Re: Present dangers to transhumanism

Anders Sandberg (
28 Aug 1999 19:50:53 +0200

"Waldemar Ingdahl" <> writes:

> 1) Transhumanism is entering the public sphere! Yes, we are not considered
> as kooky as we once were. Here in Sweden the change has been quite swift. We
> are not mainstream, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore
> us as "just a bunch of lunatics". Controversial, yes, but not in the deepest
> recesses of the closet. This is going to pose some serious problems. We are
> probably going to experience a shism when the "nanotech
> Santa"-transhumanists are forced to actually get there ideas scrutinized
> both other transhumanists and the opposition in a much harsher way.

This of course doesn't mean we need to all dress up in suits and ties, but we better get our act together. If there is anything that really worries me it is uneducated transhumanists. Not in the sense of not having academic degrees, but in the sense of people making claims without any support, loudly assering various notions and claiming them to be transhumanism without exploring how well they fit with reality, transhumanist thinking and other known information. That kind of behavior weakens transhumanism, and provides something that is easy for opponents to attack ("Mr X, the transhumanist, said that the goal of transhumanism was to wipe out anybody who won't become superintelligent").

Fortunately, I think this is curable. Both by holding "internal" courses on our own subjects for transhumanists (this is a good activity for our organisations - informal courses/seminars/discussions on (say) how nanotech really would work or the realities of economics) and by having us, as transhumanists, realise the need for self-transformation and self improvement. After all, we want to grow ourselves as people, and one of the best ways of doing that is educating ourselves and becoming better communicators.

> Transhumanism is what you make of it, you cannot depend on "the
> head office" to take care of things because a head office cannot
> work in a transhumanist setting!

This is where individual initiative, practical optimism and self-organisation can be made to work. Small, more or less informal groups implementing projects they regard as worthwhile. It is extremely hard to get an organisation composed of energetic individualists with busy lives devote time to projects they get from "above", but if it is *their own* projects, things are in a different light.

> I think that the best way to get around this
> problem is to avoid it completely by decentralizing early on and making this
> VERY clear to the members.

I agree with this. The transhumanist internet community is very active, often more active than local associations. One reason for its vitality might be just the decentralization that occurs. It would be interesting to see if this could be applied to the "physical" organisations too.

If there are transhumanist activities in a city, they tend to attract more transhumanists and more activity, leading to a bootstrap effect. This is of course a very positive thing, but it also can lead to local centralization and having a lot of potential transhumanism that doesn't emerge in less densely populated areas. This is why I think local mailing lists, or perhaps maps ("Contact your local transhumanist") can be fruitful. We need to help sow the seeds which can germinate into these local bootstrap processes.

Maybe the idea of extropian nexi could be extended and promoted?

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y