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

Aware aware at awareresearch.com
Mon May 25 16:34:13 UTC 2009

Back from weekend travel.  Ready to see what sense might be made of
this side trip threateningly close to the borders of the dreaded
identity debates.

On Fri, May 22, 2009 at 12:03 PM,  <natasha at natasha.cc> wrote:
>>> 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.)

As I reread this, it seems it would fit better for me if you were to
say that identity is a *cardinal* rather than *primary* value of

It's another example of the inside-outness I so frequently feel in
these forums.  For me, seeing almost everything in terms of systems,
"primary" doesn't so much mean "of the highest importance" as it means
prior in terms of some functional sequence, so your usage leads me to
think "from identity, something else flows" and to me this would be
incorrect since identity is always only perceived, emergent from the
observer's recognition of relations.

Likewise, I distinguish between *values* as intrinsic to the nature of
the system, and *preferences* as the expression of those values,
evident from the system's behavior.  This highlights the
epistemological inside-outness running rampant through these
discussions as statements about "values" are made in the colloquial
sense which is blind to the implied recursive role of the observer who
(if one thought more deeply about it) must be holding, interpreting,
and expressing those "values."  Gets all tied up in knots, but people
blithely continue, confident that they "know" what they "mean."

A further example is the common usage of "goal" to refer to imagined
outcomes which aren't defined, or even definable, due to lack of
context. Goals are always only special cases of values-promotion,
meaningful to the extent that they are precisely defined.  But
inside-out, we have talking of "escaping the meat cage"  What would
that be like, precisely?  How can one define that as a precise target,
a goal, toward which one could navigate, given that we are necessarily
and utterly lacking in the techno-sociological context within which
that state would would be defined and expressed?  Let me repeat:  How
can such an imagined "goal" provide ANY VALUE in terms of its
navigation?  Zip, nada, zilch.

On the other hand, we can speak with increasing coherence about
promoting our values of increasing interaction, mobility, durability,
sensory modalities, and enjoyment of sensual experience, all in terms
of the here and now, focusing not on any particular (unimaginable)
goal, but on the process of discovering a better future by creating
it.  And in this light it becomes a very real engineering problem,
which, by the way, many people are already attacking on many fronts.

Inside-out.  Of course I understand what people mean when they refer
to such imagined "goals" as "escaping the meat cage" or creating an
ultimate "Friendly" AI, just as I understand and appreciate the
absolutely sincere and true sentiment of a child saying that when he
grows up he wants to be a "fireman" or "Superman" as the child
currently (but not very coherently) envisions it within his present
contextual understanding of "reality."

>> 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 [and consistent] 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 think you may have misunderstood, or rather, I failed to convey my
intended meaning.  I was speaking, again in abstract systems-theoretic
terms, of the necessity that any post-human future must have evolved
by way of branching from the here and now.  While the particular
branching is unpredictable due to underspecification and combinatorial
explosion of a multitude of contingencies upon contingencies, still,
any future state must be consistent--and connected--with what came
before.  The house of mirrors I saw described in that postmodernist
prose seemed, like all postmodernist thought (as I understand it), to
deny the fundamental connectedness and meaningness of these
evolutionary connections.

>> 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.

You've misconstrued the dryness of my analytical style as indicating a
dislike of the wet and squishy.  I don't particularly like or dislike
the present instantiation but we've had some good times and,
significantly, it's all we have to work with at present.

>> 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.

Well, it was just another example of personal identification dependent
on interactive context, but okay.

>> 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?

I don't understand what you're asking here.  Are you speaking of a
teleological "purpose" to evolutionary processes, "the universe
discovering itself" a la Tielhard?

Sorry, that's all the time I have for now.  I hope this much is
somewhat helpful (informative, entertaining...?)

- Jef

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list