Re: Defining Transhumanism

Max More (
Tue, 20 Oct 1998 13:44:04 -0700

At 10:25 AM 10/20/98 -0700, Robin wrote:
> Transhumanism is the idea that new technologies are likely
> to change the world so much in the few centuries that we or
> our descendants will in many ways no longer be "human,"
> and that that's probably a not a bad thing.

>I do think that some sort of positive timing claim is needed,
>since I think if you push most thoughtful people they will admit
>such changes are quite possible over a time scale of say a
>billion years, and that such changes are probably not bad.
>Such people are not transhumanists in the usual usage of the term.

I understand your point, but still think it would be better to avoid putting a time frame on the term this way. What of someone who expected progress to be much slower than most of us expect? This person intends to go into cryonic suspension and come out in a thousand years or so when they think it will finally be possible to truly become more than human. Why exclude such a person from being a transhumanist? Where are you going to draw the line? 500 years? A thousand? Ten thousand? This seems too arbitrary if you seek a precise academically useful definition.

>Most academics consider themselves rational people contributing to
>intellectual progress, and don't consider "philosophies of life" to be
>terribly academic. Max's definition seems a bit too imprecise for
>academic tastes, for example, being coy about what "limitations" are
>to be overcome.

I have new and improved definitions (see following message). However, I don't see that your definition is more precise in this area. True, I don't specify what "limitations" we mean. But "overcoming limits" does clearly mean an improvement over humans. When you say that "in many ways" (which ways?) we will no longer be human, this seems to leave the definition just as unspecified. When you say "no longer human", this is *less* precise that "overcoming limitations" since we could become no longer human by becoming animals, by reducing or abolishing some of uniquely human qualities, becoming subhuman or "inhuman".


Max More, Ph.D. (soon also: <>)
Consulting services on the impact of advanced technologies President, Extropy Institute:,