158 points by atlasunshrugged
12 days ago
IMHO it's in a trough on the hype curve. Tech needs to improve before it'll rise again.
The promises of devices like neuralink are decades away from widespread voluntary adoption, at least. You can get small things done today, as you could 10 years ago, but they aren't ready for primetime.
Anecdotally, I got a small coated neodymium magnet implanted in a finger during my youth. It was cool as a college student, I could feel strong AC currents/PWM/etc and I never lost small metal parts like screws.
Those were small benefits though, and the risk was quite high. If the coating had breached, my immune system would have attacked the magnet. Accidentally smacking it into things was painful. I was always aware of the intrusive hardware in a mildly unsettling way. Etc.
When I entered a more nature-y phase of my life, I got it removed by a local tattoo artist who dabbled in body mods. They mentioned that the newer versions were much smaller, and would require serious medical facilities to remove.
At the end of the day, active body mods have too little going for them and too many awful failure modes. Passive ones can be fun - I've seen transdermal plastic beads put in some interesting places - but they're hardly transhumanist.
>IMHO it's in a trough on the hype curve. Tech needs to improve before it'll rise again.
You're assuming that the technology will still be attractive even as other technologies improve in parallel or as we learn more about how the use of technology effects people.
The article mentions RNA vaccines are partially transhuman, but I'm not sure I buy that. Maybe my concept is wrong, but the perception I got was always more cyborg than biological.
The magnet implants always seemed to have a very, very low benefit to me. Making interfacing with computers even easier seems to have a similarly low benefit. We are already at the point where people go on tech cleanses, your technology gives you screen time reports so you can make sure you are not using it too much, people are abandoning social networks. We are literally trying to use computers less.
> We are already at the point where people go on tech cleanses, your technology gives you screen time reports so you can make sure you are not using it too much, people are abandoning social networks. We are literally trying to use computers less.
That's just it though, those screen time reports are because people are forced to consume things through tech that forces them to be immobile and looking at a small screen next to them, and people go on tech cleanses not because of the problems of microchips and the conveniences of instant coffee from cheap appliances, but because constant bombardment of the thoughts and opinions of everyone, everywhere, all at once becomes problematic and draining very quickly, even as it's addictive.
Transhumanist doesn't have to mean jacked into the internet in new and horrible ways. The GP comment itself notes how a simple magnet exposed a new sense they did not have previously. Nothing about magnet under the skin seems to be like something someone would necessarily look to be free from in a tech cleanse. Some people would likely think it brings them closer to nature.
That's exactly it.
We're not trying to use computers less, we're trying to be used less by computers, specifically someone else's computers that they've so pervasively embedded into society through monopolistic practices that would make Rockefeller blush.
The failure here isn't technology, the failure is human greed and regulators inability to mitigate it.
> Nothing about magnet under the skin seems to be like something someone would necessarily look to be free from in a tech cleanse.
Poster literally tech cleansed of the magnet permanently because it got so annoying.
And their takeaway was that there needs to be some advances to smooth out the annoyances, not that the idea itself was flawed.
Think of glasses. Glasses are used to increase people's ability to see up to the human norm, not beyond it, but besides that difference there's very little to distinguish eyeglasses from an embedded magnet on a fundamental level. Both are about increasing your capability, but nobody is attributing people getting tired of wearing glasses as a problem with technology itself and transhumanism as opposed to a limitation of that specific technology, and it's just treated as a downside you attempt to mitigate because the positives are to well understood and accepted.
The argument against transhumanism is that conventional 'external' technology is more flexible and convenient, and glasses are clearly in the latter category.
I'm not against transhumanism as such, to an extent it's inevitable for medical reasons. I expect we'll gradually build up experience from medical implants and a minority experimenting with body modification, and eventually a consensus on useful mods will emerge. I think it's going to be a very minority thing for a very, very long time though. All of my lifetime and probably those of my kids. Technology is advancing too fast for it to make a lot of sense to surgically commit to current generation tech right now, except on an experimental or critical medical basis.
To me, that's less an argument against transhumanism than it is people drawing an arbitrary line and deciding the things they don't like can get one label while the things they do don't, so they can easily point out problems even though the line is mostly arbitrary.
Whether I get some small extra perception because of a simple small magnet or because of a complex microchip is irrelevant to the point if they provide the same new abilities and have similar levels of risk and robustness.
Similarly, whether we think getting social media embedded in your consciousness or getting a gun embedded in your arm are good ideas has little to do with the prior examples, so to me they aren't examples of problems of transhumanism as much as examples of problems with humans.
> Tech needs to improve before it'll rise again.
No, it doesn’t, and waiting for the iteration of tech-consumerism that resembles your childhood fantasies is everything that was wrong with the transhumanist movement. It attracted too many people who sat on the sidelines and did nothing to move the needle. It was a magnet for people who couldn’t cope with reality, which occasionally helped, but usually stirred chaos.
It definitely needs a rebranding. In fact, a reasonably good attempt was made as early as the 1980s.
> It attracted too many people who sat on the sidelines and did nothing to move the needle.
You'd have to be capable of pushing the boundaries of science and engineering to really push this needle. Plus
the money is in oil/adtech and AFAIK this isn't low hanging fruit that anyone can just grab.
Not sure who you are but I'm absolutely sure that very few who made contributions to the transhumanist community did so through "pushing the boundaries of science and engineering". https://web.archive.org/web/20050510004128/http://www.singin...
> Singularity activists can engage in a variety of productive roles related to advancing the Singularity Institute, roles that are just as necessary and critical as the researchers' roles. These include becoming donors, publicists, organizers, speakers, writers, graphic artists, grant writers, networkers and fundraisers.
Thiel became a major donor and co-hosted a summit not long after this call to action. The participation was extraordinary for having been during the "AI Winter", and it became a yearly event for some time. Major investments eventually started pouring into AI/ML tech.
Just curious, what 1980s attempt are you referring to?
Extropianism (talked about in the post I linked)
Thanks. I'd forgotten that was started in the 1980s -- I encountered it in the early 1990s -- and don't think I realized how connected it was to prior transhumanist ideas, or as the post you linked says, an attempt to build a movement based on transhumanism. At the time I was young so everything seemed new, and stuff prior to extropians seemed "proto-" and unrealized -- surely how extropianism must seem to someone young now who encounters whatever the current transhumanist discourse is.
> I've seen transdermal plastic beads put in some interesting places - but they're hardly transhumanist.
Transdermal metal beads, in the form of little bells, were put in "interesting places" in India in the 1500s.
I would really like to know more about this topic. Is there a forum that people who dabble in mods post to?
What did you coat the magnet in, and how big was it?
I didn't make it, but IIRC it was coated in a biocompatible polymer or wax. It was a cylinder maybe 3mm tall, 5mm diameter?
Thanks! I didn't realize there were already biocompatible implantable magnets on the market.
I used to identify as a transhumanist and believed that technology could do no harm. I was an adolescent donning rose-colored glasses, with a burning passion for science, technology, and improvement of our species.
Only after an electrical engineering degree, 10-15 years of more wisdom, and dabbling in biohacking have I realized that we really have no clue about the massive deleterious impacts that technology has on the natural world. From mental health decay to environmental destruction, the unintended side effects of technology were completely lost on me as a child.
I believe humanity needs to pump the brakes and take a critical step back to evaluate the damage we’ve caused. I hope that it isn’t too late to try to fix what we’ve destroyed.
I think I agree with the thrust of what you are saying, in that we do need to think about the negative externalities of different technologies before scaling them out as a species.
I am getting a little tripped up on your usage of 'the natural world' and 'environmental destruction' though. Aren't humans 'natural'? And if we are natural, shouldn't anything that springs from us also be 'natural'? We are subject to the 'laws of nature'. Is a beaver dam a natural thing? An ant hill? A bee hive? A bird's nest?
It's obviously nitpicking semantics and word usage, but I think people often use 'natural world' to refer to their own human preferences for how the world should look (often just as it looked as they were growing up), and by using the term 'nature', it carries a sense of absolute purity, and anything that goes against it must be wrong.
'Natural' arguments have been used throughout history, and still get frequently used today as a cudgel to dismiss any sort of social/technological change happening.
Now this is not to say that there can't be arguments against certain changes or that all change is the same, but the invocation of what's 'natural' always feels like a cheap rhetorical tactic in place of a stronger argument about why one state of the world is inferior to another state of the world.
Are you serious?
An ant hill or a beaver dam are mere reorganizations of known matter types, and could be analogized to humans building things like walls. Stone, and even some types of mortar, participate in the great cosmic dance of Gaia , just like the works of the animals cited above. They decay, they are broken down by various processes over time, they are fashioned of things found in the environment.
PFAS, by comparison, does not, cannot, and is not, respectively. It doesn't break down, and was never present in any ecosystem nor any part of the water cycle until a few decades ago -- an fraction of an eyeblink in the sort of evolutionary time it'll take for PFAS' presence to be integrated into the cosmic dance of Gaia, and until then it's just gonna cause cancer.
I can agree that invoking the naturalistic fallacy isn't good argumentative practice, but some things are decidedly unnatural. Creating novel waterproofing chemicals that don't have naturally-occurring ways to break down and then dumping them into the water supply isn't something beavers, or ants, or birds, can do. Humans have transcended the natural world. I can tell because of all the new types of things we're adding to it.
 should be read less as some pseudoreligious thing and more a handwave about the ancient, stable systems that repurpose atoms from moribund things into newer, more vital things: microbes, fungus, rot, uptake of substances by plants, etc
Not sure that's accurate. Animals aren't trying to create things that break down easily; they're not trying to do anything but survive. The argument is circular: if animals make it, it's part of Gaia else it's 'unnatural'. Animals didn't make plastics, so they're 'unnatural'. By definition I guess, not by any real difference between them and bone or termite mounds or dinosaur bones or geodes...you know, things that can last for millennia.
Hell, even the Earth itself is made of crystals and granite and lead and arsenic and on and on. What's more natural than mother earth?
I don't applaud plastics entering the environment carelessly. But not sure we have a handle on why it's bad, when we say its not natural.
>The argument is circular: if animals make it, it's part of Gaia else it's 'unnatural'. Animals didn't make plastics, so they're 'unnatural'.
Er, this is your argument, not mine. Mine is: "if animals make it, and it is unmade (or remade, or recycled, or broken down ) by something else, then this is 'natural'." Plastics nor PFAS meet that standard. Those matter types stay static. The animals called 'humans' make plenty of other stuff that can't be adapted by microbes and fungus and rot that keep things from the natural world participating.
>By definition I guess, not by any real difference between them and bone or termite mounds or dinosaur bones or geodes...you know, things that can last for millennia
But this is the real pièce de stràwman: the objects under discussion have expanded from things that animals build, to natural features that don't chemically interact with the environment. Of course fucking bones and geodes aren't the same as nonbiodegradable plastics or PFAS -- not only are they contained physically by virtue of their properties, but they are also regularly destroyed by the various systems of Earth, like UV light or multicellular life, or the same geological processes that create them, respectively.
Every example provided in the parent is, and has been, a part of the world for so long that they're not disruptive to other systems, or at least are physically contained.
>I don't applaud plastics entering the environment carelessly
Should they be introduced more thoughtfully? The point is that the system is unfamiliar with it. It can't be broken down and reused by something new.
 Plastics 'break down' into smaller plastics. I don't think that quite counts.
Granite breaks down about as fast as plastic. No, plastic is not very different from, well, almost the entirety of the planet earth. But for a thin skin of muck.
Geodes and dissolved heavy metals and salts and on and on -all entirely 'natural' and been there forever - don't chemically interact, much.
Natural poisons exist nearly everywhere. Nature is not some wonderful synchrony of cooperative organisms. Everything is doing its best to kill something else through poison, acid, lye, violence etc. That apricot pit wants to kill you with cyanide so it's pit can thrive in your decaying body.
Heck, an imbalance in ordinary creatures (think invasive species) can do untold harm.
Examples abound. It's not about kind, just concentration and rate.
It's a complex system, and the dichotomy 'natural' doesn't contribute much to the discussion. That's my thinking anyway.
You aren't reading, or possibly understanding, what I'm writing.
Granite seems fine to me, and even if it isn't, it is localized in ways plastic and PFAS aren't. Plastic is very different from almost the entirety of the planet earth. It doesn't occur naturally, and doesn't break down naturally; just like PFAS. You can obscure this fact all you like, but it's trivially true.
>Natural poisons exist nearly everywhere. Nature is not some wonderful synchrony of cooperative organisms. Everything is doing its best to kill something else through poison, acid, lye, violence etc. That apricot pit wants to kill you with cyanide so it's pit can thrive in your decaying body.
Natural poisons (wait, now you're fine with invoking "natural"?!) are broken down over time -- they're natural. That apricot pit doesn't "want" anything, unlike the humans that make plastics or PFAS, and its cyanide "pollution" is contained physically by virtue of its properties, unlike the plastics and PFAS made by humans. Plus, the pit is easily metabolized by the various systems of microbes and fungus and rot that keep things from the natural world participating in the great cycle, like cyanide and apricot pits and apricot flesh and absolutely everything related to or created by apricots ever. I repeat, "every example provided in the parent is, and has been, a part of the world for so long that they're not disruptive to other systems, or at least are physically contained".
The system is complex, yes, so let's not go polluting almost the entire environment with things that haven't existed long enough for the various naturally-occurring garbagemen to notice, let alone adapt to them. Are unnaturally occurring materials vital to modern human life? Yes! Do we absolutely need to blanket the ecosystem in them, to our cancerous detriment? No!
Your definition involves setting humanity apart from
nature and then inverting the implicit superiority in doing that. Once you’ve taken those steps you can say anything people make that isn’t made by other animals is worse because it is unnatural.
To me the essential idea is we have the scale and capacity to move global homeostasis in ways that few animals (at least since dinosaurs) have.
Plastics are not unnatural. They are produced by animals. Humans are animals. Just more dangerous than others on a global scale.
Wax moths and bacteria both have already naturally mutated and evolved to consume plastics. Evolution and life are perhaps less fragile than you think.
None of this is to say we shouldn’t behave responsibly, only to say we also shouldn’t panic every time someone creates something that kills some stuff. That too is natural, and drives evolution.
It's useful to distinguish things that are made with human influence and things that aren't, and it can be done without value judgments (one is superior or inferior). It's useful because of the disproportionate effect of synthetic things vs. natural things. No species prior to humans had the ability to obliterate all life on earth.
On the contrary, some species have already obliterated most other life on earth namely cyanobacteria during the great oxigenation event. Possibly others have done the same. They certainly did not care at all about the destruction they caused. All of this was perfectly "natural".
That of course does not mean we should follow their example. It just means that "natural" is not a useful term.
This is still a far cry from a global nuclear winter or a deliberately redirected asteroid, or any other number of things that only humans are capable of.
The Great Oxigenation Event is a terraforming level event. We are not yet capable of such a large scale manipulation. Nuclear winter is at most comparable to a supervolcano or an asteroid impact.
Also, if you consider asteroids to be natural and their orbits to be natural then "nature" is already plenty capable of playing cosmic billiards. Or do you want to restrict nature to just biology?
Is life natural?
insufficient data for meaningful answer
Exactly as parent stated, there already are organisms evolving to consume plastic. The same is probable to happen for PFAS. It has carbon therefore it contains useful energy that some creature will eventually evolve to digest and outcompete other organisms.
That of course is to the detriment of the very properties we desire in these materials. Just as flooding the environment with antibiotics made them less effective, so will flooding the world with plastic will make plastic lose it's advantages. Just more slowly. This is another reason to not contaminate the environment with our externalities.
Everything you’re saying is anthropocentric. Give it 1, 10, or 100 million years and the natural order you idolize will have upended itself a thousand times over. All the familiar species will be extinct except for a few. The surface of the earth will have been buried or ground to dust under glaciers. Rivers, lakes and coastlines will warp and vanish and new ones will be created. The changes we have made will be wiped away but even if they remained they would pale in comparison to the violence that nature will have wrought on itself. Hopefully we will be among the stars then having outgrown this tiny pebble.
>Everything you’re saying is anthropocentric
I mean, sure. Do you have any instrumental goals that aren't anthropocentric? I'm serious. Do you want anything, anything, that isn't explicable by your embodiment as a human on the planet on which you evolved? I can barely think of anything at all that fits that criteria, let alone something in that category that I personally might want.
Having evolved under the conditions that have largely prevailed for 100,000 years or more, I'm anxious to not rock the Great Boat too sharply. The rate of change is ultimately unstoppable, but we don't have to introduce disruption into otherwise stable systems, and thereby increase it. Why? Because I, too, if I manage to think that far ahead, agree that humanity should ought to get out among the stars because nature's inexorable march will change those conditions no matter what we do. Consider, however, the nature of the blood system in vertebrates: it evolved in the way that it did to emulate the properties of the ocean that once surrounded our simplistic, barely-multicellular ancestors. Diffusing foodstuff in and waste out is a passive existence; putting those services under the control of an internal ocean that the organism can influence means much more complex options. Like leaving the ocean entirely, and becoming something new.
The environment around us is intertwined with our health and well-being, in ways that we don't yet understand. If the natural environment, the "ocean", changes under our feet too quickly, we won't be able to package enough of it up to take with us to the stars. Put another way, are there any external dependencies for, say, vaginal pH? How about nutritive crops? Gut flora? How much greenery should a human see to remain psychologically healthy? What does the greenery require? We're in the very early stages of "evolving a blood system" so we can leave; we need to ensure the environment can sustain us until we do.
You keep saying fuzzy things like "made by humans", and "easily metabolized by other microbes", and "great cycle". I'd suggest pinning down a more formal definition of natural. Here's one (well, many): https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/natural.
By definition 4
> 4: having an essential relation with someone or something
your rhetorical question and answer:
> Are unnaturally occurring materials vital to modern human life? Yes!
pretty much prove that plastic is natural, by definition 4, of course.
The closest definition of the 15 to the way you are using the word is 8
> 8: occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature
But that's more related to a process by which something occurs. And the key word there is ordinary. The closest I think we have to your argued use of natural would be saying something like the process of extraordinarily changing the environment in a way that disrupts existing ordinary processes, is unnatural. The example used for this definition is death, so something like murdering somebody with a gun might be colloquially closest to this definition, for the death was unnatural.
But regardless, semantically we run up against a pretty unarguable definition when looking at the noun nature:
> 1: the external world in its entirety
By definition whatever the world includes is part of nature.
It's pretty clear you can't exclude humans from nature and then argue anything they do is not natural.
Getting off of semantics, the reason this is even an argument at all is because nature in a transhumanist world might look very different than nature in our predominately "organic", or human, world. And an argument in the piece we're discussing is that transhumanism isn't interesting anymore because we're living it. Then, if we're living it, it's our nature. We introduced plastics, who's to say microbes or fungi or nanobots won't develop to decompose plastic too? Certainly that exhibits the characteristics you describe as participating in the great cosmic dance of Gaia, no? Even so, it still boils down to a time scale thing. If we made obsidian in a lab, would it be unnatural just because it didn't come from a volcano? Yes, and no!
Finally, a reassuring reminder that HN is, in fact, quite natural:
> 15: of an off-white or beige color
> Mine is: "if animals make it, and it is unmade (or remade, or recycled, or broken down ) by something else, then this is 'natural'."
Does this mean that at some point in time lignin was artificial by your definition, as it couldn't be broken down by anything for a few million years as far as we can tell?
PFAS, like nearly everything, has a half-life. As a category so large the half-lives can range from days to thousands of years in a vacuum, but even those with thousand year half-lives can be broken down with catalysis in seconds.
It is new tech on the scale of humanity and we will figure it out.
And fortunately, its NOT in a vacuum. It's being ground down by ordinary weather etc.
> Creating novel waterproofing chemicals that don't have naturally-occurring ways to break down and then dumping them into the water supply isn't something beavers, or ants, or birds, can do.
Genes encode proteins, proteins are chemicals, so evolution creates new proteins, and organisms often dump them to environment. The difference is that other organisms produce new chemicals through genetic evolution and not memetic evolution, like humans. Some of these chemicals are initially non-breakable, for example after lignin was introduced, it took millions of years to evolve organisms able to break it.
I invite you to learn more about termites, their physical mounds and their rearing of young.
Specifically, how a co-evolved gut parasite allows termites to do the things they do and requires a fecal transplant, at birth, for every new termite.
In the continuum between beaver dams and human highways this kind of physical and biological organization should figure prominently… and I hope you find it interesting.
You're just playing with semantics. If everything humans do is natural than everything is natural: computers, plastics, concrete, etc. The purpose of using the word natural is to distinguish from what is unnatural, and without grabbing a dictionary, for me that generally means something that does not "naturally" occur (i.e. without human intervention specifically) in the natural world.
Chemical engineers create unnatural things, things that don't exist in the natural world.
That's the whole point. Word "natural" is not good in any serious argument because it simply doesn't have well-recognized unambiguous semantics most people can agree on. Ask a bunch of folks if some things are natural and while they'll most likely agree on the basics (wild forest flower is most likely would be called "natural", while a mobile phone is most likely not) the opinions will start to diverge on less obvious stuff (e.g. penicillin).
It's like a concept of "god" - everyone has their own idea what it might mean. (full disclosure: I'm ignostic).
With such words it's best to either start with a definition, or pick some different, less ambiguous term.
I disagree. It's easy to choose this as a position if you intend to argue disingenuously, and therefore you always ensure that your argument positions are logically sound, and complex and abstract enough so as to exclude most others from being able to argue back. On the other hand, if you are steel manning the other person's argument, instead of playing a complex word definition game that invalidates what they've said on account that they haven't explicitly defined for you all of the axioms of their position, (and if they did you can attack their argument with a different set of nit picking fallacies such as "too long didn't read"), you would probably find their argument compelling, or at the very least you would be forced to reveal the true reason you disagree with them. It's much easier to attack somebody else's argument for using the wrong language than it is to present your own position.
I guess when I say “natural,” what I truly mean is “that which is not made by man.” Any substance which is found in the natural environment and mechanically altered does not count in my definition of man-made; this is essentially the same notion of natural that revolvingocelot points out.
I think the crusade against “natural bias” is unfounded. Of course there are plenty of natural things that are not good for us—such as viruses— but the painful and uncomfortable truth about natural maladies like viruses is that they represent nature working as intended (protecting us from the ills of overpopulation, for example).
The bottom line is that changing everything we dislike about nature can lead to our demise. She’s already thought a million steps ahead of whatever we hope to accomplish.
You are still anthropomorphousising nature. Nature does not intend to protect us from anything, much less from overpopulation. Nature does not intend anything as a whole. Each living creature simply intends to survive and multiply. Not changing anything about nature will also lead to our demise. Most non-human organisms (maybe all other than domesticated dogs and lifestock) are either ambivalent or opportunistically trying to kill us. Because we are made of carbon and therefore contain useful energy.
Anthropomorphousising I believe is the greatest and most wide spread cognitive limitation of humanity.
Absolutely. Anthropomorphizing is just a metaphorical way to simplify the highly complex system that is formally known as natural selection. It also alludes to the notion of Earth as one big organism, popularly known as the Gaia hypothesis.
I don’t think there’s any harm in this. Ships that humans build are also addressed as feminine. It’s just a thing that we do.
I would argue there is great cognitive harm in anthropomorphizing. And it very much does not simplify anything, quite the opposite.
I do believe the notion of metaorganisms is useful. A human can be considered an emerging metaorganism formed from millions of cells of various origin including human, bacteria, viruses, giruses, parasites, etc.
We are also possibly part of larger metaorganisms, probably in the form of cities. And the entire planet can be considered a metaorganism. Terraforming another planet can be interpreted as a planet having offspring.
Arguing for the existence of metaorganisms is not the same as arguing that the mataorganism is aware and influences its own internal processes affecting its lower level member organisms. You (your conscious self) do not tell your kidney what to do.
Natural selection is very much not self aware and it is not trying to achieve an end goal, much less so a goal with regards to humanity. Nature has not "thought" neither ahead nor behind nor to the side of us.
"The Gaia hypothesis proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet."
Do not confuse the Gaia hypothesis with a Gaia god. By anthropomorphizing that is what you do. Gaia does not answer your prayers, nor hear them, nor care for them.
I consider, anthropomorphizing to be the root mechanism at the formation of all religions. Humans were exposed to uncontrollable phenomena. In their attempt to influence them they anthropomorphizied the phenomena. As a result they could attemp to bargain with it, plead with it, threaten it, beg it, blame it, thank it, etc. . We have just repurposed the neural pathways used to communicate with other humans in order to communicate with the environment. Probably for the same reason a nerural net will missrecognise a leopard print sofa as a leopard. The unknown, unpredictability, is more terrifying than anything else, and definitely more terrifying than being wrong. Anthropomorphizing is also one of the things that will stand in our way towards developing AI. We will continue to redefine intelligence in order to maintain human exceptionality.
I believe anthropomorphizing is fundamentally wrong.
A lot of, probably even majority of viruses are a good thing - they add horizontal gene transfer to improve the evolution and survival chances of species, sometimes even multiple ones at once, also making our own human virome.
I would define "natural" as meaning something that has evolved on this planet, and through that process has reached a sustainable, though arbitrarily complex balance in the ecosystem.
Speaking of pumping the breaks, I really enjoyed the recent documentary, The Year Earth Changed, which explores how the lockdowns from COVID had a significant positive impact on the natural world. The message is optimistic—essentially, it is still possible to make an impact if we're able to change our behavior.
One of the more moving stories is the that Himalayas were visible for the first time 30 years in Jalandhar, which were previously hidden due to air pollution. Infant mortality rates amongst a number of species improved substantially as well (whales, penguins, dolphins, and cheetahs are among a few the documentary covered).
Transhumanism , like all trans- movements is not about maintaining the "natural" order of things, whatever that is. Nature is not better in absolute
> I believe humanity needs to pump the breaks and take a critical step back to evaluate the damage we’ve caused.
I agree, but I don't think this will happen as long as the money continues to be made. And as long as those with the money keep employing psychologists to essentially hack their customers into compliance, there won't be any resistance from that side, either.
After 3 years of tai chi I learned that most of us are pretty oblivious to the limits of the human body. And that as someone who was previously an endurance athlete.
Sports medicine is optimizing the effort/return of such pursuits, but we also have islands of information that could be normalized as well, in particular looking for missed opportunities for complementary interactions. If you took Wim Hoff and made him a master of yoga and tai chi, would he be even more 'alien' to the rest of us? Maybe we need to set the minimum bar higher?
Now I'm curious about the lessons you learned from tai chi!
Sure why not.
The biggest are that some things cannot really be explained with words. They can be highlighted, they can be pitched, but at the end of the day you need to feel someone doing it before you understand. Either yourself or a model.
Time and again I was reminded of the first line of the Tao Te Ching (many, but not all tai chi people pay lip service to Taoism):
> The Tao that can be written is not the eternal Tao.
If you pull on that thread enough you learn that intellectualizing everything doesn't work, and you start to wonder what else in your life you've been intellectualizing that maybe you shouldn't be, and what you're doing and how you're feeling about the things that don't respond well to it. We in tech are particularly bad at this. The act of participating in HN is pretty heavily tilted toward it, and in my very limited experience looking at cybernetics and transhumanism through that filter, I find a whole lot of questions I want to ask the person daydreaming about this altered state they are looking for. Are you trying to become more than human because it's awesome, or less than human because it hurts?
In a more pedestrian bent, there are a lot of positions the human body thinks it can't maintain but it actually can, and for much longer than you would have imagined (though things always look easy until you try them, which takes away some of the marvel. Big deal, I could stand like that for a minute. No, no you can't.) I have to be careful on rocky terrain or near boats to turn around and say, "Kids, don't try what I just did, you will hurt yourself. Take my hand, and I won't ask you twice." Gaps and slippery surfaces are made deceptively mundane looking by some of my betters. I know a couple of people who can do the form in socks. Including horse stance.
Edit #? I got into it for joint and back pain. I never achieved complete relief from the back pain, but I can do some things with my muscles that stretch and reset things without 'doing a stretch'. It's half parlor trick, but very useful in situations like crowds or lines, or where busting out into a stretch is a faux pas, like in the middle of someone else's argument, or story.
I wonder if Ted Kaczynski will be hailed as a great philosopher in the future and humans 100 years from now will condemn our time for our treatment of him while justifying his actions as that of a desperate man on the right side of history. It's ironic writing this on a website.
From the manifesto:
> But it is obvious that modern [REDACTED] philoso- phers are not simply cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack these concepts because of their own psycho- logical needs. For one thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satis- fies the drive for power. More importantly, the [REDACTED] hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior).
Without looking, what should [REDACTED] be replaced by?
I always find this kind of argument ironic because one, it's obviously intensely psychological itself, as are most philosophical attitudes (which does little to disqualify them) and secondly if you just were to take postmodern philosophy as a predictive science I don't think any discipline has been more prescient in describing our current condition.
For certain things it’s really good. “Simulation and Simulacra” is a really good one and I think describes the world today well - and part of our frustration with it. Nothing is real anymore and nothing can be.
It’s why McMansions exist. The simulate the ornate, large home of the mid/late 19th century.
Bacon flavored toothpaste simulates the idea of bacon, etc. we are just drenched in irony.
I think where post modernism goes wrong though is it’s conclusions. Nothing matters, nothing is real, decay is all that can happen.
It’s just not true.
>>they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior)
You think that this describes post-modernism? I thought post-modernism was all about, well, relativism.
Upon looking it up, I'm amazed to discover that Kaczynski wrote "leftists", because the excerpted paragraph sure as hell describes the modern conservative. Raging against science and rationality and truth to serve an emotional drive to power? Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin...
I think perhaps this is, uh, a difference in worldview.
I was going to say leftists of more federally liberals but settled on post modernism since it’s taken up by those groups.
Post modernists say there is no truth and that everything comes down to power structures and control. That everything is made up anyways so feel free to throw away all grand narratives and indulge in whatever decadence you want. Because truth doesn’t exist and is a function of power structures.
I think modern liberals are against science and rationality just as much as conservatives. They’re just think they aren’t. Liberals tend to be smart and conservatives tend to be wise.
Exactly, just like when conservatives espouse "family values" and get busted for infidelity, or when they espouse anti-gay views and then solicit sex from police officers, or when they espouse free market values and then solicit money from the government to prop up some privatized service.
That's the least throw-away-all-grand-narratives-and-indulge-in-whatever-decadence-you-want behaviour I've ever seen, yessir. Reminds me of foot-soldier culture warriors posting pictures of depression-era breadlines and suggesting that that's where sOcIaLiSm is taking us. Wisdom indeed. At least liberals seem occasionally active in trying to keep the status quo from degenerating, rather than profit from its acceleration.
I've known many people who lean conservative to one extent or another.
I think many of them have demonstrated a good deal of wisdom, often by not trusting too much in the conclusions of their all-too-fallible intellects.
I can't say that any of those conservatives I've admired have been politicians or megachurch pastors, which given your descriptions seems to be who you're looking at as "conservatives".
I don't think post-modernism is actually popular in any significant population - it's only popular among some small segment of academia, one that has some influence on literature.
But the vast majority of people, either on the left or right, and even of academics in general, find it pretentious and fallacious. The vast majority of people are decidedly not relativists and instead believe in certain absolutes - truth, right and wrong, etc.
Identity politics, which is about as mainstream as you can get is based entirely from post modern principals.
Anything “normal” is only thought of that way due to the discourses of established power (white, heterosexual men and their paternal nuclear family structures) and not only can be replaced (everything is equally arbitrary) but *should* be dismantled and replaced because it’s oppressive.
That’s literally our society today and it’s 100% postmodern.
Well, no. You're torturing definitions to fit established right-wing talking points. You affirm the consequent by suggesting that "white, heterosexual men and their paternal nuclear family structures" represent "normal"; you state that They believe "everything is equally arbitrary", but a breath later you suggest that post-modernism makes a value judgement toward an instrumental end, and results in a "*should*". How can both of those concepts be correct?
I think "post-modern", as used here, is a code word for something else that I don't understand. I think one of us must be genuinely misunderstanding something. As your definition seems to rely on the activity of "post modern principals", I think that the next step in the journey of understanding might be returning to school.
You can't be in favor of relativism without thinking that relativism is true and it's opposite is false, or can you?
If you trully are in favour of relativism then you believe that relativism itself is relative.
There are viewpoints from which something is absolute, other viewpoints from which the same thing is a discrete spectrum with a number of options, and other viewpoints from which it is a continuous spectrum.
Most are tools for thought and they are merely the maps not the territory.
For those that follow that want to know the answer: leftish.
No. He is only famous because of the callous methods he used to get his paper published.
Within the confines of this thought experiment: I wonder sometimes if anybody would have read it at all had he not committed these crimes. Obviously the gravity of his crimes overshadowed any bit of sense in what he wrote, and effectively nullifies all ability in most people to even bring reason to the words as they read them.
That being said, there is undoubted truth in some of what he said regarding the perils of modern technology and the sociological effects on society. In the beginning it was great. These inventions unified everyone and made knowledge available, but then we got so far ahead of ourselves, that knowledge is now buried upon layer and layer of neon colored saccharine trash.
Many people have wrote what Ted wrote in one form or another, you don't know their names.
Many people also have trouble separating ideas from individuals. Ideas are imagination. They aren’t real until they are actualized. They can be beautiful or they can be toxic.
Ideas are one thing, but the transmission of them is another. The moment an idea is uttered is the moment that its meaning is jeopardized. Interpretation is the demise of the idea.
People have ruthlessly killed each other for millennia because they believe in the same idea but could not agree on the same word to describe it. A tragedy, not one that the historians would tell you.
> Ideas are imagination. They aren’t real until they are actualized.
> Ideas are one thing, but the transmission of them is another. The moment an idea is uttered is the moment that its meaning is jeopardized. Interpretation is the demise of the idea.
Pleas explain why this is not incoherent.
This is Platonic philosophy. The dichotomy between the world of ideas where ideals and perfection is the default and the material world where everything is a corrupted version of an idea.
Rewilding is an extreme answer, but an answer nonetheless. Could humanity ever have the discipline to only allow “some technology?” Maybe, but the extreme answer will always be there waiting for us.
That his ideas were undermined by his actions is just as sad as the actions themselves. They weren’t terrible ideas. As you’ve pointed out, we might be on the path to a dystopian future where we’ll look back and say, “Damn, Ted was right.”
>Rewilding is an extreme answer, but an answer nonetheless.
Right up until the point some easily solvable by science calamity occurs and people re-invent science for that reason.
I mean at this point we're treading off into "The Foundation" and setting up techno-priests to regulate learning and technology.
What do you mean the future ? I hail my Ted as a hero on the right side of history now.
What's your threshold? How many innocent people does he have to kill and/or maim before you no longer are willing to consider him a hero?
And yes, they were innocent. The one I met personally was a tech at the store where I bought my first computer. (And if you consider that enough to make him "not innocent", well, you're using a computer to read and comment here, so...)
To me, he is condemned by his methods. If you're willing to deliberately, actively, persistently attempt to blow up innocent people, I can't trust your judgment on how people should interact with each other to make society better.
As indicated by your comment, you probably live/born in the US. So you probably have as a hero at least one of those 3 people : [George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt\Harry Truman].
Every one of those people killed far more than Ted ever ever dreamed of or imagined.
One of them fought personally in wars of colonization and was responsible for the death of countless original inhabitants of the land his country stole, before leading the fighting in a war that, besides killing a hundred thousand person (in an era before humanity hit its first billion, 0.01% of the all humans dead in a single war), set in motion the ignition system for one of the bloodiest and most brutal revolution the world had seen at the time.
The second one ignited the first industrial war in history, and brought a wave of destruction and death upon his own country so terrible its effects was felt, is felt, a century later and beyond.
The third pair, among their many achievements, had developed a weapon of indescribable power, and unleashed it on a bunch of civilians to own a geopolitical enemy. That weapon remains a permanent guillotine over the head of civilization, patiently waiting for an executioner who will release it.
If you hold any one of those people as a heros, no, if you hold any one of those people as anything less than the devil himself personified, then you already understand the fundamentals of what Ted had in mind when he did what he did, you merely disagree with his premises.
Ted killed a measly sum of 3 people (according to my rusty memory of the wiki article I'm too lazy to re-read), this is laughable by the standards of a hero. Look at your own superhero movies, look at the sheer amount of destruction and mayhem that the hero releases on his own city to rid it of bad guys. How can the culture that produces these movies, that idolizes Washington and Lincoln and Truman, that is responsible for Korea and Vietnam and Iraq, how can it not forgive a man for an honest-but-misguided effort to steer humanity away from the slavery it inflicted upon itself ?
I'm not saying those 3 people or the 20-or-so he injured are not important and significant moral costs, I'm just amazed by the standards you impose on Ted, standards that you reserve only for Ted.
You already accept far far more than what Ted did, you already accept hundreds of methods that put his methods to childish innocent shame, you just accept them in contexts that you are told\brainwashed are worthy.
>If you're willing to deliberately, actively, persistently attempt to blow up innocent people
The good\bad thing about civilization is that its a distributed system, a massive distributed system based on tyranny, slavery and suffering. You can't disable a distributed system without damaging at least some of the nodes. Your statement applies perfectly to every single war hero americans (and every people on the planet with their own war heros) idol, go ahead, see how many of your heros blew up to shreds innocent people and killed and maimed. Count the bodies honestly and fairly.
Humans kill 70 billion animal a year, every day a human spends not killing or blowing up humans is a sin, a day lived by an immoral coward who doesn't deserve to live. That includes me and you. There is no species on earth that kills its own number 7x+ times each year. Every single innocent soul of those animals slaughtered and cannibalized is blood all over your hands, your body, your mind, your conscience. You live in blood, you thrive on it, you build your life and that of your loved ones on suffering that makes Hitler a Saint and Stalin a harmless Grandpa.
Ted is the best and most moral of us. May he rest in peace and love.
> every day a human spends not killing or blowing up humans is a sin, a day lived by an immoral coward who doesn't deserve to live.
First: By your own standard, you don't deserve to live. I'm not telling you to kill yourself; I'm telling you your standard is hopelessly twisted.
Second: You condemn Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Truman, because they killed people. And then you come out with the above sentence. You're a bit self-inconsistent here.
And even by the above so-called standard, Kaczynski didn't deserve to live, because he didn't kill nearly enough people.
> There is no species on earth that kills its own number 7x+ times each year.
Eagles. Cats. Whales. Seals. Snakes. They all do this.
I think most of the rest of your post is also badly flawed, but I don't have the time or the patience to write a rebuttal to the rest of it.
>By your own standard, you don't deserve to live.
Correct. This is something I say myself in the comment, if you bothered to read carefully.
>You condemn Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Truman, because they killed people. And then you come out with the above sentence. You're a bit self-inconsistent here.
False. I don't condemn any of those people (not because they killed anyway), I point out your own hypocrisy, and that of most people, when they worship those mass killers, and oppose Ted because he killed 3 people.
>Kaczynski didn't deserve to live, because he didn't kill nearly enough people.
Because he was stopped short, and because he, like many of us, had delusions of convincing people peacefully.
>Eagles. Cats. Whales. Seals. Snakes. They all do this.
They kill their own number 7 times per year ? I call bullshit. And if it's true, it doesn't change anything.
> I point out your own hypocrisy, and that of most people, when they worship those mass killers
You're sure free to tell me what I think. You should stop, because you're not very good at it.
> They kill their own number 7 times per year ? I call bullshit.
You don't think a cat kills 7 birds and/or rodents a year? They've put cameras on cats' collars. They're far more deadly than just 7 kills a year. You don't think a seal eats 7 fish a year? I don't have research from seal cameras, but I'd be astonished if they ate that little. And most of all, you don't think a whale eats 7 plankton a year? Or do plankton not count?
> And if it's true, it doesn't change anything.
It destroys your statement that "There is no species on earth that kills its own number 7x+ times each year." And it destroys the logic that depends on it. So, you think killing animals is immoral, and you want to kill all the humans (except perhaps the Jains) because they kill animals. So, what are you going to do? Kill all the eagles because they eat fish and rabbits? Kill all the seals because they eat fish? Kill all the Venus Flytraps because they eat flies? Kill all the whales because they eat plankton? I don't see any possible way for you to have a consistent position here.
I'm done with this conversation. I leave you the last word, if you want it.
>You're sure free to tell me what I think
You mean you don't view any of those 3 people I mentioned as heros? Ok, This still doesn't change anything, unless you're radically anti war in a way very few people are, there is someone you idol who killed far far more than Ted can ever dream of.
>You don't think a cat kills 7 birds and/or rodents a year
I concede this point, see my reply to your sister comment for why its just a bad phrasing of what I meant to say. I give an alternative phrasing there that better makes my point about why humans are uniquely evil.
>It destroys your statement that ...
But doesn't make a difference beyond that.
>I don't see any possible way for you to have a consistent position here
Here is a very consistent position for you : I want to destroy all sentient life or remove sentience from it, whichever is easier\faster. Failing the ideal goal of doing that to all life, a lesser goal is to do it to all humans, because :
(1) they are my own species, their evil and immorality is more my responsibility than the evil or immorality of other species.
(2) they have the tools and awareness to be not evil and moral, unlike most animals, and yet choose evil and immorality.
(3) their number and power are unparalleled and far beyond anything on earth now, so their evil and immorality is a huge proportion of all evil and immorality.
And so another suicidal terrorist sect will be born.
I am flabbergasted that you lack the selfawareness to realise you are part of the very evil you decry.
Not in the suicidal way, thinking that you need to be destroyed allong with all others, but in the way that instead of choosing to oppose evil, you choose evil and then claim that evil is inevitable, and then complain noone is opposing evil.
I confess I also sometimes lose faith in humanity and my own powerlessness to change things at a sistematic level. And in those times I basically think that "Thanos was right" but if I were ever given that kind of unlimited power i would probably rather use it to make the problems be nonissues rather than erase sentience. Destruction often feels easier to achieve, yet once one has the power to achieve destructive effects at a certain scale, nondestructive effects at the same scale are equally achievable.
You are at the very small scale of murder (individual action) and proselitising murder (convincing others). At that same scale you can attempt any other individual action and attempt to convince others of anything else.
I think you have some good philosophical points but people are too insulted by your extreme deviance from their own cultural beliefs.
However, I suggest there's a good reason we don't see Ted as a hero but do some political leaders who killed more innocents. It's that almost nobody has the wherewithal to do national-leader level killings but everybody can do what Ted K did so there's much more risk encouraging it.
You make an interesting current-time relevant point about anti-war. Look how many people say they're opposed to war in Ukraine and at the same time say they stand by Ukraine - oblivious to the fact that they're supporting one of the parties conducting the war! Turns out they're not anti-war as soon as it comes to using it to maintain the political power of their favored groups.
You think an eagle can live for a whole year while eating less than 7 other animals? If not, then there's a simple calculation: if each eagle in the world survives for at least 1 year, and each eagle needs to kill 7+ other animals to live for that 1 year, then all the world's eagles combined must kill 7+x their numbers every year.
Not to mention that a blue whale gobbles up hundreds of millions of other organisms every time it feeds.
It was a mistake to phrase this in relative terms. Here's another, better, formulation : while non-human animals kill n times their number per year, their number isn't 8 billion. So the total damage done is far far less than humans, enough to deserve a qualitatively different view.
And while non-human carnivorous animals kill their prey purely by hunting, which is 'fair' and limited in a sense, humans kill animals by cowardly and genocidely herding them and breeding them to be docile. This scales far more horribly : a predator can't kill a certain percentage of its prey before it becomes hard to find a prey, reversing the trend, while humans can simply breed more prey and use horrible industrial farming techniques to kill far more than any predator species, with 0 risk or consequences.
And while obligatory carnivores like eagles or whales literally can't survive without killing their prey, humans are equal parts carnivores and herbivores, we can survive equally well on plant diet and non-meat animal produce. We choose to kill for no reason but pleasure.
Cats are the most active hunters for pleasure doing so far more often than humans.
I am not even entirely sure that herding is uniquely human.
There is a great book (a tiny novella) called Psalm for the Wild Built that explores these ideas very beautifully. Highly recommend it.
This looks like my cup of tea. Thanks for the recommendation!
what i found peculiar of all these identity movements is how much corporate fingerprints is behind them.
a holistic, humane, and spiritual approach to elevating our collective awareness is written off as voodoo from "others" yet the rich, affluent in the West are increasingly gravitating towards it while the rest attack each other.
human advancement need not be digitally/pharmaceutically driven but good luck telling this to giants.
Corporatism is taking what people want (whether it's a shiny phone, or oneness, or meditative creds) and then selling that.
Optimistically you would say they are selling expertise. You can try to figure out meditation on your own - but there's a lot of cranks and nonsense and some stuff that works. Or you can give headspace $20/mo and they will give you a good experience.
Of course no mass produced experience can ever meet the true need. You can't mass market meditation - and we know this! Ask the Buddhists!
> I believe humanity needs to pump the brakes and take a critical step back to evaluate the damage we’ve caused. I hope that it isn’t too late to try to fix what we’ve destroyed.
What are you talking about ? You mention your engineering degree and experience to give you some authority but then you ruin this by saying what a 5yrs old kid could have said (sorry if it's harsh).
Humanity won't "pump the brakes" because it never did it & never will. No one wants to go live back in caves. Do you really imagine 1000 yrs from now technology staying at its current level? Would it be a nice thing ? No. Not for me.
I don't see mankind as beavers : we can and should aim for the highest achievements and progress. If in the way damages are made, they will be repaired later on. That's my view.
Of course, during this journey, the less damage made the better. But this kind of Luddite mentality is only seen in privileged western societies.
There are different ways to “pump the brakes”.
The Jewish sabbath comes to mind.
How beneficial, and at what cost, would it be to block air travel or discretionary car trips, say, once monthly ?
You must have missed out on the 2014 Technoprogressive declaration, which was co-signed by a number of prominent transhumanists (including the author of the OP).
> Emerging technologies could make things dramatically better or worse. Unfortunately too few people yet understand the dimensions of both the threats and rewards that humanity faces. It is time for technoprogressives, transhumanists and futurists to step up our political engagement and attempt to influence the course of events.
> I hope that it isn’t too late to try to fix what we’ve destroyed.
It will be like pumping the brakes and critically thinking, while staying in a landslide (caused by you, but blame assignment will not do much at the moment). Climate change will not wait. Extinct species will not pop up back into existence. Asteroids on impact course (if any) will not stop moving for that matter. We need to run faster than ever to have a chance to fix at least some things.
With regards to asteroids, the question is when, not if.
The probability that none of the known or unknown space objects will ever collide with Earth until the sun exhausts it's fuel is incredibly slim.
Of course, an asteroid collision is perfectly natural.
Transhumanism was cool before we realized it was going to be cheap shoddy products that overheat under your skin and required Facebook accounts.
There's a reason why literally every fiction work on transhumanism is a dystopia, even those were transhumanism is just a generic stand-in for technological advancement.
That is absolutely not true – Iain M. Banks' Culture novels are probably some of the most well-known works of fiction with themes of transhumanism, and would hardly be called dystopian.
In the books the culture is frequently called dystopian by people outside of it. Usually to some extent out of ignorance but not completely and not always.
Within the culture itself in the books, there is an awareness of the dystopian potential of the culture's powers, and tension about what applications are acceptable. The political and cultural shape of the culture itself sort of makes a silhouette around the dystopia it is trying not to be, or could become.
It's a positive transhumanist take for sure, but it directly confronts how necessarily tangled up that is with much worse worlds, and should get credit for it.
The existence of an average citizen of the Culture always seemed terrifyingly vacuous and stagnant. 99.999% of the trillions of individuals that exist are not talented or interesting enough to produce any artistic works or scientific research (particularly compared with the vastly superior intellects of the Minds) of value so they simply amuse themselves any way they can, under the gentle care and supervision of the Minds, until their body stops working. I am reminded in particular of the ship's crew who gave themselves colds simply because they wanted to experience being ill and the Minds' "Infinite Fun Space".
It is a very comfortable dystopia to be sure and possibly even the best outcome any sapient species could ever hope for but there is something very bleak about it.
In any possible future, y% of the x number of individuals that exist are not talented or interesting enough to produce any artistic works or scientific research.
> 99.999% of the trillions of individuals that exist are not talented or interesting enough to produce any artistic works or scientific research
This sadly sounds like the modern world.
No, it sounds like life in general.
99.999% of the humans in history were not talented or interesting enough to produce any artistic works or scientific research.
99.9999...% of the organisms that exist or ever existed are not special enough to produce any notable heritage. Most have not even produced a fossil. And even those who have will eventually be erased as the tectonic plate undergoes subduction.
There's a reason why Batman is fighting costumed supervillains in literally every fiction work on him, but it isn't because costumed supervillains are a real thing, or because Batman would really be fighting them if he existed.
Isn't that just because it wouldn't be interesting to write about a utapian transhuman society? I really wouldn't put much stock into what a few story writers came up with.
The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect was very interesting to read at least.
What's the reason? I guess because it's easier to write?
Is the reason fear of the unknown?
I mean that is a common trope, but why not fear of the known also.
"Rich Capitalist optimizes future for themselves leaving the poor destitute and screwed"
To become transhuman or posthuman, you'd first have to understand what it is to be human, and we're not anywhere near that. Some of the enthusiasm about the hopes for such a transition were raised by this:
> "The Human Genome Project finally released a complete human genome sequence in 2003, in a project that took 13 years to complete."
The most remarkable thing about that accomplishment was how little it resulted in. Almost all of the hopes about medical breakthroughs and finally gaining a complete understanding of human biology have not been realized. There are many reasons for this - for example, the genome edits itself as it develops in different cell types, so the genome of your nerve cells is not the genome of your immune cells, heart cells, liver cells etc. Communication between all these cell types is incredibly important and that's hard to get from the genomic sequence. It turns out the 3D structure of the genome is as important as the 3D structure of proteins is, as it is an active dynamic entity in all cell types. There are probably dozens of other reasons on top of those.
As far as the notion of uploading one's consciousness into an artificial substrate while retaining one's sense of self, that seems highly implausible when we don't really understand the basic physical mechanism of consciousness, other than a vague idea that the brain is the most important component (even though nerves saturate the entire body).
Hence the whole subject remains in the science fiction arena and will stay there for a good long while, perhaps a century or more.
> To become transhuman or posthuman, you'd first have to understand what it is to be human
I'm post-adolescent (at least biologically, please don't bring up all of my emotional immaturity), and I still don't (and definitely didn't then) understand what it is to be adolescent.
I live in a post-feudal society, and while I think we understand a few things about what it means to be feudal, I wouldn't bet on us having a full and complete understanding.
There's a plant on my balcony that's post-living, and as far as I know it never understood anything at all, much less understood what it was to be living.
Why is transhuman-ness or posthuman-ness a special exception to the general rule that surpassing (or at least passing) something does not in fact require understanding it?
I am interpreting the parent as saying before we can say something is post-human, we have to define (understand) what "human" is. If we cannot agree on what it is to be human, how can anyone be post-human? I.e. you can't define a "noun with modifier" until you define the noun.
You can differentiate a human from a dolphin ?
Then you know all that is to be known about what an human is.
You don't need to understand "dolphin-ness" to know that by enabling a dolphin to talk or fly you created a post-dolphin.
Post/Transhumanism is not just about physical changes. Those changes , of course, will create/lead to philosophical/metaphysical questions, but no one understands transhumanism as a "branch of philosophy that questions itself about ...."
The "know it when you see it" kind of argument is cognitively vacuous. You are simply creating word salad using such an argument.
A dolphin you enabled to talk is in no meaningfull way a post-dolphin, it is still a dolphin.
The post- prefix presuposes a chronological posteriori point of view, and you can not confirm the veracity of that point of view until you reach it.
In other words you can not call something posthuman until reaching posthumanity and drawing a line, or transhuman until you transcend humanity and can draw the line. The post-adolescent and post-feudalism examples work because they are chronologically in the past and we are arbitrarily drawing a line. Someone in the future might draw the line elsewhere.
You didn’t have to create a new technology that enabled you to transition to post-adolescent.
I think your parent commenter meant “_we_ would have to understand”, as a species, rather than all or any of us individually.
In practice just the people creating the technology. But it’s a big leap.
But we did have to invent the (social) technology that enabled us to transition to a post-feudal society. And we did so without fully understanding feudal society.
For another technological example, we didn't fully understand bronze when we transitioned to the iron age (in fact, at least in the west, the transition to the iron age happened in large part due to our understanding of bronze getting substantially worse).
No one person had to understand everything about feudal society for the next stage to emerge. It just emerged, as always happens in an evolutionary process.
To try again with a more complete answer to your initial question:
Why is transhuman-ness or posthuman-ness a special exception for the to the general rule that surpassing (or at least passing) something does not in fact require understanding it?
In all the examples you’ve given, organic life is the common denominator. Each is a case of the natural progression of life, either the natural life cycles that have existed for billions of years, or of the culture that has emerged out of that.
If by “transhumanism” we mean a transition of human “life” (i.e, consciousness and culture) off our evolved biological platform onto some other recently or newly-created technology platform, someone would have to understand what human life actually is in order to make it happen or recognize that it has happened.
If we mean something else then people need to explain what they mean, but that’s really why we get stuck in the weeds on this topic; we don’t have a simple, agreed understanding of what it is we’re transitioning from/to and what is doing the transitioning.
But the simple answer to your central question is that the key difference here from the rule you’re positing is that we’re talking about a departure from the natural biological and cultural evolution that has brought us to this point.
> If by “transhumanism” we mean a transition of human “life” (i.e, consciousness and culture) off our evolved biological platform onto some other recently or newly-created technology platform, someone would have to understand what human life actually is in order to make it happen or recognize that it has happened.
What you mean by that? Except for "mind uploading" I don't see what you referring to...
Like the Iron Age didn't succeed the Bronze Age in one night there is nothing to understand or to prepare to pass into a "transhumanist society"... because we already are...or even we always were.
Glasses, prosthesis, eye surgery, ... : all are the start of what is called transhumanism. That's why I think it should be used rather as a mindset than as a social goal.
Well sure, but as I said, this topic very quickly gets stuck in the weeds over definitions and “what do you mean by ...?” questions, as the above couple of comments illustrate.
I’d regard the augmentations you list in your last paragraph as remedies to help restore capabilities that are present in other humans of normal health/ability, prior to aging or injury. Other augmentations that are commonplace are tools that make us more efficient at doing things we can already do; I.e, computers enable us to do much larger calculations, data operations or information archivals/retrievals. But they don’t fundamentally change our evolved nature, so it’s hard to see how the prefix “trans” applies.
Despite many claims of breakthroughs, we’ve yet to see any technology that profoundly alters human genetics, cognition or mortality away from its state of natural evolution a few decades or centuries ago, and it’s not clear that anyone has serious answers for how such transitions will happen, nor how they could happen without a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that underpin them.
> we did so without fully understanding feudal society.
No human understood feudal society? What about the leaders of those societies?
There is probably some folk theorem about this.
The emergent structure of a society is always more complex than the analytical tools available in that society are capable of modeling. As the tools become more sophisticated, the same technologies and institutions that enabled their development results in a correlated increase in complexity in the social structures. Forever keeping true contemporary introspection out of reach.
The best sci-fi counterexample is probably Seldon's Psychohistory from The Foundation Trilogy.
A thought experiment related to this: how dominant would the average macro hedge fund from 2022 be if they were transported back to 1985, with no knowledge of specific future events but with all of their scientific knowledge, models (and maybe computing power?) etc.
I don’t disagree with the emergence/complexity progression statement but the issue is more fundamental:
you cannot accurately model a system within that system.
The thought experiment doesn’t work because the hedge fund would need to be transported back with networking and information access they can’t get in 1985. They would show up, try to get onto the trading floor, be rejected, have to get re-trained, have to hire an army of data entry folks, and they would still get beat by the good old boys network and insider trading that wasn’t yet being identified and prosecuted.
That’s all if they weren’t just investigated and arrested for cheating while their computers worked through their planned obsolescence timeline in some closet.
> more complex than the analytical tools available in that society are capable of modeling
One would need to include non-public analytical tools, which are unfortunately not available for inspection.
There are different economic incentives for public and private tools of analysis and thought.
One modern equivalent would be export-controlled tools and technology, but there are many more onion layers.
That seems like an artificial barrier.
We can improve certain aspects of ourselves without deeply understanding the entirety of what it is to be human.
Came to say the same thing with the same post-adolescent argument ;)
You could potentially make a thing that acts like you, that's it. The only reason our existence is tolerable is that we agree with the guy that when he goes to bed he is dead and I take over in the morning and I make the same deal tomorrow.
Salami tactics (Yes Minister) would work around this. Replace and extend your brain and nervous system small parts at a time. Until one day you are entirely hardware, and thus your consciousness entirely software. Continuity of consciousness remains uninterrupted.
Sure, as soon as you offload your conscience though I think you are dead.
Plug your brainbox into a bigger computer. Start offloading bits at a time. Expand your mind. Switch off brainbox.
I quite like that phrasing (in your second sentence); did you come up with it yourself, or did you catch it somewhere?
I think I've read it somewhere but I never keep track of citations. Might have been Michael Keaton in that movie, moral of the story, if you copy yourself then your copy is gonna bang your wife.
I enjoyed this article posted here recently about the topic. Author goes into some interesting thought experiments on the topic of always waking as a brand new person.
Previous thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32049237
A sub-plot of Travelers on Netflix, created by Brad Wright, creator of Stargate SG-1.
What, or where, is the "I" in this deal?
As someone who was quite plugged into the transhumanist scene in the 1990s and well-acquainted with several of the people referenced, I have a perspective that I think explains it more succinctly.
When I was introduced to it in the early 1990s, the movement was dominated by extremely technical doers and thinkers, with a culture that encouraged rigor. It was philosophical rather than political. In the late 1990s, transhumanism had its Eternal September moment, when it became fashionable and trendy to be "transhumanist". The discourse became dominated by people hijacking the transhumanist movement in service of their political and social agendas, with nary a nod toward rigor. The doers and serious people originally associated with the movement and which gave it its intellectual gravitas became greatly outnumbered and mostly moved on.
Many of the early transhumanists stopped labeling themselves as such because they did not want to be associated with the kind of people that came to define it.
I would like to draw attention to a classic transhumanist philosopher whose style has remained consistent for decades.
The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how genetic engineering and nanotechnology will abolish suffering in all sentient life.
The abolitionist project is hugely ambitious but technically feasible. It is also instrumentally rational and morally urgent. The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved because they served the fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They will be replaced by a different sort of neural architecture - a motivational system based on heritable gradients of bliss. States of sublime well-being are destined to become the genetically pre-programmed norm of mental health. It is predicted that the world's last unpleasant experience will be a precisely dateable event.
Two hundred years ago, powerful synthetic pain-killers and surgical anesthetics were unknown. The notion that physical pain could be banished from most people's lives would have seemed absurd. Today most of us in the technically advanced nations take its routine absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as psychological pain, too, could ever be banished is equally counter-intuitive. The feasibility of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of social policy and ethical choice.
This seems to be the progression with everything.
"Transhumanism" is already here, in a way. We have medications including some complex drugs, most people at least take multi-vitamins, we have surgeries and sometimes do weird stuff like transplant limbs or faces. Even simpler, we have knowledge of diet and health which lets us stay in better shape than before (though a lot of people are in worse shape due to junk food...we have access to high-protein diets and effective exercises though).
On the other hand, "transhumanism" where we upload our consciousness or modify ourselves to the point where we don't resemble humans anymore, probably won't come for a long time. Even problems like aging and disease and significantly hard to solve. Most of what we know about the human brain is psychology and large-scale things like hormones. Because evolution is a process which doesn't favor simplicity or straightforwardness, and the brain and body have trillions of microscopic cells all working more or less simultaneously - we don't have nearly enough computational power or resources or technology to even remotely "thoroughly" understand this.
I think in the near future we will gradually develop more bionic and cybernetic augmentations, like improving on those bionic arms and legs I heard about a few years ago, and implanted chips and medications. But it's going to be gradual and take a long time, and some things are just nearly impossible.
I have small portable machines stuck to my body that monitor my blood sugar and inject insulin as needed. In this sense for me transhumanism is here. This stuff keeps me alive and keeps me healthy.
I think we'll start seeing a lot more genetic modification that will go hand in hand with biological/machine modification. Just sticking technology in us quite often triggers immune responses that our body fights, these things will have to grow hand in hand.
Agree. It seems like this article is just talking about trans humanism as a cultural topic that goes in and out of popularity. But real transhumanism occurring seems inevitable if technology continues to march forward.
Is anyone in the year 2100 really going to be talking about genetic modification or wearables? No, they will be everywhere
I think we're going to be talking about genetic modification as long as there are people around who are able to talk. The possibilities are infinite, and the religious opposition is strong. It could very plausibly lead to us becoming a different species-- or at the other extreme, wiping ourselves out.
My parents are convinced it will lead to the Mark of the Beast, and there are millions of people who are raising their children to believe the same. Blood will be shed over this. It could easily lead to full blown war(s). The conversation is not going to be over in the year 2100 unless humanity as we know it has come to an end.
The biggest example is our cell phones. They may not be implanted (yet), but we keep them physically with us 24x7 and they have significantly altered our behavior.
As with most technology, there are more pros of keeping phones out of our bodies, so that "yet" might just need to be replaced with a big "if".
“The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed yet” (Gibson, but not sure)
For a tribe in the Amazon forest, Shanghai or Tokyo could be from a scifi movie set 500 years in their future. For a villager in a small-sized town in Belgium perhaps only 5 or 10yrs in the future.
So transhumanism is not something that will be : it always was and currently is. It just a word for a mindset that embraces these changes and want them to happen faster and sooner.
> "Transhumanism" is already here, in a way. We have medications including some complex drugs, most people at least take multi-vitamins, we have surgeries and sometimes do weird stuff like transplant limbs or faces. Even simpler, we have knowledge of diet and health which lets us stay in better shape than before
This reminds me of the religious claim that the the second coming of Christ and the judgement isn't an upcoming event, but actually already happened in 70 A.D.. It's entirely a rationalization around the fact that Jesus predicted (written in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that the apocalypse would happen during the lifetime of the audience he was talking to.
I never knew the bar was so low as to include taking vitamins. Once we are all transhumanist no one is a transhumanist.
We used to just call this "evolution." In today's climate of labels-over-substance, however, it's not fashionable to do that.
The article mentions Steve Mann. At the same time Mann was at the MIT Media Lab (as one of the first "Wearables" computing people, along with Thad Starner, Bradley Rhodes, and others), more conspicuously involved specifically in Transhumanism thought and discussion at MIT was Sascha Chislenko.
Sascha was associated with Marvin Minsky and Pattie Maes, and (like Minsky's protege, Pushpinder "Push" Singh), was one of the few people who'd wander the halls of the Lab, at all hours, striking up impromptu intellectual conversations (new AI methods, transhumanism, philosophy, economics, etc.) with random students. (Basically, much of what I imagined MIT would be like, they were it.)
Tragically, Sascha died way too soon. I don't know how much this impacted the future of Transhumanist thought, but I'm sure he'd have done more to advancing that and whatever he saw that thinking should be evolving into.
Like Push, and like my friend Aaron, Sasha killed himself: https://transhumanism.fandom.com/wiki/Alexander_Chislenko
We need to figure out how we can have what you imagined MIT would be like without driving our best thinkers to suicide.
I should add that Sasha seemed not just a talker, but a doer. He'd worked at Maes's startup, and, shortly before his untimely death, had joined a investment firm, to advise on tech directions, and vet companies.
I discovered transhumanism around the turn of the century. I thought I'd found a treasure trove of insight. I was all about it for 3 or 4 years. Told people who weren't interested all about it. It was really easy to believe in radical transformation of the status quo in those days. There was a feeling in the air that the advent of the Web would solve everybody's problems, end scarcity, make everyone rich (especially us) and propel the stock market upward from then on.
Well, that feeling was short lived. It wasn't too long before I decided futurism in general was not an analysis of where the world is heading, but what certain communities of sci-fi nerds and techies wanted to happen, and believed they themselves could or would make happen. And that's fine I guess. But I was much more skeptical that their hockey-stick takeoffs would happen, at least in my lifetime.
What's happened in my lifetime so far is you can get more stuff delivered to your door, and faster; and computers got smaller and better at the same time. Ok. Well, computers were already getting smaller when I was born. Maybe they can get smaller. I'm not sure what that looks like. The display is probably a light pair of reading glasses. Maybe the computer is a wristwatch. Or a nose ring.
And then maybe later the computer goes inside you and injects into the optic nerve. And hey look at that, there's some transhumanism, I think. But I doubt anyone living knows how to do that. I'm just rambling now...
oh believe me we're still around! you're just not gonna find a lot of that "above ground" so to speak. the good stuff happens in hushed tones or among small social circles.
And in places you wouldn't otherwise think to look, like transgender people. 'Cause when you think about it, taking synthetic experimental hormones to give our bodies new capabilities and reconnect ourselves to our minds more deeply reflects the essence of "trans humanism," no?
The overlap between the queer/furry community and the transhumanist/cyberpunk community is very strong and has always been. If you're looking for keywords to google for, check out the "Freedom of Form Foundation" and its research (this is both explicitly furry and explicitly transhumanist), some of the Korps RCG propaganda stories, the postfurry embassy, any of the plurality/tulpa/multiplicity/DiD recovery communities (a rare example of putting mind tech into practice today rather than fantasizing about it in the future), the people who make those full-body drone suits at hypnokink events, anything Naomi Wu touches, etc etc etc ...
It was replaced by Virtual Reality.
The transhumanist philosophy was transcendental. Man, armed with innovative genius and deep technological knowledge, could one day remake himself and transcend his limitations. It wasn't so much a "philosophy" as a prediction of an inevitable and obvious future, which they were simply impatient to reach. Freedom from all biological, physical, intellectual constraints!
Today, people understand that technology isn't just a tool, it's a weapon. Corporations want to corral people into virtual worlds they control, and governments want perfect surveillance and infallible enforcement of all laws, and soon social rules. Your brain implant will have NSA/China backdoors, regular 0-days "observed in the wild" (sorry, no refunds), or will crash occasionally because the QA team got laid off.
Smart technologists today can see that virtual reality (which is indissociable with brain implants and most other transhumanist tech except perhaps nanobots) just means far deeper corporate/elite control over people's psyches. Read "The Rise of Virtual Reality" by Anthony Napoleon. The replacement of "real reality" (governed by the laws of nature) with a reality fully governed by other humans (and their flaws). It's very hard to get giddy and impatient about that future.
No, it was not replaced by VR. I am a trans humanist. As soon as there's a better than natural artificial heart proven to work for decades and with low risks, I will happily undergo surgery. Major cause of death avoided.
My eyes are good for now, but I imagine in 20 years they will start really going downhill. If there's an artificial option, I will switch.
Same goes for most organs.
Unfortunately all these advances are decades away. Connecting to the nervous system isn't a solved problem, so no comparable arms or hands any time soon, even though they may be much more durable, strong, fast very soon. You still need the skin to feel. OK, maybe not "need", but really want.
Transhumanism isn't just advanced medicine. The idea isn't to replace a human heart with an artificial heart that's mostly functionally identical (current-day technology). The whole idea is to transcend biological limits using technology, i.e. develop eyes, ears, and brains that are functionally different and superior.
Prolonging human longevity is just one of the (many) goals of the transhumanist movement). Its core definition (according to Oxford dictionary) is: "the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology."
The original transhumanist dream was that we would each gain more control over our biology (that sounds like freedom to me); the realities of today's world mean that we would instead gain marginally more control, while corporations and governments gain exponentially more control (that sounds like tyranny to me).
> while corporations and governments gain exponentially more control
that is unavoidable. Transhumanism doesn't guarantee preserving full individuality. Achieving transhumanism most probably would require giving up significant degree of individuality as the tightly connected "collectives/hives" - once such possibility become practical - would outcompete individuals. I.e. Borg is one of the most probable and close description of the future transhuman society.
It's inevitable that artificial organs will be better than the natural ones. But you first have to reach parity.
In every movement you have over-enthusiasts/utopists who don't see the challenges. But even in a game like Deus Ex you can see it's not difficult to see the utopia  from reality .
Now, like everything : no one will get a new limb if he knows a corp will make him a slave for life. So for these companies to succeed they must guarantee peace of mind to their users. You don't fear getting addicted to aspirin every time u take it. Perhaps open-sourced with generics parts.
On a more philosophical note, car makers gave us more freedom by transcending our biological limitations (higher speed, no tiredness) but in exchange of some loss of freedom (loan, accessible areas, time lost finding a parking spot, etc). Nothing comes without a cost.
Am I being dense? What does VR have to do with transhumanism? Seems like a total non-sequitur.
See my answer to bufferoverflow.
Also: virtual reality isn't just a heads-up display or an iPhone camera feature. Augmented ears that can hear things normal humans can't hear, augmented eyes, or an augmented brain inherently means you lose sovereignty over your own mind since there is a necessary and irreducible degree of trust you need to have in your government and in corporations: trust that they are not interfering with what you hear, see, or think.
I count that as virtual reality, just as movie theaters (where, early on, people screamed when they saw a train driving towards the camera, i.e. towards them, though that may be apocryphal) were a very primitive and early form of virtual reality. Ok, duh, movie theaters aren't dystopian. But the frontier is soon going to breach the boundaries of our bodies and skulls. There are clear dangers involved.
Neither the Free Software movement, nor any "cognitive sovereignty" legislation as proposed by some transhumanists, would solve this. There's a fundamental trust issue that seems unsolvable.
I am trying to provoke thought; to me, the core issue with transhumanism is that other humans will be capable of subtly, undetectably and plausibly-deniably change your perception of reality and of yourself. Even people who focus on the "politically dystopian" aspects of transhumanism tend to ignore this; and instead focus on inequality, discrimination, and so on, which in my view are secondary.
Why wouldn't free software solve this? Where it is successful, it keeps your government and corporations from making you run software you don't want or keeping undesirable features (like interfering with what you hear or see) secret from you.
It's true that some backdoors or vulnerabilities might go unnoticed, but you can choose firmware with an extremely low chance of those. If your enhancement needs are modest, you might even be able to write your own firmware from scratch.
It might be convenient for you to choose to trust some little-known firmware that hardly anybody has vetted, in order to get extra functionality. And there's always the possibility that all the supposedly independent people who have vetted some firmware are part of a conspiracy to hide its antifeatures. But that's very different from it being necessary to trust governments and corporations.
You can augment your ears and eyes by purchasing night vision tubes (more tubes are better, better light input area and field of view, but they ultimately need to combine into two phosphor screens projecting into your eyes), a active hearing protection headset, and possibly a HUD projector to attach to the front of one of the night vision tubes. Attach all that to a high-cut helmet, and possibly a battery/compute/etc unit under your rear plate. More modern active hearing systems (3M Comtac V/Ops Core AMP/possibly others) let you set how much you want outside sounds to be amplified, and do advanced signal processing to prevent passthrough of not just loud explosive noises, but other noises that would normally prevent you from comfortably turning up the amplification as high as you might want to hear potentially relevant sounds. I guess strapping 50,000 USD worth of stuff to your body just to look like a mix between a 1990s MIT Mixed Reality Lab reject and mass shooter might be a deterrent to people actually doing this though.
Most transhumanists I know are interested in biological immortality, mind uploading, hive minds, etc. VR does nothing for that.
Mind uploading and hive minds are perfect examples of what I mention in my last paragraph (which I edited after posting, and you may not have seen before replying); my concerns are more than relevant there.
That's bullshit. Transhumanism is about overcoming the human condition. Ibuprofen, penicillin and even ancient technology like animal husbandry or irrigation are more important to transhumanism than VR goggles and pointless magnet implants.
Ironically, this comment is the perfect example for the real reason for the downfall of transhumanism: It has become popular and thus poisoned by clueless tech pornographers with zero understanding of the philosophy.
Zero progressives I know want that. Most distrust technology generally, and hate surveillance especially, government or otherwise. You've created a straw-man.
Tbf, it depends a lot on who you're labeling "progressive." If you go by people who label themselves progressive, you have to count the entire Democratic party, who generally love (and often operate) surveillance.
Of course, Republicans love it too, but that's irrelevant to the question of whether a love of surveillance is widespread among progressives.
> you have to count the entire Democratic party
Progressives wish the Democrats were progressive. There's a progressive caucus, and it's stronger than it used to be, but is still far from steering the party.
We currently have a massive chunk of society who are losing their collective minds about people engaging in the very early iterations of transhumanism—transgender folks.
I still regularly encounter people who are spitting angry against transgender folks and then later in the conversation will completely unironically talk about how much they love the cyberpunk genre.
Not many of them realize they would be the weird cultists in the background of the story holding signs preaching about unnatural technology.
I really don't feel that's a fair comparison.
The transgender community needs to stop pushing the notion that it's healthy and desirable; it's not - it's a devastating hormonal/fertility disorder.
We can't even look into the extent to which the androgenisation of humanity is the consequence of the pollutants that we've introduced into the environment.
Now, comparing this to trans-humanist body mods - how many of those result in sterility?
The changes that trans-humans want are intended to extend the capabilities of the human; but a sex change leaves an individual in a physically compromised super-position of the body that they were born with, and the body that fits the mind.
> trans people make body modifications that don't prioritize my values (fertility)
Doesn't seem like a very strong argument that it doesn't fit into the cyberpunk ethos. Modifying your body for reasons you care about seems very cyberpunk, and exactly the sort of thing that other people would have moral qualms over, especially if they don't share your values. Certainly the technology could be improved for people who do care about fertility, but, well, newer, improved versions of body modification technology is also very cyberpunk.
A disingenuously paraphrasing quote?
But I'm not espousing my values, but values vital to the continuation of life.
Values that have been around for thousands of millions of years.
Perhaps there's the potential for this to change, but it'll just be fertility in another form.
The human race isn’t in an immediate danger of dying out for lack of babies. People are allowed to and do take many actions with a risk of sterilization. For goodness sake’s people get vasectomies and their tubes tied. This can’t be about fertility or else you should be out campaigning against the pill, condoms, and just plain old normal drinking. Also do you imagine grafting electronics, really progress of any kind to be free of risks? Honestly, I’m sort of anti cyberpunk, because that sort of body modification is on a whole different level of risk
I can assure you, my only concern here is inate fertility - (idiocracy aside) I don't give a shit about people deciding not to have children.
As for the danger, population collapse is often precipitous - and by the time you notice it, is very hard to roll back.
And it's not just our species impacted by the changes.
Ok, so are you also against birth control and or opt in sterilization, otherwise your position is inconsistent and I don’t claim morals are logic, but they should at least be consistent.
Oh also since we’re on a technicality forum. Trans hormones don’t necessarily cause permanent sterilization. Plenty of trans people have children
Citation for plenty needed.
> Of the adult trans population, between 25% and 49% of individuals are believed to be parents (Dierckx, Motmans, Mortelmans, & T’sjoen, 2016)
Parenthood doesn't imply fertility. From that link:
> Trans parents may form their families in a range of ways, including through biological parenthood, step-parenthood, adoption, fostering, and assisted reproduction, with an increasing number of options available to trans people wishing to become parents.
So what? Human societies have always and everywhere included multiple modes of parenthood. I don't understand this obsession with personal biological reproduction. That's not how human societies work. Adoption, fostering, etc are an important part of social sustainability and always have been.
The original assertion was about fertility:
> Trans hormones don’t necessarily cause permanent sterilization. Plenty of trans people have children
I was just pointing out that the evidence provided with the 25% number doesn't really speak to fertility, but rather all the possible ways of having children.
That was much higher than I had expected.
Me too, but I suppose being trans doesn't eliminate all the other aspects of human behaviour and psychology, including the desire to have or care for children.
I don’t think there is great science on this but here’s a paper focusing on tactics to preserve fertility https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6626312/. It gives rates as high as 100% for mtf fertility (and as low as 25). And I may have missed it, but doesn’t seem to for trans men. Stories of trans men pausing hormones to have a kid are anecdotally pretty common though
Population collapse is likely not going to come from too many people becoming steralized (I mean what percentages are we talk g about here, there would have to be a massive growth to even make a measurable dent into populations). Typical population collapse in biological systems comes from overpopulation that cannot be sustained by the ecosystem, which results in the sudden collapse. When we talk about the survival of the human race people not having children are likely a net positive, but somehow I get the impression that's not really what your opposition to gender conversion is about
> Population collapse is likely not going to come from too many people becoming steralized
And if it did, it would probably be from something like pollution/climate change, not a tiny minority of trans people.
> But I'm not espousing my values, but values vital to the continuation of life.
> Values that have been around for thousands of millions of years.
I could make the same arguments about modern therapeutics for asthma and short-sightedness being againsts millions of years of nature.
>"But I'm not espousing my values, but values vital to the continuation of life."
There are no self-grounding values. You cannot objectively justify why fertility is the overriding value here, rather than, say, fairness, liberty or anything else. So yes, you are absolutely espousing your values. If you want to make an argument, make it, don't pretend it's self-evident.
Not all of your ancestors had lives that were free or fair, but every last one of them was fertile.
Humans are a communal species, our cultures and psychology include behaviour that sacrifices our own personal reproductive chances in favour of the survival of the group, or simply deprecates personal reproduction as a priority. It’s genetic propagation by proxy, and it’s called kin selection or genetic altruism in the literature. A member of society can contribute to the survival and propagation of that society in many ways, propagating the group genome, and that doesn’t have to include through personal reproduction.
We have all benefited from the contributions made by members of past generations that didn’t reproduce, but their genes live on through their relatives that did reproduce. If all we care about is survival of the species, the best thing for all of us is that trans people get the help and support they need to leave the healthiest and most fulfilling lives possible, so that they can maximally contribute to society. I think that’s an overly reductive attitude, but that’s one way of thinking about it.
This argument is disingenuous: not only your direct ancestors contributed to your existence. You are also dependent on all of the aunties and uncles, and other members of the community around your direct line that contributed to their survival.
No it's not; most of those people also reproduced. It's like Covid - think of the R number.
Every one of them also had kidneys, but that's not an objective argument for the pre-eminent moral value of kidneys.
There is an inescapable choice in choosing the grounds from which to reason out to an ethical conclusion - there is no self-evident starting point, hence the riotous confusion of moral philosophy over the last two millennia.
If you go back far enough, no they didn't.
Kidneys evolved, mutative replication remains the source of life.
There are lots of conditions of the possibility of life - biological, physical, chemical - but the real point is that there is no incontestable reason to think that the conditions of the possibility of life are the pre-eminent source of moral value. Kant argued from the conditions of the possibility of understanding to moral conclusions. Sarte reasons from the conditions of the possibility of existential personality to morality. Rawls reasons from the conditions of the possibility of morality to morality. My point is, lots of people make this move, in a much more sophisticated way than you, and none is obviously better than the other - or indeed any other form of moral argument. There is no self-grounding foundation from which to reason about morality. What incontrovertible reason can you give for starting from the conditions of the possibility of life, or indeed one particular condition, rather than any other place? You can't.
What of people who were fertile but didn’t have children, through choice, medical reasons, death etc? Surely a person who is fertile but doesn’t have a child for any reason has the same net impact on the growth of population as an unfertile person (trans or not)?
Sure, but some causes of infertility are correlated and persistent.
If I'm exposed to poisons in the air or water, it's likely to happen to others as well - especially if it's at levels where it's not immediately noticed.
Many other causes of effective infertility are unlikely to impact entire groups of people across long periods of time.
who cares though? species have come and gone, and will continue too
if you died and then a millisecond after a chicxulub scale asteroid obliterated all mammalian life (again), who would be there to care about fucking fertility or propagation of the species??
the point is we don't have to be limited to biological mandates -- that's what transhumanism is about. moralizing it is just wasted and you clearly don't understand what it's about.
instead you decide to whinge about trans people being mentally ill. please
Where did I say that they were mentally ill?
(Misremembering other people's arguments is a poor strategy in a technical forum.)
And regardless of what transhumanism as a whole is about, it will always be about continuation of sapience and its evolution through time.
Biological or otherwise.
> The transgender community needs to stop pushing the notion that it's healthy and desirable; it's not - it's a devastating hormonal/fertility disorder.
what exactly is your word for unhealthy and undesirable? you are clearly referring to dysphoria. i don't know if you realized, but the DSM has changed in recent years.
No mention of mental illness there, but you already knew that.
sorry, you just disagree with them being happy even if it makes them infertile.
classic intellectually dishonest HN concern troll
The classical consumerist hedonist mentality : if they are happy then who can say anything about that ?
Well it seems you're the one trolling here.
If you deny the right to people to have opinions and judgments based on their beliefs about anything they wish, you're doing worse than you complain about.
He's actually putting words in my mouth again; I really have no problem with people having a sex change.
Acceptance was a vital social step, but promotion crosses a line for me - and there are severe deleterious consequences are ignored and dismissed by the community.
I think in general the answer is to let kids be themselves and not to judge them for it; give them a say in their clothes and toys - and do not punish them for their selection.
i am not denying any right, i have neither authority nor power. we all have equal right to comment and disagree.
though you are right, i am kinda a hedonist. do you mourn for me, or lament the condition I would bring upon civilization, right before chicxulub blows us up? haha.
don't worry, i have no power offline either.
If you stopped acting in bad faith, looking for some gotcha, for one single second, you'd realize that by "unhealthly" they were referring to the effects of hormone treatments, which clearly have significant effects and side effects on the physical body.
People literally do hormone treatments to solve things like pattern baldness. If you're concerned about unhealthy hormone treatments you should probably start with the stuff that's far more common. Finasteride is used for both hair loss as well as hormone therapy for transgender people.
That was meant to say 'misrepresenting' (the phone said 'misre...ing' since the complete word didn't fit on the screen.
Cyberpunk != transhumanism
Is an amputee cyberpunk?
Yeah if your replacing it with something better for you
There are a million things more dangerous to the continuation of the human race than a few people willingly becoming sterile to solve other issues with their body. For decades we were shoving lead into gasoline and poisoning an entire generation for the sake of more money, for example. And the 'androgenization of humanity' seems like some nonsense, considering there's zero data or otherwise to back that up.
> a few people willingly becoming sterile to solve other issues with their body.
Most of the controversy around trans issues that I've seen would not exist if this was the only dimension to it.
Most of the controversy around trans issues is made up nonsense being pushed by a propaganda machine pining to politicize an entire group of people. The same group of people that have turned towards trying to harass gay, lesbian etc individuals because they know they can harness a certain virulent part of their base to harass and antagonize people.
how convenient. relegating any concern for the modern trans movement to pure malevolence. I guess it makes it easier for you.
By all means, if you think you can come up with any issues or concerns that don't involve the typical political talking points then please, do so.
I mean you're quite frankly arguing with a straw man, and being vague with the word "healthy", no trans community is advocating that taking opposite hormones is physically healthy.
They push for it because that's the only viable option for them to appear as the opposite gender which helps them mentally.
Although it is funny you're in a way talking about how men are turning into femboy meme.
You mention sterility. As a thought experiment, what if the science was perfected that you could change gender perfectly (ala The Culture novels). Would you still feel the same way about it?
I think if you could undergo a perfect and reversible sex change operation as easily as changing your clothes, it would become simply a matter of fashion - but with that kind of technology, changing your sex would be one of the least interesting things you could do, and new controversies would arise: for example, is it ethical to modify your body to look exactly like someone else’s body? And how far can you go with body modification before it stretches credulity to identify as a human, and what does that mean for the concept of human rights?
Personally I think that would fantastic and fun. Who wouldn’t want to see what life is like on the other side?
95 to 99% of the population...
But if there was no real downside in terms of social stigma, and it was totally reversible? You don’t think most people would want to switch just out of curiosity?
Grow a hollow in a vat and insert the brain?
It'd be prohibitively expensive for most, but why not?
It was free in the culture novels. So, the problem is with the fact we can't do it properly yet?
Also, you mentioned environmental factors, is that thinking based on a paper or similar?
Everything was free in the Culture novels; more interestingly, gender swapping was a built-in biological function that one could activate by willpower alone, and hold in a part-way state, even allowing two people to get each other pregnant concurrently.
Oh, so the reason conservatives are concerned about the birth rate is so they have ammo against gay, trans, and women on the pill. Got it. I was wondering why an issue that won't be a major concern until after 2100 was becoming popular.
Putting aside the debate and controversy around transgender folks, if I just step back and think about the act itself, it is truly an incredible act of will over self... redefining yourself, redefining your relationship to society, acting so strongly against the defaults of your life... I'm not sure I could do it.
As an act of tremendous will over self I genuinely respect it.
One can exercise tremendous change over ones self, but one cannot redefine ones relationship with society since relationships aren't one-way. That's always going to be a potential source of friction.
Sounds like a religious conversion to me.
Especially those that require body modification, such as Jewish and Islam's adult circumcision.
I think a lot of people have a hard time with the idea that you could believe something enough to actually change the direction of your life in response to that belief. It raises a lot of uncomfortable feelings to see someone do that.
I think a big fraction of the anti-transgender movement is not against adults modifying their bodies, but against a) children modifying their bodies, b) persons with modified bodies claiming to be the opposite gender thanks to their modifications (or indeed, before any modification). They probably would have much less of a problem with an adult replacing one of their eyes with an x-ray camera or whatever.
I wish that were the case - but it’s a significantly smaller fraction than it needs to be.
The largest fraction of the anti-transgender movement is clearly the American conservative Christian right, who has completely chosen to ignore human rights in favour of Old Testament values.
(Source: I’m transgender, and I’m terrified what’s going on in the USA.)
The fraction of people who want to prevent children transitioning or claiming youre a different gender, versus people against general body mods, is smaller than it needs to be?
That might be a really good point if true.
Transitioning for small children is literally just wearing different clothing.
When they get a bit older, at most they can extremely rarely (due to people pushing against it, even though it reduces suicide rates and saves lives!) get puberty blockers.
Those can then be stopped with minimal consequences if they decide that's not something they wanna do. What is actually cruel is FORCING kids to undergo their AGAB puberty against their will.
We know they are safe, we know they save lives. The vast majority of uses for puberty blockers are still cis children that have early puberty.
> undergo their AGAB puberty against their will
It's also weird mental gymnastics like this that people are pushing against. For anyone who is not familiar with the acronym, AGAB means "Assigned Gender At Birth", and is push back against the fact that we broadly lump all people into either the male / female camp when they are born. It can be useful when talking about gender norms, etc – which are discussions worth having. But when you start to move into the region of "biological sex is unimportant" it takes on an entirely different slant.
"AGAB puberty" is an oxymoronic statement. If the gender was merely "assigned" to them, then why is their body naturally going through puberty in a certain direction. It's not their AGAB, it's their biological sex. We are not saying "this is a boy" and then giving them testosterone when they hit 12 so that they match their "assigned" gender. Their body is the body of a boy which naturally produces (much) more testosterone (and other obvious hormonal and physical differences) than that of what we broadly call a girl.
Nobody is FORCING anything – that is just something our bodies do naturally because we are a sexually reproducing species of mammal so our DNA causes us to split broadly into male and female.
> We are not saying "this is a boy" and then giving them testosterone when they hit 12 so that they match their "assigned" gender.
That's literally what happens, especially to inter people, though.
And sometimes even done for cis people if their natural hormone levels are too low, or rather their parents and doctors deem them too low (the child is never asked).
We literally do not give 99% of the population any sort of hormonal treatment in order to ensure they match their "assigned gender". For the overwhelming majority of people we say "wow this looks like a boy" and that person ends up a boy with no intervention and no gender identity issues.
Yes, there are intersex people and they are a special case that need to be handled differently than the rest of the population. And just "assigning" a gender to those people like we've been doing for most of medical history is probably not the right move. But the vast majority of trans people are not even intersex so injecting that into a conversation about trans issues is just muddying the waters.
When we do intervene, yes, of course the child is never asked. As far as I'm aware there isn't any medication/intervention we give to children where we ask for their permission. Because they are children. One of the main reasons we distinguish between children and adults in our society is because we have decided that children do not have the mental maturity to make such decisions of large import, so we place that responsibility on parents/guardians/doctors/etc.
What do you mean "of course"?
Children have a right to take part in their own medical decisions as early as 7 years old, and teens make the majority of the decisions themselves after 14yo.
If teens can get tattoos (16+), can drink alcohol (16+), can work part time jobs (14+), under conditions (12+) and can get jail time (14+), then they can just as well make at least part of their own medical decisions.
Delaying permanent changes to a point in time where they can decide for themselves is the perfect solution if teens want to make such a decision, as long as it's safe (which even the cass review admits has been proven safe for AMAB people)
> Children have a right to take part in their own medical decisions as early as 7 years old
Where is this right enshrined?
> and teens make the majority of the decisions themselves after 14yo
Do you have a source for this claim? Where in particular is this the case? You say 14 but then most of the examples you give about choices with long-term consequences are at 16, since I wouldn't really include part-time jobs (not really a major life decision to bus tables or whatever) and jail time at 14 is the exception not the rule. We default to not putting 14 year olds in jail because again, we assume children are not entirely culpable for their actions at that age. Jail is reserved for particularly egregious infractions that we otherwise don't have a better social response for.
> Delaying permanent changes to a point in time where they can decide for themselves is the perfect solution
Right but isn't part of maturing going through puberty? If we block puberty, what is the point at which you can decide for yourself? Where do you draw the line?
Denying puberty blockers, which are easily produced, known to be acceptably safe, and can prevent physical changes, is forcing teens through a harmful puberty against their will.
Allowing puberty blockers, allows children to make uninformed decisions with lasting and harmful consequences to their own body and future. That's why this issue has went to various courts, ascending the hierarchy, in England where it has been found illegal, legal etc. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_v_Tavistock and think how Keira Bell is likely to feel about your simplistic "it is safe" comments.
It is a complex issue and perfectly OK to be on one side or the other - what's not OK is pretending that only one side is right and the other is evil and abandoning all nuance - that seems to be the trans activist way tho.
It’s a bit silly that you’ve essentially written here “abandoning all nuance is bad, that’s what the other side does!”
This is ironic of course, since you’ve ignored the nuance that the Keira Bell case was specifically regarding the ability of children under the age of 16 to consent to this treatment themselves. It does not question the lawfulness of the treatment or guidance itself, and it has been clearly established that parents or guardians can give consent. I have absolute sympathy with Keira Bell and the struggles she has gone through, but it seems clear we should want to avoid using the legal system to intervene in clinical decision making to the greatest extent possible.
For the record though, I disagree with you - I don’t think it’s a particularly complex issue. It has certainly been ratcheted into a hot-button culture-war topic by quite a lot of ignorance and deliberate muddying of the waters though, which can have the effect of making things seem more complex than they really are. You’ve just done this yourself—even if unintentionally—in your comment.
How have they ignored the nuance of the Keira Bell case?
> It does not question the lawfulness of the treatment or guidance itself
Nobody is saying it does. The nuance is in fact what people are talking about. Many advocates for the trans community argue that under-16s should be able to choose such treatments for themselves without parental consent/oversight. The other side argues that trans issues should not be treated any differently than anything else, where generally children have limited say in medical interventions applied to them and that the responsibility is ultimately the parents'.
Just checking you know that Kiera Bell lost.
Given as they linked the wikipedia article, it seems likely they are aware. Just because she lost on appeal does not detract from the parent's point, which is that clearly these things are not harmless otherwise there probably wouldn't be such a court case.
Why link to wikipedia and not the court judgments?
Almost no healthcare is harmless. Anyone can sue for almost anything, there's a low threshold to bring a case. Notably she didn't sue for a personal injury case because she knows she would have lost that - she was strongly advised by her doctor not to proceed, but she ignored that advice and went ahead anyway. She was over 16 at the time, and capacitous, and so she got the treatment that she asked for.
Puberty blockers aren’t known to be safe. The FDA just issued a new series of warnings on blockers in the last month due to the severe side-effects being experienced by children on them, including brain swelling and vision loss: https://abcnews4.com/amp/news/nation-world/fda-warns-puberty...
That's besides the point the parent is making.
Nobody is FORCING anything – that is just something our bodies do naturally
This is just a silly semantic game. Our bodies naturally do a lot of things that in some cases we’d prefer they not do. They love growing babies, or tumours, or falling apart in uncountable ways.
Withholding access to an available and desired medical treatment is broadly equivalent to forcing a patient to experience the effects of whatever the treatment is intending to prevent.
We are just far more likely to use the explicit term “forcing” in cases where that treatment is being withheld for ideological reasons - such as abortions or puberty inhibitors.
> Nobody is FORCING anything
Well except Texas law makers
I just realized a lot of the pro arguments for some of these newer things like trans et al are essentially dependent on gaslighting the "rest of us". E.g. having us deny basic biology and twisting it with weird re-definitions of existing terms.
I’d encourage you to check your assumptions on that realisation buddy, because it ain’t really right.
The specific terms you are using there—“gaslighting”, “deny basic biology” etc.—suggest that you’re picking up some of those views from sources that are unlikely to be all that reliable or representative of reality, and way more likely to be a bad-faith representation of extreme or minority views. So don’t form your opinions based on them.
In reality it’s pretty simple and I don’t think it seems particularly controversial:
- People are born biologically male or female, with some exceptions and variations.
- Most people also have an internal gender identity of themselves as a man or a woman, which is a bit of a fuzzy concept but seems to be something innate along the lines of sexuality.
- Most of us fit pretty neatly into one of those two binary buckets in both axes and aren’t really aware of a gender identity; everything feels fine and we get on with our lives without noticing it.
- Some of us don’t feel that way and there’s an incongruity between our gender identity and physical bodies.
- That experience can vary a lot - some people feel themselves clearly and strongly as the opposite binary gender, and others less so. Some people are aware of not having that binary gender identity at all. Some people struggle with it, accept it easily, or feel differently about it at different times.
- People will choose to deal with that incongruity in different ways. Some people will seek surgery or other medical treatment to increase their comfort in their body; others might change their name or their outward appearance.
What you describe as “a lot of the pro arguments for some of these newer things like trans et al” is really about a pressure to modernise our handling of all the stuff above, along the lines of:
- Generally de-medicalise “gender identity disorder”, accepting the stuff above as a natural aspect of human identity and sexuality rather than a malady to be cured.
- Instead of forcing people through clinical pathways to transition allow them to explore their own identity and find their own path.
- Remove the social and cultural aspects of shame and abuse faced by people, that magnify all the above struggles. Stuff like being respectful of people’s identities and trying to be generally inclusive to people who might not fit into our own personal existing notions of gender and sexuality.
There are more specific issues that attract controversy - things like fair treatment in sport and appropriate support for children and young people. But “deny basic biology”? Not a thing.
> - Most people also have an internal gender identity of themselves as a man or a woman, which is a bit of a fuzzy concept but seems to be something innate along the lines of sexuality.
I personally haven't seen any evidence that gender identity is innate in a way that doesn't relate to biological sex.
Idk what the effect of taking blockers for 3 years and then realizing its a mistake would be. Do you experience puberty for the same duration, to the same extent? If youre male, are you going to be shorter for instance?
Regarding clothing, maybe its just wrong to emphasize gender in the first place? I think a lot of people are cool with kids doing whatever, its just weird when the people around them start really reaffirming the decisions made by someone we dont trust to have autonomy in most things.
Maybe transgendered people have some biological or psychological drive thats distinct and not related to the people around them, but if I were around this rhetoric as a kid I can very easily see how it could have wrecked me, considering how I dealt with the subject of gender from pre to late teens. Maybe itd be a worthy price, Im skeptical but trying to make sense of it
> Idk what the effect of taking blockers for 3 years and then realizing its a mistake would be. Do you experience puberty for the same duration, to the same extent? If youre male, are you going to be shorter for instance?
There's no negative effects, as long as you only delay it for a few years (e.g. 10-13) and not too long (you should have entered some puberty around 16, or things get complicated).
As soon as you'll stop, your natural puberty starts, with the same duration and effects it'd have normally.
Puberty blockers are actually an off-label use when used for trans people. Puberty blockers are originally used for cis kids who enter puberty too early, and this use is far far more common than the use for trans kids.
So if they're safe to use on cis kids to delay transition, they're definitely safe for the trans usage as well.
> Argue based on some extreme strawman
You yourself are arguing based on an extreme straw man here. Does that make you a neo-nazi as well?
Interestingly, I think you illustrate another important factor in anti-transgender resistance: a subsection of proponents are extremely quick on the trigger to accuse any disagreement of being bigoted, hateful, violent, and, as you have, fascist. This does nothing but drive increasingly negative perceptions towards transgenderism as a concept, both among those who were skeptical and among those who were initially neutral towards the concept.
I suggest that if you truly want to further your cause, you should find a way to interact with those who don’t agree with you that doesn’t involve accusing them of being a nazi.
Hear hear. bart_spoon shaped a thought I had but could never crystallize. I'm a hetero cisgendered man that is positive to neutral on trans issues. But I cringe whenever I hear most pro-trans speech and will not stand behind it. Why be so quick to paint anyone who has any reservations about this as genocidal? This is literally the behaviour that pushes me further to the right.
I had a to leave a Discord server where the owner would respond to trolls with statements like "everyone wants us dead." It happened with increasing frequency and was very unsettling. I couldn't bear to be around someone who saw evil around every corner like that.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say adrianN is probably not a Nazi.
I don't identify with anything you just wrote.
But I call bullshit on your bullshit. It's easy as cake to brainwash kids. They look up to you in so many ways, especially after they outgrow the first year "vegetative" phase. Kids can be programmed to believe literally anything.
I consider myself to be quite far on the left side of the political spectrum.
you are so unreasonable it's almost funny. why even continue after your first statement? why even make your first statement? go bait somewhere else.
I don't think it's a one-dimensional line with pro/anti modification. For example, if you were against people integrating weapons into their bodies or upward-facing eyes into their feet for looking up skirts, that wouldn't make you anti-transhuman.
Right. But being able to live as your authentic self is a good thing, unlike your examples. Opposing good modifications is anti-transhumanist.
Idk, first the focus on body modifications in the context of what a transhumanist is is a bummer, I always thought imoroved thinking made more sense as the initial goal. And second, how do you determine what is someones authentic self, if theyre pursuing that or if theyre taking advantage of body mods to be pervy or manipulative or do xyz bad thing. Its entirely subjective. Not to say there arent solutions to separate safe mods from unsafe, just that the authentic self feels like too fuzzy a thing to use sincerely, at least I see it as some bundling of your personal values that could be cancerous as far as I know :)
I'm a furry. Does "being a (cuddly) werewolf" count as a weapon?
Fun example. Or does getting a giant ass, big fake breasts, filled lips, etc. get counted in the same lot? It's definitely funky, in terms of the ethics surrounding it. You could see it as buying into negative (in the sense that they're not equal) biological biases and taking advantage of them. Such a fun lens to consider funky cultural stuff.
I think if transhumans with augmentations wanted to compete with humans in sports, or if parents wanted to give their children irreversible experimental augmentations, you would find very similar concerns.
Parents aren't giving their children any irreversible modifications though, that's not even legal.
All that's done is pausing puberty until the children are old enough to legally consent to changes, if they do want them. If they do not, puberty can be resumed at any time without any harm (puberty blockers are used significantly more often on cis kids whose puberty started too early than on trans kids).
No child is taking any hormone medication or getting any surgery to transition. Actually, hormones and surgery are frequently given to cis kids who are close to the line to inter, to better align them with their AGAB. But in trans healthcare,this is not a thing.
Usually at 14 or 16 trans teenagers can choose to take hormones, but still, no surgeries below the age of 18 for trans children.
The only surgeries parents can do to children legally are circumcision in cis children and heavy genital modification in inter children to pretend they're not inter.
It is in fact legal, and does in fact happen. Three examples found with three minutes googling, plus an article identifying 51 mastectomy approvals for under-18s in Scotland alone.
Are these just isolated cases performed by overzealous doctors? No, WPATH's current guidelines allow for mastectomies at age 16, and the latest Standards of Care draft calls for reducing this to 15.
What about the safety and reversibility of puberty blockers? We don't know. See this letter arising from the Cass Review outlining the evidence gap. The current approach to treating gender dysphoria is a slow-motion trainwreck medical scandal. I strongly recommend reading the Cass Review interim report which outlines the numerous ways in which gender-dysphoric children are being failed by current treatment models.
There’s a major difference between those terms. 16-year-olds are definitely not children anymore. They can get tattoos, piercings, get a driving license, drink alcohol, enter into contracts, and get jail time if they commit a crime.
And cis and inter children at that age can also commit to bodily changing surgeries, e.g. mastectomy for children with gynecomastia is common and legal.
The only legal form of body modification for children below that age are circumcision, which should absolutely not be legal, and surgeries for inter children, which shouldn’t be legal either.
How come you consider teenagers making decisions for themselves a risk, but parents letting doctors mutilate the genitals of newborn children is something you entirely ignore? That’s what we should worry about.
Then there’s the argument regarding puberty blockers, where you’re citing the cass review, which has to be seen in critical light in general. Puberty blockers, when used for cis children, have been well reviewed and approved in wide studies, with lots of evidence proving their safety. There is no evidence gap there – if they’re safe to delay puberty in cis children, they’re just as safe for the same purpose in trans children.
I sure hope you’re right, but the point is that we just don’t know. Reviews of that evidence have determined it to be low quality:
Read Cass for more details.
I also 110% oppose circumcision.
The fact that the consensus differs so heavily between countries where this topic has become a political issue, and countries where it’s not yet become one (e.g., Germany), leads me to suspect these sources are biased.
This applies especially to british sources on this topic. The NHS and BBC have become heavily influenced by the Tories in recent years, so I’ll have to question your sources.
Anti-trans campaigners misunderstand what's meant by "low quality evidence". It just means we don't yet have double blind randomised control trials of certain treatments. But that's to be expected: trans children are rare, we don't put anyone on puberty blockers without very good reason, and withholding PBs is not a neutral act. So running RCTs on this population group is very difficult.
See also masks: we're pretty sure that masks work, but the evidence for masking is low quality.
Anti-trans campaigners also misrepresent the Cass review. The review has said that taivstock (currently the only provider of specialist care to trans children) isn't very good. (Trans children and their families also say that the tavistock is pretty awful). They then say that this proves the anti-trans argument that no gender affirming care should be provided to trans children. But what Cass has said is that care should be taken out of tavistock and new given to new centres across England who will initiate care and then GPs can be allowed to continue that care -- this is a big expansion of gender affirming care for children, and trans people welcome it. It's what people have been asking for for years.
Cass does have some weird anti-trans aspects, but it's certainly not the win that anti-trans campaigners are claiming. And this is a core feature of UK anti-trans campaigning: they're fundamentally dishonest about everything all the time. You should always read the sources they're citing, because they always misrepresent those sources.
> Anti-trans campaigners misunderstand what's meant by "low quality evidence". It just means we don't yet have double blind randomised control trials of certain treatments.
No it doesn’t. The problems run far deeper. Read the interim report, pages 18-19:
> 1.24. A lack of a conceptual agreement about the meaning of gender dysphoria hampers research, as well as NHS clinical service provision.
> 1.25. There has not been routine and consistent data collection within GIDS, which means it is not possible to accurately track the outcomes and pathways
that children and young people take through the service.
> 1.26. Internationally as well as nationally, longer-term follow-up data on children and young people who have been seen by gender identity services is limited, including for those who have received physical interventions; who were transferred to adult services and/or accessed private services; or who desisted, experienced regret or detransitioned.
> 1.27. There has been research on the short-term mental health outcomes and physical side effects of puberty blockers for this cohort, but very limited research on the sexual, cognitive or broader developmental outcomes.
This is not about a lack of rigorously designed experiments. This is about very basic gaps in definitions, data collection, and followup. This is not a case of “we did some research and it’s basically fine but the science police won’t acknowledge the result because we didn’t fill the form out correctly”. We fundamentally do not have the evidence.
Additionally, the new UK regional centers are not an expansion of gender-affirming care, they are an expansion of care, period. The presumption of gender affirmation was explicitly criticized, and in the forthcoming service model there is a requirement to deal with the whole clinical presentation.
None of this has any bearing on being “pro-trans” or “anti-trans”. It is about uplifting treatment for gender dysphoria to the same standards of evidence-based medicine that we expect for any other clinical issue.
I agree, sources are frequently misrepresented.
> No it doesn’t
Yes it does. You not knowing what GRADE is or how it works but insisting that you are well informed is a great example of the problem with these discussions. You dump a load of ill-informed mangled sources into a thread, and now I have to spend a few hours explaining how you're misrepresenting the sources.
> Additionally, the new UK regional centers are not an expansion of gender-affirming care, they are an expansion of care, period. The presumption of gender affirmation was explicitly criticized, and in the forthcoming service model there is a requirement to deal with the whole clinical presentation.
I've read the service specification for the new centres. (Have you?) It's an expansion of gender affirming care, and there's no way to spin it otherwise. There will be more clinics treating more children in a more timely way. More children will have access to puberty blockers. What's that if it's not an expansion of service?
> None of this has any bearing on being “pro-trans” or “anti-trans”.
All the information you've posted to this thread so far is sourced to anti-trans organisations. At least be honest about it. You are anti-trans, you post anti-trans disinformation from anti-trans links.
I mean, you're making the same three claims as if they're magic gotchas but you don't understand what you're saying.
1) Care at tavistock is bad
Yes, everyone agrees, that's why people are pleased that Cass recommends the NHS continues its long established plan to remove care from Tavi.
2) There's no evidence
There's plenty of evidence. It doesn't come from tavi, but that's because they provide so little care it's not possible to use their patients as experimental subjects. We have lots of evidence from other countries and other patient cohorts
3) Cass says...
Mostly you're misunderstanding what Cass says, or you're relying on the single source that agrees with you and ignoring international scientific and medical opinion.
4) The new centres are providing less gender affirming care than tavi
The vast majority of children attending tavi got no care at all because they were on a waiting list and then aged out of children's services. But even if they got treatment at tavi the vast majority got no meds at all but psycho-social advice. The new centres will be doing this too, but with more children and with smaller waiting lists and the shared care agreements with GPs will be clearer.
I keep mentioning Cass because it is a breath of fresh air in this bitterly polarised subject area, compared to news sources. It is level-headed and compassionate, and I encourage you to try reading it, if you can excuse its Britishness.
I've read it, but its arguments are still at odds with what's done based on it.
e.g., the Cass Review explicitly says "The rationale for use of puberty blockers at Tanner Stage 2 of development was based on data that demonstrated that children, particularly birth-registered boys who had early gender incongruence, were unlikely to desist once they reached early puberty" and only recommends reviewing puberty blockers for AFAB people.
Yet your comments and british politics instead call for ending the use of puberty blockers for everyone, including AMAB people (and the recent tavistock case actually accomplished that).
Most of the other issues the report finds are entirely local to the UK, due to the way healthcare systems differ heavily between countries, and can't be applied elsewhere.
I'll be entirely honest, the british system is an absolute mess and needs to be entirely rebuilt (and any british trans person is going to agree), but just stopping all care entirely for years until a new system exists is the worst possible option, and one that's going to cost countless lives.
This is untrue. Puberty blockers have been in use for trans children for over 40 years now, we have lots of evidence of benefit and lots of evidence that there's not much harm.
We don't have randomised controlled trials, but if you don't know why we don't have those maybe you should refrain from commenting until you understand the topic a bit more.
What about detransitioners? Most of those kids grew into adults that have been ruined for life. Knowing this, the risk of giving these drugs to kids to outright block their puberty is just too immense. Not to mention the underage surgeries some of them receive.
> What about detransitioners?
Detransitioners are a tragic case, but they amount of detransitioners compared to all trans people is smaller than the amount of trans people compared to the rest of the population.
If taking detransitioners into account is the primary priority of trans healthcare for you, then trans people should be an equal or larger priority in overall healthcare as well.
> Not to mention the underage surgeries some of them receive.
That's something that's questionable, but it's not that simple either. Cis people doing surgery against gynecomastia is the majority of underage surgeries of this type.
> to outright block their puberty
It's just paused. It continues as if nothing had happened the moment you stop, with no risk to the patient. Even the Cass Review argues that blockers are entirely safe for AMAB trans people. It also argues that AMAB trans people have such a small percentage of detransitioners that it's basically disregardable.
If the Cass Review, a paper that was commissioned to find a way to reject healthcare for trans people, argues it's safe, you can trust it is safe.
> Even the Cass Review argues that blockers are entirely safe for AMAB trans people. It also argues that AMAB trans people have such a small percentage of detransitioners that it's basically disregardable.
I've read the Interim Report, it asserts neither of these points.
the Cass Review explicitly says "The rationale for use of puberty blockers at Tanner Stage 2 of development was based on data that demonstrated that children, particularly birth-registered boys who had early gender incongruence, were unlikely to desist once they reached early puberty" and only recommends reviewing puberty blockers for AFAB people.
Your quote misses out the part of the sentence immediately following:
"this rationale does not necessarily apply to later-presenting young people, including the predominant referral group of birth-registered girls"
The group referred to here is defined by being later-presenting. Female is only a subset of this.
Also, Cass is just describing the rationale, not endorsing it. This is implied by the paragraph immediately following, where she discusses the paucity of data regarding potential negative effects of puberty blockers on brain maturation:
"A further concern is that adolescent sex hormone surges may trigger the opening of a critical period for experience-dependent rewiring of neural circuits underlying executive function (i.e. maturation of the part of the brain concerned with planning, decision making and judgement). If this is the case, brain maturation may be temporarily or permanently disrupted by puberty blockers, which could have significant impact on the ability to make complex risk-laden decisions, as well as possible longer-term neuropsychological consequences. To date, there has been very limited research on the short-, medium- or longer-term impact of puberty-blockers on neurocognitive development."
> and only recommends reviewing puberty blockers for AFAB people
Cass does not make this recommendation.
Cyberpunk as a genre generally depicts as a technologically advanced dystopia. One can find the setting interesting but not desirable, just as people find post-apocalyptic zombie plagues fascinating but wouldn’t actually want to experience it.
That's arguing with bad faith and framing the argument incorrectly IMO. Nobody is " against trans " people, whatever that means. Many are against children joining that lifestyle, which may result in irreparable harm to the child.
As an adult, I am on androgen replacement therapy but I am also very careful with it, regularly checking my labs to make sure I don't torch my liver in the process. I can make informed decisions about it because I've read the research and understand the risks. A child or even a teenager doesn't understand the risks of taking hormones. Not fully anyway, as the brain doesn't fully develop until 25 or so.
> Nobody is " against trans " people, whatever that means.
Have you ever been on twitter? It will take you a couple of minutes to find people who think that's unnatural, sinful, should be forbidden, they're mentally ill, they're sexual predators by default. I know there are some more moderate ideas, but people completely against do exist.
You're putting in the same bag many complaints, some of which irrational and unproven (sexual predators) and some valid arguments, rooted in philosophical or religious beliefs (unnatural, mental illness).
Moreover, everyone knows twitter is not exactly the place with the healthiest representative sample of mankind...
The claim wasn't that it was a common, healthy, or well researched opinion. Just that it exists, unlike what the parent wrote.
> . Nobody is " against trans " people, whatever that means
What it means is “actively seeking to eliminate trans people, including by the simple expedient of killing them by means such as prohibiting care that is proven to greatly reduce suicidality in, especially, young trans people.”
And lots of people—indeed, entire state governments in the US—are “against trans people”.
> “actively seeking to eliminate trans people,
Put it such extreme and dishonest way, reducing sugar in food it an attempt to eliminate obese people... No , the attribute is not the object.
> indeed, entire state governments in the US—are “against trans people”.
So you deny the rights of a community of people to decide what they deem legal or illegal ?
All this for the personal benefit of a (literal) couple of people ?
Should they also be carried in Ferraris to their treatment place?
> So you deny the rights of a community of people to decide what they deem legal or illegal ?
That’s irrelevant. Whether a community has a right to pass laws based on the fact that they are against trans people is not the issue. Whether people are. manifestly against trans people is the issue (and they very clearly are.)
> So you deny the rights of a community of people to decide what they deem legal or illegal ? All this for the personal benefit of a (literal) couple of people ?
I hate to invoke Godwin, but just because a society decides to outlaw belonging to a certain minority doesn't make it right. The NSDAP's Anti-Jew laws were also passed in parliament, but still those laws were very obviously wrong.
>So you deny the rights of a community of people to decide what they deem legal or illegal ? All this for the personal benefit of a (literal) couple of people
By that logic if said community is for incest, pedophilia and extremely violent and barbarian punishment, the country has to allow it?
Many societies over the course of history have decided that slavery should be legal. Some still do today. I absolutely deny those communities' moral right to this decision (though I can't do much about the practical right).
> That's arguing with bad faith and framing the argument incorrectly IMO. Nobody is " against trans " people
I don't know how you can say that unironically when places like my current state (Texas) have been doing everything in their power to be against trans people. These lifestyle arguments remind me a lot of the exact same stuff people said about anyone gay, that they thought it caused irreparable harm and spread disease.
Some aspects of subcultures within people who identify as gay end up spreading disease, in certain contexts. Why is monkeypox so prevalent now? Did the virus decide to hop continents?
So I'm going to call it, you are using textbook neonazi argumentation. Never admitting that you are actually ideologically opposed to certain people (LGBT, black, brown...) but making up bogus "medical" arguments.
The reason why monkeypox is so prevalent right now is because the way it spreads isn't limited to gay sex, despite what the mangled messaging around says. It spreads by any sort of close contact (including bedding and clothing), and there have been many straight individuals turned away from testing because they weren't deemed 'at risk' despite them having all of the classical signs of monkeypox. So it ends up spreading among crowds like swingers and what not most publicly, while privately it spreads among the more traditional crowds that end up not getting tested.
Going through natal puberty causes irreparable harm to children.
I fail to how gender is not part of who you are as a human, if you have read ghost in the shell you should know it does explore sexuality/gender.
And you're mixing up action with identity, a straight person can identify as straight while not act on that identity, the whole "its not a choice" is the counter argument to society at the time demanding that LGBT people "straighten up".
It's not some LGBTs foundational argument.
> I always wondered how the LGBTQI++ community will react when transhumanism allows all their sexual identities to become a choice. Will they still insist that they have no control over it?
If there was a simple pill that cured gender dysphoria, a pretty reasonable number of people would take it.
I read current gender rhetoric as a necessary counter culture that got adopted too readily - only in the sense that it seems like we should have detached from any sense of discrete categories, and now we have to overcome the current doctrine to get to a more flexible and sometimes healthier place, where the culture can become about this kind of self discovery you mention.
At least thats the arc I would write if this was fiction, maybe this kind of speculation is unhealthy in this forum...
> I still regularly encounter people who are spitting angry against transgender folks
Would those people still be angry at transgender people if they went in the bathrooms (and other sex segregated spaces) they used to go into and didn't complain about being called using their original names, sex and pronouns? I expect the most they'd get in that case is nose wrinkling in disgust.
They would be just as angry in that situation. Have you seen how trans masculine people get treated?
The bathroom laws forbid them from going into the male bathroom (because they're AFAB), bit if they go into the female bathroom while looking like a bodybuilder, they'll also have the cops called on them.
Bathrooms were never sex segregated, and that's not the point of these laws either: the goal of these laws is to make it so uncomfortable to be visibly trans, that it becomes impossible.
That's why this usually goes hand in hand with bans on even teaching about the existence of LGBT people in schools, the goal is eradication.
>I still regularly encounter people who are spitting angry against transgender folks and then later in the conversation will completely unironically talk about how much they love the cyberpunk genre.
There is a difference between messing with your body and augmenting it. Transhumanists generally believe in augmenting the human body with cybernetic parts, not changing the body's internal chemistry.
Then how do you explain common transhumanist ideas like nootropics and biohacking? I think the line you've drawn is a bit arbitrary.
Indeed, I don't think the issue is with the use of chemicals or not.
But about, as the parent pointed, improvement. Even in a transhumanist society, someone with eyes on its feet or a mechanical arm without any usefulness would be regarded as stupid or mentally ill.
Not all modifications are good &/or transhumanists.
>I think the line you've drawn is a bit arbitrary.
On second thought, what I should have said was "transhumanists focus on improving the human body". Transitioning may improve your mental health (debatably) but it does not improve your physiological capabilities, and in case of MTF transition arguably worsens your body (bone density, muscle mass, fat distribution and so on)
I didn't know it was a "movement", i thought it was the logical conclusion of our current technological trajectory. I didn't even know they went in hiding, we are closer to transhumanism today than ever. Some of the technologies are within the visible horizon now, for real, like neurotechnology and artificial wombs. We just injected half the population with an mRNA protein template, repeatedly. I don't expect to reach the end my life while still a human, hopefully.
All humans are actively engaged in various levels of transhumanism, especially from a medical standpoint. We all hope that medicine will help us achieve what is, to us presently, superhuman lifespans. Many of us are mentally altered through psychotropic medicine and prefer living this way.
Transhumanism as a movement is just a vocal proponent of a process of technological adoption already happening on a regular basis.
This seems like the most appropriate description of transhumanism.
I think for a long time in human history, technology simply wasn't there to alter the physical nature of humanity. But in recent decades, we understand much more about human physiology enough to alter human body in a drastic and permanent way.
This is generating lots of contention between groups about what's acceptable to change and what's not acceptable to change. Also I think about how people think they are rational about their positions on these matters but they are more like strong cultural presumptions about what's right and wrong.
Let's consider situation we already have.
Consider sex change operation. There's one camp that's complete fine with people getting sex change operation, while there's another camp that condones and some, want to outlaw such operation. The liberal camp likes to say that a person should be able to do what they want to do with their body.
However, at the same time, the both of the camp tends to dislike male steroid usage to change one's physique (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/108-2004/h226). For some reason, same reason to let people decide what they want to do with their body, doesn't apply when it comes to male physique.
It's interesting to see how technology is challenging our preconceived notion of right and wrong and sheds lights to inconsistency in our rationale.
>However, at the same time, the both of the camp tends to dislike male steroid usage to change one's physique
I mean, yea with how often 'roid rage' happens, and some of the extreme negative side effects of steroid usage I don't want people blindingly going into modifying their bodies without understanding they massively increasing their risks of stroke and heart enlargement.
I think there is clear philosophical division between 'humanist' medical position, which tries to fix what is broken, but considers healthy human body and mind as ideal, and 'transhumanist' medical position, which considers improvements important regardless whether they just fix what is broken, or improve beyond natural abilities.
See that's the thing! You're looking for the furry (and especially trans) / queer communities, especially the Freedom of Form Foundation or the "digital self-identity" simulacra folks. All of these communities are grounded in imagining existing the ideal versions of ourselves, and making that work actually happen
> face a new feudalism, as control of finance and the power that goes with it will be at the core of technological human enhancement, and democracy…will be dead in the water.”
While there's a significant risk of it to happen, it's not a given. Brain augmentation connecting people to each other might give a rise to the direct democracy when hundreds of the collective decisions take place every day: from desiding if your local road needs an upgrade between community members to voting for the national parliament members.
It's dangerous to modify something we don't know in details - risk breaking it is too high. The only sane action transhumanism could do is to throw money and working hands on the biomedical research, also biomedical engineering. Even nanotechnology is less relevant since those nanobots would need to know exactly what to modify. At the end, likely we will just design new proteins which are true nanobots already existing in our bodies.
With our current relationship with tech, nobody on their right mind would want to anticipate transhumanism. Fix tech first, then people will start to hype it again.
This is the true and underappreciated answer.
People do not trust technology and technology companies.
And they are right in that thinking. Almost all of the big tech companies are straight up evil almost to the point of being impossible to satire and tech workers defend them due to the high compensation.
I am aware of your message but unfortunately I can’t respond right now because I need to pay $25 through a series of corporate relationships to a small consortium of sociopaths to reactivate my retinas. If you would like to contribute to the restoration of my vision, please click the following link: give.me.money/icantseetoday
Right, this is my sentiment exactly. Give me open-source, modular devices created by people operating outside the incentive structures of a capitalist mode of production and I'll take a look.
As far as the devices of the current order, I keep that dirty bullshit as far away from my body (and home) as I reasonably can.
Imagine buying a Facebook neuralink and having then datamine your thoughts.
I’m rather convinced, with really no evidence, mind you, that all the best future cyborg implants will be surficial and removable. Glasses. Skin patch. Etc.
I’ve seen how good we are with tech. I don’t see why we’ll need to cut people open to apply it.
I'd say just waiting for the possibility to be like actually possible?
I don't know if I would call myself one, but I believe I'm just a (very advanced) piece of software.
Whenever the possibility of hardware upgrade becomes available, count me in!
I was hoping this would be more specific and do followups on people who were featured in places like Wired. For example they have a picture of Anders Sandberg wearing an eyepiece and carying around a computer. Does he still do that?
I've heard about people implanting rfid chips in their hand. Do they still use them a few years later?
I have no problem with enhancing our lives thru technology, but seeking eternal life in this universe is incredibly stupid because you're effectively seeking eternal damnation. Eventually someone captures you, locks you away and tortures you for thousands of years if not forever.
Creating heaven is hard, but hell is well within reach.
Some type of Dead man's switch  could make it safer, if it's your main worry. Of course, it's another source of bugs..
Considering transhumanism is one of the most, if not the most, egocentric philosophies out there, I'd say it's a near certainty to lead to authoritarian existence.
I once went to an early 2000’s transhumanist party with Nick Bostrom. He had a transhumanist leadership position at that point, if I recall. (The party was rad)
The most transhumanist thing in my life currently: getting into flow states writing academic papers with GPT-3. It is genuinely mind melting.
I think one reason transhumanism will never truly take off is because whenever something can be done more efficiently without potentially harming one's body, that's the winning piece of technology. Sure, we could try to make body mods that allow us to fly, but we already have helicopters and airplanes (not to mention jetpacks). Yes, we could make ourselves super smart by trying to integrate our minds with the Internet and AI, but we already have smartphones in our pockets.
Is there a pre-agricultural movement I could sign on to? It seems like every development post-hunter-gatherer has been in service of extending our lives while simultaneously making them (and the environment) worse. We talk about quality of life, but what kind of life is it to sit inside a box 2/3 of your life, or breaking your back in a factory, or on a farm? Most hunter-gatherers actually have more leisure time and work less, are healthy, don't pollute.
For the same reason that I think it's good for people to live in a different culture for a while, I wish it were possible for people to live in a different era for a while.
There was a time when it wasn't smoking and obesity that killed people, but smallpox, plague, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. When a single epidemic could kill a double-digit percentage of the entire population of whatever unlucky region got it. For reference, COVID killed maybe 0.2% and HIV killed 0.4% over forty years.
To quote Munroe, our heroes have slain one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and here you are complaining about sitting in a cubicle.
Forty percent of the people in your office would have died before the age of five. Many of the rest would have died young of now completely avertable causes. Perhaps something as small as a cut that got infected, or fucking diarrhoea.
The natural maternal mortality rate is something like 1.5%. That's per birth. Because half your children will die, most women will have half a dozen children (modern estimates for hunter gatherer fertility rates). Do you feel lucky? Another reason women had half a dozen children because reliable birth control wasn't a thing.
You know what else wasn't a thing? A working justice system. You may fantasize about a just and noble justice system that runs on tight-knit personal connections in a small village where everyone knows each other, but everything we know about criminal justice tells us that small insular groups of people are actually terrible at justice. My people mete out justice, your people punish on whims and gut feelings, they are extrajudicial lynchers. Actually we're all extrajudicial lynchers, because no judicial system, remember?
I could go on, but I have to finish reading my printed book teaching me the fruit of thousands of years of accumulated wisdom. (I'm a grad student and I'm trying to learn quantum field theory). It took me two hours of my underpaid grad student labour to make enough money to buy the book. I bought it because I like reading paper books. I could actually just download it and read it on my LCD display connected to the entire world's knowledge. That laptop was a bit more expensive. Maybe two weeks wages. For reference, it took maybe ~500 hours labour to make a shirt in medieval times. When they had division of labour and looms. Hope you don't mind wearing the same animal hide for years on end.
You think that smallpox, plague, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases were major killers of pre-technological hunter-gatherers? I don't think that's correct.
But you're certainly right about the problems with child mortality, maternal mortality, birth control, and infected cuts. I think it's not a given whether or not these are necessarily deal-breakers (personally I think the maternal-mortality-plus-birth-control combo is the most horrifying, but YMMV), but they're certainly very huge problems. Very huge problems.
But I am not so sure you're right about problems with the justice. Again, GP didn't talk about the wonders of 15th-C England or 3rd-C Rome (never mind the really bad eras), they talked about pre-technological hunter-gatherer societies. Since "justice" is just a fiction we've come up with to try to match our evolved intuitions, my guess is that we'd be happier with the justice of that era than we are with the justice of the present era (and I agree that the present-day first-world situation is much better than pretty much all of the alternatives in the last 10,000 years). But you made a particular claim here, that "everything we know about criminal justice tells us that small insular groups of people are actually terrible at justice", and so maybe you have some references you'd care to share that could help me understand how right you are. I'd appreciate that.
Personally, I, too, am a pretty big fan of printed books and (the output of) looms. (I mean, I'm actually a big fan of LCDs, too, but I think that's a less obvious win.) But I think that your final paragraph is basically begging the question. My understanding is that existing hunter-gatherers (the very very few of them that there are) are actually happier.
Tuberculosis at least seems to have been a common disease for primitive hunter-gatherers.
I don't know how to break it to you but many if not most pre-technology hunter-gatherers lived horrible lives, full of pain and misery and died much younger, usually as babies.
My understanding of the research is that the "horrible, pain and misery" is mostly wrong. My understanding is that pre-tech hunter-gatherers lived fairly pleasant lives, without a lot of pain and misery, with less work, less stress, more leisure, more play. However, it was much more possible to have an accident that leads to immediate or near-term death. And yes, the infant mortality rate was much, much higher. Higher quality of life while you're alive, but lower security (although higher individual security than pre-modern agriculture societies).
The real problem with wanting that lifestyle is that it has a huge footprint in terms of relatively-good land required to support a small group. That's even true for the best land (places where fish just come to you, like parts of California or British Columbia), and it's even more true other places. So agriculturists can raise 100x the population, and thus 100x the army, on the same land. And they do so, and then they take your land.
So to me, the answer to 0xbadcafebee is:
nope, not unless you have a way to buy a lot of land and keep the surrounding culture at bay
> died much younger, usually as babies
This is of course because they were pretty long-lived, but had a high infant/childhood mortality rate. It's certainly a way to look at it, but if you counted every miscarriage as a negative lifespan, you could make the average lifespan even shorter.
When hunter-gatherers lived past childhood, they lived almost as long as we live.
Hunter-gatherers are still living today without technology and they don't have miserable lives. Infant mortality is probably a feature, not a bug, considering what happens when there's too many humans in a given area.
Actually it's good that women go through pregnancy and labour only to have the child die. Every woman should go through that once (or half a dozen times) in their lives. If they get lucky, they could die too!
It looks like we're going to get a pre-agricultural culture soon, whether we want one or not.
A species that spends more time living in a techno/economic LARP fantasy world than dealing with very obvious and real problems has extremely limited survival prospects.
From that POV the transhumanists already won.
Practically - here we are, self-defined as a huge success while our cities flood and/or burn.
And were completely at the whims of nature around them. Yea, this is great when you live in a nice stable climate oasis, but most places on the planet are not like that (and that's even before we add in man made climate change).
It's all fun and games until you stub your toe and get an infection that could be treated with antibiotics, well except by choice you don't have any and you get to watch your body rot until you die.
It would be nice to keep the technology/medicine that keeps mothers and babies alive through childbirth, though.
Maybe Anarcho-Primitivism? Not sure how many advocates / activists are out there proselytizing for this these days, but I'm sure there are at least a few.
Reposting a comment of mine from 10 months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28731696
Extropians are everywhere. Many names come to mind, like Assange, Hal Finney, Jurvetson, Carl Feynman, and many others.
I hope that something like this group comes back, but with a vengeance. Call me an optimist, but if they had put their minds to it, they could have accomplished much more than a mailing list, which has unfortunately dwindled in the last 10 years.
Cypherpunks write code- but what about the extropians?
> Cypherpunks write code- but what about the extropians?
As Jim McCoy said, it takes Evil Geniuses to really get the job done.
Circa 1999, the Zero Knowledge Systems (ZKS) startup had a group called Evil Geniuses.
There was also a cryptography startup later on called Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow (working on peer-to-peer stuff that I think is slightly akin to Filecoin).
I was looking for the source of the quote as I had never heard it, but didn't realize my brain had assumed Leonard not Jim.
Yuval Noah Harari’s speech on how control over one’s biometric data should be handed to the elites in order to hack the human animal was really inspirational.
Extropians hack reality versus a purpose built man made machine: https://youtu.be/XheAMrS8Q1c
Ideas like designer drugs and therapy to embed experience and knowledge is way more interesting than VR apps
> For Cameron, transhumanism looks as frightening as ever, and he honed in on a notion he refers to as the “hollowing out of the human,” the idea that “all that matters in Homo sapiens can be uploaded as a paradigm for our desiderata.”
Jonathan Coulton, The Future Soon:
Cause it's gonna be the future soon
And I won't always be this way
When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away
It's gonna be the future soon
I've never seen it quite so clear
And when my heart is breaking I can close my eyes and it's already here
Do you want to be a transhumanist because you are embracing something, or because you are running away from something, like the fictional character in this song? The latter is deeply unhealthy, perhaps fatally (or in this case, genocidally) so.
"Like so many others after 9/11, I felt spiritually and existentially lost. It’s hard to believe now, but I was a regular churchgoer at the time."
Ah, the will to believe. In something. Anything. The believer crowd is usually not the group that makes it work. Today's "metaverse" enthusiasts and actual metaverse implementers have quite limited overlap.
Transhumanism never left. It became mainstream.
Personally I think widespread use of a certain kind of mature augmented reality will make its users effectively transhuman.
Eagerly awaiting the pill that turns me into my fursona.
My disgust reaction is provoked by enough transhumanist ideas that it feels more dystopian than utopian to me. I guess I'm too... human... to trans-human too hard.
Transhumanism should be about freedom and increased ability.
But the future is about corporate authoritarian dystopia, extreme wealth inequality, and environmental armageddon.
Pessimism for the future is beginning to take over.
I mean, look at "Meta", and the fact it's tied to effing facebook and all the crappiness that entails. VR is a lot like transhumanism in many ways, and it's clear VR will be attached to megacorps and google-class lockout and non-customer service.
They finished transitioning.
Does anyone working in tech ACTUALLY thin transhumanism is a good idea? It seems like a field ripe for criminal exploitation and hacking, even in an optimistic future.
Unless I lose a limb, or an eye, keep my body offline.
In a way I already use my smartphone as an extension of my body. Compared to the pre-smartphone era I remember fewer facts, knowing that I can easily look them up. I outsource even moderate arithmetic to my smartphone instead of calculating it myself. I use pictures and notes to aid short-term memory.
Of course that's dangerous (just imagine the gaslighting potential), but also very useful. The only real drag is the awfully low bandwidth between my brain and my phone. The display-to-brain connection over the visual cortex is ok-if-wasteful, but the input with touch is a real drag. How cool would it be to just have a math-coprocessor implanted that I can communicate with at the speed of thought. Or a knowledge database that I can query with my inner voice?
Is it incredibly dangerous? Yes. But many things are, and hopefully we will learn to mitigate the dangers.
People are already transhuman now. I have two pieces of technology glued to the outside of my body as we speak, they are monitoring my blood glucose levels and adjusting the amount of insulin my body receives in near real time.
Could someone hack it and attempt to overdose me with insulin. Yes, it is a risk.
But it is a risk I'm a thousand percent willing to take because life before it was chore where you risk falling to sleep and never waking up again.
Yes, but would you have it if you didn't need it? That was my point. I can see using transhuman augmentations to help those in need...give the blind sight, amputees limbs, etc. But my concern is when it becomes a vanity issue over a needs-based issue. Replacing body parts should not be a light decision unless it is something needful.
I mean, it's not a light issue currently because the risks are high. As high risk individuals have these parts replaced over time we'll be able to quantify these risks. The risks will reduce and eventually people in 'no risk' scenarios with their current body parts will be able accurately judge if added risks of mechanical parts are worth it. Eventually the risks will be borne by the people that do not accept augmentations. But typically these things will take very long periods of time to play out.
That's a pessimistic and myopic view of transhumanism. Where it becomes a good idea is a context that humanity is limited in its current (biological) form.
There are lots and lots of things that could kill our species over the next several thousand years and the transhumanists simply think it is worth investing in looking into how we could potentially use technology to adapt to those threats or enhance the human experience.
Working in tech + have a pathologist for a father.
Unequivocally yes, I think transhumanism is a good idea.
Arguing against transhumanism is arguing that you believe either (a) the body was created perfectly or (b) that we'll do more harm than good if we tinker with it.
The body is a machine. A bloody complicated machine, with many parts we don't understand, but a machine nonetheless.
I don't believe in a future where substantial body modification doesn't make us better, in all objective senses.
And we do it today: vaccinations, pacemakers, artificial hips and joints and valves, cochlear implants, the myriad of drugs to modify various bodily processes, limb replacements, mRNA drugs.
The body is programmable: it's just very complex. But that hasn't stopped up as a species from achieving other equally difficult things.
Thanks, and well put. It's amazing how people who think, "I don't want to mess up my body," will come to a different conclusion, once they are facing death or disability.
Perhaps experience really is the best teacher. ;)
My main area of concern is people who can exploit these augmentations for political, personal, and profit reasons. Even in the best scenario possible, these things are going to happen. All code is flawed in some fashion. Unless we plan on keeping these augmentations completely offline, they can and WILL be exploited by hackers. Imagine how giddy North Korea would be to be able to mess with the President's body, or having a competitor hack your eyes to see corporate secrets. Or a disgraced lover wanting revenge. These are already real threats with current technology to an extent...how much more deadly will these threats become when we can't just throw the tech out or modify them, because they are parts of ourselves?
Even better yet, what happens when those parts of yours no longer get support? There are already people who were able to gain sight through robotics, but lost vision again once the company that sold them the eyes went out of business. We can't just blindly think about the best case scenario and call it good. We need to think of worst case scenarios to provide a safer future.
Even in the best scenario possible, these things are going to happen. All code is flawed in some fashion. Unless we plan on keeping these augmentations completely offline, they can and WILL be exploited by hackers.
I think that companies are capable of making secure systems when they have the right incentives. The Xbox One, launched 9 years ago, has never had its security broken such that it could play copied games. That's even though customers have physical access to the hardware and ample incentives to hack it. Microsoft prioritized security because it's directly aligned with the money the ecosystem makes from game sales. Implants don't need to run all the complicated software a modern game console does (which includes a web browser and video players as well as actual games), so they could have a much smaller software attack surface in the first place.
While you are correct about the xbox, it will eventually be cracked one of these days. Its not a matter of if, but when. But would you seriously trust that when it is your own body we are talking about? What is the incentive for companies to continue supporting old parts? Good will? Maybe if there is regulation, but if it is more profitable to pay the fees than issue a recall or consider continuing support, then why bother?
Even Microsoft's security isn't perfect...a group of hackers found the full specs and software for the Xbox One months before it was released or details were announced. Look up "XBox Underground." Even if the device itself is safe, there are other alternative ways of jacking things up. Imagine if the eyes you use are safe...but the server they connect to isn't, and some creep decides to watch you and your lover having sex.
Your argument applies to biological machines too. Think of advertising. The only reason your mechanical augmentations seem more exploitable is because the technology involved seems better understood fnord.
> Does anyone working in tech ACTUALLY think transhumanism is a good idea?
No but...as long as technology advancement proceeds at a faster pace than evolution, human obsolescence is bound to happen someday. Transhumanism was an optimistic movement that humans could somehow stay in control as cyborgs (when it is much more likely that artificial life replace humans without human components).
I'll be keeping my body offline. But I think fusion with AGI is inevitable if we want to remain somewhat in control of our future. Otherwise we will be super ceded by super intelligent AI and become their pets.
We wouldn’t even notice we’ve become pets of any kind of superintelligence; one can’t notice intelligence vastly superior to their own, same way your cat can’t even remotely grasp what the code on your screen is for.
Heh - this sounds kind of like theism. :)
Except that I'm not talking about some mythical "supreme beings", I'm talking about things that we've ourselves created. When you look at politics, you'll see that in many countries, from USA to Russia, "collective interest" matter more than those of humans; from corporations "sponsoring" regulations, to steadily lowering life quality and, at the same time, skyrocketing company income.
I personally wouldn't have called those things "intelligences" - more like clashes of unintended perverse incentives and ignored negative externalities.
That said, I didn't think you were talking about a hypothetical deity - it's just what your metaphor made me think of.
>I personally wouldn't have called those things "intelligences"
Why, though? By which criteria they are not intelligent beings?
Because in my experience these systems act dumber than most individual humans manage to.
They function much more like a drunk, demented DNN optimizing for some unknown set of variables than like a human using its intelligence to solve problems.
They wield power not available to individual humans. They achieve things individual humans can’t. They get people to sacrifice themselves (up to a literal karoshi) for company’s interests.
Are you sure you don’t do things that appear stupid to your cat?
>They function much more like a drunk, demented DNN optimizing for some unknown set of variables than like a human using its intelligence to solve problems.
That’s a weird sentence. It’s written as if there was some fundamental difference between the two.
> They wield power not available to individual humans. They achieve things individual humans can’t. They get people to sacrifice themselves (up to a literal karoshi) for company’s interests.
Do these have something to do with intelligence? I see power and intelligence as largely orthogonal. Ditto control and intelligence.
See Donald Trump during his presidency, for instance. Mountains of power, control of the nuclear arsenal, massive private wealth. People threw their careers away to tell lies for him.
Still an idiot.
> Are you sure you don’t do things that appear stupid to your cat?
Not at all. I see your point here and it's a valid one (though I still can't do anything but reason from the reference frame I've got).
Though I'm not sure my cats even have a category for "stupid".
> > They function much more like a drunk, demented DNN optimizing for some unknown set of variables than like a human using its intelligence to solve problems.
> That’s a weird sentence. It’s written as if there was some fundamental difference between the two.
I'm not sure there's a fundamental difference, but I'm also not convinced there isn't.
Certainly the output I've seen from image recognizers, GPT-N, image generators and similar have seemed recognizably different to me from skilled human makers.
They're occasionally quite good at aping a particular style or topic, but I don't remember seeing anything so far that reminds me of the flashes of inspiration, insight, and understanding I'm used to seeing from other humans while they're problem-solving.
I've also seen people much more informed than I make cogent-seeming arguments that DNNs are necessary but not sufficient for something like human intelligence, and that we'll need other paradigms to combine with them before we really see progress.
I've seen the opposite claimed too, in a reasonable and coherent way - that DNNs are all we need and they just need more scale than we've been able to throw at them so far.
I'm not sure which stance I think is right (if either - not too sure human intelligence is actually a tractable problem, given that we don't even have a coherent definition of it, nor a clear idea of whether the not-understood nature of consciousness may have anything to do with it).
where do people get this idea that a flat plane of silicon can ever out-compete the chemical interconnectivity of fractally-folded grey matter (don't get me started on performance-per-watt)
AI's greatest risk is people assuming it's superior while being little more than a charismatic magic 8-ball
Who said anything about silicon? Maybe AGI will be built on our current bread of processors or maybe the next generation. The only way i see you can be correct is if today's exponential technological advancements come to a halt or reverse. I do not foresee a future where we do not eventually create an AGI superior to us. Maybe in 5 years time, maybe in a 100. But it is coming.
Because that fractally folder grey matter has only been generated via random walk and what survives to breed. It is also filled with massive stupidities that can end an individuals life in a moment.
You're also thinking quite 2 dimensionally and limiting yourself to one medium. Carbon nanotube computing, chemical computing, even computing with DNA are all platforms that we can harness and have the potential to master.
There was a span of 14 years between an implant allowi g control of an artficial hand, in 2005 , and an implant allowing speech synthesis from brain signals , in 2019 . I am not sure the pace of innovation is accelerating drastically.
(Edit: Sorry, I posted the wrong url in the previous version of my reply)
Which actually might not be all that bad.
Or we could go all conspiracy theory and suggest that we already are pets. ;)
Hah, A lot of us already are pets, but at least the masters are still human.
IMHO Technology has the potential to be awesome.
It's just that we're focusing most of the engineering effort on selling ads and generating dark patterns in phones.
My main area of concern is hacking. Imagine how easy it would be to jack someone's life up because they bought a "smart arm" or got AR eyes. Where technology exists, bad actors will exploit it.
Agreed. The smartphone market ruined the idea of cybernetic augmentation for me. It made it clear that any augmentation would inevitably have to be sold and maintained by some company, and I couldn't think of any companies I'd trust to support hardware in my body.
Does anyone working in tech actually think it's a PLAUSIBLE idea? The idea of a computer being able to work AT ALL similarly to a human brain is laughable to me. The brain is a physical organ that we barely understand. Simulating a human mind would probably require simulating interactions at a molecular level, which may not ever be possible.
It's also not just your brain. Like... what are you without your stomach?
Self cultivation via meditation and related methods is where it's at. Smoother and deeper than mere machines. It's the old and good "transhumanism".
It really is impressive stuff.
For another perspective:
I have at certain points in life considered myself part of this movement. I think I'd still consider myself one, but with a lot more cynicism.
At this point it's unquestionable to me that people will eventually do some version of "mind uploading." However I doubt we'll ever answer the question whether you'll be uploading "yourself" or not - my guess is not.
Unless we somehow make a literal "Matrix" like the movies, it's just not going to happen and I see no reason we would or should build such a thing.
I mean Altos labs is out there trying to cure aging, so you might say it’s gone mainstream.
What's the story of how gizmodo is still around? I thought Peter Thiel killed them off.
transhumanism is a cult composed of defective biological machines, and I say that as a signed up cryonicist...
Some became Flancians, I say.
they rebranded as effective altruism
I don't think so, there's overlap but the groups are separate.
(Admittedly weak) Source: I lurk on the extropian mailing list && was fairly involved in EA.
As someone who is relatively active in EA and was interested but not super active in transhumanist orgs outside of a brief volunteer stint many years ago, I think this is incorrect. I'd guess there's quite a lot of overlap in people who are interested in both, but I don't think there was an active merging of communities
or became more concerned with AI alignment than thinking about potential upsides
Stuff like AI alignment is why I'm less interested in the EA groups nowadays tbh. Too much preference is given to these sci-fi ideas over rational known solutions to real issues. I also find it's not CS guys talking about these issues but philosophers and I don't believe you can weigh up risk/reward of issues in the mid-far future off of peoples views who don't understand (even theoretical) implementation details. I still fully agree with many other parts of EA though, like giving what we can and focusing on effective charities.
So, transhumanists are just techy progressives?
This guy is asking where the transhumanist movement went?
We're using plastic surgery and chemicals to change people's gender, and he's asking where it went?
You sound like you're getting caught up on the prefix "trans" in conjunction with the current culture war zeitgeist. That's not what transhumanism is.
Why not? Isn't part of transhumanism the idea that a person could control their own biology? Trans people (especially those who have actually transitioned) seem like early adopters to me.
I think the histrionic overreaction to trans people shows one of the things that will hold any kind of real transhumanism back though. If you think we have a culture war now wait until we have extreme life extension, really powerful intelligence augmentation, and the ability to more deeply alter our physical form.
A certain subset of the religious and social conservative sectors are going to crusade hard core against any of this stuff. You can already hear it on the far right and most of this stuff doesn't exist yet.
Right on point. TH encompasses TG, and is really it's spiritual essence.
Yes, there will be political and religious pushback against this. But it is certainly not histrionics, or an overreaction.
With regard to transgenderism, the brutal surgeries are a poor facsimile. Even atheists and those on the left are hesitant to pursue intimate relationships -- and the stories of physical suffering are just beginning to surface.
Yeah, if you think things are pretty grim at this point in 'late-stage capitalism', it could rapidly get a whole lot worse if anti-ageing tech comes along, and we're suddenly living under a ruling class of immortal billionaires/trillionaires.
“ Transhumanism made a lot of sense to me, as it seemed to represent the logical next step in our evolution, albeit an evolution guided by humans and not Darwinian selection.”
Cringe-worthy misunderstanding of Darwinism…
I think transhumanists eventually just grew up, realized how silly the whole idea was, and then were never replaced by some younger generation that shared the same naive optimism about technology that they had in early years. We’ve learned to look at technology with a more cynical eye these days. It’s like for any technology you imagine, I can instantly see how to exploit it at the expense of the human experience.