Futurs d'antan, Futuribles Journal n° 413

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

The Origins of the Word “Transhumanism”

An increasing number of books and articles have appeared in recent years on the theme of transhumanism, prompted by the extremely rapid scientific and technical progress that seems to bode well for proponents of this school of thought. Transhumanism, which was popularized in North America in the 1960s (by, among others, Ray Kurzweil) and particularly in the 1980s (when a movement of significant scale formed around these ideas), advocates the use of science and technology to improve the physical and mental characteristics of human beings and hence push humanity beyond the human condition in the narrow sense. The term “transhumanism” is not, however, a recent one, as Olivier Dard and Alexandre Moatti show in this ‘Futures of Yesteryear’ feature: it goes back, at least, to the 1930s and might even predate the 20th century. This article looks at the semantic origins of the term and the authors who presided over its emergence, enabling us to put a fashionable concept back into context.

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