[ExI] Define Transhumanism

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Mon Apr 27 14:08:55 UTC 2020

able to use common sense in scientific matters   SR Ballard

Good.  I have always wanted a good definition of 'common sense'.  Maybe you
can supply one.  Everybody knows what it is, but no one seems to be able to
define it.
bill w

On Sun, Apr 26, 2020 at 8:25 PM SR Ballard via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> PART ZERO: Introduction
> This is an extremely long email about what Transhumanism is and how well a
> Mormon might be able to align with the definitions we find. It is split
> into the following parts:
> (1) What is autonomy? & Various definitions
> (2) What is rationality?
> (3) Principles of Transhumanism per Wikipedia (the most likely resource
> for people who would join)
> (4) Principles of Extropianism per Max
> (5) General overview of Mormon Demographics
> (6) A well defined Minority of Mormons & how they are Mormon in name only
> (7) Conclusion
> Apologies about the length. And the fact I repeat myself... a lot.
> PART ONE: Autonomy
> Does Transhumanism require “autonomy” from religious belief?
> >the right or condition of self-government. "Tatarstan demanded greater
> autonomy within the Russian Federation"
> One could argue that Mormon Transhumanists are autonomous in the sense
> that the Church and Scriptures make no explicit references to technology.
> >freedom from external control or influence; independence. "economic
> autonomy is still a long way off for many women"
> Sure, Mormons experience external influence, but not in matters pertaining
> to Transhumanism. If we look at the example sentence, isn’t that
> misleading? Nearly all people are slaves to wages, but the sentence implies
> that she controls her own wage slavery rather than being dependent on the
> goodwill of another wage slave (father, brother, husband, son). In this
> sense, Mormons are autonomous in the realm of Transhumanism.
> PART TWO: Rationality
> Does Transhumanism require “rationality”?
> In the sense of being able to use common sense in scientific matters, yes.
> However religious beliefs do not inherently require the abandonment of
> rationality, only compartmentalization. If religious beliefs would Barr
> someone from being meaningfully Tranhumanist, then any person who has
> anxiety, depression, OCD, phobias, delusions, or hallucinations cannot be
> meaningfully Transhumanist, and I would argue that my irrational fear of
> bees does not invalidate me. For that matter I don’t think kinks are
> “rational”, but I don’t think that invalidates transhumanist commitment
> either.
> PART THREE : Principles of Transhumanism
> What are the principles of Transhumanism, exactly?
> Do we mean this?
> https://www.aleph.se/Trans/Cultural/Philosophy/Transhumanist_Principles.html
> For Max’s *Extropian* Principles, as outlined by himself, see part 4.
> Or what I found on Wikipedia:
> (1)  Proactionary Principle (maybe can can comment if I’m
> misunderstanding)
> > People’s freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even
> critical, to humanity. This implies several imperatives when restrictive
> measures are proposed: Assess risks and opportunities according to
> available science, not popular perception. Account for both the costs of
> the restrictions themselves, and those of opportunities foregone. Favor
> measures that are proportionate to the probability and magnitude of
> impacts, and that have a high expectation value. Protect people’s freedom
> to experiment, innovate, and progress.
> Mormons are not bound by almost any dogma in regards to science and
> technology, though “designer babies” might be considered controversial.
> They are free to use science as much as anyone else to evaluate ideas and
> technology.
> I have met exactly 2 Mormon creationists, but I feel perhaps that might be
> more common in Utah Mormonism. However the Church usually does not take a
> hard stance on this, and prefers to focus on other things. In general, most
> Mormons are pretty compartmentalized and operate on a surprisingly secular
> framework outside of the religious context, likely due to college
> education.
> (2) Embrace of singularity
> There’s no reason to believe Mormons would oppose this.
> (3) Embrace technology
> Mormons are constantly urged by Church authorities to adopt and utilize
> new technologies, especially information technology.
> (4) Avoiding global annihilation and extermination of the species
> Mormons, in general, are split on the topic of environmentalism, but they
> also don’t have an Armageddon fetish like Jehovah’s Witnesses or most
> Evangelicals.
> (5) Immortality, Life Extension, and Rejuvenation
> I cannot think of any Mormon theology which would make this impossible or
> distasteful.
> PART FOUR: Extropian Principles (Per Max)
> (1) Perpetual Progress
> > Extropy means seeking more intelligence, wisdom, and effectiveness
> “Seek not for riches but for wisdom” — there is more to this quote but
> often this is the only part that is used
> > open-ended lifespan
> See above
> > removal of political, cultural, biological, and psychological limits to
> continuing development
> Other than “designer babies” most scientific development is generally
> neutral or good in the Mormon context.
> (2) Self-Transformation
> > Extropy means affirming continual ethical, intellectual, and physical
> self-improvement
> Nearly any Mormon would agree to this
> > through critical and creative thinking, perpetual learning, personal
> responsibility, proactivity, and experimentation
> Mormons are perfectly capable of all of these. High on personal
> responsibility, low on experimentation.
> > Using technology — in the widest sense to seek physiological and
> neurological augmentation along with emotional and psychological refinement.
> You’re not gonna hear Mormons reject any medical science (such as
> Jehovah’s Witnesses with blood transfusion) with the exception of “designer
> babies”, and perhaps Gender reassignment surgery (Though you could make a
> strong theological case for it as well).
> There are maybe anti-vaxxers though in my experience I’ve never met one.
> Utah Mormons maybe.
> No one is going to say that neural interface prosthetics are bad, or
> cochlear implants are satanic.
> You’re not gonna hear Mormons reject computers, the internet, or VR.
> (3) Practical Optimism
> > Extropy means fueling action with positive expectations – individuals
> and organizations being tirelessly proactive. Adopting a rational,
> action-based optimism or "proaction", in place of both blind faith and
> stagnant pessimism.
> Mormonism’s Relief society is notoriously optimistic, practical, and
> proactive.
> They sold the US government 200K bushels of wheat to combat hunger in
> 1918.
> They did the same for the San Francisco earthquake.
> They used sales of the wheat through the years to fund maternity
> hospitals.
> Many Female Mormon Pioneers were suffragists. Utah was among the first
> states to give women the right to vote.
> They sent many women to medical schools and funded their educations in the
> late 1800s, and were among the first women in the US to be trained as
> doctors, they then organized a program to have these doctors train female
> nurses. They ran the first hospital in the US with an all-female board of
> directors.
> They started one of the first female produced newspapers which often
> covered suffragette issues, and information on local medical classes.
> They spearheaded the US Geneological Movement, and the information they
> collect is available to everyone. This information might one day prove
> useful to scientists as well.
> The relief society created programs to eliminate poverty, and sent women
> to get degrees in social work (one of the most common majors for Mormon
> women today), then created monthly classes for them to teach.
> Source:
> https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.deseret.com/platform/amp/2014/3/13/20537258/10-accomplishments-of-the-relief-society
> Mormon women are excellent at community organizing, have high rates of
> stay at home wives and low rates of homeschooling while having the income
> to maintain a two car family, allowing Mormon women the ability to organize
> large scale social works projects.
> (4) Intelligent Technology
> > Extropy means designing and managing technologies not as ends in
> themselves but as effective means for improving life. Applying science and
> technology creatively and courageously to transcend "natural" but harmful,
> confining qualities derived from our biological heritage, culture, and
> environment.
> Well explained before this point.
> (5) Open Society - information and democracy
> > Extropy means supporting social orders that foster freedom of
> communication, freedom of action, experimentation, innovation, questioning,
> and learning.
> Mormons are not compelled in any real sense or cut off from information.
> >Opposing authoritarian social control and unnecessary hierarchy and
> Big fail here
> >favoring the rule of law
> Religious obligation to follow the law.
> >and decentralization of power and responsibility.
> Power is centralized but responsibility is personal. Many Mormons take
> initiative.
> (6) Self-Direction
> > Extropy means valuing independent thinking, individual freedom,
> personal responsibility, self-direction, self-respect, and a parallel
> respect for others.
> Yes, and no.
>  Independent thinking on non-Church matters is perfectly fine.
> Self-direction in non-Church matters is again fine.
> Yes to the rest.
> (7) Rational Thinking
> > Extropy means favoring reason over blind faith and questioning over
> dogma. It means understanding, experimenting, learning, challenging, and
> innovating rather than clinging to beliefs.
> In non-Church contexts, this is fine. But including the church context is
> mixed. See part 6
> PART FIVE: Mormons general
> Additionally, Mormons are an important demographic to win over.
> (Demographics of Mormonism:
> https://www.pewforum.org/2009/07/24/a-portrait-of-mormons-in-the-us/ )
> They have higher birthdate, and thus are disproportionately young people,
> 66% under 50 (National average 59%), and 25% under 30 (national 20%).
> Therefore, it is an important religious demographic (about 2% of the US
> population) which is not opposed to Transhumanism.
> Mormons are more likely to graduate high school (91% versus avg of 86%),
> more likely to attend college (61% vs 50%) and slightly more likely to
> graduate (28% vs 26%).
> They also have a higher than average income with 54% having an income over
> 50K, compared to the average of 48%. This income, while partially offset by
> the cost of raising children, allows them more ability to donate to the
> sciences.
> 6% of Mormons say they believe in an impersonal God, which would allow
> this demographic to focus on more scientific pursuits than religious ones.
> Despite their belief that the Bible is the “Word of God”, compared to many
> other Christian groups are more likely to consider it non-literal.
> PART SIX: A Mormon Transhumanist Minority.
> Throughout the data, we see a small minority: 4% that say they don’t take
> their religion seriously, 6% that believe in an impersonal god, 4% that
> reject miracles, 8% that say they attend church seldom or never, 4% that
> say the Bible is written by men, 13% who never read the Bible, 8% pray once
> per month or less, 5% say they have never had a prayer answered, 24% say
> they never “share” their faith, 4% don’t think their religion leads to
> eternal life, 3% believe the Church should fully embrace modern practices,
> 10% are “liberal” (versus conservative or moderate), 8% believe abortion
> should be legal in all cases.
> If a Mormon says: God is impersonal and I don’t talk to him — if I did
> pray to him he doesn’t answer prayers and miracles don’t exist; my religion
> isn’t that important to me, doesn’t lead to eternal life, and is based on a
> man made book that shouldn’t be taken literally, so I don’t read it and I
> don’t attend Church or tell people about my religion; and I fully believe
> we should adopt modern values (whatever we are considering those to be) —
> are they Mormon in a meaningful sense? Are their thoughts incompatible with
> reason and science, with transhumanism?
> This would be probably 4% of the Mormon Church in the US — about 250,000
> people. Why should we distrust them? The only thing you disagree on is
> their cultural artifact of identification with the label “Mormon”.
> PART SEVEN: In Conclusion
> Despite the appearance, I’m not actually stanning the Mormon Church. What
> I am suggesting is that if as much as 4% of Mormons in the US, a quarter of
> a MILLION people could potentially embrace a transhumanist viewpoint amid a
> worsening anti-intellectual climate, that we shouldn’t write it off or shun
> it automatically.
> Given the state of affairs, the ideology needs as much help as it can get,
> people who will defend and support funding as well as those actually
> contributing the labor hours to that effort.
> People don’t need to be perfect to be helpful.
> And how many Extropian and transhumanist groups are there? Via self
> identification, how many people would say they are transhumanist or
> Extropian? How many people would even be familiar with these names?
> I think it’s wrong to dismiss it out of hand.
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