[ExI] LIT: The Medusa Complex - A Theory of Stoned Posthumanism

natasha at natasha.cc natasha at natasha.cc
Fri May 22 19:03:17 UTC 2009

Quoting Aware <aware at awareresearch.com>:

Are you "Jef" or "Jef"?

> 2009/5/22 Natasha Vita-More <natasha at natasha.cc>:
>> Jef wrote:
>>> As for identity as a primary value of transhumanism,
>>> this is where I go my separate way,
>>> seeing extropianism as *more* encompassing,
>>> increasing agency promoting present but evolving values
>>> as primary, and identity as emergent.
>> Hi Jef,
>> Why do you see "*more* encompassing, increasing agency as separating" out
>> from other values?
> Natasha, your question is not entirely clear to me.  It would be so
> much easier to have some of these conversations in person. But I'll
> try to guess your meaning and explain.

Not a problem.  You say you go a separate way because you see extropy  
as *more* encompassing.  Yes, of course.  My claim that indentity is  
human and the fact that we are human (with identity) is a primary  
value to the preferred futures of transhumanism because the  
"transitional stages", according to transhuamnism, accumulate (and do  
include human) in what is suggested to be a transformation of  
posthuman/upload, etc.)

> You said:
>>> What I found interesting is the use of "mirror" and "reflection" and that
>>> posthumans cannot see themselves because they have no sense of identity and
>>> connectiveness to human.  Not my view.
> and
>>> Damien makes a good point that it does fit in transhumanist discourse, but
>>> not with the above views because the transhumanist perspective identifies
>>> with identity as a primarily value.
> So, it seems that you referred to identity in two different ways.  I
> agree with your usage in the first paragraph.  I think that this
> postmodernist essay on the posthuman was incorrect in it's assertion
> of no connection between the identity of the human and the posthuman.

Yes, precisely.

> (I also recognize and agree with the distinction pointed out by others
> here between posthuman-ism and post-humanism.

Yes, I agree as well with this.

> My disagreement with
> the essayist, and my agreement with what I take is your position is
> based on the what I see as a necessarily evolutionary process of
> branching leading from the human to the posthuman.   While any
> individual branch is contingent and unpredictable, sub-branches must
> be coherent with what came before.

Yes, understood.  Please identify them and then let's take this  
discussion forward in framing it from that issue:  What are the  
sub-branches that do not link human to posthuman.  (Please correct me  
if I have phrased this incorrectly or misunderstood what you suggest.)

> I disagree with your assertion (as I perceive and understand it) of
> identity as a **primary** value.

I explained this above.  And that has to do what what we have now as humans.

> I think this is an unfortunate,
> unnecessary, and ultimately limiting artifact, natural and expected of
> evolved organisms acting on behalf of what they perceive (with their
> limited cognition) as their own self interest.

I agree with you in part.  Not completely because this statement  
sounds too much of a dislike of being a meat-body.  While most  
transhumansit have this feeling, and certainly I am a strong proponent  
of replacing our bio-wet-meat bodies and my entire body (no pun  
intended) [my practice-based and theoretical work supports this notion  
and has for 20+ years.  I say above "not completely" because I am here  
now and I love being alive and even though I suffer from illness, I  
would rather do my best to overcome illness than be a dead or suspended.

> I think Zen awakening
> overcomes this limitation. I think increasing awareness of one's
> cultural embeddedness helps overcome this limitation.

I agree with an awakening from limitations, but again, I am not going  
to turn my nose up at my biology because it is what I have now.  That  
is my Zen.

> I think game
> theorists dealing with the ostensible "paradox" of the iterated
> Prisoners' Dilemma and other examples of superrationality will
> eventually get it.  I think that by the time most of us are
> effectively plugged into the net for our livelihood, sense of meaning
> and sense of self, we'll all get it.

Okay, but this is going a little off in another direction.

> So, as I said earlier, I don't see identity as primary, but as
> emergent.  It's a necessary result of agency, which I see as
> increasing extropically as increasing instrumental effectiveness
> promotes an increasing context of values.

Okay.  Now, let me ask you: Could its "emergence" be primary value?

>> Do you think that identity opposes connectivity?
> I'm not sure what you mean here.  I think identity, by definition,
> involves perceived separation, but of course our very existence and
> effectiveness is dependent on our connections.

You seemed to have made it an either or scenario and I questioned that.

>> Are you are looking at
>> this issue from "individualism" as self at center of the universe and
>> identity as perspectives stemming from the individual as a solo agent?
> I think I /almost/ understand what you're getting at here.  It seems
> to point again in the direction of identity as something, similar to
> ego, defined in terms of its perceived centrality within its world.
> This may be closer to my view, in that it seems to be less essential,
> and more the necessary result of having a (single) point of view.
> I came across a pretty good paper a few months ago which expresses my
> view on this:
> <http://www.usyd.edu.au/time/ismael/papers/nolipsism.pdf>
>> I thought I referred to as indentity as relating to the fluid, "distributed"
>> posthuman.
> Now you've lost me.  I can't tell what kind of "relating" you mean.

Earlier post.  My view on transformed/emergent identity is distributed.

> I see personal identity comprised of two aspects:  (1) the unchanging,
> but fictional, **entity** as the unique referent of our thoughts about
> "Natasha", or "Nanc[ie]", or even "she" who was not yet born, but
> conceived as a person in her parents minds, and (2) the customary
> diachronic agency, but even multiple and/or partially overlapping
> agencies, actors recognized (regardless of functional/physical
> similarity) as serving the interests of the **entity** described in
> (1).

This is how I see it, and I quote:

"DIACHRONIC IDENTITY"  (Max More, PhD Dissertation section)

"The conception of the self being developed here Armstrong has called  
a relational view (or what has been called a perdurance view), as  
opposed to an identity view (or endurance view).*2 We can look at a  
person who persists over time and divide up their life into any number  
of non-overlapping temporal stages or phases. An identity view, in  
Armstrong's sense, would hold that these phases are identical with one  
another in some numerical sense. The identity view treats temporal  
parts differently from spatial parts of a thing: Spatial parts are  
clearly different parts of a particular, P; they are obviously not  
identical with one another. (The asymmetry between the identity view's  
treatment of spatial and temporal parts provides grounds for an  
objection to that view, according to Armstrong.) The relational view,  
by contrast, treats spatial and temporal parts symmetrically. On the  
relational view, non-overlapping phases of some perduring particular,  
P, are not identical in any sense. These phases are simply different  
parts of the same thing. That thing is constituted by those temporal  
parts and their relations to each other and to other particulars. The  
account of personal identity or continuity presented here is  
relational in this sense. The self-the diachronic, continuant  
self-consists of its temporal stages or phases and the relations  
between them. The particular relation, in this case, is what Parfit  
calls the R-relation: Psychological connectedness and continuity.

At this point it would be sensible to explicitly stipulate how I shall  
be using the term "self", before confusion arises. Some people use the  
term to refer to the temporal phases or person-stages of the  
continuant person. Others use it to refer to the diachronic particular  
constituted by its phases and their relations. It is especially  
important to define my usage since I am building on Parfit's theory of  
psychological reductionism, and so might be assumed to be following  
his usage. Parfit sometimes presents his discussion of personal  
identity or survival in terms of successive selves.3 Looked at this  
way, the continuant person is made up of, or can be regarded as, a  
series of successive selves. Any two temporally contiguous selves are  
highly psychologically connected, whereas widely temporally separated  
selves may be only very weakly connected. However, I will not adopt  
this usage. I will use "self" to refer to the continuant, perduring,  
diachronic individual. Its constituent temporal parts I will refer to  
as person-stages, person-phases, or phases of the self.

Perduring, continuant, diachronic person = SELF
Transient, temporal part of person = PERSON/SELF-STAGE or PHASE

My reason for preferring this usage will become more obvious as this  
chapter proceeds. Essentially, I believe that the contrary usage-using  
"self" to refer to the temporal phases-reflects and encourages too  
heavy a weighting of the significance of these phases, and devalues  
the importance of the continuant self. This difference in emphasis  
between my transformationist interpretation of psychological  
reductionism and Parfit's version will show up in the sections on the  
importance of projects and values to the continuity of the person.

Apart from the unwanted emphasis on the short term resulting from  
equating self with person-phase, such an equation can easily give the  
misleading impression that there really are relatively distinct  
selves. We may talk of the infant self, the child self, the adolescent  
self, and the adult self, and think of the continuant self as the  
temporal concatenation of these distinct and successive selves.  
Nevertheless, this obscures the fact that we rarely find anything  
resembling a clear line or sudden transition from one such 'self' to  
another. Those four terms are merely loose references to  
person-phases; the borders they draw can be arbitrarily moved around  
with some latitude. For instance, we may draw the line marking the  
change from the adolescent self to the adult self at 13 years (as do  
Jews and some other cultures), or at 16, or 18, or 21, or the age  
(whatever it turns out to be) when some specified qualities have been  

Instead of talking in terms of successive selves, I shall stick with  
the more basic language of degrees or extent of psychological  
connectedness. If I need to refer to earlier or later instances of a  
person, I will also use the terms self-stage or self-phase (or  
person-phase). In other words, I will replace a series of successive  
selves with a spectrum of connectedness. Connectedness can be measured  
in two ways giving different answers though, in common with everyone  
else, I will use the first way. The two ways differ in what to use as  
the standard of connectedness degree. The first and obvious way is to  
ask how much of the earlier phase (A) survives or continues on in the  
later phase (B). (Rather than earlier and later phases, A and B could  
be original and duplicate selves.) Take the case (illustrated in  
Figure 3 below) where half of A's characteristics are shared by B. B,  
in addition, has a great many characteristics not shared by A.  
According to the first way of measuring connectedness, A and B are 50%  
connected (or A is 50% connected to B). Another way to say this is  
that 50% of A is subsumed in B. The second way measures connectedness  
in terms of B. We would then describe Figure 3 as a case where  
connectedness was very low (say 1%) because A has only 1% of B's  
characteristics. When A and B represent earlier and later selves (as  
they will throughout this chapter), only the first way of measuring  
seems useful. However, If A and B are taken to be an original self and  
a copy, the second way will be useful, especially when B thinks about  
the situation. Henceforth, I shall be assuming connectedness is  
measured the first way, in terms of the earlier self.

Determining the degree of connectedness will not suffice to tell us  
all that we need to know about our earlier and later phases if we  
(earlier phase) are to make sensible decisions about allocating  
present vs. future costs and benefits. The same degree of  
connectedness may attach to situations that are not equally desirable.  
Knowing only that self-phases A and B are 50% connected (for example)  
leaves out much information about our relation to the later phase. The  
statement that A and B are 50% psychologically connected could  
represent any one of three possible propositions (each of which are  
represented in the diagrams):

(1) B has 50% of A's characteristics, but no characteristics that A  
doesn't have, i.e. B is a subset of A. (Figure 1)
(2) B has 50% of A's characteristics, and 50% of B's characteristics  
are not shared by A. (Figure 2)
(3) B has 50% of A's characteristics, and only a small fraction of B's  
characteristics are shared by A. (Figure 3)

We can use set diagrams to clarify the ways in which two individuals  
may be psychologically connected. A and B may stand for the earlier  
and later person-stages of a continuant individual (and this is the  
interpretation I will be using). However, A and B could also represent  
two individuals, each of whom is a survivor of the original. B could  
be a copy of A-a copy of more or less fidelity, or who has  
psychologically diverged over time from A.

In Figure 1 the earlier self-phase, A, possesses all the  
characteristics of the later phase, B, but B has only 50% of the  
characteristics of A. In this case, the later self-phase is a  
degenerate continuer of A. B has learned nothing new, acquired no new  
memories, formed no new intentions or dispositions, and values only  
what A valued, yet has lost half of what made A who he was. In Figure  
2, the later self-phase retains 50% of A's characteristics, but also  
has about as many new characteristics. In Figure 3, the later  
self-phase retains 50% of A's characteristics, but these are now an  
insignificant fraction of B's total psychological features. This  
situation might be realized if A is an infant and B an adult self, or  
if A is any person of today and B a person who, due to advances in  
gerontology, has lived for many centuries (or their subjective  
equivalent4). B has added many new experiences and memories, and  
acquired additional dispositions, abilities, and values.

Each of these three represents a case of 50% connectedness.  
Nevertheless practically all of us would prefer our future to turn out  
more like the situation in Figure 2 than in Figure 1, and most of us  
would prefer Figure 3 to Figure 2. Many accounts of psychological  
reductionism suggest or imply that it makes most sense to allocate our  
concern for our future self-phases proportionally to the degree of  
connectedness. The three cases just described show this to be  
implausible. The same degree of connectedness may be arrived at in  
differing ways, and we will prefer some of these to others. The  
relationship between the metaphysical degree of connectedness and the  
normative degree of reasonable concern for later stages is thus not a  
straightforward one. In the later chapter on "A Transformationist  
Account of Continuity" I will propose several reasons for concerning  
ourselves with our future phases more than proportionally to the  
degree of connectedness.

Having clarified what I mean by connectedness, I will now set out  
several versions of Psychological Reductionism and explore how they  
differ in regard to the causal conditions they assume. Without an  
account of the causal conditions necessary, we will not know when to  
say that a psychological connection has endured at all."


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