Re: Let's work on the FAQ!
Sat, 11 Jul 1998 19:58:31 EDT

Thanks, Nick, for your effort in getting a renewed FAQ started. I think some of the questions obviously overlap and/or are redundant. Accordingly, my comments here are aimed at regrouping the questions and perhaps rephrasing them to cover the areas of overlap.

> What is transhumanism?

That's the best first question and the answer to which we should work the hardest at making economical an to the point. As I mentioned before, Anders has boiled out mot of the dross in his introductory definition, but something even shorter may be possible.

> What is a posthuman?

I would list this as the second question and, again, vote in favor of the most pointed and economical response.

I think the next questions should relate to the "unnatural" and "human nature" issues, which go to the heart of what distinguishes transhumanism from other, similar ideas and philosophies:

> Isn't transhumanism tampering with nature?
> Won't transhuman technologies make us inhuman?

Continuing the theme of definition by distinction, the following questions follow naturally from the "nature" issues:

> What makes transhumanism different from other philosophies, movements,
> or religions?
> Isn't transhumanism old hat? Sure, it's a new name, but basically,
> hasn't the philosophy been around a long time?

These actually may be conflated into a single question:

What are transhumanism's philosophical and cultural antecedents, and how is it distinguished from other, similar ideas?

Having distinguished our ideas from those of other thinkers, we should advertise our intellectual credentials:

> What prominent thinkers are associated with transhumanism? (This is
> not the same as "Who is prominent within transhumanism?")

An aside from this point (but one well worth addressing), is the "cult" question sometimes encountered:

> Is transhumanism a cult/religion?

I am less enamored of the following question:

> Do you believe in God?

which, to maintain linguistic parallelism, should be rephrased as:

Do transhumanists believe in God?

I think anyone who is asking this question by this point has probably missed the import of the material they would already have encountered in the FAQ. Making this a separate question invites taking the answer to it out of context its use in negative propaganda. SO I would vote against inclusion of this question.

I am more ambivalent about the following question:

> There is a non-physical soul and therefore some transhumanist issues
> are bound to fail (uploading, conscious AI)

First, I would rephrase it:

Won't things like uploading, cryonics and AI fail because they can't preserve or create the soul?

If folks want to include it, I'd like to have some input into the answer, having had a lifetime of experience of memetic guerrilla warfare in the Bible Belt.

The next questions all relate to "Life Extension" and should be grouped together:

> Why do you want to live longer?
> Isn't death part of the natural order of things?
> Won't extended lifespans cause overpopulation problems?

The next set of questions deal with social and political issues, and I would group them together under a title indicating their common theme:

> Won't new technologies only benefit the rich and powerful? What
> happens to the rest?

> Shouldn't we concentrate on current problems like improving the
> condition of the poor people or solving international conflicts,
> instead of putting effort into foreseeing the "far" future?

> What kind of society would posthumans live in?

> These new technologies will be used in war and may cause our
> extinction.

> How will superintelligent machines treat us humans?

	(I would rephrase this as follows:
	How will posthumans or superintelligent machines 
	treat humans who aren't augmented?)

> So you think technology will solve all problems?

The last set of questions relate to practicalities and progress in the transhumanist program:

> What evidence is there that it will happen?

> What is nanotechnology?

> All these transhumanist issues will not happen within a hundred years,
> they will take more like a thousand years. (MNT, Uploading)

> What if it doesn't work?

> How could I become a posthuman?

> The possibility of success (in cryonics) is too small.

> Will the people of the future be interested in restoring you?

> What recent progress has been made towards transhumanist goals?

The last question,

> Oh well... (Person sort of agrees in an intellectual way but doesn't
> take it to heart)

I would rephrase in more positive terms:

How can I become involved in transhumanism?

	Greg Burch     <>----<>
	   Attorney  :::  Director, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
	           "Good ideas are not adopted automatically.  They must
	              be driven into practice with courageous impatience."