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Any Transhumanists?
Posted: 19 November 2006 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Just wondering if there are any other Transhumanists on the Forum?

WW

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Posted: 19 November 2006 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“wild weasel”]Just wondering if there are any other Transhumanists on the Forum?

If you don’t mind my asking, what the heck is a transhumanist?

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Posted: 19 November 2006 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“wild weasel”]Just wondering if there are any other Transhumanists on the Forum?

If you don’t mind my asking, what the heck is a transhumanist?

A Transhumanist is a humanist who goes one step further.

A Transhumanist reasons that the accelerating pace of technological development will, in the next few decades, deliver such things as advanced nanotechnology, human level (and beyond) Artificial Intelligence and control of future human evolution to such an extent that we will not be recognisable as human in todays terms. Additionally we will overcome the aging process and enter a period where death is only by accident of voluntary. See http://www.sens.org

In short H+ plans to deliver on a lot of the failed promises of Religion through the appliance of advanced science. See:

http://www.transhumanism.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

I would say the vast majority of Transhumanists are atheist. It’s just seen as a bit more of a positive move than atheism - which is really only the denial that there is a god with any purpose for mankind. To some extent we could be said to be Nietzsches ‘attempters’, on tightrope moving from man to posthuman. Whether we’ll get there, or tumble into the abyss is anyones guess at the moment. :D

I help organise the UK Transhumanist Association and its regular ExtroBritannia meetings in London, at Conway Hall (the home of British Secularism).

WW

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Posted: 19 November 2006 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Dunno, WW, it seems a bit over-the-top for me. And I wonder about the ‘delivering on the promises of religion’ rhetoric. Will this become another faith-based lifestyle?

For all the vast and incontrovertible benefits of technology, human moral thinking is mired in the pleistocene, and likely to remain so mired for the foreseeable future. I am always skeptical of supposed discontinuous jumps in human history.

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Posted: 19 November 2006 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Dunno, WW, it seems a bit over-the-top for me. And I wonder about the ‘delivering on the promises of religion’ rhetoric. Will this become another faith-based lifestyle?

It might look like that at a superficial level for anyone who isn’t involved, but once you start looking out for research and results in the requisite areas, it starts to seem more realistic.

H+ relies on ‘optimistic skepticism’. ie, the scientific method in the context of its aims. It just has lofty aims. Think of it like the 60’s Apollo Programme. To land a man on the moon in the late 50’s/early 60’s seemed absurd as the technology wasn’t quite there then. But it was pointing in that direction. Some of the areas under consideration may indeed not work as originally envisaged, but the spin-offs, existing and future could still be significant.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]For all the vast and incontrovertible benefits of technology, human moral thinking is mired in the pleistocene, and likely to remain so mired for the foreseeable future. I am always skeptical of supposed discontinuous jumps in human history.

Yes, many of H+ people are also skeptical, which is precisely why we form social and outreach groups to start the ethical debate. Such technologies can’t easily be put back in the box, so we must do our best to guide them for the benefit of mankind. Which is why the subtitle of the World Transhumanist Association is: “For the ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities”. Whether we will succeed or not is another question - but at least we are trying.

WW

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Posted: 20 November 2006 01:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“wild weasel”]It might look like that at a superficial level for anyone who isn’t involved, but once you start looking out for research and results in the requisite areas, it starts to seem more realistic.

H+ relies on ‘optimistic skepticism’. ie, the scientific method in the context of its aims. It just has lofty aims. Think of it like the 60’s Apollo Programme. To land a man on the moon in the late 50’s/early 60’s seemed absurd as the technology wasn’t quite there then. But it was pointing in that direction. Some of the areas under consideration may indeed not work as originally envisaged, but the spin-offs, existing and future could still be significant.

Yes, well, I’m skeptical about the sort of Kurzweilian ‘singularity’ stuff, but clearly, if the question is whether humans will become more integrated into technology (including genetic engineering) then clearly the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘we ain’t seen nothin’ yet’.

But I don’t expect this will ever lead to utopia, universal happiness or endless lives. Humans are morally compromised creatures; happiness is a biologically modulated phenomenon; and entropy is the only really fundamental law of the universe.

[quote author=“wild weasel”]“For the ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities”. Whether we will succeed or not is another question - but at least we are trying.

Well, best of luck to you.

My biggest concern is that this program not become religion-ized or faith based. All too easily this can become another form of Scientology, and people are very good at deluding themselves into believing what they want to believe because it makes them happy, rather than looking with truly open eyes at the evidence.

So, have beliefs about the future based on evidence; don’t have faith that all will turn out for the best.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 03:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I agree with transhumanism in theory, my problem is that all the transhumanists I talk to seems to be idealistic fools who have no idea how the real world works.

Yeah, transhumanism is one thing in a sci-fi story, its another thing in the real world.

The biggest problem with transhumanism, IMO, is that historically, especially in a capitalist society, technology is used to control people more than it is to liberate them.

“We” don’t control technology, profit seeking corporations do, and transhumanism is an area where ethics are much to tightly involved to think that American corporations would be able to ethically bringing about the use of this technology, and if not corporations, then who?

I don’t see capitalism and transhumanism as compatible.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]I don’t see capitalism and transhumanism as compatible.

Well, you certainly won’t have transhumanism without capitalism. Nearly all of our technological advances (the “D” in the “R&D”) are done for profit motives.

I don’t see that as a bad thing; people need incomes to live on. And nothing is better at raising standards of living than the capitalist system. (Indeed, nothing else works at all).

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Posted: 20 November 2006 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]

My biggest concern is that this program not become religion-ized or faith based. All too easily this can become another form of Scientology, and people are very good at deluding themselves into believing what they want to believe because it makes them happy, rather than looking with truly open eyes at the evidence.

So, have beliefs about the future based on evidence; don’t have faith that all will turn out for the best.

That’s actually one of my concerns too. In my opinion Transhumanism isn’t compatible with the supernatural and therefore should be immune to religious memes. But the zeal of some hardcore singularitarians can make you wonder. Personally I’m not convince about a sudden technological singularity as there are economic and political pressures on technological development that can damp rapid progress. I’m also not too sure if we would even recognise ‘hard AI’ even when we saw it!

Its probably one of the reasons why I’m trying to ground our branch of Transhumanism solidly in the scientific method and skepticism. I want to see repeatable results.

As for the future, nothing will turn out ‘for the best’ unless we make it so! Ooops. I’m starting to sound like Jean-Luc Picard now….

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Posted: 20 November 2006 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“wild weasel”]Its probably one of the reasons why I’m trying to ground our branch of Transhumanism solidly in the scientific method and skepticism. I want to see repeatable results.

Well, if that’s your aim, then it sounds like you’re on the right track. Be skeptical about stories that sound ‘too good to be true’.

[quote author=“wild weasel”]As for the future, nothing will turn out ‘for the best’ unless we make it so! Ooops. I’m starting to sound like Jean-Luc Picard now….

Live long and prosper!

LOL

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Posted: 20 November 2006 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“rationalrevolution”]I don’t see capitalism and transhumanism as compatible.

Well, you certainly won’t have transhumanism without capitalism. Nearly all of our technological advances (the “D” in the “R&D”) are done for profit motives.

I don’t see that as a bad thing; people need incomes to live on. And nothing is better at raising standards of living than the capitalist system. (Indeed, nothing else works at all).

How can nothing else “work at all” since capitalism has only been around for about 150 years?

The system has its pluses and minuses. I don’t see transhumanism as compatible with its minuses.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]How can nothing else “work at all” since capitalism has only been around for about 150 years?

Standards of living only started rising about 150 years ago with the advent of modern capitalism and the technological innovations it helped to produce and distribute.

Now, if what you mean to suggest is that there is some untried system which works better at advancing technology, efficiency and standards of living than quasi-Darwinian competition between buyers and sellers in a free and open marketplace ... count me a skeptic.

If you mean that there are many very deep problems with capitalism that need to be addressed, and that the notion of a truly ‘free’ marketplace is an idealization, and one that depends on strong governmental regulation, etc., ... then I completely agree with you.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]The system has its pluses and minuses. I don’t see transhumanism as compatible with its minuses.

I certainly agree with the “pluses and minuses” bit. It’s far from perfect.

I don’t really understand transhumanism well enough to know if it’s compatible with what we know about human nature or not, but it looks pretty shaky. The problem is that if one says, “This isn’t human”, they’ll just say, “We’ll transcend it by becoming TRANShuman.”

But that’s not a recipe, it’s just a slogan.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The advances in standard of living weren’t products of “capitalism”, they were products of industrialization, which is also what caused the adoption of capitalism. There can be industrialization without capitalism in theory, but obviously the Soviet model failed for a variety of reasons.

Capitalism, due to its exploitive nature, is good and providing motivation to produce goods. Its not so good in the ethics department, and I think that the ethics department is key to this issue.

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Posted: 20 November 2006 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]The advances in standard of living weren’t products of “capitalism”, they were products of industrialization, which is also what caused the adoption of capitalism. There can be industrialization without capitalism in theory, but obviously the Soviet model failed for a variety of reasons.

Well, but the industrial revolution was a product of capitalism. That’s all I was arguing. Industrialization began due to competition between producers, as well as the profit motive.

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Capitalism, due to its exploitive nature, is good and providing motivation to produce goods. Its not so good in the ethics department, and I think that the ethics department is key to this issue.

Sure. Laissez-faire capitalism can easily turn into something of an ethical disaster. On that we are in agreement.

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Posted: 23 November 2006 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Re: Any Transhumanists?

[quote author=“wild weasel”]Just wondering if there are any other Transhumanists on the Forum?

WW

I don’t know if I qualify as a bona fide transhumanist, but I’ve read a lot about them.

What do you think about Nick Bostrom’s “simulation argument” ?   

Bostrom is the co-founder of the WTA.   


Oh, by the way, I’m a free-thinker from Buffalo, NY and I think this is my first post on this forum even though I signed up months ago.  It’s not easy to keep track of all the forums.

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Posted: 23 November 2006 03:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The only other contact I’ve had with a Transhumanist was on another forum about two years ago.  He posted a twenty-one item list of statements - sort of a Transhumanist Manifesto.  I don’t know if it’s official or just his idea, but they were uniformly puerile, poorly thought through and often just plain dumb.

As dougsmith said, unfettered capitalism is an ethical catastrophe.  The problem is that the only rule is to maximize profit, possibly in a competitive environment.  That means an organization that has ethics or that is concerned about the good of its employees or treating customers fairly is at a severe competitive disadvantage. 

A function of laws is to penalize behavior harmful to the citizens to the extent that it is less profitable to behave in that manner than it is to be honest, fair, and beneficial.  One of the problems we’ve had in the U.S. over the last few years is that many of those laws are being dismantled, allowing, in fact almost encouraging, companies to behave unethically.  Let’s hope this trend is reversed soon.

Occam

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