Transhumanism refers to the idea of a community of intellectuals and professionals grouped around the shared will to rely on the development of science and new technologies to develop the human species. It would be a question for Man to be able to transcend his condition by the perfection that the new technologies could carry out on his physical, but also mental capacities. The ultimate objective of this movement is to allow Man to detach himself from the four main defects that constitute his essence, namely disability, illness, old age and death.
At present, the hopes of transhumanists are boosted by the rapid progress of new technologies in many fields, including the improvement of the human body, examples of which are now legion. For example, Chinese researchers have modified human embryos to incorporate HIV resistance[i]. In an article published on April 8, 2016 on the site sciences nature.com, the author explains that the scientists succeeded in this achievement by using the CRISPR-Cas9 process which allows the modification of embryos[ii].
Another example is the Halo Sport helmet[iii], designed to stimulate areas of the human brain related to memory and movement. California-based Haro Neuroscience, which designed the helmet, says it has already proven its worth for short-term improvements, as tests have shown it would cut the U.S. Army’s training time for UAV pilots in half. In the same vein, the company claimed that American Olympic skiers would have seen their physical strength increased by 31% during tests conducted with this product[iv].
Finally, let us mention the Dreem band, created by the French company Rythm, whose interest is to increase the quality of deep sleep phases during sleep periods[v][vi].
In an expected way, the rise of new technologies perfecting the human body is accompanied by artificial intelligence. As an example, we can observe that in medicine, the Watson robot designed by IBM has all the technical faculties to carry out appropriate analyses of all the useful data concerning a patient, such as the symptoms to which the latter is subjected. In doing so, Watson can offer a diagnosis to the patient in question, but also make comparisons between different patients and different treatments applied[vii].
Moreover, it may be interesting to observe that transhumanism can also be fuelled by artificial intelligence because of the fear that it arouses among certain well-known players in new technologies. This is notably the case of Elon Musk, known for having founded SpaceX, a company specialized in space flight, and PayPal, an online payment site. He also owes his notoriety to his role as manager of Tesla, a company focused on the design and marketing of high-end cars powered by electric energy. Elon Musk is very critical about the progress of artificial intelligence, seeing it as a real threat to Humanity. Followed by 115 experts in artificial intelligence and robotics, he wrote an open letter to the United Nations to alert them to the imminent danger that the development of artificial intelligence would represent, and with the aim of having concrete legal rules adopted as a matter of urgency on the prohibition of autonomous weapons[viii]. According to him, artificial intelligence could become the trigger for a third world war[ix].
Generally speaking, artificial intelligence evolves at such a speed that individuals who have not been trained in it will find themselves totally overwhelmed by these new technologies, and quickly put to the test of society.
The solution proposed by Elon Musk to solve this problem is in a way anchored in the transhumanist movement, since it consists in improving the intellectual capacities of the human being through new technologies so that the human brain is able to adapt to the rise of artificial intelligence.
With this in mind, SpaceX’s founder launched a project called Neuralink[x] in 2016. This undertaking is based on research into technologies that would be able to establish connections between a human brain and a computer, the main idea being to increase the human being’s ability to understand artificial intelligence.
As it is often the case with rapid societal changes, the law is currently still silent with regard to transhumanism. Should principles be legally enshrined that allow walking to take place?
Some observers consider that observation of the case law leads to a positive answer to this question. This is the case of Grégor Puppinck, doctor of law and director of the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ). According to him, the Costa and Pavan v. Italy judgment delivered on 28 August 2012 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) marks the first step towards the legal recognition of transhumanism. In this judgment, the Court proclaims the right, for parents with a genetic disease, to give birth to a child who is not affected by that disease. According to Gregor Puppinck, this illustrates the will of European judges to replace human rights by individual freedoms, and by extension human nature. Transhumanism would then only be a way for a person to apply his right to individual freedom as he sees fit[xi].
As far as the legislative level is concerned, although there is currently nothing in place to regulate transhumanism, the European Parliament published a report entitled « Human enhancement » in May 2009. The reading of this text allows us to conclude that it promotes the beginning of regulation of transhumanism, having taken the measure of the risks and benefits inherent in this movement.
As the lawyers Gérard Haas and Laetitia Levasseur point out in an article dedicated to this subject[xii], the drafting of this European report was undoubtedly inspired by that of a similar American report published in 2003 by the authors Mihail C. Roco and William Sims Bainbridge, and whose name is « Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance – Nanotechnology, biotechnology and Cognitive Science ».
Despite the absence of concrete legal rules on transhumanism, many legal actors question the evolution of transhumanism and the regime that could legally regulate it. This is notably the case of the law firm Haas, which organised on 22 June 2017 a « trial of transhumanism » presented at the Palais de Justice in Paris. This trial is based on a fictional scenario according to which the story takes place in Paris in 2037 and transhumanism is anchored in everyday reality. The mission of the participants in this project was to imagine situations that might concern transhumanism in the near future, and to link these hypotheses to rules of law[xiii].