Re: Putting the human back in transhuman

Robert Owen (
Sat, 13 Nov 1999 21:50:21 -0500 wrote:

> I keep coming back to the idea of childhood. I have always been an odd
> combination of young and old. When I was a child, I often took part in the
> adult conversations, and was interested in adult things, but I also liked to
> climb trees and ride my bike. And even at an early age, I said that I wanted
> to enjoy the age I was when I was that age, for it would come only once.
> Back then I was fresh and excited to discover the wide world, yet it was like
> there was a wise old voice in the back of my mind guiding me. As I grew
> older, I have worked hard to keep my childlike wonder and joy in life, so now
> there is a youthful voice in the back of my head laughing and urging me to
> play.
> And when I pass through the singularity, I fully expect to enjoy my
> posthumanity, and to have a human voice in my mind reminding of what wonder
> there is in being a young sentient. I will no more discard the human I am
> now than I would the child I once was. They are all me, and I cherish every
> facet even as I seek to grow more.
> The Once and Future,
> Glen Raymond Finney

Dear Glen,

Your post has moved me deeply, and evoked "thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears". Hegel, in his Phylogeny of Ideas, the Dialectic, sought to "lift up" ["aufhebung"] such antinomies within intelligible "syntheses"[i]. This model -- history as a dialectical process -- became the basis of Karl Marx's socioeconomic analyses but not the development of Charles Darwin's evolutionary mechanism. The former is "rational", the latter is not. So this is the first "root metaphor": the process "humanity" ^ "posthumanity" = Set { ? }.

The second root metaphor appeared in Plato, attributed to Socrates, of "anŠmnÍsis", the Greek term for recollection of fundamental truths about a Form {Gk. eidos [eidos]}[ii]. For this, I invite you to read INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY FROM RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD by William Wordsworth[iii]. Here are several relevant excerpts:

[1]      THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
          The earth, and every common sight,
                    To me did seem
                  Apparelled in celestial light,
          The glory and the freshness of a dream.
          It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
                  Turn wheresoe'er I may,
                    By night or day,
          The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

[2]      --But there's a Tree, of many, one,
          A single Field which I have looked upon,
          Both of them speak of something that is gone:
              The Pansy at my feet
              Doth the same tale repeat:
          Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
          Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

[3]      Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
          Shades of the prison-house begin to close
              Upon the growing Boy,
          But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
              He sees it in his joy;

[4]      Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,
          And custom lie upon thee with a weight
          Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
          What though the radiance which was once so bright
          Be now for ever taken from my sight,
              Though nothing can bring back the hour
          Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

[5]      The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
          Do take a sober colouring from an eye
          That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
          Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
          Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
          Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
          To me the meanest flower that blows can give
          Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

[6]      Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
              Not in entire forgetfulness,
              And not in utter nakedness,
          But trailing clouds of glory do we come.

[7]      Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
          Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,
          That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,
          Haunted for ever...

I wish, Glen, I could continue with the universe of associations born of your letter. You have touched on a quintessential issue for Transhumanists, and to a degree for Extropians:

          "Last night I Chuang Tzu dreamt I was a butterfly;
          But how do I know that today I am not a butterfly,
              Dreaming I am Chuang Tzu?"

There is so much more to be said; perhaps we might initiate a discussion by private correspondence?

With genuine empathy,





(After reading this entry, click on "PP")


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA