[extropy-chat] SURVIVAL: An impulse behind transhumanism?

Brandon Reinhart transcend at extropica.com
Fri Jun 30 05:58:23 UTC 2006

> Someone asked me recently what the impulse behind transhumanism was.  I
said survival.  

Transhumanists seek not just to survive, but to transcend and to become
something more than merely human.


The singular phrasing of the question as "what is the" impulse is limiting.
Movements generally have many impulses. To become movements there has to be
something that speaks to a multitude of people from varying backgrounds.
Transhumanism is derived from several impulses. I have no idea exactly what
these impulses are, but here are a few possibilities:


-          Epic Curiosity. The desire to know more about the universe and
the self. To reason out the hows and whys of reality. Epic Curiosity is not
purely analytical; it is also artistic and vibrant. This impulse seems to me
to be fundamental to any human who is at some basic level of education and

-          Rational Truth. Transhumanists are possessed of a desire to seek
total rational truth. Truth that begins as conjecture and is tested as
theory. Truth that is subject to revision should new evidence come to light.

-          Ethical Hedonism. We want to survive because we like life. We
like the trappings and sensations of living. We want to explore the complete
potential of experience, but do so in a way that allows us to reset the
system and try again in other directions. We do not hope to merely survive
forever, but to survive on our personal eudaimonic terms. We want to extend
our ability to live beyond its biological limitations not just so we can
continue living, but so we can live broader, bolder, enriched lives. We want
our cake and we want to eat it, too. At the same time, transhumanists
recognize the ethical limitations of personal desire and the social
objective of establishing a posthuman community.

-          Intellectual Empathy. Many transhumanists can make themselves
feel pretty horrible thinking about all sorts of things that other people
simply don't think about. We understand the immense and catastrophic
information loss each time someone dies. We conjecture, in a sort of
physicalist way, that death as a systemic process is probably avoidable.
Moreover, we understand that to not make an effort to find out for sure if
death is curable, we condemn our society to continued catastrophic
information loss. We feel an emotional response to this. This is the
transhuman social imperative.


I'm sure there are other things that could be classified as types of
impulses. I don't think survival is enough. Just wanting to survive wouldn't
necessarily lead to transhumanism. It's one thing to want to survive, it's
another thing to be perfectly willing to survive in a non-biological
substrate and to not discard that scenario out of hand as impossible.
Transhumanism is maybe a kind of radical supercharged survivalism and it's
all of these other impulses that push it beyond just wanting to stay alive.




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