Re: Technology (Was: imaging the world)

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Mar 07 2000 - 14:31:33 MST

Anders wrote,
>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.

I see it that way too. In addition, humans and their technology will continue to
evolve, no matter what. While technophobes and technophiles philosophize,
technology continues to accelerate. That much is clear.
What is not so clear is whether humanity will manage to move past superstition
and tyranny. That seems a more important question to me, because failure to get
past superstition and tyranny has dire (mortal) consequences that failure to
develop a particular technology does not have.

>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.

How about a technology to end superstition and tyranny?
I suggest we might call that technology "psychonomy" -- how do you like that

>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?

No, not if transhumanism includes technologies which have already proven useful
(or necessary) to transcendence. IOW, if we can transcend through other
technologies than the ones you've mentioned, transhumanism remains viable,
feasible, and workable.

>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.

In further support of your comments, if transhumanism correlates to
enlightenment of the hyper-cognitive kind, then transhumanism may even transcend
technology. As technology is to Homo sapiens, so transcendence may be to

>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.

Seldom does such incisive and coherent analyses as yours arrive in cyberspace.

Grok it and rocket,

--J. R.

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