Sat, 25 Jul 1998 08:51:14 EDT

In a message dated 98-07-20 17:41:26 EDT, Nicholas Bostrom wrote:


> What are transhumanism's philosophical and cultural antecedents, and
> how is it distinguished from other, similar ideas?

[ The following is excerpted and adapted from my

introductory essay on transhumanism, found at: ]

The word transhumanism consciously evokes the tradition of humanism, i.e. the secular view of man as the "center" of the moral universe. However, transhumanism goes beyond humanism, because it does not accept some immutable, fundamental "human nature" as a given, but rather looks to continuing -- and accelerating -- the process of expanding and improving the very nature of human beings themselves. In its embrace of humanity's self-transforming and world-transforming use of technology, transhumanism rejects the pessimism and more or less explicit moral guilt of modern humanistic thinking.

Transhumanists do not see mankind as a fallen angel, somehow divorced and alienated from a romanticized "nature", but rather as merely the current leading edge of a process of progressive evolution in the natural world. The transhumanist world view is a redemption of the optimism of the Enlightenment of the 18th Century, a New Enlightenment reinvigorated by a deeper understanding of consciousness as an integral part of natural evolution. Rejecting the pessimism that grew out of the Romantic era, transhumanists seek to apply the core of the scientific method -- systematic doubt -- to all aspects of human life. In doing so, they reject many of the accepted "truths" of human life: Limitations on human life span and augmentation, the unchallenged power of the nation-state and many superstitious conventions limiting individual liberty.

Starting as they do from a rejection of the traditional humanistic moral foundation of the idea of an immutable "human nature", transhumanism accepts the challenge of developing a new moral and ethical framework, one compatible with the reality of a constantly expanding and changing "nature" of humanity. Conscious of the potential dangers, physical and moral, inherent in the Promethean power of transhumanistic technological self-transformation, extropians see moral issues as fundamental in this age of ever-accelerating potential. Many transhumanists find that an ethics of reciprocity and respect naturally develops from their views, harkening back to the wisdom of the "Golden Rule". In this way, many transhumanists come full circle to reinvigorate the best of traditional moral philosophy as a guide to living in a transhuman -- and ultimately posthuman -- world.

> What prominent thinkers are associated with transhumanism?

[I believe we should begin to collect a list of thinkers whose work formed the antecedents to and foundations of transhumanism, as well as those currently associated with it. Natasha Vita More's work in this regard should be invaluable: I know she is working to develop a full-fledged history of transhumanism. In this regard, I offer a quick list of names off the top of my head without any attempt at completeness:]


	Pico Della Mirandola
	Leonardo Da Vinci
	Benjamin Franklin
	Thomas Jefferson
	Charles Darwin
	Alan Turing
	John Von Neuman
	Watson and Crick

	Aldous Huxley
	Robert Anton Wilson
	Ayn Rand
	Timothy Leary
	Richard Dawkins
	Max More

	Jacques-Yves Cousteau
	Orville and Wilbur Wright
	Robert Goddard
	Robert Heinlein

	Marvin Minsky
	Hans Moravec
	Frank Tipler

> Is transhumanism a cult/religion?

No: It's a rational world view.

	Greg Burch     <>----<>
	   Attorney  :::  Director, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
	           "Good ideas are not adopted automatically.  They must
	              be driven into practice with courageous impatience."