Re: Journal of Evolution and Technology

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Mon Jul 23 2001 - 20:07:24 MDT



> > I wish there was a good synonym for 'transhumanism' that did not
> > sound quite so new-agey. Does anyone know of any? Mark.

... then commented:

>Useful phrases:
>"Pro-technology movement"
>"Future shock"
>"Extreme technology"
>"Exponential increase"
>"Asymptotic increase"
>"Intelligence enhancement"
>"Technological production of greater-than-human intelligence"
>"Recursively self-improving Artificial Intelligence"

Some of these phrases are useful in various contexts. Some of them are
precise and are simply the *right* jargon for what they refer to, eg the
last one. But others are more off-putting, I'd suggest, than
"transhumanism". For example, a lot of people would get a very negative
connotation from "ultratechnology".

Mark etc could probably have got away with "Future Studies" for their
journal even though "X Studies" always sounds a bit like an academic wank.
Furthermore, the field already exists and a lot of people in that field
would be opposed to transhumanist ideas. To use the title honestly would
mean running a journal open to their viewpoints. Moreover, I believe there
are already journals with similar titles (I mean to look into these, because
we probably should all be thinking about publication there to ensure that
they are not just another set of forums for neo-Luddite consensus).

In most contexts, it is not necessary to identify yourself as "a
transhumanist" or "an extropian" or whatever. I get by a lot of the time
just talking about how I want to discuss "postulated technologies" or "the
implications of postulated technologies" or "the issue of resistance to
postulated technologies" and giving a few examples of what I mean: nanotech,
high-level AI, full-immersion VR, radical life extension.

All that said, "transhumanism" and its cognates are useful if you must put a
label on yourself or on a body of ideas about the future. Moreover, it at
least sounds like an obvious name for a philosophical position. After all,
we already have both "humanism" and "anti-humanism". I'm still not sure
about "extropian". I've dropped a lot of my reservations about it being
applied to me, since I not only belong to this list but also have no
problems with the current version of Max's Principles. However, I'd be very
wary of actually using it of myself, since it probably sounds more cultish
and jarring than "transhuman".

In some contexts, "posthuman" is probably more familiar than "transhuman",
but it is not necessarily used in quite the same way by writers, critics and
academics interested in images of cyborgs etc, or in the projections of sf,
as it is used by people on this list. Sometimes you can talk about
"cyberpunk" or about "post-cyberpunk" if you're primarily talking about the
way these ideas are handled in sf.

All in all, I think the decision made by Mark and others is sensible PR.
Does the journal retain some mechanism to narrow the sorts of contributions
it wants to receive?


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