[ExI] The Excitement-Disillusionment-Reorientation cycle of online transhumanism

Florent Berthet florent.berthet at gmail.com
Sun Apr 5 15:42:55 UTC 2009

Very true. We have to be effective. Maybe we should focus on discussions
about what we can do and how we can do it?
So I'm asking everybody : according to you, what are the most important
things you want to see achieved, and what are your plans to get them done ?

My idea, as I spoke about in the "I am now a creationist" thread, is to make
"a great transhuman utopian movie, where things actually GO well, and about
which people would think "Wow, if only we could have that!". Then, it could
only be a matter of time before some rich folks start to fund things like
the Singularity Institute and other AGI related projects. Because now,
obviously, they are not moved by these ideas. It seems like we can't
convince rich guys to give money using clever arguments. And since they
don't think that funding an AGI project will make them earn money, the only
way to make them give anyway is to use feelings. Indeed, they may see the
act of giving money as charity. But you don't manage charity with arguments,
you manage it with tears, whether they are tears of sadness, or tears of
hope. You don't make people give money to the starving children by saying
"thousands of them die each day". You make them give money by showing them a
picture of ONE starving little girl. That's the way it is. We have to use
the power of pictures. This would be the most effective way to expand this
movement around the world."

It will take several years and a massive amount of work and money, but I'm
currently on it.

Anyway that's my project. What's yours ?

- Florent Berthet

2009/4/5 Kaj Sotala <xuenay at gmail.com>

> Originally posted at http://xuenay.livejournal.com/318060.html :
> A colleague's posting on the Finnish Transhumanist Association's
> mailing list made me think about a phenomenon I've observed both in
> myself and several others, but never thought about so explicitly. I
> call it the Excitement-Disillusionment-Reorientation cycle of online
> transhumanism.
> The excitement phase is when you first stumble across concepts such as
> transhumanism, radical life extension, and superintelligent AI. This
> is when you subscribe to transhumanist mailing lists, join your local
> WTA/H+ chapter, and start trying to spread the word to everybody you
> know. You'll probably spend hundreds of hours reading different kinds
> of transhumanist materials. This phase typically lasts for several
> years.
> In the disillusionment phase, you start to realize that while you
> still agree with the fundamental transhumanist philosophy, most of
> what you are doing is rather pointless. You can have all the
> discussions you want, but by themselves, those discussions aren't
> going to bring all those amazing technologies here. You learn to
> ignore the "but an upload of you is just a copy" debate when it shows
> up the twentieth time, with the same names rehearsing the same
> arguments and thought experiments for the fifteenth time. Having
> gotten over your initial future shock, you may start to wonder why
> having a specific name like transhumanism is necessary in the first
> place - people have been taking advantage of new technologies for
> several thousands of years. After all, you don't have a specific
> "cellphonist" label for people using cell phones, either. You'll
> slowly start losing interest in activities that are specifically
> termed as transhumanist.
> In the reorientation cycle you have two alternatives. Some people
> renounce transhumanism entirely, finding the label pointless and
> mostly a magnet for people with a tendency towards future hype and
> techno-optimism. Others (like me) simply realize that bringing forth
> the movement's goals requires a very different kind of effort than
> debating other transhumanists on closed mailing lists. An effort like
> engaging with the large audience in a more effective manner, or
> getting an education in a technology-related field and becoming
> involved in the actual research yourself. In either case, you're
> likely to unsubscribe the mailing lists or at least start paying them
> much less attention than before. If you still identify as a
> transhumanist, your interest in the online communities wanes because
> you're too busy actually working for the cause. (Alternatively, you've
> realized how much work this would be and have stopped even trying.)
> This shouldn't be taken to mean that I'm saying the online h+
> community is unnecessary, and that people ought to just skip to the
> last phase. The first step of the cycle is a very useful ingredient
> for giving one a strong motivation to keep working for the cause in
> one's later life, even when they're no longer following the lists.
> One might think that this cycle isn't really specific to
> transhumanism, and that a more general form of it ought to apply to
> all communities. While I have no doubt that it probably does apply to
> other communities as well, I find that the transhumanist cause is
> somewhat rare in that it is so technology-dependant. Hobby communities
> are built around a certain interest, and for those you don't need much
> more than the community - having gathered a bunch of RPG or BDSM
> enthusiasts, you can then go enjoy the activity in question together
> with them. For purely political movements, you can make progress with
> a mainly online presence, debating the pros and cons of your cause and
> recruiting more people under its banner. But while transhumanism is
> certainly a political cause as well, the vast majority of people
> aren't really going to care about the social implications of a
> technology before they can be convinced that the technology in
> question is actually going to become real soon. And even if everybody
> did agree that radical life extension, say, is a good thing, that
> wouldn't really matter for as long as you didn't have life extension
> available. You'd need to actually get involved with things that
> actually brought life extension forward, instead of just twiddling
> your thumbs in the general transhumanist community. This makes the
> transhumanist community very different from most other kinds of
> communities.
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