Re: A good short honest FAQ but very bad PR

Daniel Fabulich (
Mon, 6 Jul 1998 03:03:32 -0400 (EDT)

On Sun, 5 Jul 1998, John K Clark wrote:

> >2. Won't transhuman technologies make us inhuman?
> Possibly inhuman certainly unhuman.

While I could not possibly argue with the "unhuman" point, I'm not sure I see why living longer and better will make us less compassionate. Why would posthumans be any more or less heartless than they are today?

> >3. Isn't death part of the natural order of things?
> Yes and nature sucks.

Nature only sucks if you define the natural to be 0% artificial. While this is a plausible definition, this also means that music and painting, by their very definition, are "unnatural."

Meanwhile, I happen to think that 100% artificial isn't a particularly great way to go either. The designed is not always better than the emergent. To the extent that spontaneous order is natural, nature does not neecssarily suck at all.

So it depends on how you want to define nature. By the most rigorous standards, life extension is unnatural, but so is art, language and almost everything else we get from human civilization. All this shows is that you cannot determine whether something is good or not by observing whether it is natural, something we should have realized all along.

> >4. Won't extended lifespans cause overpopulation problems?
> Probably not.

I'll strengthen that claim: an increasing population is going to solve more problems than it causes until the universe runs out of useful resources. While no one can say when this is, it represents at least several billions of years, if ever.

> >5. Will only the rich and powerful have access to augmentation?
> Nobody knows.

The clearer this is, the better: There's no way to tell what our technology and civilization will look like if and when we become posthuman. We can't even necessarily make scientific guesses about it. No one has any clear idea at all.

> I think these answers are honest and I'm comfortable with them but except for
> #4 I see no way to make them palatable to Mr. Joe Sixpack, I wish I did.

#5 ain't so bad, except for those people who presume that if we don't know then it must be bad. #1 and #3 are basically the same question, which I think can be made palatable when we show that a rigorous definition of nature is a silly idea. I completely disagree with #2. So we're not doing half bad here.