Anders response to "Politics of Transhumanism"

From: James Hughes (
Date: Tue Jan 15 2002 - 08:26:13 MST

Anders -

Wonderful, and thank you. A lot to think about. A
brief response: I had two goals with the piece, first
descriptive and then to draw normative conclusions. I
think your essay concurs that many >Hists, including
Max More a couple days ago on this list and yourself
in the past, defined >Hism more narrowly, permitting a
broad group of ideologies to associate with them. My
normative argument was that >Hists who share liberal
democratic values should organize to make sure that
those values shape the most visible expressions of
transhumanism. You argument is that >Hists should
recognize that there are core political values (i.e.
liberty, equality and solidarity) embedded in the
trajectory of humanist Enlightenment values which give
rise to >Hism. I agree, and I think this makes the
liberal democratic versions/expressions of
transhumanism a more natural memetic evolution. I
think this is a fruitful line of argument, but I
harbor Wittgensteinian(2) suspicions that we may just
be playing a word game, and that the memes will
recombine in ways that violate their pedigrees and

Second, you suggest that the value on individual
liberty in the liberal democratic tradition, and
thereby - you argue - inside the >Hist definition,
would suggest a global order tolerating a wide variety
of social orders and in which any individual can leave
a nation for a nation more to their liking. Although I
generally agree with this principle, another principle
of liberal democracy is solidarity - the obligation to
protect the human rights of other and uplift the
downtrodden. In terms of global order I think this
requires evolution towards a stronger global
government which can, for instance, make sure that the
Declaration of Human Rights are enforced in every
country. These solidaristic obligations are paired
with social contractual responsibilities to support
the institutions that enable them. In other words, I
think being subject to law and taxation can be argued
from basic liberal democratic principles so long as
one acknowledges more libdem principles (i.e. equality
and solidarity) than liberty. Even starting from
liberty, as Amartya Sen has effectively argued, one
can still arrive at the need for a social democratic

To make this practical, faced with the threat that an
island state was experimenting with nano weapons of
mass destruction, would it make sense to argue that
the only >Hist position would be benign tolerance and
non-interference? As I argue in my recent essay on
Apocalytptic Technologies, the dark side of >H tech
makes clearer than ever the need for global governance
and collective security.

I look forward to working out the >Hist agenda with
you, and thank again for your very thoughtful

J. Hughes

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