[ExI] The meaning of life (in transhumanism)

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Wed Feb 26 19:15:40 UTC 2014

(Anders) I tend to regard being able to question and (in principle) change
one's behaviour as a sign of mental health (and ethical thinking). Most
people who are mentally ill are stuck with a certain way of thinking and
acting, even when it is painful, harmful or against what they wish. By
analogy, never questioning one's life is a form of mental condition - not
quite an illness, but a lack of flexibility and potential for growth. Most
of us of course never rebel against most expectations even if we consider
whether to obey them or not: many make sense on one level or another. But
being aware that one could do differently is tremendously liberating.

(bill)  Now you have raised several questions:  when should we nonconform,
who should nonconform, what should we do about nonconformers, and what does
this have to do with creativity (besides everything)?

I assume the scientific method, verifiablity/falsifiability, is not a
candidate for nonconformity.  Innovators' very duty is to nonconform.  I
was 'born' a skeptic, a contrarian, a free thinker and probably most
everyone on this list is too.

Re mentally ill:  actually I think it's the other way around, at least for
neurotics.  They constantly question themselves and everything they do, and
dither and fret but without rational result, or at least one that gets
translated into behavior.  They are indeed inflexible. So, examination of
self and one's alternatives can be overdone.

On Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 1:07 AM, Kelly Anderson <kellycoinguy at gmail.com>wrote:

> On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 4:41 PM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
>> Thanks for your answers! Very thought provoking, and actually useful.
>> Some observations:
>> We are *way* naturalistic subjectivists on this list. I think Adrian was
>> the only one even mentioning non-naturalistic sources of purpose, and
>> objectivist ideas mentioned have mainly dealt with the nature of biological
>> life and its purpose. In fact, many of the answers were pretty classic
>> existentialism!
> Sorry to jump in here late, but I have a slightly different answer. It
> does sort of come up under the "life just is" heading, but here goes.
> I tend to believe that we don't really have free will. However, we do seem
> to have free will, and the concept seems useful to getting out of bed in
> the morning. This, in turn, is useful to continuing to fuel the body that
> hauls my brain and gonads around. This helps me to reproduce, which seems
> to be a major point to this thing called "life". Now if you talk about the
> meaning of the universe, that's quite different. But the meaning of "life"
> is to produce more life, so this reproduction thingy seems pretty central
> to the whole concept.
> Now, what we do have is some sort of optimization function that we use to
> decide what to do from moment to moment. For some reason, my optimization
> function says, "type this drivel" rather than "go to bed", which seems like
> it would make a lot more sense at this time of night. Why? Zeus if I know.
> So the meaning of human life might be to run one's optimization function.
> And if you want to get really tricky, then you can make whatever "choice"
> there might be to optimize one's optimization function. One might refer to
> this optimization as "acquiring wisdom".
> Now, if acquiring wisdom is the meaning of human life, then in
> transhumanism the goal could be stated as "acquire more wisdom than is
> currently humanly possible."
> So perhaps, if there is a meaning of life in a transhumanist sense, then
> this might be it. Of course, you might not be acquiring the wisdom
> yourself, so as a cyborgy type creature, you might be content to share your
> wisdom-aquiring with say Google, or the world wide connected brainy thing
> we seem to be using to send ASCII text to each other in an attempt at meme
> spreading.
> So another meaning of transhumanist life is to create something wiser than
> homo sapiens. Or perhaps even to bring an end to homo sapiens and usher in
> something with a better optimization function. It still won't have free
> will, but I'd bet it will have the illusion of free will, or it will be
> pretty damn useless at running it's optimization function. Or at least this
> is what I would suppose.
>> It is interesting to note that most answers did not directly jump into
>> transhumanism, but were about general life philosophies. So at least around
>> here it doesn't look like people base their sense of purpose on a
>> transhumanist idea as the core value, but rather that one can choose a
>> meaning, and we happen to have chosen transhumanist-aligned views. Of
>> course, cause and effect may be mixed.
> I hope my answer goes in that direction just a tiny bit.
>> While most responses were individualistic or focused on enhancing the
>> individual self, I also got a very relevant off-list response about
>> non-individual goals. There seem to be an interesting tension between some
>> of the me-centric subjective purposes of some transhumanists and the more
>> other-regarding purposes of other transhumanists.
> Indeed, group goals are sometimes quite counter to individualistic goals.
> I don't need to refer to politics do I?
> Happy navel pondering!
> -Kelly
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