RE: Heresy

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Thu Aug 09 2001 - 21:21:10 MDT

Natasha said

>Reason, be reasonable -:) If you are a transhuman by some other more
>advanced technology, a chip in your brain that gives you more processing
>power, then the out-dated contact lens would not keep you from being a
>transhuman just because it is antiquated. I hope this is clear.
>Now, with that said, tool-users are folks who use tools. As for the great
>leap in your thinking -- "... makes us transhuman for the duration of that
>attempt?..." Well this depends. If you have one robotic leg, a brain
>enhancer for processing power, and a robotic eye that can see through walls
>one year and then three days later you have an entirely new body that is
>engineered with nanotechnology and AI, yes you would be a transhuman is
>transition. BUT, if you use a hammer one day and a screwdriver to tighten
>the valves on your car the next day, and *then* have a spanking new
>upgraded nano-driven body on the third day, I'd have to say that you have
>been a transhuman for only that day my friend. But, this is only my view.

In the intellectual world outside of transhumanist philosophy, the word
"cyborg" often seems to be used in much the same way as Natasha is using
"transhuman". OTOH, it has a much more spectacular sense in the science
fiction community, where it refers to a far more transformed being than
someone with, say, contact lenses. I wouldn't ever describe myself as a
cyborg even if it is technically correct according to some academic usage.

I'm prepared to accept that Natasha's definition of a transhuman is
historically correct, but I do think that Eliezer has raised a legitimate
presentational issue. Also, I'm not sure that the meaning can be held in
place as the word becomes more widely used.

I'm probably also guilty of heresy when I often say that the contraceptive
pill was the first genuinely transhuman technology. I say it, FWIW, because
it is a technology that reprograms bodily functioning at a pretty deep level
and in relation to a central area of the historical human condition -
reproduction. I mean, a condom (like a contact lense) is just a tool. The
pill seems like a lot more than that. Then again, perhaps a similar argument
could be made about vaccination.

(BTW I have never felt like either a cyborg or a transhuman for the duration
of wearing a condom, but then again I've never felt like one at all...
merely your common or garden transhuman*ist*, I'm afraid.)


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