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The term superhuman refers to humans or human-like lifeforms with enhanced qualities and abilities that exceed those naturally found in humans. These qualities may be acquired through natural ability, self-actualization or technological aids. The related concept of a super race refers to an entire category of beings with the same or varying superhuman characteristics, created from present-day human beings by deploying various means such as eugenics, euthenics, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and/or brain-computer interfacing to accelerate the process of human evolution. Throughout history, the discussion of superhuman traits and the idea of the ideal human in physical, mental, or spiritual form has influenced politics, policy, philosophy, science and various social movements, as well as featuring prominently in culture. Groups advocating the deliberate pursuit of superhuman qualities for philosophical, political, or moral reasons are sometimes referred to as superhumanist.
Well-documented historical applications of this philosophy can be found in the events of Nazi Germany during World War II.[dubious ] Modern depictions of this have evolved and are shown through the comic book ideal of superheroes like Superman, or through technologically aided people or cyborgs.
- 1 In philosophy
- 2 In history
- 3 Real life examples
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
The Übermensch or "Superman" was postulated in the later writings of Friedrich Nietzsche as a type of supreme, ultra-aristocratic achievement which becomes possible in the transcendence of modernity, morals or nihilism. Nietzsche believed in creating the perfect human, or at least a definition of one, and achieving this perfection through the enhancement of individual and cultural health, creativity, and power, and that to be a successful human one would focus on the realities of our world, rather than the beyond world, or afterlife.
Nietzsche explores the idea of a superhuman in his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in which he discusses the reality of humans existing as just that, and their potential to be more, through risks taken to advance humanity. This belief focuses not on a man who is bettering oneself but instead establishes values which create a meaning to life greater than one person, and positively influencing the lives of others with an overarching goal of humanity. These goals help one overcome life's feeling of meaninglessness.
In transhumanism and futurology, superhuman abilities are the technological aim either of human enhancement by genetic modification or cybernetic implants or of future superhuman artificial intelligence.
Human enhancement is an attempt to temporarily or permanently overcome the current limitations of the human body through natural or artificial means. Human enhancement may be through the use of technological means to select or alter human characteristics and capacities, whether or not the alteration results in characteristics and capacities that lie beyond the existing human range.
According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."
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In 2005, the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted that over a 40-year period between 2005 and 2045, most human beings will gradually evolve into a super race of immortal cyborgs called Transhumans with super-bodies and super-brains (the super brains of the humanoid androids will have greater capacity not only in and of themselves, but also because they will be able to function more efficiently by storing some of their mental capacity in the cloud of the future greatly expanded Internet through brain-computer interfacing) by gradually replacing their biological cells with new cells having a more efficient cellular energy processing system that will be based on nanobots manufactured using nanotechnology. These nanobot based cells will enable those who possess these initially quasi android bodies ("Human body 2.0") to have much greater physical endurance as if they were permanently on steroids, and many Olympic records will be routinely broken. The five senses will be enhanced first by genetic enhancement and then by additional brain-computer interfacing. By about 2040, most humans will have become fully android ("Human body 3.0").
Finally, predicts Kurzweil, by 2045, because of the operation of Moore's law, supercomputers linked together by the Internet will have developed enough memory capacity such that most of the now mostly android human race (except those who don’t want to) will be able to upload themselves into the worldwide Internet supercomputer of 2045 and live forever after in virtual reality—an event he calls the Singularity.
Kurzweil predicts that soon after the "Singularity", the worldwide supercomputer will deploy other humanoid androids and robots in the meat world. A space navy of these androids and robots will radiate outward from Earth (by now itself a gigantic worldwide supercomputer, except for extensive areas of the surface of Earth set up as nature reserves for those humans who wanted to remain in their natural state as well as to preserve the plants and animals in their natural ecosystems) on large fleets of interplanetary spaceships that will rocket outward into the solar system and convert all the matter they encounter into megacomputers made of computronium (such as Jupiter Brains) in order to continually expand the computer capacity of the solar system and thus create ever more realistic virtual reality and solve ever more complex computer problems. Once the matter of the solar system has been mostly converted to computer substrate, forming a Matrioshka brain, according to Kurzweil, by about the beginning of the 22nd century, life will then expand outward into interstellar space in all directions, deploying miniature starships (to save on expensive anti matter starship fuel) that will be Von Neumann probes crewed by swarms of nanobots, to colonize the entire Milky Way Galaxy. When these nanobots arrive in a planetary system, the nanobots will be programmed with software to begin converting some of the matter they encounter into more androids and robots. While in the process of doing so, they will continue converting all other matter they encounter not being used to create additional androids and robots into more megacomputers—the androids and robots created by the nanobots will build interplanetary spaceships to fan out into the planetary system and themselves help get this job done. Some of the androids and robots will then settle down in the meat world as immortal colonists on the surfaces of the Matrioshka brains thus constructed (regularly making backup copies of the contents of their brains so they can be reconstructed if they are killed in an accident), while others will upload themselves into the virtual reality based on these Matrioshka brains, keeping their bodies in cryonic storage. Eventually, the entire Galaxy, then the Local group, then the Virgo Supercluster, then the Pisces-Cetus Supercluster Complex and ultimately the entire Universe will be turned into a gigantic megacomputer.
Superhuman is one of the stages in classification of progress in artificial intelligence where an entity of artificial intelligence performs better than most humans do in a specific task. Examples of where computers have achieved superhuman performance include Backgammon, Bridge, Chess, Reversi, Scrabble, Go and Jeopardy!.
It is suggested that there is a relationship between the fall of a society and the perfection of mankind. Many economic, social and environmental factors, which all contribute to the sustainability of a society, are built upon the need for a solution to a problem. Superhumanism requires the ability to overcome these problems, either through physical, mental or emotional triumphs of purity and self-actualization. Through the elimination of these problems, many economies and social structures would be collapsed. Also, through advancement in areas such as Transhumanism, some believe that people humans will advance to a point of education and readiness that war will break out between one another, or tyrannies will reign, due to the high levels of advancements being achieved hence correlating with a need for power, eventually leading to an ultimate state of anarchy.
As a major defining factor of the superhumanism philosophy, humans are expected to possess traits that are considered to be those of high moral grounds, dignity and intrinsic values. Many people who believe in superhumanism value the importance of independent responsibility in making the world a better, and more moral place. This often means being in, or establishing some sort of spirituality which allows one to follow guidelines and grounds of a moral structure, and achieve a certain level of clarity and purity in their self and their path to righteousness and betterment. Superhumanism is often referred to as a combination between religion and philosophy, which suggests that there should be a correlation between the actions of man, and the patterns of the earth, in which this unity established with God, nature and man can allow for super human feats to become possible.
Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) developed a system of yoga called Integral yoga to transform selected humans into a new super race called the Supermen that would have a fully and permanently awakened kundalini and thus become siddhas with various siddhis (paranormal powers) such as the ability to observe chakras and auras with the third eye, to travel by astral travel at will, to be able to subsist adequately with full bodily functions on small amounts of vegetarian food, to go long periods without sleep, to communicate by telepathy, and to levitate. The function of this new super race would not be to dominate others but to lead humanity toward world peace. According to Sri Aurobindo, the central theme of Integral Yoga is the evolution of life into a "life divine". In Sri Aurobindo’s words: "Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of Nature's process".
Sri Aurobindo’s disciple The Mother established an ashram-city called Auroville in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India in 1968 to train and develop this new super-race through yogic practices.
According to Aurobindo, "The supramental transformation is the final stage in the integral yoga, enabling the birth of a new individual fully formed by the supramental power. Such individuals would be the forerunners of a new truth-consciousness based supra-humanity. All aspects of division and ignorance of consciousness at the vital and mental levels would be overcome, replaced with a unity of consciousness at every plane, and even the physical body transformed and divinised. A new supramental species would then emerge, living a supramental, gnostic, divine life on earth".
On January 1, 1969, Sri Aurobindo’s Integral yoga co-worker and disciple, The Mother (at age 90) announced the "arrival" of the "superman consciousness" – "the intermediary between man and the supramental being".
The Nietzschian idea of bettering one's self for humanity developed within the philosophy of Nazi Germany. The Nazi philosophy of the master race revolved around the concept of creating a perfect race, often referred to as the Aryan race. This was projected onto the people by applying coercive eugenics, as a way of purifying their society to create a Germanic master race, in which the Übermensch became a core philosophy. By creating a philosophy that defined the superior and the inferior human, people began to classify those around them as such. The Nazis believed in the greatness of humans because of the "Polish blood in their veins," and were henceforth able to classify and separate the "inferior." Some Nazi experimentation included trying to chemically purify and enhance their soldiers.
The Neo-Nazi David Myatt advocated in the early 1990s that after the Western Imperium, a proposed future autocratic state governing all the areas inhabited by the Aryan race, is established, and the birth rate of the Aryan race is brought up from its present level of about 1.6 to a replacement rate of 2.1, that then a new super-race called Homo Galactica should be created by genetic engineering from the most perfect Aryans, which by then will have themselves been improved through genetic enhancement. This new super race would be genetically engineered to have super brains, super senses, and more delicate hands to be able to travel in starships, which would be sent out to colonize the entire Milky Way Galaxy with the descendants of Aryans.
Real life examples
Many acts performed by elite athletes are seen as superhuman. Elite athletes perform at a level that is perceived as unattainable by normal standards of performance. These are the result of a mixture of genetics, physical training, and mental conditioning. For example, the highest VO2 max test results ever recorded were from Norwegian cross-country skier, Bjorn Daehlie, who scored a 96 ml/kg/min. The average range for VO2 Max is between 35-40 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min) for men and 27-31 ml/kg/min for women. Another man, Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 days in all 50 states in 2006. On February 4, 2015 actor and power lifter Hafthor Bjornsson broke a 1000-year-old record by carrying a 1,433 pound log on his back for 5 steps
Outside of athletics, many people have performed superhuman feats. The Blue Angels flight acrobatics team regularly pulls maneuvers equal to 4-6 times the force of gravity (g), with some turns as high as 8g. One man, Greg Poe, is a pilot who was able withstand turns of 12g.
There are also many stories of people lifting extremely heavy objects under extreme stress, known as hysterical strength. These situations are created when abnormal tasks are completed due to the brains heightened need for achievement.
One modern day method of achieving above average abilities include performance-enhancing drugs; these include substances such as painkillers, blood boosters, stimulants, and anabolic steroids, but can also encompass substances that aren't fully recognized as enhancers such as caffeine, protein supplements, and vitamins. While drugs as a form of achieving superhuman capabilities is a well known concept in fiction, such as films like Limitless and the Marvel Comics character Nuke, in real life the current substances that are known and available don't produce such fantastical abilities. The results from some of these drugs are minimal, and often short term. However, they can still produce detrimental side effects, including many adverse psychological and physiological effects. SARMS and DMAA are safer forms to enhance physical performance. Other forms of enhancement include strengthening the material properties of bone by integrating it with titanium foam. More studies are needed to assess the long term effects of these emerging technologies.
In popular culture
Speculation about human nature and the possibilities of both human enhancement and future human evolution have made superhumans a popular subject of science fiction. Superhuman abilities are also associated with the genre of superheroes.
In 1979, the British artist Nicholas Treadwell wrote a book entitled Superhumanism, followed by Superhumanism 2 in 1982. Treadwell defined his movement as "the first people's art movement – a movement, first and foremost, inspired by life, as opposed to inspired by art. It is a movement of art by the people, for the people, and about the people. It is about tolerance and human understanding. Initially, a superhumanist work will move you to feel – to laugh, to cry, to shudder, to be overwhelmed with compassion. They do not include any aesthetic gesture to distract from the vivid nature of the image. A superhumanist work will take a down to earth subject, and use original technical means to exaggerate it, achieving an over-the-top impact of it's humanist theme". Treadwell used this art movement to emphasize the connection between mundane nature of humans, and the superior characteristics that exist in that simplicity.
Stan Lee's Superhumans was a television show devoted to finding people around the world who exhibit abilities that exceed normal human capabilities. The most flexible man in the world, is an example of a superhuman who travels the world finding physical and mental feats that expand the realm of what humans can do.
Human Body: Pushing the Limits is a Discovery Channel show that explores what happens to people's strength, sight, brainpower, and sensing abilities when placed under extreme stress. These circumstances can lead to short-term superhuman abilities, which allow people to excel in advanced, or impossible tasks.
- Mutants in fiction
- Speedster (fiction)
- Superhuman strength
- Superpower (ability)
- The Real Superhumans, television special on the Discovery Channel
- Stan Lee's Superhumans, documentary television series on The History Channel
- Human enhancement
- Liberal eugenics
- Nietzsche, Friedrich (2007). "Why I Write Such Good Books". Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is & The Antichrist: A Curse on Christianity. New York: Algora Publishing. p. 41. ISBN 9780875862835. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
The word "Superman" as the designation for a type of the highest successfulness as opposed to "modern" men, to "good" men, to Christians and other nihilists.
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- Hughes, James (October 2004). "Human Enhancement on the Agenda". Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
- Moore, Pete (2008). Enhancing Me: The Hope and the Hype of Human Enhancement. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 047069999X.
- Nick Bostrom (October 2003). "The Transhumanist FAQ" (PDF). Humanity+. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2006. Retrieved 27 August 2006.
- Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity is Near. 2005.
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- Satprem. Sri Aurobindo, or The Adventure of Consciousness. 1968.
- See www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in
- Roger Anger as architect
- Auroville founded by Mira Richards
- Mirra Alfassa as other name
- Sri Aurobindo. The Life Divine, book II, ch.27-28.
- The Mother's Agenda, 1969, Volume 10: from January 1, 1969.
- Ulrich, Andreas (6 May 2005). "The Nazi Death Machine: Hitler's Drugged Soldiers". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- "Nazis Tried To Chemically Enhance Their Soldiers". www.rense.com. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. New York: New York University Press, 2002. See Chapter 11 for information about the proposed "Homo Galactica".
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- "Titanium foam builds Wolverine bones".
- "Superhumanism | Treadwells". www.superhumanism.eu. Retrieved 7 December 2015.