Re: The non-existence of posthumans

From: Max More (
Date: Mon Feb 26 2001 - 23:54:50 MST

At 12:01 PM 2/26/01, you wrote:
>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:
>but I take as my definition of post (after) human the words of McGregor
>Mathers, that we should strive to be "more than human."

That's fine, but it's also too vague to be useful. I've provided at least a
more clearly circumscribed definition. In using terms like "posthuman" I
try to stick to science, and in biology "human" or rather "homo sapiens
sapiens" is tied to being part of a particular gene pool. It makes sense to
me to define posthuman as a condition in which the limits to lifespan,
cognitive function, psychological function, and so on, have passed beyond
what is allowed by unaltered human genes. Simply believing that you are
posthuman, on this view, makes no sense. And I am not at all convinced that
you have provided a useful alternative definition. You are certainly free
to use the term in any way you want. But some stipulative definitions are
more useful than others.

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

I read this, and still did not see anything that resembles a definition. I
take it that by calling yourself a posthuman you simply mean that you
*believe* yourself to be different--in ways I don't see clearly
specified--from other people. You do say that "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."
This suggests to me that being posthuman, according to your usage, has
everything to do with belief, and little or nothing to do with an actual
condition. I think it functions something like my concept of one's "optimal
persona", except that I intend the latter as a constantly moving goal
rather than a state that one claims to have attained.

The longer you claim to be posthuman, the more strongly you may believe it,
but that doesn't make it true. I can spend the next 20 years claiming that
I am the greatest mathematician in the world. I may convince myself, but it
will not be true. The only way I can see your claim being true is if you
define "posthuman" as "someone is posthuman if and only if they call
themselves posthuman".

>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 am completely unmoved by your noting that Dee was both an astrologer and
a mathematician. I could add other examples: Pythagoras was a great
mathematician, but also ran a cult in Greece that believed that beans had
souls and should not be eaten. The great physicist Sir. Isaac Newton spent
half his time doing biblical numerology. The fact that these people were
smart in one area does not mean they made sense in other areas. Astrology
is bunk. Numerology is bunk. As for "chaos magik" (I believe it is usually
spelled "magick") or "techno-paganism", I might agree with you that there
is or need be no conflict, but you would have to specify more precisely
what you are including in those terms. Meditation, visualization, use of
certain archetypes for purely symbolic purposes is not at odds with science.

>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 ...

As I argue above, the contrary is true. I think your usage of "posthuman"
has *less* utility, since it labels people as posthuman who are
biologically indistinguishable from humans, have the same neural
architecture, etc. As for divination and prophecy, let's see the evidence.

>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).

If you're read any of my writing, you would know that I agree that
spiritual progress is important. I don't use the term "mystical" since it
suggests a means of cognition that I have no evidence for accepting as real
(that is, as more than a purely internal conviction not based on external
reality). Spiritual development, including having a clear and developing
sense of purpose, a broad perspective on possibilities for oneself and
others, continuing refinement in personality, emotional responses, and
maturity are all part of extropic development. Please don't try to position
me as someone who champions solely technological progress.

FYI, I have studied numerous occult, magical, and ancient traditions,
including the Kabbalah, Golden Dawn and other forms of ritual magick,
various forms of meditation including TM, dowsing, "astral projection",
Rosicrucian thinking (to put it charitably), the I Ching, and more. Once I
entered the age of reason, I came to realize that most of this stuff is
bunk. I still find a place for meditation (minus the TM people's claims of
sidhis or special powers such as levitation and invisibility), for
breathing exercises, and I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to
acupuncture (but not to "chakras") and perhaps to hypnotherapy.

> > Have you overcome the limits of aging and death?
>Yes, these are the traditional goals of the Adept.

You see, this is the kind of claim that makes me think that was you are
saying is simply rubbish. You're making an extraordinary claim. You provide
no evidence for it. This makes me doubt that we can really have a
worthwhile discussion about this. I am sure that you have *not* halted the
aging process. I am sure that, barring major technological breakthroughs of
the kind that Extropians encourage, you will die of disease or old age.
What exactly *are* you claiming in your assertion?

> >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 .....

Like your claim to have overcome aging and death, I do not believe you. My
most charitable interpretation is that you are taking my question to mean
"have you managed to change some of your beliefs so that you think a bit
differently than many humans". But that is *not* what I meant, as would be
obvious from everything I've written. Have you changed your brain structure
so that your intelligence now exceeds that of any human being? Have you
reorganizing your neural system so that you can consciously access parts of
your brain impossible for any human to access? Can you see in infrared and
ultraviolet? Do you have nanobots cruising your bloodstream ensuring that
your immune system can demolish all known pathogens?

As for MVT: NLP, meditation, and some of the other techniques you use I
think can be useful. I'm extremely skeptical about "dreamwork", and think
"chakra work" is nonsense if it means anything more than meditating by
focusing on an imaginary point. Frankly, one reason I'm taking the time to
write this post, is that I've been bothered by your exaggerated claims
combined with your use of "posthuman" and your linking of it to MVT. You've
called MVT "the all-conquering philosophy!", and you said "Ha! Your
delusions of adequacy
are wholly unfounded unless you have a stronger view than MVT." All this
sounds painfully like Neo-Tech.

You also made literally incredible claims -- claims that I don't like
seeing linked to our movement. For instance, you said in an earlier post:

>Longevity is hardly a new pursuit (read the Yellow Emperor's Classic
>of Taoist medicine). The founder of the Rosicrucian's (Christian
>Rosencreutz) reputedly lived 5 or 600 years, and there is a tradition
>of magickal adepts and alchemists living an incredibly long time.
>Enoch (or Edris of the Jin) who 'lived with God and was not' also
>lived for 700 odd years ... and presumably passed his magickal
>skills to his son Methuselah .... I read the Book of the Secret of Enoch
>for clues, but the jury is out on whether I can clock up as many years as

This goes along with your claim above that you have conquered aging and
death. It strongly suggests that you mean this literally. In which case,
I'm not sure what to say to you without sounding insulting. Surely you
don't believe these mythical life spans? Surely you don't think you have
conquered aging without the use of technology? (If you do, I challenge you
to get all your biomarkers tested at the Kronos Clinic in Arizona then we
can compare them to your chronological age.)

>... 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.

Come on now! Attitudes can influence your actions and change outcomes to an
extent. Hence the sense of being a practical optimistic (but *not* a
passive optimist). But wishing and believing doesn't make something real.
You can think you are a posthuman all you like but, according to any
sensible definition, you are not. Someone can believe that they are a fried
green tomato but thinking that you are will *not* eventually make it so.
What it may eventually do is get you placed in a safely padded cell.

>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.

If you actually give a definition (not a long Web page vaguely talking
about posthuman and MVT but a *definition*) of how you use "posthuman" then
I may be happy to grant that you are posthuman in *your* sense. What I am
arguing is that your sense of the term, in so far as I can find any content
in it, is not a useful one. It has absolutely no relation to what it means
to be human, and so saying that you are posthuman will mislead people. Your
view is completely different from how we use transhuman and posthuman. Yet
you use the Web domain, which will confuse people into
thinking that your view is related. NOW do you understand why all this
bothers me?

Alas, all of this discussion may be pointless since, on January 1, you
declared that all philosophy is invalid. My comments have been
philosophical as have yours. So, according to your own views, all my
comments are invalid. And so are yours.

I've said all I want to say on this, so I will try not to respond further.
I have a conference that I should be organizing.

Steve, while I think that a substantial portion of your ideas are unfounded
and wrong-headed, we do seem to be on the same wavelength on some important
matters. Please do not take my critical comments to be a complete rejection
of your whole approach. As is typical in email communications, I have
chosen to focus on things that I think are indefensible rather than on
things that I agree with.




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

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