Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dancing the transhuman r-evolution

On the IEET and Sentient Development blogs there is an interesting article by Athena Andreadis on "If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution!". Athena says: "Both [transhumanism and cyberpunk] are deeply anhedonic, hostile to physicality and the pleasures of the body, from enjoying wine to playing in an orchestra. I wondered why it had taken me so long to figure this out. After all, many transhumanists use the repulsive (and misleading) term “meat cage” to describe the human body, which they deem a stumbling block, an obstacle in the way of the mind... However, we demean the body at our peril. It’s not the passive container of our mind; it is its major shaper and inseparable partner." and continues with arguments which, though framed constructively and with reapect, are basically similar to those of Dale Carrico.

My comment on the Sentient Development blog, which includes my comment on the IEET blog:

The article is very good because it goes straight to the core issue: Athena understands well that transhumanism is not about living 20 or 50 years longer, or about tech gadgets - transhumanism is about leaving biology behind. Mind uploading is not a marginal element of transhumanism, but the essence of transhumanism.

Some people like the idea, some don't. Athena doesn't, and I do.

Many people in this comment thread have the same objection that I raise in the IEET post below. Why are you assuming that change is _in principle_ bad? I think it can also be good. Of all comments, I especially agree with Mark Walker's, measured and reasonable as usual.

Heresiarch: "you can't simulate reality to a higher degree than it already exists, and you can't possibly make it more relevant.". I disagree, and I think Shakespeare, Mozart and Picasso proved my point-

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Original: Athena, I think you are kind of assuming your conclusions: you start assuming that transhumanism is grey, and conclude that it is grey. I think it is not grey, but an explosion of beautiful colors.

I am one of those who see the body as a meat cage and, if the option were already available, I would cheerfully choose to upload to silicon or cyberspace. But then I would want MORE color, sound, scent and sex, not less.

Why can't a "disembodied mind playing World of Warcraft in a VR datastream" feel much MORE empathy, friendship, and love (or hate) for others that we do today? Why can't they enjoy art, love flowers and be compassionate and supportive of other sentient beings? Why can't they laugh at a good joke or cry at a sad story? Why can't they enjoy a virtual beer with good friends in a simulated pub?

These are indeed assumptions, in my opinion questionable. I don't see any reason why a disembodied mind cannot _in principle_ have a inner and social life much richer than ours. Of course everything depends on the actual implementation of these yet to be developed options, but there is no reason to assume the worst. Let experiment decide: someday we will be able to _ask_ disembodied minds how they actually feel.

Also:

Athena: "In this case, dualism means assuming that the brain and the mind can be separated".

Oh, but they can. It depends on definitions of course. I tend to define the mind as "the mind is what the brain does", which leaves open the possibility of finding building something else that does it equally well, or better. Like, in most practical cases email is better than paper mail.