Re: STORY: The Transhumanist Racist
Sun, 13 Jun 1999 12:19:48 EDT

In a message dated 99-06-12 18:26:22 EDT, wrote:

> If this is the origin, then consider how a primitive man would react

> towards a stranger who had somehow contrived to make himself look and
> act like a member of his own tribe. He might well be seen as a wolf in
> sheep's clothing, someone whose inner nature was evil (his strangeness)
> but who has clothed himself in a false appearance of goodness (by looking
> like familiar tribe members). Such a person would still be viewed very
> negatively.
> In that case, a racist would not view the prospect of enhancing members of
> other races genetically or memetically in a favorable light. This would
> be disguising their true nature and would be doubly abhorrent; not only
> would the racist have to consort with these others, he would not even
> be able to identify them.

In this regard, the classic story "Black Like Me" offers some great insight into the complexities of race perception and the issues raised generally by "us" and "them" tribal thinking. This book might well be a good nominee for a place on a transhumanist reading list, given its fundamental premise of self-changing through technology and its theme of challenging shallow assumptions about racial identity. (Also, don't miss the little-known film version of this story, if you get the chance: Spencer Tracy in the under-appreciated leading role!)

More generally, I think Anders has done us all a great favor by raising the issue of current and historical racism in the context of transhumanism. What an irony that it may well be members of the most privileged racial and socio-economic groups that could, by their first experiments in transhumanist augmentation, trigger a wholly new type of racism!

     Greg Burch     <>----<>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley