Wednesday, June 16, 2010

YES! Hard-core transhumanist splinter groups yearning for cyber-heaven

The anti-transhumanist New Atlantis blog Futurisms has a story on Why Transhumanism Won’t Work. See also the review at Accelerating Future.

The article is mainly an anti-uploading rant. Their technical objections to uploading are, needless to say, very stupid. But they understand the concept of uploading well;

"uploading is the proposition that, by means of some future technology, it may be possible to “transfer” or “migrate” a mind from its brain into some new “embodiment” (in the same way one “migrates” a computer file or application from one machine to another). That may mean transferring the mind into a new cloned human body and brain, or into some other computational “substrate,” such as a future supercomputer with the horsepower to emulate a human brain."

My own position is: Mind Uploading is feasible in principle. This is the only position compatible with materialism, the scientific method, and current scientific knowledge. Denying this is falling into vitalism and mysticism. Our bodies and brains ARE machines which operate according to the laws of physics, machines which can be fully understood by science and improved by engineering. We ARE information, and information CAN be transferred from one computational substrate to another. Perhaps achieving uploading may take longer than some transhumanists thought in the 90s, and perhaps the deployment of uploading technology will force us to re-think our intuitive concept of self. But this does not change the fact that uploading is feasible in principle, and desirable. Some day it will be achieved (and there are VERY promising research projects ongoing), and every human will have the option of leaving biology behind and moving to a post-biological life with indefinite lifespan. This will probably not happen in the first half of the century, but for my generation there are new emerging options for brain preservation.

They also understand well that uploading is a central transhumanist meme, perhaps THE central one:

"transhumanism itself is uploading writ large. Not only is the idea of uploading one of the central dogmas of transhumanism..."

And they understand, better than many transhumanists, the current situation of the transhumanist movement:

"The further mainstreaming of transhumanism seems to require some P.R. maneuvering, including a rebranding (the glossy new name “H+”). It may also require a moderating of ambitions. The old “Extropian” dreams of uploading and wholesale replacement of humanity with technology may be too scary and weird for mass audiences. Perhaps more modest ambitions will have a broader public appeal: life extension and performance enhancement, cool new gadgets and drugs, and only minimal forms of cyborgization (implanting technological devices within the body). In other words, more Aubrey de Grey, less Hans Moravec; more public policy and less cyberpunk; more hipster geeks and fewer socially-impaired nerds. A kinder, gentler Singularity. Maybe even one with women in it... "

Here they are describing the moderate, watered down, lukewarm, cautious, timid, politically correct, and BORING version of transhumanism that some ex-transhumanists turned PC anti-transhumanists wish to promote. No Extropian dreams of uploading to cyber-heaven, but free anti-oxydant and viagra for senior citizens.

But, of course:

"If so, distancing themselves from uploading is probably a smart move for the H+ leaders, but it risks a split with their base, and the formation of new, hard-core splinter groups still yearning for cyber-heaven..."

YES! Let's form hard-core transhumanist splinter groups yearning for cyber-heaven. Let's put some vision, imagination and FUN back into transhumanism. Let's re-affirm the bold, fresh, uncompromising and energizing transhumanism of Hans Moravec and Max More. Let's not appease critics and PC idiots, but ignore them. Not kissing ass, but kicking ass.