Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Jan 17 2002 - 15:24:14 MST

On Tue, Jan 15, 2002 at 01:35:22PM -0500, wrote:
> The issue is that many current transhumanists
> are in a generation that is now taking hold and dealing with wold issues
> away from academics. In the real world we need to consider what
> impression to make, and how! to make it. Rather than fighting the
> mainstream and critizing the currents, take action and participate in
> how it is formed.

Exactly! It is important to remember that we will never get anywhere if we
sit in our secret cellar club of Initiated and think we must fight the
mainstream - while we can really get things done by *becoming* the
mainstream. The mistake many people make is to think that this is impossible
without losing their autheticity and ideals, so they get a convenient excuse
to never start changing the world (because somehow their own purity is more
valuable). But participating in shaping the new mainstream almost requires us
to know who we are and what we want - otherwise we just become drifting
cynical pragmatics with no driving force and hence no edge in the shaping of

The world is filled with opportunities for us right now. The launch window is

> > In fact, we are very careful of not mentioning the word
> >"transhumanist" in the debate.
> Let?s discuss this Anders. I agree that it is probably not a good idea
> to discuss transhumanist in a debate regarding politics, unless you are
> discussing the future of humanity, topic of human potential, social
> cultures, etc. If you are discussing the social fabric of individuals
> who make up any one ideological agenda, it might also be worthwhile to
> mention, who are part of the business world and scientific/technological
> development, it might also be a good idea to discuss the people market.

If asked, I never never deny that I consider myself a transhumanist and
usually explain what I mean by that. But I have found that the mere mention
of an "ism" tends to put people off. It sounds too much like a cult, religion
or a political ideology - and members of such groups are (at least here in
Sweden) considered embarrasing or dangerous. Saying "I believe in humans, in
their ability to be rational, free and strive towards excellence" is
generally well accepted, but even claiming to be a humanist makes people

Even when debating the future of humanity it is not obvious what we can gain
from introducing the term transhumanism right now. We can certainly argue for
what we believe in (and it is extremely well received in the right groups -
there is a real thirst for visions among many politicians, businesspeople and
intellectuals), but the time might not yet be ripe to bring it all under a
banner of "transhumanism" (or any other term) if there is not yet a coherent
movement ready for primetime. As long as we have debates as the current one,
where even the definition of the fundamentals is in the air, then it would be
hard to gain anything from mixing in the "trademark" of transhumanism into
the debate without being able to back it up with strong ideological
arguments. That doesn't mean ExI, WTA and ProAct can't play an important and
open role, but they will likely do better if they present their ideas on
their own merit than if they do it as linked to transhumanism.

> I?d like to know what advantages you find in the European Liberal political
>agenda. Could you please expand on what basic principles stand out as being
>aligned with a futurist agenda, especially ones which encourages and
>protects individual advancement?

I think this is mostly a matter of misunderstanding. I consider myself
libertarian (my current reading is _The Machinery of Freedom_ by David
Friedman, but I think I'm a minarchist, not an anarcho-capitalist :-), but
since this term is generally called liberal here in Sweden, I tend to point
out the difference, which may cause extra confusion. I'm definitely not the
US kind of liberal, which here in Sweden would be a rightist social democrat
(although I do have many social democrat friends, some of which regard
themselves as transhumanists).

> It is not up to any one organization to do the work for us. Why rely on
> ExI? It?s certainly the best thing we have available for us today and
> hopefully tomorrow, but it is an organization comprised of people. The
> people make the organization work or not work.

This is true, but there is also an effect of the organization on people.
Certain styles of organization or organization cultures attract different
people, and this will in turn shape the organization and its work. In the end
it is always up to the individuals, but if organizations can be created
suitable for certain aims more high quality individuals can be stimulated to
work together.

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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