[ExI] Blackford and Egan on >H

PJ Manney pjmanney at gmail.com
Thu Apr 24 22:11:32 UTC 2008

On Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 1:19 AM, nvitamore at austin.rr.com
<nvitamore at austin.rr.com> wrote:
> Hi Patricia,
> I worry about your determination to move from the word "transhumanism" but
> carry forth the ideas.  I realize you are not invested in transhumanism as
> a word or a concept/philosophy but that you value certain ideas and goals
> which are presented through the worldview of transhumanism.  This is a
> problem.
> What do you really know about Egan?  Are his
> values/knowledge/intelligent/life experiences better than the rest of us?
> What makes you think he is the authority?  Because he is a well known
> science fiction writer?  Or that he has a wisdom that the rest of us do not
> possess?
> Why should transhumanism change its name because others think it is crap?
> Why aren't transhumanists addressing these issues directly and with
> critical thinking?
> I am not attached to a name, to be sure, but I do not think that the name
> is the problem.  It is the values/content of transhumanism which offends
> others.  Are you willing to say that life extension is not all that
> important and that we ought to die because others think it is selfish and
> immature to want to life longer?  Do you think we ought to forego
> nanotechnology, AGI, genetic engineering, prosthetics, robotics, and space
> exploration because others may think it is crazy?
> I think that we need to reexamine our principles, values, and goals and
> present them in a way that deals with criticisms rather than changing our
> sinful name.  I mean after all, are you saying that Max More is full of
> crap and that he ought to be ashamed of transhumanism and that he is a
> self-indulgent, Pollyanna?
> I think we need to discuss this on this list, not run to the WTA list and
> talk about it.  I mean - we are in this together.

Hey Natasha --

I don't know Greg Egan from a hole in the wall, except I've read some
of his stuff over the years.  It's quite good.

I do not subscribe to anything he says, except this particular opinion
that the word "transhumanism" does us no favors and a handful of
techno-utopians with body issues can give the rest of us a bad rap.

I'm probably much like you.  Politically moderate compared to the
stereotypical H+ skew, like my physical self just fine, not even
scared to die, although I'd certainly prefer to live.  I just see
what's coming in our society like it's a movie before my eyes, the
screen plastered on the front of a freight train heading towards me.

Here's my concrete problem.  People ask me what I'm involved in.  I
say "transhumanism".  They squint, brows knitting and ask as evenly as
possible, trying not to betray their suspicion, "What's that?"  So
immediately, I'm behind the eight-ball and that's from people who
don't have a preconceived notion to battle against.

The word has always sent up bad signals to my own ears, even before I
knew the background to it, and that's all I have to base it on.  Words
are important to me.  And apparently, to others as well.  Last I
checked, a book a lot of people believe in begins a gospel with the
words, "In the beginning, there was the word," and their god created
the universe with just his words.  Just as that book created a
powerful worldview with just its words.

I take first verbal impressions very seriously.  And "transhumanism"
has never cut it.  If I didn't care so much about the issues, I'd let
it slide as a "tried, but no cigar" attempt and move on with my life.
But I do care.  I'm pretty invested, if anyone has noticed.

I paused in writing this to have a private chat with Mike LaTorra.  In
the conversation, it struck me that Natasha's comment about "isms" is
really apt.  Adding "ism" to the end of "transhuman" brings in a whole
lot of implications about movements and agendas and coercion from one
part of society over another -- all those concepts that people by
nature fear.

And Mike said that I don't want to be an "ist."  I seem to have issues
with "ists" and "isms".  But so do others, apparently, including
Natasha.  I also have a problem with "trans" and that involves the
notion that it's something we're always heading towards and never
reaching.  When, in fact, we've been "trans" for a long time.  By
definition, humans are "trans".

But I'm cool with "human".  We can keep that part.  ;-)

As for mentioning the WTA list, I simply brought it up because it has
the word in its name.  Can't really avoid the issue.  Extropes might
or might not think it's such a great idea to continue the dialogue,
but if they grew bored of it, we have another place to discuss it.
There was no intended slight to extropes, just an offering of options.

Per Damien's message, when I get some time, I'll throw up a version of
my comments on Russell's site.  But I do welcome everyone's comments.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list