RE: Against Transhumanism

From: Bostrom,N (pg) (
Date: Tue Feb 29 2000 - 09:05:58 MST

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

>> A page critical of transhumanism found on the web:

>This was mentioned and discussed here a couple of >months ago.
>As I recall, not even the author (a college kid writing it >to
>impress his tree-hugger professor) took it seriously.

I might have missed that. I recall a discussion from a few months back which
I think was about a different page (and fitting your description) but I
could be mistaken.

It seems that what worries many is the prospect of a fraction of humankind
blazing ahead and transforming themselves into a posthumans, while others
are left behind. I can understand the fear of being left behind or becoming
a second-rate being. With our present psychology, relative loss of position
and status, even when accompanied by an absolute gain in ability and wealth,
is not often not welcome. No amount of bananas can compensate for becoming
the laughing stock of the tribe.

"But we can offer to reengineer you psychologically, so that you become
perfectly happy about the prospect of living in the shadows of the
posthumans! Or we can offer a VR world where you can enjoy the fantasy of
being God Almighty Himself!" And this shows that those would accept
technology could be happy. But (1) is doesn't help those who reject
technology, and (2) people might have other preferences in addition to being

One might consider, however, that very few people today are not "living in
the shadow" of somebody else. There is only one Clinton and one Gates, but
there are billions who have a boss or a dominating parent or husband.
Intellectually there is also always someone who is better, except for very
few in a very narrowly defined area of expertise; similarly for athletic
ability or anything else. It seems that to enjoy the respect of those around
one is enough for most of us, or at any rate the most one can hope for. So
loss of absolute status of unaugmented humans due to the rise of posthumans
should not be such a major concern.

Maybe the real problem is fear of being treated badly by the posthumans.
Since most transhumanists do not claim to know how posthumans will behave,
there seems to be no way of dismissing this possibility. It is a legitimate

Nick Bostrom
Dept. Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics

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