Re: Das Elend des Transhumanismus (Was: Is genocide the logical solution?)

From: Bryan Moss (
Date: Mon Sep 17 2001 - 15:18:55 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> The problem here is not that Robert is wrong or made an
> inflammatory post, but that in the current list culture
> there is precious few attempts to shore up the ethics of
> transhumanism in a way that makes it workable and protects
> it against merging with unpalatable and dangerous
> ideologies. If transhumanism has no generally accepted core
> ideas and no ethics, what is there to distinguish it from
> (say) technological fascism? That is why I more and more
> think we have to abandon the term transhumanism as a
> designator for ourselves and instead concentrate on more
> well-defined systems such as extropianism.

I agree wholeheartedly that we need to seriously discuss some issues here.
One of the things that irks me is this notion that a human life is a sacred
thing of absolute moral worth, which has been brought up in this thread in
particular, which I find entirely *opposed* to transhumanism. Fostering a
culture that has as its prime value the absolute sanctity of *human* life is
not, in my opinion, the smart thing for us to do. It's almost a kind of
vitalism; there's some special 'essence' that gives humans worth but we have
no definition of what it is. The one definition (or reason, excuse) we
often do accept I find naive: the idea that by fostering a culture that has
as its prime value the absolute sanctity of human life I increase my chances
of survival. This embodies the second part of current (apparent) Extropian
thought that I find irksome: this "black box" view of the human mind as
something almost non-physical, indivisable (for want of a better word), and
capable of a kind of omniscient decision making tempered only by input. You
see it on this list all the time; from the idea that we can drop books on
peoples heads and they'll immediately become rational thinkers to the
defence of individualism and the primacy of survival as self-evident.

Both of these concepts I find lacking. In the first case, this irrational
championing of humanity will come back to bite us when we or our progeny are
no longer in human form *unless* we define this property that humans have
that makes them so special in explicit and non-human terms. It is
especially not enough to say "I am human therefore human is good," I hope
that we can be more forward thinking than that. In the second case, we
don't know a great deal about the brain but we *do* know enough to
re-evaluate how we think of ourselves and others. We need to start
realising that it's not a black box with input and output and inside 'we'
sit pulling levers (or whatever it is the traditional view supposes goes on
in there), it's full of crap that isn't particularly geared to being a
rational and enlightened thinker. We know this already, of course, because
we talk about it endlessly in our discussions of future technology and
evolutionary psychology but as soon as we start talking ethics or philosophy
or politics we more often than not revert to outmoded thinking. "I" and
"you" are suitcase terms of the highest-order; we need to know *exactly*
what it is we're attempting to preserve and expand upon.

I have more to say but I'll leave it at this for now.


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