[ExI] An old skeleton tumbles out of the list closet

Charlie Stross charlie.stross at gmail.com
Mon Nov 12 23:57:29 UTC 2012

On 12 Nov 2012, at 22:21, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

> I knew that thread would come back and bite us:
> http://www.aeonmagazine.com/world-views/ken-macleod-socialism-and-transhumanism/
> Not to speak ill of the dead, but Robert was amazingly stupid there.
> However, it is an interesting essay on its own. Is there a way of getting a common human identity without going for fictional religious explanations?

Weirdly, some of the commenters on my blog are nibbling at the corners of that question (from around comment #277 on the current thread), with discussions of various types and category of religion, whether the process of science can be understood as a religion (when viewed anthropologically) and so on. More at: 


However ...

That's a very good question.

The scientific method[s] give us an analytical framework but not an ideology (although some of its findings are deeply subversive to some existing ideologies -- see also Gallileo).

Marxism's appeal lay in its attempt to provide an analytical framework for human behaviour, at both social and economic levels; its failing lies not so much in the analysis as in the grotesquely botched attempts at building an ideology and then a political control system on top of it. (Which is to say: Marx, good; Lenin, really not good at all.)

Rand tried to build a system equivalent to Marxism, but using capitalism as its armature. Falls at the first hurdle by having absolutely nothing useful to say about altruism, much less the roughly 75% of human interactions that are strictly *non*-financial. (Reading Graeber on the origins of money and debt is a bit illuminating here. Oh, and Graeber: sometimes wrong, has a whole bushel of axes to grind. But still provocative and well worth reading, even if you feel the need to stop every few pages and argue with him.)

Perhaps what we're looking for is something like Stoicism, but updated to take account of what we now know of cognitive psychology? 

For those who aren't familiar with it, Stoicism was a philosophy and a belief system that dates to roughly 300BCE and was eclipsed by the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire circa 200CE. Wikipedia entry:


-- Charlie

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