On BioScience and Life and Such

Decision time, become a transhumanist or not.

In Transhumanism on January 25, 2009 at 9:10 pm

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Endpoint: become a transhumanist or not (join Humanity +).

People often go through three stages in considering the impact of future technology: awe and wonderment at its potential to overcome age-old problems; then a sense of dread at a new set of grave dangers that accompany these novel technologies; followed finally by the realization that the only viable and responsible path is to set a careful course that can realize the benefits while managing the dangers. – Ray Kurzweil “The Singularity is near” p. 408.

After almost a year of personal (re)search and pondering, I find myself leaning more and more towards Transhumanist ideas and principles. My three remaining major concerns are:

1. Technology accessibility in the future. If technology is available only to the fortunate, then technology can easily be a source of conflict, death and destruction rather than an instrument for peaceful, prosperous and healthy living for all. Humanity + deals with this concern saying:

……everybody should have the opportunity to become posthuman. It would be sub-optimal if the opportunity to become posthuman were restricted to a tiny elite. Taken from here

2. A question that has been bugging me, and one that I feel the needed to find an answer to before calling myself a Transhumanist is

“why is something natural also regarded as something good ? – by default”.

And I think I have come up with (a somewhat unsophisticated) answer: Natural is good because many people (most of us ?) believe that we need to remain as self-sustainable as possible. Dependency on technology is just that….dependency, and that, together with lack of knowledge, may be what is scaring many of us. I do not however, feel scared myself, – and knowledge is out there to be grabbed by anyone….

3. The right to say no to technology. When it comes to medical genetic technologies, I have come to the conclusion that the single most important right is the right to say “no”. Freedom to say no to any technology must be an essential part of our technological future. To ensure personal freedom, but more importantly – to keep non-technological options alive – preserving diversity as well as potentially life-saving alternatives……The people that many transhumanists and singularitariens derogatorily label “bio-pundits” or “bio-conservatives” will be an important balancing factor in the future we are developing. Transhumanists do not have to agree with them, only respect their opinions and rights to make personal anti-technological choices.

Those three concerns out of the way, the only thing that remains now is to take the test leaflet to see if me and the Human + society is a match. Result:

7-10 points: You are a transhumanist. Go forth and share the memes.

I refuse to use the word meme, but be open about my transhumanist membership I will. One small reservation will be made in making this last quote my own…..:

………transhumanism is very diverse. It’s a phenomenon that may well look different in Italy (say) from how it looks in (say) California or Nairobi. Not only that, there may be considerable debate about the essence of transhumanism, or what is important to it, among different thinkers in Italy (or in California, or Nairobi, or wherever). Transhumanism is a cultural, social, and political movement with much internal variety and debate. –

And with that, I am filling in the form and joining the fold. I am officially a transhumanist.

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  1. So, why is something “man made” unnatural? Are humans not a part of Nature, derived from Nature or are we somehow “Supernatural”? Humans have evolved from nature and what we do is purely natural. This supposition renders so many belief systems invalid.

  2. In my experience, even self-purported transhumanists only endorse it in the abstract future. Opportunities exist now for improvement including cognitive enhancing drugs, lasik and cosmetic surgery, and increasingly, gamete genomic screening. Yet, partaking in any of these self-enhancing technologies still has a veneer of “cheating” or “shallowness.”

  3. Jim. I meant “biologically unaltered”. Natural is not very accurate in this setting – and my point was the one Andrew makes: “self-enhancing technologies still has a veneer of “cheating” or “shallowness.””, which I think is related to (or a consequence of ?) the fear of loosing self reliance …..

  4. I’ve never understood the excuse “self reliant.” That is, where do you draw the line for “reliance?” Naked, alone in the woods? In practice, “self reliance” means “how you are now.”

  5. Since I was a General Practitioner for more than four decades, practical discussion are far better than acadèmic one. In addition, I have been always trying to obtain from two opposite view-points, a synthesis: Romans sayd CONCURSUM OPPOSITORUM. For instance, I love technological advancement (e.g.,oncological biomarkers), but when rationally applied in individuals involved by both ONCOLOGICAL TERRAIN “and” Inherite Real Risk, bedside detected rapidly whith a stethoscope, i.e., in clinical way, avoiding Jatrogenetic Psychological Terrorism … among other events (= useless expensive examinations, a.s.o.).

  6. […] made this argument in the last post that being “natural” (or biologically unaltered, which is more accurate in this […]

  7. #3: if survival of the fittest maintains those that adapt most to changing conditions survive and pass on their genes, agreeing to let those say “no” is actually negating #1.

    It’s apparent beyond a reasonable doubt that those who embrace these changes will be more successful than those who do not.

    To ‘allow’ some to say no is to enforce competition, which #1 purports to eliminate. I don’t believe #1 & #3 can coexist.

    Does this logic hold?

  8. Ryan. You argue that “It’s apparent beyond a reasonable doubt that those who embrace these changes will be more successful than those who do not.”

    My point is exactly the opposite: if all or some of, this technology does not work in our favor then the group of people that haven’t been using it would be the ones with an advantage, and that this diversity will work like an insurance for our future. Remember that diversity is the foundation for evolution (by the way, – Happy birthday Darwin).

  9. […] soon rid ourselves of our bodies, mood swings and even the physical acts of sexual relations. I am still a transhumanist, but will have to distance myself from H+ if this continues […]

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