One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun Dec 23 2001 - 13:18:05 MST

I have to confess, some of the discussion on Extropians these days is
making me feel sick to my stomach. It is enough to make me seriously
consider leaving, possibly for good, or until someone else informs me that
the list has made a recovery. If Extropy and ExI takes a serious hit from
the xenophobia now being tossed about on the mailing list in the name of
free speech, don't say I didn't warn you, because transhumanists in
general *are* being held responsible for what gets said in these public
forums. I am sick and tired of hearing about how transhumanism (or even
the Singularity!) is a form of Social Darwinism in which the slow runners
are forced out of the race, but after watching the debate on the list
these past months, I can see why the idea keeps popping up. I'm writing
this message in the hopes that those who have joined the list only
recently can get a taste of what transhumanism is really about - that the
ideas now being expressed don't represent the majority opinion, but only
the opinions of those posters who are *still* posting, instead of having
given up months ago.

As the child of two science fiction readers, I grew up reading books that
preached peace and tolerance toward other life forms, whether they had
hands or tentacles, whether they breathed oxygen or liquid helium, as long
as they were sentient. Tolerance toward other *human* countries was so
obvious that it rarely even needed to be stated explicitly. Where there
were group conflicts, the good guys were generally "humanity" - although
sometimes it was humanity that was in the wrong, and if so (the books
said) a real good guy would still be sure to fight on the side of right,
even against their own species.

Unnoticed in these dramas of good against evil was the implicit notion of
one species, one faction. The unity of humanity was taken for granted;
what the books tried to teach was tolerance of *aliens*. Or at least that
was the way I saw it when I was, oh, nine years old or thereabouts. Today
I have a more detailed view of science fiction, and yes, I can see that
some of it implicitly accepts the idea of human factions by preaching that
human factions ought to be nice to each other - but I still think that the
best argument of all is the one my ears heard initially, that humanity is
really one world, one species, one faction, all in the same boat,
regardless of whatever short-term arguments currently plague the world.

As far as I'm concerned, this is part of what transhumanism is all about.
If we can learn that uploads and AIs and augmented humans are on our side,
then it implies - as a simple, even overlooked corollary, which is much
better than explicit preaching - that all humans must be on the same side
as well.

Only the most clueless of Singularity gradualists, in severe hard takeoff
denial, could even begin to imagine that the Singularity was an argument
for Social Darwinism; it is cluelessness of the same order as arguing that
the Singularity concept leads to passivity. If the value of the whole
world is a quadrillion dollars, and a quintillion dollars of new wealth is
created by an egalitarian superintelligence, the previous distribution of
wealth becomes irrelevant; ripples erased by a tidal wave. *Any* wealth
created by a Friendly AI, or created by an altruistic egalitarian
transhuman such as a transcended Eliezer or Samantha, is an equalizing
force that smoothes over or completely wipes out the old divisions between
humans. The Singularity meme is a psychological force that mediates
against any form of prejudice by showing that all inequalities are
temporary, even genuine inequalities; it doesn't matter who has an IQ of
130 and who has an IQ of 90 today, if both can cooperate to have an IQ of
180 in a few years. And the *real* Singularity is a fundamentally
egalitarian force because I expect the Singularity to completely ignore
the faction fights that humans spend so much time pursuing. Nor does gray
goo respect national boundaries. We win together, or lose together. We
are all in the same boat.

There are no "Indians". There are no "Afghani". There are only humans.
Transhumanism, and Singularitarianism, are basically egalitarian
philosophies, because they permit the analysis of cosmic perspectives, and
when you look through a cosmic perspective the modern-day divisions
between humans become absurd. There is no reason why the happiness of an
American computer programmer should weigh more in my calculations than the
happiness of an Indian computer programmer. They are both the same kind
of entity. They are both evolved biological organisms. There is no
reason why one would have any greater intrinsic worth than the other.
Humans may spend most of their day dividing into factions and fighting,
but that doesn't mean the factions are real, it just means that most
people sadly lack the perspective of species-wide unity which is provided
by thinking about transhumanity and uploads and AI.

Well, that's what it's really about. I think it'd be nice if everyone who
agrees with this reasoning posts a "Me too!", and everyone who disagrees
with the argument but agrees with the conclusion posts a note saying that
as well. The people who are new to the list need to see something to
outweigh some of the poisonous remarks that seem to be getting so much
airtime. Of course I fear that most of the good guys in this battle may
have already gotten sick of the list and unsubscribed, so it may be too
late. But for the record, I want to say that there was a time when I
would never have needed to post this message, and *that* is what
transhumanism is *really* about, no matter what happens to this mailing

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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