A transhumanist exercise

Anders Sandberg (asa@nada.kth.se)
24 May 1999 23:07:41 +0200

Since we obviously have a flamewar on gun control and another one on libertarian states brewing (trust me, I have been on this list so long that I can feel approaching flames in my mouse-arm :-), it might be interesting to try to use them for something constructive.

When we become angry or just aroused, our thinking changes. We become more reactive, use well-trained standard responses and overall modify our behavior in a way that was quite suitable for physical threats on the African savannah or before. Unfortunately these responses are ill suited to "information threats" - when you encounter a view you dislike or a complex technological threat the best response is likely more rational thinking, more reflexion and creativity rather than less. Speed is not as important as it was when a tiger was chasing your ancestors.

This suggests that as a part in our self-transformation towards more rational beings, able to function in an extremely complex and fluid transhuman reality, we should learn to control the old flight-or-fight response. If we cannot, the consequences might be bad both personally and generally (imagine a Jupiter brain getting angry at somebody sprouting silly religious fundamentalism - suddenly it is just as silly as Jahve when it lashes out). One way of training oneself is to expose one's sacred cows, those core views which may not be questioned. They are often easy to detect by noting a rise in arousal when they are questioned even implicitely. But it is usually just these views that need to be questioned to make thought flexible and rational. So once they are detected, it might be very healthy to try to habituate oneself against getting upset about them; this can be used to remove a lot of needless knee-jerk reactions and build the foundations of a slightly more rational personality.

The reason I mention this right now is of course that the flamewars are an excellent opportunity to both test these ideas and try to train away needless reactions. I don't think this posting will get rid of the flames, but I hope we can use them as learning tools too.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!
asa@nada.kth.se                            http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/
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