Re: The non-existence of posthumans

From: Steve Nichols (
Date: Mon Feb 26 2001 - 13:01:45 MST

Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 11:39:37 -0800
From: Max More <>
Subject: The non-existence of posthumans [was: Re: Heston Speech]

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

S>Excuse me, Blavatsky was writing about "post-humans" since 1888,
S>and I have been explaining posthuman philosophy and publishing since
S>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.

Blavatsky was the first person to actually use the term "post-human" ...
although you are right that the wilder claims of her theosophy are
completely untenanable. She did discuss fossils and evolution in a mystical
but I take as my definition of post (after) human the words of McGregor
Mathers, that we should strive to be "more than human."

The WMT debated Darwinism and the effect that evolution theory would have
on traditional, mystical, systems .. and theoretical magick has made
adjustment and
advances in the light of science ... there is no ideological conflict
science and chaos magik or techno-paganism .... Dr. John Dee (astrologer
to Eliz 1 & founder of Enochian system) was professor of mathematics and
navigation after all ..... Natural Magic is just experimental psychology.

>I scanned your Web site and did not see any definition of "posthuman".

As children we are immersed in and live out the "human" phase of our
evolution, absorbing - often in play - the linguistic and culturally
transmitted knowledge and traditions of our human ancestors.

We can choose who we want to be, and "human" is not the only option. So for
example the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt and 'Divine' Monarchs of Europe in the
Middle Ages and their subjects did take seriously their magnified and
deified identities, although today we rightly tend to reject claims of
divine (supernatural) origin. The belief that we are "humans" is similarly a
long established cultural role and the result of conditioning reinforced by

The notion of "human" had great utility when it ushered in a new era of
development, but has now been around for so long that it acts as a drag on
progress rather than as a spur to further advance. It is no more necessarily
true that we are "humans" than it is true that the Pharaoh was a living
solar deity, although both assumptions of identity go unchallenged and
unremarked during their own times.

It might be said that the adoption of a tag such as "PostHuman" or
"Neohuman" could
become just as restraining or pre-determining as the belief that one is

The adoption of a neutral 'non-label' (posthuman/neo/X-) implies just that
the next step in evolution is 'after', and embodies no value judgements. I
wish to make it clear that I do not think that persuading yourself that you
are post-human will necessarily lead to any 'special powers' (but I am not
ruling that out either).

"TRANShumans" and "Extropians" (if they differentiate themselves from the
human-norm at all) are examples of post/after-human variants, since trans &
ex-humans are claiming to be evolved out of/ after humans. So POST-human is
the wider and inclusive category.

Many might agree that humanity is in a "transitory" stage from which we will
emerge from as 'better adapted humans' but maintain that we are not evolving
into a substantially new species. I do not want descend into such dull
semantic discussions ...... you can always make the case that things are in
permanent transition ..... neural nets never settle to a 100% mu-state ...
but I think we might be undergoing some 'phasic transients' and major
restructuring. Anyway, no matter .... BETTER-human or MORE-THAN-human are
other variants from the NORM-human.

The idea of necessary "improvement" is not entailed by the theory of
evolution by natural selection. There are examples of species, like the
shark for example, which have not changed significantly for a long time.
Since their design is already well fitted to their environment, any change
or mutation in shark design would more likely lead to a loss of efficiency
than an improvement.

However, in this time when natural selection has partly been over-ridden, it
is up to us to decide and implement "improvements."

There are dangers in Nietzsche's idea of 'super-man' if you become convinced
that you are superior and somehow distinct from "run of the mill" animals.
Nazi interpretations of ubermenschen and so on were abhorrent .... a blast
from our shared human-been past.

Ultimate authority on matters of personal identity seem to rest with the
individual rather than with outside observers. My claim to be "post-human"
is irrefutable, since I know my mind and identity better than any outside
observer. The longer and more strongly that I continue to make this claim,
the more congruent, thus persuasive it becomes, both to myself and others.

No doubt we continually engage in feedback with others that reinforces or
modifies our thinking about ourselves, and we share many sub-identities that
relate to activities or locations (I can be a Cornishman, a coal miner, or

That a person is a coal miner by trade is fairly easy to establish. If you
are normally a candle-stick maker but happen to be mining coal at a
particular time, then it is true to say that you are a "coal miner" only
when carrying out that exceptional (for you) activity. Your basic belief
remains that you are a candle-stick maker who happens at that moment to be
digging for coal. So some of the time you might be posthuman passing for
human &c.

As there were many phases, pre-human eras and so on, before the advent of
'Homo Sapiens', naturally there will be subsequent phases of evolution. It
is important to choose or guide evolutionary progress in consideration of
new and fullest knowledge, following that revealed by Darwin in the
nineteenth century.

The post-human movement could turn out to be just a useful perspective that
allows us to step outside the boundaries of our conditioning temporarily.
But even if so, the post-human aesthetic makes more obvious and absurd the
supernaturalist beliefs, pollution, racism, militarism, gender
discrimination and disregard for other species that seems to compose a large
part of "human-been" history.

Copyright Steve Nichols, UK& worldwide, 1994

>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.

Yes, this might be true. I usually end up arguing with trans-humanist lists.
But the point is that my definition has more utility than theirs ..... there
not just a single view of the future .. and I claim to be most advanced in
theoretical and natural magic (which includes ACTIVE Divination & prophecy)
that there has been for 100's of years ...

Evolution must be spiritually onwards, not just smarter TV sets, to keep
our balance. If you ignore possibilities for mystical experience, this is
your loss (and supernaturalism doesn't come into it).

> 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

No, but unlikely we ever will. This is not a *necessary* condition to be
posthuman, and has never occurred in ANY animal to date, although
many changes to new species have happened.

> Have you overcome the limits of aging and death?

Yes, these are the traditional goals of the Adept. Of course no
entity can ever completely ensure against death .... the Sun might
collide into Earth or whatever.

>Have you
>reshaped yourself physically, cognitively, and psychologically so that you
>are no longer remotely human.

Of course, I understand MVT! My psychology is pretty unique.
But we are still "remotely" ape-like in appearance, and I must appear
remotely human and use your crummy languages in order to communicate
with you .....

>Obviously the answer is "no".

Only the answers to the unreasonable conditions you arbitrarily require to
meet your particular definition of post-human (the gene point, eternal
life &c.)

> 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).

I am emphatically not a *posthumanist* which I assume to be post- the
philosophical *humanism* .... with which I actually have some sympathy.
Since "we have very little clue" to what posthumans will be like, then it
seems up to us to proactively form our own evolution. We seem to have
a difference of opinion about what virtues are desirable ... and I am sure
that there are as many 'ideal' posthuman designs as there are people
wanting to imagine them ... the point is, how do we influence the future
to get our way, rather than be swept along by blind faith or chance.

S >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 --

The question remains, how do we know this? The change will be gradient
and vary between individuals. I propose a much looser and less rigorous
definition in order to move things more quickly ... the very fact that you
think you are (human/ transhuman/ posthuman) eventually makes it so ..
because in order to carry on thinking that you are demands reaffirming
feedback from others and from events in the world.

>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.

But we are *already* entirely different creatures to a century ago.
The technology explosion has happened already (although I grant
there will always be another "great leap forward" to be had in the
foreseeable future .. that seems in our (psychological) nature.

>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 have never made a penny from my Posthuman advocacy!
The fact that it would cost me to join the Extropian Institute has stopped
me from joining it to date, and I think the Extro events a bit expensive.

Let me ask of you the same question regards "Extropianism" which is
viewed by many as a money-making cult. Singularity requires a bigger
leap of faith than does MVT .... my case comes from observation of
nature (actually on film) and replicable experiments, unlike Kurzweil's
unsubstantial futur-babble.

All the instructions you need to become posthuman are gratis on my
website. Furthermore, I am an entirely independent voice free of Scientism
and the whole human-era Political-Agro-Industrial complex.

>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.

MVT has been debated in depth on this list. The facts and claims have
always been open to scrutiny and refutation.

S>Your "singularity" is a fiction that won't happen ... rather like the
S>What single shred of evidence do you have for it? Who wants to become
S>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.

But it is a common enough component amongst many trans-humans.

>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 .

I think some "old technology" is good for interpersonal communications as
well (psychotherapy, hypnosis, acupuncture/ pressure &co.) as well as some
new advances. I argue we should keep our perspective regards technology
and not get carried away with the realistic outlook for genetics &c.

>doesn't mean they have lost their individuality), and all shades in

Yes, that's why I see Dr Who as a "better" posthuman model than Davros
and his daleks (they all had slight individuality as far as I can remember).

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

>No, transhuman is not a subset of posthuman.

This depends whether we accept your or my definition of post (after)
human. I argue that post-human is *whatever* comes after (our BELIEF
that we are humans). I argue that we have already been through the
transitional stage .........

>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,

What about hermit crabs that use external shells that they find!
Your definition here is laughable.

>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. :-)

Sure, I accept you are transhuman/ Extropian if that's what you call
yourself and that's what you believe. So why can't you accept that I
am posthuman, since that is what I call myself and what I believe.

On my (minimal) theory of what post-human is, then anyone who
thinks that they are "well outside the norm" and after human, is
"posthuman." We evolved from an 'ape' species (I assume you
accept this?) into homo sapiens (eventually) ... but our genes did
not become irrelevant! How do we know that in the distant future
genes might not be *even more* relevant?

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

This is partly a matter of cognitive style and choice. Principles and
even heuristics make me intellectually uncomfortable. As a neural
net designer more than a 'coder' programmer, this would be expected,
I prefer bottom up modelling to "top down" principles.

But sure, lots of folks feel more comfortable with strong guidelines ...
me just like to think things out for myself and experiment a bit !!!!

>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.

I take issue that transhumanist claims are more "grounded" than mine,
and am prepared to argue my case against anyone.

And for someone promoting more interpersonal communication, I find
your paranoia of me (or others) TALKING ABOUT posthumans quite
dictatorial. Let's widen the debate, draw more people in, not draw more
definitional boundaries to keep non-extropes at bay. .

>"These people actually think they
>are a different species. Just another wacko bunch who want to think they
>are superior to everyone else."

Better me than Marilyn Manson then! And why not the Taoist concept
of "the Superior Man" .... read your Tao te Ching .. superior man =

I am here already, and more are coming ... there are already small colonies
.... your denial of posthuman existence simply does not hold.


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