Transhumanism: The Search for Human 2.0

  • Thread starter Sciborg_S_Patel
  • Start date
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Humanism and Transhumanism


Liberty and Limitation

Contemporary libertarians, viewing society as composed of transactions between autonomous actors, seem to expect that these transformational choices will be individual in nature. But as has been cogently argued by a number of critics, individual choice will probably not be decisive. Once the enhanced set the standards, it will pretty much be impossible for the unenhanced not to have to try to keep up, if only because their life chances, and ultimately even their continuing recognition as members of society, will be at stake. So rather than choices made by independent rational actors, the decisions about radical enhancement are more likely to be either collective or to be imposed from above by an elite, as predicted by Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis, among others. Or it may be that the choice will not be made intentionally at all, but simply imposed by realized technological possibility — a progression hinted at by the spread of steroid use among athletes today.

The attachment of some libertarians to transhumanism is deeply misguided, for at least two reasons. First, the phenomenon that Richard J. Herrnstein got so much grief for pointing out in his 1973 book I.Q. in the Meritocracy — namely, that true egalitarianism and meritocracy tend to produce, through the marriage of the smart with the smart, a genetic aristocracy, almost a genetic caste — would likely deepen dramatically in the future the transhumanists desire, with consequences for the liberty of the unenhanced. At some point, those who celebrate the liberty of human beings will have to face the fact that liberty will look very different when we are no longer merely human. Second, our enhanced offspring might have to confront novel existential threats, such as the problem of an artificial intelligence bent on the destruction of humanity, or of self-replicating nanobots run amuck — guarding against which would likely require the governance of some massively powerful and intrusive entity like the World Controller in Huxley’s Brave New World. The rule of bureaucrats and experts, which has already started small in Europe and which elites seem to be pushing for throughout the West, would probably evolve apace with the rapidly expanding new science into the rule of experts at all levels.
 
#2
But so too will we get the ability to achieve genetic engineering, if not prosthesis options. There is already (and probably always has) an existent "genetic caste", as there is constantly much fanfare and discussion of the top percentile (think Tesla or Einstein) and almost zero fanfare for the lower 99%. Athletics are dominated by people with excellent genes (when was the last olympic athlete who came from a sickly family? even anti-allergy meds are classified "performance enhancing"); the thing is, in our current era you simply cannot improve if your genetics happen to come from a weak line--the promise of genetic engineering and prosthesis that transhumanism makes is one where you don't have to simply accept genetic worthlessness; you have options to improve.

Many conditions (such as degenerate muscles, or muscles with gross motor control flaws, or weak heart tissue) have no treatment and are genetic issues. So they are already the "lower caste."
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#3
Yeah, I think transhumanism is inevitable on our current trajectory. It's more than a bit unfair to ask for the preservation of a particular picture of humanity when one isn't held back by genetic factors - like a supermodel decrying plastic surgery.

The question is can something of the human be preserved? Should it?
 
#4
Yeah, I think transhumanism is inevitable on our current trajectory. It's more than a bit unfair to ask for the preservation of a particular picture of humanity when one isn't held back by genetic factors - like a supermodel decrying plastic surgery.

The question is can something of the human be preserved? Should it?
I have always found Transhuamnism particularly offensive. IMHO it plays on fundamental human fears and weaknesses. I know the same could be said for religion but religion doesn't try to turn people into robots (physical ones at least).

It's very possible that my opinion of Transhuamnism has been tainted by science fiction and other popular media.

But to answer you question I think we should do what we can to preserve what it is to be human. Something totally intuitive.
 
#5
I have always found Transhuamnism particularly offensive. IMHO it plays on fundamental human fears and weaknesses. I know the same could be said for religion but religion doesn't try to turn people into robots (physical ones at least).
Isn't the whole point to engineer said weaknesses away?

I've never met (offline, at least) someone who was a member of the severely disadvantaged caste who would reject medicine or prosthetics because it would "ruin their essense." Even the subsect of Christians who say science is bad will still take their science-derived meds the first moment they get sick, right before going back to protest :eek:
 
#6
Isn't the whole point to engineer said weaknesses away?

I've never met (offline, at least) someone who was a member of the severely disadvantaged caste who would reject medicine or prosthetics because it would "ruin their essense." Even the subsect of Christians who say science is bad will still take their science-derived meds the first moment they get sick, right before going back to protest :eek:
Yeah, I hear what you are saying and I agree. I guess I did not really make my point clear. I have no issue with using the technology to help those with disabilities or injuries. I guess it would start getting weird for me when it gets into designer babies and dramatic cosmetic manipulations of the body.
 
#7
It will be interesting how the ability to connect brains together may alter the sense that one person "owns" consciousness. At the moment, this can more or less be done with the visual sense, in a non-neurological way. But as this potential and as these links get deeper and more numerous, you effectively have brains that are synchronized in experience and it then becomes a question of "whose" consciousness is forming those memories / experiences if they are all accessible over the connection. It's likely to render obsolete the concepts of "individual" spirit and soul, for instance.
 
#8
Has anyone played Deus Ex: Human Revolution? :)
Besides being an excellent videogame it tells the very plausible story of "human augmentation", bio-mechanical technologies able to hack the human body providing super powers such as more strength, resistance, improved senses, boosted cognitive capabilities (memory, learning faculties, focus) etc...

Can you imagine a world of "bionic" people where the wealthier can boost their bodies and minds with all sorts of bio-gadgets to give them physical and mental advantage over anybody else?

On a related note... humans seem to have quite remarkable "super powers" lying dormant somewhere in our DNA and minds.
I have already posted this somewhere else:
http://www.cracked.com/article_19661_6-real-people-with-mind-blowing-mutant-superpowers.html
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#9
Can you imagine a world of "bionic" people where the wealthier can boost their bodies and minds with all sorts of bio-gadgets to give them physical and mental advantage over anybody else?
Compare us to some of the poor bastards in Africa, for example. We already have incredible physical and mental advantages.

On a related note... humans seem to have quite remarkable "super powers" lying dormant somewhere in our DNA and minds.
It's not clear that we all have these super powers. Many of them may be flukes.

~~ Paul
 
#10
Compare us to some of the poor bastards in Africa, for example. We already have incredible physical and mental advantages.
I don't think your parallel works. Are you alluding to people starving to death?
We have sick people over here as well. They may be well fed but they have similar physical and mental disadvantages.

What talking about super charged physical / mental powers, of the non-human kind, available essentially to wealthy or super-wealthy people. You may very well imagine the type of wild competition it would generate even among people with access to this kind of tech.
 
#11
I don't think your parallel works. Are you alluding to people starving to death?
We have sick people over here as well. They may be well fed but they have similar physical and mental disadvantages.

What talking about super charged physical / mental powers, of the non-human kind, available essentially to wealthy or super-wealthy people. You may very well imagine the type of wild competition it would generate even among people with access to this kind of tech.

Yes! Good game.

You make a great point. H+ IMHO would only further serve to further divide our society. I mean look at our situation now. Most people don't have access to the best medical care available, care that often can save or vastly improve the quality of their lives. The idea that transhumanism would be some kind of great equalizer is rubbish. I don't think it's far fetched to say that two species could develop...h+ and the the norms.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#12
I don't think your parallel works. Are you alluding to people starving to death?
We have sick people over here as well. They may be well fed but they have similar physical and mental disadvantages.
Correct. I wasn't referring to Africa exclusively.

What talking about super charged physical / mental powers, of the non-human kind, available essentially to wealthy or super-wealthy people. You may very well imagine the type of wild competition it would generate even among people with access to this kind of tech.
There is already wild competition. But you're right, this will make it even wilder.

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
I figured Paul was talking about the incredible disadvantage of not having proper nutrients as an infant, and how this affects a lifetime of mental development?

Yes! Good game.

You make a great point. H+ IMHO would only further serve to further divide our society. I mean look at our situation now. Most people don't have access to the best medical care available, care that often can save or vastly improve the quality of their lives. The idea that transhumanism would be some kind of great equalizer is rubbish. I don't think it's far fetched to say that two species could develop...h+ and the the norms.
Oh, I think there'd be far more than two. Consider the bifurcation that starts to happen when we play around with neurology:

What is the Semantic Apocalypse?

In biological terms, my fear is that the Semantic Apocalypse is about to happen. Despite the florid diversity of answers to the Question of Meaning, they tend to display a remarkable degree of structural convergence. This is what you would expect, given that we are neurologically wired for meaning, to look at the world in terms of intent, purpose, and propriety. Research in this last, the biology of morality, has found striking convergences in moral thought across what otherwise seem vast cultural chasms.

Even though we cannot agree on the answer, we all agree on the importance of the question, and the shapes that answers should take – even apparently radical departures from traditional thought, such as Buddhism. No matter how diverse the answers seem to be, they all remain anchored in the facts of our shared neurophysiology.

So what happens when we inevitably leave that shared neurophysiology behind?
 
#14
I think there are a couple things at play here. First, as Paul is saying, the wealthiest among us always have access to better healthcare, education, technology, and other things. This fact alone doesn't mean that the forward progress of healthcare, education, and tech should be halted. That seems a strange leap. Rather, the conversation should be how to make the best of those things available to everyone on the planet.

Secondly, the author starts off on a note that is hard to take seriously:
The history of these humanisms is extraordinarily rich and complex. But because transhumanism cheerfully “transcends” all of it, we can cheerfully omit much of the detail here.
What he seems to gloss over or miss completely throughout the article is that there is, IMO, a robust debate among (and within) the transhumanist community and non transhumanists regarding the ethical considerations of the changes that may happen as we continue to integrate technological change into our lives.
 
#15
Rather, the conversation should be how to make the best of those things available to everyone on the planet.
That isn't really a problem that the scientists among h+ can solve. Transhumanists appear to also be libertarians at heart, which is a form of governance that has proven time and time again to be socially engineered as nothing more than liberal extremists (despite that upon studying the history of the USA, it becomes evident that libertarianism was the original goal.) Someone like me could argue that creating votech schools to plug the gap in a lack of medical professionals, sponsoring research journals whos sole purpose is to optimize standard treatment programs for the most common incidents, or fixing the abuse of emergency care centers by illegals would be much more useful than forcing people to buy private insurance, but then I would be labelled a radical by a social engineer and ignored.

I could even point to evidence such as Sam Parnia complaining about the lack of ECMO machines around the country (while Japan has them equipped in nearly every facility), or housing assistance programs that offer fixed benefits--consequently, landlords up their price by that exact amount; economically its free money and why wouldn't a businessman take free money?

What he seems to gloss over or miss completely throughout the article is that there is, IMO, a robust debate among (and within) the transhumanist community and non transhumanists regarding the ethical considerations of the changes that may happen as we continue to integrate technological change into our lives.
I think that the people who work with h+ technologies would like it to be available to everyone--just as Tesla wanted everyone to be able to receive free electricity from his New York tower project--but aren't going to stop working just because the mass public is too busy being trapped in ineptitude.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
I don't think the gap presaged by transhumanism will be accounted for by selecting against the inept. (I don't think the gap that exists now is accounted for by ineptitude, but I suspect the politics of such things takes us beyond the remit of this board.)

There will be those who feel it's ethically wrong, or at least ill-advised, to conduct such massive transformations of the human. Even if we don't take into account the aforementioned possibility of changing the neuronal wiring of humans, we're still confronted by the incredible bifurcation this sort of modding will allow in who is considered "human".

Is maximization of intelligence the best place to stop, or should people be interfacing with machines? Or should we boost strength, pleasure, etc?

This isn't to suggest this will all happen at once, but I suspect in the next 20 years or so we'll begin to be confronted with these sorts of questions. We already are, given the number of people utilizing adderall, Xanax, and so on just to get through the workday. Not to mention the call to legalize performance enhancing drugs.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
#17
Unfortunately a lot of people in the transhumanist movement are libertarians, but there are also socialists, progressives and other leftists there. One example of this is James Hughes. Take a look at his excellent book Citizen Cyborg and also his Changesurfer podcast/radio show. For leftist transhumanists, transhumanism must go hand in hand with universal health care and the welfare state, so that we don't end up with a Gen-rich vs Gen-poor Gattaca or Elysium-style dystopian scenario.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hughes_(sociologist)
 
Last edited:
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#18
On the subject of socialism and transhumanism, I think the initial problem will not be people getting left behind. I think it'll be testing the product on those who have less wealth and less opportunity.

Once the kinks are worked out, and a few success stories are touted (with long run ramification swept under the rug) - then I think we'll see the widening of the gap into a possibly uncrossable chasm. The way out of this may come from countries where socialized medicine is long established and/or countries that will think nothing of using the State to coerce or outright force people into getting varied augmentations.

What may also drive a closing of income gaps is enhanced VR experiences - if you live your social life on some virtual world(s), why does it matter if you jigger your body into a monstrosity?
 
#19
Unfortunately a lot of people in the transhumanist movement are libertarians, but there are also socialists, progressives and other leftists there. One example of this is James Hughes. Take a look at his excellent book Citizen Cyborg and also his Changesurfer podcast/radio show. For leftist transhumanists, transhumanism must go hand in hand with universal health care and the welfare state, so that we don't end up with a Gen-rich vs Gen-poor Gattaca or Elysium-style dystopian scenario.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hughes_(sociologist)
Got a problem with universal healthcare?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#20
Got a problem with universal healthcare?
I think Dominic was making the opposite point, that UHC can potentially ameliorate the have & have-not divide that transhumanism would seem to inevitably bring about in nations that don't offer such care.

OTOH, one could also make the argument that UHC providing support for these modifications would increase bifurcation of the species due to lowering personal cost for augmentation/alteration. Corporations might even play a large role in pushing people to utilize these services in order to get ahead in the job market.

Seems like a variation of Prisoner's Dilemma, no? At least the major ramifications seem like they're decades away, though it would be nice if humanity managed to properly reflect on the implications of a technology before proliferating its use...

"The superior man thinks of evil that will come and guards against it."
-I-Ching, the Book of Changes
 
Top