Dale Carrico has some interesting ideas about what posthumanism should not mean, drawn from a rather bleak picture of what humanism was all about:
Clothed in the language of universality, the entitlements of the humanity proclaimed by humanists have never extended to more than a fraction of actual human beings. Assured of its location on a “natural” progressive trajectory attaining inevitably toward universal emancipation, humanism too readily accommodated contemporary injustices as temporary and, hence, somehow tolerable -- especially to those humanists who didn’t happen to suffer them. And, further, as the ethics of a questionably contrued "human race" and of the universal "civilization" problematically connected to this race, it grows ever more difficult to shake the troubling analogies between humanism and its debased technoscientific companion discourse: the "race science" that legitimized every brutal imperial, colonial, globalizing, ghettoizing, apartheid regime in modern memory.
Needless to say, these painful recognitions demand painful reckonings. It is this crisis of humanist conscience -- which is not really one crisis, so much as many different crises, arising out of a variety of concrete situations and taking a proliferating variety of consequential forms -- that more properly goes by the name "post-humanism."
Don't let Carrico's lofty academic style put you off. There is a lot of really interesting material on his blog. For a more digestible sampling of his work, see his witty if somewhat overwrought fisking of my Declaration of Singularity, in which he accuses yours truly of being a "a pampered privileged clueless straight white guy who has more money and crap than almost anybody else on earth" who somehow manages to believe that "there is some possible intelligible sense in which you are suffering from some kind of major, like, social exploitation that urgently demands the world's redress." This is, of course, inaccurate. As anyone who has met me will attest, I am an exceptionally good-looking pampered privileged clueless straight white guy who blah blah blah.
But I digress. My point is that one need not share Carrico's rather Berkleycentric damnation of humanism as just another arrow in Whitey's Quiver of Exploitation to agree that the emergence of a posthuman world in which exploitation, abuse, and destruction of human life occur at a scale even more appalling and horrific than anything the world has encountered up to this point is a very real one. Our recent (ongoing) discussion about The Friendliness Problem is really all about this same risk. And there is even more room for agreement; I find that I can sign on with his conclusion pretty much wholeheartedly:
In such an historical moment, especially, it seems to me disastrous to conceive post-humanism as a moralizing identification with some tribe defined by any idiosyncratic fetishization of particular technologies or other. Rather, we should think of it as an ethical recognition of the limits of humanism provoked by an understanding of the emerging terms of technodevelopmental social struggle and, hence, any ethical perspective arising our [sic] of this recognition that demands cosmopolitanism, democracy, and emancipation shape the terms of this struggle, come what may.
Where my heart is less than whole is around his use of the word "any." In fact, I agree that any ethical system that arises must incorporate those things, but (per Stephen's remarks in a recent comment) I don't think that any ethical approach is as good as any other, even if all ethical perspectives being discussed were to meet all the criteria described. For example, I can imagine a posthuman intelligence with very specific ideas about what those three things mean imposing them on their "inferiors" for "their own good." Even a vocabulary of emancipation and cosmopolitanism could be used in the service of the very exploitation that Carrico is looking to avoid.
Just to give one very wacky example, suppose a post-Singularity intelligence decided to "emancipate" us all from the limits of human sexuality by setting everyone up with a complete set of both male and female reproductive organs? Or another wacky example, what if the same being decided, in the name of cosmopolitanism, to provide many of us with disabilities so that we might better understand those who are already disabled?
I think Carrico would argue that his inclusion of democracy in the list of prime values would prevent that kind of exploitation from happening. (Come to think of it, he would probably reject such scenarios prima facie; he has no use for all this "singularity" nonsense.) But without a notion that some moral and ethical models are better than others, we're in a lot of trouble.
UPDATE, From the Letters that Crossed in the Mail Department: While I was being snarky, Dale Carrico was writing a very nice response to my comment on his blog. So that oughta teach me a thing or two, but let's be realistic here -- chances are it won't.