Re: Extropian Views

Anders Sandberg (
01 Oct 1999 16:34:16 +0200 writes:

> 1. The need for understanding based solely on the Objective universe.
> I, however, view the greatest advances in science based on the need
>for Subjective expansion. The ancient Egyptians held the philosophy,
>"A thing that exists in the mind thereby exists". Science gives a
>fantastic tool to explain the Objective but little is understood about
>Subjective states of mind. For example, hypnotism is still an abstract
>science. Rather than trying to understand the brain under a
>microscope, should we not try to understand based on experience?
>Gravity has no Objective form but we know it exists based on its

Neuropsychology is today making headway in understanding and explaining mental phenomena that once were regarded as impossible to study scientifically, such as emotions and attention. Even consciousness is beings studied (although with less obvious success, mainly due to vocabulary problems). Happiness is a subjective state, but it can be studied on many levels - from the evolutionary background of happiness to the neural basis to the relationship of my happiness to my personality - in a scientific manner. There is no real problem here, unless you get into the muddy linguistic-philosophic waters of the philosophy of mind debate.

> 2. The dismissal of consciousness and the psyche.
> Making copies of "The Self" into a computer are we creating people
> or zombies?

Are you referring to zombies in the philosophical sense, a being with no internal experience but that behaves like a conscious being? The possibility of zombies are hotly debated, personally I think the concept is inconsistent (we talk about consciousness, we debate it and write books about it. Hence it affects our behavior, which means that a being without consciousness would behave differently - hence the zombie would be distinguishable from the original counter to the assumption). But I'm not very keen on debating things like this.

> A great movie that I immediately think of is, "Dark
> City". They explore the idea, "Are we the sum of our
> memories". Science seems to think so. Amnesia victims don't seem to
> fall into this category.

Huh? I'm doing research into memory and amnesia, and I don't see how that claim of science can be supported. Any neuroscientist or psychologist can tell you that a person consists of much more than memory (such as personality and perceptual abilities). Amnesiacs lose part of their memory and/or memory encoding/retrieving abilities, but do not cease to be people - but they can often become noticeably different from who they were.

Since memory really means stored information (let's not debate implicit/explicit memory or whether it is retrievable), to totally lose all memory would mean removing all information in the brain, including its connectivity - running it through a blender. So in this case we really are memory, but so is anything.

> Maybe this is something beyond the Memory? I'm not saying the
>"Soul" or any religious terms there of, but some element that is
>beyond the tangible, the source of emotion and creativity.

Why do you have to make that intangible? I'm quite fond of the limbic system and how it functions, and I have not seen any signs that it should be incapable of producing the emotions we humans experience. Creativity is an advanced cognitive function (also very interesting).

I think you are not seeing the wonderful picture of the mind that is emerging, you are in some sense stuck in the old idea that since mere matter is so inflexible and base, all the wonderful stuff we experience must come from something different. I beg to disagree, I think "mere matter" is a contradiction in terms and that we are now seeing just how our highest functions are implemented in it. We still have a long way to go before a good theory of mind or even emotion, but that is not something impossible within the current paradigm.

>All we need to do is go into the local
>library to see how separate we are from the rest of nature.

Huh? My experience when reading biology has been the total opposite - we are very much part of nature. Sure, some of our abilities are extreme, but they are nothing truly alien to nature (the most radical thing is likely our language, but even that exists in simple forms among other animals). We share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees (Sibley et al., 1990, Journal of Molecular Evolution 30: 202-236), our brains are topologically the same as rat brains (we simply have more of some stuff, but there are to my knowledge no parts that exist just in one species).

>Nature does not over compensate in evolution. A giraffe grew a long
>neck to reach the tops of trees for food. Nature did not give legs
>for jumping and wings to fly at the same time. It took the easiest
>way out. We could survive with half our intellectual capacity but
>nature seems to have blatantly not taken the easy way out in our
>case. This brings a state of wonder into my existence.

We could survive with half of our intellectual capacity - our ancestors probably did - but we survive better with more intellectual capacity, which means that evolution favors smart people. That is likely our ecological niche, smart technological omnivore. It is amazing, I agree with you about the sheer sense of wonder of just existing, but it is nothing truly different.

> If I have offended anyone by my words I apologize. I hoped to gear
>an intellectual discussion. Obviously when confronting someone else's
>belief system, emotions come into play. Please do not flame me. I
>consider my life journey to be Extropian but I perceive myself to
>differ in the areas previously mentioned. How do others view these

What would transhumanism be without questioning assumptions? We need to discuss issues like this to keep transhumanism healthy and developing. If we just stood around chanting "You are wrong, because the Extropian Principles say so!" then we would not be rational, ambitious transhumanists. And we also need diversity in our views. That doesn't mean that we should accept everything and everyone, but they should be judged on their merit rather than conforming to some party line. So your posting is helpful even if many will disagree with it.

Have fun!

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y