Re: Questioning transhumanism & Futures

From: Waldemar Ingdahl (
Date: Sun Jul 09 2000 - 08:01:21 MDT

Being the orginal post Natasha spoke about I take the liberty to post my
views on this important topic...

>I first learned about and studied transhumanism in the Social Sciences
>Department at the University of California and it was taught as a social
>science. The second place transhumanism was lectured was at EZTV Digital
>Exhibitions. Perhaps we are so smitten with the look and feel of "hard"
>sciences and technology that we don't think we are discussing social
>sciences, aesthetics, economics, philosophy, etc. *All* of the human
>condition means "all." As for economics: why is it a far reach to be
>knowledgeable about the analysis of the production, distribution, and
>consumption of transhuman goods and transhumanist services?

The question I have often asked myself, is. Is transhumanism and
transhumanist technologies really possible to realize in EVERY economic
system? Are there some economic systems that encourage it, or stifle it? The
same goes for political systems, for philosophical basic assumptions (is
transhumanism possible to even concieve as an option with a Kierkegaardian
outlook on philosophy). That is why transhumanists must study these
disciplines too, and not be afraid to say thing like "this economic system
is at odds with transhumanism", "this political system helps the
proliferation of transhuman ideas". Transhumanism must build itself a world
view, which it presently doesn't have. And that isn't such a strange
occurrence after all, it takes a lengthy (and healthy) discourse to
construct such a thing, therefor it is of importance to do so now.

Philosophy is
>discussed each and every time we discuss the extropian principles. I never
>considered it in intellectually gauche, in bad taste or professionally
>inappropriate to discuss areas of knowledge where one is not an expert, but
>does have considerable experience applying information to life by gathering
>specific knowledge through research, study, observation and common sense.

Certainly not, one doesn't have to be a Ph.D. in philosophy to discuss it
(it is in undemocratic societies that people don't discuss philosophy).
Every philosophical discussion is not of relevance to transhumanist
philosophy though, especially if it's content is in controversy with
transhumanism. But building the transhumanist system which can be applied to
other fields requires a discourse, and a quite advanced one at that. A
discourse that is aided by many proponents, and the building of a
transhumanist frame of reference. I must sadly say that the posts I have
seen in various mails on this list point to this not being achieved at the
present moment. I think this is a question of recruitment and education.
What signals do we send to the outside? What persons get interested in
transhumanism? What do they learn about transhumanism inside the movement,
and how do they react to it?

>What lies under our noses and which the author of this piece, as well as
>Anders missed is how society communicates -- by what methods, language and
>jargon, symbols and style. Culture's communication technology are of
>immeasurable significance to our future and our current relationship with
>society, and not giving relevance to the enormous impact of literature,
>music and images (moving or still) on culture and the influences these
>modes can and do impact on culture, is a loss for transhumanity.

But what, Natasha, is the philosophical content being transcieved by those
methods, language, jargon, symbols, and style? What do we write on the
keyboard, what ideas do we imply with that painting? It has an impact, but
what impact? A computer can be used to transmit many kinds of ideas, even
ideas that vividly oppose to computers being used. A newspaper can be used
propagate the opinion of the abolishment of the freedom of press. The media
isn't synonymous with the message. And one must take care to look at what is
being said on this forum, which is one of the main foci of transhumanist

> >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.<
>I have used the word "balance" many times. Balance knowledge, balance
>experience and balance information so that the scales do not tilt so far in
>one direction that the an attention deficit results. While walking around
>espousing far reaching concepts, our culture must know how to listen to the
>verse. What we need is to take a hard look at our culture and determine if
> it can be a broad-based culturally effective, socially sophisticated
>of view including cross-disciplinary knowledge comprised of the most
>sophisticated sciences, technologies, arts and its communications.

But what is the verse? What is the reaction of society towards us? To
understand it, and being able to respond to that in an appropriate manner we
need to have a world view, a description of history, present, and future, to
which we can refer. A sort of "the great transhumanist narrative" (although
it more open ended that previous "great narratives"). And I am currently
concerened about this- constructing a "great narrative" is such an alien
concept to many, it is the intellectual environment that most simply live
in, and absorb eclectically- a sort of "that's the way things are", which
especially present in a society that contains a philosophical hegemony...
and that hegemony doesn't contain transhumanism at present, therefor it
influences transhumanists.

I hope this has clarified some. I know it's difficult, it's the result of a
lenghty discourse between me, Anders, and a few others. But it seriously
needs to be developed.

This weekend I re- read Virginia Postrel's excellent book "The future and
its enemies". It was published waaaaay back in 1998, and I think it formed a
vital basis for a possible transhumanist discourse to build up a
transhumanist "great narrative". But I haven't seen it been integrated into
the transhumanist frame of reference. On this list I have rather seen that
some would react to Postrel as a very controversial thinker.

Transhumanism is not a smorgasboard of ideas, or a "bring your own".
Philosophical smorgasboards are not coherent, and therefor often weak
through their inherent contradictions. "Bring your own" introduces, often
badly supported biases and contradictions. And therefor transhumanism needs
a discourse to clarify its tenments and its world view.

> >(snip)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): (snip) I think the ranking tells us much about general
>opinions on what is important.<
>And how did he develop with this list of factors? I think he deployed
>creativity. It seems to me that it is practical to emphasize the source of
>communications and meme breading. It seems that it is an imbalance and
>narrow approach to not emphasize how we develop a broader base of reference
>and knowledge. In order to create new myths or to crack old ones, there is
>a need to express and otherwise represent and communicate.

In order to create new philosophical currents that are appealing, one has to
bring forward an alternative that is practical and moral. And that requires

I look forward to your reply


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