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

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Fri Jun 17 10:30:17 UTC 2011

On 17 June 2011 01:31, Jeff Medina <analyticphilosophy at gmail.com> wrote:

> If you believe the risks matter, but that Nick shouldn't mention them,
> then it just seems like you're inviting caricaturing and demonization
> by the Luddites, who already like to (falsely...?) claim we don't care
> about the risks or problems that could come about with certain
> approaches to certain technologies.

No, this is absolutely *not* my position.

Ignoring risks or pretending they do not exist by the way is not only
suicidal from a "marketing" or "strategic" point of view, but also from a
very practical one, in any conceivable field.

In fact, one fundamental objection to "moderate" transhumanism is that I
have never heard *anyone at all* claiming that everything which can be done
should also be done, no matter what and for the sake of it, so that to claim
that we are threatened by such a temptation appears even to the mainstream
as a fantasy brought forward for rhetorical purposes.

Let us say that I simply support a position which would be symmetrical to
that of intelligent neoluddites, such as Rifkin.

Does he ignore arguments brought forward by transhumanism? No. In fact, he
even invents, and make a very serious effort to confute, a few clever ones
that we have never thought of. :-)

But I think both his supporters *and* the general public accepts and
appreciate his candor in presenting himself as an advocate and an evangelist
of a quite specific worldview and set of ideas. He does not end up being
irrelevant in a wish to be both parties to the discussion, plus the judge
and the jury.

If you want another example, take the space movement, for instance.

This may not be entirely a success story, of course, owing to a more general
e(in?)volution of our societies, but there again do they ignore that there
might be other priorities and societal needs other than manufacturing
rockets, planning Mars landings or building space stations? No. Do they
occupy themselves with the protection of wild fauna in Guinea or with the
crisis of the automotive sector in the US? No.

Moreover, one historical aspect of transumanism that I have never liked, and
makes IMHO for a fundamental weakness both at a philophical and at a
strategic level, is its recurrent "millennial" temptations. At this level,
nothing really changes for me, if not perhaps for the worse, when a switch
is made from the image of rapture-mongers to that, be it "cooler" for some
of us, of doom-mongers.

In both cases, I am not sure that an average public sentenced to death in a
few decades, and confronted with risks of very real problems (or at least of
societal boredom and decadence) in the meantime, is really sensitive to the
implied mysticism of such positions, unless in fact in its lunatic fringe.

Stefano Vaj
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