When people think about the company that most embodies Transhumanism, Google certainly comes to mind. With subsidiaries such as its R&D facility Google X (dedicated to launching ambitious technologies that aim to make the world a better place), and its biotech company Calico (dedicated to combating aging and associated diseases), not to mention other projects it is involved in, Google seems to be well-poised to carry the Transhumanist torch.
However, one company that I believe has been flying under the radar in this regard, but also embodies Transhumanism, is Toyota. While it might not be the first organization many people think of when they think about Transhumanism, and while its products are not nearly as revolutionary as Google’s, it would be unfair to not also include Toyota among the firms most responsible for spreading the values of Transhumanism.
The main reason why I believe this to be the case is related to the Japanese art and science of continuous improvement, called Kaizen. As I wrote in my book Kaizen for Men, the philosophy of Kaizen assumes that our way of life, which includes our work life, social life, and home life, should be constantly improved. We do this by taking small steps toward improving processes, products, services, habits, and actions. In essence, the spirit of Kaizen is that there should be some sort of improvement every day.
There are many ways in which Toyota uses Kaizen, but here I shall specify a few ways the firm approaches continuous improvement, and then relate it to the philosophy of Transhumanism.
First, the Toyota Production System is dedicated not only to improving products and processes, but also to eliminating waste and inefficiencies in an organization. Just as Toyota uses PDCA, an improvement cycle methodology to solve problems found on the shop floor, and just as Toyota seeks to eliminate different types of waste in its manufacturing process (such as defect correction, inventory, and overproduction), Transhumanists seek to find ways every day to improve the human condition, and to eliminate waste and inefficiency from our lives. An example of this would be the Transhumanist pledge to improving the quality of life through increased funding for science and technology, as well as support for inventions such as bionic prostheses, which now allow people who previously lost limbs, to live more productive lives, and to better function as members of society.
Next, Toyota’s dedication to finding the root cause of problems (through tools such as the 5 Whys method and the Cause and Effect diagram), rather than just addressing the symptoms, is similar to the way Transhumanists are addressing the challenges brought forth by aging, cancer, and rare diseases. The hope is that by finding the root cause of these issues, as opposed to just prescribing medication and hoping for the best, that we can eradicate illnesses that have been plaguing humanity for centuries.
Further, at Toyota, the practice of Hansei, or self-reflection, involves acknowledging one’s own mistakes and pledging improvement. For instance, at Toyota, even if a task is completed successfully, teams hold a self-reflection meeting, whereby team members help identify failures experienced along the way and create a plan for future efforts. This insistence on acknowledging current limitations and stressing improvement in order to build a better future is exactly what Transhumanists have been dedicated to since the very founding of the movement.
Finally, Toyota is not just Transhumanist in the way that it builds products or helps its employees improve. It is also Transhumanist in the way that it communicates its values and markets its products. The slogan for Lexus, Toyota’s luxury line of automobiles, is “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.” What could be more Transhumanist than this? When most people think of Toyota, they think of high-quality, reliable, well-designed products sold at a reasonable price. For better or worse, the automobile has become a staple of modern living for many decades now, and few things seem as normal to us now as getting into a car and driving away to some destination, be it our workplace, a friend’s house, or a vacation destination.
Therefore, just as the automobile has become commonplace in our lives, and just as Toyota has become known as a reputable company releasing quality products that meet the needs of many people, so Transhumanism must become the most popular philosophy when it comes to improvement and self-actualization. Transhumanism isn’t a fringe movement, it’s the human movement.
After all, I imagine that almost all people would consider improvement to be quite positive, and would consider actualizing oneself to be one of the most rewarding and valuable goals in the human condition.
This is the promise of Transhumanism. Just as Toyota seeks to be better every day, and to release better products every day, so we must all decide to be better every day, and to seek continuous improvement. This is why I believe that Kaizen and Transhumanism are linked at the core. Because just as we must take steps every day toward releasing better products and services, we must work every day toward being better human beings and building a future our children would want to live in.
Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.