The non-existence of posthumans [was: Re: Heston Speech]

From: Max More (
Date: Sun Feb 25 2001 - 12:39:37 MST

At 10:09 AM 2/25/01, Steve Nichols wrote:

>Excuse me, Blavatsky was writing about "post-humans" since 1888,
>and I have been explaining posthuman philosophy and publishing since
>the early 1980's ... it is your (more recent) definition which is wrong!

I agree with Mike here. Blavatsky was a mystic. Her view of "posthuman" had
nothing to do with what we mean by posthuman. You might as well call
Christians and other religious believers posthumans because they believe
their essence is not a physical human body but a "pure spirit". Nietzsche
would be a much better example, since he was no mystic. He didn't lay out
any technological path to the overman, but did have the right basic idea
and certainly didn't rely on supernatural or non-scientific expectations.

I scanned your Web site and did not see any definition of "posthuman". I
have to assume that you are using some odd meaning of the term utterly at
odds with how it's used within transhumanist circles. On the usual meaning,
you are most definitely *not* a posthuman. Or do you claim to have made
your genes irrelevant to your physical, intellectual, and emotional
functioning? Have you overcome the limits of aging and death? Have you
reshaped yourself physically, cognitively, and psychologically so that you
are no longer remotely human. Obviously the answer is "no". You may be a
*posthumanist*, though I'm not sure what that is, since we have very little
clue as what posthumans will be like except in general terms consistent
with the limits of physics (insert Jupiter brain speculations here).

> >By definition, posthumans will not exist until the singularity occurs,

I don't agree with Mike on this one. I'm something of a Singularity
skeptic, though it does depend on how the term Singularity is defined. I
expect a powerful swell, rather than a sudden spike. At some stage in the
swell of accelerating change we may legitimately claim to be posthuman --
having made the control functions of our human genes irrelevant, having
re-structured and massively upgraded our cognitive architecture, and having
transformed our psychological functioning at multiple levels from the
hardware pathways to the high-level "mental" structures.

Claims to already be posthuman strike me as either being based on an
unhelpful definition of the term, or on hyperbole, or possibly on
dishonesty aimed at attracting people to a system for becoming a posthuman.
I will assume that the first is the case, given your lack of a definition,
though you Neo-Tech style hyperbole about MVT makes me wonder.

>Your "singularity" is a fiction that won't happen ... rather like the
>What single shred of evidence do you have for it? Who wants to become
>the Borg anyway .... I prefer Dr. Who who fights against would-be daleks!

This shows a lack of knowledge about the idea of the Singularity. As I
said, I am not a Singularitarian. But it's obvious if you've looked at the
discussions of the issue that Borganism is *not* a necessary component of
that view. Some people do foresee becoming group minds, but others who a
Singularity ahead instead expect simply far more advanced individuals, and
individuals with massively improved interpersonal communications (which
doesn't mean they have lost their individuality), and all shades in between.

>After (or post-) human simply indicates whatever identity comes
>after the "human being" stage of history .... "trans-" human is subset
>of the after/post-human identity ... for if we are "transitional" then we
>are already different from "non-transitional" humans.

No, transhuman is not a subset of posthuman. Transhuman is a transitional
stage in which humans begin making peripheral alterations to their natural
condition. This started centuries ago with sensory aids (ear trumpets,
eyeglasses), and continues with smart drugs, mood-altering drugs, gene
therapy, etc. None of these make genes irrelevant; such people are still
part of the human race -- they are part of the same gene pool. Some of us
have *ideas" that are well outside the norm. That's why we call ourselves
transhumanists and/or Extropians. None of us are posthuman. Unless someone
here has been uplifted by aliens and isn't telling. :-)

I also disagree on the utility of general principles (not *rules*), but I
think Daniel Ust has responded well on that point.

What bothers me about your talking about being posthuman is that others
will see that and think that it makes no sense, then may also dismiss the
more grounded claims of transhumanism. "These people actually think they
are a different species. Just another wacko bunch who want to think they
are superior to everyone else."




Max More, Ph.D. or
President, Extropy Institute.
Senior Content Architect, ManyWorlds Inc.:

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