RE: Posthumans in Nature

Bostrom,N (
Mon, 15 Nov 1999 18:32:15 -0000

I submitted the following letter to the editor:

Anthropocentrism without humans?

Anything that softens up people's inability to think that the future may be very different from the present is surely a good thing. Systematic scientific and technological progress, a mere few hundred years old, has already changed the world in radical ways. There can be little doubt that the human organism too will sooner or later be dramatically changed, or rendered obsolete through artificial life forms. Yet Sterling's picture is still much too na´ve, and the posthumans he describes are unrealistically anthropomorphic. Once there are artificial intellects that are as smart as humans then it won't be long before they are much smarter (or at least much faster). Even replacing parts of the human brain with some high-tech "gel" will not get you that far if you are competing with entities whose computational structures are not limited in that way. To avoid becoming obsolete, you will probably have to leave the human body behind altogether, and conceive of yourself as software that can run on any sufficiently powerful processor.

Software can copy itself in a fraction of a second. With reproduction so swift, computational resources (the "Lebensraum" of these uploaded beings) soon become scarce. Evolution theory predicts that the posthuman world will soon be dominated by life forms that have cast away all human rudiments not contributing to reproductive success in a fitness landscape which presumably looks very different from the environment where Homo Sapiens evolved. It would be surprising if the outcome were anywhere near as anthropomorphic as Stirling's article suggests.

Nick Bostrom
Dept. Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method London School of Economics
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