Then, in 1957, Julian Huxley, biologist and brother of Aldous Huxley - author of A Brave New World - coined the term "transhumanism", which he took to mean as "man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature". F.M. Esfandiary, the son of an Iranian diplomat, became in 1966 the first person to identify one's self as a transhumanist. Esfandiary defined a transhumanist as one with a lifestyle and world view intended to move forward along the transition to a time beyond society. He, along with Huxley, had begun a movement to view humanity beyond the limitations of civilization and society.
The Transhumanist movement, centered around the University of California, Los Angeles, began advocating "improvement to the human condition through enhancement technologies, such as eliminating aging and expanding intellectual, physical or physiological capacities." Transhumanists saw in technology the means to improve the life of all humanity. Through genetic and biological engineering, they sought, and continue to seek, methods to eliminate mankind's host of health problems, from cancer to the common cold, eventually gaining immortality. Improvements in nanotechnology would allow people to manufacture their own objects in response to their needs. Eventually, they argue, mankind, utilizing technology, will be able to transcend our physical limitations, eventually providing us with unlimited abilities; in effect, a human could, through technology, become a deity.
The parallel between Transhumanism and Transcendentalism is strong, but hard to see; at the surface level, the two philosophies are seemingly at odds with one another. In Walden, Thoreau abandoned most of the technology of his time, shunning railroads and other convienences of contemporary American life for the capabilites of his own hands. In stark contrast, Transhumanists advocate the advancement of technology along every possible means in order to improve the human condition and augment humanity's own capabilites. In Walden, Thoreau argued, indirectly, that in order to improve the human condition, one must abandon his dependency on others - and the technology he saw around him was causing the degradation of humanity by enslaving us to society. Thoreau returned to nature, to mankind's roots, to explore the meaning of life, and ultimately to be able to live a life worth living, where humans can focus on their needs in life and what really matters, instead of the superficial demands created by civilization. Transhumanists, however, aim to advance civilization to the level where humans use technology in every aspect of their life - the kind of dependency Thoreau was displeased with.
However, there is a deep undercurrent that unites the two philosophies, as opposing as they seem. In Walden, and in Resistance to Civil Government, Thoreau repeatedly explores the idea that if government is a contract between those who govern and the people, then he should be allowed to withdraw from that contract entirely, and rely on himself to maintain his life, in a sort of proto-anarchist fashion. In order to achieve such a withdrawal from society, however, he concludes that a man must decide his necessities, and find a way to coexist with nature in order to provide his needs - civilization cannot help him now. After achieving such an accomplishment, man will be truly free in the sense that such a person would be entirely in control of his life. Thoreau showed that such a disconnection, and subsequent freedom, is possible by taking on the task himself in Walden. It was only when he briefly entered the town, and society, that he lost his freedom.
It is on this philisophical level that Transhumanism and Transcendentalism are joined. Transhumanists understand that people are limited in society, and in their bodies; as long as people lack the means to provide for their needs themselves, they are dependent on whoever else can help them, and subsequently are not truly free, as they are vulnerable. Instead of harvesting the power of nature as Henry David Thoreau advocates, however, Transhumanists embrace the power of technology. They argue that every effort must be made to advance scientific progress until human beings, harvesting technology, are no longer reliant upon anybody else. Through technology, they gain ultimate freedom. Once this is achieved, transhumanists explain, society will no longer be necessary; and because of this, the scourges of war, crime, terror, pestilence, hunger, economic inequality, and social inequality, will disappear, as each "transhuman" is able to withdraw from society and rely on sufficiently advanced technology for ther individual needs. The individual is empowered with ultimate control over his or her life, and can focus on a life worth living.
It is clear that Thoreau believed in the power of the individual, as stated in Civil Disobedience:
"Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly."
Ultimately, Thoreau decided to make use of the natural world and withdraw from society, and the government's control, in order to achieve an improvement on government. Similarly, Transhumanism aims for a state in which the individual can become an independent power, free from state control, through technology.
Perhaps the earliest invention that has realized part of the Transhumanists' goals has come in the form of the Internet. Prior to the inventions of email, instant messaging, and online chat, communication between distant persons was controlled entirely by the government. In oppresive countries such as China and Iran, dissent was kept in check by government control of communication routes; ordinary citizens did not have the means to tell the world of their plight. In the modern 21st century, however, numerous Iranians have been able to publish online journals, providing people in other parts of the world a direct, unfiltered contact with these countries. In effect, these people have withdrawn from the state in regard to communications; they now have complete control over who they communicate with, when they talk, where they are in the physical world, and how the information is relayed. Through the use of the internet, people have become the higher and independent power that Thoreau sought to implement; no country, no matter how hard it tries, can attempt to gain mastery over the Internet.
It is clear, then, that Thoreau's philosophies have been revived in the form of Transhumanism. Instead of harnessing nature, they utilize technology in their common quest for individual empowerment, and eventually, a human state beyond society and civilization.