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

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Jun 20 16:03:01 UTC 2011

2011/6/20 Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com>:
> On 17 June 2011 16:50, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 2011/6/17 Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com>:
>> So true.  There is also the problem of identifying what is a risk.
> Exactly my point.
>> One of the classic curses is "may you get what you ask for."  I could
>> elaborate a long time on this, but Charles Stross has already done so.
> Certainly there is some tragic, in the Greek sense, in the adventure of
> humankind and of life in general.

True.  A ten km asteroid ruined the day for the dinosaurs

> But the big split has forever been between those who celebrate it ("amor
> fati"), and those who consider that a curse.

We might not have a lot of control over out destinies, but trying to
do something positive seems like a good idea to me.

> Speaking of transhumanism, at the bottom of it in my view there is the
> explicitely or implicitely the Nietzschean idea that what we are worth
> consists in our potential to overcome ourselves: "The 'conservation of the
> species' is only a consequence of the growth of the species, that is of a
> victory on the species, in the path towards
> a stronger species. [...] It is exactly with respect to every living being
> that it could be best shown that it does everything that it can not to
> protect itself, but to become more than what it is." (Will to Power) "And it
> is the great noontide, when man is in the middle of his course between
> animal and Superman, and celebrateth his advance to the evening as his
> highest hope: for it is the advance to a new morning. At such time will the
> down-goer bless himself, that he should be an over-goer; and the sun of his
> knowledge will be at noontide." (Thus Spake Zarathustra).

Nietzsche was not faced with the current prospects where we could, in
a generation, change as much or more than the distance between mice
and humans.  It's easy for us to imagine improvements, long (perhaps
open ended), disease free lives, physical attractiveness, even
modification so we have no blind spot.  However, once people are on
this slippery slope, where will they stop?

I wonder what Nietzsche would say if he were up on the prospects of

Would he embrace it or go catatonic?

> At a point in time, some transhumanists seem to have decided that after all
> eternal becoming and transition(s) to posthumanity are not any more what
> only can give a meaning to our presence in the world; on the contrary, it
> would be something to be feared and shun, since it would obviously imply
> that we would not "exist" anymore the way we currently do, as in "x-risk".
> See not only Bostrom, but, eg, the last part of Stross's  Accelerando.

It's a side effect of playing with the gods, even in your imagination.
 Too many unknowns like the Fermi question and therefore scary.
Besides, you can't identify with gods so they don't make good
characters for a story.

I suspect the best outcome we can work toward is that the things we
become will remember being us.'

Actually I am not sure the would want to inflict that on them.  It
might be like your mom putting video on the net of you playing in mud
as a little kid.

> Such POV is eminently respectable, not to mention largely predominant in our
> societies along the lines of the famous "anti trans-simianist" satire, but I
> wonder why it would require additional advocates

I don't think "predominant" is the right word unless you are talking
about the tiny transhumanist society.  The larger society remains


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