[ExI] Left Behind

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Fri May 22 16:47:49 UTC 2009

> Giulio wrote:

> 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.

Giulio, nearly everyone in these futurist forums (and nearly everyone
else too) shares this desire for more in the way of the sensual
pleasures you list.  But I think it's worth pointing out, that more
coherently, there is no distinct or essential "you", separate from the
meat, and the very sensual desires you express are *defined* by the
nature of the "meat" within the current cultural context.

To me, this highlights the difference between the basic transhumanist
and (the more encompassing) extropian view.

Self-identified Transhumanists appear intent on preserving and
protecting an essential identity, to be augmented and amplified,
enhanced and extended, transcending virtually all constraints in order
that the Self might explore and enjoy the nearly boundless
possibilities of existence.

Sounds great. Too bad it's incoherent.  Science and technology
proceed, not by overcoming constraints, but by increasingly
understanding and working within them.  For humans to "overcome" being
constrained to the earth and experience flight, we must work within an
increasing number of constraints.  "Fine", you say, "but at the end of
the day we get to enjoy the freedom of flight."  Yes, but that
"enjoyment" is always only accompanied by an even greater entropic
cost, often overlooked.  When you imagine the freedom of flight, you
naturally and expectedly don't consider the considerable expense of
infrastructure, engineering, support, resource depletion, effect on
the environment, and other externalities and unintended consequences.
Extrapolate this to technological progress in general and you find
that your imagined freedom NECESSARILY comes with even slightly higher

It's not bad.  I'm all for technological progress and the growth it
entails.  It's just that I see naive techno-optimism as interference
with us actually getting there.

I could go on about the more encompassing extropian view (as I see it)
and also the argument against an essential identity, but I've probably
lost or irritated too many already.  [And I have work to do.]

In short:
The sentiment you express of escaping the meat is easy to
understand--too easy, in the manner of science fiction stories and the
pandering promises of religions.  You might respond that these natural
and enthusiastic yearnings for escape may drive practical striving
toward a better tomorrow, but if so, where's the evidence within the
transhumanist community, and don't it even more effectively take
attention away from the challenges and hard work of the here and now?

- Jef

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