Re: origin of ideas, civilization, reading list

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Mon Aug 06 2001 - 14:15:15 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> This seems related to the discussions we had during the writing of the
> transhumanist FAQ. The same issues came up there. Maybe we could
> distinguish between radical futurism - the idea that the future will not
> like the present in some relevant ways - and transhumanism - the idea that
> it is good in some sense to strive for some of these futures.
    These distinctions make sense to me. Clearly not all radical futurists
are transhumanists, because some fear this future and think we ought to work
to avoid it--even if there is only a small chance that we can. I am also
inclined to think that not all transhumanists are radical futurist. (My view
is that there will be radical discontinuities between the present and the
future--a discontinuity perhaps as radical as the development of life on
this previoiusly dead planet). But some seem to think that these new
technologies will all be taken in stride. If nothing else, I suppose that we
could imagine a conservative transhumanist who wanted to initiate only a
small subset of the possible technologies, and thus, there would be no great
> Traditionally it has of course been the transhumanists who have been doing
> most of the thinking and imagining of radical futures. Recently radical
> futurism is becoming more common, and this actually poses an interesting
> challenge for us transhumanists: how do we justify our striving to others?

My own view is that transhumanism is an ineluctable consequence of a
perfectionist ethics (in the tradition of Aristotle, Marx, Nietzsche, etc.).
In a more defensive mode I think it is possible to develop an argument along
these lines: Either one is a moral realist or not. There is very little we
need to do to justify our views to moral anti-realists: (simplifying) they
believe that values are a projection by humans on to the world, and the
world is value neutral. To them we simply say that ours is simply a
different projection. Moral realism looks more challenging. But once we
assert that values hold independently of the human view of them, then we
open up the possibilty that our conception of these mind independent values
is not entirely correct, or it is radically incomplete. Since it is our duty
to improve our moral knowledge where possible, and transhumanism is the best
way to improve this knowledge, it follows that we ought to initiate the
transhumanist project. In other words, if we are moral realists we ought to
be open to the possibilty that posthumans have a more accurate and complete
view of the moral facts, just as our human conception of values is likely
more developed than our more apelike ancestors. Either way, then,
transhumanism is in good shape. Mark

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:03 MDT