First, to answer your question, yes,
transhumanists often seem to just assume
that the things they want will get developed,
and developed damned fast at that.
Some of them do start to sound like
is not, however, universal. There are lots
of people out there who could be called
transhumanists, but who are aware that the
really radical technologies of self-modification
may not happen...
or may not happen in their lifetimes.
There is, however, good reason for optimism,
especially in the long term. Let's look at
The properties of Star Trek phasers were
defined to make them convenient plot
devices for fictional stories. They have
no other reason for existing. The people
who thought up phasers probably didn't
really care whether
they'd work in real life.
Even if they did want some level of
certainly didn't conduct any really detailed
feasibility analysis on phasers, nor
were they probably capable of doing so.
Phasers as portrayed in the show are more
or less incompatible with known physics.
They will almost certainly never be built.
On the other hand, machine-phase
has been pretty thoroughly analyzed.
See, as examples among many, Eric Drexler's Nanosystems,
and, perhaps less convincing, any of
links on the subject.
That sort of nanotech looks absolutely
consistent with all the known laws of physics
(and requires no new ones). It also looks
reasonably cheap, very useful, and reachable
by evolutionary advances from where we are now.
Why wouldn't you expect something so feasible
to show up eventually?
Space elevators are perhaps a bit more
speculative than molecular nanotech, not because
they're harder to build, but because it's
less certain that there'll ever be enough
demand for them to justify their cost.
The particular transhumanist laundry list of
applications you give in your third footnote
is, at least to me, still less convincing
than space elevators... I can see all sorts
of ways the future could go where those things
never came to pass, at least not for the
majority of people. However, those things
different from the Star Trek phaser, because
they are still physically possible,
at least depending on your definition of
"disease" and your time horizon with respect
It to me
that not only nanotech, but also the more
space elevators, thousand-year (trans)human life
spans, and transhuman brain modifications,
will probably come to pass... eventually.
Everything we know about the universe says
that they are physically possible. A lot of
people find them desirable. Eventually somebody
will probably do them.
Where people run into trouble with this stuff
is by being too absolutely sure... talking
in terms of certainties instead of
probabilities. Another way to make yourself
look stupid is by putting dates on things; it's
very difficult to guess what will be developed
in the short term, or what will be developed
first, or how long anything will take. Not only
are a lot of these problems really complicated
and time consuming, but fashions change, and the
direction of people's efforts change. The
"activation energy" for getting some of these
technologies may be pretty high, and it may take a long
time for it to build up.
Nonetheless, I don't see why you wouldn't
expect this stuff to happen eventually...
or even why you'd be surprised if it happened
I see a lot of people trashing "science fictional
speculation" about apparently feasible
technologies, and I wonder how much of that
comes from impatience. Because people haven't
already built everything dreamed about in
the science fiction of the 1930s, that stuff
is dismissed as either impossible or
something that just plain "didn't happen"
(and by inference never will).
That's unfair; this sort of radical progress
should be evaluated over centuries, not years
or decades. Failure to meet the timetables
of the wildest optimists shouldn't taint all
consideration of a technology forevermore.
For that matter, we have built
many of the speculative things that people
knew were physically possible in the 1930s,
and we're still sure we could do many of the
rest. The only ideas that have really died
have been ones based on speculation not
only about what people would build, but about
the laws of nature themselves.
Furthermore, the fact that you can find
implausible speculations, or speculations
that contradict what's known about the
world, doesn't give you license to discard
possibilities that do accord
with what's known about the world, let
alone relatively well fleshed out technical
ideas with serious thought behind them.
Some things that sound fantastic don't
come true. That doesn't mean that nothing
that sounds fantastic will ever happen.
Some people spout speculations that
almost certainly can't happen. That doesn't
mean that every speculative idea is
impossible or even unlikely... not
even ideas you hear from the very same
people who spin completely implausible
You have to evaluate each idea on its own
merit. A lot of these ideas
have a serious technical basis. Although
it's not certain that
any of them will happen, in many
cases it seems more likely than not
that they will.
But, as I said, I'm not putting any dates on