What is Transhumanism?
The following is the opinion of the author only and does not represent an official position of H+ Magazine or Humanity+.
Transhumanism is a positive philosophy about the future based in optimism, rational thinking and the application of science and technology to improve the human condition. We seek to live longer, stay healthier, and become smarter and even more physically fit. We want to develop tools and technologies to help ourselves and others do the same.
We want to live longer, be healthier and happier, become smarter, keep learning and have more fun. And we propose using science and technology to do it. Does this sound good? Then you are very possibly a transhumanist.
Transhumanism isn’t a cult or religion. There are no canonical texts or predetermined methods. “What it is, is up to us.”
Transhumanism is compatible with various religious beliefs and traditions. But, inevitably, because it is based in science, the conclusions of transhumanism may contradict some elements of traditional religious beliefs. For example, transhumanists seek to extend life and do not accept death as a given fact due to a “creator” or supernatural deity. We do not consider immortality to be the sole domain of faith or deity and we reject the entire idea of “supernatural”.
Anything that actually happens is by definition “natural” if not always understood by us. Transhumanism rejects as fallacies ideas that place nature above man or his works; this is known as the Naturalistic Fallacy. We have the ability to become active agents in our own design and the design of our environment. Transhumanists believe that we can not ignore our responsibilities to consider the designs we create, but we also believe strongly in our right and even our duty to create them. We reject the deep ecology movement and ecological terrorism in all forms.
On a related note, transhumanism importantly suggests that we consider the risks arising from failing to develop technologies as well as those risks which originate from developing them. The Proactionary Principle is presented as an alternative to the conservative Precautionary Principle which is applied almost everywhere in scientific and technological policy making. We are not ignorant about possible negative consequences or dangerous technologies and ideas. However this isn’t about gambling.
Fundamentally transhumanism is an optimistic idea. We suggest that humans can and should improve themselves,and that we can be better off if we do. Transhumanists believe that the future can be bright and better than today. We reject romanticized notions about the past or the natural world. We consider that what appear to be insurmountable obstacles are sometimes found to be illusory limitations in our own understanding. We think world wide abundance is possible if we put our minds to the task of creating it.
The DIY or “maker” ethic is deeply embedded in transhumanist thinking and extends to the aesthetics of the movement and its members, as well the focus on the enhancement of the human body and mind. As it is based in science, transhumanism is not just an affiliation, idea or belief but also includes a set of tools you can use. There are practical and demonstrable methods for achieving various, but not all, transhuman objectives available today. Many of us are already enhanced for example.
We reject the notion that an elite should control access to ideas or technologies. The goal of universal abundance and access to knowledge are founding transhumanist principles and elite control of knowledge makes this impossible. Technologies and science progress more in open and free societies free from surveillance. And since progress in these areas is fundamental to our goals, we also support access to knowledge and lowering the costs of medicines, medical treatments, etc. Global access to free knowledge and technology is a critical element of a future abundant transhumanist society.
Transhumanism rejects the idea of a fixed and unchanging human nature. We observe that what we call our “self” is in part a social construct that exists outside of the body although the brain is the seat of intelligence and everything that makes us “us”. Since we can now alter the architecture of our bodies and brains, we can become more. Already millions of people are electronic cyborgs using technology to keep them alive or to see and hear. We also consider that elements of what make humans special, intelligence, consciousness, and qualia of experience arise in other living beings and might also arise in man made artifacts: artificial intelligences and robots.
The Principle of Morphological Freedom is a fundamental concept of transhumanism. We do not accept limitations of law or religion on who we are or what we might become. Racism is clearly unacceptable from this perspective as are gender and sexual biases and discrimination. However, the principle clearly requires us to develop new philosophical ideas, moral codes, and legal systems. Consider, are we also free to make ourselves damaged and dysfunctional or toxic and dangerous? We don’t know all the answers.
Transhumanists accept uncertainty and are not looking for answers to all questions from a universal infallible source. Therefore, transhumanism is not a dead tradition but a living and growing philosophy and movement. We are creating it together right now.
While transhumanism has a history in the 1960s drug culture and countercultural thinkers such as Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna, this is largely now historical. Transhumanism is not a new age religion or replacement for religion. It is also not about getting high, although we do seek to raise our hedonic setting, enhance our perception and cognition, and extend our physical performance. We might use chemicals or other methods to do it. Related to the notion of Morphological Freedom, is the no less important idea of Cognitive Freedom.
Transhumanists vary in opinion on various details and topics. For example, not everyone considers the emergence of a greater than human intelligence in a machine to be a near term probability. Others support Kurzweil’s estimates of 2045 or even think he is too conservative. Some transhumanists are cryonicists, but others consider cryonics to be at best a gamble that might not pay off. Many transhumanists are vegans or follow a paleo diet. Some are avowed carnivores. Your mileage may vary.
One area where transhumanists differ is politics. There are transhumanists all over the political spectrum but what we agree on is essential ideas such as liberty and freedom. Dictatorships and authoritarianism are not compatible with transhumanist ideas such as Morphological Freedom and Cognitive Liberty for example. But beyond that, our existing ideas about how to organize society and act politically are being rapidly altered through the use of technology and media. Consider that the best possible political decision making system of a future transhuman society possibly has no precedent in human history.
However, some individuals have tried to connect transhumanism with far right or far left political ideologies including both communism and various nationalist ideologies. Transhumanists do consider the use of gene therapies and genetic alterations of humans to cure disease and also to enhance ourselves, but we reject the notions of the Eugenics movement and all previous related and hateful philosophies tied to those ideas. This is very dangerous to our project and transhumanists should be aware that multiple attempts have been made to co-opt and use our ideas to promote other movements. We universally reject the politics of hate and fear.
Some have confused transhumanism with its darker cousin cyberpunk. Transhumanism is not a literary genre, although there are some excellent transhumanist science fiction books. We don’t believe that the future must be a dystopia or that armageddon is inevitable. While transhumanism is often covered in such settings, this leads to a lot of mistaken ideas and directions. Dwelling on such negative scenarios and possibilities can short circuit your ability to think rationally especially about possibly positive far future concepts. We therefore propose a rational optimism, a positive futurism, and we suggest avoiding dystopic thinking altogether. Instead, how about engaging in real practical work to bring our ideas into reality?
Modern transhumanism is not about mystical beliefs but rather is based in ideas that arose in the late 20th Century starting with FM 2030 in 1960s and the Extropian movement in the 1980s and 1990s. Modern transhumanism has no true historical links to alchemy or the Western hermetic traditions. However, some individuals have tried to make these connections. The alchemists and others did explore many similar ideas to transhumanism from a non-scientific perspective.
We don’t reject the wisdom of the ages, but we do respect the progress that application of science and reason have given us. What were once imaginary or magical ideas are commonly made real today through technology. And many more amazing things will soon be possible.
Anyone that is promoting a return to a pastoral “natural” past, promoting fear of dystopia, or the future more generally, is not a transhumanist no matter how they describe their ideas. All transhumanists are trying to create a better, happier, and safer world using technology if they deserve the name “transhumanist”.
War does not advance the transhuman project, and is one of the greatest dangers we face. But at the same time military developments have pushed the envelope of what is possible and imaginable. Advocates of rapidly advancing change often forget that their ideas can produce conflict or that conflicts can produce advancement.
Finally, transhumanists consider the use of reason and rational thinking to make decisions. We want to make good decisions and we are interested in tools and technologies that help us do that. But we also know that we must apply compassion and connect with a community of others as integral to our project. I therefore encourage you to DIY, erase fear, and engineer joy. Invent your own future, become your own avatar. And have fun!
My comment was in reply to Jenna (whose remarks appear to be false, considering it is trivial to search the CA Sex Offender Registry online), not you.
I don’t know why it appears otherwise (and I can’t seem to find the comment in question).
Ha. I guess Peter took me seriously and removed the music. The reason I replied to your post was because it seemed to be attached to the reply link on my post. I do apologize if I misunderstood…it was an early morning before coffee mistake.
I had already looked up Jenna’s comment and knew that it was spam, which was why I was so surprised when it looked as though your post was in reply to mine. Anyway….it’s all good…but, the musick that I shared was just a nice take a break in the middle of this meeting link.
Jenna’s name isn’t “Jenna” of course.
I deleted the music as “off topic” after reviewing the conversation. Sorry if I offended, let’s stay on topic please.
No offense taken
Amazing that people get so hung up on a definition of something so diffuse as Transhumanism.
It seems to have angered a lot of people.
As well as ignoring the obviously religious overtones present in many in the movement, whether those people holding those beliefs in such a fashion are aware of them or not (obviously some are explicitly aware of the Religious aspects and seek to formalize them).
I could be wrong but I think that it almost natural, at least common that anything labeled “Movement” tends to develop religious undertones. This is why I do not claim any title or affiliation specific to any one belief system. Although, the unifying factor in a religiously followed movement cannot be denied…at least for the first few thousand years.
Akarlin says concerning negative scenarios that
“Denying them altogether because “technology and markets rock and will solve all our problems!” is also perilous.”
I was thinking this also, as i usually do. I also know that Peter has said before and has posted other content on the matter so his words no longer brought such a strong response from me like it used to do. Peter also used the word ‘dwelling’ to begin with, which is always a plus, and when he says that
“Dwelling on such negative scenarios and possibilities can short circuit your ability to think rationally especially about possibly positive far future concepts,” he is right.
i cannot forget the effects or the misuse of the robotic one mind; I must not let myself completely forget until i know that the matter is truly and honestly and thoughtfully being worked on. The fact that i believe finally my own voice has been heard and taken into consideration, not only here on these pages but on another site as well, might even make it possible for me move on a bit and start asking more of those far reaching questions.
Two things that come up for me is this;
1. When talking about not dwelling on or even bringing up the dystopia, i can agree to that here, but this raises another question.
This is also concerning the Natural occurrences on this planet.
Peter you brought it to mind actually when you were talking about the deep eco movements. The talk of (sorry about this) global warming comes to mind for one thing. I agree with you about not letting it be our overriding concern, but possibly for different reason. I look at that particular subject more along the lines of, ok, forget the cause right now be it man, or the evolution of the planet, the shifting cycles of everything in the Universal systems, right?
Regardless of the cause, what is being done about the need for a safe place in the case of any of these desasters that are being discussed?
And a way to catch the waters should the glaciers melt? My daughter says that they have these already. I am not the best researcher and I could have looked over the info easily. I mentioned large pipes to catch and channel any melting waters, my daughter said that they do have them.
And i thought about homes for a future need of any extra
There is material to make them so that…..well, do you want to hear all my rambling, i do not know, but these are the questions that popped into mind when you mentioned those far reaching questions.
I see the suits that they are making for the soldiers, and, while i do not begrudge them this entirely, i think, “if they have those materials, they need to be putting it to more global use”.
I was going to suggest using the material to create dragon drones and ask if you knew anyplace we could dragon DNA, but I am not sure I could sell Transhumanists who want no kind of surveillance on this., but there are other ideas, like homes and crafts that will get those who would like to go, to the starts.
2 “However, the principle clearly requires us to develop new philosophical ideas, moral codes, and legal systems.”
Your statement about there being no racism or gender and sexual biases and discrimination I know is mostly about preferences and such, but I was writing about this a few night ago. I was wondering about the schools as well
How do you see birthing or children being born, in far future?
You are against the forced family size control as it has been done in the past. This has also been written in every book about dystopic futures and has already been twisted and turned so that many ways have been considered as to what that would look like.
Being against enforced family control and people living longer could easily help to bring about a dystopia. If we are going to live longer, plus have complete free and unbridled will, how are we going to stem the flow of people being born and never dying.
I am wondering if maybe you are planning on just seeing how many souls there are in the reincarnation cycle and have them all here on earth at the same time?
What are they going to look like?
You covered a lot of territory here, and I am not typically given to lengthy replies, as you may have noticed.
A number of people have expressed criticism that you appeared to be claiming to speak for transhumanists in general. IMO, it would have been better had you stuck to first person in this piece, unless you are a Discoridan pope.
You appear to me at points to be anthropomorphizing transhumanism. Transhumanism does not want, accept, or reject things, people do.
There are elitist transhumanists, and transhumanists who reject the ethical goals you state. They should be countered, but if people take your word for what transhumanism is, they might let their guard down too easily and think that if someone is a transhumanist, that they share your stated ethics. This would, in my view, be a mistake that could have highly negative consequences.
I am unsure that “free knowledge” is a better model than “really cheap knowledge”. Until our nannites are building our goods for us, someone has to pay for the electricity, internet connections and smart phones/computers.
“Transhumanism rejects the idea of a fixed and unchanging human nature.” Are we changing our nature, or are we amplifying/expanding it?
As to Leary, “Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension” still sounds like a fine transhumanist slogan to me. And of course his Two Commandments for the Molecular (Neurological) Age would, in my view, be a very good starting point for a transhumanist ethical base.
While the catastrophic effects of the Eugenics movement almost go without saying, it does damage to history to fail to note the roots of transhumanism in eugenics; Julian Huxley, president of the British Eugenics Society coined the very word “transhumanism.” Gene therapy is literally a positive form of eugenics, especially germ-line gene therapy.
While I would reject ordinary pastoralism, neo-pastoralism or neo-primitivism with some elements of future high technology might have some appeal. The drawback is, that mentality won’t get us to the stars.
BTW, could you ask your webmaster to add a left margin? Reading text crammed against the blackspace on my monitor is unpleasant and slightly difficult.
Why would pastoral thinking on some peoples part keep us from getting to the starrs?
Leary is of historical interest and his writings are motivational. But they don’t tell you anything about how to accomplish any of his ideas. Dreaming is important and imagination is indispensable to us. But dreaming doesn’t make things happen by itself and Leary never tells you how to accomplish anything at all. Inspiration must be followed with science, e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kary_Mullis
Julian Huxley coined the term transhumanism which was later adopted by FM 2030 and others. True. But Huxley was not one of the people involved in founding modern transhumanism.
Wikipedia: The contemporary meaning of the term transhumanism was foreshadowed by one of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, who taught “new concepts of the Human” at The New School in the 1960s, when he began to identify people who adopt technologies, lifestyles and worldviews transitional to “posthumanity” as “transhuman”. This hypothesis would lay the intellectual groundwork for the British philosopher Max More to begin articulating the principles of transhumanism as a futurist philosophy in 1990, and organizing in California an intelligentsia that has since grown into the worldwide transhumanist movement.
“There are elitist transhumanists, and transhumanists who reject the ethical goals you state. ”
Who are the “elite transhumanists” that you are talking about? I have heard for example that “billionaires” are secretly developing longevity technology and keeping it secret. But there is no evidence for this and in fact these rumblings were followed within hours by Google’s announcement of Calico. I think this idea of elite transhumanist secretly making things is a Hollywood story that some people have started to believe. I do not believe this without any evidence whatsoever.
The difference between “free” and “very inexpensive” is not crucial to my argument, however I do think our modern monetary system and way of exchanging value may collapse.
As far as the margin, unfortunately, that is a big deal to fix involving our existing design template which I inherited and I have made only a few minor changes to. There is no “webmaster”, that’s me.
“Who are the “elite transhumanists” that you are talking about? I have heard for example that “billionaires” are secretly developing longevity technology and keeping it secret. But there is no evidence for this”
Key word here is Secret. IF billionaires are doing this in secret it is quite likely you would not find evidence for it. This is actually one of the reasons I myself tend to be a bit leery of those who use ‘secret revelations’ to expose their conspiracy theories.
“There are elitist transhumanists, and transhumanists who reject the ethical goals you state. ”
Who are the “elite transhumanists” that you are talking about? ”
I think that a main question here is also, ” What are those ethical goal?”
You know, it disturbed me more than I could say, Peter, when you posted that Art Site
Not so much the art itself. It was meant to be disturbing to some degree i think, even if it was beautiful while being worked on;
What did disturb me was that all of the works that i have seen concerning the Transhumanist worlds are always dystopian
The idea that ‘this is the way it’s going to be, you know it’s true’ , a note from the systems world itself but still the opinion of another, is a thought that I realized i want to begin seeing differently.
Why does it have to be dystopically portrayed in almost all movies and art? I am certain that many have seen it this way in their minds eye, and of course that is the way they see it elsewhere and so the minds eye often duplicates what it has seen, whether as a whole or in bits and pieces. Another perception of it will be nice, another design.
Peter, when you sought to describe what “modern transhumanism” is “based in”, did you intend to describe only its recent history, or its ancient history? Either way, it has many more roots than Fm2030 or Max More. In relatively recent times the >H mailing list was at least as influential as Extropy. But I think your article is worthy of understanding transhumanism’s ancient roots. Monist and panpsychist thinking goes back at least 2,000 years to the early Greek philosophers and probably much further to the animism and polytheism of pre-history. I hope one fay to read about that here! 😉
Sure, I know quite a bit about historical roots of these ideas in the Renaissance and with the Greeks and even earlier. But to argue that these are key components of modern transhumanism is a bit silly. Transhumanists don’t have meetups at Stonehenge for the solstice even if the ritual use of Stonehenge was early example of an algorithmic computational system.
That suggests you were intending to describe only the modern roots. Its your article, so let’s run with that and not debate whether that produces the best result. So, what of the other recent influences on modern transhumanism, such as the >H mailing list and the WTA? You quote Wikipedia elsewhere. Well, we can all write and edit Wikipedia articles, but those of us who were there at the time don’t really need reports from Wikipedia. At best it’s incomplete to pick out FM2030 and Extropy as if they practically invented the concept of >H without referring to the other influences that were *at least* equally as significant.
WTA is Humanity+. It didn’t seem to warrant further explanation. This isn’t a comprehensive history of H+ ideas or transhumanism.
I am sorry to report I don’t know much about the >H list. Perhaps you would like to write up an article for H+ about this? I’d be interested.
I am sorry to report I don’t know much about the >H list. Perhaps you would like to write up an article for H+ about this? I’d be interested.
Heh, I was worried you’d say that and here’s where I wimp out.
The best I can do is to point you to this:
The discussion archive linked from the principles may be of interest. There was then also a wider discussion on the mailing list itself, but I’m afraid I can’t find it. In fact, there’s not much trace of the mailing list at all. It was heavily trafficked at the time.
. The supernatural, which is only the natural at work in a super way does not have to carry some whoo whoo connotation that has no explanation.
Just because the supernatural may gain greater understanding In future as certain elemental and technologic forces are brought to our understanding should not make the term Supernatural’ a matter of disdain for those who do not understand the word…this actually works on both sides of the coin…for those who believe that supernatural is always and only the hand of a God at work as well as for those who believe that there is always a natural explanation. Ps…that IS WHAT magick is, you know…a working with the forces that are already around you, technical, elemental or psychological, which is a use of the psyche of all.
Also, I have to add that I see nothing wrong with the ‘We’ seeming to be spoken as the Royal We, especially considering the desire here to see all working together to form a basic belief system. ‘WE’ may not always agree, but The We still seek to speak as one in many voices, yes?
This is the connectedness that I believe Mckanna speaks of its we all become ‘condenced’ down.
I do not understand why you link the ‘natural pastoral’ past with the dystopia and fear based perspective as though dystopia ism is a natural outcome of the pastoral.
These are both used as arguments against transhumanism. That’s all.
I get that. But they have been linked as though the pastoral does actually effect the dystopian mindset. Does it? Akarlin also does this in regards to going to the Starr’s, so I just wondered if I was missing an understanding here. One of the things that I am beginning to notice is that some words and thoughts actually can be seen in a whole different light through Transhumanism…is this one of those words?
One area where transhumanists differ is politics. There are transhumanists all over the political spectrum but what we agree on is essential ideas such as liberty and freedom… Anyone that is promoting a return to a pastoral “natural” past, promoting fear of dystopia, or the future more generally, is not a transhumanist no matter how they describe their ideas.
Those articles of mine on “ecotechnic dictatorship” that Hank posted must have riled the author up quite a bit. ))
Transhumanists do consider the use of gene therapies and genetic alterations of humans to cure disease and also to enhance ourselves, but we reject the notions of the Eugenics movement and all previous related and hateful philosophies tied to those ideas.
Define eugenics. In theory, marrying the nice girl next door as opposed to the crack-whore by the club dumpster is “eugenic.” So is germline gene therapy, which I assume a vast majority of transhumanists would support.
Dwelling on such negative scenarios and possibilities can short circuit your ability to think rationally especially about possibly positive far future concepts. We therefore propose a rational optimism, a positive futurism, and we suggest avoiding dystopic thinking altogether.
Denying them altogether because “technology and markets rock and will solve all our problems!” is also perilous.
Instead, how about engaging in real practical work to bring our ideas into reality?
Real practical work – like this article?
Modern transhumanism is not about mystical beliefs but rather is based in ideas that arose in the late 20th Century starting with FM 2030 in 1960s and the Extropian movement in the 1980s and 1990s.
Author must have not heard of Vernadsky, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Russian cosmism.
I’ve been amused to see who thought this article was “about them”. No this is not a direct reply to one person or one website but rather to a set of people that are promoting some IMO rather silly or even dangerous ideas. Your “ecotechnic dictatorship” is one of them, yes.
FYI I also professionally write software and have developed a software system that I use as a cognitive aid. So yeah I do more than write articles about transhumanism, I actually build cognitive enhancements that I use myself.
I think most people underestimate themselves imagining that they do not have the needed skills to actually contribute in a meaningful way technically. I think this isn’t true. I hope to reach more people and get them to just roll up their sleeves and dig in.
We have some tools with which to enhance ourselves right now. I suggest we actually start building things and using them, and I am not the only person that thinks this is the correct path forward.
Peter, I find it healthy for a reader to take what they are reading, anywhere, and make it about themselves, after they have read it first as how it applies to the author and the authors views. First, the authors view, next, how does this effect “my own’ views or correlate to what ‘I’ have written or believed and next, how do the authors views and my own work together in the larger scheme as it correlates to the wider audience. It shows me that what you are saying actually has effected the individual and their own thinking, be it adversely or positively. To see your words and thoughts doing this is actually confirming that they are actively relating to what you say which is what opens the door for honest and open discussion like you see here. Obviously, considering all of the comments here this article is one that has done this.
For a person to be able to personalize and internalize what is being said is a compliment to the author and vital to understanding
“I hope to reach more people and get them to just roll up their sleeves and dig in.”
This is what I am doing also. It takes time. This is also what Leary was doing, even if it was not stated by him as such.
“We have some tools with which to enhance ourselves right now. I suggest we actually start building things and using them, and I am not the only person that thinks this is the correct path forward.”
I suggested this often to the group of The Venus Project and to Jacque Fresco because he has the models and property to begin to implement his ideas on a larger basis. He is also working to get larger audiences involved through filming by people around the world.
I am thinking here about what you said about Leary not telling How to do the good ideas that he has written about. This is a natural way for ideas that may not be fully understood but that others may think are good to begin investigating via their own knowledge banks and bringing to the table that knowledge and how it may relate to the ideas at hand.
If any of the team players in the “Transhuminist” movement already have scientific understanding not given specifically in the idea that is liked, then those team players throw that knowledge onto the table to be built on by another who has more knowledge. This is mutual and active brainstorming. If nobody does have the knowledge then the originator of the idea either dies with that idea out there waiting for somebody who does have the knowledge or who is waiting to pick it up… or the originator remains living and learning to understand what is needed…even if it takes another 10 to 30 years.
The question is how important do you, or others with an already scientific mind and database of understanding consider Leary’s ideas to be. You are discussing a movement that, by it’s very nature already has scientists at work. Most scientists through out all history have built working models from somebody else’s idea or theories. That is the scientific model of how ideas become reality. Many of Tesla’s first inventions were built directly off of another persons or scientists ideas and theories.
Often the originator of the idea did not know how to expand his idea into a working model but he offered his visions, as you do, hoping ” to reach more people and get them to just roll up their sleeves and dig in,”
writing about them or discussing them; this is what good scientists do. It is called ‘Seeding’…at least it is now, if not historically, and what are we doing but building history for tomorrow? Seeding or planting…throwing out ideas for use by those with knowledge to build upon them.
“I suggest we actually start building things and using them, and I am not the only person that thinks this is the correct path forward.”
What things are you thinking of?
“This hypothesis would lay the intellectual groundwork for the British philosopher Max More to begin articulating the principles of transhumanism as a futurist philosophy in 1990”
What kind of cognitive aid does your softwear offer. That sound interesting
Great! Transhumanism finally acknowledges its transcendent…even divine potential. Rothman starts with: “Transhumanism is a positive philosophy about the future based in optimism”. Atheist can’t see life making it to Godhood so how can they profess positive optimism?? On the other hand, theists allow for eternal and meaningful growth, and so rightfully own positive optimism. It is time for transhumanism came out of the closet proud..Embrace your destiny!
James I don’t regard myself as an atheist, but I think it’s awful narrow and patronizing of you to proclaim what they can or cannot do. This sounds to me more likely a limit of your imagination than an actual limit of atheists.
I was wondering about that. Why would an atheist not be able to imagine the self as a godlike person, or somebody who controls their own life and circumstances and the world around them. I would have expected atheists to be more capable of this somebody who has a definite belief that “only God is God and that is the way it should be” approach.
james, not everybody needs to be God to be happy.
While I have little disagreement with much of what you say, Peter, I don’t think you or I get to use the royal “we” and define what transhumanism is definitively and what is in and out.
BTW, if you have read most of Leary’s works you know he was a lot deeper than drugs and mysticism and has some deep transhumanist roots.
Leary is more interesting, I agree.
I don’t mean this to be the “royal” we, lol, but I can say that my views are shared by at least some others. I say “we” because I have already discussed much of this with other people in the community online and off and there are a number of us that are thinking similar things. I tried my best to represent everyone’s inputs that I spoke with on this topic. That is all.
I mentioned it here in the comments, but Leary is worth a revisit. McKenna not so much. IMO.
I perhaps should have made this clearer in the original article.
However I think Leary doesn’t really help us get where we are going. Is there something in his writings I can use to actually do any of things he imagines? Not really.
Re “While transhumanism has a history in the 1960s drug culture and countercultural thinkers such as Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna, this is largely now historical. Transhumanism is not a new age religion or replacement for religion. It is also not about getting high…”
Peter, this is fine as long as you state a personal opinion. Of course you are entitled to have opinions. But so am I. And my opinion is that Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna, and other visionary thinkers, represent the spirit of transhumanism better than the ultra-rationalists “bureaucrats of philosophy.”
Let’s agree to differ and let’s not express our personal positions as “the transhumanist position,” for we would be both wrong.
Thanks for the reply, but I have to differ on this point. Transhumanism has nothing much to do with the Archaic Revival idea. So in my view, McKenna, while inspirational, is mostly or almost universally wrong. 2012 was a millennialist apocalypse fantasy — always. Not very different from the technocratic version known as Y2K.
Leary is much more interesting and would be worthy of a deep refresh and reconsideration. IMO.
For someone who has not spent any time with Leary, where would you suggest beginning?
ah…I see that anywhere would be good.
I would read Info-Psychology and Neuropolitics.
Also check out this recording of a 1983 presentation.
The current form of “folk transhumanism,” for want of a better term, suffers from evidential and logical flaws which keep it from turning into an effective world view.
Evidentially, transhumanists still haven’t come to grips with the fact that in many ways we live in an era of technological stagnation, not technological acceleration. The speakers at transhumanists’ own conferences like Tyler Cowen, Peter Thiel and Neal Stephenson have pointed this out. For example, we have lost so much technological capability since 1970 that people under the age of 40 think they live after the “space age,” not in it, because they don’t see it as a current reality. Transhumanists need to come up with feasible ways to get progress back on track towards the goals they’ve set.
Logically, transhumansits sound like fools by saying that we’ll “become immortal” by arbitrary dates in this century like 2045. A life extension breakthrough doesn’t work that way!!! You can only tell it it has happened by seeing it in the rear-view mirror, so to speak, after a whole lot of people have lived well past 120 years, and in good physical and cognitive shape. And that rules out having any such knowledge in this century because the results can’t arrive any faster than the rate at which humans happen to live. Plenty of people alive now could live another 31 years or so just through natural maturation and aging, not because they’ve “become immortal” by waking up on January 1, 2045. A life extension goal which would make more sense would have to set a date well into the 23rd Century. If you can make it to a year like 2245 in a healthy state, then you might have figured out what you had to do to “conquer aging,” at least.
The defensible and evidence-based transhumanism I would like to see would drop a lot of the current fads and nonsense and concentrate instead on feasible, reachable goals. For example, I think F.M. Esfandiary’s description of a “Life Support Suit” back in the 1970’s has come within practicality now, especially because of advances in smart phone-based telemedicine, “bionic skins” and military projects to create Iron Man-like suits. Mainstream people will have to start to take transhumanism seriously when transhumanists can drop tangible, working technologies in front of people – CLUNK! – that they have to acknowledge as reality. Otherwise transhumanists just engage in cargo cultism and play-acting.
Mark Plus, I largely agree with you. I certainly avoid making specific date projections except as a joke or fun exercise. It is interesting to speculate on how we might go about predicting “breakthroughs” or if that is even really possible. One point to consider however, Stefano Vaj recently wrote an essay (posted here on H+) in which he warns of a sort of “weather forecast” futurism where we merely predict what has Already Happened. I support baby steps and reporting of actual demonstrative progress, but we also have to keep the big dreams alive, even if they remain in our back pockets saved for a distant and unknown future date.
this article exemplifies all of the reasons I and others have progressed to Post-transhumanist deconstruction- and a return to the basic Leary/McKenna principles- if Transhumanism isn’t interested in teleology/ eschatology/ alchemy/ entheogens then it is nothing but scientistic masturbation incapable of anticipating the true technologies that are unfolding- or understanding it’s ontology- which is why we are going to steal back the singularity meme- welcome to the Cybernetic Dreamtime- support the Praxis and Terasem-
Reality check, 2012 the event predicted by McKenna and his entire timewave theory is utter BS and nonsense. The Archaic Revival is retro nostalgia, used for designer clothing. Leary’s ideas are IMO much more interesting. Credit where credit is due so I offered a HT to both thinkers. We wouldn’t be where we are without them, but it is time to move on.
Mark Pesce argues effectively that the Timewave was correct- but that the Zero date is the epicenter of a billion second transition that began in 1996-
Mark Pesce is a friend, but that’s ridiculous. The timewave theory explains nothing and it’s predictions are wrong. But something big did happen starting a bit earlier than 1996. It was called the World Wide Web and we are still feeling the echoes of the great transition to a global connected society. Much more to come. The timewave idea is bullshit, with added wishful thinking and a dash of nonsense. Bad data analysis and some pretty serious intellectual errors lie at its heart. The fact that it keeps needing corrections shows that it is wrong much like the geocentric model of the solar system based around epicycles. But IMO this is much worse than wrong, as the ideas here actually misinform and distract us from real tools and realistic methods for predicting the future.
I heard a Robert Anton Wilson lecture the other day, which included description of McKenna’s theory. It reminded me extremely of Kurzweil.