Re: Transhumanist Principles 2.1

T0Morrow (
Sun, 29 Mar 1998 13:10:58 EST

Nick, et co.,

>Hello everybody! On the WTA action list we have been discussing an
>updated formulation of a set of transhumanist principles. The latest
>version is as follows. Comments and suggestions are welcome...

Your work has much to commend it. I am not sure that it qualifies as a
statement of *principles*, however. Perhaps you ought to consider calling it
something else--a declaration, maybe, or a statement of policy.

I here offer an analysis of your rhetoric. Please understand that I aim
merely at the rhetoric--not the substance--of your work. The substance looks
fairly good (but see my comments to the last paragraph).

Paragraph one merely makes a predictive claim: Here comes radical change. As
such, then, it doesn't sound like a statement of principle.

>(1) Humanity will be radically changed by technology in the future. We
>foresee the feasibility of redesigning the human condition, including
>such parameters as the inevitability of ageing, limitations on human
>and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, suffering, and our
>confinement to the planet earth.

Para. (2) makes a normative claim; it probably qualifies as a statement of
principle, though even here the moderate and policy-oriented flavor of the
statement makes "principle" sound a bit too strong.

>(2) Serious effort should put into understanding these coming
>developments and their long-term consequences.

Paragraphs (3) and (4) offer descriptions of transhumanist belief. They
clearly aim to advocate the beliefs described, however, and so perhaps qualify
as statements of "principle." Still, though, one might well expect a more
ringing tone.

>(3) Transhumanists believe that by being generally open and embracing
>of new technology we have a better chance of turning it to our
>advantage than if we try to ban or prohibit it.
>(4) Transhumanists advocate the moral right for those who so wish to
>use technology to extend their mental and physical capacities and to
>improve their control over nature. We seek personal growth beyond our
>current biological limitations.

Paragraph (5) does the same sort of work as (2); the "on the other hand" talk
makes it imminently reasonable, but arguably more of a policy stance than a
statement of principle.

>(5) In planning for the future, it is mandatory to take into account
>the prospect of dramatic technological progress. It would be tragic if
>the enormous potential benefits failed to materialize because of
>ill-motivated technophobia and unnecessary prohibitions. On the other
>hand, it would also be tragic if intelligent life went extinct because
>of some disaster or war involving advanced technologies.

Paragraph (6) sounds more like a call to action than a statement of principle.

>(6) We need to create forums where people can rationally debate what
>needs to be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can
>be implemented.

Paragraph (7) echoes (3) and (4) in terms of rhetoric.

>(7) Transhumanists support scientific humanism. Though as a matter of
>fact most transhumanists believe in individual freedom, transhumanism
>in itself is politically neutral.

Can you really defend that last clause? Clearly, from what the rest of the
document says, transhumanists should condemn a political movement that bans,
say, scientific research. Backing away from those earlier statements comes
off as worse than inaccurate and confusing. I think you would do better to
say something like "transhumanism supports no particular politician, party, or

To conclude, I would say that your statement is one of policy rather than of
principle. Perhaps you could call it the "Transhumanist Declaration" or
"Manifesto" or "Doctrine" or "Affirmation" or "Testament" or . . . well, just
check a good thesaurus.