Re: Hakim Bey (was: RE: virtual nation building)

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 01:51:44 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Anders Sandberg" <>

> > If the extropian vision of the future is
> > viable it cannot depend on "machine evolution" alone to achieve
> > realization. But unless anarcho-futurism can develop a critique of
> > technology, it is relegated precisely to this passive role.
> Which I also agree with. We will not get to transhumanity just by
> inventing the right tools, we have to change ourselves and our
> culture too.

I think I must be missing something here because this seems either trivial
or question-begging. It is trivial if you mean that if we invent the right
tools but don't change ourselves then we have not reached transhumanity.
This seems trivial given that changing ourselves is a necessary condition
for transhumanity. But of course the point of "machine evolution" or
evolution through genetic engineering is to change ourselves. Furthermore,
this seems to beg the question of our relation to "machine evolution"--if
they are our mind children then haven't 'We' changed?
Also I don't find this essay or your commentary enlightening on the HARD
question of transhumanist ethics, namely, our obligations now to institute
the appropriate ethical/social/political seed stock for the posthuman
revolution. I take it that you think that we do have such an obligation and
thus count you among the 'cultural activists'--those that think that we
should be doing all we can along these lines to ensure the future proceeds
in the right ethical direction. The cultural passivists believe that there
is little point in trying to set up the seed stock since the posthumanity
rupture will be so complete that our efforts will have little bearing on
subsequent events. It does not follow, as Bey says, that without this
cultural critique the cultural passivists are consigned to a passive role.
Applying technology to humans might provide the cultural passivists with all
the "critique" they need. Ultimately the essay works on the wrong unit of
analysis to be persuasive. The Marx/Heideggerian understanding of technology
being intimately associated with Humanity's self-identity is a
socio-historical thesis. The cultural passivists can easily accept this
thesis but say that it is irrelevant. Imagine preparing a bunch of monkey's
for their postmonkey state--our intention is to genetically alter them to
bring them up to human cogntive capacity. Is the first step to try to
fine-tune their culture (Cf. The Evolution of Culture in Animals, Bonner)?
Presumably the cultural passivists would say that all such efforts are
wasted given that the monkies will emerge into an entirely new cultural
"ecological niche". Similarly, fine-tuning our culture now might seem like a
waste of time and perhaps even a distraction from the more important goal of
advancing technology. The proper unit of analysis, then, might be something
like biological evolution, e.g., the emergence of the Hominid line from
     I count among the cultural activists, but not because without a
cultural critique we must be resigned to "a passive role". My reasoning is
more pragmatic and less Heideggerian. Think of it in terms of a sort of
Pascalian wager. If we attempt to fine-tune our culture and the posthuman
breach is so vast that our efforts were in vain then little is lost. If we
attempt to fine-tune our culture and it has positive influence on the
posthuman future then all is gained. If we are passive and our efforts would
have had a positive influence on future events then all is lost. If we are
passive and our efforts would have had no effect then little is gained
(perhaps watching a little more tv, etc.).

Regards, Mark.

Dr. Mark Walker
Research Associate, Trinity College, University of Toronto
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Evolution and Technology

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