Re: Genetic transition to posthumanism

From: Brian D Williams (
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 08:51:23 MDT

From: Francois-Rene Rideau <>

>How do extropians envision transition from mankind
>to whatever posthuman future awaits us?
>What are the documented scenarios that have been considered?

This is our main subject, and has been discussed numerous times.
The archives should have these threads, but we're always free to
bring it up again.

>I mean, afaik, historically, genetic replacement happens by
>massive extinction of species in very short times
>(geologicallywise, anyway), with the surviving ones filling the
>void (that they might or not have caused, to begin with). Do you
>expect some posthuman species to just sit around (maybe in secret)
>and takeover the planet after some inevitable catastrophe wipes
>mankind? I don't think the humans would let such thing happen --
>if they're going to be destroyed, they won't hesitate to make the
>planet unliveable. Or maybe other planets would be a shelter to
>posthumans, where they'd wait for the final demise of mankind?

I would argue that we will see a directed evolution of the human
species. This is very much in line with theories posted in Linda
Nagata's "Tech Heaven".

Now we are gaining control of DNA itself, the first implications
will come about in re-writing the sequence to correct defects, but
these will be followed almost immediately by genetic replacement of
certain asthetic (plastic) surgeries. In other words people will
not go in for surgical treatment for things like breast
augmentation or baldness treatments, but these will be accomplished
by direct manipulation of the DNA sequence. And say a treatment for
removing wrinkles, and we have a fine start. Life extension will
become a protocol involving a series of many of these individual

I guess we could call this the incrementalist approach.

>If not, this might mean a completely different way for species to
>emerge than have been seen in the past. Do you expect genetic
>enhancement to become so cheap that just about every human will
>eventually have been modified? Would that result into a
>sustainable species? How long do you expect it for the transition
>to take? Won't the biggest brake to such transition be public
>opinion and traditional religion? Or would there be such invisible
>riskless individual enhancements that people would first use them
>undercover until it becomes so common that prejudices be gone?

Although initially novel, I expect these treatments to quickly
become common, and with common comes cheap. If the first treatments
are for "popular" cures, i.e. wrinkles, eyesight, baldness, etc, I
think they will find quick social exceptance. There will always be
those who refuse to accept these things, the old sequences will
take care of them in short order.

>Also, many (most?) genetic enhancements are only useful if done at
>conception time, so that the embryo may develop new or
>substantially different organs (Dawkins argues that the phenomenon
>of growing individuals at every generation from a monocellular
>embryo is one of the biggest breakthrough in the last 3 billion
>years of genetic evolution). If so, the biggest potential for
>genetic progress in posthumans is in making new individuals.
>However, such method, by definition, cannot ever make any
>previously existing individual immortal, or otherwise satisfy
>anyone's direct selfish interest (or can it?), so that only a tiny
>fraction of genetic engineering is actually open for much
>transhuman progress. Yet, only selfish interest, coupled
>with the responsibility associated to liberty, ensures that things
>go into a consistent direction of progress. How do you envision
>the future with respect to this kind of problems?

I think we will initially be repairing what we have, but I think
almost immediately we will start affecting the next generation in
a controlled way, not unlike the movie GATTACA. There is nothing
unusual in this, as any human behaviorist can tell you humans
select potential mates by their genetic potentials now, but in the
future it will be the difference between investing, and playing the

This is all pre-singularity of course. ;)

>There might be lots of other scenarios.
>I'm pretty sure this must have been discussed on the list
>(or in some other document) in the past. I'll appreciate pointers.

That's my $.25, I'm sure others have more to add.


Extropy Institute,
Adler Planetarium
Life Extension Foundation,
National Rifle Association,, 1.800.672.3888
Ameritech Data Center Chicago, IL, Local 134 I.B.E.W

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:59:59 MDT