Re: The image of transhumanism

den Otter (
Sun, 05 Jul 1998 10:37:27 +0200

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> Let's face it: we have an image problem. No matter how reasonable our
> views appear to us, no matter how correct they actually are, most
> people do not consider transhumanism or its subset extropianism
> seriously.
> I recently wrote that many people actually think extropians are
> gun-toting survivalists believing in a technocalypse; the current
> debate about heavily fortified island nations, surviving the Y2K
> problem and escaping into space wasn't helping the image. Den Otter
> promptly replied that we are survivalists (in the sense of not wanting
> to die prematurely and doing something about it), often believe in a
> singularity and would have great use for an island nation with
> transhumanism-friendly laws. This is of course true, but misses the
> point in a rather revealing way.

No, I don't think I've missed the point, lines 4-6 acknowledge your PR concerns.
<quote from original

> Imo, the image is largely correct. Or at least it *should be*
> correct. Right now there's way to little focus on the practical
> side of facing the radical changes which we predict. Of course,
> I know what you mean; the above libertarian-esque ideas have
> been tainted by other groups, so we shouldn't talk about them
> for PR reasons. Nevertheless, I think survival and prospering
> are too fundamental goals to be compromised. If there's a way to have
> our cake and eat it too (i.e. being a successful "survivalist"
> group while keeping a "politically correct" image), then that
> would be great, of course. Maybe it could be done by keeping
> the "practical" institutions (if there ever will be any) at
> least officially separate from the "educational" ones. In
> any case, all our eggs should not be in one basket.

Some key points are:
--Image may be important, but ultimately what counts is survival and flourishing. The actual goals should not be compromised too much for PR reasons (this reminds me of the story of the three pigs and the big bad wolf; pigs one and two don't take the Coming of the Wolf (Singularity/Y2K/WW3 etc) too seriously, and make their houses of bad materials. The wise survivalist pig takes a lot more trouble to build a solid house, and doesn't give in to peer pressure from the other pigs, that scoff at his work. Of course we all know what happens afterwards... ;-)

--Right now, there are hardly any projects (that I'm aware of) that deal with the practical side of facing the future. Ideally, there would be a transhuman network that could at least partially survive a collapse of society. I know, it sounds paranoid, but when your goal is immortality, and you live on earth, you *better* be "paranoid". Also a >H network of this kind would have many useful spinoffs such as suspension facilities and community forming. One thing that would certainly be needed is a radio network: in case of some disaster the net would be one of the first things to go.

--Apart from major disasters etc, there are the problems of everyday life. Since money can buy you just about anything, including health, hapiness and life extension, it should be a major point on the transhuman agenda. Wealth is essential for survival and flourishing.

--If you want a "clean" image *and* the practical "survivalist" stuff, you need to create separate organizations. There are already several educational organizations (WTA, ExI, WFS etc) but none that deal specifically with the practical side of transhumanism: how can we maximalize our chances to survive and flourish in the twilight of humanity and beyond? Such an organization would most likely be low-profile, since others do the message-spreading, and would mostly draw members from within the transhuman community. Touchy but practical (or just interesting) issues would be handled on a separate list.

> I don't want us to become politically correct. I don't want
> self-censorship. But I want the ability to explain clearly and
> rationally, and the ability to swallow the worst blunders before you
> say them. Think of what you are saying and how people will react to
> it!

The problem is, if we were to chat on this list so that it is acceptable and understandable to most people, the discussions would be, um, rather lame. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: what we need is a private list, where one can speak freely. Censorship is bad for any conversation...