Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

From: Andrew Clough (
Date: Tue Jan 15 2002 - 13:13:25 MST

At 10:02 PM 1/14/2002 -0600, you wrote:
>On Tue, 15 Jan 2002, Damien Broderick wrote:
> > I've never read them, but I gather that sf writer Stephen Stirling's
> > of novel about South African Nazi racist supermen, the Draka, does
> > something like this. And one of Jerry Pournelle's spin-off series
> > glorifying combat apparently has the gene-engineered Sauron supermen who
> > luckily get defeated by the brave free normals (yeah, right). If
> > read these books, it might be interesting to hear how they fit into this
> > discussion.
>I've not read Pournelle's, but I have read Steve Stirling's (a guilty
>pleasure of mine).
>The first and second books take place in this alternate world's version of
>WWII and its aftermath. The third and fourth books actually deal somewhat
>seriously with some of the themes of transhumanism. By the third book,
>the Draka have have conquered half the world, and remade it in their
>image...a world in which the chattel slavery of the American South
>embraces the industrial revolution; imagine Henry Ford able to buy his
>workers on the auction block rather than having to pay them ever
>escalating wages.
>The Draka elite actually realize that they have painted themselves into a
>corner. Their model of society, while workable (barely) in a growing
>heavy industrial society, cannot in the long run compete with with the
>growing information economy of the West. They must conquer the rest of
>the world, while they still retain the capacity. Furthermore, they
>realize that they will always be threatened by their own slaves, and
>politically divide into two factions over this. One faction favors (after
>the conquest allows them the luxury) a gradual liberalization, granting
>more freedom to the slave class over time. The other, whose work has
>already begun with the birth of the first of the New Race, favor
>genetically engineering the Master Race, and just as importantly the
>engineering of a slave race designed to be dominated and like it. They
>hate and fear the liberals, and the liberals fear the the human race will
>be engineered into termites.
>It is an interesting depiction of essentially *choosing*, for non-rational
>ideological reasons, the sort of society you want, and then going about
>engineering people to fit that preconception. I suppose the commies would
>create Socialist Man, and the Nazi's something like the Draka. What sort
>of people would libertarians create?
>No brave free normals defeat the Draka; they win.
>The fourth book is set about 400 years later (and on present day Earth,
>our own alternate timeline), and depicts the engineered Final Society, as
>well as the technologically advanced decendants of the the handful to
>escape the conquest of the Earth in the first starship. The Draka focus on
>biological technology, the Samothracians on computer technology and eschew
>biotech (at least the permanent kind the Draka have). There is handwaving
>about how strong AI is impossible and how Moore's law plateus early to
>keep the characters recognisably human. There also are limits to the
>genetic engineering of the Draka...a sort of Campbellian trade-off between
>agressive domination and creativity.
>In the interstellar cold war, the Samothracian's face an interesting
>dilemma: suppose they did eventually defeat the Draka...what do they do
>with the slaves? They are breed to be docile and obedient, but not
>stupid. They would just go about recreating their old masters, but how
>can you justify exterminating them (the Samothracians are suppose to be
>the good guys, after all).
>Not the greatest books in the world, and many have trouble suspending
>disbelief (the Draka seem to get *all* the breaks, and the tech advances a
>bit faster than believable so the Final War can take place at the close of
>the Millenium), but an interesting challange to the notion that the good
>guys always win, and a warning that the future can still turn out to be "a
>boot stomping on a human face, forever"...particularly when techology can
>be used to change the game completely.
>steve van sickle

I recently read the first three books, and I'd only like to add that their
technological progress is limited because they never switched to Von
Neumann architecture, everything is hardwired. Oh, and I also found the
success of the Draka and the quicker technological progress stretching my
credulity a little, but I think the increased development of Africa in that
time line could reasonably account for some of the more advanced technology.

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