Re: Ancestral Extropians?

Natasha Vita-More (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 18:56:13 -0700

At 03:41 AM 6/18/99 -0700, Jamees Ganong wrote:

>OK, we've gone over Nietzche as a possible memetic ancestor; who else
>might qualify? Who first inspired &/or
>infected you with the transhumanist/extropian meme?

Across history and across disciplines of study there are all sorts of ancestral links. Usually, we prefer to focus on the writers, and especially SF authors, because they appear to be more available and words often speak louder than images. There is usually a desire to recognize a meme-blood line from those thinkers whose ideas resonate with our own, rather than whose ideas *actually* got the meme-pool spreading "down-and-dirty."

The person who first inspired me was a person who wrote about over coming odds, and not one on your list. It was Simone de Beauvoir. Beside her, there were visionaries who illustrated the mind outside the human psychological box, and they were the Abstract Expressionists. Long before them were those who fancied to be free, and delighted in being more than merely human, and these were the Greeks. More recently, there were those who tore through pedestrian thinking and plebian mannerisms, and these were individuals such as Mapplethorp who dared to be, or Carl Sagan who championed critical thinking. I'd put at the top of my list Max More who has done a lot of memetic mental intercourse over the years and give him credit for being prolific and highly potent.

My thoughts leap to the question: What is vision without character -- ideas without aesthetics? Rather than emphasizing ancestral vision based on technological advances, why not search for those who established memes for *depth of character.* What we really need now is a "Veggie Soup for the Evolving Spirit" and to incorporate what human values have given us the insights and intelligences to become extropian transhumans.

However, getting back to your initial question, below is an excerpt from my book _Create/Recreate - The 3rd Millennial Culture_ which gives an very recent historical account of transhuman meme spreading:

"Ideas about humanity and evolution were explored by Julian Huxley in his writings on evolutionary humanism in the book Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942) and Teilhard de Chardin in The Future of Man (1959). In 1966, FM-2030 (formerly, F.M. Esfandiary) outlined an evolutionary transhuman future while teaching “New Concepts of the Human” at the New School for Social Research, New York City. Abraham Maslow referred to transhumans in Toward a Psychology of Being,(1968), and Robert Ettinger authored Man into Superman (1972).

In the dictionary, “transhuman” is defined as meaning “superhuman,” and “transhumanize,” meaning “to elevate or transform to something beyond what is human” (Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1983). Yet, this is not a complete and contemporary meaning. Today, we refer to transhuman as meaning an evolutionary transition from being human to becoming posthuman.

The actual concept of transhuman as an evolutionary transition was first expressed by FM-2030. His trilogy, Up-Wingers, Telespheres and Optimism One (1973) constitutes the beginnings of the transhumanist philosophy, as well as his contributing final chapter in Woman, Year 2000, (1972).

FM later defined transhuman as “a new kind of being crystallizing from the monumental breakthroughs of the late twentieth century. ... the earliest manifestations of a new evolutionary being.” Later, he authored the book Are You A Transhuman? (1989)

Transhumanism has a slightly different beginning. Julian Huxley’s book written in 1956, New Bottles For New Wine, contains the essay “TRANSHUMANISM” which sets out to explain how humans must establish a better environment for themselves. He also alludes to a new species that the human might eventually become. The difference in Huxley’s transhumanism and Max More’s transhumanism is that Huxley states “man remaining man but transcending himself.” Transhumanism as defined by Max More explains the overcoming of human limits and the transformation from being human to becoming posthuman. Although Huxley had a vision of a possible future for humanity, he single-tracked the future when he saw man remaining man.

How did the memetic spreading of transhumanity begin? What started as futurist ideas taught at the New School eventually became evolving ideas held by thousands of individuals linking across the Internet. The cyberculture became the most fertile breeding ground for people interested in exploring new ideas. Extropy Institute spearheaded extropian transhuman influence academically, in print and throughout the Internet. The Extro Conferences, meetings, parties, on-line debates, and documentaries have continued to get the idea of the transhuman to the public.

But let’s not forget Transhumanist Art. It had an early start but a slow one. While the scientific community embraced the new concepts in human evolution, the art community focused on exploring new tool—electronics, CD ROM, VR, HD, VRML. Soon evolutionary memes such as bio-tech, A-Life, AI, SI, transhuman, extropy, extreme-life, avatar and thoughts of new types of sexuality and genders arose. Like meme spores infiltrating culture with words well known in the scientific world, artists have been exploring the ideas of evolution and giving them the art of life."

Natasha Vita-More: Transhumanist Art Centre - Home of Extropic Art: **NEW** Transhuman Culture InfoMark: PRESS RELEASE: "We are transhumans ..." Meme Orbits Saturn in 2004!

Biotech Futures: Challenges of Life Extension and Genetic Engineering