Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Thu Jan 10 2002 - 10:33:32 MST

Natasha Vita-More wrote:
> At 01:37 AM 1/10/02 +0000, wrote:
> > Whilst the finer details of Dr. J's paper have been gone over here,
> > I'm glad to see that the "middle" ground, guy-on-the-street aspect
> > of Transhumanism is being addressed. "Democratic" is a word most
> > people relate positively to.
> That in itself is a very different issue. The points of the paper
> which we addressed where the negatively planted commentary which is
> both inaccurate and subjective. Thus, James could have said reference
> such points he makes as "In my opinion ..." or "It seems to me ..."

It is also important to determine what James means by 'democratic'. He
seems to be purposefully vague in this respect, specificially because in
the details of his writing, it seems that his primary emphasis is on
'economic democracy' and not political democracy. This is the sort of
demogogic revisionism of the terms of debate I've warned of in the past.
"Economic Democracy", is, of course, socialism and communism, political
philosophies which have historically been highly intolerant of dissent,
diversity, and individual self determination in economic matters as well
as political ones.

For this reason, economic democracy is highly anti-extropic.

> However, here issue is not just politics, but authenticity. In that
> we cannot label any transhumanist group with a political lean unless
> and until such group makes a declaration of such. The bigger issue
> here is pitting one group against another by inference. Is such
> inference is weak then the premise needs to be addressed.

And I am glad that so many members of the WTA have expressed opposition
to the statements in James' paper. The problem is, of course, that being
the acting Chairman, any statement made by him will tend to carry the
weight of a policy statement of the group. That his personal beliefs are
so demonstrably anti-extropic should concern all WTA members, given
their stated beliefs in personal self determination.

> When I think of the politics of transhumanism, I think of a future
> oriented sensibility, not based on 20th Century political dogma. In
> that the basic understanding of transhumanism is a better world for
> humankind, it would be paradoxical not to enrich a transhumanist
> philosophical outlook with a positive intention for "people on the
> street", if they are willing and wanting. And even if they are not,
> certainly a banner of welcoming of humanity exists within this
> sentiment.

The difficulty is that the 'people on the street' do not communicate or
think generally with a future oriented sensibility, they are locked in
the here and now, and generally living by the 20th century dogma they
inherited or developed earlier in life. One thing I've found in my
political work is that you have to communicate your views in terms as
understood by the mainstream in order for them to come across and reach
a listening audience.

For example, it is fruitless for a libertarian to call themselves a
'classical liberal', because the target audience hears "liberal" and
automatically concludes either a)"ah, big government, egalitarian aimed
big brother regulation, and overbearing tax levels, with minimal public
accountability", or b) "ah, more money in my
welfare/disability/retirement/other entitlement check, and more support
for my buddies at the union to squeeze management dry, more hiring
'affirmative action' quotas and no right wingers messin' with the school
system", depending on the particular point of view of the 'person on the

Similarly, talk of 'upgrading' people, or perfecting ones genes is
similarly scary to people. Instead, talk of a 'right to be healthy',
free of 'defects' like old age, deafness, blindness (as well as poor
hearing and poor eyesight).

As to James' statement, it is obvious that he is being disengenuous when
he speaks of being for 'democracy', a term, as understood by the person
on the street being political democracy, which is in contradiction to
his actual meaning, being economic democracy or socialism. This
intentional vagueness is the mark of a demogogue. He's not literally
lying, but he is speaking in such a way that his intent and your
understanding are in conflict.

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