Hi, I’m new on this forum. I wanted to say something that really disturbs me about the way transhumanist enthusiasts think: the complete disconnect with the world outside of the bubble.
Nearly all people who are interested in transhumanisms and write about it are nearly always upper middle class people with a globalised mindset, highly educated and so on. And as most people who like to think about ideas to fun, people like us are rather left wing or right wing libertarians.
Discussions are about fancy future ideas, that’s great. It’s about optimism and dreams, that’s great. The issue is when there is a denial of reality and more precisely of social reality. Before writting this, I looked at the Wiki and I found a caricature of what I hate about the transhumanist community: a bubble of optimism that refuses to acknowge reality. https://hpluspedia.org/wiki/History_of_transhumanism The article about the history of transhumanism is a complete revisionist whitewashed history. Except from one point about WW2, there is absolutely nothing about the real history of transhumanism. When Huxley is mentionned, it’s to say that he is a cofounder of UNESCO.
It has the same mental disease as radical socialist idealists “all the bad things are not us, we are just idealists who want a world without the capitalist suffering. If Trosky had been in charge instead of Stalin it would have been a worker paradise”.
The transhumanist movement is pretty much the same, but with a new name and a denial of history instead. Transhumanism had 3 stages.
First, social darwinism, when the bourgeois said “Well, the poors are a little too numerous, let’s use the market to decise who is fit to live”. It was practiced at a large scale by the British Empire and about 10 million peasants died of famine in India while India was exporting food to Europe, because the market decided that they were not rich enough to afford the food they produced and that it was more profitable to sell that food to Europeans instead of the peasant who produced the food.
Second came eugenics, when the bourgeois realised the Inconvenient Truth: British poors were too prosperous thanks to the industrial revolution to die from famine. That was embarassing, while British social darwinism wanted to let the market decide who was fit to breed, the holy market decided that the poors were to outbreed the rich. Eugenics was invented, science driven evolution. The market couldn’t be trusted to do the work properly, so … well … someone else would decide. In practice it meant judges telling some people to get sterilised. The British loved the market to much to put it in practice, but it was a huge success in the US but also in Switzerland and in Sweden. While Germany is usually associated with this, they were far from alone. Sweden continued eugenics and only stopped after year 2000. Family planning and the pill was designed to stop the poors from breeding like rabbits, in practice is mostly helped smart women to become professionals and making money instead of making children.
Third came transhumanism, once the word eugenics had become too toxic to be used openly. But just like before, it’s mostly a bourgeois movement. This time unlike before, there is a completely different mindset. There is no fear about being outbreed. No need to kill the poors to create bourgeois übermenschen. Nope. Silicon Valley millionaires will become übermenschen themselves and let the rest do what they want. We don’t need poors anyway we have robots and AIs. As people started to notice that the world was splitting in two, the bourgeois transhumanist had an incredibly brilliant idea: “we have more money than we know how to spend, let’s give money to the poors so they stop to complain about part time jobs”. The Final Solution was born. No need to kill the poors, we are rich enough to give bread and circus to everyone. And yeeeeeaaah, there is Virtual Reality, it’s not as cool as in the novel Manna yet, but don’t worry, by the time the plebs are unemployed and on Basic Income, it will be so cool that everyone will be happy.
The transhumanism community is full of discussions about the post-work world … from people working like crazy to build the dream technology. It’s funny how it’s always those who work the most who speak about the dream of not working and getting money for doing nothing. In the real world, it means single men on social security subsidised drugs because they fell worthless and single moms with children who work shitty jobs and who don’t want to live with the single men on welfare because they are lazy and fucked up anyway. But don’t worry, we have the solution: Basic Income and VR goggles! The new German Tranhumanist Partei is even more a parody of bourgeois transhumanism: making medical canabis legal! Yeaaaah! The future dream: free money, VR goggles and legal pot! Better bread and better circus!
And when we say this, well, there is the wonderful answer, SJW post-modernism to the rescue. Men feel worthless when they can’t earn money to attract a wife and have a stable family ? It’s just because patriarchy! The welfare men should become gender-fluid, use gender-neutral pronuns and forget traditional gender-roles. And welfare single mothers should enjoy their progressive family structure. Sociology professors and activists can assure you that there is research to show that children of single moms have a wonderful life without the oppressive rapist father. And if they are not doing well at school it’s because they are poor and this is a scandal. Tadam! Basic income! So single moms and fatherless children can live the happy post-scarcity dream too while single fathers have free money for their legal medical pot and their VR porn.
Now that social problems have been solved, we can focus on discussions about how cool it will be to have decentralised farming, decentralised electricity, decentralised politics, decentralised culture, decentralised self-driving car sharing, decentralised everything. And I forgot, to use the word exponential yet. Transhumanism can be summarised by two words: decentralised and exponential. The problem is, it may apply to decentralised problems and exponential problems too. And no, decentralised Basic Income and exponential Basic Income are not valid answers.
What really amusing to see is intelligence denial at an extreme level. Some Palo Alto parents recently renamed a school who had the awful name of a Stanford professor, a pioneer in intelligence tests. The very same people who are working like crazy on transhumanism and artificial intelligence a rewritting history to hide the existence of human intelligence differences.
Human intelligence inequality is the giant taboo in the 3rd wave transhuamanist community. “Bruuuuh, we’re not nazis, we are ethical this time, we don’t kill the feeble minded, Google has an ethical board that advocates for giving Basic Income to the soon to be uselessariat (the proletarians who don’t work enough to be prole-something anymore) and Holy Musk has created an organisation to prevent IA from exterminating untermenschen … heeem … I mean unaugmented humans.”
As you may have noticed, people everywhere in the world are rushing toward authoritarianism, not toward fancy decentralised millionaire transhumanism discussions.
Basic income is never mentionned about their demands. People are not asking for decentralised culture (aka diversity) and free money. They ask for sovereignty, centralised management of their sovereignty, shared political visions, homogeneity and self-worth.
How long will the transhumanist community remain a bourgeois bubble with no message expect more globalisation and more diversity and more bread and more circus ?
Ok, I’m done with the rant for now.
Why do you, as an individual transhumanist hobbyist, avoid discussions about the most serious transhumanist topic of the coming decade: embryo selection for intelligence.
If you are not familiar, look for Stephen Hsu on Youtube (the head of the Chinese program for IQ prediction from genome) or Robert Plomin (the Kings College professor who recently published a genomic score good enough to predict 10% of the variance in IQ at age 16).
It will happen very soon, progress is happening really fast and no one dares to speak about it and about the way it will be handled socially. Speaking about unemployment for those who don’t have high IQ is trendy (except to mention that those who are concerned are mostly low IQ people) but no one dares to speak about increasing the IQ of children of those people instead of giving them live long Basic Income.
How long will the transhumanist community ignore the most obvious aspect of transhumanism ? I understand that the media stars don’t want to mention it, but why do random transhumanists also avoid the topic ? Is it fear or ignorance ?
Intelligence inequality is one of the core issues in the current drive toward authoritarianism. The cognitive elite is living in its tiny bubble and ignoring the world of those who are not smart enough to be actors of the revolution. The cognitive elite is busy renaming schools who happen to have the name of IQ researchers while calling people call Trump voters “uneducated” (an euphemism for low IQ).
Honestly, I think your’re strawmanning quite a lot. I don’t understand why transhumanism crictics feel the need to portray us all as over-optimistic technological fetishists. We’re actually a very diversed movement, and I’d like to see crictics acknowledging that. Also, it seems to me that you typically spend more time trying to psychoanalyze us rather than actually criticizing our ideas.
That said, you do seem to be willing to have a reasonable debate with, therefore, I’ll try to answer your points to the best of my ability.
I had no part in writing that article, however, I don’t find this history to be “revisionist” or “whitewashed”. The reason for this is that it seems to me that the writer was trying to trace the origin of transhumanist ideas as far back as possible, and, contrarily to what you seem to think, transhumanists rarely take inspiration from eugenicists and social darwinists. We may admire their goals, that’s a fact, but most of us think that they were awfully misguided in their pursuit of these goals. They made a lot of wrong assumptions, and that was what caused them to fail.
Anyway, I do agree that these movements should have been analyzed in greater detail as precurssors to the transhumanist movement, but this article in hpluspedia is small and seems to be kind of a stub.
I’d advise you to read more carefully. Huxley is actually mentionned twice in the article:
1927 - "The word “transhumanism” appears to have been first used by Julian Huxley, a distinguished biologist (who was also the first director‐general of UNESCO and a founder of the World Wildlife Fund).
1951 - Noted eugenicist and evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley uses the term “transhumanism” in a lecture delivered in Washington titled Knowledge, Morality and Destiny. Huxley describes his philosophy as “the idea of humanity attempting to overcome its limitations and to arrive at fuller fruition.”
As you can see, both of these passages serve to aknownledge Huxley as the one who coined the term “transhumanism”, the UNICEF reference is just extra-information.
Anyway, enough with the article, let’s move on to your real points.
Trotsky’s ideas were vastly different from Stalin’s. While it’s true that they were both “radical socialists”, they actually disagreed on a vast number of issues, so it’s definetely not right to say that Trotskyism and Stalinism are one and the same. When Trotskyists say that their ideas have never been tried, they’re mostly right.
Why should the Stalinist experience automatically invalidate all other radical socialist ideologies? You can’t just lump them all together, and the same is true for transhumanism and eugenics.
Ok, now I need to ask. What do you really know about transhumanism? Did you just watch a couple of Ray Kurzweill interviews, took a lot of wrong conclusions and then decided to make this rant?
Transhumanism is defined as a social movement that aims to use technology as a way to improve the human condition. That’s pretty much the only thing that we all have in common, not everyone is obsessed with robots, AIs and Virtual Realities, so stop generalizing. This thing you wrote sounds like a cringey cross between a modern libertarian transhumanist and a 19th century eugenicist. Do you really think there are many people in the current transhumanist community that actually think like that?
I really don’t understand the point you’re trying to make here. Yes, it’s true that most transhumanists would like to live in a world where no one would have to work, but what’s so wrong about that?
OK, I’m getting more and more confused. Where are you getting this stuff from?!
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a transhumanist blame anything on the patriarchy. I have absolutely no idea of what you’re talking about.
Just because most of us like to think of technological solutions to social problems that doesn’t mean we’re completely unable to think of any other solutions. We have multiple and vastly differing visions of how to push society forward regardlessly of technology.
What’s your problem with decentralization and Basic Incomes, anyway?
Again, that’s not what transhumanism is about, and why should we have to change our philosophy to accommodate for the shiftings of public opinion, anyway?
I don’t. Transhumanists are generally not very excited about embryo selection because it’s not really what we’re looking for. It’s not real genetic engineering. We should have that soon as well, but not as soon. Embryo selection is basically just doing a lot of abortion to get a better child.
Anyway, if you want my opinion on it, I don’t think it’s immoral, just inefficient. But as I never managed to find any rational ethical reason to oppose abortion itself, I don’t see any problem with this either.
Here, as well as in several other parts of your post, you seem to be suggesting that the amount of success one manages to achieve in our current capitalist society is mainly determined by IQ. I disagree with that, but anyway, there’s actually a full-fledged “technoprogressive” movement inside the larger transhumanist community that focuses on making human enhancement technologies available to as many people as possible. That should serve to raise the IQ of “those people”.
Hi Theri, thank you for your courage to start with a provocative post. Those may be relatively rare here, but I think they are important to get a serious discussion going.
If transhumanists have a “bias” towards optimism, that’s mostly because they want to believe that real change is still possible. A bit of optimism isn’t wrong per se. There are certainly some transhumanists who are less optimistic. Those can mostly be found in the existential risk community, and the AI risk crowd in particular. And then there’s also those transhumanists who worry about global warming, disruption of society through increasing inequality, financial instability, political instability, and so on. The problem is that transhumanist dreams can hardly be realized in a post global nuclear war scenario – at least not for 99% of people living today anyway. If you believe that the world is going to get screwed, you most likely get screwed, too.
I find such a statement surprising. That sounds like you knew more about transhumanism than established transhumanists who would mostly agree with the history of transhumanism presented in that article. Note that it’s a history of actual transhumanism, not a history of precursor movements to transhumanism. If the article tried to include anything that could be seen as precursor to transhumanism, then it would be very difficult to say what’s to be included in it. I mean, there are a lot of candiate precursors that one could consider:
The Gilgamesh epos that reflects on the quest for immortality
The gnostic schools of thought in Christianity
Buddhism in general
Humanism of course
Yet most of those movements started way too far in the past, and so they had neither the knowledge, nor the technology to count as fully transhumanist. This only changed in the 19th and 20th century, where we developed the true prerequisites for a transhumanist transformation of humanity.
I find it an interesting idea to root back transhumanism to Darwin. This points to the interesting alternative of going back even further to Lamarck, who was the first to think seriously about the principle of evolution. Transhumanism could be interpreted as conscious technological and scientitic pursuit of expected goals of evolution, though it’s equally valid to see transhumanism as technological and scientificf pursuit of personal development goals that are seen in conflict with the proposed “goals” of evolution. Transhumanism can equally be seen as continuation of evolution with new means, or as the transcendence of evolution through the victory of rationality over blind chance and biological necessities. It all merely comes back to one’s view on evolution, and one’s interpretation of its “goals”. Nevertheless, it’s problematic to attribute “goals” to a mechanistic process like evolution.
Having written that, it’s understandable that there’s some temptation to consider social darwinism as one of the first incarnations of transhumanism, since it’s based on a conscious use of the ideas of “natural selection” and “surival of the fittest”. Nevertheless, social darwinism can hardly elevate humanity above its baseline, if at all. When having the control of evolution in mind, humanity has practicsed that since it has become familiar with the idea of selective breeding. The principle of breeding animals for the amplification of traits has also been applied to humans, in particular to royal blood lines. It could be said that the idea of royalty is most transhumanist than the idea of social darwinism, but then that sounds more like a reductio of absurdum. But then, is could be seen as natural progression of applying the principles of “genetic mindfulness” to the whole population, rather than to a small exalted class of people.
I’m not sure if you would be happy to trace back transhumanism to animal breeders, royalists, social darwinists, and nazis. I wouldn’t deny that this was a valid interpretation of the pre-history of transhumanism, but it’s also possible to trace back transhumanism to other core ideas like those of rationalism, scientific reasoning, technological advancement, self-improvement, and so on. Integrating all of those themes into a complete history of precursor movements of transhumanism would get quite overwhelming. Perhaps it would still be an interesting endeavour, but then what’s the driving motivation behind it? Curiosity? Intellectual integrity? Rewriting / reframing history? If anything, the possibility of associating transhumanism with all kinds of ideologies merely demonstrates that we should be carefuly about what to call “transhumanist” and what not.
The disregard for human live outside of one’s own ingroup has been universal throughout history, so that is hardly a defining characteristic of transhumanism. Then, what else can be seen as transhumanist here? The use of markets? Pretty old idea, too. What about globalized markets? We had those at least since the Silk Road. If there’s anything new here, it’s perhaps the intentional elimination of “undesirable humans” in the name of evolution. Do you think this is the “negative side of transhumanism” in action? Should we acknowledge the existence of a “negative transhumanism” that doesn’t focus on the increase of the positive, but the decrease of the negative in the human population? Sure, we could do that, and the main value of that would be to emphasize how ineffective negative transhumanism really is. It only works at a glacial pace, if at all, and whether the outcome is really what one had in mind, and if even the intended outcome was desirable are additional issues.
Yes, authoritarian state-implemented eugenics has been fashionable for a while. It has to be noted that it was mainly negative eugenics. Historically, eugenics had hardly ever been used to enhance really desirable features like health or intelligence. On the contrary, it has been misused to justify moving into the opposite direction through the selection of unusually intelligent ethnic groups like Jews, which in turn probably acquired their intelligence as a result of their systemic discrimination (meaning increased selection pressure) throughout history. This whole mess has discredited the idea of eugenics in general, whether that’s justified or not. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that eugenics is not the favourite topic of transhumanists.
Ok, while it’s true that we now enter the realm of “real transhumanism” now, what’s misleading is calling what I would term “neoliberal elitist transhumanism” as “transhumanism” per se. The idea that the “free market” suffices to create a transhumanist utopia has been relatively popular over the last decades in trasnhumanis circles – mainly within the USA. It’s not surprising that the expression of transhumanism changes with the currently dominant economic doctrine. There’s no “pure” transhumanism that exists outside of the realm of economics and politics.
While it’s a frequent mistake to attribute the idea of a basic income to this line of neoliberal thinking, the roots of that idea reach back more than 200 years before. The idea of a basic income is natural consequence of capitalist industrialization that disrupted the dominant self-sufficient existence of farmers who lost their land due to the privatization of land, and were forced to sell their labour to survive. Basic income was initially conceptualized by Thomas Paine and Thomas Spence as compensation for this loss of self-sufficiency.
Nevertheless, your criticism has a valid point: Basic income could be used as mere tool for pacifying the masses. That’s especially true, if it’s kept at a level that merely allows people to surive. But a basic income is definitely a part of the solution, if it’s high enough to allow for real participation in society.
“Bread and circus” has been a historically successful strategy for keeping the people pacified. Inequality usually only gets politically explosive, if it’s so high that a large percentage of the people doesn’t have access to the “bread” part anymore. There are few exceptions to that rule. The end of the “German Democratic Republic” could be seen as one of them. Sometimes it’s enough for people to see that living in a better system is real possibility, but that’s rather the exception than the rule.
And those discussions are very necessary. Without hardcore cyborgization, there won’t be much paid work left for unaugmented humans. Though, if you live on a decent basic income and decide to continue working for free, you might see that more as liberation than as a problem.
Does this mean you fear an outcome in which the majority of the population end up “lazy and fucked up” once we run out of paid jobs? You ignore the possibility that people may have something better to do with their time than filling it up with a mere “job”. There are still lots of big problems left in the world waiting to be solved. Merely the lack of resources thrown at these problems is what keeps them from being solved. But if we have human resources liberated by a decent basic income, then people can decide to work on solving those problems – for free if you will. Of course that requires decent levels of education and access to basic social, informational, and material resources, but in the Network Age those shouldn’t be the biggest problems.
If anything, there are economic, social, and psychological hazards in a world with decent basic incomes. In every system there are some people who have problems adjusting to the system. But I think it’s better to accept the existance of those small minorities than trying to force anyone to adapt to the system by force.
What about considering alternatives to earning money for attracting a wife? After all, having to resort to money as attractor for potential mates implies a lack of other important qualities. But no, realizing that is too hard of a pill to swallow, isn’t it?
The main decentralised problem is human stupidity. That can be solved with decentralised education and human enhancement – well, at least partially. Another decentalised problem: Environmental degradation. Solution: Make humans pay for degrading the environment. Decentralised sensor networks and AIs who estimate environmental harm could do that. That is, if there’s the political will to implement people paying for the damage they cause. And that’s a global problem, because nation states live in compeition with each other. That’s why nationalist solutions won’t work. Only a global political framework can solve global and decentralised problems.
What do you base your claim on? I’ve harly met any transhumanist who claims that there isn’t inequality in intelligence. What’s your point anyway? This sounds like an obvious straw man.
If people were serious about rushing towards authoritarianism, they should migrate to Russia, China and North Korea. Perhaps they aren’t desperate enough to resort to these alternatives, yet. It may be what lies ahead in coming decades anyway, if the USA and Europe don’t get their shit together.
But what do you want to imply with that? Are you saying that transhumanist should pander to the masses who seemingly long for more authoritarian solutions? Do you think we need an authoritarian transhumanism? How should that look like? Perhaps like China with its ambitions to create designer babies? Or like the scenario depicted in Zoltan Istvan’s book “The Transhumanist Wager” with a transhumanist dictator ruling over the world? Perhaps in the end, you may get your wish fulfilled in the form of an AI dictator that implements authoritarian transhumanism for all (surviving) humans.
Basic income is becoming increasingly popular within the whole political spectrum. I’m not claiming that it’s a solution to all problems, but it looks like we will get a basic income anyway, if this trend continues. Additionally, it’s hard to see a good and viable solution to basic income.
A for the demands for sovereignty, well, those are very hard to fulfill in a neoliberal globalised economy. Of course, states can try to withdraw from the globalised economy, but the usual outcome is impoverishment, unless that nation decidedly uses its resources to create its own national industrial basis. Unfortunately that requires a lot of time and political dedication, and until the process is completed, the people remain very poor. But hey, if people get their self-worth through not starving and depairing through a period of economic harship, then that’s worth it, isn’t it?
If instead, we had a decent global basic income, this would liberate people to create their own kind of sovereign polities, since they won’t be forced by economic necessity to adjust to the global economic and political doctrines. Only a globalised world enables true regional sovereignty, as paradox as it sounds. The fractal society (or metatopia as I prefer to call it more recently) is the synthesis of globalism and localism. Diversity and homogeneity don’t need to be polar opposites. Instead, they should merely pertain to different scales: Diversity on a global scale and homogeneity on a local scale through voluntary association with like-minded peers.
I completely agree with Joao here. We don’t really avoid that topic, but it’s one of the least interesting and promising transhumanist technologies. Germ-line and non-germ-line genetic engineering with CRISPR, or cyborgization with neural laces are both much more promising. And if you want more extreme alternatives, you can resort to AI, or human brain emulations, which will rock the boat so hard that most of humanity will get extreme nausea in the decades to come.
10% of the variance in IQ is ridiculously low. Who cares about 10%? Our world is changing too fast for caring about 10% of IQ variance.
You are trying to frame this as “either or” alternative. Why not give people basic income and grant everyone the options of intelligence enhancement? After all, that’s what most technoprogressive transhumanists are in favour of. In fact, intelligence enhancement is most effective for those with relatively low IQ scores. People with high IQs profit little from technologies aimed at intelligence enhancement.
The most obvious aspect of transhumanism? There isn’t such a thing. After all, living indefinitely, merging with AI (in order to become gods or what we want), controling with world with molecular nanotechnology, turning the cosmos into our playground, are a pretty big deal, too. If you think your pet topic is getting too little attention, you are in best company with other transhumanists who also think that their own favourite topics get too little attention. So, it’s not fear or ignorance. It’s just the diversity of different transhumanist pet peeves that makes it look like certain topics are avoided. There are certainly a lot of transhumanist topics that get addressed a lot in transhumanist circles, for example:
Radical morphological freedom
Creating a technological telepathic and empathic network
Creating a transhumanist economy
Rational technological control over one’s own emotions
All of these topics have a potential that’s at least as disruptive as increasing the average IQ of humanity by 10 IQ points.
What do you base that opinion on? Are you alluding to the difficulty of getting a job with a low IQ, so those people earn for an authoritarian government that promises them a job? Don’t you see how degrading that is? First of all, those people would require on a government to get a rather meaningless job, rather than creating meaning with one’s own entrepreneurial efforts. That solution isn’t better than a bais income, but worse, since it keeps people in dependence rather than really liberating them. In our industrialised world we do live in mutual interdependence, and basic income is the least paternalistic way of dealing with that appropriately.
Also, there are other factors that are about as important for getting a good job, such as health and conscientiousness (or grit or self-discipline if you will). And self-discipline is a topic that is really avoided by almost everyone nowadays, in particular transhumanists. We live in a decadent age after all – what else should we really expect? People resort to easy and convenient solutions, because they lack the will to face the truth of their own weakness and insufficiency.
ty for the rant. i think the biggest critic on transhumanism is wether or not the future technology we are referring to are sciencefiction or will be reality.
Therfor our decentralised and exponentiel technologies might not solve the problems, we are hopeing will get solved.
All your critics fail though to show an alternative. I see no alternative to transhumanism. All leftist projects of the 20th century failed, the only thing that could be done is to hope technology somehow will solve the poverty and ecology problems and we wont wipe ourself out with some kind of crazy weapon.
That is not a great plan, but better than no plan. Or do you think its best to just forget about politics?