[ExI] "general repudiation of Transhumanism"

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Sat Apr 26 23:45:21 UTC 2008

On Saturday 26 April 2008, John Grigg wrote:
> Last Monday night I attended a Templeton Foundation Research Lecture
> that was part of their ongoing series on Transhumanism.  The speaker
> was ASU professor Dan Sarewitz and his topic was, "Can technology
> make us better?" He attacked Dr. James Hughes (who helped host last
> year's ASU Transhumanist workshop) idea that by raising the average
> IQ of a democratic citizenry that you can make them more informed and
> capable citizens, who can then better defend democratic values.  He

Sorry, raising IQ does not mean raising awareness and it doesn't mean 
raising capability, there are many high IQ individuals that are 
basically 'worthless' in terms of democracy, that aren't living full 
and capable lives, etc.

> felt there was no real connection there.  I wanted to "magically"
> remove 50 IQ points from his brain and then ask him, "are you feeling
> just as capable a worker and contributing citizen as you did before?"

Citizenry and nationalism just don't work out in this day and age, time 
to update your ideas. :-) There's more than just living as a citizen - 
you can live as a person, a human. Now, if you want to go create an 
society where everybody has a certain Mensa membership or something, go 
right ahead, sure, but then you seem to turn this around in your next 

>  After all, as a professor he is a member of America's
> intellectual/high IQ elite.  Or does he only want a relative few to
> be in that club?

So now you're saying that you *don't* want IQ elitism. Make up your 

> Sarewitz went on to say the two key challenges facing humanity would
> not be helped by aggressive intelligence augmentation.  The first
> challenge regards individuals, groups and societies experiencing
> conflicting values and world views and trying to deal peacefully with
> each other.  The second challenge dealt with humanity's ability to
> predict and manage the future.  He pointed out that extremely bright
> and educated people/think tanks have guided nations into very stupid
> policies/wars over the years and done great damage and so why should
> even brighter technologically augmented folks do better? I thought to
> myself that perhaps we should instead use biotech to *weaken* our
> collective intelligence...  His talk seemed to inadvertently point
> out very bright people as a threat to humanity! LOL

Nah, I bet he was just trying to say that very bright people that try to 
control humanity are the threat, not that intelligence itself is the 
threat. Power corrupts, etc. That sort of thing.

> The speaker did grudgingly admit that the technologies Transhumanists
> endorse will be coming into being whether he likes it or not.  And he
> stated the primary mover for this was military and economic
> competitiveness between nations.  He saw this as the main reason why
> reasonable people like him had to swing into action and carefully
> control and regulate these new technologies.

You both sound like tech regulators ... you have your 'tech democracy' 
stuff, he wants to regulate it so that you don't enforce those 
tech-democracy requirement stuffs, whatever. Same thing, same sides of 
the spectrum, nothing new.

> I did like his concern about inequality in relation to the subject
> and it was a person in the Q & A session who brought up the classic
> scenario of rich parents buying their unborn offspring genetic
> enhancements, causing even greater gaping inequities within society. 
> But Sarewitz to my surprise did mention how in time treatments might
> become cheaper as they are easier to do.  And so in time, due to the
> "trickle down effect," middle class parents could afford these
> treatments to enhance their own children.

Looks like he's still thinking about scarcity economics, meanwhile 
transhumanists have been talking post-scarcity for decades -- see 
self-replicating tech, like Merkle, Freitas, Drexler, RepRap, fabbing, 
etc. So I don't think this guy is particularly informed. ;-)

> After the lecture he mingled with the crowd over refreshments and
> then the real venom against Transhumanism came pouring out.  Sarewitz
> very mockingly referred to the Singularity as a crazy essentially
> religious obsession Transhumanists had.  And he spoke about how they
> envisioned god-like computers running things and saving us from
> ourselves.  Sarewitz ridiculed Ray Kurzweil's book "The Singularity
> is Coming" and said the predictions were pie in the sky overly
> optimistic and basically just plain wrong.  Oh, and the matter of
> Transhumanist fear of death (especially in middle aged
> Transhumanists) was also brought up as a reason why the Singularity
> was predicted to be within the lifespan of many somewhat older
> Transhumanists. As I listened to all of this I thought to myself,
> "these people really don't like Transhumanists and want to totally
> marginalize us!"  And to think I always thought the Evangelicals and
> not the academics would be our sparring partners. lol

Ignore him. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

- Bryan

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