Progress: The Vicious Circle Essay

2005 words - 9 pages

In the past decades, many thinkers have discussed transhumanism and human enhancement. They are the result of centuries of progress and represent for a lot of us the ultimate human attempt to transcend himself. Hence the critics that many formulate: this progress will affect us forever and we should be careful about it. However, the problem of progress in itself is not a recent one. Since humanity exists, it has not ceased to progress and every step that humanity took was criticized in its time. So while the need to discuss transhumanism and human enhancement is legitimate, it is also interesting to wonder about human progress in a broader general view.
It is undeniable that throughout times, humanity has been progressing in all fields, but what drove humankind to do so and what still drives us to invent things to improve our lives and ourselves remains a bit mysterious. What drives us to progress and towards what end is it aimed? The phenomenon seems to be unstoppable; a simple glance at History textbooks will tell you this. In addition, it seems to be a cycle of improvement followed by destructions: for example, the invention of the automobile destroyed the use of horses as a means of transportation. Therefore, it seems to me that humanity is condemned to progress and never to attain its goal.
This paper will thus first wonder why humanity always progresses. Is it simply an intrinsic feature of human beings, or is it a need to survive? Second, what is its goal in this process? Last, it will discuss the consequences of progress for humanity.

With Enlightenment came the idea that Man is capable to understand and shape the world that surrounds him. Human beings no longer rely on an all-powerful God that decides everything; individuals can now decide their own fate and are not determined anymore. This implies progress: if we can shape the world in a more favorable form, we do it. However, it does not explain why we do it; we could as well consider that its current form is not that bad since we have been able to live in it so far. So why do we progress? Some argue that it is a tendency within human nature that drives us “to improve life and happiness”, to “transcend our natural confines” and “improve our condition” (Bostrom, 2005). This explanation might be true, however, if one considers the statement that we are “capable to understand and shape the world”; a contradiction arises. Being intrinsically designed to progress implies determinism, an idea rejected by the emphasis on our capability to understand and shape the world. Indeed, if we have this power, we are not determined anymore and we can even stop progressing if we want so. Hence two visions of humanity clash: one in which human beings are above everything else and have the power of shaping themselves and the world at their will; and one in which human beings are determined to invent more and more things everyday without willing it or not. The first vision allows us to stop...

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