[ExI] Isn't Bostrom seriously bordering on the reactionary?

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Thu Jun 16 12:40:44 UTC 2011

On 15 June 2011 16:30, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:

> A species that has no breeding population is today considered extinct.
> It is consider a different species when it can no longer interbreed
> with the parent species.

This is a very interesting issue.

While synchronically the concept of (sexed) species is clear enough - that
is, the set of individuals who can naturally interbreed - it becomes much
fuzzier diacronically.

In fact, not only can remote ancestors not breed anyway with remote
descendents because in principle they are... dead when the latter become
fertile, but the genetic, anatomical, ethological difference is bound with
sufficient time to become large enough to prevent such a scenario even in

Thus, I think that "survival" is a concept strictly dependent upon the
metaphors we choose to adopt, and even more so when we are discussing the
survival of collective entities.

Accordingly, if we accept to define in such terms (and not in terms of an
"existential risk") the takeover of our world by the next generation, or by
an arbitrary umpteenth generation in the future which has naturally or
genetically drifted away enough to become irrecognisable for contemporary
humans, I do not really see why "children of the mind" would not qualify,
irrespective of whether they represent, at least at the beginnings,
emulations of existing individuals or fully artificial contraptions.

That might be true, but my point was that individuals have little
> effect.  People who do things have more effect than folks who just
> write and talk about stuff.

Yes and now. Those who "do things" may even be rabid neoluddites for all I
care (the emperor may well be an atheist, but as long as he is crowned on
his knees by the pope and defends the faith the church does not really
care), Dolly's father Ian Wilmut being for instance pretty close to the

The transhumanist struggle, OTOH, is that of spreading and defending as much
as possible transhumanist values in societies which I am not confident to
see oriented in that direction, more or less as environmentalism or
religious fundamentalism did and does, so that individual and collective
choices are affected.

> I think we should get used to the fact that the singularity is
> probably going to be Chinese flavored.

At one level, I am certainly sympathetic with the Chinese efforts and to
their lesser subjection to a western mindset where more or less everybody
would like to be a banker, is obsessed with safety, does not really care
about science, and has a deep distrust for paradigm-changing technologies.

At another level, I am of course deeply concerned that my own more immediate
matrioska communities (Milan, Padania, Italy, Europe) are being and may
increasingly be left behind and see a widening gap with China, India, etc..
Or with the US, for that matter.

Ultimately, however, contrary to James Hughes's view, I think that China and
the fact that globalisation has for the time being not be completed is a
good thing, since this puts at least some competitive pressure on our
respective societies and limits the degree of self-indulgence and
conservatism which is compatible with their mid-term survival.

Stefano Vaj
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