Re: Fwd: The Geek Syndrome

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Sun Dec 16 2001 - 02:51:25 MST

On Sun, Dec 16, 2001 at 01:29:22AM -0200, Rafael Anschau wrote:
> At 02:39 16/12/01 +0100, you wrote:
> >Researchers ignoring the ethos is what makes bioconservatives like Leon
> >Kass the bioethics advisor to the president rather than Max More. If you
> >only look at what is possible, and not what is desirable, somebody else
> >is going to define desirability for you. And that might be a person with
> >a very nasty agenda. I think transhumanism can play its most important
> >role by formulating a positive ethos of human change; we will not be the
> >central researchers, but we can give them the reasons and arguments they
> >need to defend and promote their research.
> Have you met a scientist ?

I am one, a computational neuroscientist. (Hence Damien's merriment)

> They conjecture their hipothesis for the thrill
> of acuretely modelling our universe. They love seeing their theory stand
> massive attempts of refutations.
> The joy of seeing so called experts trying to refute their conjectures,
> and failing one after the other.
> It's more like scoring a point in a sport, or even winning a chess a game,
> then achieving a noble
> or moral purpose. This is what they are good at. Scientists should tell
> us what is possible.
> Moral philosophers should tell us what is desirable.

I agree with your description about what drives us scientists (although
there are other motivations too), but not your separation of ethics from
science. Moral philosophers are experts on ethics, but that doesn't mean
you should hand them the right to define what is desirable! Leon Kass is
a moral philosopher, and he thinks immortality and posthumanity are
evils to avoid. If I as a scientist (or a human) leave the definition of
desirability up to others, then *they* will rule my mind and actions.
Instead, I want to be able to stand up to others and be able to clearly
explain why my research is not just enjoyable to me, but something that
is both ethically allowed and desirable. When somebody asks me why they
should spend money on my research, I want to be able to show them not
only that it is useful, but that it is *right*.

It is this tendency to leave ethics to the ethicists that has
contributed very much to the current anti-GM situation. The scientists
did their research, not noting that the ethics being defined in society
was being co-opted by anti-progress groups.

> As a moral philosophy,
> I would give
> transhumanism an A+.

I wouldn't. Here is an experiment: try to deduce from transhumanist
ethics, what forms of animal experimentation should be allowed. If you
can deduce this from the transhumanist moral philosophy (and not just
include your own or other ethics, calling it the transhumanist
position), then it may be a workable moral philosophy.

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

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