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Why isn't Transhumanism more popular?

(Michael Hrenka) #1

The purpose of this thread is to collect possible reasons for the relatively low popularity of transhumanism as a philosophy / ideology / political movement. Its purpose is not to draw conclusions from that. Discussing conclusions should be deferred to future threads.

What reasons do I see?

  1. It requires (A) a sophisticated understanding of (the dynamics of) technology or (B) great optimism in the transformative power of technology. The first (A) requires a solid educational basis, which only a minority of the population possesses. This could be a factor that makes transhumanism implicitly elitist. It’s not that the knowledge that is required to grasp it completely is really esoteric, but it’s still very hard to get to that level of understanding. On the other hand, (B) great optimism in technology had its heyday in the 60s and 70s, when people thought in the year 2000 we would have bases on the moon, flying cars, would be travelling to Mars, and so on. That has made people cynical about grand technological promises about the future. In this light, transhumanism is very much a contrarian movement that upholds the hope in science and technology.
  2. Transhumanism in general does hold no answer to the immediate and current concerns and problems of the vast majority of people. How does transhumanism solve criminality, inequality, taxes, moral problems, a stagnating economy, migration crises, annoying neighbours, too low wages, to high wages, unemployment, bad employment, bad employees, bad employers, debt, and the whole rest of other political problems that are seen by different parts of the political spectrum? Not fitting into the classical political spectrum makes it hard for transhumanism to establish itself as force to reckon with. Also, people are mostly concerned about short-term concerns. The long-term focus of transhumanism doesn’t help very much to address the current urgent “pain points” that people are faced with in the present.
  3. It’s not stylish and sexy enough. Pronouncing the liberal replacement of healthy body parts with awkward-looking robotic prosthesis is bad marketing! Perhaps transhumanism would be seen as more stylish, if it focused on biological enhancement of humans, but on that front it faces the power of the anti-GMO front, as well as nearly all ideologies who uphold the current human form as sacred pinnacle of creation, respectively evolution.
  4. Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that is too often mistaken for naive techno-optimism and techno-fanboyism. The many naive techno-optimists and techno-fanboys who are attracted by techno-prophets like Ray Kurzweil really do a disservice to the image of transhumanism as a serious philosophical current.
  5. Transhumanism isn’t a lot of fun. What typically transhumanist activities does transhumanism allow its adherents? Ok, there’s talking, sharing technology related posts on Facebook, and tinkering with bleeding-edge technologies, which is both relatively unsafe and relatively expensive. If transhumanism was a pen and paper role-playing game it would probably be more popular…
  6. The generic transhumanist demographic is problematic: It consists of highly educated and intelligent white males with questionable social skills. There are of course exceptions, but they are relatively rare. It’s not like transhumanism was a “thing” for the whole family.
  7. Transhumanism is seen as evil by many different groups and individuals, including churches, intellectuals, and conspiracy nuts.

What reasons do you see?

(João Luz) #2

All your reasons are valid, but I think that the main cause for transhumanism’s unppopularity is “naturalistic histeria”. The belief that what’s “natural” is inherently good and what’s “unnatural” is inherently bad is rooted deep down in popular consciousness, and that makes people freak out when they hear about transhumanism

(Dr. Curiosity) #3

I think #4 and #6 are a big part of it. Intelligent guys with questionable social skills are typically still very dumb about inclusivity and public communication, especially if it means dealing with people whose ideas and values they see as “irrational” and “pointless”. Ironically, the social performance of a “hyper-rational” stance is quite irrational if you want to make social and political progress outside of a New Atheist echo chamber.

I feel that if transhumanism as a movement wants to gain headway, it needs to lead out more with compassion… and that’s quite at odds with the callous attitudes that permeate transhumanism as a subculture, even if many of us are strongly motivated to help humanity with technology.

(Michael Hrenka) #4

Great answers, both of you! And welcome to the Fractal Future Forum, Dr. Curiosity! :smile:

Yes, dealing with irrationality in appropriate ways is a requirement for true high-functioning rationality. This is of course difficult, but the key is to find aspects that you agree with, instead of focusing on what you don’t agree with.

Sure, there are compassionate transhumanists, but their voices too often drown in the loud chatter of the techno-fetishists. The question about how to unify transhumanism with compassion remains a difficult one. It doesn’t seem to be an obviously natural union. It even seems to be easier to talk about superintelligence than about supercompassion. There are cool ideas out there like creating a technological telepathic and empathic network that connects the minds of people (and eventually even other animals) more or less directly. These ideas should get much more attention!

This is a complicated multi-layered issue. On the surface level you have the naturalistic fallacy, but deeper down you have heuristics which can make sense a lot of the time. More natural food usually is more healthy, see paleo diet.

It may seem hypocritical if people complain about unnatural things, when almost their whole world is unnatural already. But that’s maybe their way to say that they are fed up with the unnaturalness. Many want to go some steps back to nature, and when done right, that wouldn’t even be a bad idea. Better technology opens up more and better options, including lifestyles that are more in tune with our internal and external nature. That’s what anarcho primitivists don’t get: Technology can enable the best of their visions, if they just helped develop technologies that move into that direction.

In a super-high-tech world you could live naked and “alone” in a forest and wouldn’t suffer from any problem, because an invisible halo of technology surrounds you all the time and provides for your needs.

Anyway, I may have gone ahead of myself and already drawn out paths that lead to possible solutions. Let’s please focus on the problems of transhumanism nevertheless. What turns regular people off more: The philosophy of transhumanism, or the people calling themselves transhumanists, or are there completely other factors at play?