PHIL: Self-transformation?

The Low Golden Willow (
Tue, 8 Apr 1997 14:42:10 -0700 (PDT)

On Apr 8, 10:10pm, Sarah Marr wrote:
} Subject: Re: ART: The Extropic Guitar

} However, to those who would automatically dismiss 'old' technologies as
} intrinsically 'bad' or 'lacking', I would say: "Gee, nice electric guitar.
} But I love the sound of the old acoustics: make it sound like one of those."

This reminds me that I've been wondering about the importance of
self-transformation to reach goals vs. transformation of one's
environment. I answered some poll on this or the transhuman list once
by saying "transhumanism means being like Della Lu"[1], and Guru George
and I spent some messages discussing the Culture's feasibility with an
agreement that it was a desirable transhuman society in of itself.

But while both Della Lu-type high-techs and Culture hominids have access
to and use various self-transformations -- mind-computer links, genetic
engineering -- the intensity of use is fairly light. High-intensity
examples might be Freeman Dyson's comet colonizing ideas, somewhat
realized in Brin/Benford's _Heart of the Comet_ or the symbionts in
Varley's books. People have modified themselves or been modified to fit
into the cold, vacuumy environment. Ditto for ideas about modifying
humans to live on Mars. The more typical alternatives, of course, are
terraforming Mars and turning comets into O'Neill cans.

So do people see transhumanism/extropy as about self-transformation per
se or about being adaptive? Means or goals, perhaps? The examples
above seem more like shifting weaknesses to me -- transhumanism going
sideways, perhaps, rather than upward. Plain techno-humanism is more
upward in a way, as it remakes the universe ("paves") into forms we can
fit into. A bit shorter on diversity, though.

The final "answer" of course, is the subjectivist usual: whatever you
feel like. But personally I agree with Anders' endgoal. If I'm going
to muck around with myself, I'd rather add capability rather than change
it. Not too become a Martian, but either to pave Mars or to become some
super-flexible form that can live anywhere. (Deep Space 9 changelings
are pretty neat, not counting their violations of the First Law of
Thermo. They play god, too.) Or some safe and slightly limited form
that can get experiences from anywhere -- a la Culture Minds, which live
in starships, but could send avatars anywhere they want and reabsorb the

So if Tom saw electric guitars as being a species-change from acoustics,
eww. But if they can perfectly emulate acoustics as well as lots of
other things, cool.

Real extropians play really good synthesizers. :)

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable,
and praiseworthy ...
-- Ambrose Bierce, _The Devil's Dictionary_