Science / Tech, Top Stories

The Transhumanism Revolution: Oppression Disguised as Liberation

Transhumanism is an ideology which holds that humans must harness technological advancements to take an active, intelligent role in our own evolution and the evolution of our species. When we think about these developments as a society, we tend to consider them in relation to the improvement of the human race as a whole. However, we must begin to consider the profound implications for the sovereignty of the individual and the primordial question of what it means to be human.

When the transhumanist movement began a few decades ago, its ideas had more in common with speculative science fiction than reality. But, inspired by Darwinian theory, the notion of human-directed, intelligent evolution has flourished alongside recent technological developments. The transhumanist perspective insists that humans have a distinctly separate mind and body, and that what happens to one need not affect the other. Understood in this way, apparently unrelated movements in biotech, tech, and social justice reveal themselves to be part of the same transhumanist project and aimed at the same objective: liberating the human being from the limitations of the body.

Cleaving consciousness from the brain requires a proper understanding of what consciousness is, and certainty that it can operate independently of the mind from which it emerges. Philosophers and scientists alike are, for the time being, in agreement that these preconditions are beyond our reach. However, research is advancing rapidly. Experiments in reanimating slaughtered pigs’ brains are being conducted by neuroscientists at Yale. Investigations into creating a complete diagram of the brain’s signals and connections, with the aim of encoding memory and personal identity and copying that information to an artificial neural network, are underway. In time, it is hoped that this will allow a duplicate of an individual’s memories and experiences to survive the death of her material body.

This all seems far fetched—and it should. But so has every great human innovation at inception. It should not be surprising that we are finally applying our tech to ourselves. So much of this is already possible or on the brink of becoming so: mentally controlling artificial prosthetic limbs that are not connected to one’s body, receiving text messages directly in one’s brain, stem cell and mitochondrial DNA research toward life extension, 3-D printable organs, Turing test passable chat bots, nanobots made of folded DNA strands designed to repair the body in a minimally invasive way, gene editing, and so many more examples.

A brain-controlled prosthetic hand and arm co-developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory and the Federal Drug Administration.

All this tech sounds very cool and exciting, and it is. It is imaginative, creative, and powerful, but we need to come to terms with the profundity of its implications. If past progress is any indication, we will willingly sacrifice part of our autonomy in the name of advancement. Those who want to copy and upload their neurological minds to a synthetic, biotechnical nervous system are unlikely to be deterred by the prospect of relinquishing some of their existing capabilities. In the service of an impulse that craves immortality, we have children, develop religious ideas that promise eternal life, and seek the kind of recognition that keeps our names alive long after we die. But with every freedom we gain through tech, we sacrifice some autonomy. Smart phones grant us access to a world of road maps and obviate the need for self-orientation. The human memory is no longer required to store or recall much now that vast resources of information are only a mouse-click away. We have already willingly given up so much in the name of access and convenience, that we barely notice each time we we are asked to surrender a little more.

The transhumanist push towards a reimagining of the human, humanity, and our shared future is a primary component of three growing cultural trends: artificial intelligence, human augmentation, and the transgender phenomenon. The means of effecting these transformative developments are entirely technical, and promise liberation from reproduction, liberation from disease and mortality, and liberation from the body itself.

Theoretically, artificial intelligence (AI) will provide the repository for a liberated consciousness. Though we have not yet fully understood what consciousness is, that will not prevent experimental attempts to isolate and transfer it, to use it to control bodies that are not our own, and to augment it with biotech or hard tech. Once these goals become attainable, AI will be the means of implementation. AI is about more than creating facsimiles of cognizant beings, it is about augmenting and supplementing the original human form. Adding human elements to tech and tech to humans is part of the same project. It is hoped that AI will create pathways to connect mind to cloud, to give an AI-augmented brain instant access to vast stores of information. Conversely, this will also allow the mind to be accessible to others, allowing for the experience of mental telepathy, and the emergence of a collective consciousness.

AI is already making rapid strides in human companionship. The lonely elderly adore robotic pets, using them as a repository for the love and affection that no human companion wishes regularly to receive, and with none of the practical responsibility. The demand for sex bots continues to grow, as people who lack intimacy or want to pursue obscure fetishes clamor to have their itches scratched. Cybernetic caregivers can help to solve nursing shortages. AI augmented weaponry can sally forth into dangerous territory, and so on.

Human augmentation, also known as ‘biohacking,’ has developed from a combination of the aesthetics of body modification and emerging biomedical developments. On its face, biohacking resembles a counterculture fad, born out of trends such as tattooing, piercing, or tongue splitting. But the implications are more than skin deep, as biohackers endeavor to proactively augment their bodies with technology.

‘Skinput’ system that allows the skin to be used like a touchscreen. (Chris Harrison, Scott Saponas, Desney Tan, Dan Morris – Microsoft Research)

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips can now be implanted sub-dermally and used for identification, electronic payments, opening security doors, or offloading information such as medical records. In this way, the body becomes the key, the debit card, and the receptacle for information the mind cannot to retain. Magnetic implants give the wearer the extra sensory perception of magnetic fields, or the ability to perform party tricks such as attracting paper clips and bottle caps to a fingertip. The community of ‘grinders,’ as they call themselves, favor self-experimentation and trying out new body hacks on willing participants, just as Jonas Salk first tested his world-changing polio vaccine on himself.

There are limitless possibilities in this area of research and application; the replacement of healthy limbs with higher functioning prosthetics, or organs with artificially grown hearts, lungs, livers, instead of cadaver parts. Unlike the fleshy limbs and organs with which we are born, these prosthetics and replacements will be connectable to wireless monitoring, so that their efficacy can be reviewed and managed. As these devices become interconnected, the human body becomes part of the ‘Internet of Things.’ Just as artificially intelligent beings will be interconnected, so too will human bodies be interconnected with other humans and machines.

As DIY body hackers trick out their meat machines, technologies such as CRISPR gene editing software and artificial wombs further the intentional biomechanization of the human form. In one lab, human beings will be edited on a genetic level—from the isolation of mitochondrial DNA for the purposes of life extension to the eradication of genetic deformities, diseases, and implementation of parental preferences—and in another, humans will be artificially gestated.

Both of these concepts speak to a dramatic shift in our relationship with both our bodies and our children. Liberating the body from reproduction liberates humanity from our own physical continuation. At first glance, reproductive advocates may tout this as progress, but removing reproduction from our bodily purview does not only liberate us from the body, it also subjects us to the tyranny of the mind. Removing the body from reproduction is primarily the elimination of women from the process of creating human beings. Liberation from reproduction is liberation from sex, both in act and biology. At which point, gender truly becomes fashion with no remaining foundations in the story of human origins.

Activist at a 2013 Transgender rights rally in Washington DC.

Transgender advocates will answer that we are more mind than body, and this is what makes transgender ideology an essential component of the drive toward transhumanist acceptance, whether transgender advocates realize this connection or not (a Twitter search reveals that many do). The ongoing effort to change language, and redefine ‘male’ and ‘female’ so they refer to something other than sexual dimorphism, is designed to establish a Cartesian mind-body dualism in which the mind can dominate body to such an extent that personal subjectivity can decisively contradict biological reality. Transgender practice is the ultimate biohack. The claim that one has been born into the ‘wrong’ body is a total rejection of mind-body unification, and a statement that mind and body can be so disparate that the body must be thoroughly altered to match the mind’s perception of how it ought to be.

Contrary to popular perception and much of the transgender movement’s own rhetoric, transgender activism is not about compassion and dignity. Although transgender advocacy is couched in the language of oppression and identity, the idea that it is merely the latest facet of an ongoing civil rights struggle is a misconception. In the current cultural climate, to question the concept of transgenderism is to question the right of trans individuals to exist. This is an extremely effective strategy that deters the skeptical from digging into an ideology by labelling them bigots for doing so. But the implications of transgenderism are so serious and far-reaching that questions must be asked. At issue is not simply societal acceptance of people with alternative views or lifestyles, but the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human.

It is no anomaly that the movement is hitting its cultural stride in the debate over pronouns. The first step in changing how we think about our bodies and what it means to be human is to change how we speak about these things. Transgender speech codes demand that we renounce our bodies’ basis in biology, and instead consider them constructs of arbitrary (and somehow unjust) societal expectations. We are not to think about ‘mother’ and ‘father’ as reproductive terms, but as culturally specified relationships. This aggressive effort to change and police the use of language, and to redefine terms like ‘male’ and ‘female’ to deny the sexual difference characteristic of all mammals, is designed to uncouple mind from body and humans from evolutionary and reproductive logic. Instead, an ideology of emotion is to be given dominion over biological reality.

With the widespread acceptance of human augmentation, bio-tech, AI, and transgenderism, we are removing agency from the human body, and granting it entirely to the mind. But our humanity lies not in our consciousness, but in the biological bodies from which that consciousness arises. It is our bodies that suffer pain and spectacular sensation, and that feed our minds with data about the external world and our relationship to it. In its various forms, transhumanism is an attempt to reify an illusory mind-body dualism that has consequences well beyond what we can currently imagine. This is an idea that is advancing without a constituency. As long as transhumanists are the only ones focused on the issue, they can effect enormous changes in the absence of a large constituent base, because ethics conversations lag behind huge advancements in tech and identity politics.

But concerns we perceive to be on the fringes of culture, or esoteric and only vaguely relevant to some distant future, are in fact part of a giant ideological redefinition of humanity. If we do not attend to these debates and their implications, we are going to awaken one day to find that developments have overtaken us, that it’s too late, and that our bodies are of no importance. What we forget is that the mind must serve the humanity of the body—in suffering, joy, pleasure, pain, tickles, itches, even death. Without that submission, the mind is nothing but ego, without any checks on its power or influence. To be a mind without a body is to have no relationship to the physical world, and no stake in it. If we perceive ourselves and others to be disembodied minds piloting meat machines—bodies of mere matter that do not matter—what horror will we be capable of inflicting on the bodies of others? When we renounce our humanity, we forget what it means to inflict pain and to suffer.

Choice, the determining factor, resides with each individual alone. The transhumanists are right in at least one respect: the responsibility for humanity lies not with the state, nor any NGO, but with each of us. In awarding the mind complete power and authority over the flesh, we are not liberating ourselves, but submitting to the oppression of a consciousness we do not yet properly understand. The risk is that we only belatedly realise that transhumanism is oppression disguised as liberation.

 

Libby Emmons is a writer and theatre maker in New York. She is co-founder of the Sticky series & newly formed Puss Collective, & blogs at li88yinc.com. You can follow her on Twitter @li88yinc

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85 Comments

  1. This is silly and people, using far fewer words, have been saying this about all kinds of advancements for hundreds of years.

    • dirk says

      Among them: JBS Haldane (1923), -Daedalus, or Science & the Future-. In which ectogenesis predicted as a universal practice in 1968.

    • E Taph says

      This whole piece runs afoul of the is-ought problem; conflating a particular kind of embodied cognition with the central characteristic of humanity doesn’t allow us to draw any conclusions on whether what we value the most about our existence couldn’t be replicated in a different medium. Humans are the only species on the planet with this sort of capacity for self-awareness, consciousness and rational thought, maybe that’s what we’re ought to define ourselves around instead of trying to define the particulars of our natural mind-body dialectic as humanity, and emphasizing minds over bodies like that seems to me like one of the causes of civilizational progress in the past couple centuries and the sentiment in the article runs counter to that.

  2. Grant Dewar says

    Neuroscience tells us that their is as much neural matter in our body as in our brain, there is as much neural matter in our gut alone as there is in a cat’s brain… and we do not know how our brain works let alone the mind body connection…. just consider chronic pain for a start. The fulfilment promised made in this technology are a mirage that will recede into the distance…. bodies self repair for 90 years and iphone is hacked by its makers to be redundant in four…. Think about the terms and conditions and disclaimers that we never read now when handling the most common technology. Think what we would give away when signing up to this orwellian internet of things.

    • MCA says

      “Neuroscience tells us that their is as much neural matter in our body as in our brain, there is as much neural matter in our gut alone as there is in a cat’s brain…”

      This is actually wrong. The brain contains FAR more neurons (200x) than the enteric nervous system. What you are mis-remembering from is that the enteric nervous system has more neurons than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. It’s a complex system, with some level of autonomy and internal reflexes and responses, and definitely more important than we thought previously, but the “second brain” label is somewhat over-wrought.

      It’s also worth noting that it’s a distributed nerve net with no real centralized control – gut transect ions are common for removing diseased bowel (along with all the associated nerves), and rarely cause major problems. It’s a bit more like The Internet Of Things, where the things are local regions of the gut.

      • Quiddam says

        I still want my gut uploaded with the rest, it is important. Do not devaluate my gut, it denies my existence.

        • TarsTarkas says

          Is that your gut feeling, or do you want to ruminate about it?

  3. xeoncat says

    It’s funny that in the pursuit of the dividing line between body and mind we found that there was no dividing line. Anyone who still believes this dualist view of body/mind is lagging behind recent developments in the neurosciences.

  4. dirk says

    It’s all described and explained in Homo Deus of Yuval Harari. His conclusion: the end of humanism, individualism, primacy of emotions , free partner choice and love,and democracy. I sounds bad, but you shouldn’t judge too soon, because there are a lot of advantages too (though I forgot which ones).

  5. Teo says

    Great article. It’s a shame the whole concept and ethical implications of transhumanism have so far been confined to science fiction, while the technology has been advancing at a rapid pace. We’re no longer speaking in hypotheticals, and need to figure this stuff out sooner rather than later. It’s not space magic and escapism when it’ll likely happen in our lifetimes.

    • Steve says

      “when it’ll likely happen in our lifetimes”

      When *what* will happen in our lifetimes?

      Better prosthetics? Absolutely.
      More useful “AI”?. Definitely.

      These are mundane advancements that are already upon us. However there is a categorical difference between these technological advancements and such notions as “uploading consciousness”. Nobody on this planet has even a theory of what a theory of consciousness might look like. There is precisely zero evidence that neuroscience — reductive materialism in general — will ever “solve” human consciousness. Reductive materialism is almost certainly strictly impossible, and hence the technical innovations imagined by transhumanists will not come to pass (and most certainly not in our lifetimes).

      • MCA says

        “There is precisely zero evidence that neuroscience — reductive materialism in general — will ever “solve” human consciousness. Reductive materialism is almost certainly strictly impossible, ”

        What, precisely, do you mean by this? The term “reductive materialism” is a slippery one, with technical definitions and informal usage which can be very variable.

      • Teo says

        “When *what* will happen in our lifetimes?”

        These questions becoming relevant. We already have functioning exoskeletons on the military market, we’ll soon have them for civilian use as well. The “it” I’m referring to is not some distant end goal where human consciousness gets uploaded to “the cloud”, but rather the point where people will voluntarily start incorporating technology into their bodies. So far we’ve primarily been mimicing real human limbs and organs to aid amputees or other disabled or sick people. We’re nearing the point where perfectly healthy humans might start considering replacing a limb or an organ with an artificial one for increased performance or longer lifespan. Lungs that can filter pollution or breathe underwater, legs that never get tired. That sort of stuff.

  6. martti_s says

    Cleaving consciousness from the brain is like cleaving a football match from the players.
    The human consciousness does not happen without a brain-body. An artificial model of consciousness will eventually happen in a silicone/electronic medium.
    it will not be ‘human’ and there will be a big argument if it could be called ‘consciousness’. Up until now, I have not seen anybody define it in such a manner that its presence in an organism could be undeniably detected. Some of its coordinates are well identified, some of its functions as well.
    Its essence is still decades away.

    • Steve says

      “An artificial model of consciousness will eventually happen in a silicone/electronic medium.”

      Artificial “consciousness” already exists in the form of dimestore chess-playing toys. That is, if your definition of consciousness is strictly functional. If on the other hand we are talking about the ineffable *interiority* that characterizes conscious experience, there is no evidence that it is even theoretically possible to manipulate this as one might manipulate blood drawn from a donor (which your initial statement captures).

      “Its essence is still decades away.”

      It’s essence is as close as your next thought. Capturing it in the manner the transhumanists envision is not “decades away” — it is impossible in principle.

      • MCA says

        The first rule of AI – Consciousness is whatever machines haven’t done yet.

        • martti_s says

          Ahh…that used to be intelligence. Thinking used to be something animals cannot do until the damned birds of Irene Pepperberg. The goal posts are shifting….

      • martti_s says

        In my vocabulary “the feeling of being there” (stolen from Damasio) is the essence of the human consciousness. As we are mammals, I think it is reasonable that other animals may share this basic phenomenon.

        I do not know of any computing device, not even a cluster of supercomputers ever having given reports of what it feel like to be a computer. We see animals being happy, scared, hungry, ferocious, horny etc. We can read their body language quite reliably as they share the basic mammal OS with us. They can read us as well, some of them can.

        What is the essence of the subjective center of consciousness…as I said, there is a problem recognizing consciousness in the zombie thought games. Philosophers often ask the wrong questions as they do not care about if their words correspond to the reality that keeps changing as we learn more.

        No, I do not think it is impossible to approach the essence of consciousness.
        Most certainly it cannot be done through omphaloscopy or word games but with elegant laboratory work, maybe, with time.

    • The first step is integration of machines into our nervous system. It’s not remotely unfeasible to imagine increased memory and cognition skills imparted by prosthetics. Then, as the brain gradually fails over decades you replace piece after with prosthetic parts. If the owner perceives no difference, then eventually you’ll have consciousness inside a computer.

      It’s far away, but it’s not impossible.

      • marti_s says

        There are lots of things we can imagine but the physical world sets limits to what actually can be done. The human memory is not written in the neuronal networks in such a manner that it could be read from there with any apparatus. Memories are not only recalled, they are reconstructed over and over for each instance. The neural networks creating the memory are not necessarily in the same state every time, even the active networks might be different.
        Which explains why we can be so sure and wrong at the same time of something that happened to us in the past. No, a memory chip brain implant, forget it!

      • Jim Sky says

        Thanks for saying this. It has long seemed to me that this thought experiment should end debate on whether consciousness could be “mechanized”. I have never heard a single convincing argument against it.

  7. I have a few questions that either a fellow reader or the writer could answer:

    I understand that many of the transhumanist technological advancements have been at one time inspired by some science fiction writing, but in those stories, there was always a distinctive class element to these changes and I see a lot of that today. These technologies seem well out of the range for the average person to afford, even in a first world country. So I imagine from a global perspective it would be decades, perhaps even a century, before these become implemented in the general population. Or are they more affordable than I think and that matters of individual financial power will not matter?

    Because I had thought that total sex-reconstructive surgery was a massive financial investment for the person. I only know of one person who did it (interestingly enough they worked at Google) but someone else I knew, without the same financial means just settled for testosterone pills.

    Socially though, the idea of prolonging life for so long through transfer of memory or consciousness, seems itself depressing.

    • MCA says

      “Or are they more affordable than I think and that matters of individual financial power will not matter?”

      Possibly eventually. It depends on what is requires for various advancements and devices – some things may be resource limited, others may only take the insight to make the discovery, then can be mass-produced. There’s really no way of knowing beforehand, though.

      “Socially though, the idea of prolonging life for so long through transfer of memory or consciousness, seems itself depressing.”

      Why? That sounds *awesome*! An eternity of learning and knowledge? The ability to explore places beyond human reach with ease in artificial bodies? It’s like an endless field-season, with something new under every rock!

      • Constantin Draghici says

        Knowledge for the sake of knowledge ad infinitum. It is possible that certain temperaments would be slightly more adapted to it, but a short lifetime span is not by any stretch of the imagination a sufficient sample to extrapolate what may sustain even a geek’s interest for eternity. The real question is how many intellectually curious types would opt for eternal stimulation of the nucleus accumbens or its non-biological equivalent and abandon any need for relationships with others and any intellectual preoccupation. What do you think about a self-centered immortal creature poised to masturbate for as long as the inorganic substratum continues to exist?

      • Wilson Hill says

        I don’t know. I think I fear immortality more than mortality. No mortal limitations or consequence seems more likely to leave people bored and lazy (or worse) – what’s the rush, right? You have literally forever. Inspiration – which I’m blessed to have an abundance of – is hard enough to sustain across the time we’re given, never mind an eternity. Longer life I can appreciate, but not indefinite. At the risk of sounding like a high school poet, without death I question if it’s still life.

        • MCA says

          I think it helps when the object of your interest/obsession over your whole life is both incredibly diverse and ever-changing; in my case, the living world. There will always be more new species to study, more places to explore, if only because by the time you’ve done them all, the one you started with has turned into something different.

      • TarsTarkas says

        A hundred and fifty years ago, if you weren’t a Rothschild or a Rockefeller or an Esterhazy, you couldn’t listen to an orchestra play on demand (and even then it took at least the better part of a day to set a performance up). Now, everyone on the planet with a speaker connected to the Internet can hear one play instantly, and for virtually free.

  8. Lawrence D'Anna says

    Nothing between the title and the final sentence actually makes the case that transhumanism is “oppression disguised as liberation”. Instead, you mostly just raise the concern that the relevant tech is potentially dangerous, which is a point transhumanists are acutely aware of, to put it mildly.

    • augustine says

      The author stated that this is a *risk*, not that transhumanism *is* oppression disguised as liberation. Ipso facto, she raised the concern of certain dangers.

  9. Christopher Rivera says

    Alex Kierkegaard: 273. The fact that there is not a single successful artwork — whether a novel, movie or videogame — depicting “utopian” conditions, proves that we, as mankind, DO NOT WANT THEM. The prevalence of so-called “dystopias” in art, on the other hand, proves what we really want — and where we’re headed…

    281. The film Highlander, a towering work of art, even though it muddles things a little in the end, is a perfect sketch of how the future will turn out — and indeed of how the universe works. The immortal swordsmen fight among themselves, beheading each other and growing as they do so by absorbing the power of the slain, exactly as all animals grow in power by eating other animals. No metaphor, no image — the film would have been even more true to life if the swordsmen had to actually devour each other. That is one subtle point in which the film could be improved, and the other comes right at the end, as I said, where the Overman simply uses his accumulated power for the “good” of the little people. Of course all of this good-doing is left out of the film, because it’s 1. So boring that no one could even be bothered to write a script for it, and 2. So boring that even if anyone could have bothered to write a script for it no one would have paid money to see it. — And so it is that the sequel, and all sequels thereafter, simply introduce a little trick by which the power struggle is reignited, again and again, for it is the only eventuality for which screenwriters can be bothered to write, and viewers will pay to watch. Of what exactly happens with the “good-doing” of the winning swordsmen everyone is as little curious as to what awaits the pseudo-Christians in their pseudo-Paradise. Death awaits them there, as indeed it does right here, but their kind of death no artist is willing to glorify, and that’s why our cinemas, so far at least, have been so mercifully free of it, amen.

    326. The future’s not bright, the future’s tragic. That’s all you need to say to clear the room of futurists and other optimistic cattle. Would people of this kind have had any place at Thermopylae? Maybe in Xerxes’ army! (which I hear was full of optimists, starting with the man himself). And their fate is precisely what the future of our dear futurists will be.

    332. Three levels of outlook on life. On the first, and lower, level, the blind optimism of subhumans. “In the future we’ll all be equal and immortal! All desires will be immediately satisfied and no one will ever have to work!” On the second, higher level, the pessimism of the great men and the philosophers. “You brainless cattle! The world doesn’t work that way! Not only will your utopia never materialize but the worst is yet to come!” And on the third and final level, the tragic feeling of the classical heroes, the greatest philosophers and the Overmen of the future. “The worst will indeed come, but only because we welcome it and want it to.”

    659. There was far more equality on this planet before humans arrived. Subhumans think they invented it, but compared to us ants are practically equal. And the further back you go down the evolutionary tree, the more equality you find. Think amoebas, or even further back, hydrogen atoms. It is precisely the increase in inequality between the highest and lowest examples of a species that determines how high it stands in the tree of life, not the other way around, as the liberals are trying to convince us. The desire for equality is regressive, and every step towards it is a step back, towards monkeys, ants and amoebas.
    Meanwhile, subhumans will continue to contend that things are more equal among us than among the other animals, but this philosophy of theirs is merely another symptom of the absurd amount of inequality that exists between us: so absurd that the majority of the population can fantasize about equality while, right in front of their eyes, the inequality chasm grows ever more gigantic. Not only are we not getting more equal then, but inequality is increasing every day, and the increasingly absurd theories that subhumans concoct to counter this increasing inequality are part of this rising inequality too, since they contribute to making a class of weak and stupid people ever weaker and stupider!

    327. The anarchist’s opposition to the state comes from communism, even if they pretend to fully repudiate it (much like the democrat’s theory of equal beings comes from Christianity, even if they pretend to distance themselves from it and vilify it). But despotism comes before both of them. Despotism is the start of everything — what allowed us to part ways from the animals and forge our own future. It was strong human beings who took control of the herd and turned it into a tribe, the tribe into a city, the city into a nation, the nation into an empire, the empire into a culture, and finally the culture… into an Overman. And it is the strong (no-longer-so-)human being who, once more, will lead the way by lighting the match that will send up the entire world in flames.

    In prehistoric times we weren’t equal either, but the distance between us was far smaller than it is today because we lacked all the scientific and technological advances which of course the more intelligent among us will utilize to better effect than the less intelligent, to succeed (unless you think that a moron and a genius can utilize a digital computer to the same advantage, in which case you are a moron).
    There’s nothing for it: civilization/evolution and inequality are synonyms (with evolution being the biological form of civilization, as civilization is the technological form of evolution), and the idea that we’d go through all this trouble to create them with the goal of becoming equal is so preposterous that only someone who is utterly uncivilized could believe it, much less want it.

    813. Once more on Leibniz vs. Newton. Leibniz’s God is supremely rational, but Newton’s is the common Christian God whose will is “unknowable”, and that’s why on all the deepest issues Newton has nothing to say, but simply attributes them all to “God” — i.e. to his own ignorance.
    Lichtenberg: “Are all our conceptions of God, after all, anything more than personified incomprehensibility?”
    So, for Lichtenberg, God is a catch-all term for everything one doesn’t understand. So the more one comes to understand, the smaller this sphere becomes — and therefore this God — while at the same time the ego grows at the exact same rate, and begins to demand “its own” (Stirner). Finally, right past the tipping point, where the amount of one’s insight surpasses the amount of one’s ignorance, calling the ignorance “God” ceases to make much sense, and using it for the insight instead — i.e. for the ego, for oneself — is the only logical thing to do. And that’s how the God concept shifts from designating “personified incomprehensibility” to personified comprehensibility, and God transforms from a “holy” ghost and spirit… to flesh and blood (and metal, and circuits): to an “evil” man and superman; to me and my descendants.

    835. The centralization of wealth is a natural consequence of the progress of culture. In the past, someone would invent something, say a new song. Then the bards would learn it and fan out and perform it, so lots of people would be involved in that process and profit from it in some way. Now the creator transmits his creation more or less directly (to the entire species no less!), cutting out the middlemen, and leading to huge profits for himself, but zero for the middlemen. Fewer and fewer middlemen as we progress, because we are interested in, and want to reward, the ends, not the means. The elimination of the means is even one of our goals! That’s how you improve efficiency lol! It would make no sense for us to try to find ways to multiply the middlemen! Like actors who will also lose their work eventually to digital replacements, because we are interested in the finished movie, not the acting, etc. It is a colossal waste of effort to try to oppose this process, as opposed to welcoming it, harnessing it, and riding to the top of it like a cybernetically enhanced techno-God climbing to his rightful place at the top of the culture complex as in some grim dystopian sci-fi novel which I have already explained that, to us, it is in fact utopian ’cause we love that shit and live and breathe for it. In the long run, then, EVERYONE will lose their “work”, because the purpose of progress is not “work” but “war”, and co-operation of any kind (i.e. civilization) is merely a temporary means to that great all-consuming war at the end of which, as I have already said, there can be only one.

  10. Your mind isn’t trapped in your body, it is a function of your body.

    You might be able to simulate it; the simulation might be conscious and self-aware; it may even think it’s you; but it isn’t.

    When you die, you die. You might leave behind something that would pass the Turing test but it’s still a simulation.

    Transgenderism isn’t a reality hack either. Most transfolk have given up the idea they can transform their bodies. Now they are redefining the penis as a female organ. It’s an admission that they can’t change biology, only the way people view that biology. And most people simply aren’t having it.

    • MCA says

      “You might be able to simulate it; the simulation might be conscious and self-aware; it may even think it’s you; but it isn’t.”

      Why isn’t it? From the perspective of the Me v2.0, I plugged my brain in and suddenly am in a new body. If Me v1.0 is still around, I plugged my brain in and nothing happened, except now there’s another me. And from then on we diverge and become separate people. But before the split, we were the same person. Is Me v2.0 any less me then Me From 2 Years Ago vs. Me Now? If the copy has all of my memories, preferences, personality, etc., why isn’t it a second me? And if Me v1.0 promptly gets hit by a bus, while I’m dead from Me v1.0’s perspective, from the perspective of Me v2.0, my copy was destroyed.

      If a bacteria divides, aren’t they both simply two copies? If you kill one, why does it matter which one?

    • E Taph says

      Your mind is a mere projection of a colony of naturally occurring nanotechnology, and it’s highly possible that colony can be tweaked in a myriad directions, real mind uploading might be off the table for now but our source code could happen to be as editable as the average computer program. And I think the ability to modify one’s “organic source code” is a right that goes straight along the lines of not stifling individual speech expression.

  11. Nicholas Conrad says

    I’m shocked by the leap of illogic to conclude, with no evidence, that a person’s humanity is solely a function of a mind in a particular kind of body. Someone holding such a view must also then consider people with degenerative illnesses incapable of being human since their minds and bodies are forcibly decupled. This seems like a far more dangerous ideology than one that beleives people can transcend such limitations with their humanity intact.

    I also take issue with the conflation of people who think we should be free to redefine their own bodies, and people who want to enforce speech codes, the two things are completely unrelated. It’s like saying cars are bad because nazis used cars, and look at the horrible things they did. Argue against speech codes on it’s own merit, don’t drag transumanism into it just because people wanting speech codes also happen to like it.

    • dirk says

      On decoupling, Nicholas, read -The Great Decoupling-, chapter 9 of Homo Deus by Yuval Harari. he depicts (though not predicts) the end of democratic elections and the unique individual, instead: the system will still find values in some individuals, but these will constitute the new elite, the superhumans, rather than the mass of the population.

    • I’m shocked by the leap of illogic to conclude, with no evidence, that a person’s humanity is solely a function of a mind in a particular kind of body. Someone holding such a view must also then consider people with degenerative illnesses incapable of being human since their minds and bodies are forcibly decupled.

      I’m shocked between the leap of illogic between your first sentence and the second.

      The minds of people with degenerative conditions aren’t ‘decoupled’. They’re not floating independently outside of the body. The degrneration of the mind is a consequence of the degeneration of the brain, and when that brain ceases to function there is no mind.

    • martti_s says

      Your logic does not hold, sorry.
      People with various diseases remain human as long as they have their subjective self.
      Once the structures that are essential for its activity are destroyed, the consciousness ceases to happen.
      Humanity is warped and diseased, far from perfection. Ideals can be dangerous.

  12. MCA says

    This is, quite simply, a spectacular failure of an essay, mostly wrapped around the false dichotomy that postulating ANY independence between mind and body is equivalent to postulating TOTAL independence. The fact that it was written by someone with zero scientific (and particuarly biological) credentials or training was apparent to me by the 2nd paragraph.

    The line “To be a mind without a body is to have no relationship to the physical world, and no stake in it.” betrays the shallowness of the author’s understanding. The phrase “embodied cognition” turns up half a million papers, and has been a hot topic in AI research for decades, yet the author’s assumption that an AI or cognitive-transfer would lack a body (even if not made of meat) shows they’re totally unaware of this major area of research. I’m not even close to being an AI researcher (I’m a biologist), yet even I know of it.

    Most crucially, they assume that any level of mind-body integration means TOTAL integration; that any modification, replacement, or alteration will, by necessity, change the mind. Yet pretty much every organ in the body is replaceable these days, and getting the hand of a murderer will not make you a murderer (contra many TV shows). While the brain is not fully independent of the body (see above), neither is it fully bound to it, and the litany of modifications we have made show that to be true. We have people who see with digital eyes (poorly, but the tech is advancing) and hear with digital ears, who walk with mechanical legs and grasp with mechanical arms, yet they are the same people as before their accident. Or, perhaps more tellingly, consider those without replacements – does losing a sense or limb or organ alter the core of your being, your personality, your memories, your very self? No, of course not.

    The body is an integrated whole, but that whole contains specialized organs, of which the brain is one. Try this argument on the liver, or the heart, or the stomach. Sure, each interacts with the rest of the body, and each is necessary to function, but if you replace a heart with a synthetic one, does the liver suddenly stop working, or the stomach? No, not so long as the heart keeps beating. Does removing the stomach alter the heart’s rhythm? Not if gasrtic bypass serves as any guide.

    Hell, even the BRAIN isn’t a single homogenous whole, as stroke patients show – each region, though connected, handles a specific task, and damage to one area will damage only that function. Damage Broca’s area, and you’ll have problems with language and speech, but you can still see, run, think, and feel. Damage the occipital lobe, and you’ll have vision problems, but can still speak, think, feel, run, etc. Hell, some major functions aren’t even confined to the brain – a great deal of the low-level processing for walking happens inside the spinal cord itself, with considerably less high-level control from the brain than we often think.

    The tenuous link to transgender issues is a teach, but also falls into precisely this overall issue of lack of sufficient knowledge. As the author is probably unaware, many humans (1 in 1000 to 100000 births, depending on the precise type) are born “intersex”, with genitalia of intermediate or indeterminate state. We’ve made remarkable advances in understand these, to the point that we can often look at the genitals and instantly predict the gene involved (though some morphologies require genetic testing to differentiate). In the olden days, these kids were often assigned a gender and raised in that way, but often getting it right was a crap-shoot. Crucially, there are now several intersex mutations for which we can predict “gender” / “brain sex” with perfect accuracy, even if it differs from gonads and genital morphology. This suggests that a) there is a biological basis for gender and b) under certain cases, those mutations can produce gender discordance with genitals. I would actually be willing to bet money that once someone does a sufficiently large N genome-wide association survey on transgender individuals, it will pick up not one of these genes, but either a regulatory gene for them or a non-coding promotor or inhibitor region that the regulatory gene binds to. An alteration in one of these could result in differing expression levels in the CNS (which is ectoderm-derived) and sex organs (all mesoderm). So not only do I think transgender is real, if I were a genetics person (I’m not), I’d be writing this up into a grant.

    • The fact that it was written by someone with zero scientific (and particuarly biological) credentials or training was apparent to me by the 2nd paragraph.

      This is the point at which you should state your own qualifications on the matter because without them you have just disqualified yourself.

      • MCA says

        Fair enough. I detest “academic dick-measuring contests”, and also want to preserve my anonymity to some degree, so I’ll be a bit vague. I have a PhD in biology from a well-regarded program and a TT faculty position which is research-oriented, with a respectable enough publication record to land said position. A lot of the intersex stuff I picked up during my time teaching medical school.

    • X. Citoyen says

      1. You may be right that the author lacks biology expertise. But you don’t point out any factual errors related to biology in your response, so I have to wonder about the relevance of this.

      2. Your claim that the author relied on a false dichotomy—i.e., any independence of the mind from the body = total independence—rings hollow. Her argument goes that total independence of minds from bodies seems like a technical possibility; transhumanism makes no distinction between partial and total independence of minds from bodies in defining human beings; we should question whether human beings are nothing more than independent minds that can be transferred into any old vehicle for physical and philosophical reasons, and where the line between human and nonhuman is when human whim is the only limit.

      Your response begged the question and then missed the point. You assert that meat and machines are interchangeable and treat the author’s questioning of the equivalence as ignorance of half a million papers on embodied cognition. Then you followed up by saying that any given mechanical part doesn’t devalue a human being. This misses the point of about (a) whether a mind transferred to a wholly mechanical body is still a human being and (b) the radical possibilities. It’s not about mechanical limbs and digital eyes, but minds transferred to all manner of things—the unlimited possibilities presented by technology meeting the eccentric desires of the fringe. If, say, Dragon Lady or Leopard Man or Elf Girl (or whatever other eccentric) wants a dragon or leopard or elf body or limbs, does society accommodate that? It may seem strange to ask, but if you can transfer a mind to a mechanical container, you can transfer it to a gigantic mechanical fire-breathing dragon.

      3. On sex and gender, what’s the option when you detect a misalignment in utero and you have the technology to change it? Does the parent get to decide that the embryo needs fixing? What about detecting hetero- and homosexuality at the embryonic stage? Can parents select the orientation they want for their child? Suppose an adult decides that he or she wants to switch to the opposite sex, yet you don’t detect any misalignment at the physical level? Does he or she get to change anyway because, after all, we live in transhuman times? I don’t think you’ve thought through the realities on the ground because you became distracted by her assumed lack of expertise.

      • MCA says

        “1. You may be right that the author lacks biology expertise. But you don’t point out any factual errors related to biology in your response, so I have to wonder about the relevance of this.”

        You mean aside from her entire article operating from false assumptions about the level of coupling between biological systems? That sort of factual biological error?

        ” You assert that meat and machines are interchangeable and treat the author’s questioning of the equivalence as ignorance of half a million papers on embodied cognition. ”

        No, go back and read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. My section on embodied cognition was refuting her claim that the goal of TH is consciousness without a body. I even quoted her so you could see what I was referring to.

        Second, your use of “interchangable” is slippery. In the narrow sense, yes, artificial structures can function as replacements for biological systems with narrowly prescribed functions (e.g. the heart as a blood pump, the ear as a mechanism to detect pressure waves in air across a range of frequencies). But I’m leery of it, lest you use that word to attribute broader claims to my position.

        “This misses the point of about (a) whether a mind transferred to a wholly mechanical body is still a human being and (b) the radical possibilities. It’s not about mechanical limbs and digital eyes, but minds transferred to all manner of things—the unlimited possibilities presented by technology meeting the eccentric desires of the fringe. If, say, Dragon Lady or Leopard Man or Elf Girl (or whatever other eccentric) wants a dragon or leopard or elf body or limbs, does society accommodate that? It may seem strange to ask, but if you can transfer a mind to a mechanical container, you can transfer it to a gigantic mechanical fire-breathing dragon.”

        It’s not “missing the point” to treat something as obvious – yes, obviously a human brain transferred to a mechanical body is still human, and can be proven by a simple intermediate – imagine if that body were controlled not by a digital brain, but simply an organic brain in a jar. From there, it’s Odysseus’s ship – if you replace it piece by piece, what is the magical point where it becomes different? This is like accusing me of “missing the point” by not also stating that 2+2=4.

        Nobody, not the author, not you, nobody has given a particular reason why a mere change in the format of inputs and outputs into a mind would make it “not human”. If I wear night-vision goggles, do I become something inhuman? You may try to dismiss the comparison as facile, but look closer – I’m changing the sensory input, and why would it matter if that change is outside the skin or inside it? For some incomprehensible reason, people seem to think that this makes a difference, probably due to some instinctual “squick factor” in the primate brain.

        Consider the default state – you have a brain which is locked in a dark opaque container, fed input via electrical signals and producing output via those same signals. While that could describe your robo-dragon, it’s actually a description of your current brain inside your skull. All you really have is those inputs and outputs, and those are already limited in range and capability. There’s no good argument why different ranges or capabilities would produce such a tremendous difference that the mind would be “not human”.

        I should also note that, in certain species with amenable (usually very simple) anatomy, we literally *have* removed the brain from the body and found it to give the same responses to inputs as when inside a body. The problems with doing this with larger brains are largely physiological rather than philosophical – high metabolic rates and difficulties ensuring adequate perfusion to keep the tissue alive and functional.

        “3. On sex and gender, what’s the option when you detect a misalignment in utero and you have the technology to change it?”

        No idea, ethics isn’t my field. My point was that the author was treating the idea of having a discordance between brain sex and body sex as a fiction due to hard dualism, when in fact it’s an empirically observed phenomenon. This has a wide number of interesting results, in terms of ethical issues and in terms of a biological basis for gender, but severely undermine’s the author’s contention that the brain and body are so inextricably linked that

        • X. Citoyen says

          We don’t agree on meanings, apparently, so there’s no point revisiting old words. Since you introduced it, I’ll start fresh with Theseus’s ship, an identity paradox that depends on replacing nearly identical parts—e.g., pine planks for pine planks, linen sails for linen sails. The analogy for human body is the child and the man’s cells; the analogy with the human mind is the troubled teenager and the matured man who becomes the counselor of troubled teenagers.

          You and the author are debating a slightly different version of Theseus’s ship because transhumanism involves replacing part with different parts with similar functions–pine planks for steel plates and linen sails for diesel engines. She says the new parts change the ship; you say wood and steel make hulls, and sails and engines are propulsion systems, so it’s the same ship. Or, in the matter before us, she says human identity must change because the new parts will affect the whole; you say the identity remains because the functions of the parts are the same.

          I say transhumanism does not pose an identity problem at all because we’re talking about the mind’s unique connection with the body. The mind is not just functions like hull and propulsion; it’s an accumulation of the experience of the embodied individual. So when I asked “whether a mind transferred to a wholly mechanical body is still a human being,” I didn’t mean the “same” human being, I meant whether a mind transferred to a box is a human being at all.

          A mind in a box that never sees hears, tires, sleeps, eats, feels pain and pleasure, elation, delight, anger and so on is not a human being, whether it used to be or not. It hardly matters whether you hook up inputs for all such things, a machine body is a simulacrum that will affect the mind within, turning it into something else too. This is obvious in extreme cases like a Dragon Lady in a mechanical dragon body.

          The author sees this more clearly than you, I think, because Shakespeare is a better guide to this brave new world than Darwin.

          • augustine says

            “No idea, ethics isn’t my field.”

            Indeed.

  13. As with all change, there will be good things and bad things. What’s important is having choices. I would never accept a microchip in my body. But lots of people think nothing of it.

    • Paul Ellis says

      Would you refuse a pacemaker, or artificial hand? Both contain microchips.

      Whatever other flaws there are in this essay, I can see the usefulness to the progressive cause of conflating transgenderism with transhumanism.

  14. Stephen Brown says

    I would recommend reading “against trans humanism “ by Richard Jones http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=1772
    Jones is a nanotechnology scientist and makes a powerful case that separating the mind from the brain is near impossible and to define the state of the brain at any instant would involve taking account of the entire brain down to the level of Brownian motion.
    The analogy of software running in a computer is not helpful when trying to understand the mind/ brain

    • MCA says

      I’ll admit I skipped to the section on the brain, because that’s where my interest and knowledge lies, and while he didn’t get any details wrong, I disagree with his conclusion, namely that molecular-level processes are so important that any simulation must be at the molecular level. The counterpoint to this is my favorite tissue, muscle. Muscle is, if anything, MORE complex than neurons, because in addition to the same excitable cell membranes, there’s also all the molecular machinery for generating force and work, which is laid out in highly spatially explicit ways, and in which small subtle irregularities can have large consequences (including several molecules we don’t even know the function of yet). By his argument with the neuron, this should be impossible to simulate, yet we can get a reasonably good approximation using nothing more than a “force generator” connected in series and parallel with a series of springs and dampers (the Hill Muscle Model). It’s not perfect, nor does it capture anything and everything about muscle, but it’s good enough to run simulations of walking based on actual anatomical and physiological data, with variables to account for key muscle metrics (fast vs slow, mass, maximum force, etc.).

      Just because the biological mechanism is complex doesn’t mean the simulation has to be complex; simple models can capture large fractions of the function of even complex biological systems.

      • martti_s says

        I am sorry MCA, but your knowledge is too superficial to be called knowledge at all.
        To simulate a nervous system you do not have to do it using the actual transmitters (which would be the molecular level) as the nerve cells only either fire (action potential) or don’t.
        Ones and zeros all the way. It is the massive amount of connections that makes it create our reality. Each neuron of our cortex can have thousands of axons (exiting info) and end plates (input) that are connected to other neurons with the same degree of connectivity.
        Muscle is definitely NOT more complicated than central nervous system. You see the repetition of the same form over and over. A muscle either contracts or relaxes, most of its cells working in a synchronized fashion in healthy tissue. Did you ever actually imagine how many muscle groups are orchestrated for instance in a tennis serve?
        Where you think this orchestration happens?
        In the muscle?
        How many tetraplegics do you see playing tennis?

        I strongly recommend reading a textbook of physiology, an elementary one.
        You will enjoy it!

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  16. Fear and Sense says

    Just watch Black Mirror. That’ll bring you up to speed on all the ways it could go wrong.

  17. It seems many have missed the point of this piece, perhaps due to a lack of sufficient knowledge. Perhaps I can be of assistance.

    Our civilization for centuries has engaged in vast technological projects to overcome the limitations of the body. It has become something of an obsession with us – something done for its own sake, regardless of the consequences. And what this obsession betrays is a deep alienation from, and a hatred of, the body and all its traditional or natural processes. This hatred was especially evident in the Protestants – with their war of the spirit against the flesh.

    In our day, the advocates of political correctness (the descendants of these Protestants), have effectively banned all ‘discrimination’ that is based on the body. In fact, the popular appeal of political correctness is its vision of a future society in which the body is irrelevant. There will be no more racism, sexism, ageism, fatism, homophobia, etc. – because there will be no more bodies. Everyone will be a discarnate, spiritual, identical, equal being – just as John Rawls imagined it would be like in Heaven.

    So there is a deep connection between the gnosticism of modern science and the utopianism and revolutionism of the left. In fact it should be infinitely apparent by now that most social revolutions, such as those often backed by the left, are preceded and made possible by technological revolutions. The popularization of the birth control pill leading to the ‘sexual revolution’, and radical feminism, is a case in point. And Marx, of course, said that the machine would accomplish the revolution on its own, quite apart from conscious human interference.

    • MCA says

      “So there is a deep connection between the gnosticism of modern science and the utopianism and revolutionism of the left. ”

      No, no there isn’t. That you can engage in logical and liguistic contortions to draw lines between unrelated phenomena does not constitute evidence of those connections.

      Seriously, go find me someone who works in prosthetics who will wax eloquently about gnosticism and revolutions. I know several such researchers personally, and the only thing they wax eloquent on is NIH R01 grant renewal mechanisms. Most of them are control systems theorists, biomechanists, and muscle physiologists. I was actually on a thesis committee recently for a thesis using neural networks to control prosthetics. Here’s my inventory: Grandiose plans about transcendence: 0 pages, hyper-detailed accounts of signal filtration and processing: 100+ pages.

      “And what this obsession betrays is a deep alienation from, and a hatred of, the body and all its traditional or natural processes.”

      Horseshit. I know someone who put up fake grant solicitation flyers around the electrical engineering department to mock their inability to make an actuator as good as muscle. Literally my entire academic appointment is in an institute founded on the idea that biology does it better, so we should learn from it. Send an email to half my colleagues today and you’ll get a bounceback that they’re out hiking.

      If you actually stopped the philosophical masturbation and went to *talk* to the people whose motivations and mindsets you’re making grandiose claims about, your silly little theories would crumble before your eyes.

    • dirk says

      But Breathnumber, what you sell us here as saving us from our lack of knowledge, is just your own view on the case of transhumanism and the philosophy related. The point here really is: the author belongs to the camp of the pessimist feminists, who fear for oppression, appropriation of the female body, instead of liberation. This is to counter the optimist feminists in the field,who see the possibilities of transhumanism, transgender and artificial procreation as the road to equality and the end of toxic masculinity. At least, that’s how I read the piece. Haldane (see my comment, 3rd one) was the first scientist explaining these ethical dilemmas, in mentioned booklet.

      • dirk, I was more interested in the angelism aspect, which is what I addressed in my post. I took that to be the key idea of the article.

        However, it may be, as you say, that Ms. Emmons is attacking transgenderism in the interest of essentialist feminism. It’s hard to tell just from this piece, unless I missed something. I did notice, however, that Ms. Emmons, on her blog three years ago, posted a rather embarrassing S.J.W.-style, anti-racist tirade —

        https://li88yinc.com/2015/10/15/hey-white-women-stfu/

        — in which she berates privileged white women for existing. Well, all I can say is that, thankfully, she has repressed that side of herself in the article above. Or maybe she woke up since then, I don’t know.

        • dirk says

          I saw the link Breathnr., yes it looks like Libby is looking for an equilibrium. Nice young jumping beautiful ladies also, nice smiles, teeth, jolly, healthy and happy, is this still humanism? or is transhumanism at work already? Or is the selection of the girls very lop sided (as in advertising)?

        • Paul Ellis says

          “I did notice, however, that Ms. Emmons, on her blog three years ago, posted a rather embarrassing S.J.W.-style, anti-racist tirade —

          https://li88yinc.com/2015/10/15/hey-white-women-stfu/

          I also notice that she uses copyright made-for-profit stock photos with the watermarks intact, suggesting she hasn’t licensed them for this use. Her piece is not criticism of the photos themselves, which would lie within both Fair Use and Fair Dealing, and therefore is probably unlawful.

          Ms. Emmons, kindly have a bit of respect for people who make their living by creating IP value. As a writer yourself, creating IP value, it is in your interest to learn a bit about copyright and how it differs worldwide. Berne and the Three-Step Test is a good place to start:

          http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/berne/summary_berne.html

    • augustine says

      “So there is a deep connection between the gnosticism of modern science and the utopianism and revolutionism of the left.”

      An excellent observation. More on this subject area from VFR:

      http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/015095.html#edward

      excerpt:

      “The primary feature that characterizes a tendency as gnostic for Voegelin is that it is motivated by the notion that the world and humanity can be fundamentally transformed and perfected through the intervention of a chosen group of people (an elite), a man-god, or men-Gods, Ubermensch, who are the chosen ones that possess a kind of special knowledge (like magic or science) about how to perfect human existence.”

  18. Quiddam says

    Given that our best way to deal with difference of opinion is to wait for other people to die, I am not sure it is particularly a good idea to entertain. I would definitively vote against it at this point, but of course there won’t be a vote.

  19. DonkeyBoner says

    MCA:

    Get a life and go do some hiking, prick.

  20. Morti says

    The whole “liberation” thing is a sign of a late stage of a totally rotten, rabid and extreme version of individualism.

    One word is lacking in the description of their ideology and it is Ego. That’s what it is about. They want to liberate their egos from everything since everything is oppressing some secret, inner, hidden “me” which when liberated, will lead to ultimate happiness and creativity. They forget that what ego is, is shaped not only by our bodies but also but our surroundings, social bonds and belongings. To liberate a human from it all probably means turning one into just another calculator.

  21. Apotheek says

    “Ethics conversations lag behind huge advancements in tech and identity politics”.

    I find this assumption, made by the writer, to not be as self-evident as perhaps she presumes. At least in continental Europe, where I reside, it seems that the moral and ethical questions behind AI often precede certain developments. This leads to excessive red tape, technological backwardness, and institutional control, despite such fears ever turning out to be justified.

    That being said, I would appreciate if anyone could direct me to some sources where the above-mentioned assumption is duly explained and historically predicated.

    • dirk says

      You may be right here for the case of genetically modified crops, apotheek. Where you fall behind there (as in Europe) you also might miss the competition in the field of transhumanism. Haldane foresaw not only the abolition of disease and death as a physiological event as sleep, reproduction separated from sexual love and freedom for mankind in an altogether new senses (50yrs before the pill) but also, finally, the subjugation of the dark and evil elements in mans soul (by development of psychology and medical technology). In short, Homo Deus on earth. The end of vice.

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  23. Hutch says

    I can’t help but feel this article tries more to be the Christian-boomer-tech-scare article rather than wading into the serious and highly technical discussions required for the topic.

  24. derek says

    Much of what is govern the grandiose name of transhumanism is simply replacing broken parts. I have a pacemaker which improves the atrial node which paces my heart. It fixed something that was broken, and has logging functions and can communicate. A working atrial node is much preferred; the batteries don’t need replacing and the wires don’t break down.

    Same with almost any other device we put in our bodies. Hip replacements are great but wear out. An improvement only when the natural joint is damaged for some reason. Prosthetic devices as well. They require maintenance and wear out. If you had the choice between a prosthetic leg or a healthy one, the choice is obvious. That isn’t the choice in reality; it is between the function that a prosthetic gives or doing without.

    This is the hard reality of transgender transitions. Taking hormones or surgical modifications have the same characteristics as described above; the manufactured one has flaws and risks involved, and if the choice is between some physical set of organs that work and a massive surgical intervention, it is inevitable that there will be difficulties. I know a man who in transition is now in a wheel chair when they nicked something down there. If you can’t walk surgery or some awkward device is worth the risk or nuisance. Something is wrong here

    This is where the transhumanism trend will hit the wall. The benefits have serious costs.

  25. On a flippant tangent on the subject of transferring consciousness to machine, I often (well not that often) muse on Star Trek’s transporter technology. What if every time they transport they actually die? On the other side, the computer recreates an exact copy of the person who thinks they are them BUT the person who beamed out at the other end was disintegrated in the copying procedure and is dead. And the same thing happens every time. Who would know and how could you prove it?

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  29. 1011101010110110111011 says

    The author makes some incorrect fundamental assumptions about transhumanists that tend to undermine the central support of the article:

    “Transhumanism is an ideology which holds that humans must harness technological advancements to take an active, intelligent role in our own evolution and the evolution of our species.”

    Incorrect. Tranhumanists hold a variety of views and opinions but there is little talk that humans MUST do any of this. Mostly it is seen as a desirable thing to choose to pursue, not an absolute necessity.

    “The transhumanist perspective insists that humans have a distinctly separate mind and body, and that what happens to one need not affect the other.”

    Incorrect. Transhumanists generally strongly support and adhere to science, especially the “hard” sciences. The biologically sciences say that the mind and body are intertwined and this is what most transhumanists thus likely accept too.

    “Understood in this way, apparently unrelated movements in biotech, tech, and social justice reveal themselves to be part of the same transhumanist project and aimed at the same objective: liberating the human being from the limitations of the body.”

    Incorrect. Generally transhumanists want to alter, reducer or eliminate the limitations inherent in human biology more broadly, which is inclusive of both mind AND body limitations.

  30. It’s a massive topic to take on, but I think transhumanism isn’t exactly stoppable for a few reasons:

    1. No one would download their brain to a machine, they’d just alter their current body, which is wholly possible.

    2. A transgender person has some type of body dysphoria – they seek to change their body to reflect their whole and complete psyche. It’s a dysphoria and as such is not simply the same as seeking to become some other type of being by whim alone.

    3. Consciousness might be produced by the body but the actual mechanics are so unknown we can’t claim to know that it can only function one way on one type of body. What’s to stop me from eventually having buttons on my arm that I can press to release particular chemicals into my bloodstream instantly? What if I install a rig to inject myself with estrogen, testosterone, dopamine, etc and control my emotions? I can already intake a drug to change my mental state. All that needs to follow is for the drug to become a physical fixture.

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  32. Leanna B says

    It’s very important to acknowledge that the majority of the technologies you mention are actually being developed to help disabled and sick people. Grouping these doctors and researchers in with the trans-humanist movement isn’t correct.

    On the aspect of altering or transferring consciousness, the majority of the research on consciousness transfer is in communicating thoughts into orders a robot can follow. While this may seem like a slippery slope to us, we must at least in part see it from the perspective of a paraplegic. For them, the idea of being able to control a robot to live vicariously through that machine is often something they fantasize about. While it seems abhorrent to able bodied people to be separated from our bodies, they see their bodies as a limiting factor that prevents them from forming a real connection with the world around them.

    As far as gene editing is concerned, consider who this can benefit. I understand the moral conundrum that poses, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. We can eliminate genetic diseases from our future children. That’s really too big of a benefit to dismiss outright. If you could snap your fingers and eliminate the possibility of a future generation ever having Huntington’s or Tay- Sachs, most of us would. The embryo could instead (hypothetically) be gene edited into health. As for the concern of creating designer babies, that’s certainly possible. Gene editing would have to be heavily monitored and restricted, but it’s benefits could be worth the risk.

    Artificial wombs can be used for mothers who can not carry to term. The argument that they will replace pregnancy all together is rather weak to me but even if they did, it would not make the mother any less the mother. Mothers who use a surrogate (with their egg) are no less biologically the mother of that child.

    The idea that liberation from reproduction is liberation from our sex is a rather big jump. Human biology dictates our sex is more than our ability to produce offspring. The idea that if all our babies were produced and grown in labs we would cease to see sex as a real thing is false. It’s not as if people will spontaneously develop gender dysphoria (a rare condition) just because we don’t reproduce the same way we used to.

    I’m not arguing for everything transhumanism advocates, but it does seem that this article is stretching a little. The research being done in ‘biohacking’ is primarily to help the sick or disabled, and that should be encouraged. The connection between transgender and transhumanism is interesting but I fail to see how the technology to reproduce separately from ones body would bring about a wave of gender dysphoria…

    • Buck says

      I found Libby Emmons’ critique of transhumanism, though sometimes seemingly contradictory due to come to a reaonably sensible conclusion. It easy to understand why so many commenters seem to completely misconstrue her point. She writes from a purely secular perspective, so transcendence is a gap in her knowledge.
      She does seem to understand that mind-body dualism requires that a non-material force from a mind transmit non-material commands to cause a material human brain to affect itself and its body with no external or internal stimuli . This is exactly what we are being asked to accept as the truth of so-called “transgenderism”.
      What did Einstein’s theory say about Newton’s? You simply can’t get there from here.
      It is also no different than transubstantiation. We must believe in the accidents of appearances and accept the truth of the myteries as a matter of faith.
      In both cases, but one is clearly increasing its adherants.

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  35. Rodrigo says

    “Theoretically, artificial intelligence (AI) will provide the repository for a liberated consciousness” What are you talking about? You have no idea what AI means.

    “The transhumanist perspective insists that humans have a distinctly separate mind and body, and that what happens to one need not affect the other”

    You mixed these two up, transhumanists believe our minds are the result of physical processes in our bodies.

  36. anon says

    Focuses to much on mind uploading(which while interesting is not necessary for trans-human philosophy and would probably not work for some practical reasoning) and somehow drag in transgender-ism. gender theory is a radical social constructionist worldview that thinks the mind is purely a product of society where trans-human philosophy is based on the improvement of material bodies and sees minds as an emergent process of a biological system and sees no reason why the components of that system can not be replaced with other parts while still fulfilling the same function.

    trans-human philosophy is fundamentally about the idea that we can transform our body in any way possible to improve ourselves and that we have the right to do so.
    it rejects the idea of a human nature and that modifying your body in any way would make you less human. having four arms, eyes that can see the full spectrum or a computer in my brain does not make be any less human than somebody with a pacemaker, cochlear implant or hip replacement.

    beyond mind uploading there are things so much more interesting.
    prosthetic: replacing limb and eyes. or replace them with a robotic swimming tail instead or threaded wheel.
    negligible senescence: non aging tissue, 20-30 year old body forever tough still need to find something for neurological aging.
    restorative medicine: regrow limbs and organs
    genetic modifications: anything from fixing genetic disorders to adding new senses(hello mantis shrimp)
    brain implants: rewire your brain so that mathematical calculations are no longer done by your brain but a computer which is much better suited to it, increase working memory, capture data from your optical nerve and live stream it. intercept this data to modify it for augmented reality display like use facial recognition and project peoples social media info next to their face.
    map your muscle control nerves to a robot and feed the robots camera data into your optical nerve and you now control a robot body as if it is your own.(great for rescue and military operations)

    just some examples but really mind uploading is pretty boring compared with all the freaky stuff we might do eventually. It`s quite a problem I have with brain uploading in science fiction yes you get uploaded and put back in a new body and then you have resurrective immortality but beyond that the characters in those stories are not trying to improve themselves any further.

    also gender is not real its just sex and

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