Transhumanism, at least in the human enhancement segment, is largely absent in much of our fiction. While there are usually a few amazing medical devices or the occasional specialized implant enhanced human features take a back seat to other technologies in the story. Indeed while we see amazing advancements in most fields areas such as medicine, cybernetics and biotech often seem to be lagging.
Not only are some elements of transhuman tech largely missing but the attendant changes in society are often not explored very much either. After all how would one delve deep into the effects of superlongevity on a widely distributed basis when no one lives much longer or better overall than they do now?
This makes a sort of sense of course. Good science fiction is like storytelling of any kind in any medium. It works best when the audience can connect with the familiar. If there is a good opportunity to build on a common ground and relatable people and their experiences. Many of the most transhuman actions and ideas involve a degree of unrelatability. This is largely a result of the fact that we haven’t seen the implemented in our lives yet. There was a time not so long ago when speaking in real time with someone on the other side of the planet was the realm of total fiction and people could only dream about it. It is why such abilities would show up regularly in our fiction as the powers of heroes and gods. What someone could or would do with it was a highly speculative realm and for most people it wasn’t something particularly relatable either. Now of course that has changed dramatically and such abilities are widely available around the world. So it is something that people all relate to and of course something that shows up all the time in our works.
This points to something that is rather interesting in modern works. We see a lot of highly popular speculative fiction now becoming every more popular in the area of superheroes. Some of whom did get their powers via science or technology. These seem to be increasing popularity but continue to be restricted to stories of the more sci-fantasy variety than harder near future works. Despite their unquestionably superhuman capabilities these characters remain relatable and evidently quite marketable. So why is it that modern people just like those in the past still dream of godlike powers and find connection with them but we see far less connection with those who are just a little ahead and using more realistic current or near-future technology? How can we make those near future technologies more palatable in characters?
After all science fiction is in part about looking at ourselves and where we might be going. Speculative fiction more broadly uses the lens of the fantastic to consider elements of ourselves and our societies from different perspectives. Some of them are, of course, simply allegories for existing situations. But many a good tale does indeed cover elements that have truly come to be in one fashion or another. So to set that all aside and ignore some of the more pertinent questions about these elements is not only to miss out on some fantastic fiction but to fail to consider as a society what they might mean to us.