Re: SOC/BIO: George Will joins the bioluddites

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Mon Jan 22 2001 - 05:24:31 MST

Damien Broderick <> writes:

> >I think the big problem postmodernists [...] see with transhumanist
> technologies for
> >self-modification is that they make someone (me or my child) an object
> >of transformation, hence reducing the person. Making humans objects =
> >bad.
> It's so hard to know what the standard pomo/poststructuralist position is
> likely to be on such a topic.

I guess there is even a bit of contradiction in terms when talking
about a standard pomo position about anything.
> On the one hand, the objection you summarize is actually classically
> *humanist*, maybe Kantian, and assumes the sovereignty of a unified person
> or subject. Subverting that posit is at the core of the postmodern project
> (and, of course, much of cognitive science). So you can have somewhat pomo
> people like Donna Haraway famously proclaiming herself a feminist cyborg.

And if you start to deconstruct the self, then you will soon be left
in a situation where it is very hard to talk about human dignity or
other high-level ethical constructions. You are surrounded by lego
pieces, but dignity only refers to big constructions, not the
parts. Actually, when looking for pomo texts on the concept of human
dignity on the web, to my amusement I only found christian right texts
denouncing the evil postmodernist-technological alliance that was
destroying the concept of human dignity by its reductionism and

> On the other, one key to many post-discourses is `self-fashioning', just
> the kind of strange loop self-construction you mention. In practice,
> because of pomo's source in Marxist and postmarxist discourses, you often
> find a lot of analyses that denounce market commodification of the body and
> the individual, complaints that really do sound more like traditional
> humanist ideology.

I have got the impression that while the postmodern tools are eagerly
used on everything else, they are not used on the postmodern discourse
itself. So it is quite common for people in this sphere to hold what
are actually modernist views like humanism and Marxism but disguised
and justified under a ton of pomo discourse.

I have noticed that Marx's definition of freedom also pops up in the
strangest places (a free act is an act done without an positive or
negative incentives to do it - which is a quite crazy definition when
you start thinking about it). Since it is so sensitive, any influence
one human has over another is coercive, and this helps bolster the
anti design rhethoric. Shows how a very prevalent but low-key stupid
meme can infect the discourse from advertising to genetics.

> (Most of the talk on this list about `inalienable rights' and other
> mystical individualist beliefs derive, of course, from 18th century
> deist liberal humanism.)

"Extropianism is the enlightenment on steroids"

I think transhumanism must learn to incorporate the good parts of
postmodernism in our discourse to really get an impact on mainstream
thinking. I notice how transhumanist texts often give a cheerful
modernist impression that may not be entirely in tune with the current
intellectual climate. One reason people think that extropianism is
some sort of optimism cult is that they have been raised on the idea
of questioning unbounded optimism - which is of course a good idea
after the lessons of the 20th century - but miss our own internal
questioning and criticism. I think the individualist beliefs and other
enlightenment stuff we have are great, but if we can recombine them
with postmodern scepticism we will get a hybrid that may very well be
a very vital discourse/meme.

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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