Re: The non-existence of posthumans

From: Steve Nichols (
Date: Tue Feb 27 2001 - 14:42:22 MST

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001 22:54:50 -0800
From: Max More <>
Subject: Re: The non-existence of posthumans

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:
S>but I take as my definition of post (after) human the words of McGregor
S>Mathers, that we should strive to be "more than human."

>That's fine, but it's also too vague to be useful.

This seems to be the core of our difference here .... I want the definition
to remain *inclusive* .... too vague for the conventionalist academic
cognitive taste maybe, but easy to grasp, and the "essence" of the idea.

Definitions aren't "useful" in a real sense anyway, words can always be
reformulated, and maybe even *should* always be reformulated before they
ossify into a cliché or stretch to fill a scientific tome.

>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.

Ah, so your definition is more circumscribed than mine ...... I want
a minimum verbalisation that also suggests spiritual and cultural
values *in addition* to the narrower scientific and biological aims.

>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.

Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll puts the case against wordy definitions.. so
I won't bother here. I would like to point out that lifespan
has *already* increased enormously ..... we arguably have passed thru any
transitional phase already. Spectacles were worn in the days of Henry VIII.

I suppose I use "posthuman" in the same way others use "transhuman" or u
"extropian" to summarise personal beliefs, identity and positive futurist
leanings ...... sure, you might want to associate different things to the
than I do .. no worries .. because I suspect that there are as many
interpretations of "transhuman" as there are transhumans.

> >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

But we are only ever aware of "actual condition" via our own awareness.
I consider the world to be (at least as) located in consciousness
than it is the other way about .... yes. Beliefs are actual. There is
no objective or scientific tests for "Christianity" .. although holding that
belief does maybe affect behaviour. I even dream posthuman dreams!

>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.

Yes, this "optimal persona" seems to be the "higher self" concept also?

>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.

Hmm, but people such as yourself challenge my belief, and so it must
be rationally defensible to last. I happen to think we are permanently in
*trance* of one kind or another (idealism again) ... from deep somnambulism
to light daydream, thru "clear-mindedness" ... but with learnt/ unconscious
skills and processes trucking along even when we aren't conscious of them.

>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".

And even then they could be lying ....
I think we are confusing types of "truth statement" here. There is no
ultimate and objective "truth" what it is to be posthuman (or "human"
come to that). I don't think this matters, but maybe you do? We can
set any criteria we like then test for it, but any criteria are arbitrary.

>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.

But as you point out, often the (heretical) experimental alchemical
thinkers happen also to be great scientists .....

>is bunk. Numerology is bunk.

Agreed! Except that they have entertainment value for many people,
and if they hold fascination for some personalities, that gives us a
key into their psychology for education or therapy purposes.

>As for "chaos magik" (I believe it is usually
>spelled "magick")

Yes, Crowley popularised the Elizabethan "ck" .. so I deliberately
use the germanik "k"

>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

Yes, a very strong system of visualisation wiv ready-made icons.
The great think about chaos magik is that it is theory-free ... you can
e.g. John, Paul, George and Ringo instead of 4 archangels! Much more fun.

>>I have to assume that you are using some odd meaning of the term utterly
> >odds with how it's used within transhumanist circles.
S>Yes, this might be true. I usually end up arguing with trans-humanist
S>But the point is that my definition has more utility than theirs .....
S>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)
S>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.

We have pretty much the same neural architecture as cats (just larger
neocortex, no extra bitz) .... and I don't expect the brain to evolve
new components ... the really big change happened during the cold to
warm blooded interface .. the pineal eye being the *only* part that the
brain has ever completely lost ... it normally retains and grows outwards.

So if "new neural architecture" is your definition (I suppose plugging
silicon appendixes might happen in individuals, but not uniformly
and not genetically inherited) ... then I just don't accept this. Software
(beliefs & behaviour) ... in the past forced on animals by environmental
demands, but maybe self-volitional in future ... may reinforce certain
local neural circuits and weaken others ... so *beliefs* may determine
future physical and neuronal trends rather than the reverse!

>As for divination and prophecy, let's see the evidence.

Of course. Enochian Chess (active system that subsumes all
the symbolic subsystems, and engages the questioner rather than
passively listening to a medium, or relying on random chance cut
of tarot deck or birth date) has profound psychological influence.

It is a brilliant "brainstorming" and mind-focussing method, and
doesn't rely on any superstitious mechanisms for (instant) results.
I have always interpreted magik theory in psychological terms.

S>Evolution must be spiritually onwards, not just smarter TV sets, to keep
S>our balance. If you ignore possibilities for mystical experience, this is
S>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.

What you say may be true, but the popular perception of extropianism
is an identification with scientific progress rather than with spiritual
I feel that we (all radical futurists) are seen as vulcans or robots wiv
repressed emotionality ..... whether or not this perception is fair to us.

>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.

Acupuncture has 1,000's of case histories going back to the Yellow
Emperor, similarly though more recently with hypnosis .. which was the
main method of anaesthetism shortly before chemical ether's were
discovered ... and which I and many other serious physicians still use
for pain control.

Invisibility is the magikal/ hypnotic skill of making people not see you!

The chakras are "felt" locations, and useful in some types of visualisation.
In shiatsu and acupressure we utilise some same points as 'chakras,' so
they are not as pointless as you wish to make out. However, I agree that
much arcane and magikal theory is obsolete .... as is much science from
pre-Darwinian eras. Some occult philosophers (such as qusta ibn luqa)
were early psychological trailblazers and bits of their work retains value.

> > Have you overcome the limits of aging and death?
S>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.

What I point out is that extropian aims (longevity, immortality) are nothing
new .. and that these have been the object of occult theorists and adepts
for 1,000's years.

In my personal case (or other's) .... yes, by yoga, acupuncture & various
practices, including scientific & dietary knowledge (i don't distinguish
particularly since i try to stay theory-free .. if it works, then use it)
... I have
overcome the (historical statistical) health-levels.

The case for immortality is inductive (the sun has always risen, so
tomorrow it will probably also rise ...) rather than deductive logic (which
would be a ridiculous case to make!)

(1) We will never experience being dead, only always being alive.
(2) The "immortalist" philosophical assumption that you will live forever
seems to have the most utility ....
(3) MVT shows that we have (or even the "conscious self" IS) a non-physical
component ... the phantom sensor is felt only, no spatial location ... so if
is what we "are" (the idealist position) then it cannot "cease" to
exist .. since it never had, in our lifetime, any physical form ... although
obverse that without the brain to 'hallucinate/ generate it' there is no
to suppose it will continue independently after body cessation. Unborn

>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.

Hard to say, some days and some things I do seem to reverse it, then I
drink too many beers and lose a few billion brain cells again ..... but
completely and permenantly *halt* no .. even cryogenics only slows decay.
If to be a posthuman we have to absolutely *halt* aging .. this just will
happen, you dream an impossible dream ....... everything must pass.

>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?

The above, (1) to (3).

> >Have you
> >reshaped yourself physically, cognitively, and psychologically so that
> >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?

Don't know what it was when I started .... never pulled my brain out to
have a look. And yes, will take on anybody at my chosen strategy game
(Chaturanga) ..... plus I challenge anyone to refute or produce a better
evolutionary account than MVT .....

>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

No, these aren't my claims. Wittgenstein's private language theory does
seem to indicate that we might all translate continually and uniquely into
(English) in order to communicate .....

I don't think I am the only posthuman, but that I represent a fairly major
current evolutionary trend ... lots of people aren't happy about wasting
their one-and-only existence pretending to be a primitive human!

>Do you have nanobots cruising your bloodstream ensuring that
>y>our immune system can demolish all known pathogens?

I am proud to be a natural birth, and not wanting any more artificial
body parts than I can do without, thank you all the same for your
offer of nanobots ... but don't need 'em yet. Acupressure strengthens
immune systems as well, without unknown side effects.

>As for MVT: NLP, meditation, and some of the other techniques you use I
>think can be useful. I'm extremely skeptical about "dreamwork",

Yes, I am very sceptical of Jung's theory, both shadow self and dreamwork,
but I have found that in practical psychotherapy they are easy techniques to
use,. and I get good results from them. So I use waking dreams as an
adjunct to formal and informal trance induction and don't worry too much
about the status or otherwise of Jungian archetypes .....

>and think
>"chakra work" is nonsense if it means anything more than meditating by
focusing on an imaginary point.

That's all they are ... but focussing on an "imaginary" internal body part
canbe a useful visualisation, particularly if linked to "risingt hru the
or serpent powerrrr/ Kundalini type visualisations to *unblock* trapped
latent resources or bio-energy. Do they exist independently of meditiational
practice, no, but so what?

>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.

Stylistic preferences ..... although I sometimes try to be challenging and
provoke debate ..... and *yes* ... my own cognitive changes and development
away from human-belief into posthuman came as a DIRECT result of
discovering (not inventing) MVT back in 1979/ 80. I underwent mental
changes .... it made me reappraise the received views .. and also I became
a living experiment to what effects assuming MVT to be correct might have!

Have never come across Neo-Tech .... references?

>You also made literally incredible claims -- claims that I don't like
>seeing linked to our movement.

Yeh, but I have been associated wiv the posthuman movement
since the 1980s ... not particularly with your extropianism ....

And your claims about nanobots, and even assumptions that the
90 or so people cryogenically preserved will actually ever come
back to life .. might seem equally literally incredible to sceptics.

>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.

Reputedly, true. I don't happen to believe it though .....

>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

Tongue in cheek. But I do have a (unique) copy of the Book of Secrets
of Enoch, so was showboating a little because of this!

>This goes along with your claim above that you have conquered aging and
>death. It strongly suggests that you mean this literally.

I haven't died so far (see (1) to (3) again.

>In which case,
>I'm not sure what to say to you without sounding insulting. Surely you
>don't believe these mythical life spans?

Maybe with the correct nanobot incantation ..... plus crypto-cryonics ...

>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.)

You pay my trip, expenses & loss of earnings... and I accept challenge.

>... 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.

Real vs seems real. Sometimes a difference, other times not.

>You can think you are a posthuman all you like but, according to any
>sensible definition, you are not.

My definition works, so is "sensible" I question your unrealistic
assumptions about eternally immortal, non-genetic, new brain-part
requirements for us to change species. We only need a small
crack to gain a foothold to the *next level* ... MVT, or even just
simple applied self-hypnotic belief that you are changing beyond
human .. is all we actually need. Don't wait until posthumous to
be posthuman ... grasp the moment.

>Someone can believe that they are a fried
>green tomato but thinking that you are will *not* eventually make it so.

Some things cannot be rationally defended, and if truly delusion are
"mad." Maybe transhumans are delusion, who knows .. but it is a
sustainable delusion .. I have thought myself post-human for 20
odd years, and thrived on it mostly

>What it may eventually do is get you placed in a safely padded cell.

Nietzsche's error. ..... but they haven't sectioned me yet (hahahehe).
Of course, anyone could get Alzheimer's thru using aluminium
saucepans or whatever. I am a very effective psychotherapist,
and hope I would notice any seriously deviant behaviour in myself.

S>Sure, I accept you are transhuman/ Extropian if that's what you call
S>yourself and that's what you believe. So why can't you accept that I
S>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.

The next evolutionary stage from "human."

>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?

Ah, yes ... this might be a matter of concern if I was using it as a spoof
extropian site or something .. but the fact is that I feel trans-human and
extropians to be part of the 'after-human' wider family ... and feel that
trans-humans seem to have hi-jacked the term "posthuman" then I have to
do the same out of (philosophical) defence.

In fact, I propose *more* diversity in definitions about how post-humanity
might develop ... and sponsor neohumans, x-human and other experimental
modes as well, for those who seek different existential space into which
to expand. I put extropian links and references to your organisation at
the site so it did NOT offend extropians, several of whom
have contributed material to it. Surely this site *expands* the extropian
nexus ... of course if you found anything objectionable on the site I would
very probably remove it for you.

I do not object to other people using "posthuman" in their novels, stage
acts (M. Manson &c) or even other posthuman sites (there are a couple)
even though they do not share my particular interests, or even mention
MVT or whatever. None of us are big enough to hold back the (tattvic) tide.

>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 think words alone are inadequate just because of the definition/ private
language problem we have been discussing. I also think pre-Darwinian
philosophy is (necessary) incomplete and uninformed .. and I reject the
purely platonistic/ rationalistic assumption in philosophy.

MVT is a reductionist theory that I am quite happy to propound against
competing accounts. Of course, I have said that I prefer not to be too
theory-laden, and MVT is specifically an approach to solve a particular
(though key, Schopenhauer's world-knot) problem in western philosophy.

It does not compete with (Buddhism, for instance) on the what is the
best way to act or lead your life ... it is free of moral values &c., but
seem to point to a trend in the evolution of consciousness .. which is
from physical/ solar/environmental control and towards abstraction/
self-volitional control of behaviour and mentation.

>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.

OK. You raised all these points in the first place .... I hope my
responses have cleared up any misunderstandings.

>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
>rejection of your whole approach. As is typical in email communications, I
>chosen to focus on things that I think are indefensible rather than on
>things that I agree with.

Sure, many of your points are ones I have commonly met. We have both
been thru the academic philosophical mill, after all. (Boo hiss Plato

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