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[P]
Transhumanists Versus Tech Skeptics

By greenrd in Op-Ed
Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 06:34:54 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Few people have yet heard of transhumanism or what it stands for. But in the influential right-wing publication National Review Online, Wesley J. Smith warns that the transhumanists are no less than the "next great threat to human dignity". Why? Because "they come from the highest levels of academe" and "they claim humans should not merely be allowed to metamorphose themselves through surgery, cybertechnology, and the like, but should have the right to control the destiny of their genes by means of progeny design and fabrication." He links animal rights theory with transhumanism, arguing that when animal rights advocates dethroned homo sapiens from its unique moral status in the natural order, they paved the way for contemporary "relativist" bioethics, and thence to more radical transhumanism.


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James Hughes of the World Transhumanist Association does not dispute the picture of decreasing anthropocentrism, but strongly disputes the usage of "human dignity" by the conservatives (and their uneasy allies, technologically-skeptical greens). Far from being anything to do with the real meaning of the word, Hughes argues, "human dignity" is often used to imply the very reverse of respecting others: banning research that could heal quadriplegics, prohibiting genetic therapy, and denying terminally-ill patients wishes to die peacefully - and, ironically, with dignity.

It is also unfair and inaccurate for Smith to describe transhumanism as "explicitly eugenic". No mainstream transhumanist has ever endorsed Nazi-style eugenics, explicitly or implicitly - and indeed the WTA has passed motions condemning notions of ethnic supremacy and neo-Nazi eugenic groups.

To muddy the waters, however, there is a different sense of the word - eugenics as in "personal eugenics" - which has been used by a few authors as a word to label the idea of parents selecting genetic characteristics of their children on an individual parental choice basis. This is an unfortunate conflatio of concepts, however, since the normal sense of the word "eugenics", which involves targeting races or social classes or both for compulsory state-directed selective breeding or non-breeding as if they were cattle stock, is not only immoral but unscientific.

Conservative campaigns (in the old-fashioned sense of conservative: preserving the status quo) against certain forms of biotechnology have led to unusual left-right alliances in recent years. For example, recently anti-biotech activist and author Jeremy Rifkin succeeded in convincing a number of prominent leftists to sign a petition opposing human cloning. As a consequence, the anti-abortion National Right to Life Campaign were able to proclaim, not entirely without justification, that Bush's anti-cloning stance is supported by "a broad coalition of environmental organizations, women's health organizations, and other groups not associated with the pro-life movement." However, subsequently several of the signers withdrew their support, admitting that they had not understood the issues and had not realised that they were endorsing a complete ban on "therapeutic cloning".

The green movement in particular has had a long history of calling for moratoriums, research restrictions or even total bans on certain technologies, from nuclear weapons and nuclear power to nanotechnology. Of course, this is not usually done for question-begging, hazy reasons such as "human dignity" or "God's will", but rather for very down-to-earth reasons based on human health or environmental risks. Today, however, perhaps one of the most high-profile forms of "green tech skepticism" comes in the form of the strong opposition to genetic modification, both among environmental activists and in a large segment of the population, in many European and developing countries. There are a number of interlocking reasons for this. While anti-corporate-globalisation activists and related NGOs have protested against corporate control of DNA and seed replanting (a sort of "DNA Rights Management" for agriculture somewhat akin to the RIAA's push for Digital Rights Management), and greens warn of unpredictable environmental effects, small-c conservatives such as Britain's Prince Charles decry genetic modification as interfering with God's handicraft.

However, not all environmentalists are firmly against all forms of genetic modification. Even Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, a controversial biologist who is one of the foremost British critics of current theory and practice in the field of genetic modification, has stated in a television debate that she could conceive of it being used appropriately and safely in future, but that in her view it is not safe the way it is currently practiced.

The World Transhumanist Association (and its regional affiliates), by contrast, explicitly set out to take a more optimistic, "tech positive" view. They argue that although we should critically analyse the costs and benefits of new technologies - and therefore there isn't anything inherently wrong with being skeptical about a new technology - misapplication of the "precautionary principle" is in danger of leading to an irrational overcautiousness, which by holding back progress could cause more harm than it is designed to prevent, in some cases. Given the scale and strength of opposition worldwide to human cloning and genetic modification even of crop plants (let alone humans!), it may seem that the transhumanists have set themselves a formidable task in attempting to persuade the public at large and public policymakers that radical future species-altering technologies are to be welcomed, not shunned. However, the 20th century saw many remarkably rapid transitions in public opinion, from views of women's rights (women did not even have the vote in most countries in 1900), homosexuality, racial segregation and racism, transportation technologies (everything from cars to aeroplanes were initially denounced by "experts"), views of computers (initially somewhat feared as "thinking machines"), to acceptance of medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic technologies for everything from augmenting the human body (heart pacemakers) to treating disruptive behaviour in children, to modifying our bodies' appearences after disfigurement or just for aesthetic reasons. One might be troubled by one or two of these swings, but the point is that public opinion on contemporary and future transhumanist issues might be more malleable than it at first appears. Another early sign of what could be termed "creeping transhumanism" is the existence of transsexuals, who have successfully called upon science and technology to overcome what previously would have been a biological cage, and are thus arguably among the first true transhumans - along with those who have benefitted from artifical body parts. (A transhumanist is one who broadly endorses the principles of transhumanism, while a transhuman is one who has put them into practice or is the result of putting them into practice - and posthumans is a putative term for our future biological, silicon, or cyborg descendants who are so different from us that they are called posthuman rather than human.)

To the extent that fearful views of radical technologies are buttressed by ignorance and misconceptions, the spread of communications technologies could help public opinion react more quickly than in those previous transitions. Furthermore, the vast majority of scientific disciplines would not be halted entirely by a ban on particular fields of research in one country, only slowed down. Although bans on ethical medical research are tragic for those patients who could have been saved had the research proceeded faster, and transhumanists tend to oppose them for that reason, technology cannot be held back forever. Politicians and government administrations that oppose certain technologies are likely to take a different view as, say, biotechnology or nanotechnology starts to play a more important role in public health, economic competitiveness, or on the battlefield. However, the more revolutionary the technology involved, the more danger there is for a country that decides to ban it or research into it, slipping behind significantly - either economically or militarily.

----------
Full disclosure: The author is a member of the World Transhumanist Association, but has some sympathy with the views of technological skeptics such as Mae-Wan Ho. Opinions in this article are not official views of the WTA except where explicitly stated.

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Poll
Who do you side with?
o The transhumanists 58%
o The "human dignity squad" 2%
o The hardline neo-luddites 5%
o None of the above 15%
o Not sure because the positions are too vaguely defined 17%

Votes: 153
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o transhuman ism
o what it stands for
o "next great threat to human dignity"
o World Transhumanist Association
o strongly disputes
o with dignity
o condemning
o had not understood the issues
o corporate control of DNA
o seed replanting
o "precautio nary principle"
o revolution ary
o Also by greenrd


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Transhumanists Versus Tech Skeptics | 291 comments (255 topical, 36 editorial, 0 hidden)
The Robots are taking over! (4.45 / 11) (#2)
by thefirelane on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:33:26 PM EST

To the extent that fearful views of radical technologies are buttressed by ignorance and misconceptions

I think you hit the nail on the head with that comment...

Thoughts about "transhuman" remind me of something said by my Artificial Intelligence teacher:
"Something is only AI when it is being researched. When you finally have a marketable solution, it isn't AI, it is a thing like Neural Networks. The term AI is an undefined magical science fiction thing. Once something is done and works, it stops being 'AI'."

This "transhuman" stuff is the same thing. It is because people are flipping out about something that is simply wild imagination. It is like being afraid of "AI" because of Terminator.... it might worry people, but no one really cares about Chess Master 3000.

Similarly, people will always worry about "transhuman" but the reality will slowly and surely become an accepted aspect of human life, just like breast implants. You haven't sacrificed your "human dignity" by getting them (note, I'm making a distinction between "human dignity, and your dignity.. it might be argued you are sacrificing your dignity by getting them)

In short, people will always flip out about "transhumans" just like they did for:

Organ transplants
test tube babies


But in the end, it will become common practice, we'll see nothing has changed as much as we thought it would, and our "human dignity" wasn't sacrificed. Then we'll move on, to the next thing to worry about.


---Lane

-
Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
The phrase is (1.00 / 1) (#214)
by bjlhct on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:28:40 PM EST

"A.I. stands for "Almost Implemented."
* Beware, gentle knight - the greatest monster of them all is reason. -Cervantes
[ Parent ]
I find your comments on dignity interesting (4.60 / 5) (#6)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:49:43 PM EST

Maybe the camps are split like this: on one side there is an "essentialist" view that an entity has dignity simply because it is human; on the other side there is the view that an entity has dignity because of the properties it has - can it talk, think or feel? It seems to me that neither side is more right in the sense that there is no experiemnt you could possibly perform to determine which is correct. Rather this is a question of value. Unfortunately both sides will continue to argue is if it really is a matter of fact and get nowhere.

--
The Definite Article
I agree (5.00 / 3) (#9)
by greenrd on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:58:55 PM EST

Yes, I think this is often a problem in ethical debates. It's ironic that in the more transhumanist-oriented camp, there are some who pledge their unswerving adherence to rationality and the scientific method, but insist that their ethical views are somehow "objective facts" even though they have no scientific backing for this metaphysical position!

I must confess, I often fall into the trap of assuming that certain (not all) ideological opponents of mine are "just stupid". In some cases their views may indeed be based on ignorance and therefore be correctable in the light of new facts, but one shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking this is always the case. In principle a well-informed socialist could agree with a well-informed conservative on the causes of poverty, say, yet not agree on what to do about it.

I don't see that happen very often though. Usually disagreement about values seems to have this uncanny tendency to be inextricably related to disagreement about physical facts and causal relationships.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Linguistic? (4.75 / 4) (#25)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 02:32:58 PM EST

Usually disagreement about values seems to have this uncanny tendency to be inextricably related to disagreement about physical facts and causal relationships.
Maybe we need a language that makes a difference between fact and value. They're treated identically at a linguistic level - at least in the languages I'm familiar with. You simply can't help turning an argument about value into one about fact.

Contrary to what many people say I've always felt that in political debates things like poetry, or photos of shocking violence, or plastic models of fetuses, say, are perfectly valid forms of argument. If you're trying to shift people's values then anything goes. But in modern governments we are actually required to pretend that we are debating rationally about facts even though we are dealing with value conflict.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]

It's a flaw of the English language (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by leviramsey on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:09:53 PM EST

For instance, if you look at Nicene Creed in Latin, the word used is credo, which is different from puto, which indicates a more intellectual belief. In a sense, this reflects the difference between belief in the heart (so to speak) and belief in the mind. Unfortunately, English makes no such distinction.



[ Parent ]
No wonder I have so much trouble... (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:28:20 PM EST

...with the Christian concept of 'faith'.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Better, Stronger, Faster... (3.00 / 1) (#12)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 02:05:42 PM EST

..not just the unnofficial mantra of cyberpunk enthuiasts. I say, bring it on!

R³ (who'll be the first in line for a cranial datajack!)

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!

Uh. (none / 0) (#150)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:43:03 AM EST

Steps to succeed in life:

1. Finish high-school. 2. Get a cranial datajack.

Uh, OK. Just try not to hurt yourself in the process.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Humans or ... (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by RoOoBo on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 02:24:58 PM EST

I think this topic is related what we define as 'humans'. And what kind of rights would have any kind of rational being different from what is called 'humans'.

Do 'human' for most of the people mean just the Homo Sapiens? Or does it means any kind of rational being which could feel, think and act in a similar way Homo Sapiens do.

Of course the conservatives are going to argue against any kind of modification in current humans (but someone could said it is their jobs, they wouldn't be conservative if they didn't). But I don't really see why someone who is or becomes different in any way but still have the treats that I think really characterize humans isn't human.

I think it should be obvious that the future for the human kind is going either to extintion or to change in ways that now are hard to understand. A technology civilization will explore this new frontier because it will have to do so (for example for space exploration). A non technological civilation (in the case some of the people who now are against technology gets the power) will eventualy become technological again or go the way of the tyrannosaurus.

The only problem: risks. This is a word that I think it started being used since the A Bomb in Hiroshima. The risks of technology. Of course, you can use technology for war or for destruction (intentionally or unintentionally). But the same can be done with something as 'ancient' and so low level as fire. The risks just have to be taken into account in an objective way and not talking about bad SF or terror movies and myths.



Techno- and other phobias (4.42 / 7) (#23)
by bwcbwc on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 02:29:45 PM EST

I found this piece to be very educational, since I hadn't heard of the trans-humanist movement before. It ties in nicely with the ideas of many science fiction authors, notably John Varley, who created a lunar society where the medical profession had been replaced by businesses dependent on expert and automated systems, and just about any kind of body sculpting and sex change could be obtained on a walk-in basis.

Throughout history, there have been so many motivations for restricting technical innovation that it's not surprising that there are so many forces arrayed against trans-humanism. For example:

  • Legitimate concerns about human rights. This ranges from defining the breadth of access to new medical technologies to exploitation of experimental subjects and the social rights of the new trans-humans (will they be treated like blacks in the 20th century?).
  • Legitimate concerns about technological risks. Will production of required materials pollute the environment? Are there side-effects?  
  • Knee-jerk reactions based on belief systems. "It's against God's will", "New technologies are too risky."
  • Concerns about impact to existing power structures: Who is going to make the money off this? Who is going to have the power to regulate it?
  • Individual need for power, politicking: Can I use this issue to create a social movement under my control? ("Trouble! With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool!")
Some of these motivations will disappear with time, but as the battles over abortion, evolution and fundamentalist terrorism illustrate, the conflict between scientific and non-scientific belief systems will continue as long as both types of societies (or sub-cultures) are in existence.

Steel Beach (none / 0) (#62)
by Perianwyr on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:08:35 PM EST

The funny part about Steel Beach was that the driving factor behind all this transhumanism was the fact that the Earth had been conquered by alien beings a while back, chasing humanity to the Moon, and no one really felt inclined to go take it back. They instead preferred to go dig holes in the moon's crust and live in Westworld. Which sounds perfectly all right- although if I'm gonna pick a dead-end scenario, it'll be the Childhood's End style.

[ Parent ]
My problem with... (2.25 / 4) (#33)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 02:55:43 PM EST

with the whole "trans-human" movement is that it seems to be a quest for perfection... in a wholly capitalistic (dare I say fascist) "I'm better than you are sense."

 I think the beauty of humanity stems from it's distance from perfection... art in general (whatever you may consider that to be), for example, doesn't fit with a dream for perfection. Look at societies throughout history such as ancient Sparta , or even Nazi Germany and the first thing you notice is a lack of "art".

 More importantly, what is cloaked in the promise of disease elimination and better, longer living by trans-humanists is basically eugenics. Trans-humanists support what is essentially the extinction of the human species, replacing it with a "better" techno species. Considering that I am human, and happy to be one, I have a problem with this.

 Creating, and by extension measuring "differences" as "better" or "worse" directly contradicts the notions of individual rights and freedoms that western democracies are based on. Many people fail to take this into account. It is naive in the extreme to suggest that all of us will have access to the same level of genetic/techno manipulation. Not when there are people sleeping on my street corner.

One thing all who support trans-human ideals should remember is that we (all of us) will become the 486's of the new Pentium generation. Obsolete and useless... will our sons and daughters, or their grandchildren care?


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Pondering (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by luserSPAZ on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:02:15 PM EST

I was pondering this on my afternoon run today.  If these technologies became a reality, would we wind up with the rich becoming a superhuman race, and the poor becoming a lesser people?  Obviously the technology would be expensive, and elective, so I'm sure only the fabulously wealthy would be able to afford it.  Would Bill Gates become a near-immortal and make decrees from on high?

Just some rambling thoughts I had.

[ Parent ]

Expense (none / 0) (#206)
by Trevasel on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:49:50 PM EST

Technology becomes cheaper by the day. I believe that transhuman enhancement will follow the classical five-stage technology adoption curve:
  • innovator: Uses expiremental and/or non-commercial techniques for life extension and cognitive enhancement. Currently innovators make wearable computers, and use life extending and cognition-enhancing drugs.
  • early adopter: Early adopters use newly commercialized techniques to improve themselves. Currently early adopters would be using things such as commercial wearables, mobile wireless, etc.
  • early majority: The early majority uses commercialized and stabilized technologies to improve their life. Things like cell phones, PDAs, laptops, etc. which increase your ability to handle cognitive loads. Also cosmetic surgery would fall into this category.
  • late adopters: "Joe six-pack". Current late adopters of transhumanist technology would be those using vaccines, antibiotics, and critical surgeries. These people really have no interest in transhumanism per se but will use technology once it is very solid, stable, and inexpensive.
  • luddites: reject all but the oldest technology. Even now, few reject all technology and go live in a cave using a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Even the Amish use agriculture, tools, fire, and the wheel, the quintessential early technologies. These people will still be around, but they reject technology on principle, in contrast to the late majority, who simply don't really care all that much.
Of course, the available technology will be advancing, so innovators will always have the benefits and risks of the most advanced technology. Given a hypothetical technology curve of medical and computer science, the early majority will have access to currently stable, inexpensive self-enhancement opportunities.
-- That which does not kill you only makes you stranger - Trevor Goodchild
[ Parent ]
Art, differences, obscelence (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by greenrd on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:59:24 PM EST

art in general (whatever you may consider that to be), for example, doesn't fit with a dream for perfection.

Then why is there a Transhumanist Art movement?

Creating, and by extension measuring "differences" as "better" or "worse" directly contradicts the notions of individual rights and freedoms that western democracies are based on.

Not at all. (Political correctness gone mad! ;) If a disabled person wants their legs to work again, then they are expressing a preference for that, which means they think that their legs working would be better for them. If a non-disabled person wants nanotech-enhanced arms, same deal. It doesn't imply that they think nanotech-enhanced arms are desirable for everyone, or that people without nanotech-enhanced arms are a "lesser class" of people. That's a social attitude problem, not a purely technological problem.

The problem you express happens when you have a state laying down unreasonable restrictions on what you can and cannot do with your body. This is exactly what the conservatives want (well, they want a special case where no more modification than what happens now is permitted), and exactly what the transhumanists do not want.

Trans-humanists support what is essentially the extinction of the human species, replacing it with a "better" techno species. Considering that I am human, and happy to be one, I have a problem with this.

I don't think you have too much to worry about. The way I see it, there are basically three possibilities:

  1. Almost everyone voluntarily decides to become posthuman and/or have posthuman children, except about 6 people, who are too few to continue the species, and so homo sapiens dies out. Highly unlikely - there are bound to be many people like you who want to stay human.
  2. Some people decide to become posthuman and some don't, but they live together in harmony.
  3. An evil species (of AI?) evolves or is created, which sees humans as useless vermin (bit like in the Matrix) and tries to wipe them out or enslave them. To avoid this, we just have to raise our children - whether biological or AI - with a strong sense of ethics. And personally I don't believe AI is on the horizon any time soon, anyway.
One thing all who support trans-human ideals should remember is that we (all of us) will become the 486's of the new Pentium generation.

Uh, this isn't exactly a new problem. Ever heard of aging? Which, incidentally, transhumanists also want to get rid of?

Should those who are willing to enhance themselves be held back so that everyone else who won't or can't doesn't feel inferior or useless?

It is naive in the extreme to suggest that all of us will have access to the same level of genetic/techno manipulation.

Of course. Ideally, from my point of view, transhuman technologies would eventually be provided by the government as a public service like the UK's National Health Service, to make access fairer. However I don't know realistic that idea would be.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

some good points... (3.50 / 4) (#51)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:19:45 PM EST

however,

"If a disabled person wants their legs to work again, then they are expressing a preference for that, which means they think that their legs working would be better for them. If a non-disabled person wants nanotech-enhanced arms, same deal. It doesn't imply that they think nanotech-enhanced arms are desirable for everyone, or that people without nanotech-enhanced arms are a "lesser class" of people. That's a social attitude problem, not a purely technological problem."

In case you haven't noticed, we are social creatures. (Unless you want to "fix" that too) Why wouldn't someone with "better parts" think less of someone without? Do you honestly believe that disabled persons, or those with learning disabilities, or those that smell funny are not "lesser" persons in our society? Are you suggesting that our social problems will somehow magically disappear in a post human world?

"An evil species (of AI?) evolves or is created, which sees humans as useless vermin (bit like in the Matrix) and tries to wipe them out or enslave them. To avoid this, we just have to raise our children - whether biological or AI - with a strong sense of ethics. And personally I don't believe AI is on the horizon any time soon, anyway. "

One may do well to remember that we've done a pretty good job of "enslaving or wiping out" other humans who "aren't quite like us" for centuries now. I don't think I need to provide examples.

In fact, we currently live in a society that rewards selfishness. To this you want to introduce further differences into the fray and then scoff at the idea that these problems will not only continue to exist, but be multiplied. Uh-huh.

I also noticed that you didn't bother to counter that transhumanism is akin to eugenics.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

When I am a godlike superbeing (2.14 / 7) (#63)
by Trevasel on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:21:47 PM EST

You will be first against the wall.
-- That which does not kill you only makes you stranger - Trevor Goodchild
[ Parent ]
*snort* (none / 0) (#247)
by amarodeeps on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:01:22 PM EST

Lighten up people, this is funny.

[ Parent ]
some comments (none / 0) (#114)
by khallow on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:48:14 PM EST

In case you haven't noticed, we are social creatures. (Unless you want to "fix" that too) Why wouldn't someone with "better parts" think less of someone without? Do you honestly believe that disabled persons, or those with learning disabilities, or those that smell funny are not "lesser" persons in our society? Are you suggesting that our social problems will somehow magically disappear in a post human world?

I certainly don't believe that our problems will magically disappear. Still it seems petty to prohibit or slow certain types of improvement because some of the benefitees will act like jerks.

"An evil species (of AI?) evolves or is created, which sees humans as useless vermin (bit like in the Matrix) and tries to wipe them out or enslave them. To avoid this, we just have to raise our children - whether biological or AI - with a strong sense of ethics. And personally I don't believe AI is on the horizon any time soon, anyway. "

We already have the necessary computing power. The hardware is already here. We just don't understand what an AI can be or should be nor how to do it. A lot of people already believe that humans are vermin. I assume that the difference is that the AI will be powerful enough to do something about it.

In fact, we currently live in a society that rewards selfishness. To this you want to introduce further differences into the fray and then scoff at the idea that these problems will not only continue to exist, but be multiplied. Uh-huh.

How do you propose to change this? Why should further differences change things one way or another?

I also noticed that you didn't bother to counter that transhumanism is akin to eugenics.

Ok, do you have proof that a rational eugenics program is bad? I'm not talking about the insane Twentieth Century genocidal crap. Eg, my ethnic group is the only one worthy of reproducing due solely to my presence in it. As I figure it, this is the biggest objection to transhumanism despite the fact that the notorious eugenics experiments of the last century were wrong not just in execution but also in mere concept. It's a straw man argument.

Animal husbandry has shown that natural eugenics in farm animals and pets works amazingly well to the point where one can breed animals for the patterns of their coat, their personality, or their ability to herd sheep. Given the wide variety of animal (and plant) characteristics which can be bred reliably there's no technical reason that humans couldn't be bred for similar characteristics. Here, I think self-determination is most important. Ie, the group should have the ability to decide what characteristics are desireable and select for those.

In particular, there are a number of ethnic groups that are practical human eugenics projects. Isolation is a key component to a eugenics project to avoid too much uncontrolled inflow of outside genes. There are a number of religious groups that exhibit a degree of isolation from outside genetic intrusion. For example, Hutterites, Amish, and orthodox Jews. In fact, there's arguments that Judaism is perhaps the most successful eugenics program in history.

Alternately, a different (and IMHO bad form) of eugenics is the propagation of a particular genetic stock through a population. The Han Chinese are probably the best example of this. Effectively, genetic outflow occured from the circle of nobles and the emperor down to the entire population over millenia. This has resulted in a land where everyone is effectively related in a moderate way to the lines of emperors.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Enslaving or wiping out (4.00 / 1) (#129)
by krogoth on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:50:19 PM EST

"One may do well to remember that we've done a pretty good job of "enslaving or wiping out" other humans who "aren't quite like us" for centuries now. I don't think I need to provide examples." So, should we return to medieval systems? Or would you rather keep moving forward?
--
"If you've never removed your pants and climbed into a tree to swear drunkenly at stuck-up rich kids, I highly recommend it."
:wq
[ Parent ]
Bah. (5.00 / 2) (#58)
by rcs on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 05:53:16 PM EST

My problem with the whole "trans-human" movement is that it seems to be a quest for perfection... in a wholly capitalistic (dare I say fascist) "I'm better than you are sense."

That, my friend, is very much wrong. It is a quest for perfection, perhaps, in a "I'm better than I was a year ago" sense.

Extending the limits of your own mind and body, to push back what it means to be human, to find the core of what you are, and to have a damn good time.

These people who are having problems with the idea make no sense to me. You're trying to dictate what someone else is going to do to their body? Who's fascist now?

You want to be human, more power to you, or rather, less power to you. I know I don't give a damn. I doubt many people do. If you're unwilling, morally opposed, to the idea of modifying yourself because the only hope you have at dignity is fitting the template you did when you were born, good for you.

Creating, and by extension measuring "differences" as "better" or "worse" directly contradicts the notions of individual rights and freedoms that western democracies are based on.

Individual rights? Like the right to one's body? The right to decide one's course in life? The right to make decisions for yourself? Which rights does it conflict, again?

--
I've always felt that there was something sensual about a beautiful mathematical idea.
~Gregory Chaitin
[ Parent ]

Transhumanism is (4.50 / 2) (#67)
by LilDebbie on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:31:20 PM EST

modifying the body in order to better adapt to an environment. As the environment changes, so must the adaptations. If one takes the definition of a cyborg, the transhumanist's wet dream, literally, he will find that the first person to wear the skin of an animal for warmth fits that definition. Altering oneself is nothing new. We started this mess when we first banged to rocks together and got a knife. Transhumanism is merely the extension of that idea several millenia later.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
I disagree (4.50 / 2) (#134)
by gnovos on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:02:21 AM EST

I think the beauty of humanity stems from it's distance from perfection.

I don't think that is true at all.  If we are looking at humanity from the perspective of, say, a dog, or any other barely cognitive animal on earth, we are perfect right now.  We are gods, in a sense, to those beneath us.  The reason why we don't think we are prefect is that there is always something greater than ourselves that we want to achieve.  If we were all completely posthuman we would still see ourselves as imperfect.  THAT is the beauty of humanity... it's drive for MORE perfection.  Until we become noncorpreal entities creating universes at whim, we will always be far from perfect.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

What constitutes "transhuman" (4.37 / 8) (#37)
by hatshepsut on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:22:54 PM EST

From the links offered, the "transhuman" label seemingly could apply to people who have had laser eye surgery (to improve vision), braces (to improve their teeth), vaccinations (to prevent disease), which I don't think would qualify as too mind-boggling to most people. Many other technologies were also suggested, many currently in the realm of science fiction.

From the Wesley Smith article, however,:

Indeed, Stock expects that within several generations, post-humans will be so diverse they will require artificial help to procreate because their heterodox genetic makeup will be incompatible with natural reproduction.

This, on the other hand, raises nearly as many problems as the specter of eugenics.

If a species cannot reproduce on its own it is quite likely to die out over the long term. This is in general, mind you. While some couples wish/require assistance such as artificial insemination, test-tube babies, donor eggs or sperm, etc., humans, as a species, are quite capable of reproducing without technological assistance. Deliberately destroying that capability would seem counter-productive, at best, and self-destructive at worst.

Transhumanism is a moving target (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by dr zeus on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:12:58 PM EST

A person with braces for teeth, laser eye surgery, an artificial heart, artificial eyesight (see the latest Wired), or any of a host of technological marvels would seem like a cyborg/transhumanist to someone from 100+ years ago. Many of the advances that transhumanists tout will be merely medical devices to our children and grandchildren.

[ Parent ]
Evolution (none / 0) (#61)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 06:33:47 PM EST

First of all, I agree absolutely with you on the notion that artificial insemination etc is bad for our species as a whole. But I don't go around telling infertile couples they are in the wrong getting fertility treatment (nor am I implying you do). But, transhumanists hold that "traditional" reproduction of the DNA via the exchange of bodily fluids will get outdated soon, and evolution will take a whole new direction along with that. That we have to not be affected by evolution but to affect evolution ourselves. And that there is a pressing necessity for this from an enemy that is science fiction now, but might well be very real in a few short decades.

There are a number of theories (admittedly quite heady) of what a posthuman culture will look like. As an introduction I'd offer a hive-mind where every brain in the world (solar system?) is connected via a wireless net or where a person can upload her brain to a computer becoming exponentially more intelligent, becoming one with the machine. These both would drastically alter our notion of individuality, life, religion, everything. And of course then we have the salvation/damnation duality of singularity, a situation where progress is so rapid we have no chance of controlling it or knowing what will happen beyond.

The fact of the matter is, if you believe some of the more advanced (crazy?) futurologists we have a lot to fear from the machines (and Terminator 3 is less than a year away). Augmenting ourselves through genetic engineering, cloning, etc. or even joining the "enemy" through uploading or the such will be the only way for humans to prevail against silicon. Stealing evolution away from mother nature might be the only deed which will arm us with big enough guns to defeat the odds that are slowly but surely turning against our species. And that deed comes with the convenient supplementary feature of turning humans into gods (which is a natural progression of modern western thought anyway, IMO).

And that very fact scares the shit out of many people, maybe for a reason. We have all seen how some, if not most anti-GM, anti-cloning, etc. technology is attacked with religious rhetoric. Becoming god, my friends, will be the next religious Reform for the judeo-christian and muslim world. Or the next Crusades.

--
"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
-- Winston Churchill


[ Parent ]
Meme pollution (4.00 / 1) (#268)
by coulson on Sun Oct 06, 2002 at 05:09:06 PM EST

As an introduction I'd offer a hive-mind where every brain in the world (solar system?) is connected via a wireless net or where a person can upload her brain to a computer becoming exponentially more intelligent, becoming one with the machine.

I've never really considered the implications before now, but what you describe sounds deeply concerning. Think how fast memes propogate already. Infection vectors are on the rise (news media, television, the internet, message boards, good old arguing with friends). The only thing that keeps you from getting swept up in every fad and belief are your rational or emotional barriers. People have to convince you.

As it is I often feel overwhelmed by the clamor of a thousand different points of view fighting for attention: politics, religion, macs vs. pcs, etc. It's hard to keep one's beliefs as there is always pressure from competing opinions.

Now imagine being part of a hive mind. A consciousness run democratically with decisions made on votes by thousands of partially-autonomous nodes? That weakening of the cognitive barrier means even more clamor! A constant fight to defend and promote your ideas over those of others. Failure means risking getting overwhelmed by virulent but completely misguided points of view. Yikes!

[ Parent ]

Whoa there! (5.00 / 1) (#271)
by hatshepsut on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 02:18:49 PM EST

I do NOT believe that artificial reproduction is bad. As long as it is done for couples who need the assistance (ie. they cannot have children on their own, but wish to raise children) and not just 'cuz it can be done.

However, IF we were to ever transform our species to the point where artificial reproduction was REQUIRED IN ORDER TO SURVIVE, then we have crossed the line (in my opinion, needless to say). If I didn't make this clear in my original post, I humbly apologize.

Please don't ever quote me as "disagreeing with artificial insemination", I don't think we are on the same side of that argument.

[ Parent ]

Aritifcial Reproduction (none / 0) (#88)
by Nelziq on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:41:52 PM EST

If these transhumans are products of genetic engineering then it seems likely that they would want to genetically engineer the makeup of their offspring rather have their makeup determined by the random joining of egg and sperm. Human cloning and artificial insemination will ensure at least some kind of reproduction will always be viable.

[ Parent ]
We are already doing this. (5.00 / 2) (#132)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:57:56 PM EST

Death in childbirth was once an uncomfortably common event.  Now it is almost unheard of in the western world becuase of our medicine and techniques.  In a sense, some of us already can't reproduce without technology.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]
Definitely (none / 0) (#272)
by hatshepsut on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 02:28:36 PM EST

And believe me, I have absolutely no desire to "return to nature" and die of <insert easy-to-cure-with-medicine disease here>.

I think I mis-stated my concerns in my original post. My feeling on reading this story's links was that there was a possibility (or a desire?) to modify humanity in such a way that it would be impossible to propagate without some sort of technological assistance...which admittedly, I may have misinterpreted as: gene splicing, artificial wombs, or other futuristic methods. I did not have artificial insemination on a couple-by-couple basis, or medical intervention/assistance during and after childbirth in mind at all.

[ Parent ]

A fatal flaw of transhumanism (3.57 / 7) (#39)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:32:45 PM EST

From the WTA website:
(2) The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally altering the human condition through applied reason, especially by using technology to eliminate aging and greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.


Not everything they advocate is questionable, but to eliminate aging? Now we have a population of immortals, so necessarily the production of children must be eliminated since the old units don't need to be replaced anymore. Without young minds nothing would ever change, new ideas would slowly disappear as these ancient immortals can no longer break free from the confines of the ideas entrenched in their minds. The culture would stagnate, and ultimately be self-destructive, or be forever condemned to stagnate.

Of course, they've tried to address this point by using 'space colonisation' as an answer saying nanotechnology will make it 'easy', but fail to present any concrete ideas of what would be done.

The other issue is the definition of human. Transhumanists define it as a static state of being for the species. Fortunately, we're biological beings and as such are a culmination of 4 billion years of adaptation and evolution, and it's not very insightful to assume that we won't continue to. But this continuation requires the cycle of death and birth, of hardship and plenty. Alongside us will be the tools that we've invented, but we will still be humans, we will be still born of the same past.

Transhumans and posthumans are bollocks ideas, because we will always be humans no matter what advancements we make. Transhumanism also seems to ignore the cultural legacy that humans carry. Much of our abilities are not inherantly biologicaly, but are cultural, and augmenting ourselves won't make it any more inherant to an individual being than it is now.

As a previous poster has said, the beauty of humanity stems from our distance from perfection. I am inclined to agree.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
Eliminating aging (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by Ndog on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:50:14 PM EST

Certainly doesn't make you immortal.



[ Parent ]
of course not (none / 0) (#44)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:54:38 PM EST

Let's make that, 'immortal' if you avoid unnatural means of death such as jumping off buildings, getting hit by a car, etc. They say they'll get rid of disease, so we can't use that to end one's life either when thinking of it


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
So when should we stop? (none / 0) (#47)
by Ndog on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:01:25 PM EST

Science and medicine have been trying to eradicate disease and reduce the effects of aging for a long time. When do we stop? Do we live too long right now? Maybe we need to bring more diseases back. Should we set a cap of 100 years average life expectancy, or do we keep trying to prevent disease and slow the effects of aging once that average life expectancy is reached?

I firmly believe that there will never be a way to stop aging or the effects of aging, but even if you don't stop it completely we will experience the problems you talk about because of longer life expectancies. Does that mean we need to actively discourage or eliminate people from living longer at some point?



[ Parent ]
never (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:19:19 PM EST

I believe that at some point we will identify the main factors behind the aging mechanism, but whether we'll ever really be able to manipulate it, not sure.

I also think it's a self-regulating system. If the life expectancy gets long enough to cause the society to stagnate, the stagnation itself will be the downfall of the society. With the loss of the society, the life expectancy will again fall due again due to return of disease. Adaptable homeostasis of a natural system. So no, don't try to make some cap, we'll figure out when too long is when need be.

But without disease and aging, the number of people that die from other causes to keep the population stable, even in countries with low birth rates. It wouldn't be able to maintain it.

But in any case, for my critisism of the transhumanist point of view, I assumed that they'd be able to eliminate aging and disease completely. If that doesn't happen then we don't have to worry much about these folks do we?


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
real immortality (none / 0) (#92)
by khallow on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:49:10 PM EST

I believe that at some point we will identify the main factors behind the aging mechanism, but whether we'll ever really be able to manipulate it, not sure.

If the current biological organism can't be made nonaging, then switch to a format that can be made nonaging. Further, one can back up peoples' complete mental state so that nothing less than the complete destruction of a society (and all copies of the persona) could kill a person. This is practical immortality.

Stagnation is an interesting term. For example, it is often claimed that Islamic society stagnated in the late Middle Ages through more recent times. However, an alternate viewpoint is that Europe of that time accelerated greatly its advancement so that it overtook all other civilizations of the world. In other words, even if Europe hadn't taken off, we would still be ahead of where we were in 1500 due to the advances of Islamic science and culture. China would probably continue to be more advanced than Islamic culture as well.

Arguing that increased life span will result in stagnation is unproven. We have no indication that increased life span induced stagnation in a historical civilization. It certainly doesn't seem relevant to the US or the world for which longevity has increased substantially over the past century. It may well be that in a future of extreme longevity, humans may get bored with a stagnant society and thus spur change for its own sake.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

yes, yes, but (2.00 / 1) (#97)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:13:10 PM EST

And what I mean by stagnation is the maintenance of the status-quo, indefinately, in all aspects of life minus natural variablility. No new ideas whatsoever. This is extreme, something that's never existed, and obviously it never has because we've [humanity] has never enountered a situation of unlimited lifespan.

No, lack of young minds will promote stagnation, not the extended lifespan itself. The extended lifespan would/might encourage people to have less children, which would slow down change, but not stop it. If you reach a point at which people become immortal (save for accidents etc) there is no reason to create new people. So you're stuck with the same pool of minds, and they age. We well know that as you get older the harder it is to learn, and the harder it is to come up with new ideas and accept new ideas.

So, I was saying that an infinite lifespan would promote stagnation indirectly through the decrease, if not damned near non-existent demand for children, not that increased lifespan causes it directly.

It could also be offset by other factors promoting rapid change, but ultimately (and I'm talking hundreds if not thousands of years), it would stagnate.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Stagnation? (4.00 / 2) (#135)
by krogoth on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:08:18 AM EST

While working on ideas to post as a reply to some anti-transhumanist post and reading your post, I realized that the risks of stagnation are probably much less if we stop ageing than if we fight transhumanism.

Most of the arguments against transhumanism are fighting new technology just because it isn't already a part of our lives. If this is the case, where do we stop? Why not get rid of all the technology we can and still survive? I don't think that will do much to prevent stagnation of the human race.

That might be a bit extreme, but if we go back to the basic idea - resisting new ideas - it comes down to preventing changes to our society as much as possible except for very small changes - sounds like stagnation to me.

Transhumanism is opposed by exactly the same type of people that you think we would get if there were no deaths from natural causes.
--
"If you've never removed your pants and climbed into a tree to swear drunkenly at stuck-up rich kids, I highly recommend it."
:wq
[ Parent ]

I doubt it (none / 0) (#140)
by Goatmaster on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:08:08 AM EST

My arguements against transhumanism as it's defined on the linked website have very little to do with fighting new technology. In fact, I encourage use of new technologies, but some of the goals, some of the scenarios they present rub me wrong. However, I do respect people who advocate caution against using new technology because they are a necessary balance against those who charge straight ahead.

The loveable luddites that argue against the overly fantastic technology that transhumanists require to achieve their goals may be similar to what would result if there was no death, the difference is that they're opposed by (usually) an equal number of people advocating the other side of things. This creates conflict, conflict that itself changes with new minds and new voices. Conflict creates growth. We wouldn't get this back-and-forth if my scenario with the trans/post humans came to be.




... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Mind backups (none / 0) (#133)
by krogoth on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:58:40 PM EST

I wouldn't care much for them. If I were to die and a "mind backup" of me were restored, it wouldn't be the same me, it would be a different instance of myself. Why should I care whether I have another instance when I exit()?

Other people, though, probably would - it would make things easier for them, although they might use the same reasoning to decide that the next instance wasn't me.
--
"If you've never removed your pants and climbed into a tree to swear drunkenly at stuck-up rich kids, I highly recommend it."
:wq
[ Parent ]

Backups (none / 0) (#221)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:37:47 PM EST

I hope people back themselves up more often than they backup their computers, or the next version will think he's a teenager!
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
It could... (none / 0) (#131)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:51:14 PM EST

...if your method of anti-agains is a tiny nanobot replacement for blood that completely rebuilds your cells automatically when there is damage (and regrows limbs, fights infection, wirelessly communicates nerve signals when your brain gets chopped in half, forms EM barries around you in the event of nuclear holocost to redirect heat and light, generates oxygen and energy for you from vacuum fluctations allowing you to float in open space without equiptment, etc.).  At that point nothing short of anti-matter annihilation could kill you.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]
I agree (4.25 / 4) (#59)
by tichy on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 06:09:11 PM EST

The flaw of the view is the monolithic 'human' concept. The 'human condition' only exists in the minds of the aristotelians. Humans can change and have changed throughout history in more ways than you could count. However it appears that the body is 'more essential' to the 'human condition' than mental changes due to culture in the past. This sounds ridiculous to me. If you grow a third leg or a secondary penis, you would be pretty much the same: as human as you are now.

Changing the brain, however, seems more important. What if we had new senses, new pleasure centers, etc? We'd be very different, to the point that maybe we could no longer really understand a human with those new characteristics. Does this mean he's no longer human? Hardly so... the same happens with cultural changes, when they are radical enough and enough time has passed. So to me the day we got our minds in the lottery of evolution is the day the transhuman movement was born, heh. I'm all for new senses, changing the brain, whatever, but to me they are not qualitatively different from what we've been doing since the beginning.

As for the opposition - it was to be expected. It will eventually concede or become a nonissue as it always does and this too will be peeled off the 'human condition'. For this I suppose I rather like the transhumanists, as they do the necessary work of being controversial about it for the rest of us.



[ Parent ]
Evolution (3.00 / 1) (#69)
by LilDebbie on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:46:10 PM EST

...of hardship and plenty.

I do hope you realize that, for the most part, this important element of evolutionary theory has long been removed from the equation. As a result, humanity has not benefited from differential adaptitude and survival of the fittest. When diabetics and sufferers of genetic disorders like CF can live long enough to breed, the unfit - and I use this term in the evolutionary sense mind you - genes are not removed from the pool. It can be argued that we stopped evolving in the traditional sense when we first started making tools.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
'adaptitude' should read 'aptitude' - apologies nt (none / 0) (#70)
by LilDebbie on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:47:49 PM EST



My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
I know and agree (none / 0) (#72)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:57:49 PM EST

Evolution as it applies to (most) other animals has probably stopped or slowed to a crawl in humans. However, evolution has not stopped, the 'fit' that is being selected for has changed. However, just what is now being selected for is probably much harder to define. There's also cultural evolution, which can be argued is a logical extension of the evolution of individuals within a social species. Another kettle of fish, though I touched upon both.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Define fittest (none / 0) (#220)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:29:57 PM EST

I think "survival of the fittest" is still going on, but what defines fitness has changed. In caveman days, I probably would have gotten eaten by that lion I didn't see in time (nearsighted), but in the 21st century, my ability to learn quickly is far more important than my limited eyesight.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Do you breed, sir? (none / 0) (#237)
by LilDebbie on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:27:43 PM EST

Evolutionary fitness is merely defined as who breeds the most with offspring that survive to adulthood and also breed. My argument is that there is no longer any correlation between differential characteristics and the above defined fitness, hence no evolution of the species except through mutations, which happen almost never.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Consequences of Aging (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by opensorcerer on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:35:11 PM EST

I doubt that any society can wield enough technology to halt aging entirely and NOT be capable of low-cost space exploration as well - the science-friendly mindset that transhumanism needs to really succeed will most likely be just as friendly to space travel, which means colonization.  At that point, as long as you can ship enough kids out fast enough to make room for your new ones, you're fine.

Steve Arlo: There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of guys.
[ Parent ]
perhaps that is so (none / 0) (#104)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:31:29 PM EST

I don't believe that (if possible) that these two things would necessarily develop simultaneously. Even if they did, it wouldn't solve the problem forever. Read my comment here.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Young Minds (3.00 / 1) (#93)
by TheSleeper on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:53:59 PM EST

Without young minds nothing would ever change, new ideas would slowly disappear as these ancient immortals can no longer break free from the confines of the ideas entrenched in their minds.

I'm not convinced that the calcification of the mind with age that you allude to is inevitable for every human now.

I'm even less convinced that it will be inevitable in a future where we have the technology to slow or stop aging.

[ Parent ]

okay, so (none / 0) (#103)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:29:15 PM EST

The calcification of the mind (good way to describe it btw) is not just conjecture on my part. At the end of puberty, the neurons in the brain change, without getting overtly technical, they are mylinated. This allows neural signals to travel faster, but it also makes creating new connections slower. This slowing increases over time. Of course, we never lose the ability to create new connections, but the rate at which they can be created eventually is less than the rate at which they are being destroyed. That at least is the physical side of things and these transhumans supposedly could stop it with their nanotechnology. Okay, that's fine.

However, the acceptance of new ideas is not only tied into the physical ability of the brain to process them, but the willingness of the human to accept them. Of course there will always be a counterexample, but the older people get, the deeper their beliefs tend to become, created like a groove in the floor is created by pacing. They can still compromise around their beliefs, but it take earthshaking events for them to change past a certain age. This is the real calcification that I feel would pose a real threat to these posthumans.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Willingness (none / 0) (#108)
by TheSleeper on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:08:11 PM EST

Why do older people lose their willingness to accept new ideas? Without an answer to this question, I think it's premature to assume that this 'emotional' calcification will still be in effect in the possible future we're contemplating. Are you certain that it doesn't follow from the 'physical' calcification, or from awareness of one's own mortality, or from some other psychological reaction to physical aging?

For example, perhaps what happens is that one ceases trying to learn new things, out of frustration over the fact that it isn't as easy as when one was a teenager.

[ Parent ]

You have two seperate worlds colliding here (none / 0) (#126)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:42:43 PM EST

However, the acceptance of new ideas is not only tied into the physical ability of the brain to process them, but the willingness of the human to accept them.

The world with immortal space travelers most definitly has the Young-Think-o-Matic that alters your perception such that you no longer are unwilling to accept new idea when you get old.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

The beauty of humanity (3.00 / 1) (#94)
by Lord of Caustic Soda on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:54:06 PM EST

Stems from our struggle towards perfection.

There is been no biological evolution for humans for a long time, every gene, no matter what ill effects they cause, has been kept on by our medical advances (so long as they don't kill the person until say 20-30 years old).

And aside from the removing the defects, I can see some traits from animals that can be real useful - what about the ability to go into long-term hibernation? Sure makes space travel more likely.

Regardless of what form we may assume in the future, it is the fact that we are thinking beings (and now go fight over the definition of "thinking") who recognise and value the same trait in others that make us human, everything else is just fluff.

[ Parent ]

narrow scope (none / 0) (#99)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:17:47 PM EST

The struggle for perfection that will never be achieved is the beauty perhaps. Because if we do achieve it, there would be nothing left for humanity.

Casual philosophy aside, evolution not only favours genes that won't make us die early, but (and especially with more complex and social animals) can select for a variety of traits that increase sexual success, or overall success of the social group. Even if medical science is allowing people with moderate genetic diseases that would otherwise die before reproduction to survive, it doesn't mean that evolution has ceased, it merely has changed the rules slightly and changed the direction accordingly. Where the direction is I can't say with any degree of certainty.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
New units (4.66 / 3) (#98)
by ape descendant on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:16:13 PM EST

The infinite universe is a rather large place. There's plenty of room for an infinite number of immortal children. We just have to get off this stupid planet.
42
[ Parent ]
of course (2.50 / 2) (#101)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:22:04 PM EST

No one really knows if the universe is infinite or not, that's just conjecture. Aside from that, assume that the universe is infinite, then if it were possible to create suitable habitat for these humans/posthumans to exist anywhere, then it wouldn't necessarily happen. However, that would work only to a point. With each new generation, the new ideas would move outwards from the centre of colonisation, like a ripple, and after long enough, the edge would be so far from the centre that the new ideas would take an infinite amount of time to arrive at the older parts of the colonisation sphere since information can only travel at a maximum speed c (speed of light). In this scenario stagnation is delayed, but ultimately would take place.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Entropy (none / 0) (#105)
by ape descendant on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:37:28 PM EST

I'll admit that that was just optimism on my part. Continual expansion may be possible, but it's irrelevant. Since entropy is constantly increasing, we will eventually reach a point where information can no longer be stored in any way shape or form. Eventually all matter will decay, and possibly even the vacuum. We will stagnate at some point.
42
[ Parent ]
unless of course (none / 0) (#106)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:53:38 PM EST

The godlike posthumans find a way to manipulate the laws of physics. Say goodbye to pesky speed limits and entropy!


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
A Future with People INSIDE machines (none / 0) (#121)
by yokuyakuyoukai on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:30:25 PM EST

a lot of people seem to think that to eliminate aging and death we need subject ourselfs to famine and overpopulation. But if computer power keeps growing at the current rate, we will be able to emulate the human mind on a computer. If it grows more then that we can Emulate more then one human mind on a computer. and so on and so on.

It would be silly to think that there wasent a limit to computing power. But theres no reason the believe that that point isent way past what it would take to simulate a human brain.

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." --Kahlil Gibran

[ Parent ]
anti-transhumanists are idiots! (2.88 / 9) (#40)
by jabber on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:47:44 PM EST

Just ask anyone with a pacemaker, or even glasses, for that matter. The application of technology to improving the quality of life, is just a matter of degrees.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

trolling, or didn't read (none / 0) (#42)
by Goatmaster on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:51:18 PM EST

Go read the section "What is transhumanism?" etc. section of the website. It's not just the use of technology that they're advocating. It's only one facet (the one I don't object to) of transhumanism.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Neither (none / 0) (#53)
by jabber on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:57:08 PM EST

I think you took my post at face value.

To reject transhumanism is akin to the same level of ignorance that chooses to ignore the theory of evolution because it is not "directly observable".

We've been modifying the definition of "human" for centuries. From the first tattoo.

I see the progression from perfectly natural eugenics  to in-vitro + cloning as simply the application of technology to the human desire to procreate in the manner of choice.

I see reading glasses as not much different from uploaded knowledge a'la The Matrix. It's just a quantum leap in the facilitating technology used to enhance the mind.

I apparently fail to grok the big deal here. Is it the "transhumanist" label, rather than the happy, warm and fuzzy "we're all in this together as people" BS?

Is it the "humanist" pedigree? What?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Transhumanism is absurd (2.33 / 12) (#43)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 03:51:36 PM EST

It is nothing more than the present day version of the pulp sci fi magazine, with rocket powered cars, personal helicopters, and levitation devices. Feh.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

that's not an argument (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by NotZen on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:30:07 PM EST

You simply say "it seems similar to me to these absurd things, therefore it's also absurd" I'm quite happy to hear arguments against it, but I'd like some logic in them

[ Parent ]
Once again, for those slow of wit... (none / 0) (#74)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:06:17 PM EST

The reason pulp sci fi from the past was absurd was because people are phenomenally bad at predicting the future and tend to predict outcomes they prefer rather than outcomes that are likely, it being easy to decide what is preferable and hard to decide what is likely, and very easy in fits of enthusiasm to confuse the two.

The same argument, if you substitute "transhumanism is" for "pulp sci fi from the past was," is still entirely valid.

You might argue that the premises of the argument are not proven. This is true; they are empirical observations, and cannot be proven as such. However, they are empirical observations which have shown to be very nearly universally true throughout all known human experience, which makes them compelling to those of us who believe in that "induction" thing upon which all of the science you transhumanists worship is built.

If you had spent ten seconds thinking about what I was saying instead of engaging in typical transhumanist wishful thinking, you could have saved yourself a post and some embarassment. See how that works?:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Thinking? (none / 0) (#151)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:48:19 AM EST

Thinking is for the untermensch. The rest of us have cranial datajacks.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

All these things exist (none / 0) (#78)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:10:43 PM EST

So I don't get your point.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#207)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:53:07 PM EST

Well, no. "Rocket powered cars" have been built, but they are not what the magazines thought they would be. Personal helicopters simply don't exist as envisioned; if you think otherwise, you need to go back and read some of that old sci fi. As for levitation devices, unless you're counting air cushion vehicles(which are NOT what the magazines had in mind,) or believe in the Podletkov shield(a joke if ever there was one,) you're wrong.

Even if one or more of these things could be argued to exist, the magazines would still have been wrong, because they claimed these would be mainstays of ordinary American life, and clearly that is not so.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
were you being ironic? [nt] (none / 0) (#123)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:35:31 PM EST



A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]
We are fucking posthumans yet (3.66 / 3) (#48)
by bob6 on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:06:54 PM EST

Don't they ever read their own resources?

From the FAQ:
altering the human condition through applied reason
...
but we can make things better and promote rational thinking
...
Not only can we use rational means to improve the human condition and the external world; we can also use them to improve ourselves
...
Transhumanists think that through the accelerating pace of technological development and scientific understanding
...
thereby allowing us to eliminate disease
This looks like plain old blind faith in rational neutrality mixed with bad golden age scifi. "eliminate disease"? "accelerating pace of [...] scientific understanding"? Common guys! Wake up! We're in the 21st century.

Cheers.
The Doctor of the future (none / 0) (#201)
by ph0rk on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:17:06 PM EST


The Doctor of the future
will give no medicine
but will interest patients
in the care of the human frame,
in diet, and in the cause
and prevention of disease.

--Thomas Edison

.
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

Future of medecine (none / 0) (#222)
by bob6 on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:38:11 PM EST

I don't know what the future medecine will look like but it certainly will not get rid of diseases because the meaning of words like "disease" change. Roughly a disease is a disfunction of a human body, that is the body doesn't work normally. What is considered a disease thus depends on a normative definition of the human body.
For instance, some time ago, possession was a disease which had to be cured. Madness only became a disease during the 19th century while homosexuality isn't a disease anymore since recently. Currently we don't know for sure if drug addiction should be treated as a disease or not.
Whichever form the transhuman or posthuman (or whatthefuckever) wil have, its normal functional body will be different from ours. And it will find something to call disease.

Cheers.
[ Parent ]
We have to enhance ourselves through genetic eng. (2.33 / 6) (#52)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 04:26:01 PM EST

Or else the robots will enslave us all.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
Bio-ethics makes for some strange bedfellows (3.25 / 4) (#54)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 05:06:00 PM EST

Greens and Neo-Cons, Libertarians and Socialists, Cats and Dogs sleeping together, oh my!

Reason Magazine, voice of the sane market Libertarians in America, has been one of the more vocal advocates in support of cloning research, genetic medicine, and even more extreme forms of elective human genetic modification (although I don't think they quite venture into the Transhumanist domain). They have some good resources on this subject:

Reason's Cloning and Stem Cell Resources: An index of all related articles hosted on their website.

Are Stem Cells Babies?: A debate between Ronald Bailey at Reason and Patrick Lee Robert P. George at the National Review Online.

Engineering Humans: A Reason hosted debate between Francis Fukuyama and Gregory Stock. The articles are acessible from the left nav-bar and reader emails are in the main body.

ObMovie: Zardoz, a classic masterpice of dystopian sci-fi schlock.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


Double post - no disrespect intended [n/t] (none / 0) (#87)
by Pop Top on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:38:19 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Bio-ethics makes for some strange bedfellows (4.00 / 6) (#55)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 05:08:56 PM EST

Greens and Neo-Cons, Libertarians and Socialists, Cats and Dogs sleeping together, oh my!

Reason Magazine, voice of the sane market Libertarians in America, has been one of the more vocal advocates in support of cloning research, genetic medicine, and even more extreme forms of elective human genetic modification (although I don't think they quite venture into the Transhumanist domain). They have some good resources on this subject:

Reason's Cloning and Stem Cell Resources: An index of all related articles hosted on their website.

Are Stem Cells Babies?: A debate between Ronald Bailey at Reason and Patrick Lee and Robert P. George at the National Review Online.

Engineering Humans: A Reason hosted debate between Francis Fukuyama and Gregory Stock. The articles are acessible from the left nav-bar and reader emails are in the main body.

ObMovie: Zardoz, a classic masterpice of dystopian sci-fi schlock.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


i hate you: ARKER, for voting this down to a 1 (none / 0) (#80)
by behindthecurtain on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:26:12 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Well... (none / 0) (#84)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:34:15 PM EST

...while Arker has made it a habit in the past to mysteriously mod my comments at 1, in this case he didn't go far enough, as one of the double posts of this comment should have been zeroed.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
my philosophy (4.50 / 12) (#57)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 05:47:19 PM EST

Never read fashion magazines. They make you feel fat.

No matter what the transhumanists may argue, I think there is something healthy about having weaknesses and overcoming them or coming to terms with them. Would Helen Keller be more inspiring if she had just gone over to Johns Hopkins for some bio-repair? For that matter, would the Venus de Milo be more poignant with arms? I love my imperfections and find a strange (and strangely human) beauty and comfort in them.

Of course, I'll be pushing others out of the way when I need a pace maker, but I wouldn't want it unless it's life threatening. I find it more fulfilling to rely upon my own mind to overcome things than to save up and buy the solution. That's like reading the last page of a detective mystery first.

Moreover, transhumanism is only available to those that can afford the augmentations that make their lives complete. For those that can't, well, their lives will be that much more depressing because they can't catch up with those that are transhuman.

I can understand why some people would want to do this but as a personal choice I'd have to reject it.

-Soc
I drank what?


Blegh (3.60 / 5) (#68)
by Freaky on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:42:37 PM EST

Would Helen Keller be more inspiring if she had just gone over to Johns Hopkins for some bio-repair?

Probably not, but I don't see how some inspiration is in any way a fair trade for someone elses primary senses.  Go hire a few marketroids if you want to inspire people :)
Moreover, transhumanism is only available to those that can afford the augmentations

So?  Since when has "not everyone can afford it" been a reason not to do something?  Not everyone can afford a computer or an internet connection, you don't use that as an argument against their existance, do you?
I love my imperfections and find a strange (and strangely human) beauty and comfort in them.

You can't have very many significant imperfections.  Lucky old you.

How about I screw up your brain chemistry every few weeks so you end up suicidal occasionally?  Or maybe slightly adjust that little flap of skin at the back of your throat so you nearly choke every few days.  Perhaps I'll narrow your sinuses a bit and ramp up the mucus production so you can't breath properly through your nose half the time.  I can't say I love these little imperfections, but hey, maybe you will!

Oh, to hell with it, how about I just detach your retinas on the off chance that I'll be inspired by the way you deal with it?

Or did you have some other imperfections in mind? :)

[ Parent ]

Hi! Since you don't know me... (4.75 / 4) (#143)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:26:31 AM EST

and can't possibly know my personal case history, let me tell you that I put my money where my mouth is.

I do get very depressed (it runs in the family--my mom sucks down anti-depressants as though they were Pez) and have attempted suicide. I deal with depression all the time, but I also choose to deal with it non-chemically. I don't think I'm better than anyone for it, but I know myself and my own psyche much more intimately than if I didn't have that challenge. It's a pain and I wish it would go away, and there are days that I don't go into work because I just can't bear to open the front door. And as soon as I realize that I'm doing this, I'll go into work late, disciplining myself against my own self.

Oh, I'm balding. No implants or transplant, but my accountant was telling me how affordable it was and that I could afford it. I'd rather buy a house, and if not that, then go to school, and if not that, then afford to time to write that novel, and if not that almost anything. Getting a transplant isn't even an option to me. Thinking about it is a distraction and it takes my thinking away from the important things in life.

I'm not Mr. Perfect, fighting for life liberty and the natural human way. There are ways that I could benefit from what science has to offer and I can afford them. I choose not to. Like I said, it's a personal choice. I'm proud of who I am, and I like to make due with my limitations. I guess that's my problem with it. Most people don't live to their already limited potential. What makes me think I'll be better by expanding my boundaries, instead of achieving only 10% of what I'm capable, augmentations means I'll only achieve 5%. Ugh. I don't think augmentations make you a better person. It's misplaced vanity. Maybe it's good for some people. For me, it's silly.

But like I said, if it's life threatening, I'll take it--and have taken it, like the skin grafts over the third degree burns that were on my leg (I spilled a pot of boiling oil on my leg while making canole shells)--the doctors said I probably wouldn't be able to jog again for six months. It took two. Augmentations don't improve who you are. Only you can.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
diversity (none / 0) (#155)
by daemargu on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:29:31 AM EST

i am pretty much pro-transhumanist myself, but i'll be the first to admit that its more out of a geek fascination with cool new toys, and i haven't really thought about it.

you raise an interesting point though. having weaknesses exposes you to scenarios you would not have been in without them. and if you're a reasonably intelligent person, you'll learn more than you would have without augmentation.

the biggest danger of augmentation that i can see is the uniformity it imposes (not necessarily physically). i think diversity is the most essential characteristic of humanity that we need to preserve to remain an adaptable species.

-ljb
-- of course they're after you.
[ Parent ]

Excellent (none / 0) (#213)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:19:35 PM EST

Very well stated, and I think you bring up an important point for even those who disagree with your statments. That is, the important thing is that we are always pushing ourselves to grow. And I mean grow in the spiritual sense - which may or may not be biochemical in nature but we certainly haven't discovered the nature of the human spirit just yet.

I personally don't have a problem with drugs, such as antidepressants, but I do believe that it's important that they be used in order to reach places that you wouldn't reach otherwise, rather than to make it easier to be where you already are. There is one minor point you make which I think is incorrect, though. You say that you "know myself and my own psyche much more intimately than if I didn't have that challenge," but you seem to be looking at it as a binary choice. The fact of the matter is that antidepressants only work for a short period of time, and as such I would argue that you know yourself and your own psyche even more after having tried them for a while.

Now perhaps I'm just reading into things, and you have tried antidepressants, then reverted back, but the way I read it you haven't.



[ Parent ]
correct, i haven't (none / 0) (#218)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:49:20 PM EST

actually, I kept thinking throughout my classes in philosophy that the reason I was only getting B-Grades was because I didn't take drugs. It certainly seemed like the brightest and the best in my classes had a habit of some sort.

Also, another related point is the reliance that comes with transhumanism. For example, you have someone like Coleridge who was stoned out of his mind when he envisioned Xanadu, before he was disturbed from his dreamstate by a knock at the door. He was never able to get that vision back no matter how much drugs he had taken. However, compare that to a person who understands his mind so well that they can summon up these images at will. While Coleridge lived a life frustrated at the fact that he could never see the pleasure domes again, the second artist experiences no such frustration. They both can offer unique visions, and Coleridge's may even be the more powerful, but I think the second artist would live a more peaceful life. He knows that any failure to re-summon his images are failures that he has caused, and not of some outside agency.

And that's partly my fear of using drugs at all. My mother pretty much relies on them to get through the day, and it tears me up inside. I don't want to be like that, dependent in such a way, even if the outcome is assured. But again, this is all personal choice.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Blegh? No. (none / 0) (#154)
by Sampo on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:09:00 AM EST

So? Since when has "not everyone can afford it" been a reason not to do something? Not everyone can afford a computer or an internet connection, you don't use that as an argument against their existance, do you?

We're not talking about computers here.

In an ideal world everyone is born equal. We're not. Some of us have rich families, some of us don't. In our not-even-close-to-perfect -world, we can still rise from the bottom and have a 'good life', like to have food on the table.

With expensive gene-modification we would be born different, no turning back. The poor would get really poor (no mods, no jobs), the middle-class would get poor (they would have to mod all their children) and the rich would live happily ever after. This is not a world I want to live in.

My point is so old it's a cliché, we should be born equal. Equal opportunities, equal education, equal bodies. No, our bodies aren't equal at the moment, but at least we're all flawed in every social class.

PS. I'm talking about gene modifications, not repairing parts of a grown body.



[ Parent ]
That's a social problem (4.00 / 1) (#257)
by Freaky on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 03:36:48 PM EST

Well, an economic one at least.  It's simply the way our economy is set up;  resources go to those with the most money.

Since germ-line gene therapy is mostly about fixing inherited traits that can lead to disease, children born post-therapy are likely going to enjoy little more than some press coverage and lower health insurance rates.   Some will also doubtless enjoy horrible mistakes, which I'm sure will limit it's adoption anyway.

It's also time-limited to the generation rate; by the time the first adopters get to see if it's doing any good or not, everyone else gets the much cheaper much better tested version to play with.

I'm not saying it won't be a painful change, or even an overall positive one (although it really should be); just if you push it away it'll only end up developing in other countries, and it's much more difficult to keep an eye on and control what's going on there :)

Plus, if it does end up outside your country, the rich go get it done anyway, and everyone else goes without.  Not good for what's going to start out as what's effectively a vaccination programme for inherited diseases.

PS.  I'm assuming germ-line gene therapy doesn't spring the superchild modification onto us too soon ;)

[ Parent ]

Some problems are better to have (4.75 / 4) (#83)
by Nelziq on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:33:52 PM EST

People are going to deal with their imperfections one way or another. There will always be problems and difficulties, so I dont think genetically improving the human form will suddenly cause people to be incapable of dealing with challenges. I would rather that people spent their time dealing with important challenges related science, culture, and society rather then spend all day "getting over" their chronic athlete's foot, impotence, or indigestion.

[ Parent ]
From the Other Side: (5.00 / 2) (#110)
by JChen on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:11:57 PM EST

Have you ever experienced life free of your imperfections? If you wear glasses, would you not enjoy life more without them? If you have crooked teeth, won't a nice, straight, and white set be much more preferable?

We can't say for sure what Helen Keller would have chosen, but it would not be unreasonable to guess that she and many blind people would not hesitate to go to the nearest Vision-O-Matic should there be one and have 20/20 vision restored.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]

Transhumation Addiction (4.50 / 2) (#127)
by kholmes on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:43:02 PM EST

Its really difficult to think about. I mean, everyone has at some time or another wanted something about themselves to be changed. We want to be smarter, faster, stronger. We want to be taller, more muscular, and to have better memory. We want blue eyes, larger breasts and a bigger dick.

If we have a bunch of clinics for this sort of thing, whats to keep it from being a habit? I think SocratesGhost's point is that as our physical being becomes more adaptable, more acceptable, and more perfect, our inner being looses its inner confidence in exchange for an outer one. Then again, perhaps there's a gene for that too, eh?

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

That's the point. (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:31:38 PM EST

No matter what the transhumanists may argue, I think there is something healthy about having weaknesses and overcoming them or coming to terms with them.

I think that's the whole point of transhumanism: overcoming humanity's weakness.  Their approach is just a little different.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

Not individual (none / 0) (#184)
by BushidoCoder on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:32:10 AM EST

It's not an individual overcoming his or her adversities, but rather an individual paying a doctor to overcome them for him or her.

That said, for as inspiring as Helen Keller is to us for the problems she faced, it certainly would have been a quality of life improvement for her if she could have been "normalized". I have a really bad knee with damaged nerves and all that fun jazz from a wrestling accident. It has hurt for 9 years now, but I've never take meds for it because I wanted to get used to the pain and overcome it mentally. I managed to do this after some time, and now, I don't care that it hurts. It's part of my everyday experience of life, and I can just tune it out and ignore it without it impacting what I do. Do I think that everyone with a knee injury should do it as I did? Hell no, that would be stupid, because only stubborn idiots like myself would want to take that path.

\bc

[ Parent ]

but (none / 0) (#146)
by auraslip on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:59:07 AM EST

while those girls in fashion mags will make you feel fat untill they're old and just as fat as you, they will always be STUPID SLUT BITCHES.

point: The mental aspect of is more important then physical.

[ Parent ]

point (4.50 / 2) (#181)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:09:20 AM EST

>point: The mental aspect of [women] is more
>important then [sic] physical

That's what all fat and/or ugly women say to make themselves feel better. Just like guys with small dicks who claim it's not the size that matters. [disclaimer: this is a gross generalization just like the parent was]

Besides, I'd like you to show me proof that "those girls in fashion mags" are "stupid slut bitches". In my real-life experience this is far from the truth. Maybe a bit narcissistic, but that goes with the territory. But then again,  women who take care of themselves are considered to be stupid slut bitches, but men who do the same are "career-oriented, well-groomed and successful".

So stop saying beautiful women are stupid slut bitches, please. It will only make you look uglier and fatter than you are (and I doubt you are). Just like a beautiful woman who is too full of herself looks less attractive than a jovial one.

--
"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
-- Winston Churchill


[ Parent ]
ok (5.00 / 1) (#252)
by auraslip on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 02:48:54 AM EST

wow, your really cool. You can be witty and clever while making the other person look stupid, but making him feel happy. On the point though, I agrea with you. Everthing I said was an overgeneralization, but thats because I was making an example. So thank you for taking time to comment, but you didn't prove me wrong, just the tools I used to make a point. The mental aspect is and always will be more important.
124
[ Parent ]
Venus de Milo... (none / 0) (#152)
by tkatchev on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:50:45 AM EST

...is armless because some drunken Turkish sailors dropped the statue sometime during the 19th century.

True fact.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Damn (none / 0) (#208)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:58:26 PM EST

Of course, I'll be pushing others out of the way when I need a pace maker, but I wouldn't want it unless it's life threatening. I find it more fulfilling to rely upon my own mind to overcome things than to save up and buy the solution.

Wow, you discovered how to build a computer all by yourself? Or does that not count since your fingers aren't permanently attached to the keyboard?



[ Parent ]
actually, yes (none / 0) (#215)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:31:41 PM EST

whenever I get involved in a new enterprise, I try to understand everything about it. I've worked at semi-conductor plants and know how chips are made and how they work. I studied logic for two years and understand logic gateways very well. I've built rudimentary assembler languages. I still have to study compilers but I suspect that I could figure that part out.

While I am by no means thoroughly educated in these areas (nor qualified for a job requiring that knowledge), I usually make it a point to understand intimately the tools that I use.

You'd have really gotten me if you had mentioned a car, though. I still haven't really looked into those, although I've been toying with the idea of getting an old beat up mustang or VW bug to learn on.

I should stress, though, that I really do recognize this is a personal choice on how I like to live. One of my hero's in life (aside from Socrates) was Euclid. Think about it, he systematized geometry without the use of a calculator, straight edge or a compass. In fact, he didn't even have the reliable ability to make two same sized circles. And yet, he was able to work all of that out sans tools. I have the same respect for people like Richard Feynman who understood his craft so intimately that he didn't need to use a calculator.

And this goes back to my original point. The tools don't improve you. Only you can.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
So biorepair is fine... (none / 0) (#224)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:57:43 PM EST

as long as you take a course in how to do it yourself?

[ Parent ]
Transhumanists are kooks (2.57 / 7) (#60)
by Ben Jamin on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 06:24:05 PM EST

Look what humans have done to the planet with existing industrial technology in the guise of improving standards of living.  Now, assuming all of this transhumanist wet-dream technology actually delivers as promised, what's going to happen?  The same damned thing, except that now it will be the human species being polluted instead of the planet.  Now, if the planet gets totally fucked over, there is at least a chance that humans will be able to escape and live somewhere else, like the moon.  This won't be an option with what these transhumanists are advocating.  No matter how much you've messed yourself up, you can't get away from yourself.  
<p>
If the human race's genome gets polluted to the point where natural reproduction is impractical, the human race will be destroyed.  I'm sure everyone who modifies themselves at their whim will have a Grande old time for awhile, but there have been numerous dark ages though out history.  If the human race becomes dependent on its technology to perform basic biological functions, <b>it's fucked</b>.

holy fuck (4.00 / 3) (#75)
by scatbubba on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:07:25 PM EST

"Look what humans have done to the planet with existing industrial technology in the guise of improving standards of living "

You sound pretty high and mighty about the evil humans as you stare into your monitor with it's couple pounds of lead, in a house built of wood that was no doubt raped from the earth. Why don't you take a look around. If you aren't in a cave, then i'd say that humans have done alright providing you with a comfortable standard of living.

[ Parent ]
Dependent on technology? (4.00 / 2) (#76)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:09:03 PM EST

If the human race becomes dependent on its technology to perform basic biological functions, it's fucked
Hello? Did you miss out on the discovery of the bow and arrow, lighting fires, the curing of meat and the spinning of cloth? Humans have been dependent on technology since long before your ancestor100 walked the Earth.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
dependant on technology is different from (4.00 / 2) (#96)
by mingofmongo on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:10:53 PM EST

dependand to technology for basic biological function.

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion
[ Parent ]

Like eating? (3.00 / 1) (#102)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:22:17 PM EST

Sounds like a pretty basic biological function to me. Same goes for keeping warm etc.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Can you build a gene sequencer with sticks and twi (none / 0) (#139)
by Ben Jamin on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:34:49 AM EST

Can you build a DNA sequencer from sticks and twine?

As is stands now, if civilization collapses, everyone left will still be able to go home, have sex with their SO, and have kids. Now, if you load each individual's genome up with all kinds of personalized "enhancements," you'll soon end up in a situation where most individuals are biologically different species, and cannot reproduce with each other.

This is different from obtaining food and shelter. The technology for doing that is very simple, orders of magnitude simpler than the wet-dream technologies fantasized about by transhumanists.

A clever individual or small group has a good chance of figuring out how to put food in their mouths if removed for civilization. They do not have a good chance of recreating a technology that can reconcile the DNA of two biologically incompatible organisms for the purposes of reproduction. That would require a massive research program that is beyond the means of people who have been forced into hunting and gathering or subsistence farming.

[ Parent ]

This is as bad as a Michael Crichton novel (4.00 / 1) (#192)
by the on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:36:09 AM EST

Where all the 'scientists' come up with some amazing new invention or discovery but leave some fatal flaw that everyone in the audience can see but even the genius protagonist doesn't see until the final act. Life isn't a Michael Crichton novel and people are smarter than that.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
and? (2.00 / 1) (#138)
by NFW on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:28:02 AM EST

I'd wager that most folks in the industrialized nations today couldn't survive in the wild.  And plenty of folks in "developing" regions couldn't survive (and, sadly, don't survive) without aid from industrialized nations.

If oil quit burning and electrons quit flowing, the human population would drop pretty rapidly.  

How long would you last?


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

And that scares me (none / 0) (#219)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:01:01 PM EST

But making us MORE dependent would scare me even more.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
The moon? (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:29:36 PM EST

Now, if the planet gets totally fucked over, there is at least a chance that humans will be able to escape and live somewhere else, like the moon.

It can't really imagine how we could possibly fuck the Earth up so badly that the moon would be a more hospitable environment for human life.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
the grey goo scenario (none / 0) (#137)
by NFW on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:24:28 AM EST

Nanotech machines that reproduce by taking apart nearby molecules, and that don't have an off switch.    Taking neighboring molecules apart basically makes them (potentially) a spectacularly effective solvent, dissolving whatever they contact.  What if they start disassembling their test tubes from the inside?  As they reproduce, they consume the planet like Vonnegut's "Ice 9."  

It's the sort of thing some religions terrorist nut will one day want to do.  How long until the technology exists to get it done?  How long until the technology to get it done is readily available to motivated nut cases?

I'm not saying it's likely - I think there's a power supply problem, and a self-destructive recursion problem - but it's still a creepy idea.  



--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

That scenario bothers me. (none / 0) (#185)
by Gully Foyle on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:32:44 AM EST

Where would the goo get the energy to do all this? Surely any nanotech machines we make that escape into the wild would have to compete with the billions of microbes that are already there? I think designing artificial microbes that would be *that* much better than what evolution as already produced would be a non-trivial problem.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

little tiny batteries, and matters of scale (none / 0) (#223)
by NFW on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:40:54 PM EST

Where would the goo get the energy to do all this?

Like I said, I think there's a power supply problem.  

As for competition with evolved microbes, I dunno.  nano devices could operate at much smaller scales, and thus have different options and constraints.  STMs today can move individual atoms around (but again, with 'big' power supplies) so I'm not sure what is and isn't practical.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Oops sorry (none / 0) (#255)
by Gully Foyle on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 09:26:42 AM EST

I obviously didn't read your whole post, I missed the comment about power supplies. Still, would a nano device be working on smaller scales than microbes? The machinery within a cell moves individual atoms around too.

Microbes (like everything else) glommed together out of tiny little replicators operating on the atomic scale.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

You know who and what else were kooks? (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by JChen on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:21:02 PM EST

Copernicus (Ptolemy). Martin Luther King (Segregation). Women's suffurage (Men Only). Microorganisms (Bad Spirits). Rock and Roll (Noise).

The kooks today will be the heroes of tommorow.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]

More kooks (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by ux500 on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:49:43 PM EST

Do you know who else were kooks in the past? Nostradamous, people who believed the earth was flat, Aristotle (there ARE only 4 basic elements and people only have 20 teeth), Popular Science editors from the early 20th century, etc ad inf.

These transhumanists may raise some interesting points, but they are probably no more correct then MOST new predicitions throughout history. It is too easy to predict what we want to happen (people will live forever with no diseases and sing kum-by-ya around and cosmic camp fire) then to begin to even think about what will actually happen (which is what ground-breaking scientists do).

[ Parent ]

Welcome to the Future (3.50 / 4) (#64)
by LilDebbie on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:23:16 PM EST

Does anyone else here get a rather strange feeling of vertigo when he sees an article discussing the ethical pros and cons of topics that less than twenty years ago were considered nothing more than far distant science fiction? These arguments smack of the kind of world Gibson wrote about, not the one in which I at least think I live. However, by mentioning crop and livestock genetic modification and the early results of nanotechnological studies, I am led to believe that the Future is within my lifetime, if it isn't already here.

Oh well, the march of progress will not be slowed by individuals. Time to go invest in land out in central Montana.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

National Review Online... (3.60 / 5) (#65)
by Skywise on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:23:52 PM EST

I don't think the article says what you say it says.

Oh sure, he's against the idea.  But the author is pointing out that if the transhumans have their way,  a whole new class of humans will be formed in terms of augmented and "normal" humans.  If the technology is successful, all "normal" humans will have to adapt or risk becoming nothing more than human cattle.  This ideology is already present in redefining legal terms as "human" into "personhood" so that animals have equal rights to human beings.

Really, just how far away are we from raising "brain dead" humans to provide replacement organs for the rest of us?

That's not a "choice."

Aside from that, I'm all for human augmentation, but definitely against controlled evolution.

There's even an interesting tv take on this.  In the animated "Batman Beyond" (a futuristic tale of the next Batman) one episode deals with a teen-age fad of "splicing" where teen-agers change/augment (splice) their genes with animal genes to add fashionable tails, fur, spots, strength and other body modifications to look hip.

Organs for me please (3.33 / 3) (#79)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:12:59 PM EST

Really, just how far away are we from raising "brain dead" humans to provide replacement organs for the rest of us?
Is there something wrong with that?

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Coming (none / 0) (#260)
by illustir on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 04:35:01 PM EST

I suppose those organs are just around the corner. If we can get the permission of the religious to actually do the stuff. Cloning. Almost there. Should be a couple of years before that Italian gynaecologist makes it happen. If only it weren't banned in large parts of the civilized world. Genetic modification. Coming nicely along. Also being stunted by bans on experimentation with human material. Vat gestation. I heard some Japanese were working on this a while back. Shouldn't be too dificult.

[ Parent ]
reminds me of a book (2.00 / 1) (#86)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:36:27 PM EST

Spares by Michael Marshall Smith deals with this exact idea of the rich cloning their off spring so that they have "spare" parts if needed.

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Nothing wrong with raising replacement bodies (3.66 / 3) (#100)
by Lord of Caustic Soda on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:17:56 PM EST

There is a big difference between forcibly taking the organ from a living, breathing human being that has been acculumating experience and ideas for X many years, and getting it from something that has never had a chance to develop (at least not mentally). A body grow in a vat is just a fetus in extended gestation, and we probably can make it grown in such a way that it cannot survive outside of the vat.

Why would the augmented humans be treating the "normal" ones like cattle? Are they not going to be raised by "normal" human beings? And since we by and large are quite capable of treating the blind, the deaf, the crippled not as cattles, what makes you think that this will happen? It's not like we are going to rewind our attitudes back a few centuries.

Also, putting the modifications into the human genome is going to be a lot more fairer than leaving it as some expensive clinical work. Genes get to spread through breeding, you don't need to be rich to get them.

[ Parent ]

It wasn't all that long ago... (4.33 / 3) (#128)
by Skywise on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:44:18 PM EST

That the blind, deaf, and crippled were locked into asylums for their own good.

It was less than 200 years ago that slavery was still around and a whole system of measurement was in place just to determine how much of a human a slave was.  (And that was very humane).

It was less than 100 years ago that eugenics was all the rage and whole races would need to be decimated to ensure the purity of man's future evolution.

Need I point out that the supreme court has just decided to use IQ tests to determine who's retarded, and not fit to stand for execution?

We ALREADY harvest organs from the dead.  (You did sign your donor card... didn't you?)  So why haven't we gone the futher step of allowing organs to be sold on Ebay?  (It's been tried and shut down).

The point is, is that if you start treating humans like cattle, even ones just grown in a test tube, you get a class division with some guy and a stick pointing out "This human has intelligence.  This human is cattle."

"This leader is good.  This leader needs to have his regime changed."

I mean, gee... while we're at it, why don't we just raise brain dead humans as food?  That's certainly productive and efficient.

[ Parent ]

I'm just worried about our kids' kids' kids (3.00 / 3) (#71)
by fluxrad on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:54:14 PM EST

The problem with the concept of all-or-nothing transhumanism or even some of the stuff we're realistically looking at today is that we're completely shutting off the process of human evolution. Granted, is is highly arguable (and I would agree) that humans have already taken one foot out of the hot-tub of evolution. But I wonder what lies beyond the tree-lined picket-fenced vale of Darwinism that we've been living in for the proverbial last second of the earth clock. The concept of transhumanism raises some serious questions, some of them ethical; most of them evolutionary.

The problem with things like gene therapy and mechanical augmentation is they only think on a short-term scale. What happens when something big happens (think Nuclear, or worse, interplanetary). Humans won't be as adaptable as they once were. They'll be reliant on mechanical remedies or "corrective surgery" to fix the problems that are already inherently wrong with them. Once we start playing with genetics and mechanics to fix all the problems we've got, we're asking for a ton of trouble when the unexpected happens. I don't want to be the guy stuck with the guy who can't live on fire, veggies, and carrion, simply because the batteries ran out on his eyes and his leg needs more oil.

It sometimes sounds far-fetched, but we've already had a few earth-killer rocks hit, and I don't think we're that far away from nuclear war. And the whole point of this whole life-on-earth thing isn't to invent the next great paper towel, but to make sure our race survives when the unexpected does happen. Instead of making the human race more adaptable and minimalistic, aren't we making ourselves more dependent on technology that might not be there some day?

I'm just not so sure we've reached the point where we can stop playing the evolution game in favor of our own software just yet.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
Evolution? (4.25 / 4) (#73)
by the on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:04:59 PM EST

Humans won't be as adaptable as they once were.
That would take a lot. Humans are one of the most adaptable species on Earth. They live within the Arctic circle, at the Equator, in artificial satellites orbiting Earth, underwater, in rainforests, in deserts, up mountains. Dump a bunch of humans anywhere in the world and within a few generations they'll develop technology and culture based on local materials without the need for evolution. What does evolution have to do with it? If my batteries run out evolution isn't going to help. What will help is human ingenuity and there's no shortage of that.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Why would evolution stop? (none / 0) (#118)
by krogoth on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:12:28 PM EST

Until we check and control the entire DNA sequence for each person, I see no reason to believe that evolution will stop. Even then, we'll be able to do genetic modifications much faster, although we won't get the potential advantage of random choices.
--
"If you've never removed your pants and climbed into a tree to swear drunkenly at stuck-up rich kids, I highly recommend it."
:wq
[ Parent ]
Nothing stops evolution. (none / 0) (#119)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:15:40 PM EST

What people don't understand about evolution is that it's not some sort of some sort of intelligent proccess that is trying to make things "better".  It is just the way of describing how those that live and breed better than the rest tend to beget generations that also live and breed.  If you were to take fruit flies and only let those that nearly kill themselves flying too close to predators then you would eventually "evolve" a species that is almost guaranteed to die out the instant they are released into the wild.  Evolution does not make "intelligent" decisions.  If we have a world where, weak or strong, all humans survive until the age to breed, then evolution would still exist, just no longer be focused on bodily health, instead something else will become important.  For example, we might evolve a greater and greater desire to have large families...

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]
Nitpicking... (3.00 / 1) (#163)
by Caton on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:28:04 AM EST

Humans won't be as adaptable as they once were.
Humans are not very adaptable anyway. Instead, humans adapt their environment to themselves. Think fire, clothes, shelter, weapons and tools.



---
As long as there's hope...
[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.00 / 1) (#195)
by acronos on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:11:31 AM EST

The problem with the concept of all-or-nothing transhumanism or even some of the stuff we're realistically looking at today is that we're completely shutting off the process of human evolution.

Dogs and cats evolved. The only difference is that the selection method was manipulated by human intelligence. Humans will evolve much faster when they are genetically and technologically manipulating themselves.

Humans won't be as adaptable as they once were. They'll be reliant on mechanical remedies

Technology has made humans more adaptable not less. The best chance we have of surviving your asteroid is technology. We could live underwater with technology. We can live in space with technology. Take away our technology and we are stuck in the jungle.

I'm just not so sure we've reached the point where we can stop playing the evolution game in favor of our own software just yet.

Software evolves. Ideas evolve. Culture evolves. Language evolves. Science evolves. Our genes evolve. There are selection and random noise effects on all of these things. Evolution in our world is all but inevitable.

I can not find any specific reference, but I get the impression that you believe that transhumans will be less diverse. Diversity is a part of human nature. Human selected evolution will crave diversity just as much as we do. What do you think are the odds that you and I are wearing the same clothing and hair style? Do you think every human will choose to design themselves wings? I think a few might choose gills. Or maybe they will choose to back their brains up into a machine. Then when their current body dies they just restore themselves into a new one. Or maybe they will become machines where their minds are spread across the continents and planets running on millions of machines. Maybe their consciousness will be running millions of personal robots and they will simultaneously see out of each individual eye and choose each individual hand motion. I don't think we will lack for diversity.

[ Parent ]

Natural selection of transhumans? (none / 0) (#205)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:45:57 PM EST

The problem with the concept of all-or-nothing transhumanism or even some of the stuff we're realistically looking at today is that we're completely shutting off the process of human evolution.

That's just because you've defined evolution to only involve the natural process of selection of genes. Real evolution is much more complicated than that.

The important thing is that we allow each individual to make his or her own decision whether or not to participate in becoming a transhuman. Then over time, nature will decide whether transhumans or humans are more fit. It seems that the only reason humans would have a problem with that would be jealousy.



[ Parent ]
Clarification (2.00 / 1) (#264)
by fluxrad on Sun Oct 06, 2002 at 02:43:35 AM EST

I wasn't very clear when I said "less adaptable." And I'll clarify (for everyone replying to my post).

Humans are extremely adaptable creatures on a microevolutionary scale. And, of course, to assume that dicking around with the mechanization of a species won't make it any less able to evolve through the process of natural selection is absurd. In my previous post, I didn't mean to infer that "technological" mutations in the human race would make us any less adaptable, but rather that it would make us less able to cope in a world without signifigantly advanced technology. Call it a set back, if you will.

What I am worried about is taking a huge step back based on a natural incongruence I believe we are achieving with the rest of the natural world. We've started terraforming on a small scale. We've started using technology to fix genetic problems in society, and in general are starting to adapt to our own artificially created environments. Our hearing is diminishing (compared to african tribes, for example), our eyesight is getting worse, we're losing our hair because we don't need it in climate controlled environments. Wisdom teeth are becoming less and less common.

I don't think that these are necessarily bad things. In fact, I think many of them are just common evolutionary responses to any environment (i.e. why humans are so adaptable over a short period of time in terms of evolution). But my fear still remains that we will not be as prepared to live in a "natural" world in a few hundred years if we are suddenly, and inexplicably returned to such a state.

Anyway, my apologies for saying that we would be "less adaptable," as I should have said "less suited."

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Old news (none / 0) (#267)
by pyro9 on Sun Oct 06, 2002 at 04:30:30 PM EST

There are a great many 'species' that have already given up a great deal of that adaptability and have become dependant on an environment of their own creation for survival.

In fact, it's now two layers deep.

Way back when, our mitochondria were independant organisms. They remain semi-independant in that they reproduce on their own, and have their own distinct genetic code.

In turn, the cells that they live in have themselves developed into self sustaining colonies of cells with their own internal environment. The individual cells cannot survive outside of their own environment, but the entire environment has a life of it's own and can survive nearly anywhere on earth.

To some extent, those living environments can even create their own artificial environment to live in through cooperative efforts. So far, that's only short term, but they are expected to evolve a sophisticated means to sustain those artificial living spaces in the next few centuries.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
what? (none / 0) (#269)
by fluxrad on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 10:01:49 AM EST

give me a source.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
references (none / 0) (#277)
by pyro9 on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 08:20:44 AM EST

Mitochondria2 is a good start. While it doesn't discuss the theorized beginning of the symbiosis, it does cover the life cycle and the seperate genome of the mitochondria in human and other cells.

This link discusses the theory that mitochondria were originally seperate life forms that formed a symbiotic relationship with other life forms that could not effectively utilize oxygen to synthesize ATP from glucose on their own.

For the rest, search for evolution of multicellular organisms. Consider how multicellular organisms differ from bacterial colonies for example. Alas, time to go to work.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
shutting off human evolution (5.00 / 1) (#280)
by tgibbs on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 10:36:59 AM EST

The problem with the concept of all-or-nothing transhumanism or even some of the stuff we're realistically looking at today is that we're completely shutting off the process of human evolution.

This reflects an obsolete notion of evolution as leading to continuous progress. But it is clear that many, perhaps most, species attain stasis, and cease to evolve except in minor ways. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that human beings have evolved in any meaningful way since our species originated.

[ Parent ]

I want wings (2.00 / 1) (#77)
by gmol on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:09:29 PM EST

I recall reading an article in a sort of arts magazine a few years ago (I can't remember where I was...)...googling my memory:

It was about this plastic surgeon who is proposing to put wings on human beings (the non-functional type). He is not a quak or anything, and faces some severe opposition from his colleagues.

My intial reaction was that this was somehow really really wrong. Maybe it is, but I think if someone wants to pay for it, and someone is willing to do it, why stop them?

The article I remember did discuss the general implications of being able to modify the human body etc. I think that until real functional modifications (which may be just a case for finding uses for decorative ones) are availble, I don't see how things are any different (other than psycologically/and in the shower for the modified) than just strapping some plastic appendages on.

I guess I don't really have a point other than to point out the example of the wing guy.

"gain a new body part?" (4.50 / 2) (#82)
by ethereal on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:29:40 PM EST

The article says that the body will grow neural connections if it gains new body parts, but I'd like to know how he can tell. When have humans ever grown new arms, or even fingers? We have lots of experience with losing body parts, but precious little with gaining them.

I'm OK with transhumanists, and frankly, since they seem more forward-looking than the people that are opposed to them, I imagine that they'll win out in the end. I think that really what is important is the mind, not the other 100-odd pounds of meat and bone that we carry around. So if a person can find or make a better vessel for their mind, who am I to tell them not to?

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Why wrong ? (none / 0) (#180)
by bugmaster on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:08:54 AM EST

Why is having wings, or providing wings to those who really want them, neccessarily morally wrong ? I mean, it would be pretty stupid to permanently attach useless, bulky, nonfunctional wings to your body, so that they get in your way and prevent you from sitting down in chairs... But hey, if I want that, and I understand the risks involved, why is it morally wrong for me to have them, and for someone to provide them ?
>|<*:=
[ Parent ]
Wings? (5.00 / 1) (#217)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:44:00 PM EST

Why the hell would anyone want wings attached to them? It might be kewl if I could actually fly to work everyday, but otherwise, they're a stupid idea.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
what's the point?? (5.00 / 1) (#248)
by amarodeeps on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:22:49 PM EST

Wouldn't you need something like a wingspan of 30 feet to get a human off the ground? I mean, think about hang gliders. And all that extra weight...I'm sorry, but what a really stupid fucking idea.

What, would it look sexy? Would it feel nice to have someone stroke your large, heavy, useless wings which have nonetheless connected themselves neurally to your body?

Don't birds have all sorts of body modifications to deal with the fact that they fly? Like, hollow bone structure, and aerodynamic body shape when in flight...just think about it. The man is a quack.



[ Parent ]
Gattaca (4.83 / 6) (#89)
by The Muffin on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:43:20 PM EST

Anyone remember this movie?

For those to lazy to click on the link, it's a movie about a guy living in a world where everyone is genetically modified to be very healthy - ie, no heart disease, perfectly functioning limbs, etc. All fine and dandy. Of course, our main character is not. And beacuse of that, he's basically treated a sub-human (think blacks circa 1830).

I'm all for transhumanism... Except for that little bit there. What's to stop people who are genetically (or otherwise) modified like that from saying they are better than everyone else? Some kind of law? Yeah... those sort of things have worked real well.

Of course, maybe people will find a way to make it affordable for everyone, or something. Or, maybe, for once in our pathetic existance, humanity can stand not to be a bunch of fucking assholes.

- This is the end.

How is that different from what happens now? (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by Nelziq on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:04:49 PM EST

Whats to keep people now who are smarter, more powerful or beautiful than saying they are better than people who are not? Educated people look down on the uneducated, the rich look down on the poor, the powerful look down on the powerless. Its a fact of the human condition that the haves lord it over the have-nots. I dont expect the future to be any different.

[ Parent ]
The difference (none / 0) (#216)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:40:06 PM EST

is the gap between the haves & have-nots would get wider. Currently, a poor person is just as strong and smart as a rich one except for differences in education and medical care. Think about how much worse it will be when the rich really are genetically "better" than the poor!
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Big difference (none / 0) (#258)
by illustir on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 04:17:25 PM EST

Whatever. Differences aren't bad per se. If you add more technology to the equation maybe you'll get a wider gap.

But the cool new technology will (slowly) get more affordable and trickle down on everyone else, thus  increasing the overall quality of life.

[ Parent ]

Trickle down (none / 0) (#273)
by Cro Magnon on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 04:03:59 PM EST

Will it? I know quite a few people who can't afford computers. Hell, some of them can't afford phones! Their TV's came from a dumpster, and their cars look like they should have a horse in front of them. And this is in the U.S.! Technology might trickle down to the middle class, but not below that!
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
How poor! They had to get a TV from a dumpster. (none / 0) (#291)
by vectro on Fri Oct 25, 2002 at 01:49:21 AM EST

Most parts of the world, you'd be lucky to have a TV for the whole village.

The fact of the matter is that technology and late capitalism do tend to improve the quality of life, at least in an economic sense - people might not be happier, but they'll have more things. The caveat is that they do not necessarily do so in an equal way; the gap between rich and poor may increase, but that does not mean the poor are not better off.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

movie moral (3.00 / 1) (#107)
by jolt rush soon on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:57:59 PM EST

the moral of the movie was that there is no gene for the human spirit. or it was the tagline. whatever. but basically, it's wrong. there's genes for every bit of you. what there isn't, though, is a gene for the experiences you have as you grow up and learn or the almost limitless parameters of the environment you experience.
--
Subosc — free electronic music.
[ Parent ]
There is no gene for the human spirit (none / 0) (#136)
by kholmes on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:12:18 AM EST

It comes from our very existance, not our physiology.

Not that this is an argument against transhumation. I suppose that depends on what form it comes in.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

Ah, but... (none / 0) (#142)
by carbon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:17:00 AM EST

On the other hand, you owe your very existence to your physiology. I'm reminded of a quote from Invader Zim:

"My, what a healthy little boy! And such plentiful organs!"


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Movie is a bad example (none / 0) (#112)
by Tatarigami on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:23:32 PM EST

The protagonist had a heart condition which was going to kill him. They couldn't give him a transplant? Or a pacemaker? Or post-natal gene therapy? Why not take some of his DNA, edit out the defects, and clone him a new heart?

In order for Vincent to become the oppressed minority, they had to forget all their medical knowledge except genetics. It's just entertainment, it's not predicting anyone's future.

[ Parent ]
maybe (5.00 / 1) (#203)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:30:50 PM EST

In order for Vincent to become the oppressed minority, they had to forget all their medical knowledge except genetics.

Or just not be willing to waste their time and energy on it.



[ Parent ]
The all mighty dollar (none / 0) (#265)
by pyro9 on Sun Oct 06, 2002 at 12:40:46 PM EST

Like all movies, they had to simplify the plot a bit to make it fit.

On Discovery Health, I see amputees who have prostetic legs that let them run faster than natural legs. They have other legs for daily use, and others still for other sport use. On the streets of Atlanta, I see amputees who either hop or use old wooden crutches. The difference is money.

Perhaps other medical help was unavailable to Vincent because only he and a handfull of others worldwide actually needed it. Perhaps it was available, but to get it, he would have to admit to his 'inferior' genetic makeup and be cast out of his society. Or perhaps the same prejudices that made his society feel that unengineered individuals didn't deserve decent jobs also made it feel that they didn't deserve decent medical care either.

It's not too surprising. After all, U.S. society today apparently feels that amputees only deserve decent prostetics if they have big bucks. Otherwise, they can hop, can't they?


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Technology (3.50 / 2) (#117)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:00:24 PM EST

What's to stop people who are genetically (or otherwise) modified like that from saying they are better than everyone else?

Well, it's simple... nothing!  Yes, there is nothing stopping the superhumans from snubbing thier noses at the lesser humans, and you know what?  That's just fine with me.

In Gattaca, you have to either assume that the world is populated by idiot savants (they can manipulate genes in zygotes but somehow have completely lost all concept of doing normal medicine), or that the main character purposefully has chosen not to be an advanced human.

If the first option is true, then it is a fantasy world, and you can just forget about the world every being like that, if it is the second, well, it's his choice not to be like the rest of us, so he has to live with the consequences of his descision.


A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

Stupid parents (none / 0) (#259)
by illustir on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 04:18:53 PM EST


If I recall correctly it was the main character's parents who chose to have fate have it's play.

[ Parent ]
Gattica - A future we are very close to realizing. (1.00 / 1) (#125)
by yokuyakuyoukai on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:42:23 PM EST

Gattica is a great movie because not only does it project a possible future but also unlike most sci-fi it shows us a probable one as well.

Watching it really made me wonder if someday i might not be hired because at a job interview they aquired some of my dna and determined that i suffer from depression.

I find that pretty scairy. Although some people might consider it (un)natural selection.

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." --Kahlil Gibran

[ Parent ]
Stupid Question time (none / 0) (#145)
by Tachys on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:49:46 AM EST

If they could geneically modifiy people to be very healthy.

Couldn't they just fix the main character?

Any game that gets banned by the Austrailian govt can't be all bad... - Armaphine
[ Parent ]

Quite easy (none / 0) (#171)
by joto on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:31:06 AM EST

One takes a retro-virus, modifies it to insert the genes you want, and put it inside your body. This is already being done on a routine basis, ever heard of gene-therapy?

[ Parent ]
Awsome film, sketchy comment (none / 0) (#226)
by Hobbes2100 on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:10:24 PM EST

What's to stop people who are genetically (or otherwise) modified like that from saying they are better than everyone else? Some kind of law? Yeah... those sort of things have worked real well.

Laws are the ONLY thing that keep people that are faster, stronger, smarter, etc., etc. from doing "bad" things to those who aren't as _insert superlative here_. More to the point, any power group of people can dominate any other group of people (whites over blacks in America in the 1800s ... the blacks weren't fundamentally flawed, they just didn't have the advanced society to draw upon).

Do you think human nature is fundamentally warm and fuzzy, help out your neighbor? Heck, do you think Mother Nature is fundamentally warm and fuzzy?

Regards,
Mark
Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? --Iuvenalis
But who will guard the guardians themselves? -- Juvenal
[ Parent ]

Be careful with genes. (3.62 / 8) (#90)
by joto on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:45:08 PM EST

Gene-manipulation is dangerous. We understand almost nothing of it today, and especially of its long-term consequences. Of course, whatever you do in the laboratory is safe, but once things get out into nature, there's no way to get back.

There are some ways around the problem. You can make things sterile (but that doesn't always work, there have been several cases of new plant-genes spreading, even across species, after relase into nature). Most likely, viruses and other microorganisms are carrying it around.

You can use the ostrich (50's?) approach, and say that whatever damage we do now, we will quickly develop technology to fix it later. This is not right. It's much harder to remove something than to not spill it. Given the last years focus on environmental issues, most people already know that.

Lastly, you can claim that there is no danger. And in 99.9% of the cases, you are probably right. But with gene-technology, we can do changes incredibly fast. And that means lot's of changes, and that those 0.01% is going to happen a lot more often then they used to when we only did selective breeding.

For those that need a reminder, remember the mad cow disease. (Not that it had anything to do with genes or selective breeding). Nobody in their right mind could have predicted that this was caused by cow-cannibalism, and would also affect human brains when they ate a steak. This is just one example of the fact that weird shit happens, and until we understand more of it, there's no reason to increase the chances.

As for transhumanists, I think they are a pathetic bunch of loosers. True, if technology continues to improve at even a fraction of todays rate for a few centuries, transhumanism will become inevitable. People will take whatever physical shape they feel like, and the world will be a very different place. But come on, today it is 2002. Nobody is able to do anything even remotely "transhumanistic" today (unless wearing glasses or contact-lenses count). And when the technology eventually arrives, it will be just as natural as that.

Look into my eyes... (none / 0) (#116)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:54:02 PM EST

But come on, today it is 2002. Nobody is able to do anything even remotely "transhumanistic" today (unless wearing glasses or contact-lenses count).

I used to wear glasses or contact-lenses...  

Transhumanism?

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]

I still do (none / 0) (#198)
by Cro Magnon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:56:53 AM EST

Every once in a while, I hear about someone who had lasik, and never saw quite right since. Admittedly, that may be the exception rather than the rule, but with my eyesight at stake, I'd rather put up with the hassles of contacts/glasses.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Lasik is better now (none / 0) (#243)
by gnovos on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:19:02 PM EST

Before that was the case some of the time, but it has reached the point where it is perfectly safe... if you use the right laser.  The problem is it really is one of those things were if you do it cheaply and with a cheap laser, you are going to have problems.  Pay the bucks if you plan to do it and get the best laser they have.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]
They ain't loosers... (5.00 / 1) (#160)
by Cougaris on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:46:20 AM EST

All very good points, however I wouldn't call Transhumanists a bunch of loosers. They are simply preparing the way for these advances, many of which will benefit humanity in general as well as themselves. To just going around calling people who are trying to develop technology, whatever their agenda, is immature and shows little other then a heavily opinionated view. Afterall, great strides were made technology wise when the manhattan project was completed - and they were working for a specific agenda.

Also, I would point out that in many fields of science, technological advancement takes on a exponential characteristic. So, while your most likely right in saying that transhumanists aren't going to be popping up tommorow, perhaps in our lifetimes we will see such persons.

__________________________________________________

[ Parent ]

Oh yes, they are loosers (3.50 / 2) (#168)
by joto on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:16:09 AM EST

To just going around calling people who are trying to develop technology, whatever their agenda, is immature and shows little other then a heavily opinionated view.

Please tell me about any technology developed by "transhumanists". It's not like there is a "transhumanistic research institute" doing useful research. It is a bunch of people having read to much science fiction trying to create a religion. Research happens in academia and private companies whether transhumanists exists or not. It's not like a bunch of overenthusiastic jay-sayers are going to make any kind of difference other than make complete asses of themselves.

Afterall, great strides were made technology wise when the manhattan project was completed - and they were working for a specific agenda.

The Manhattan Project was not a religion, or stupid dream shared by people having read to much science fiction. It was a government-funded research project in applied technology. And at the start of the project, there was good reasons to think it could be completed in a limited amount of time. The ground research had already been done, and it seemed feasible that nuclear bombs could be developed before the end of the war. Besides, the nazis were doing it as well, so it was quite obvious that if scientists said it could work, the US had to pursue it.

Also, I would point out that in many fields of science, technological advancement takes on a exponential characteristic. So, while your most likely right in saying that transhumanists aren't going to be popping up tommorow, perhaps in our lifetimes we will see such persons.

Possibly. It also depends on what you mean by transhumanism. If you simply mean improved, that already happens (drugs in sports, pacemakers, etc...). If you mean anything like what the transhumanists preach (essentially a god), probably not in our lifetime.

[ Parent ]

Twisting wet towels... (none / 0) (#253)
by Cougaris on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 04:22:15 AM EST

You are wringing a different meaning out of my words there buddy. Its just their philosophy. So, I suspose to cover my bases:

"To just going around calling people who are trying to develop technology, whatever their agenda, philosophy or religion, is immature and shows little other then a heavily opinionated view."

Tada!

Bad example with the manhattan project on my part - what you said is correct, albeit from a different angle then I was inferring.

_______________________________________________

[ Parent ]

genetic manipulation is nothing new... (none / 0) (#187)
by kaibutsu on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:43:32 AM EST

It all started a long, long time ago, under the supervision of a bunch of hunter-gatherers with flint knives and the barest rudiments of language. And led to the crops you see harvested in your supermarket and the cattle you may or may not find yummy and the dog and/or cat that greets you when you come home from work. We know all about the consequences of gene therapy: greater human population density, less diversity in the biomass, strange new plants and animals evolving to suit our needs.

Now, direct manipulation of individual genes is something new, without doubt. However, I tend to doubt the doomsayers when ten thousand years of genengineering hasn't already wiped us off of the planet. I'm not convinced that our new methods are entirely safe, but the arguments I've heard against them have thus far been flimsy and far from convincing. In fact, mostly I've heard them framed as an argument that all technology and human life is inherently bad.

Back to the present topic, though, these transhumanists are certainly full of shite; probably been reading too much Neal Stephensen or something. But the other side ain't too hot either.

It's like that old crack about internet arguments and the special olympics... Even if you win...
-kaibutsu
[ Parent ]

fear of the unknown (none / 0) (#279)
by tgibbs on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 10:29:04 AM EST

Lastly, you can claim that there is no danger. And in 99.9% of the cases, you are probably right. But with gene-technology, we can do changes incredibly fast. And that means lot's of changes, and that those 0.01% is going to happen a lot more often then they used to when we only did selective breeding.

This is of course the standard argument against all technology and science. There is always a chance that you will discover or invent something by chance that will do more harm than all the good accomplished by discovery or invention. So we should halt all technological progress.

With most new technologies, it is possible to spin disaster scenarious. Still, as far as genetic technology is concerned, it seems doubtful that we could do more harm than we have accomplished without that technology. Perhaps, if we are very careless, we could produce a plant that is as harmful to the environment as kudzu, or another of the many biological disasters that we have caused merely by moving a creature from one place to another. And perhaps, if we try really hard, we can create a food that will kill as many people as the peanut.

We've screwed up badly in the past, and we'll doubtless screw up in the future. But at least the newer methods offer us the option to build in some safeguards, rather than simply modifying living things by trial and error.

[ Parent ]

[jarring chord] (3.80 / 5) (#91)
by martingale on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:46:30 PM EST

NOBODY expects the Cishumanistic Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

[sorry couldn't resist -- ed.]

No need to convince people (1.57 / 7) (#109)
by Fen on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:08:32 PM EST

It will happen, and those opposed to it will be simply killed or put in zoos. An implanted .50 caliber guass rifle has a nice way of winning people to your side. Left? Right? How about a .50 fmj bullet going sixteen times the speed of sound?
--Self.
Huh? (none / 0) (#166)
by Arkayne on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:03:08 AM EST

What in the name of Christ are you going on about?

[ Parent ]
left versus right (none / 0) (#196)
by Fen on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:19:40 AM EST

The left versus right is more or less cats versus dogs. The libertarian (or maybe socialist) humans should be the ones with a shotgun ready to take out the stupid fighters in case they get dangerous. When you get to transhumans, they are clearly better, instead of just vastly more intelligent.
--Self.
[ Parent ]
Trancending eugenics (4.40 / 5) (#113)
by gnovos on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:42:08 PM EST

What I absolutly love about the concept of transhumanism is that it in fact trancends all previous forms of eugenics.  In a perfect transhumanist world, if I don't like being black, I could alter my egenes to make me white, asian, or glow like a jellyfish.  If I didn't like looking at "black people" I could inplant chips in my visual cortex with the software to morph anyone I see into exactly what I want them to look like.  It is heaven for both the racists and the raced, eugenics be damned.

This is abbhorant to many people, though, not becuase they like the way the world works today, but becuase they are terrified of the thought of a world where the rules they learned as children no longer apply.  Unfortunately, thier terror causes them to lash out blindly and close thier minds, hiding behind frail missapropriations of the phrase "human dignity".

There is no greater testament to the dignity and wonder of humanity than it's ability to alter the world and chose it's own destiny.


A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen

I love the last sentence[NT] (1.00 / 2) (#189)
by acronos on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:22:15 AM EST

There is no greater testament to the dignity and wonder of humanity than it's ability to alter the world and chose it's own destiny.

[ Parent ]
"Highest levels of academe" (4.66 / 6) (#120)
by tk on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:22:32 PM EST

transhumanists are no less than the "next great threat to human dignity". Why? Because "they come from the highest levels of academe"

In other words, "he's highly learned, and I'm an ignorant fool, therefore I'm right." Oops.

(Though, "he's highly learned, therefore he's right" isn't a valid argument either.)

Read the quote directly (4.50 / 2) (#176)
by Anatta on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 07:32:30 AM EST

The author took the quote horribly out of context.
Transhumanism may seem like something posted on the web by a guy who wears a crystal pyramid on his head to keep the CIA from intercepting his thoughts. To the contrary. Transhumanists come from the highest levels of academe.
That's not a why, that's a who.


My Music
[ Parent ]

Of course, it's totally wrong... (none / 0) (#242)
by Electric Angst on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:00:16 PM EST

Spending time in the highest levels of academe, I can tell you that knowing a ton of researchers, professors, and graduate students in many scientific fields, the only Transhumanists I've known were liberal arts types who's only venture into anything vaugly scientific was their brief, and shallow, ventures into computer science.
--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - [ Parent ]
I stand corrected (none / 0) (#262)
by tk on Sat Oct 05, 2002 at 11:37:15 AM EST

As above.

[ Parent ]
What its like to be transhuman. (4.50 / 4) (#124)
by yokuyakuyoukai on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:37:47 PM EST

Ive had several eye surgerys when i was young to keep my sight and now lasik to correct my vision as well.

I know two people who have had open heart surgery. My uncle got a new valve and my step father a just a quad-bypass. We always joke with my uncle that he is a cyborg.

My mother has had her uterus removed.

So is it just my uncle who is transhuman or does my stepfather and I also get the title of transhuman?

Does that make my mother posthuman?

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." --Kahlil Gibran

VR? (4.00 / 1) (#130)
by ultimai on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:51:01 PM EST

By skiming over the comments, story and such, it looks like that the goals and aspirations are of science fiction and by the time we have this technology to do this to our bodies wouldn't we have VR?

Why do such drasitic things to your biology while you can basically do the same thing temporarly in a virtual reality environment? Does it matter what your shape, sex and other things are if all five (or six some would argue) senses are taken over by the technology of virtual reality and perfectly mimic reality?

Thinking about being able to change you brain structure and such by not using various chemicals or damaging the brain is too far off for me. And because of that it is too early to make any judgement about it.



Hmm (4.00 / 1) (#141)
by carbon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:12:51 AM EST

Sounds great. Mind researching it, writing a thesis, and making a prototype implementation which does something relatively simple, like making a rat think that it's an IP lawyer? As it stands, it's just conjecture, but very nifty sounding conjecture. We can already do some very simple genetic modification, but Matrix-style sensory level VR is an entirely theoretical technology, right up there with warp drives and lightsabers.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
VR throught Transhumanism (none / 0) (#158)
by Cougaris on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:37:15 AM EST

Actually, its more likely that we would have many more degrees of molecular nanotech before we would have any substantial sort of VR system. Even if we did, what would be the point of a stand alone VR system?

To me, and this is just my interpretation of things, a VR system would provide nothing more then an illusion of something - whereas realization of some of the transhumanist ideas would give you something much more substantial. Any way, there is no barrier to creating a mind/machine interface like VR through transhumanist ideas - think of it as hitting two birds with one stone.

__________________________________________________

[ Parent ]

David Brin? (2.00 / 2) (#148)
by auraslip on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 02:16:20 AM EST

In case you don't know:

In his uplift trilogy he creates a universe in which species are created from creatures on the brink of inteligent thought(monkeys, dolphins). The first race created several races, and they each created several, and on and on for millions of years. The created race is then endentured for 500,000 years, before they are left on their own, to create life. The point of all this being to reach a point when the race is advanced far enough to transcend. To what I don't know, in the book it is shown as entering heaven it seems. I would think it would involve becoming a god like entity of pure energy(but lets not think of this now).

Then man came without being uplifted, and not only that we had allready uplifted doplphins and primates(yes talking dolphins eeeeeeee). Started wars, split million year long allegiances, etc etc.

Very intresting, almost religious. The point of mankind to create life and become god. I like this religion.
Lets start with dolphins today, selective breeding and genetic enanchcments hurrah!

And then... (3.50 / 2) (#246)
by xriso on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:54:21 PM EST

The universe entropies out into a uniform piece of crap and everyone's dead anyway.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
The difference (5.00 / 3) (#149)
by Hizonner on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:04:11 AM EST

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 Singularity cultists.

This 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 your examples.

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 plausibility, they 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 molecular nanotechnology has been pretty thoroughly analyzed. See, as examples among many, Eric Drexler's Nanosystems, and, perhaps less convincing, any of Ralph Merkle's 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 are still 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 to age.

It to me that not only nanotech, but also the more speculative 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 relatively soon.

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 stories.

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 anything.

A couple of transhumans (4.50 / 4) (#153)
by driptray on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:08:40 AM EST

I've always been interested in the work of Stelarc, an artist who came to my attention when I saw him suspended from the ceiling by large meathooks pierced through his skin. He's now moved on to all sorts of strange works that have an explicit transhumanist theme.

And then there's Orlan, who has been modifying her body via plastic surgery for quite a while. Sorta like Michael Jackson, only more deliberate. I've seen some videos of her operations.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating

Threats To Human Dignity Reconsidered (4.75 / 8) (#157)
by XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:36:57 AM EST

Here are some recent threats to human dignity:
  • 1987: Acidwash jeans
  • 1990: Vanilla Ice releases 'To The Extreme'
  • 1992: Barney the Dinosaur debits on PBS
  • 1993 - 1997: Pretty hazy, I was drinking a lot
  • 1998 - 2000: Monica Lewinsky Scandal
  • 2001: The XFL
  • 2002: Dana Carvey's The Master Of Disguise
  • 200?: Transhumanism

    I dunno, seems pretty tame by comparison

  • Hey you forgot... (none / 0) (#263)
    by Tachys on Sat Oct 05, 2002 at 04:05:00 PM EST

    Dwarf Tossing

    Any game that gets banned by the Austrailian govt can't be all bad... - Armaphine
    [ Parent ]

    Butchers... (3.00 / 1) (#159)
    by Shubin on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:45:57 AM EST

    Few years ago we developed real computerized
    wearable devices that, after a lot of work,
    in case of success and luck, could bring
    health to its owner. In few words, many
    diseases comes form our wrong behaviour and
    wrong reactions. It is possible to correct
    this wrong behaviour using feedback.
    No need to say, nobody was interested in this
    work. Our devices were not destructive.
    No pain, no blood, no plastic surgery. Just a
    small box with batteries that constantly monitors
    your health and annoys you by telling what's
    wrong. Even no electric shock.
    As soon as someone makes implants or another
    thrilling experiment, or starts to talk about
    genetic experiments (nobody in the Earth understands how all these genes really work)
    it attracts public attention. And money.

    No, I'd be interested (none / 0) (#174)
    by greenrd on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:56:39 AM EST

    That's very interesting. Is there any company currently producing these devices commercially? What are their capabilities? Are there any safety implications?

    It's understandable that pharmaceutical and other companies wouldn't be interested if it was so effective as to cut into their profits. But that's not the only route to go down. What has been tried so far with this technology you speak of? Is the problem that people do not want to invest the time and money in buying and using these devices, or is the problem that a source of investment cannot be found, or what?


    "Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
    [ Parent ]

    Re: (5.00 / 1) (#188)
    by Shubin on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 09:02:06 AM EST

    > That's very interesting
    Everybody says so. Our only one positive
    achievement was a prize on Brussels exhibition
    of inventions. Only one project (called
    "Pulse-Newton") has been sent
    there, and definitely not the best one.
    We needed to pass a long, very long way before
    any commercial application.
    This project failed because of many reasons.
    Industry needs some kind of fast result.
    We could not find any source of long-term
    investment. Everything we produced were
    quite simple devices, containing only few
    information channels - cardiography and pulse
    wave recorder; brain wave recorder; myograph
    etc. These devices are common, so any company
    could easily outperform us. However we sold
    several devices.
    Our strength was that we organized a team of
    specialists in different areas, holders of patents and inventions in these areas.
    This was the second problem. No wanted just
    to invest their patents or knowledge to our
    project. They also wanted fast money. And we had
    no money to buy or to redevelop their technology.
    So we did a lot of parts, but could not assemble
    the whole.
    There was another problem - our medical consultants
    all wanted to solve their own particular problem
    but refused to invest into some integral solution.
    Also they are very suspicious about some not
    traditional methods, like acupuncture and so.

    [ Parent ]
    I read a fascinating article about a... (5.00 / 1) (#162)
    by Demiurge on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:13:15 AM EST

    plastic surgeon named Joe Rosen recently. Dr. Rosen, who is fairly eminent in his field, holds some rather odd views on what people should be allowed to do to their bodies through surgery. Instead of just using plastic surgery to correct defects, he thinks people should be able to use it to enhance their bodies. And he's not just talking boob jobs and face lifts. He's designed wings that could be surgically added to the human body. However, his views are held in contempt by most bio-ethicists and surgeons. Personally, I agree with him. Why shouldn't the same technology that can be used to create an artificial heart for a patient who needs a transplant be used to create superhearts for healthy individuals?

    Couple minor corrections... (5.00 / 2) (#172)
    by Alik on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:34:44 AM EST

    Joe taught one of the first classes I took back when I was an impressionable freshman; he basically put me onto my current path of research. He's even been kind enough to let me come back and lecture to his class. Cool guy.

    Anyhoo, Joe didn't design those wings. He writes about them, and he teaches about them, and they're mad cool (though it's never been, strictly speaking, *proven* that they could be done), but the actual design was a theoretical exercise by another plastic surgeon. Apparently, there was a residency director who used to ask "How would you give a human being wings?" in order to challenge his applicants and see how innovative they were.

    Secondly, I'm not clear on who these "most bio-ethicists and surgeons" are that hold Joe's views in "contempt". He's reasonably well-respected in the medical and surgical communities. He's not *famous*, because he doesn't actually do research in the areas he's most gung-ho about (he used to, but nowadays it's surgical VR, at least last I heard), but he's an accepted member of the plastic surgery department at a major academic medical center, and while I was there I never heard anyone (student, physician, or non-clinical faculty) complain publically or privately about his views.

    Now, we'd say he was nuts, but that's because he *is* nuts. He's just nuts in a good way.


    [ Parent ]

    Ah, I see, (4.00 / 1) (#173)
    by Alik on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:43:27 AM EST

    Perhaps the article to which you refer is <A HREF="http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4371759,00.html">this</A>?

    When are people going to learn that you cannot trust the popular press to report anything accurately about cutting-edge science because they do not have time to properly sort critical details from unnecessary ones? Did you also trust that Wired article about neural interfaces? I hate to tell ya this, but these things tend to blur together several peoples' projects and make it seem like the transhumanist future is right around the corner.

    I say unto thee, believe not this article about anything besides what Joe thinks, for it is mostly a load of deliberately-skewed crap. (And as for what Joe thinks... yeah, Joe. Wings in five years. That's what you told me six years ago.)


    [ Parent ]

    Classism (none / 0) (#202)
    by dipierro on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:19:24 PM EST

    Why shouldn't the same technology that can be used to create an artificial heart for a patient who needs a transplant be used to create superhearts for healthy individuals?

    Because then the rich will live forever and the poor will die - which wouldn't be so bad except that whether you are rich or poor is mainly determined by whether your parents are rich or poor.



    [ Parent ]
    Somebody's got to be the first... (4.00 / 1) (#282)
    by Auroree on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 01:49:58 PM EST

    Rich people have ALWAYS been early adopters of technology... Simply because new technology is usually expensive.

    Just because this creates an initial rift between people who can afford it and people who can't doesn't mean that rift is permanent.

    If the technology is worthwhile, then eventually there will be ways to make it available to more people. Either the demand will cause market pressures to lower the cost (either by creating competition between service providers or by creating a wholesale market for the technology), or the cost (in this case) may be partially alleviated by third parties, such as health insurance companies.

    There are only so many rich people, so if the people selling this technology don't find a way to offer it to the not-so rich, then they won't be able to sustain their business anyway.

    If super hearts or other augmentations prove to lower the cost of preventative or emergency health maintenance, then health insurance companies may eventually decide that it's more cost effective to them to pay for most or all of those augmentations after some cost/benefit analysis.

    Besides, let the rich people be the guinea pigs for the first versions of this stuff... then it will be safer when it's affordable for the rest of us.

    [ Parent ]
    The trickle down theory... (3.00 / 1) (#283)
    by dipierro on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 03:02:58 PM EST

    Just because this creates an initial rift between people who can afford it and people who can't doesn't mean that rift is permanent.

    Yes, but in this case, since it's a non-life-saving alteration, it probably will be.

    If the technology is worthwhile, then eventually there will be ways to make it available to more people. Either the demand will cause market pressures to lower the cost (either by creating competition between service providers or by creating a wholesale market for the technology), or the cost (in this case) may be partially alleviated by third parties, such as health insurance companies.

    Demand doesn't lower cost. If anything, demand increases cost, though in the long term, demand doesn't affect (inflation adjusted) cost very much at all.

    If this lowers healthcare costs, maybe health insurance companies would step in, but I'm really talking about procedures which don't save money over the useful lifespan.

    There are only so many rich people, so if the people selling this technology don't find a way to offer it to the not-so rich, then they won't be able to sustain their business anyway.

    That's not how capitalism works. Those that own the capital don't need to do any work. They rent their capital to those who do the work. It's perfectly sustainable.

    Besides, let the rich people be the guinea pigs for the first versions of this stuff... then it will be safer when it's affordable for the rest of us.

    Well, while I don't agree that it's a good thing, it's pretty much inevitable in a capitalist society. And I don't have any better ideas than capitalism to keep society happy and productive. So, yeah, I support transhumanism, for now, though I don't really consider it a positive.



    [ Parent ]
    Insurance might end up covering it... (3.50 / 2) (#285)
    by Auroree on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 06:50:44 PM EST

    Yes, but in this case, since it's a non-life-saving alteration...

    I think it is a life-saving alteration to be able to augment my body so that it doesn't deteriorate and I don't die. To live an extra 30, 100 or more years because of that augmentation. It's a matter of where expectations of lifespan are set.

    If this lowers healthcare costs, maybe health insurance companies would step in, but I'm really talking about procedures which don't save money over the useful lifespan.

    If life expectancy goes up dramtically, even for a relatively small group of people, then the average life expectancy will have to be raised for everyone, which means that insurance companies will be covering people for longer amounts of time.

    As people age, without augmentation, their health costs also rise and they become more of a "burden" to health insurance companies. Over the long run, it would be more beneficial to them, cost wise, to pay for augmentation than pay to maintain a failing body with expensive prescriptions and surgeries.

    And besides, the goverment is already imposing more responsibility on insurance companies to pay for things that aren't "medically necessary" but improve quality of life.

    For instance, about a year ago, I got a letter saying that according to a new regulation, insurance companies have to subsidize the cost of my birth control prescriptions. Of course, that may or may not be deemed "medically necessary" for many people, and that's why the insurance companies never paid before.

    As an aside, it probably saves insurance companies money because it's a lot less money to pay $20/month for my prescription than to pay thousands for me to have another kid (though it's a gamble for them). That's just a small example of a "well being" type coverage that they didn't do before.

    If people expect to live longer, then they will demand that insurance companies accomodate their medical needs to do so. And eventually, if the insurance companies don't do it voluntarily, the government will regulate it to be so as the average life expectancy rises... It's the line where the expectation begins that will be moved when people start emerging with indefinite lifespans.


    [ Parent ]
    Economies of Scale and new technology. (4.00 / 1) (#290)
    by vectro on Fri Oct 25, 2002 at 01:44:19 AM EST

    Actually, demand does reduce cost - that's the whole idea of an economy of scale. It's cheaper per widget to make 1000 than to make one, and even cheaper to make a million. Economies of scale appear at every part of a business, from concept to engineering to manufacturering to marketing.

    Furthermore, the fact is that new technologies do tend to come down in cost after being released. This is due to a variety of factors, but the most obvious is that market growth spawns competition and commoditization. Look at computers: The laptop which cost $8000 last month costs $5000 next month, $3000 the month after, $2000 next year, and $800 the year after that.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]

    But would it be profitable? (3.33 / 3) (#164)
    by opendna on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:43:48 AM EST

    First off, the cyborg is old news: God made grass and gave man feet to walk upon it, Man made concrete and boots so his feet wouldn't get sore.

    [c-title] I'm sure there are all sorts of ethical considerations and stuff, but is there any economic reason why this would or wouldn't happen?

    Whenever someone pines at me about the ethical dangers of genetically engineered humans I have to ask "why would I pay $100,000 to clone a human when I can make one for free?" A kidney for $50,000 and a liver for $30,000 and... There's money to be made, no doubt.

    But if you've sunk to the ethical level of creating brainless human bodies to harvest organs you might as well give up and harvest from homeless Brazilian children and Chinese prisioners.

    Oh wait...

    As I was saying I think the whole idea of a common human project to collectively trancend to a higher state of evolution is a little unlikely. Shit - we still haven't abolished hunger!

    Me thinks transhumanists have been playing too many Sid Meier games.



    Hunger and others (none / 0) (#197)
    by RoOoBo on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:53:32 AM EST

    As I was saying I think the whole idea of a common human project to collectively trancend to a higher state of evolution is a little unlikely. Shit - we still haven't abolished hunger!

    Abolish hunger? Are you kidding? Why would they want to abolish hunger? They get what they deserve. They should open themself to the benefits of ultraneoliberalism which would rocket them to immortality and transcendence.

    I don't see technology being stopped because there are a 'few' humans who are suffering hunger. Let's face it technology and society will go where money is and it seems there is no money in creating a better world ... for most of the human kind, not just for the ones who control the world.



    [ Parent ]
    You have a PROBLEM with Sid Meier? (none / 0) (#209)
    by Dirty Liberalist Scumbag on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:59:13 PM EST

    You wanna take this outside?
    ------

    We suffer from constant delusions of grandeur.
    [ Parent ]

    Brainless bodies unethical? (none / 0) (#270)
    by wurp on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 01:25:46 PM EST

    Growing brainless bodies from which to harvest organs is unethical?

    Is it also unethical to harvest organs from someone who is brain-dead?  Is it unethical to grow replacement organs by themselves (successful in laboratories right now)?  Where's the dividing line?

    I think that you're thinking with your gut, not your mind.  For a long time, autopsy was considered unethical (violating the sanctity of the human body).  Organ transplant was unethical.

    Just what aspect of growing a brainless body for organ harvest is unethical?  How is it more unethical than raising a cow to eat?

    Do you want to go tell the kids dying from kidney cancer, or who need a heart transplant, that it's  unethical to grow a hunk of meat that will save their lives?
    ---
    Buy my stuff
    [ Parent ]

    There is no transhumanism (4.00 / 6) (#167)
    by fhotg on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:06:59 AM EST

    A philosophy asks questions, "transhumanists" don't. Their main statement is: 'We are developing new technologies and put them to use to enchance ourselves'. As others have pointed out, we're doing this since the invention of clothing and no movement is needed to continue to do so.

    The 'transhumanist' credo focusses on vaporware, so that the 'everything will be much better soon' feel-good mood won't be disturbed by reality and everything needed to speak authoratively about 'transhumanism' is a solid background in contemporary sci-fi.

    In other words, 'transhumanism', like 'witchcraft for teens', is an attitude you can put on to impress the intellectually challenged and feel cutting-edge.

    Transhumanism in Sci-Fi (4.00 / 1) (#177)
    by razar on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 07:50:40 AM EST

    If you want to read some good books that basically introduce you to most ideas that transhumanists throw around then try reading the series 'A Requium for Homo Sapiens' by David Zindell.  Its a great set of books that can be very thought provoking.  Perhaps the only really bad part about the books is the main character is a bit too messianic to be believable.  Still no where near as horrible as the main character from Mission Earth ( I dont know how I managed to get through those 10 books ).  Transhumanists love to quote from David Zindell because he has some really neat quotes like
    'What is a human being, then?'
    'A seed.'
    'A... seed?'
    'An acorn that is unafraid to destroy itself in growing into a tree'

    Even if you hate transhumanists I would recommend reading David Zindell because I think its one of the greatest works of imaginative sci-fi.

    I JUST FUCKED A SHEEP


    Oops (none / 0) (#212)
    by virg on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:09:34 PM EST

    I can only assume you meant _Battlefield Earth_, no?

    Virg
    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    We Are Transhuman (4.72 / 11) (#178)
    by bugmaster on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:00:30 AM EST

    Glasses. Pacemakers. Headphones. Hearing aids. Elimination of entire disease genomes. Flu shots. Steroids. Insulin pumps. Titanium prosthetic bones. Wheelchairs. Cellphones... I mean, freaking flint knives and animal skin coats.

    And after all that, transhumanism is a "radical new approach" ? How so ? I guess it's new relative to the Jurassic era...
    >|<*:=

    Au contraire (4.00 / 1) (#254)
    by axxeman on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 04:23:04 AM EST

    It is frikkin' flint knives and animal skin coats that made us HUMAN in the first place.

    Humans are animals that use tools.

    Being or not being married isn't going to stop bestiality or incest. --- FlightTest
    [ Parent ]

    Nutcases (4.40 / 5) (#182)
    by n8f8 on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:20:54 AM EST

    Nutcases on the left. Nutcases on the right. It's all the same.

    I just wish we could all come to an understanding where you have the right to to anything to your own body that you want without the government interfering. After all, if you don't even "own" your own body how can you even consider yourself "free" or having any real degree of freedom?

    Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

    The Fly in the Ointment (none / 0) (#211)
    by virg on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 01:06:52 PM EST

    > I just wish we could all come to an understanding where you have the right to to anything to your own body that you want without the government interfering. After all, if you don't even "own" your own body how can you even consider yourself "free" or having any real degree of freedom?

    The problem, as always, is on the edges. It's easy to argue that you have the right to modify your own body, but how far does that extend? Since a large part of genetic modification would need to occur at conception (more or less), it's tough to argue that the child has control. Do the parents have a right to introduce such modifications? Do they have a responsibility to do so? Do they fully understand what's involved? On one side is the parents who feel they must give their child the advantage of height or muscle tone, and on the other is the Down's Syndrome sufferer suing her parents for not genetically modifying her to eliminate it.

    The next part of the issue is where the government interferes, and why. It's easy to say, "hands off my body", and most (at least in the U.S.) will agree and allow you that, but where are the limits to prevent genetic testing from stepping over the moral line into body factories? Growing an arm in a bottle to replace one that you lost is acceptable to many, but to grow a spinal cord, you need a central nervous system, and how far can that growth be taken before you create a clone of you that's alive enough to be considered its own person? Is it legitimate to grow a copy of yourself so that you can get him to give you a kindey that you need? What if he doesn't want to give up a kidney? Whose body rights apply then?

    As always, as with every technology, there's a large grey area that needs to be addressed. I tend toward the progress of science, and I push for the allowance of stem cell research, but even I recognize that there are ethical considerations that need to be approached with thought and concern.

    Virg
    "Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
    [ Parent ]
    Personal opinion. (2.00 / 5) (#183)
    by arcade on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:28:38 AM EST

    but strongly disputes the usage of "human dignity" by the conservatives (and their uneasy allies, technologically-skeptical greens). Far from being anything to do with the real meaning of the word, Hughes argues, "human dignity" is often used to imply the very reverse of respecting others: banning research that could heal quadriplegics, prohibiting genetic therapy, and denying terminally-ill patients wishes to die peacefully - and, ironically, with dignity.

    My personal opinion is that you should not artificially "cure" people that would not reproduce - but will then be able to. Some sort of 'natural selection' should take place in humans, just as in other animals. We should not remove natural selection.

    In the same category, I place those that get artificial ways of insemination. If you're not able to produce them on your own, your genes should be selected against. But we have a tendency to "ignore" nature's natural selection.

    Oh, and on the matter of terminator-seeds, that is, the agricultural version of DRM - I strictly opose those too. One does really not want seeds that doesn't naturally reproduce, to replace those that do.



    --
    arcade
    Why? (3.66 / 3) (#190)
    by acronos on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:34:11 AM EST

    Human selected evolution will be far faster and stronger than any natural selection, and it will be directed.  At least with human planning we can attempt to foresee the consequences of where we are evolving.  With natural selection we are adrift to the wind.  Planned evolution is less likely to destroy and more likely to enhance what is important to us than the random noise of natural selection.  There are risks in anything we do including doing nothing.  Evolution will not stop either way.  The greater risk is to trust to chance.

    [ Parent ]
    ah, the power of genetics (4.50 / 2) (#193)
    by ph0rk on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:52:46 AM EST


    But surely, once we have th epower to perform gene-thereapy and to repair genetic defects, we will no longer be interested in 'natural selection', but 'aided selection'.

    We'll of course remove all traces of those nasty defects you're so worried about future people dealing with.
    [ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
    [ Parent ]

    Terminator genes not an issue... (none / 0) (#250)
    by Iarnulfr on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 12:10:11 AM EST


    Oh, and on the matter of terminator-seeds, that is, the agricultural version of DRM - I strictly opose those too. One does really not want seeds that doesn't naturally reproduce, to replace those that do.

    This has probably been said before, but by their very nature, terminator genes are not a problem insofar as spreading themselves - they cannot reproduce, as soon as farmers stop planting them, they go away.  The real evil of the terminator gene was the planned Economic use of them: to trap subsistence farmers into returning to the vendor every year to purchase seed, rather than planting new crops with part of the previous year's harvest.  Even if they contaminated non-GE species via viral or bacterial horizontal gene transfer, such hybrids would also die off through producing non-viable seed.
    Who'll stop the cavalry?
    [ Parent ]

    What's so bad about sterile people? (3.50 / 2) (#275)
    by Spork on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 06:14:07 PM EST

    I don't get it. Are you saying that nature "meant" for sterile people to not have children, and here we are, violating her wishes? I'm trying to parse your comment more generously, but I can't.

    I guess there are some people who think like this, but for them I have some news: Nature does not intend or "mean to do" anything. It used to be only hippies who anthropomorphized nature this way. I guess it's spreading.

    It seems to me that there is no reason why curably sterile people who want to have children should not have them. In fact, their children will probably get much better care than the average child, because they are committed enough to parenting to almost literally bust their balls for it.

    Sometimes I wish everyone were sterile, and had to go out and make a real effort if they wanted to reproduce. Not only would this make casual sex more fun, but it would also practically eliminate any need for abortion, make sure that every child is wanted, prevent "crack babies" and start slowing the growth of the global population.

    So, while I agree that terminator-seeds are lame for farmers, I guess I wish all humans were terminator-seeds!

    [ Parent ]

    Natural selection as God (5.00 / 3) (#278)
    by tgibbs on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 10:10:57 AM EST

    Oddly, some of the people who have accepted evolution seem to have elevated natural selection to fill the vacant position of God as architect of humanity.

    But it doesn't really fit. You can argue that God knows best, so we shouldn't interfere with the will of God.

    But natural selection doesn't know best. Indeed, it has no foresight at all. It does not have our best interests at heart. Much of what is important to us about humanity is probably an accidental byproduct of evolution. So to insist that we shouldn't intefere with natural selection makes little sense. There is absolutely no reason to imagine that we couldn't do a better job (and certainly a kinder job) of eliminating genetic diseases, for example, than natural selection does of weeding them out.

    [ Parent ]

    Natural selection doesn't apply to modern humans. (none / 0) (#281)
    by Auroree on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 11:57:49 AM EST

    Natural selection among humans was discontinued as soon as medical science began.

    Every time a doctor gives someone a flu shot (sparing thousands (maybe millions?) of lives a year that, before flu shots, would have left the gene pool), or antibotics (also saving millions of lives a year that would have otherwise been culled), or even something as innocuous as antacid (preventing ulcers which, if untreated, might also lessen the chances of the "unfit" in reproducing), the effects of natural selection on humans are effectively twarted.

    That minor sampling of medicine doesn't begin to address the number of lives of people natural selection would have previously easily dispatched that have been saved by more radical therapies such as blood transfusions, surgery, or transplants.

    Natural selection is no longer as much of a factor in the evolution of the human race because medical science gives anyone who has access to it a longer lifespan with resistance to diseases, which increases their chances of reproducing.

    Technology, on the other hand, IS a major factor in human evolution. With almost every advance in technology (especially in the medical field), human life length and quality is extended somewhat. It's inevitable that eventually we will be augmented directly by technology, or at least the people who want to extend their lives and are unhindered by religious reasons, will be.

    There are already technology augmented humans such as those with pacemakers and epilepsy patients with electrodes in their brains to control their seizures. It's not a good argument to say people using those technologies should be denied them because natural selection is being violated and they might reproduce.

    The bottom line is, if you believe the process of natural selection is something to preserve in humans, then you should not partake of any technology, especially medical technology. Convince your friends and family to do the same. That is the only way that natural selection will have an effect on modern humans.

    [ Parent ]
    Natural Selection (none / 0) (#287)
    by Korimyr the Rat on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:33:08 PM EST

     Natural Selection isn't something that can be denied. The parameters may change, and the effects can be reduced, but evolution still occurs.

     This medical technology, for instance, has removed factors that would be fatal. However, many people still do not reproduce, and some people who do reproduce have more or fewer children than others-- which still leaves room for natural selection to function.

     The problem is, with the wide availablity of birth control, especially in First-World countries, is that responsibility and self-control tend to act to limit reproduction-- delaying until later in life, and possibly reducing the number of children a couple has.

     Education and wealth also tend to reduce family size. While not genetic, in and of themselves, the genetic factors that tend to contribute to achieving wealth and education are also likewise selected against.

     Natural selection is still occurring-- it's just moving slower than normal, and in a direction I'm sure most people would rather not go.

    --
    "Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
    Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
    [ Parent ]

    The most interesting thing about the NRO piece... (4.75 / 4) (#186)
    by skyknight on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:39:20 AM EST

    ... is how just a little word substitution could fling us back several centuries to a very similar denouncement put out by the church. Namely, try substituting out "human cloning" or "trans-humanism" and in its place put in the phrase "human autopsy." The whole field of modern medicine was nearly truncated by the church's outlawing of autopsy because it supposedly violated the sanctity of human life. Fortunately for us, some rogue scientists didn't give two shits about what the church thought and secretly performed autopsies in their basements, advancing medical knowledge without the hindrance of spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

    It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
    While We Debate (4.00 / 1) (#191)
    by agentwhy on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:36:05 AM EST

    China will create. China is moving forward in the areas of Biotech, AI, Robotics, and Nanotech. They will not wait around while the west debates the ethics of all of this. Their economy is also steadily growing while the US economy steadily shrinks. Now, mind you , the west are also making huge advances in these fields,and will continue to do so. However, when we reach the point where our progress begins to collide with ethics, it is my belief that China will forge ahead, and human kind as a whole will see these advancements anyway. China's current strategy is to "leech" technological knowledge from the west, with theultimate goal of becoming self-sustaining in all areas. When breakthroughs begin coming from China,andthey already have begun, China will loosen it's economy enoughto allow investment dollars to pour in, and alot of investors will shift their funds to Chinese companies,and to the Chinese economy. This will create a speed-up of developement for at least part of a decade in China. The "Asian Brown Cloud" is prompting China to pour resources into renewable energy. That ecological condition is coupled with Chinas focus on self-sustainence,and China will probably get a leg up in renewable energy technologies as well. Especially when an influx of investment begins.

    Eh yes. (none / 0) (#210)
    by tkatchev on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:59:19 PM EST

    Just don't forget to stamp your hand and forehead on your way there.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    yep (none / 0) (#236)
    by Celestial on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:18:51 PM EST

    good social theory certainly seems to point to China as the next World Power. Because of the topic I can't not bring up Gibson, and the fact that he will be sad when its not Japan. But he was close. You know, so long as Bush doesn't nuke the whole area...

    [ Parent ]
    Good article (4.00 / 1) (#194)
    by avdi on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:54:18 AM EST

    Just wanted to compliment the author on a relatively well-balanced article on a complex subject.  I think it's interesting that in this area, people traditionally on opposite sides of the fence are both opposing the same type of developments, and both on essentially conservative grounds (albeit different kinds of conservatism).   Even those who have taken the moniker "progressive" as their own find transhumanism (or posthumanism, as Bruce Stirling might call it) a bit too progressive for their tastes; while a group of people considered conservative by many are breaking ranks with the Right by declaring human genetic manipulation to be the way of the future.

    For myself I'm all for advancing our posthuman future;  I believe that the advances in health, wealth, and wellbeing that we will see as a result of modifying and augmenting our bodies will far surpass the technological advances of the past century.  I think the risks are worth it.  

    I recommend Virginia Postrel's weblog to anyone interested in this subject.  She considers herself a "dynamist", and is a strong, eloquent proponent of continued progress in all areas of technology, particularly biotechnology.

    --
    Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir

    eugenics immoral? (1.16 / 12) (#199)
    by Fen on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:59:26 AM EST

    Let's see you call someone "immoral" who has a sniper rifle pointed at you? Guns will always beat stupid arguments from stupid people. Those opposed to progress are killing people since we don't know who might attack (from this planet or another). As such, perhaps they deserve to be killed, not argued with.
    --Self.
    One interesting thought (4.00 / 2) (#200)
    by DenOfEarth on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:11:14 PM EST

    Good article. I currently have come into acquaintance with a transhumanist (or transhumanist proponent, if you will), and was always interested in hearing what it is that he has to say on a wide variety of topics. I would have to say, though, that one the whole, there are some things that don't impress me very much, and some things that do.

    Transhumanists should pride themselves on being very individualistic (a good thing, IMHO) although the problem comes with a blind faith that things will always become _better_ with the application of technology. This seems alright at first, but the blind faith thing kind of bothers me. It's all well and good to say that we can do everything and anything someday, but does this mean that it will necessarily happen? Transhumanists seem to think so.

    Secondly, transhumanism seems like one of those weird bubbles that floats up in the middle of times of peace, expecially as related to the effective living of joe schmo, and yourself. I guess that is the only thing I am worried about, is whether or not we, as a species, will make it through the next big 'shake-up', be it disease, war, or any number of unthinkable natural disasters.

    Third, how large do you think the costs will be before benefits are seen (in terms of body modification, for example). I have this strange dream of a large number of intelligent people marching to fix themselves up, only to realize that yes, they are creatures of nature, and things may not be completely understood by hom sapiens.

    Finally, I have to say that Transhumanists suck to argue against, because they can always sit back and say, well...eventually, I'll be right..., and there's no replying to that.

    Speaking for myself... (none / 0) (#234)
    by avdi on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:37:53 PM EST

    ...I'd say that my faith that things will get better with time is based firmly in observation of history.  From where I'm looking, things have been getting better rather than worse with nearly every advance that has been made in the last few thousand years.  Obviously, this argument's effectiveness depends on your point of view.  If you see things as steadily getting worse, than transhumanism is necessarily frightening.  If you see, as I do, humanity as measurably better off for all it's progress, than it's a very good argument for continued progress.

    Here's what I see.  We've created societies where the life expectancy and quality of life is better than it has ever been in the past, and we are slowly but surely expanding that quality of life out to every human on the planet.  We've invented cures for hundred's of diseases, we have enhanced our innate abilities in a million different ways, we have increased our understanding of ourselves and our ability to communicate with each other.  Sure, we have created our share of horrors, but taken on balance we have profitted far more than we have lost, and for every crisis, such as the environmental effects of our progress, there is a wave of innovation to combat the negative effects of the problem (like cleaner processes and fuel-cell cars).


    Secondly, transhumanism seems like one of those weird bubbles that floats up in the middle of times of peace, expecially as related to the effective living of joe schmo, and yourself. I guess that is the only thing I am worried about, is whether or not we, as a species, will make it through the next big 'shake-up', be it disease, war, or any number of unthinkable natural disasters.

    This is where transhumanism is most important, in my opinion.  Our progress so far has made us far better equipped to survive or avoid disasters.  Our advances in medicine and vaccines make us far less susceptible to existin diseases, and better able to respond to new ones.  Our architectural, communications, geoscience, and emergency-services advances mean that in the most developed nations, disasters mean the deaths of a few people at most, instead of thousands.  And one could make a case that our advances governmental systems, like democracy, has made race-threatening war less likely.  I think that embracing dynamism and transhumanism is our best hope for survival in the long run.

    --
    Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
    [ Parent ]

    The value of a life is a function of...? (4.80 / 5) (#204)
    by Sloppy on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:34:42 PM EST

    The value of a life is a function of what?
    • How "human" it is?
    • How smart it is?
    • How Nordic and fairskinned it is?

    There will always be a line drawn somewhere, to deliniate between what is really valued and what isn't. Hitler drew it somewhere that I just don't understand, and his values were pretty warped and arbitrary from my perspective. But nevertheless, we all have some conception of where that line is, and guess what? We don't all have it in the same place. And it's not just a matter of degrees; the lines aren't even parallel!

    Hitler (and many other sociopaths) was able to kill people because he considered their lives worth less. He would say Jews are not "human", whatever "human" is. The much more conventional value is that you just don't do that, because all humans have that special something -- whatever it is -- that makes them sacrosanct.

    That's an easy position to take in today's world. But a few hundred years from now, when you are speaking with something that looks like a cow but can talk with you about math and play moving music, and then you turn and look at a brain-damaged unconscious retard on permanent life-support, that line is going to be damned hard to accept.

    I can understand why Wesley J Smith feels nervous about this and sees human dignity as being at stake. I feel nervous about it too, because I know I'm going to prefer the company of the talking cow or the AI or the "little green man from Mars", to the unconscious retard. The unconscious retard is just a piece of meat connected to a machine. The cow is a person. Guess who is going to be the main ingredient in my burger.

    Does this make me a misanthropic sociopath? Does it make me another Hitler? Fuckin' A, that's not what I want, but I don't know if I can really defend against the charge. It's really uncomfortable territory.
    "RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."

    There is a way out (none / 0) (#225)
    by Timwit on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:09:15 PM EST

    Don't eat *any* meat, and you will never have to worry about where that line is. (Well, not quite--for me personally there is still the dillema of where to draw the line when using animals for medical research.)

    Your essay reminds me, I frequently employ the "retarded" argument in debates with meat eaters. Invariably, at some point they say "but cows are so stupid!" And I always reply "So is my retarded brother. Should I eat him?" (My brother really is retarded.)


    [ Parent ]

    Close to the point... (5.00 / 1) (#231)
    by RareHeintz on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:38:30 PM EST

    I think you touched on something important here that could stand to be poked at a little harder. Where people draw that line tends to boil down to two words: "like me".

    If you find out the primary characteristics people use to identify themselves, you have (in the vast majority of cases) found out what they think is good, morally decent, and fit to live. People will tend to value that with which they identify.

    Hitler's definition of "like me" boiled down to "Aryan". In the U.S., unfortunately, most people seem to have components of "American", "Christian", and "nothing that tweaks my media-driven xenophobia" in their definition. For PETA, the definition of "like me" extends to the entire kingdom Animalia.

    For Wesley J. Smith, that definition would likely not extend to a person who had surgically grafted wings grown from his own cultured flesh - he sees that person as moving from the "like me" category into one "not like me". The author of the parent of this post probably self-identifies with his intellect, hence the talking-cow-vs.-human-vegetable example.

    The question that really comes out of all this (for me, anyway) is what will future transhumans - not transhumanists, but the people of the future that they envision - consider "like me"? When I have my brain directly connected to the Internet (or its future analog) 24/7, when my eyes can see from infrared to near X-rays, when my skeletal muscles are replaced by electrically-actuated polymer composites that can exert 10 times the force (and my skeleton is suitably reinforced to handle the load), when I've been genetically altered to give me hair color and skin tone I like (just for the hell of it, because it's so easy), will I still see myself in a man who is only flesh and blood?

    As the first transhumans will likely come from society's most privileged elites, this issue may well come to define class, racial, and religious conflict in 50 years' time. Already, the economical and political elites seem to define "like me" as "wealthy, white, and male". What happens when these same guys (or their future analogs) have replaced all their stock parts?

    I could see it being either be a utopian dream or a nightmare to dwarf everything Hitler, Stalin, and Mao did a hundred times over. Take your own sounding of human nature (whatever that means) and get back to me.

    OK,
    - B
    --
    http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
    [ Parent ]

    Thinking "like me" (5.00 / 1) (#244)
    by Hizonner on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:38:41 PM EST

    When I have my brain directly connected to the Internet (or its future analog) 24/7, when my eyes can see from infrared to near X-rays, [... etc, etc...] will I still see myself in a man who is only flesh and blood?

    I would imagine that at that point, you'd see yourself in whatever you'd programmed yourself to see yourself in. There might even be rules for what sorts of outlooks you'd have to adopt before anybody would give you the help you needed to reach certain levels of augmentation.

    In other words, all of human nature may be on the table for change here. It's not necessarily valid to consider people's moral or social nature, even the wired-in parts, as a constant. When you get transhuman enough, you can drop the "human" part, and human psychology is part of that.

    For that matter, I personally suspect that one of the enabling technologies for things like wiring your brain into the Internet, assuming that ever happens, will be very powerful nonhuman AI. So you may have things running around that are smarter and more powerful than humans, but aren't human and don't even come from human "stock". Their moral stances may be completely alien.

    None of which, of course, does anything to weaken your point that both utopias and dystopias are possible. Myself, I suspect the real thing will be somewhere between the two... and the people experiencing it may not put it into the categories we would.

    It should be interesting, anyway.

    [ Parent ]

    Sentience as a line? (none / 0) (#233)
    by Edgy Loner on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:36:44 PM EST

    That would seem to be pretty reasonable place to draw the line. If you draw the line at humans special / non humans not special, what you are saying is that genetics is what is important. That's really just a slightly broader form of racism. Its not that different than saying humans with Y chromosones are better than humans without them, or that humans who produce less melanin in their skin are better than humans who produce more.
    In your case above the AI, the talking cow and the ET are people because they can think, they are sentient, there is somebody there. The brain dead patient on life support isn't. If they were a person , they are dead now because their mind has died. If they never had a mind they were never a person in the first place.
    There are already elemnts of this concept in place. Lots of legal codes accept the idea of 'brain death'. That a human's life ends when their mind dies, not when their body dies.

    Maybe it's just all the Star Trek I watched as a kid, but I don't see why anyone would feel umcomfortable with that kind of thinking, or indeed how someone could not think that way.

    This is not my beautiful house.
    This is not my beautiful knife.
    [ Parent ]

    Just another line (none / 0) (#240)
    by repp on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 07:34:06 PM EST

    Are you saying that you have proof that humans are the only sentient species on the planet?

    [ Parent ]
    Where are the transanimals? (2.50 / 2) (#228)
    by kholmes on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:38:57 PM EST

    I mean, I don't see much point in arguing about the merits of vaporware.

    Where are the transanimals? As much as I like animals, we should be trying these techniques on the animals first. If the animals are okay with it, then we have something to debate about.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

    They are here (none / 0) (#232)
    by Sloppy on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:52:37 PM EST

    Transanimals are everywhere. Your pet is one, your bacon cheeseburger is made out of them, and they spun the silk that you wear. Go to a dog show and compare what you see to wolves, and you'll see the power of Selective Breeding.
    "RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
    [ Parent ]
    I hope you're kidding (none / 0) (#238)
    by kholmes on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 07:24:59 PM EST

    I don't think selective breeding of people is ethical.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]
    Selective Breeding (none / 0) (#249)
    by Sloppy on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:35:33 PM EST

    I don't think selective breeding of people is ethical.
    Well, genetic manipulations are just one way to mess around with the properties of mankind. I mentioned it as a low-tech one that has seen a lot of use, so there's already some data out there for us to learn from. (And FWIW, some of the animals do have some health problems as a direct result of it.) All I'm saying is that we're not really just talking about complete vaporware.
    "RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
    [ Parent ]
    I know what you're saying (none / 0) (#251)
    by kholmes on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 12:37:02 AM EST

    but I'm not sure you grok me. I'm saying this transhumation is vaporware until we start applying it. We should first start applying it animals first.

    Sure, we do all kinds of god-awful things to animals. But thats really not relevent to people, is it?

    * ignoring the whole definition of personhood and universal suffering to avoid digressing.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    What do you call a... (none / 0) (#235)
    by Celestial on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 06:06:47 PM EST

    A mouse with a human ear on its back? Oh, and then there is this place in some town the name and state of which I have forgotten which will clone the pets of the rich so that when billionair so and so's child's cat gets run over all he has to do is go to the store and get another one, the same one in fact. We have bug cyborgs designed to do our spy work and a thousand other things that could qualify. Really, we're very close to being able to do most of this with humans. A Gibsoneque future of genetic strangeness and human implants is only a few years away, most of us could very likely live to see it. Too bad for the horses though, they go extinct :(

    [ Parent ]
    I wanna be a transanimal (none / 0) (#274)
    by Spork on Mon Oct 07, 2002 at 05:53:10 PM EST

    Hi, I live just south of the Canadian border and this is about the season in which I start wishing I could grow some fur. Really, if I could get sheep or alpaca genes and grow a luxurious coat of wool, I would do it in a heartbeat! In the summers I would shear myself and sell my wool for money. Where's the downside? [... hey, DOWN! Maybe I would grow down instead, since that would be even warmer, but naah, I would't want to pluck myself...]

    [ Parent ]
    Back to basics... (3.50 / 2) (#229)
    by jasno on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:54:29 PM EST

    First off, good article.  When I first saw the topic my hairs bristled a bit, but I think you presented some good points I hadn't thought of before.

    Unfortunately this issue and many others like it (abortion for one) aren't issues that can be debated solely on their own merits.  There are fundamental differences in the world views of the opponents that need to be rectified before any real agreement can take place.  

    What is a human?  Who/what put us here?  What are the goals and values that we should strive for and use to make our decisions?  These are very difficult questions, but they're ones that need to be answered, if not on a global level, at least a national level.  Only then can we build a consistent and coherent set of ethics and laws that don't conflict.  Then those nations which ascribe to certain world-views can compete for resources and we can settle this by a sort of natural selection.  

    Yes, its a lofty, most likely unattainable scenario, but its the only way to settle many of these 'higher level' debates that usually degenerate into emotional appeals and name calling.  

    "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3

    Please no (none / 0) (#288)
    by Josh A on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:06:02 AM EST

    I really don't think it has to be that complex. No great worldview-reconciling need take place. People just need to recognize their freedom and the freedom of others, and things pretty much fall into place.

    It really does not matter if you believe in God and I believe in DNA if we can agree that you get to pray and go to church and be buried in a cemetary all you want and I get to play with nanites, use available technology to ensure my children are genetically healthy, and freeze my body in liquid nitrogen.

    What is so hard about allowing other people live their lives differently? Your Amos sounds like a bigot to me.

    ---
    Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


    [ Parent ]
    I am a transhumanist (1.25 / 4) (#230)
    by cryon on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 04:09:23 PM EST

    I have not had time to read all of your lengthy post, but I notice that you mention some anti-transhumanist, who seems to be just another publicity-hungry author or wannabe author or bioethicist or wannbe bioethicist trying to tap into longstanding primal taboos of humans in order to make his house payments, etc.

    All the anti-transhumanists, etc., as far as I am concerned, are not much more than savages, apes, really, controlled by their taboos and irrational fears. Death, the enemy of them, and of us all, waits around every corner of our lives, every day, and yet they heed only the calls of their animal brains. How sad....
    HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

    I'm not so much an anti-transhumanist (5.00 / 1) (#239)
    by johnny on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 07:28:02 PM EST

    As a humanist. And, I'll admit, I'm deeply disturbed by much of the transhunanist agenda. Although many of my fears may be irrational and taboo-based, I'm convinced that some of my concerns, at least, are rational. In any event it was my deep dread of this stuff, and my deep distrust of the people who would drive it, that drove me to write my nanoscopically famous novel Acts of the Apostles, which is not, I hope, an anti-transhumanist screed, so much as a meditation on Things That Might Go Wrong(tm).

    So, I guess that makes me not much more than a savage, an ape really? How sad. . .

    yr frn,
    jrs
    Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
    [ Parent ]

    Please elaborate... (3.00 / 4) (#241)
    by joto on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 07:50:37 PM EST

    who seems to be just another publicity-hungry author or wannabe author or bioethicist or wannbe bioethicist trying to tap into longstanding primal taboos of humans in order to make his house payments, etc.

    So because you don't agree with him, he can't have real opinions?

    All the anti-transhumanists, etc., as far as I am concerned, are not much more than savages, apes, really, controlled by their taboos and irrational fears.

    And you are not? Just because you wank off to science fiction more often than most people doesn't mean you are in any way superior (quite the opposite, I would say).

    Death, the enemy of them, and of us all, waits around every corner of our lives, every day, and yet they heed only the calls of their animal brains. How sad....

    And what's even more sad is that you think you are in some way excempt from that. Now tell me, do you really believe that you will avoid death by reading science fiction?

    This is one of the most annyoing and irritating aspects of transhumanists. They seem too feel superior now, while in reality, they only difference between a transhumanist and a normal person, is that normal people have the ability to separate fact and fiction.

    Transhumanists seems to believe, that simply by believing strongly enough in incredible breakthroughs in technology, those breakthroughs will happen, and not only that, but that only that true believers (transhumanists) will be able to take advantage of it.

    In reality, technology will advance whether transhumanists cheer it up or not. And when it's available, it will be available to everyone, not just transhumanists. And people will take advantage of it whether they used to wank off to the idea of it when it was still science-fiction, or not.

    And by the way, cryonics is not a gateway to the future. It is simply a way of keeping your meat well-preserved in case someone in the future gets hungry. Your body will be too damaged to repair anyway. And if anyone wants an original human specimen to study or dissect, they can just as well create it from DNA.

    [ Parent ]

    Next! (none / 0) (#261)
    by A Trickster Imp on Sat Oct 05, 2002 at 11:10:15 AM EST

    > Your [frozen] body will be too damaged to repair
    > anyway.

    And nobody will ever go to the moon, you know, the one you keep barking at?

    > And if anyone wants an original human specimen to
    > study or dissect, they can just as well create it
    > from DNA.

    But will it have the memories of living in the good old days?

    Fluff.  Next!

    [ Parent ]

    Green cheese! (none / 0) (#276)
    by kraant on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 03:10:31 AM EST

    And nobody will ever go to the moon, you know, the one you keep barking at? That was a hoax you know. ;-)
    --
    "kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
    Never In Our Names...
    [ Parent ]
    Were you at the Alcor conference last week? (none / 0) (#293)
    by The Terrorists on Sun Nov 24, 2002 at 03:23:47 PM EST

    Your words sound terribly familiar.. would you care to drop me an email at the_terrorists@lycos.com, I'd love to discuss the conference with you whether you were there or not. It was simply mindblowing.


    Watch your mouth, pigfucker. -- Rusty Foster
    [ Parent ]

    Prediction (2.50 / 2) (#245)
    by xriso on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 08:43:36 PM EST

    All currently living immortality-seeking people will die before their plan of immortality comes to fruition. Neither will they be revived in any form in the future.

    I hope I'm wrong. ;-)
    --
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)

    What about humanism? Don't sell it short yet. (3.00 / 3) (#256)
    by wytcld on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 11:24:32 AM EST

    I'm all for sci-fi, but the best sci-fi has always been profoundly humanist. Of course humanism has got beat up by the fundamentalist throwbacks who want to throw the world into the sort of war that their kind can prosper in. But is that any reason for "trans-" and "post-" humanists to run scared away from their humanism? We've got where we are because of humanism. Technology without humanism would have destroyed us long ago, and still might. Being "post-" or "trans-" does not a coherent position make. Look at how silly the post-modernists and post-structuralists are. Even trans-personal psychology hasn't accomplished a whole lot, when compared with humanistic psych.

    And consider, the modern movement was always pretty comfortable with both humanistic and sci-fi themes. So why be "trans-" anything? Isn't this all just really an attempt to be trendier-than-thou? And aren't the people who attempt that move mostly lamers? Cool has never been something you get to by trying too hard, even if it does impress even more immature people - less humanly realized yet - who are also trying too hard and looking for someone to ape.

    War where transhumanists win? (none / 0) (#294)
    by Fen on Wed May 14, 2003 at 07:02:54 PM EST

    I'd like to read about that. As in, where those who pursue technology put in zoos or kill everyone else.
    --Self.
    [ Parent ]
    Genetic Modification is a great *IDEA* (2.00 / 1) (#284)
    by skintigh on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 05:23:59 PM EST

    Other ideas that seemed great at the time: Gypsy Moths (Cheap silk) Killer Bees (Cheap honey) Kudzu (Cheap railroad ties) I'm not saying it's going to turn out horrible, but it certainly has the potential.

    Kudzu? (none / 0) (#292)
    by onemorechip on Sat Nov 09, 2002 at 03:45:43 PM EST

    Kudzu (Cheap railroad ties)

    Kudzu, a vine, would indeed make very cheap (i.e., inferior) railroad ties. It was imported to the US to control erosion. Were thinking of eucalyptus?
    --------------------------------------------------

    I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
    [ Parent ]

    My take (3.50 / 2) (#286)
    by CENGEL3 on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:09:21 PM EST

    While "transhumanism" creeps me out in a major way, ethicaly I have no problem with a person (fully informed of all the risks) doing whatever they want with thier own bodies.

    However "genetic engineering" (not just in reference to humans) is something which deservedly requires major safeguards in place (at least as much as nuclear power and significantly more then currently exist) before people start toying around with it.

    Technology certainly has done some wonderfull things for the human race, but there have also been some major disasters that have caused serious @$#ing damage to our planet. (Polution, Radioactive Waste, Introduction of Non-Native Species, Resistant strains of disease and the potential for a push button destruction of all life on the planet)

    Basicly just because we CAN do something doesn't neccesarly mean it's a smart idea to go ahead and do it. Far too often people rush to embrace a new idea before carefully considering all the ramifications of such.

    I'm of the opinion that "manufacturing" new species is something with should be done with a ton of trepidation.... because once those things get out in the wild they can do way more damage then anything out of Mary Shelley's worst nightmares.

    History thus far... (3.00 / 1) (#289)
    by Gooba42 on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:20:20 AM EST

    At the time of man's first conception of the flying machine no such device existed and yet we still wrote "what if" stories about it.

    When Jules Verne first wrote of the submarine it didn't exist yet. He also hinted at what seems to be nuclear power, though he didn't have a name for it or explain how it worked.

    These are only a very few examples but I think if you looked over our inventions and achievments and compared them to our fiction you'd find our fiction typically pans out, but not always in the way anticipated.

    Besides, on the off chance that it succeeds nanotechnology in particular stands to change everything about our economy and our world so being excited and planning ahead makes sense. It's better than the whole world being just hit with it out of left field.

    Transhumanists Versus Tech Skeptics | 291 comments (255 topical, 36 editorial, 0 hidden)
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