neil Levy in Philosophy and is now working on her thesis 'Evolutionary Metaphysics of Big History and Transhumanism.'
These two fields are gaining significant traction culturally and academically and have very real potential to shape our world as they continue to evolve. Bohan will also critically explore the implications of these two fields and consider how they can be even more beneficial and illuminating for the world.
As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace and global problems become more complex, Bohan says we can use these fields and the tools they offer "to navigate the problems of the present and the future."
"With close to 100% certainty we will change significantly (in the future). We already have. It's a very strong argument to say we already are transhuman in the sense that the type of technologies we have today are just insane and basically like magic compared to what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have experienced."
Cyberborg technology is already transforming lives as we integrate further with technology. Technology isn't just wearable, it's inside our bodies.
"It's happening right now," says Bohan. "We have people using exoskeletons that are paraplegics and quadriplegics, we have Parkinson and Alzheimer's patients with implants in their brains that actually ameliorate some of their more serious symptoms, people with artificial limbs, some of them with haptic technology now so they are able to actually feel through the limbs. It doesn't seem real but it is happening."
Still pondering what the future holds for humanity? Join Elise Bohan, Academic Member of the Big History Institute, at the Big History Anthropocene Conference. Bohan will be a speaker on the Humanity's Long Term Prospects panel alongside Scientist David Grinspoon, Physicist/Futurist Dr Joseph Voros and Philosopher Dr Clément Vidal.