[extropy-chat] Human - Posthuman gap

Joseph Bloch jbloch at humanenhancement.com
Sat Apr 30 03:16:31 UTC 2005

Samantha Atkins wrote:

> I only meant soon enough not to get totally creamed economically by 
> the posthumans if we don't have so much abundance that everyone has 
> what they need and more than a little of what they desire.   Normal 
> humans skill levels would not likely be very marketable.  So what 
> happens to those people who plain don't want to make he move even if 
> it is free?
> If we have practical abundance I see no reason those choosing to 
> remain human need be in any immediate danger except perhaps 
> psychologically.
> I am currently more in favor of and into contributing toward IA and 
> other aspects of creating posthumans form humans.  I believe that 
> starting with that beginning is more likely to end up well than 
> starting from scratch as in AI efforts.

I suppose it depends on the nature of the PostHuman condition. Will it 
necessarily include "practical abundance"? I don't think that's a 
requirement, myself, and thus it might well be the case that 
contemporary economics still function (at least in the near-term after 
the advent of PostHumanity; I think eventually the scales will tip in 
favor of "practical abundance" eventually).

But bear in mind, there are other forms of competition than economics. 
In the social sphere, PostHumans will have as many if not more 
advantages over normal humans than they do in the economic sphere. To 
make a necessarily poor analogy, two PostHumans could interact on a 
social level as we do today with email and full access to the Internet. 
A normal human would be writing letters and mailing them, trundling down 
to the library for any references that might be needed. Imagine a normal 
human trying to have a relationship with a PostHuman, who is used to 
being able to share mental experiences as easily as we share files 
online. "Mere humans" are going to be at a disadvantage in every sphere; 
not only economic, but social, political, athletic, academic, etc.

>> The truth is, we have no way of knowing what our responses will be 
>> when we have an IQ of 10,000, physical immortality, and the resources 
>> of a small nation.
> Then those that care about humanity have quite ample reason to do what 
> they can to prevent posthumanity from coming into existence.  I think 
> we need a lot better answers and a real idea of and commitment to what 
> the intent is.     I cannot say that becoming posthuman is worth it to 
> me personally if it likely means the destruction of all but a 
> posthuman handful of what was humanity.   I am in this that everyone 
> on earth may have undreamed of abundance and opportunity including the 
> opportunity to become posthuman.   I am not interested in the 
> advancment of a handful to super powered selfish ape status who then 
> destroy everyone else.

The point is, you and I are literally incapable of imagining what our 
PostHuman selves would think is appropriate. Speculation, in that case, 
is useless. We can gush all the platitudes about the dignity of 
humanity, and respect for those who choose the other path, but once we 
have transitioned ourselves, all bets are off. Much as the promises you 
or I might make as a four-year-old cannot seriously be counted on when 
we're forty.

> I would rather be exterminated than exterminate humanity.  It is a 
> matter of choice.   

Indeed. While I respect your choice to be exterminated in such a 
situation, I trust you will respect my choice to resist such a fate.

Hopefully, of course, it won't come down to such a decision. It 
certainly doesn't _have_ to; there are many possible scenarios.

But if does come down to a question of them or us, quite frankly, I 
choose us.

> We should not try to excuse the ugly choice as what our mysterious 
> someday super brain might decide. We can decide now what we are 
> building and what type of being we wish to become.  That is the part 
> that is known and in our control.  Every moment we can continue to 
> decide.

But our future-selves are not bound by those decisions, any more than we 
are bound by the choices we made in kindergarten.

>> Although I would say that waiting until everyone is guaranteed a seat 
>> on the train is not an option, mostly because it will NEVER happen. 
>> Someone will always choose-- through ignorance, superstition (is 
>> there a difference?), or just plain cussedness-- to remain as they 
>> are. Those people must not be allowed to hold up our own evolution:
> Sounds pretty arrogant.  You say you only want the freedom to decide 
> for you.  then you want the freedom to decide for everyone or to 
> condemn them to dead if they do not agree with you.

The freedom to improve onesself is the ultimate freedom. Is freedom not 
worth fighting for? And please always bear in mind, this is an outcome 
Ineither desire nor particularly expect. But to condemn you and I to 
death, illness, and relative retardation when it is not necessarily 
inevitable is something that deserves to be resisted. Would you not 
agree that a group that wanted to kill everyone once they reached the 
age of 15, and who actively prevented any sort of education, and who 
held back any medicines, would be a group that should be resisted, and 
violently if necessary? I see no practical difference between my 
hypothetical example and those who want to nip Transhumanism in the bud 
in the name of it's being "unnatural".

Now, I'm not calling for the Transhumanist Revolution... fortunately it 
hasn't come to that, and in all likelihood won't. I don't think it's 
ultimately possible to contain the social and technological trends that 
are already extant.

> "Your decision to remain the same does not compel me not to change."
> But as stated our decision to change may condemn all of humanity 
> except those who chose as we do because we leave open the option of 
> deciding to destroy them.   If we make no commitment to humanity then 
> why should humanity aid or even tolerate our existence?   Who cares 
> how fast and deeply we can think or how much raw power we wield if we 
> remain a stunted disassociated chimps psychologically?  The power of 
> gods should not be given to stunted chimps.

Self-selected psychology is, of course, one of the elements that is 
often bandied about as a PostHuman trait.

But are you arguing for the inclusion of some sort of "we love humanity" 
meme on the basis of its inherent value, or merely as something that is 
necessary at the onset of PostHumanity, as a sort of tactical maneuver?

> We do not have to have an "evolutionary struggle" of the kind you may 
> have in mind unless we decide to.  That is my point.  What are we 
> willing to commit to?  How much are we willing to grow to be ready to 
> command the powers of a god?  We must learn to go beyond models that 
> no longer confine beings such as we are becoming.   The non-posthumans 
> can not even pose a threat a bit further down the road.  There is no 
> real struggle for survival at that point.  Until then the question is 
> why humanity should give birth to us and allow us to grow beyond our 
> vulnerable stage.    Clearly it should not do so without some 
> assurances as to our subsequent treatment of humanity.

I was reluctant to indulge my flights of fancy, and this is exactly why. 
I don't "have in mind" the sort of conflict I described. I was merely 
putting it out as one of many possibilities.

> That is indeed possible but it is not the assurance that is needed for 
> our own sanity.  To force transcension seems almost a contradiction in 
> terms.   It is likely a matter of much more than merely upgrading the 
> hardware.   Do you really want to bring to full posthuman capability 
> someone violently opposed?  It is far better to offer gentle slopes 
> and persuasion.  With medical nanotech around there is no great hurry 
> for people to be ready and willing to become posthuman.  They can 
> dawdle for centuries if they wish.  They can even die if they wish.

You and I might agree with that point of view today. But our PostHuman 
selves might look back on this email and smile condescendingly at our 
niavete. Remember, I'm just idly speculating here; my point is we can't 
KNOW what we'll think, and anything we say today could be completely 
reversed after we're Gods.

>> Now you're getting into the "what will the Singularity after the 
>> Singularity be like?" Obviously, we can't know. But for now, we can 
>> tentatively say we can apply the same principle, subject to revision 
>> once our several-orders-of-magnitude-smarter intellects deal with the 
>> question.
> There are many steps between here and there and many more I suspect 
> thereafter.  That is part of a the difference between Singularity and 
> Rapture.   Just because we can't see past the Singularity is no reason 
> to suppose there is no further development on the other side.

Of course not! There will absolutely be development post-Singularity 
(more than we can imagine, most likely). But we, by definition have no 
idea what form it'll take. So unless you're writing for Analog, such 
speculation is useless. :-)

> Everyone will not pay for their own if the un-upgraded are no longer 
> employable.  I suggest that part of the price of the birth of 
> posthumanity is a compact with humanity.  Part of the compact may be 
> that in exchange for our birth we improve the processes and make 
> uplift available to all who desire it and have prepared or are willing 
> to be prepared for it.  It seem a reasonable thing to ask.   So I 
> disagree with both of the answers above.

What if the "practical abundance" you mentioned above becomes a reality? 
Then "employable" ceases to be a meaningful category.

And I'm all in favor of allowing as many people to transition to 
PostHumanity as want to. But you seem to be saying that nobody should be 
able to until everyone is able to. I happen to think that waiting until 
everyone can partake would be like waiting to build the first car until 
everyone can have one, or the first PC until we can give one to everyone 
on the planet. There are going to be "first adopters" of any technology, 
and I am doing everything I can to not only make sure those technologies 
become available, but that I'm first in line.

I refuse to forego my own ascention on the merest _possibility_ that the 
distribution of such technology is inequitable, waiting until I am 
assured that everyone gets their immortal intelligence-enhanced body. Is 
it right that I am denied my PostHuman state because _everyone_ can't do 
it too? I think not.

>> I daresay if you asked that question of James Hughes and Max More, 
>> you would get pretty much diametrically opposed answers. Yet each is 
>> a Transhumanist in his own way, because that's a question of methods, 
>> not goals. Personally, I don't think it's practical to force equality 
>> of capability short of a social system that would make Aldous Huxley 
>> blush. I favor personal competition, tempered by the intervention of 
>> society as a whole when such competition spills over into realms 
>> where it proves detrimental to society as a whole (I am thinking of 
>> Icelandic feud as an example of a social convention used to regulate 
>> individual conflict, keeping it from degenerating into whole-scale 
>> civil war; there are many others).
> I think this may be a modeling that we don't carry forward but I could 
> be wrong.

After the Singularity? All bets are off. But right now, we need to 
figure out what sort of pre-Singularity socio-political structure will 
allow the maximum number of people to ascend to PostHumanity once the 
time comes. I happen to think a (small-r) republican-capitalist system 
(as we have here in the US) is optimal, while others think 
anarcho-capitalism or democratic socialism are the answer. Well, such is 
the debate in the marketplace of ideas...

> It goes both ways.  There will be those sooner or later whose 
> abilities extent beyond anything you wish to pursue.  The point of 
> "enough" comes to even a posthuman.   Unless we set out to create a 
> world where to rest is to be in mortal danger.  Again, it is our 
> choice.  I will not chose an infinite hampster wheel of continuous 
> upgrades or else as the goal of my becoming posthuman.   I would 
> sooner run away to a nunnery.

Abilities I don't want to pursue? What are these words of which you 
speak? They are foreign to me... ;-)

As Benjamin Franklin said, "When you're finished changing, you're finished."

>> Not at all; it just provides a point of reference from which we _can_ 
>> start talking about the thorny issues, especially since there seem to 
>> be well-defined camps with different opinions on the best way to 
>> approach some of them. Which is what we're doing right here (and I 
>> might argue which is one of the main purposes of these sorts of 
>> discussion lists, especially this one and WTA-talk).
> Yes indeed.  Thank you for the conversation.

And you!


Enhance your body "beyond well" and your mind "beyond normal": 
New Jersey Transhumanist Association: http://www.goldenfuture.net/njta
PostHumanity Rising: http://transhumanist.blogspot.com/ (updated 4/27/05)

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list