Re: Technology (Was: imaging the world)

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Mar 07 2000 - 04:47:38 MST

Spike Jones <> writes:

> > I mean, once we get past superstition and tyranny, we may discover that we don't
> > need technology as much as we used to believe.
> > Would that be ok with you?
> Noooooooooooo! Need more raging technology! Homeresque, tongue
> hanging out: mmmmmm technoooologyyyyyy...
> Gotta have it JR, otherwise we die too soon. spike

This brings up an interesting issue I remember arguing with Nick about
late at night at Extro3 (while Waldemar was doing an objectivist art
critique in his sleep :-): how technology dependent is transhumanism?
Suppose technology X is impossible, how does that affect

As I see it, transhumanism is not per se technology dependent. It
strives to improve the human condition through rational means, but
that is independent on which means are available. But transhumanism
also has a kind of a "subtext" or stronger sense that says the human
condition can be so radically changed through these means that it
makes sense of talking about a transhuman or posthuman condition. This
is much stronger than the first meaning, and also likely technology
dependent - there doesn't seem to be any likely non-technological
means to achieve this.

So what happens if technology X is impossible? Suppose X is
cryonics. Then a possible way of reaching the other posthuman
possibilities before dying is closed, but people who are lucky or
young enough to take advantage of new possibilities will become
posthuman anyway. If X is nanotechnology a lot of exciting
possibilities cannot be reached, but there are still ways of reaching
a posthuman condition, even if it doesn't include utility fogs and
matter compilers. If X is life extension, then things are bleak
individually, but it is still no absolute limit of becoming (mortal)
posthumans. Going through our favorite technologies it seems like
there is no single technology we *need*, there are a lot of useful
technologies we would like to see developed but there are enough
possibilities so that the failure of several technologies will still
not mean the end of the posthuman dream.

What if all the transhumanifying technologies are impossible? While it
might be that they are all physically impossible, there is a risk that
(say) social developments makes them infeasible. Not terribly likely,
but worth considering. Assume it is impossible to reach a posthuman
level and the strong interpretation of transhumanism does not hold. Is
transhumanism then pointless?

I would say this is not true. Even if I cannot expect to become an
immortal transcendent superintelligence able to develop in
inconceivable directions, I can improve my human condition through
rational means. It is not as flashy, but I will still benefit. Dynamic
optimism is good even if you live in the stone age. A rational,
technology-friendly humanism can do a lot of good, and help overcome
the superstition and tyrrany. Also, if the limits to development are
not set by inflexible physical laws or insurmountable resource
constraints but by social limitations, a transhumanism of the first
kind can help overcome these limitations and bring about opening up
further changes.

To sum up, I don't think transhumanism is dependent on technology, but
limits on technology will also put limits on transhumanism. Totally
without technology it just becomes a kind of humanism.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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