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BlueExcelsior
06-17-2007, 09:08 AM
I'm new to AW in general, but I was really surprised, when looking through the wealth of diverse forums here, that there is actually one dedicated to science fact? Amazing! I'm so glad I can tickle both my itches in one place (writing and science.)

Anyway, I digress. My question is, is anyone here familiar with the cultural movement known as Transhumanism? Is there anyone here who identifies themselves as a Transhumanist? (I figured that the science fact thread would be the most appropriate place for this question, although I did consider the non-theistic forum also.)

If you want to know what I'm talking about, please look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

Zoombie
06-17-2007, 09:41 AM
I suppose I'm semi-transhumanist. I belive that technological advancement can make mankind better.

And worse.

So we've got to be careful.

BlueExcelsior
06-17-2007, 09:54 AM
Haha, I guess I should have suspected you, Zoombie. Of course, I completely agree. Humanity has unlimited potential, let's try not to waste it.

Anysia
06-18-2007, 08:43 AM
I'm aware of the movement and I'm against it in principle. I think we have shown that we have a remarkable capacity to tinker with things that we don't have the capacity to understand until it is too late and the damage is done.

In particular, the movement to treat things like menstruation and menopause as diseases is worrisome. Without generation-long studies we will have no idea of the effects of removing these processes from women's lives until it is too late. Of course, there are aspects of men that society and medicine are starting to treat as "diseases," but since they don't apply directly to me I don't have any examples ready. I don't think that we can modify ourselves without unanticipated and detrimental repercussions because we simply don't understand enough--and common sense is rarely applicable to complex systems.

Of course, I have a hard time being idealistic about science, scientists, doctors, and medicine having been a techie in biomedical research for many years. :D

small axe
06-18-2007, 04:12 PM
Yeah, 'transhumanism' ... if it starts to go very far, I foresee pogroms and witchburnings (well, y'know, they'd be cyborg witches, but I suppose the principle is the same)

Transhumanism undoubtedly has its ethical saints (they'd be the beards, as it were) but there comes a time when we can look back and learn from human history (before it becomes 'transhuman history'): the Aztecs shouldah united and killed the Conquistadores before they ever waded ashore. The Neanderthals should've beaten our advanced h. sapiens brains out of our thin skulls with their crude rock tools before we stole the world away from them.

Look at the inevitable elitism of transhumanism: the rich/powerful/intelligent/superior will have access to the trans (tech, genetic, cultural) at the expense of the masses left behind ... unless the great unwashed mob rises up and takes back the Earth before it's too late!

No War But Class War.

And Transhumanism takes it beyond mere Class war, and makes it a Darwinian struggle for the survival of our human species as we now know it!

Pogroms. Witchburnings. I tell you, it's us versus the Cylons, people!

Awake and Fight, or Die where you Sleep!

Yeah, Transhumanism ... I've heard of that. :)

BlueExcelsior
06-19-2007, 01:27 AM
Well, I don't want to be argumentative, but I don't see how you can oppose an inexorable change. It's inevitable, because of human nature, that we will re-engineer our physical bodies to eliminate disease and to eventually 'better than well' states, that the desire for increased computer power will lead to a computer more intelligent than humans.
If a pill or a therapy was offered that eliminated menstruation (by the way, there are birth control pills available that limit menstruation to 4 times a year), undoubtedly people would buy it, and use it, and because there is money to be made from those people, someone will develop it. The only thing that can be done, if these are inevitable outcomes, is to work to make it as safe and beneficial as possible. Resisting it will do nothing.
Additionally, just because you personally would not choose to discontinue your menstruation, doesn't mean that other people would do the same. Some blind people resist the development of therapies that treat blindness because they feel their blindness is an innate part of who they are, but there are also blind people who desperately want such therapies. Should the former be allowed to make a decision for the latter?

And the Aztecs didn't beat the Europeans, they had more advanced technology and more advanced diseases. The Neanderthals could have never beat the humans, we're much more intelligent and skillful at communication and use of tools. And wouldn't you consider it a tragedy if they had extinguished us?
Change is inevitable. It can't be stopped, we just have to make it as safe for as many people as possible and as beneficial to as many people as possible. Better to be on the devil's side than in his path.

Mr. Fix
06-19-2007, 02:08 AM
Cancer is a single cell run rampant. Human cells, from my understanding, divide something like 50 times before they die and no longer reproduce. This leads eventually to the breakdown of the human body's ability to operate, thus leading to death. Cancer is a cell that's 'reproductive' count has been turned 'off'. The cancer cell is in a run-a-way mode dividing well beyond the '50' count of a non-cancerous cell. If mankind ever gets a handle on controlling the 'run-a-way' model and can limit its reproduction to match a normal cell, we will have achieved a pseudo immortality.

My point being is that disease has a purpose, evolution is about overcoming our weaknesses. The Spielberg's 'War of the Worlds' movie sort of addresses this issue. We have "earned" the right to this planet by surviving all the diseases that crop up. Just like when the aboriginals of Insert Geographic location/culture here meet up with an 'introduced' culture the diseases of the new culture devistate the old culture. the survivors are, well, us.

We have already evolved past or kin of just 10,000 years ago with our technology. Just how far can this 'evolution' of our species continue until a noticible change of our physiology is apparent? Every time I see someone wearing a blue-tooth ear piece I think BORG! We are already transformed, and unless the power goes out, our evolution is already written by Microsoft and Apple.

I favor the 'power off' model myself.

small axe
06-19-2007, 04:02 AM
Well, I don't want to be argumentative, but I don't see how you can oppose an inexorable change. It's inevitable, because of human nature, that we will re-engineer our physical bodies to eliminate disease and to eventually 'better than well' states, that the desire for increased computer power will lead to a computer more intelligent than humans.
If a pill or a therapy was offered that eliminated menstruation (by the way, there are birth control pills available that limit menstruation to 4 times a year), undoubtedly people would buy it, and use it, and because there is money to be made from those people, someone will develop it. The only thing that can be done, if these are inevitable outcomes, is to work to make it as safe and beneficial as possible. Resisting it will do nothing.
Additionally, just because you personally would not choose to discontinue your menstruation, doesn't mean that other people would do the same. Some blind people resist the development of therapies that treat blindness because they feel their blindness is an innate part of who they are, but there are also blind people who desperately want such therapies. Should the former be allowed to make a decision for the latter?

And the Aztecs didn't beat the Europeans, they had more advanced technology and more advanced diseases. The Neanderthals could have never beat the humans, we're much more intelligent and skillful at communication and use of tools. And wouldn't you consider it a tragedy if they had extinguished us?
Change is inevitable. It can't be stopped, we just have to make it as safe for as many people as possible and as beneficial to as many people as possible.

Better to be on the devil's side than in his path.

Well, those are the words of the steamroller driver, overly-impressed by the power of his steamroller, imo.

"Nothing can stand in the way of my powerful steamroller! Not your house, not your beliefs, not your lives!"

"Progress is inevitable, and where your forest stands, or your tiny house stands ... my shopping mall needs to be. Because if we knock down the forest, people will come to shop!"

etc.

And without being 'argumentative' my point would be: we don't have to stand in the way of the powerful steamroller (where "crushing is inevitable")

You take the steamroller's ignition key from the steamroller driver, my friends, and you tell him "Learn to enjoy the trees, because we will not sacrifice the trees for what you have in your head is 'inevitable' ..."

You take away his keys.

In a progrom, you'd hang the Driver from the trees.

It's just a question of how early the Driver accepts that what he thought was 'inevitable' was in fact ... stoppable.

Oil consumption and dependence isn't 'inevitable' either, and a gas-guzzling SUV isn't inevitable even if the RICH CORPORATIONS want to ram them down our throats until it's "too late"

It. Is. Never. Too. Late.

Everyone doesn't get to drive their own steamroller.

Everyone is allowed to tend their own tree. :)

badducky
06-19-2007, 04:19 AM
Hm.

I don't care what other people do to their bodies. I don't care if it makes them human or something else entirely.

I suspect technology in body modification will become mostly moot as technology in other areas improves as well.

I don't see any pogroms for the people with or without tattoos. Nor do I see pogroms for the people with or without vasectomies. We've been modding our bodies for quite some time, now. I don't think that will change any time soon.

I think a more interesting debate involves trans-animalism. What can we ethically do to our beasts of burden, and beasts of annoyance? How far would you go to preserve a species? In that scenario, the animal is given no rational choice in the matter.

Personally, I'm against circumcision and by an extension of that same idea I'm against taking animals in for trans-animalist alterations.

small axe
06-19-2007, 04:40 AM
I don't see any pogroms for the people with or without tattoos. Nor do I see pogroms for the people with or without vasectomies. We've been modding our bodies for quite some time, now. I don't think that will change any time soon.
...
Personally, I'm against circumcision ...

We've seen pogroms against people with circumcision, though ...

Transhumanism would be acceptable if it were applied fairly across economic, social, and cultural divides.

Do we think that will happen though? Do we think that, while the already-elite "have" nations and people improve themselves with genetic and technological improvements (the Trumps and the Hilton grandkids being born with genetically-enhanced IQ's and resistance to diseases) ... the impoverished masses of humanity in Africa and asia won't be left behind?

Class distinction is bad enough; I dread a world where a fraction of the species is simply superior in all ways to other humans.

Some can protest "But we're all equal, even if some are naturally born smarter, stronger, or prettier than others" ...

That's luck, or class ... not design. Human evil will grow with "design" ... that's why two guys fighting in a bar over a woman isn't as troublesome as powerful nations that murder thousands of innocent civilians by bombing them from a mile high.

And we've already read (above) how much "human sympathy" some lavish on the victims of genocide.

As we stand now in human history, there are superior and inferior individuals, but not superior and inferior peoples.

It will be a terrible day, the Day That Changes.

Pthom
06-19-2007, 05:19 AM
I'm confused. The science fact being discussed in this thread was ... ::checks:: ... Transhumanism, described by the original poster as a "cultural movement."


So the science then is ... sociology?

badducky
06-19-2007, 05:29 AM
Sociology is a science, Pthom. I spent all afternoon reading urban anthro articles about queer party culture. (don't ask, and I won't tell).

The pogroms against the circumcised had nothing to do with the body modification.

For instance, we don't see mass protests against transvestites on the whole. A few loonies here and there, but it's not like a trans-gendered individual has to remain within thirty yards of the museum district or else.

Pthom
06-19-2007, 05:36 AM
I understand that Sociology is considered a science -- I am sure most of the proponents of any of the -ologies would claim their area of interest is too -- and I have no argument to that. Don't really have an argument at all, but I just wanted to be sure this discussion was following the right track for this forum.

...and that all the participants and readers are happy with where it is.

badducky
06-19-2007, 05:41 AM
I think the key to why it is here and not in office party is the lean towards the speculative.

If it digresses too far away, then you should move it.

My ten cents.

Don Allen
06-19-2007, 05:46 AM
Don't know anything about it. To quote Humphrey Bogart, (Rick in Casablance) I'm a drunkard

BlueExcelsior
06-19-2007, 06:44 AM
I think this forum is probably the most appropriate, as Transhumanism is basically just a convenient way of saying 'considering all the trends currently in mainstream science 10, 20, 1000 years into the future, and how that relates to the human condition.' I really just created this thread to see how to what extent people even recognize the term and identify it, I didn't want a moralistic debate. That said:

I have very deep sympathy for the original Mesoamerican peoples. Murder is a deplorable act, always, committed by an individual or a state. However, no matter how heart-felt my feelings for the Mazatec people are, it doesn't change the cold hard facts: they had inferior technology and inferior immune systems and that's why, from an evolutionary standpoint, they were unable to cope and were thus extinguished from the pages of history. Just because it's not right doesn't mean it's not true, and you should make your plans according to the reality of a situation.
Ignoring the possibility of human augmentation and super-human intelligence and physical prowess is what causes it to be developed by a select few in underground labs in lawless nations, instead of a First World democracy. The technology is going to appear, the only thing we can do now is to work to make sure we get it before a despot does and thus make it as beneficial to as many people as possible. At this stage it's total harm reduction mode, you're never going to convince any nation to 'pull the plug' and thus condemn themselves to socio-economic ruin.

benbradley
06-19-2007, 07:56 AM
...
Anyway, I digress. My question is, is anyone here familiar with the cultural movement known as Transhumanism? Is there anyone here who identifies themselves as a Transhumanist? (I figured that the science fact thread would be the most appropriate place for this question, although I did consider the non-theistic forum also.)
I read a bit of stuff on transhumanism a few years ago, such as the transhumanism.org website. As a "futurist" with strong scientific interest, I'm strongly attracted to transhumanism.
Here is some related reading I've done:
"Engines of Creation" by K. Eric Drexler, 1986. This book popularized the idea of nanotechnology, an endeavor supported by transhumanism. New and used copies everywhere, or online here:
http://www.e-drexler.com/d/06/00/EOC/EOC_Cover.html
Another Drexler book on nanotechnology:
http://www.foresight.org/UTF/Unbound_LBW/index.html
"Beyond The 120 Year Diet," Roy L. Walford - Caloric Reduction with Optimal Nutrition, with results as the title suggests. A diet like this could perhaps be considered "human modification" and it also leads into my Kurzweil quote.
There are everal interesting books by Ray Kurzweil, who says "If you can stay alive for the next 50 years, you'll be able to live forever."
Here's an interesting website/organization, not formally tied to transhumanism that I know of, but certainly looking at a positive, long-term view of the future:
http://longnow.org
I've listened to several of the Longnow seminar/speaker podcasts such as Kurzweil, the audio quality varies, but it's always worth it to hear the speaker.


...Ignoring the possibility of human augmentation and super-human intelligence and physical prowess is what causes it to be developed by a select few in underground labs in lawless nations, instead of a First World democracy. The technology is going to appear, the only thing we can do now is to work to make sure we get it before a despot does and thus make it as beneficial to as many people as possible. At this stage it's total harm reduction mode, you're never going to convince any nation to 'pull the plug' and thus condemn themselves to socio-economic ruin.
Interestingly, this is precisely what Drexler says about nanotechnology. Perhaps you stole the lecture from him!:)

BlueExcelsior
06-19-2007, 08:41 AM
Well, I've read so much material on transhumanism I have probably integrated their thoughts as my own to the point I can't tell the difference.
You might want to check out http://www.singinst.org which has a lot of insightful videos under the media section and
http://www.betterhumans.com which is a pretty large transhumanist community hub and has a nice newsfeed.

small axe
06-19-2007, 04:04 PM
I think this forum is probably the most appropriate, as Transhumanism is basically just a convenient way of saying 'considering all the trends currently in mainstream science 10, 20, 1000 years into the future, and how that relates to the human condition.' I really just created this thread to see how to what extent people even recognize the term and identify it, I didn't want a moralistic debate.

Well, I recognize the term, and I identify it as an ethical (since that's probably a more-acceptable term than 'moralistic') debate.

If a Moderator wants me to shush, I realize that maybe a 'Science Fact' thread isn't as open to debate as others and will shush. BUT if the 'science' is sociology or cultural anthropology etc ... then I think it's fair to debate differing cultural views about it.




That said:

I have very deep sympathy for the original Mesoamerican peoples. Murder is a deplorable act, always, committed by an individual or a state. However, no matter how heart-felt my feelings for the Mazatec people are, it doesn't change the cold hard facts: they had inferior technology and inferior immune systems and that's why, from an evolutionary standpoint, they were unable to cope and were thus extinguished from the pages of history.


Well, let's see: that's exactly the sort of comment from a PRO-Transhumanist that would make a lot of people ANTI-transhumanist.

Examine the comment, dear readers: They had 'inferior technology' ... and thus by an 'evolutionary standpoint' they were 'extinguished' ???

Humans aren't supposed to look at each other and judge each other (or each others' extinction) from an 'evolutionary standpoint' ... We're supposed to HELP EACH OTHER.

All those starving babies in Africa ...
All those ethnic cleansers in Iraq ...

I tell you this: if all you care about is the Struggle to pass on your DNA to future generations, if all you see is 'Survival of the Fittest' ...

Write them all off, let them die: they're Darwinist LOSERS and the gene pool is better off without them, the 'future of the species' is better off without them (Isn't that the OP's view of Neanderthals too? They just couldn't make the cut?)

What will his view be when we have a nation of genetically-enhanced humans "burdened" -- my word -- by a world full of poverty and disease?

Will the CORPORATIONS that control those enhancements lose profits to share them with 6 billion who cannot afford them ... or let the losers die off?

Because look at Africa, millions of humans dying from AIDS and Malaria and simple BAD DRINKING WATER ... when the rich of the world could SAVE THEM ... but don't.

There's my answer, there's my anger. There's the world's dark Future, magnified by 'transhuman' superiority for only some -- in a world where NOT ALL MEN ARE ENGINEERED/CREATED EQUAL.


Just because it's not right doesn't mean it's not true, and you should make your plans according to the reality of a situation.

The 'reality' of the situation is what I first offered in jest, but now offer as prophecy: Those pretty people with perfect genes, and nanotech implants to let them live 120 years? Those greek gods who walk among the hoi polloi ???

We can hang them from telephone poles and burn them in their pent houses that overlook the slums of the proletariat.

Dude: Paris Hilton. Do you see the rage against the rich, growing in the gutter? I do. Now tell me her kids will be born enhanced uber-spawn, while my kids toil to suit her class's ends ...



Ignoring the possibility of human augmentation and super-human intelligence and physical prowess is what causes it to be developed by a select few in underground labs in lawless nations, instead of a First World democracy.

For the struggling masses, the claim of 'First World' and 'democracy' are illusions, soap bubbles of propaganda and self-delusion (or pre-meditated lies), about to be popped by economic despair.



The technology is going to appear, the only thing we can do now is to work to make sure we get it before a despot does and thus make it as beneficial to as many people as possible. At this stage it's total harm reduction mode, you're never going to convince any nation to 'pull the plug' and thus condemn themselves to socio-economic ruin.


I suggest it is not 'at this stage' a given that transhumanism (as some hail it) will happen. Where some predict unending technological and economic improvement ... I see the human animal and the new Dark Age stirring to its dim awakening.

The mobs of the world on't care what any 'nation' or 'government' is convinced or not convinced of. The mobs of the world like witch hunts and witch burnings.

Bread and Circuses, that's how they will be controlled, until they are no longer able to be controlled.

Apres moi, le Deluge. No transhuman ark for us ...

Meerkat
06-19-2007, 05:16 PM
Count me in this Transhumanist category also, Blue-E. The best book I have read on this topic, and in fact I would consider it the most important book ever written, is Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near.

Run out and DEMAND that Borders sell you one immediately!!!!

Ordinary_Guy
06-20-2007, 03:06 AM
Transhumanism... eugenics from an optimistic inside view?

Anyway, I digress. My question is, is anyone here familiar with the cultural movement known as Transhumanism?
Several of us, it seems.

Is there anyone here who identifies themselves as a Transhumanist? (I figured that the science fact thread would be the most appropriate place for this question, although I did consider the non-theistic forum also.)
Kinda tough to say "I'm a transhumanist" and have it mean anything. It's kinda like calling yourself a republican or a democrat. They're convenient titles for argument, but they mean very little.

There are so many angles to transhumanism, so many approaches to the concept, that most folk could be transhumanists from a certain point of view. If you haven't had kids, get sick, take medication to avoid death, and aim to have kids after your recovery, you are, in a sense, a transhumanist. In this respect, I'm a transhumanist.

Now, am I a transhumanist in the genetic tinkering/tech integration sense? Cautiously, perhaps, but it really depends on our approach and application. I'm not looking for a portion of the population to be better than another, I'm looking for all the population to be better than they are now.

There are, of course, dangers – when Murphy's Law is expressed as the Law of Unintended Consequences. Does this mean we shouldn't reach? My personal opinion is no, this shouldn't stop us. We haven't always been "this way," and through the greater scale of natural selection, we won't always be "this way." We're already affecting our environment and consequently ourselves in unseen ways... so it feels like it should be our responsibility to our progeny to take control of our destiny.

Whatever happens, though, it makes great fodder for writing, fiction and non. Question is: can you write about a positive take on it without sounding like you've drunk the Kool-aid? ...And, no matter how much fear sells, can you avoid leaning on Crichtonesque hysteria?

BlueExcelsior
06-20-2007, 03:09 AM
I've been putting off reading The Singularity is Near simply because I know how excellent of a book it is (I guess I'm a 'save the best for last' sort of person), but have read a good portion of it. There is actually a tremendous amount of transhumanist literature. And while I don't know if TSIN is the most important book ever, it might be the most prophetic book of the 21st century.

Small axe, we obviously have very deep and irreconcilable differences in our world-view, however, I will attempt to allay some of your concerns.

You are apparently ardently anti-transhumanist because you feel it will be very detrimental to humanity. Did you know that in 2002 57 million people died? Of a cause no one seems to complain much about. In fact, Dr.Leon Kass, the chair of the president's council on bio-ethics, actively works against any advancement of technology that could stop this genocide that has already killed billions of people. That is undesired death. In fact, Kass and other neo-luddites want to do everything they can to make sure you have no choice to continue to live if you want to keep living (and by the same token, since they oppose euthanasia, to die if you no longer desire to live.) I don't care how firm your beliefs are, do you believe them enough to cause another 6 billion people to die in agony, and billions after them, for your beliefs?

You say my statement about the evolutionary un-fitness of the Aztecs urges people to Anti-transhumanism. However, you didn't question the accuracy of my statement. People saying they don't believe God exists may urge people to hate atheists, but that doesn't change the truth of God existing or not existing.
But, I personally don't believe transhumanism will lead to a global stratification and extermination of 'normals,' certainly it doesn't have to. Did you know that most people in the world live in conditions that are no more advanced than they were a hundred years ago? Yet at the same time a single New York times contains as much information as a single person was likely to encounter in their lifetime 100 years ago? Many parts of the world don't have telephone service, but the internet allows information to be transferred billions of times faster than was possible 100 years ago. And yet, even though MY nation is made up of people that ancients from thousands of years ago would consider gods (we can fly, we can live many times the normal human lifespan, we can communicate across the entire world seemingly telepathically, we have the power to annihilate whole cities nearly effortlessly, we could even destroy the whole world if we felt inclined) no one in America seems to think it's a good idea to go down to the Amazonian jungle and gun down the native tribes. In fact, as our access to information and technology has increased, so has our perceived humaneness. 100 years ago many people didn't think slavery was such a bad idea, and thought the white race was vastly superior to all other races, but now that idea is abhorrent to most.

Transhumanism will make us manifestly more humane, not less. Also, do not presume this is a fight between the establishment and the masses. The government didn't make the internet a phenomenon that fundamentally changed what we do and think (they thought it was only useful for the occasional secret military communique or inter-university mailings.) The technology exploded when common people got to use it. Just remember: a rising tide lifts all boats. That's what you will see with transhumanism: yes, there will still be classes, there will still be the rich and the poor. But at least with nanotechnology and in vitro farming, the poor won't starve to death, and no one will have to die from disease if they choose not to. Isn't the ending of suffering for all the people who are alive and who will ever live the ULTIMATE boon? If we invoke pragmatic logic, shouldn't we be willing to take at least a little risk to meet that end?

And Ordinary guy, I actually have tried, I think it's impossible to write good Transhumanist fiction, because a good story needs a lot of suffering, angst, an antagonist. If you were to write about how I hope transhumanism (well, the singularity in particular) turns out, it would be nothing but sunshine and rainbows. And if I were to modify that then I wouldn't be true to my beliefs. I'll stick to literary fiction for now :)

badducky
06-20-2007, 04:08 AM
Be careful about the neanderthal statements, guys. They didn't die out. There was plenty of cross-over for plenty of time to encourage inter-breeding with us sapiens.

What I've read suggests that we each have a little neanderthal inside of us waiting for the right genetic combo to assert itself.

small axe
06-20-2007, 05:11 AM
Small axe, we obviously have very deep and irreconcilable differences in our world-view, however, I will attempt to allay some of your concerns.

You are apparently ardently anti-transhumanist because you feel it will be very detrimental to humanity.

No, I'm not 'anti-transhumanist' (I actually would argue that you don't get to define who is 'transhumanist' and who is 'anti-transhumanist' :) ...)

I foresee how what you see (optimistically) as being a positive outcome(I'll say 'utopian' without meaning it too harshly) ... will fall short of Utopia and end up being "the more things change, the more they remain the same" -- humans will continue to do what humans do, which is do good for themselves , both at the expense of others and in disregard for others.

I'm not a 'Luddite' ... and calling one's opposition Luddites (which you personally didn't, did you?) won't support your cause.

Clinging blindly to one's own (utopian) IDEALS while ignoring or disregarding the mundane socio-economic realities of the world, that run the world, won't achieve the ideals ... when push comes to shove.

We perhaps are not so far apart in our ideals. Don't project an adversarial relationship where one is not necessary ...

We are sadly far apart in our expectations.



Did you know that in 2002 57 million people died? Of a cause no one seems to complain much about. In fact, Dr.Leon Kass, the chair of the president's council on bio-ethics, actively works against any advancement of technology that could stop this genocide that has already killed billions of people. That is undesired death.

Well, do 'desire' death? More importantly, do you honestly suggest to us that Transhumanism will end 'undesired death' -- here in a Science FACT forum?

In either case, if 57 million people died in 2002 -- and 'no one seems to complain' about that ... that supports MY position, not yours. PEOPLE DON'T CARE about people dying ... and so the ideals of Transhumanism won't be shared fairly.

People care about themselves dying, and their own people dying, in their own nations ... and so Transhumanism (the real benefits of it, not the ideals of it) will be kept selfishly. By the already Rich and Powerful and Elite.

That's how I see it. Tell me Paris hilton will be young and beautiful and rich and blessed for 120 years ... and I'll show you the mob of poor and suffering and diseased mortals who will resent her (and her master-race kind) to the point of pogrom.







You say my statement about the evolutionary un-fitness of the Aztecs urges people to Anti-transhumanism. However, you didn't question the accuracy of my statement. People saying they don't believe God exists may urge people to hate atheists, but that doesn't change the truth of God existing or not existing.

I didn't question the Holocaust, which is what I meant with my comment about 'circumcision' either ...

It's not about 'body modification' (which I think was your point) ... it's about prejudice, hate, and pogroms against "Those who are different from us"

Every elitist lie told and primal tribal-hate about 'the Jewish Conspiracy' will seem truer about the machine-and-people people. The 'gods among us' will be hated if we are not all made 'gods' ...

We have the wealth to save Africa from its horrors. You see it happening? I don't.




But, I personally don't believe transhumanism will lead to a global stratification and extermination of 'normals,' certainly it doesn't have to. Did you know that most people in the world live in conditions that are no more advanced than they were a hundred years ago? Yet at the same time a single New York times contains as much information as a single person was likely to encounter in their lifetime 100 years ago? Many parts of the world don't have telephone service, but the internet allows information to be transferred billions of times faster than was possible 100 years ago. And yet, even though MY nation is made up of people that ancients from thousands of years ago would consider gods (we can fly, we can live many times the normal human lifespan, we can communicate across the entire world seemingly telepathically, we have the power to annihilate whole cities nearly effortlessly, we could even destroy the whole world if we felt inclined) no one in America seems to think it's a good idea to go down to the Amazonian jungle and gun down the native tribes. In fact, as our access to information and technology has increased, so has our perceived humaneness. 100 years ago many people didn't think slavery was such a bad idea, and thought the white race was vastly superior to all other races, but now that idea is abhorrent to most.

Transhumanism will make us manifestly more humane, not less. Also, do not presume this is a fight between the establishment and the masses. The government didn't make the internet a phenomenon that fundamentally changed what we do and think (they thought it was only useful for the occasional secret military communique or inter-university mailings.) The technology exploded when common people got to use it. Just remember: a rising tide lifts all boats. That's what you will see with transhumanism: yes, there will still be classes, there will still be the rich and the poor. But at least with nanotechnology and in vitro farming, the poor won't starve to death, and no one will have to die from disease if they choose not to. Isn't the ending of suffering for all the people who are alive and who will ever live the ULTIMATE boon? If we invoke pragmatic logic, shouldn't we be willing to take at least a little risk to meet that end?

And Ordinary guy, I actually have tried, I think it's impossible to write good Transhumanist fiction, because a good story needs a lot of suffering, angst, an antagonist. If you were to write about how I hope transhumanism (well, the singularity in particular) turns out, it would be nothing but sunshine and rainbows. And if I were to modify that then I wouldn't be true to my beliefs. I'll stick to literary fiction for now :)


Okay. Again, I think (imo) you are aflame with the IDEALS (good for you) and I'm merely arguing the grim lessons of human history, and predicting the reality not the ideal.

Ali B
06-20-2007, 05:19 AM
But at least with nanotechnology and in vitro farming, the poor won't starve to death, and no one will have to die from disease if they choose not to. Isn't the ending of suffering for all the people who are alive and who will ever live the ULTIMATE boon? If we invoke pragmatic logic, shouldn't we be willing to take at least a little risk to meet that end?


One scary thing to consider when talking about saving all the people who are alive and who will ever live from death is...where will they live? The Earth is already becoming over populated, polluted, and we are running out of natural resources. If our population never dies, and we keep reproducing, the Earth will be over run. Has anyone thought of these implications? Death is Mother Earth's way of surviving.

BlueExcelsior
06-20-2007, 05:51 AM
Well, do 'desire' death? More importantly, do you honestly suggest to us that Transhumanism will end 'undesired death' -- here in a Science FACT forum?
Yes:
http://www.imminst.org/
http://www.sens.org/
http://www.mprize.org/

In either case, if 57 million people died in 2002 -- and 'no one seems to complain' about that ... that supports MY position, not yours. PEOPLE DON'T CARE about people dying ... and so the ideals of Transhumanism won't be shared fairly.

You misunderstand. What I'm saying is that most people write off deaths from aging, saying 'well, there's nothing that can be done about that' but pour billions into preventing causes of death that affect only a few thousand people. Any death is a tragedy, but we should be realists and try to save as many as we can.
Anyway, consider that amenities available only to the rich and powerful thousands of years ago (indoor heating & plumbing) are universally available in the west now. We live like the kings of ages past. Consider that amenities available only to the rich and powerful thirty years ago (cell phones, advanced computers) are universally available in the west now. Thousands of years ago the average human life-span was, in many parts of the world, only 30, now in the west it's around 80. Advanced medical treatment was only available to the rich originally, but now you can get penicillin moderately easily anywhere. Treatment for AIDS was originally only available in the west, but it's becoming increasingly available in the third world, where it's needed most. Did you know that there's a plan to give over 100 million $100 laptop computers to third-world children at the expense of their governments? (This isn't idealism, this is real world activity already in action.) Only twenty years ago laptops were fabulously expensive and mostly unattainable.
It's always been easy to say something is impossible. Sometimes the people who say that are right. But a lot of the time they are wrong. (Trains going faster than 60mph, electricity as anything more than a novelty, flight, supersonic flight, space travel, etc...) And you can always say human nature will never change, but what we're talking about is changing human nature, isn't it?

Anyway, I appreciate your comments about our similarity. Perhaps I spoke inappropriately in perceived opposition. I fully realize that everything you have said has the potential to happen. Yes, people can be stupid, but sometimes a person does something smart. Yes, sometimes people are evil, but aren't people also sometimes good? Believing that people can only be evil to one another is both depressing and I think, fundamentally false.

As to the question of over-population: there's no hard and fast answer, only a few things to consider. 1. Population growth is dramatically decreasing. In fact, sans immigration, it's negative in most of europe. Also, statistically, the more educated you are the more likely you are to have fewer children, and as more third world nations transition into a fully developed post-industrial phase this will become true worldwide. Further, the death rate has always been smaller than the birth rate by quite a bit, so this won't create an immediate crisis of any kind. It is estimated that the earth can support 10 billion people, but we probably shouldn't put this to the test. 2. Space colonization is a reality. Post-singularity technologies will enhance our ability to do this greatly. 3. Many posthumans may elect to no longer continue to live in a biological substrate and thus upload their consciousness to a computational substrate. While this wouldn't affect the population, it would decrease the biological load on the planet. 4. If none of these points become a major factor and it becomes clear that overpopulation due to immortality is a serious problem, we will have to make a decision as a species: do we want to live forever and reproduce only when appropriate or have more children and die? However, at present the first option isn't an actual choice yet, and we should not make that choice for future generations of humans by preventing the development of such technologies now.

benbradley
06-20-2007, 07:58 PM
...
Transhumanism will make us manifestly more humane, not less.
I want to believe this, it may even be partly true, but I'm doubtful. See my next comment.

...
That's what you will see with transhumanism: yes, there will still be classes, there will still be the rich and the poor. But at least with nanotechnology and in vitro farming, the poor won't starve to death,
When people starve to death now, it's not because there's not enough food. It's because a country's leader orders its military to seize all food shipments, and offer food only to those who join the military to fight against the leader's enemies. The UN Food Program feeds 90+ million people, and the drivers of the food trucks carry guns to stop hijackers.

To stop this appears to require a military solution, overthrowing the governments of such countries. I don't think the rest of the world becoming transhumanist would, by itself, change things.

...
As to the question of over-population: there's no hard and fast answer, only a few things to consider. 1. Population growth is dramatically decreasing. In fact, sans immigration, it's negative in most of europe. Also, statistically, the more educated you are the more likely you are to have fewer children, and as more third world nations transition into a fully developed post-industrial phase this will become true worldwide. Further, the death rate has always been smaller than the birth rate by quite a bit, so this won't create an immediate crisis of any kind. It is estimated that the earth can support 10 billion people, but we probably shouldn't put this to the test.
I suspect Earth can support a lot MORE than 10 billion people, but we'd have to rearrange food sources: quit feeding the grain we grow to cows, and eat grain directly ourselves. But hundreds of millions of people (the ones who eat cows and other meat) may find that unacceptable. Perhaps future technology will make more authentic tasting veggie burgers.

BlueExcelsior
06-20-2007, 08:14 PM
Well, yes, that's probably true. Of course there is simply enough food (the earth outputs a tremendous biomass), but it isn't getting to the right places. Still, if all humans are at least partially augmented, they won't need to rely on their governments for food, and there are various ways of accomplishing this in the relatively short term. Ultimately we will all probably be uploads and then food really isn't a concern at all.

Well, that's what in vitro farming aims at: growing huge vats of animal muscle tissue from a single cell culture, without the other parts of the animal, so that the animals don't have to suffer, and necessary energy could be transferred directly to the cells, making it much less lossy, energy and space wise. Also, if you have Dexlerian nanoassemblers in some kind of advanced desktop printing solution, you'd do something like this: walk outside and snap a branch off a tree. Drop it in the nano-printer, which de-molecularizes it into it's contsituent elements and then, atom by atom, reconstructs it into a tasty burger. This is not magic or alchemy or anything, certainly it doesn't violate any physical laws.

Ordinary_Guy
06-20-2007, 11:40 PM
...And Ordinary guy, I actually have tried, I think it's impossible to write good Transhumanist fiction, because a good story needs a lot of suffering, angst, an antagonist. If you were to write about how I hope transhumanism (well, the singularity in particular) turns out, it would be nothing but sunshine and rainbows. And if I were to modify that then I wouldn't be true to my beliefs. I'll stick to literary fiction for now :)
There's no such thing as "impossible."

As an adherent/philosopher of transhumanism, I know the desire to see the best in what it has to offer, but realisitically, there is always, always, always a down side. Look at antibiotics: they've saved hundreds of millions of lives, maybe billions when you think how they've kept contagion in check... but they've also spawned antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

It's your job as a writer to switch hats from promoter to critic. If you're sharp enough, you can make it work for you (and your cause). Rope folk into a deeply character-driven story, find a way to generate angst in the most Job-ian fashion. After they set down the book, and the bigger perspective sinks in (such as: transhumanism is great, but gravity still works...), the audience wonders "Wait... that's the worst that can happen?..."

Then Bam!, you've explored and promoted in one swift stroke.

BlueExcelsior
06-21-2007, 02:23 AM
Ok, impossible isn't the right word, Impossible for me maybe, with my current writing skills. I just think there are already enough stories about how robots are going to get smart and kill us all, trap us in vats and suck our brain-juices, etc.
It's possible I just haven't thought on it long enough, though. Thanks for the advice :)

small axe
06-21-2007, 02:36 AM
It's your job as a writer to switch hats from promoter to critic. If you're sharp enough, you can make it work for you (and your cause). Rope folk into a deeply character-driven story, find a way to generate angst in the most Job-ian fashion.
...
Then Bam!, you've explored and promoted in one swift stroke.

Well, really seriously now, I think I agree with you and others that Transhumanism is a fascinating issue and fertile grounds for story-telling.

The issue is stories love conflict, and utopian visions don't :)

I could say the same thing about trying to write "Christian" stories ...

You can find a story where the Christian is facing conflict for her/his faith, against the temptations or oppression of "the World, the Flesh, and the Devil" and overcoming adversity, while gaining or sharing spiritual insight ... or you can write some namby-pamby sugar-coated fairytale where nothing bad arises because God is good and that only holds the interest of ... well, who?

Story is conflict.

Comrade, feel free to use my enthusiastic paranoia and pessimistic reactionary hostility as a possible template! :)

The world gathers to worship its false idols and to kill its true saviours.

I fall into this trap in my writing (about other topics) and think it's good to

1) avoid info-dump (because you do have a lot to explain)
2) avoid preaching (and that's preaching on any philosophy or ideal, social or religious or scientific)
3) avoid the utopian because "utopian" lacks the conflict necessary to tell a good story

Others have given good advice: step back from the ideal, find the negatives (or the speedbumps/hurdles getting to the ideal) and use those for conflict and drama.

How could your Transhumanist utopia go wrong?
How did the drive towards a Marxist workers' paradise go so wrong?
Consider too the Butlerian Jihad ...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butlerian_Jihad

BlueExcelsior
06-21-2007, 04:23 AM
Truth be told, my first MS was a transhumanistly themed piece set about 2060 on the brink of the singularity (most Transhumanist's think it will happen in 2030, but that didn't give me enough time to develop other elements of the novel's backstory.) Try though I might, I found myself falling into too far overused tropes; there was a scientist who became obsessed with immortality, an artifical intelligence that grew insane and worked to create a destructive android revolution, and the MC's love interest was even a machine who was struggling with her own identity as somewhere between 'thing' and 'person.' Somewhere around 40k words I said "But I don't really believe this, even though every science fiction story or piece of literary fiction I have read says something like, 'immortality is bad, hubris is humanity's downfall, Tower of Babel, the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, etc etc...." So I just kind of gave up. I simply wasn't skilled enough (I'm definitely not now, either) to do Transhumanist fiction justice. So what I said before was more whining than anything else.

As for the Butlerian Jihad...I loved Dune, and tried to read this one...I dunno, it might be asking for trouble, but I thought it was very cliche and shallow. I didn't like the style very much either.

Anysia
06-21-2007, 04:53 AM
Well, that's what in vitro farming aims at: growing huge vats of animal muscle tissue from a single cell culture, without the other parts of the animal, so that the animals don't have to suffer, and necessary energy could be transferred directly to the cells, making it much less lossy, energy and space wise.

The problem with in vitro farming is that AFAIK it works similar to regular tissue culture in that it requires fetal bovine serum (FBS) which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You need to kill off animals to make animal cells grow. There are cell types that will grow in synthetic medium but that doesn't solve all the problems.

You can't grow vats of tissue because the cells in tissue would die without blood vessels to deliver oxygen and carry away waste. Even if you could pull it all off, it would be extremely energy intensive and space consuming in terms of equipment and inputs. To me, in vitro farming is a solution looking for a problem. Certainly compared to just eating your veggies, grains, and beans it is a non-starter.

BlueExcelsior
06-21-2007, 05:32 AM
Actually, extracting the fetal serum does not necessitate the death of the fetus, additionally the extracted hormones could, hypothetically be replaced by a synthetic agent, we just haven't developed it. Not a tremendous amount of funding is in in vitro meat. Further, as long as no section of flesh is more than a few millimeters thick, a blood surrogate (BNW anyone?) can deliver oxygen and remove waste, being circulated by non-biological pump. And it can't be more energy and space consuming than burning down millions of acres of rainforest for cattle grazing land. Most people won't be willing to give up meat, at the very least it will be an uphill battle to convince everyone in the world to become vegetarian.

badducky
06-21-2007, 08:01 AM
seriously, the first two times i read through that, i thought blueexcelsior and anysia were the same person posting a debate with themselves.

wow, somebody needs to transhumanize his/her avatar (blueexcelsior).

blueexcelsior, you'd be surprised how easy it is to give up meat. what's much harder is giving up ice cream.

vegetarian is easy. vegan is hard.

but, and back on trans-target, anybody read the story about bodmodding in the magazine of fantasy and science fiction? the one that had the opening line about the guy who put an eye in his... you know.

if we can put different body parts different places, does anyone see a line being drawn in the sand anywhere? Do you think some nations will be accepting of foots in weird places and whatnot in other places?

small axe
06-22-2007, 05:39 PM
It's terrible when the memes fight, or the purple kool-aid spills from over-enthusiasm, yes. :)

yesandno
06-23-2007, 08:34 PM
I, for one, am counting the days until The Singularity occurs. I just hope I live long enough.

But, I agree with small axe, it is a class war waiting to happen.

RTH
06-29-2007, 08:22 PM
I'm not taking a stance on the Marxist or the Progressive side here, though I will say that we have destroyed a great many more beautiful things than we have created in the name of "progress." Since beauty is relative, though, that's a bit of a non-point; I'm sure the CEO of Wal Mart finds acres of asphalt worthy of inspiring poetry...

But a few specific points:

First, the human lifespan has not increased one whit in the last hundred years. The maximum viable lifespan of a person as a biological organism throughout history has petered out near 100 years. The difference is that MORE people on average are reaching that point in DEVELOPED nations these days.

This may or may not change in the future. There have been a lot of red herrings for extended lifespan in the last 20 years.



Yet at the same time a single New York times contains as much information as a single person was likely to encounter in their lifetime 100 years ago?

Not true. Human brains process billions of bits of information ALL the time (even when sleeping, though less so).

That aside, there's a signal-to-noise problem with "information" available in the vast majority of modern media, including The New York Times. ;)


,,,we have the power to annihilate whole cities nearly effortlessly, we could even destroy the whole world if we felt inclined) no one in America seems to think it's a good idea to go down to the Amazonian jungle and gun down the native tribes. In fact, as our access to information and technology has increased, so has our perceived humaneness.

This "humaneness" doesn't stop us from destroying their homelands and their cultures to feed our cities and growing industrialized populations. Indigenous peoples in Brazil have been robbed of their lifeways on an unprecedented scale in the last several decades, and are being left to wallow in poverty, violence, and alcoholism.

Nor has our "humaneness" gotten us to do anything about the plethora of genocides in Africa over the last few decades (Hotel Rwanda, anyone?)

We may be humane in the united states in theory, due to our enlightenment and literacy, but we remain uneducated about what really happens in the world and can't be bothered to help with most of it if we see no benefit to ourselves.

This is a human trait in general. We CAN be helpful and compassionate, but we are usually selfish and self-serving and don't help out of our own intertia.



Just remember: a rising tide lifts all boats.

Sounds a bit Reaganesque :)

This may be true, but it's very tough to make the whole sea level rise rather than the water level in your local lake or pond.

Transhumanism MAY help the human condition, or it may hurt via class differences or a whole bunch of things.

My stand is that it'll leave us with just as much injustice, boorishness, ignorance, and strife as we've always had.

We'll just have to live with it for longer periods of time. :)