Re: >H Defining Transhumanism

Phil Goetz (
Mon, 19 Oct 1998 14:31:36 -0400 (EDT)

> Transhuman Mailing List
> Nick Bostrom suggested that he & I take public our private
> conversation about definitions of transhumanism. I proposed:
> Transhumanism is the idea that new technologies are likely
> to change the world so much in the next century or two that
> our descendants will in many ways no longer be "human."

The use of the word "descendants" is problematical.

> This definition focuses on positive, not normative, beliefs.

What does that mean -- positive beliefs? How does the set "positive beliefs" differ from the set "beliefs"?

> To those who think that a definition should focus on normative
> beliefs I ask: Why do there seem to be so few people who share
> our positive beliefs but not our normative beliefs? That is,
> where are the people who believe that big technology-induced
> change is coming, and think that is a terrible thing?

People believe what they want to. I know lots of people who believe that a big technology-induced change is coming, and that technology is a terrible thing. They /all/ believe that civilization will collapse, or in some way change to bring things more in line with /their/ desires. It is a very similar mindset, I think, to the Christian who thinks the world is corrupt and full of sin, and headed for an apocalypse in which it will get what it deserves. I think it is an expression of sublimated feelings of powerlessness and indignation.

Transhumanists believe things will change to conform to /their/ desires. Maybe this is also an expression of some sublimated feelings.

> 3) When thinking about the future, most people succumb to wishful
> thinking, and so choose positive beliefs based on normative ones.
> So those who think big techno-driven change is OK are willing
> to think it will happen. And those who think such change is bad
> believe that it isn't likely.

Yes, that's what I mean.