MEME: History, Nazis, and >H

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sun, 05 Dec 1999 03:49:00 -0600

After reading _The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich_, I've realized that the <SL2 automatic association between "transhuman" and "Nazi Germany" is based on a historical misconception. Near as I can tell, the Nazis never tried to create a new superior race; never even claimed to be evolving into one. Rather, the Nazi philosophy was that there was an Aryan ideal, the "blond beast of prey", which had existed at some point in the past until it was corrupted by mixing with lesser races. They were trying to *breed back to that*, not breed forward to a new humanity. Transhumanism, which deals with shareable technological augmentation rather than eugenics, has essentially no point of contact.

I've therefore done my best to create the following one-minute countermeme to the whole concept of transhumanism bearing even a vague resemblance to the Nazis:

Historically, the Nazi philosophy was that they were protecting the existing Aryan ideal from racial corruption. Despite the common misconception, they never tried to create supermen. They just claimed to be supermen. And that's the key difference. That's *always* the key difference. That's what separates the Spanish Inquisition, which burned heretics in the defense of what they thought was the truth, from science, which tries to discover new truths and share them with everyone. It's the difference between claiming to be perfect, which is bad, and trying to be better, which is good.

Transhumanists don't claim to be transhumans. We want to create transhumanity and share it with everyone, or at least offer everyone the opportunity. History teaches us to beware of claims to have the absolute truth, not to be wary of truth itself, or of the quest for truth. History teaches us to be wary of those who claim to be a superior race. But that says nothing about the quest for transhumanity, much less actual transhumans.

Bonus historical zinger:

Nazi political/economic philosophy: "National Socialism" Transhumanist political/economic philosophy: "Anarchocapitalism"

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
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