Re: SOC: Opposition to Transhumanism

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Jan 06 2000 - 13:29:59 MST

"D.den Otter" <> writes:

> > > > You can be opposed against transhumanism and the things we hold dear
> > > > without being fanatic about them.
> > >
> > > ...but not without being stupid.
> >
> > Not at all. I can imagine intelligent and well-educated non-stupid
> > people opposing transhumanism too, based on their values and knowledge
> > of how the world functions.
> In other words, these otherwise intelligent people have some blind
> spots of ignorance which cause them to act contrary to their own
> enlightened self-interest (which is what transhumanism is all about).

Not necessarily. First, they might have a different knowledge-base
from us - it could even be wider - which leads to a different
conclusion. Second, their notion of englightened self-interest might
be fundamentally different from the one you are using. Not everyone is
an objectivist, to the surprise of the objectivists :-)

> > They are in many ways more troublesome
> > than fanatics.
> Yes, they can be very annoying indeed, but at least they don't go
> around blowing stuff up...

People who blow things up tend to become disliked and feared by the
large majority of people, who actually considers it a sign of
dangerous fanaticism or mental illness. Reasonable people with values
many people subscribe to, on the other hand, can influence them greatly.

> > For example, imagine a sociologist who has studied the incidence of
> > burnout in our society who comes into contact with transhumanist
> > thinking. He will point out that the psychological effects of the
> > tremendous changes and speed-ups we are proposing will lead to burnout
> > and psychological distress on a massive scale, maybe so much that
> > society will desintegrate. The transhumanists will of course claim
> > that this will be fixed by technology , the adoption of transhumanist
> > thinking and self-help as well as reconfigurations of human
> > psychology. But the sociologist, drawing on his knowledge base in
> > social psychology and history, will regard this hypothesis as highly
> > unlikely to occur, in fact less likely than the hypothesis that this
> > is just transhumanists defending their own worldview (you can do a
> > completely correct Bayesian analysis of this situation and come to
> > this conclusion - given the priors of the sociologist). We of course
> > have slightly different information, and regard the first possibility
> > as more likely (even if we should always ask ourselves how much is due
> > to possibility two). So in the end he will disagree with us and if he
> > considers us dangerous, try to move against us.
> >
> > In the above example both sides could try sharing their analysis and
> > facts, trying to make an analysis together both could agree on.
> The man in the above example clearly lacks some crucial data.
> He is a specialist, and has trouble with looking beyond his own
> narrow field of interest. He can't see the big picture, lacks
> vision. A very common problem (even on this list).

How did you reach that conclusion? Note that in the above example it
is not said that he lacks cruicial data (of course, he might lack
them) but rather that given his prior knowledge his estimation of thje
likeliehood of various effects differs from our estimation. While lack
of information is an important factor in disagreements, it is not the
only possible reason. Different priors and valuations can also make
entirely rational agents disagree.

> Anyway, your
> example only seems to confirm that all opposition to transhumanism(*)
> is either based on incomplete information (or even disinformation)
> or on the failure of the subject to process correct and complete
> information logically. Therefore, this kind of criticism is of
> little practical value (and it certainly isn't "intelligent").
> I've yet to see relevant, intelligent opposition to core
> transhumanist ideas.

As I said above, you can get entirely different results if your value
set is different. A buddhist considering the physical world a
pointless illusion best escaped from would not subscribe to the same
behavior as you even when entirely rational and given the same
data. Even a small difference in valuations, say in the relative value
of freedom versus security, can lead to drastically different views.

Saying that all opponents to transhumanism are either misinformed or
illogical is a great way of isolating oneself into an ideological air
castle isolated from reality. I have seen people taking this view in
defending everything from communism to objectivism, and the results
have always been bad.

> > But
> > even worse is if the basic values differ - a person valuing the
> > eternal and unchanging would be opposed to us in principle,
> Ah, but since the natural state of things (the world, the universe) is
> far from eternal and unchanging, that person would still need transhuman
> technologies to realize his dream. What sweet irony...

That person would not accept your view that the universe is changing -
the underlying essence for example might be eternal and unchanging and
the apparent change an illusion. A philosophical view a great deal of
people have taken, however much we might disagree with them. It cannot
even be refuted, which makes it silly from a popperian empiricist
view, but these people do not even feel they have to subscribe to that
view. People with a different ontology and epistemology can be awfully
hard to convince that you are right...

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

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