RE: The Business of Transhumanism

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Wed Apr 26 2000 - 12:38:38 MDT

> Waldemar Ingdahl

> Transhumanism has been very bad at understanding the consequences of its
> own philosophy, our opponents have been much better at it.

I disagree. Our opponents have typically argued from religion or something
sounding like it, relied upon media catch-phrases and simplistic
interpretations of SF film and literature, or ignored all but one or two
dramatic possible futures of technological development and application.

> Since the "old guard" of the ExI left this list it has often degenerated
> into quite inconsequencial ramblings. This is because of a lack of
> understanding of our own ideology.

I doubt that understanding of whatever ideology there is in particular has
much to do with it. Those prone to inconsequential ramblings will waste
bandwidth anyway.

> This presents are very bad face to potential investors and
> sympathizers. In short: it has become a geek club.

I agree that non- or anti-corporate or -mainstream attitudes are unpopular
with corporate and mainstream individuals and organizations. But the [geek
club] of the personal computer and software developers became quite
powerful once it was noticed. Most companies, for example, aren't going to
really care and produce funding if you're an earnest transhumanist and have
a clever idea for making utility fog chewing gum unless they know that and
how they can sell it. I don't know a lot about the history but it's
probably the case that the personal computer hackers got noticed when they
started selling machines.

> I think this is very much up to the members- we have to be better
> informed of our own ideology

What does this mean? Members of the list (or of EI or the general
transhumanist movement or whatever) aren't clear on what the list (or EI,
et cetera) is supposed to stand for? And they are thus embarrassing
everyone by going in different directions? Yes, the business and political
world likes a nice, simple, unified facade with which people can easily
agree or disagree or conduct business. If individuals are genuinely
interested but unaware of the diversity or depth of scientific or social
positions then they might want to have a convenient and reliable set of
resources which may help them to assess and refine their opinions. But
this process does not require or imply total agreement.

> we need to break down the pyramids of our organisations. Strangly enough,
> transhumanism across the world have become very similar to old clubs. A
> few on the top doing all the work, and the rest waiting passively for the
> top to do things.

To what pyramids are you referring? What is [all the work] that these
organizations are doing? I don't have a membership to EI or any other
organization with a transhumanist focus but I don't see any real
restrictions on anyone's activities. The people [at the top] are there
because they put themselves there or because they did something to get
there. In terms of the actual science and technology you are free to
submit papers to journals and conferences (though you might, if you don't
meet the academic community's requirements for credentials, encounter
some resistance there). If you have political or social statements to
make, make them available in the appropriate media. This (loose)
community presumably judges work based on its own merits---you shouldn't
have to fight to promote good ideas.

I agree that this is a difficult topic overall---things are moving fast and
the media are already presenting and meddling with it. Several people on
this list, at least, have been for some time fretting about the mainstream
public face of the science and technology and what can be done to drive
things in the right direction. I don't have any great answers but right
now I do suspect the following, for example.

Some important developments may be quite out of the control of whatever
loose or focussed agencies are positioned to have some influence.
Important work will emerge from the efforts of the population of
researchers and engineers.

There may not be a single breakthrough which catalyzes or cleanly divides
the public. While certain technologies could do so they may not appear
fully-formed and with singularity stamped all over them. We have to
prepare for various possible futures, including those in which we get what
we want in relatively small pieces.

Direct political influence (say, a dedicated party, as some have proposed
here), at least in the U.S., will not happen, at least soon. The
Libertarian Party, for example, is mostly considered rather fringy and it,
I assume, haven't even said anything about uploading.

There are many cases where funding is clearly lacking; but as I said, the
benefactors must consider the work to be in their own interest. And
enthusiasm alone isn't necessarily enough. Funding has a greater chance of
coming when someone has something to fund.


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