Re: Questioning transhumanism & Futures

From: Waldemar Ingdahl (
Date: Fri Jul 07 2000 - 14:38:32 MDT

>From: Anders Sandberg <>
>Subject: Re: Questioning transhumanism & Futures
>Date: 07 Jul 2000 21:01:39 +0200
>"Waldemar Ingdahl" <> writes:
> > Transhumanism often falls into the trap of discussing VERY remote
> > technologies, while completely neglecting the present. I think it is
> > because, if we're discussing the present topics like economics,
> > philosophy, sociology etc come into the forefront. But those are not
> > topics that people in general discuss at all- they are so mired in
> > what is considered "practical" and "moral" today that transhumanists
> > even adopt the stasist point of view towards them (comes with the
> > fact of a hegemony being present in these topics).
>Yes, I have noted this too (and often contributed to it - omega point
>physics is so much simpler than economics!).
>The problem is that most of us are not well educated in economics,
>philosophy and sociology, and that it often doesn't seem they are
>necessary. After all, the system largely works, doesn't it? We miss
>the obvious stuff just because it is right under our noses, and
>concentrate on the rest.

Unfortunately, it is not only a question about being educated in those
matters. It is a question about attitudes, ideas, and reference systems.

But transhumanism is very much about
>questioning the way things have always been, *all* of the human
>condition - including how we relate to the current philosophical,
>political, social and economical systems. If we don't question things,
>try to come up with new solutions and then test them to see if they
>are better than the current ones we will be dependent on the solutions
>other groups produce, solutions which may not just be bad but also
>based on fundamentally incompatible values.

And one of the main problems is that these things go hand in hand. Or would
really absolute monarchy work in the information era?

>I find reading the journal "Futures" valuable, as there I often
>encounter radically different ideas about what a desirable future
>would be like. There have been papers discussing how to get *out* of
>this spiral of technological advancement and into some nice, "more
>human", static world - an idea I find abhorrent as stated (because it
>implies that *everyone* must do it), but is widely accepted in many
>circles. If we don't learn to deal with the real world issues well
>from *our* philosophical point of view, the above view might well be
>what spreads into most economical and political solutions, badly
>cramping us.

Yup, what is the transhumanist future in the short span? I have often
wondered about that, and I have found really no answers from the movement
(so I thought up my own).

>On the other hand, in the latest issue of the journal (Futures 32
>(2000) 603-612) there was also "Millennium Project's draft scenarios
>for the next 1000 years" by Jerome C. Glenn, which contains some
>long-range future scenarios from the Millennium Project. These three
>scenarios contained many elements we are used to: nanotech, AI,
>cyborgization, radical changes in the human condition. One of the
>scenarios was a very nice and somewhat Star Trek-esque united Earth in
>3000 (but with some problems), another was the extinction of humanity
>and the subsequent evolution of AI and the third dealt with a humanity
>splitting between people for or against radical technological
>changes. The interesting thing was that these ideas are now part of
>serious future studies, and they will percolate outwards from there.
>This is of course great, but it gave me pause to find that in the list
>of factors most likely to affect the next 1000 years immortality was
>on the second last place! Also, note the relative ranking here (I
>think the index is simply the product of the probability, importance
>and priority if they occur):
>Ratings of the factors that may influence the next 1000 years
>Very long-range factors Probability Importance Priority Index
>Human-environment dynamics (3) 4.114 4.163 4.095 70.133
>Human genetics (11) 4.302 3.951 4.098 69.655
>Safe energy (4) 3.753 4.250 4.341 69.240
>Nanotechnology (5) 4.311 3.814 3.930 64.618
>Forms of movement (6) 3.091 4.429 4.000 54.760
>Increasing intelligence (13) 3.667 4.024 3.548 52.354
>Occurrence climate change (2) 3.761 3.977 3.444 51.514
>Control forces to destroy humanity (7) 2.891 4.341 3.788 47.539
>Conscious-Technology (12) 3.545 3.548 3.738 47.015
>Collective futures (9) 3.111 3.744 3.476 40.487
>Avoid climate change (1) 2.844 4.163 3.233 38.277
>Gender relation (16) 3.444 3.520 3.088 37.435
>Philosophy and mental maps (8) 3.000 3.538 3.308 35.111
>Conscious evolution (14) 2.974 3.556 3.222 34.074
>Space migration (18) 3.093 2.977 3.651 33.618
>Global ethical system (10) 2.930 3.100 3.525 32.018
>Extraterrestrial contact (7) 2.359 3.876 2.811 25.702
>Immortality (15) 2.643 2.825 2.825 21.093
>Interspecies communication (19) 2.425 2.744 3.051 20.302
>I think the ranking tells us much about general opinions on what is
>Which of these factors are we discussing the most? Human genetics,
>nanotech, increasing intelligence, human extinction, conscious
>technology, conscious evolution, space migration, extraterrestrial
>contact, immortality and interspecies communication - yes. That mainly
>leaves out human-environment dynamics, safe energy, forms of movement,
>collective futures, climate change, gender relations, philosophy and
>global ethical systems. Sure, we have discussed all of these too, but
>with far less rigor (and in many cases with more rancor :-) - but it
>is almost half of what the Project considers important for this
>millennium! And this is an admittedly hubristic super-long-range
>study, a near-term study would almost certainly put a much greater
>weight on these issues.

Who is controlling the hegemony?

>To continue, there is another paper in that issue: (Futures 32 (2000)
>595-602) "The twilight of the Baconian age and the future of humanity"
>by Francisco Sagasti. This paper claims that the Baconian program is
>running out (it can be seen as the program Francis Bacon began 400
>years ago with his idea that technology and science can be used to
>improve the human condition, that progress is possible, desirable and
>nearly inevitable etc), both due to increased internal and external
>criticism (that is, the stuff we usually dismiss as "luddites",
>"conservatives" and "postmodernist fluff") and the fact that we are
>now approaching a state where we are changing the human condition
>itself through a very changed view of physics, new discoveries in
>ecology, biotechnology, psychology, anthropology, AI, virtual reality
>and whatnot that are undermining the old notions of the human as the
>center of the universe, or even an individual thing. The paper
>concludes that we need a new direction for the post-Baconian
>While I dislike the tone of the paper a bit I think it says something
>directly to us transhumanists. We are already thinking *partially* in
>this post-Baconian world, and we do have the chance to be the ones
>that explore it, set the agenda, come up with the influential myths!
>But to do that we have to give up the default assumptions of the old -
>without falling into a postmodern mist of relativism and hidden
>authority worship.

Indeed, we have to formulate a philosophical system and an explanation
system of our own (damn, that sounded bad in English. I think you get my
point though and can explain it better in English)

>This was just two papers from a single issue, but both suggest that we
>1) have a problem and 2) that we have a wonderful opportunity! So
>let's start educating ourselves even more in everyday psychology and
>philosophy, in economics and ecology, in politics and physics. We need
>the practical *combinations*, good ideas like Idea Futures, WWW and
>tupperware marketing.

Hmm, it is not as much an educational problem per se, as an educational
problem of transhumanist ideology, isn't it?

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