Re: What is to be done?
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 17:26:15 -0500 (EST)

In a message dated 97-03-22 16:03:12 EST, Robert Schrader writes:

> If we waited for the lowest common denominator to accept a new idea
> we would still be in a cave arguing if it's blasphemous to rub two
> sticks together.
> > What is to be done?
> You have 2 choices: you can be you or you can be like them.

It didn't sound like Velociman's friend was the "lowest common denominator".
Instead, he sounds like a lot of people to whom I've tried to express
transhumanist and extropian ideas. And this fellow didn't sound "depressed",
as Davin suggests. I'm afraid that calling such people "depressed" dilutes
the clinical meaning of the word --- just as the typical leftist epithet of
"fascist" for anyone to the right of a Democrat dilutes the meaning of that
word. Just because someone isn't optimistic doesn't mean they're depressed.

Unless you're an "autosingulatarian" (tm) or willing for our ideas to be
consigned to the fringe, I think we have to come to terms with the great mass
of people who will react negatively to our ideas if they aren't better
prepared and we do a better job of communicating. With all due respect to
the Randians, I don't think a Hank Rearden fantasy of the heroic inventors
just ignoring the rest of society will do. If augmentation is outlawed, we
could be in for a seriously delayed ascension, folks.

Try to imagine serious uploading research if technical discussion of brain
implants into "healthy" humans is prohibited in the industrialized world.
And the way things are going, just forget about genetic augmentation of
healthy humans, unless the attitudes of a LOT of people change. You're not
going to be able to walk down to the local convenience store and buy genetic
alteration pills like you can buy aspirin.

Yes, many developments can be achieved while pursuing goals short of explicit
augmentation. But for the really big changes, a lot of expensive research is
going to have to be done with the express aim of augmentation and
transformation. That reasearch is going to have to be done by the medical
establishment. The fruits of that research are going to have to be
administered by doctors.

Medical doctors are very covetous of the licenses granted by the state to
practice medicine. They are loathe to risk that lucrative profession. At
least one friend of mine who has reacted negatively to transumanist ideas is
a relatively young neurosurgeon: She scoffs at the idea of uploading as so
far beyond our capabilities as to be fantasy and reacts with horror to
concepts of radical genetic augmentation. I KNOW she is not atypical. I
strongly suspect that she has been conditioned to recoil from the idea of
augmentation (and from seeing how close it might really be) by powerful
societal myths: Icarus, Faust, Paradise Lost, Frankenstein. I believe these
myths have developed to shackle those who would push too fast against the
power structures of a given social paradigm. It almost seems like the power
of those myths over a specific individual's imagination grows in proportion
to their personal ability to overcome them: The Faust mythos seems strongest
in some of the doctors with whom I've discussed transhumanism.

My point is that a cultural atmosphere of PERMISSION is, if not a
prerequisite, at least a powerful facilitator of transhumanism. In Icarus
and Frankenstein, we face outright mythic PROHIBITION. Such deeply-ingrained
social mores aren't overcome by the wishful thinking of small minorities.
We've talked here before about the need to create new myths, and I think
that is a very worthwhile endeavor for our "culture workers". But the work
has to proceed on many fronts at once, and the workings of "countermythology"
seem likely to be too slow to benefit the generation of which I happen to be
a member. As I said in my previous post, we have to express ourselves
explicitly, but be careful not to trigger those psychic faustian landmines.

Oh, and by the way, Velociman, I got the reference in your subject line:
"What is to Be Done" was the title of Lenin's pamphlet on revolutionary

Greg Burch ----<>----<> -or-
=-= EXpedition97, an extropian backpacking trip, July 3-7, 1997: =-=
-------------< >-------------------
"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must
be driven into practice with courageous impatience."
-- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover