On Thu, 16 Jul 1998, Nick Bostrom wrote:
> I'm too tired right now to come up with any proposals for how to
> answer the following questions. Anybody got any rethorical ideas?
> TRANSHUMANISM AND NATURE
> Why do transhumanists want to live longer?
> (Henri Kluytmans:)
> -Because I like living.
> -Because I want to do, experience, learn enormously more than I can do
> in a natural lifespan.
> Isn't transhumanism tampering with nature?
> -Yes, but don't we humans do that all the time.
With anything and everything, especially: (here's where I usually list a few nifty things humans do, like language, art, music... all of which are completely artifical.)
> -Yes, but isn't that just what distinguishes us from animals.
Animals use tools to help them live longer. Beaver dams leap to mind.
> Won't transhuman technologies make us inhuman?
> -They will probably evolve us into not-humans (i.e. post-humans).
PLEASE don't answer this question this way. It sounds like you're saying "Yes, it will make us less compassionate; in fact, none of us are very in touch with regular old human compassion to begin with." Remember, that's what the word inhuman MEANS: lacking in compassion. Look it up.
The correct answer, I think:
No one is really certain what we'll be like when we become posthuman; while some have speculated, there is no obvious evidence to suggest that posthumans would be any less compassionate than we humans are today. While some have argued that posthumans would be as indifferent toward humans as humans are toward other primates, there are also other considerations which are harder to take into account.
For example, right now we tend to overlook the desires and needs of other animals; perhaps because they do not have the language to demand their rights or the intellectual capacity to make use of them. However, all this would probably change if animals acquired these skills, or if we had the power to teach them. It would be much more difficult to perform painful and/or deadly experiments on laboratory rats if they could provide a cogent argument in their own defense.
Similarly, since posthumans would probably have originally been humans at one time, or could see a way by which other humans might become posthumans, posthumans might treat humans differently from other animals, perhaps even offering humans the opportunity to augment themselves into posthumanity.
As for how posthumans might treat other posthumans, it seems impossible to speculate. Would a posthuman, particularly one with better control over its own mind, have needs of any kind? Desires? If so, it's hard to imagine what precisely they might be; and without some kind of super-intelligence of our own we probably cannot even begin to fathom how posthumans might go about fulfilling themselves or how they might react to the goals of other posthumans.
> Are transhumanist technologies environmentally sound?
-Long lived persons have much more to gain from long term investment; unlike short-lived people, posthumans will live to feel the long term effects of today's actions, and will be equipped with a superior intelligence and technology with which they can predict the outcome of their choices, prepare for the future, and solve difficult problems before and/or after they have an effect.