Transhumanism: The Search for Human 2.0

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I may be in the minority here, but I don’t believe in universal health care.
I don't think you're a minority with respect to this. Universal health care is untenable right now. At least in the US.
In Canada we have public health care. We also have public schools and libraries.

As far as OP, evolving beyond human is good, relying on hardware is primitive.

Rumi said:
I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was Man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar With angels blest; but even from angelhood I must pass on: all except God doth perish. When I have sacrificed my angel-soul, I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
An alternate translation

Rumi said:
Low in the earth
I lived in realms of ore and stone;
And then I smiled in many flowers;
Them roving with the wild and wandering hours,
O'er earth and air and ocean's zone,
In a new birth,
I dived and flew,
And crept and ran,
And all the secret of my essence drew
Within a form that brought them all to view-
And lo, a Man!
And then my goal.
Beyond the clouds, beyond the sky,
In realms where none may change or die-
In angel form; and then away
Beyond the bounds of night and day,
And Life and Death, unseen or seen,
Where all that is hath ever been,
As One and Whole.

(Rumi: Thadani's Translation.)


Here's an interesting article highlighting some of the stuff we've talked about this in this thread - that transhumanism transcends materialist and immaterialist divides. Interesting to see a religion drawing from both Alan Watts and Ray Kurzweil:

The Trans-Everything CEO

“Humans are free spirits,” she told me, “and we’re happier when we can express whatever happenstance is in our souls.”

To promote this vision, Martine and Bina in 2004 founded what they call a “trans” religion, called Terasem, devoted to “respecting diversity without sacrificing unity,” as the website puts it. Most any self-respecting transhumanist would revolt at this: Refuting the human impulse to adulate the mysterious and adore the unknown is part of their hyperrationalist mission. But Martine sees transhumanism for what it is: a belief system.

“I would say Judaism is the prototype, even the template, of transhumanism,” Martine tells me by email, trying to explain the multiple threads of Terasem. “I realize there’s a zillion flavors of Judaism, but what I got taught is that it is all about education, about being ‘people of the book,’ because when oppressors kept taking everything away from the Jews, they could not take away the knowledge stored in their heads. (Nazis made a good run at that:-( ).”

She continued: “To be ‘people of the book’ means, to me, that you believe in abstracting the core of oneself beyond the form of flesh, into the realm of ideas, knowledge, information as in the information theory sense of reduction of entropy. That you believe the human form is not an absolute limit to being human, but a starting point, from which humans do more and become more. Transhumanism—and there are a zillion flavors of that too—is to me the belief in transcending human limitations. It is as old as Stone Age ancestors, and continuous since then, but now has this new-age label.”



"Ever wished you could unlock doors, turn on your lights, or log into your computer with a simple swipe of your hand? Amal Graafstra does just that as one of the first and most well-known "do-it-yourself" RFID (radio-frequency identification) implantees in the world. In this talk, Amal talks about his journey as a pioneer in RFID implementation and what you should know about biohacking."


Our Cyborg Future: Law and Policy Implications

In June 2014, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Riley v. California, in which the justices unanimously ruled that police officers may not, without a warrant, search the data on a cell phone seized during an arrest. Writing for eight justices, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that “modern cell phones . . . are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”1

This may be the first time the Supreme Court has explicitly contemplated the cyborg in case law—admittedly as a kind of metaphor. But the idea that the law will have to accommodate the integration of technology into the human being has actually been kicking around for a while.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution in 2011 at an event on the future of the Constitution in the face of technological change, Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu mused that “we’re talking about something different than we realize.” Because our cell phones are not attached to us, not embedded in us, Wu argued, we are missing the magnitude of the questions we contemplate as we make law and policy regulating human interactions with these ubiquitous machines that mediate so much of our lives. We are, in fact, he argued, reaching “the very beginnings of [a] sort of understanding [of] cyborg law, that is to say the law of augmented humans.”


Dr. Ted Chu on our Transhuman Potential-
In this three-part video, economist and philosopher Ted Chu presents his new book Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential along with his original theory of "transhuman economics." The occasion was his book-launch event on the Universe Spirit yacht ( at anchor in Northern California. Professors at four Bay Area universities were present, in addition to other prominent thinkers, writers, and teachers.



Will have a longer reply, but here's some stuff on the potential contraction in employment that I think will lead to State intervention:

Humans Need Not Apply
Guess we might not have to wait for the robots:

One Big Unhappy Economy: Report on G-20 Labor Markets Finds Too Few Jobs Worldwide

Unhappy economies, it turns out, are all unhappy in the same way. A recent report on job markets globally showed that too few jobs are being created worldwide, and even fewer good jobs are. Wages are flat or falling in all major economies as corporate profits claim an increasing share of productivity gains.

The report, prepared by the World Bank, the United Nations’ labor agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, notes that poor job creation and stagnant wages, if unchanged, will result in permanently lower living standards for most people amid widening inequality. It also states that the situation will not repair itself — and, actually, is self-reinforcing.


Chalmers vs. Pigliucci — The Philosophy of Mind Uploading

The brain is the engine of reason and the seat of the soul. It is the substrate in which our minds reside. The problem is that this substrate is prone to decay. Eventually, our brains will cease to function and along with them so too will our minds. This will result in our deaths. Little wonder then that the prospect of transferring (or uploading) our minds to a more robust, technologically advanced, substrate has proved so attractive to futurists and transhumanists.

But is it really feasible? This is a question I’ve looked at many times before, but the recent book Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds offers perhaps the most detailed, sophisticated and thoughtful treatment of the topic. It is a collection of essays, from a diverse array of authors, probing the key issues from several different perspectives. I highly recommend it.

Within its pages you will find a pair of essays debating the philosophical aspects of mind-uploading (you’ll find others too, but I want to zone-in on this pair because one is a direct response to the other). The first of those essays comes from David Chalmers and is broadly optimistic about the prospect of mind-uploading. The second of them comes from Massimo Pigliucci and is much less enthusiastic. In this two-part series of posts, I want to examine the debate between Chalmers and Pigliucci. I start by looking at Chalmers’s contribution.
¿Does anyone know some good paper on the subject of Transhumanism and psicokinesis?
I suspect there isn't an overlap here; transhumanists are usually athiests and skeptics, though the religious component was refocused in to engineering said technologies instead of making "thinking" organizations to sneer at believers.

Amusingly, a lot of the crit-think crowd hates transhumanists and singularity people.


Technological Superstitions

In a typically cogent article, economist Herman Daly sorts our the law of diminishing returns into three interacting processes. The first is diminishing marginal utility—that is, the more of anything you have, the less any additional increment of that thing contributes to your wellbeing. If you’re hungry, one sandwich is a very good thing; two is pleasant; three is a luxury; and somewhere beyond that, when you’ve given sandwiches to all your coworkers, the local street people, and anyone else you can find, more sandwiches stop being any use to you. When more of anything no longers bring any additional benefit, you’ve reached the point of futility, at which further increments are a waste of time and resources.

Well before that happens, though, two other factors come into play. First, it costs you almost nothing to cope with one sandwich, and very little more to cope with two or three. After that you start having to invest time, and quite possibly resources, in dealing with all those sandwiches, and each additional sandwich adds to the total burden. Economists call that increasing marginal disutility—that is, the more of anything you have, the more any additional increment of that thing is going to cost you, in one way or another. Somewhere in there, too, there’s the impact that dealing with those sandwiches has on your ability to deal with other things you need to do; that’s increasing risk of whole-system disruption—the more of anything you have, the more likely it is that an additional increment of that thing is going to disrupt the wider system in which you exist.

Next to nobody wants to talk about the way that technological progress has already passed the point of diminishing returns: that the marginal utility of each new round of technology is dropping fast, the marginal disutility is rising at least as fast, and whole-system disruptions driven by technology are becoming an inescapable presence in everyday life. Still, I’ve come to think that an uncomfortable awareness of that fact is becoming increasingly common these days, however subliminal that awareness may be, and beginning to have an popular culture among many other things. If you’re in a hole, as the saying goes, the first thing to do is stop digging; if a large and growing fraction of your society’s problems are being caused by too much technology applied with too little caution, similarly, it’s not exactly helpful to insist that applying even more technology with even less skepticism about its consequences is the only possible answer to those problems.

There’s a useful word for something that remains stuck in a culture after the conditions that once made it relevant have passed away, and that word is “superstition.” I’d like to suggest that the faith-based claims that more technology is always better than less, that every problem must have a technological solution, and that technology always solves more problems than it creates, are among the prevailing superstitions of our time. I’d also like to suggest that, comforting and soothing as those superstitions may be, it’s high time we outgrow them and deal with the world as it actually is—a world in which yet another helping of faith-based optimism is far from useful.


Heh, I forgot Lanier wrote this awhile back...

I hope no one will think I'm equating Cybernetics and what I'm calling Cybernetic Totalism. The distance between recognizing a great metaphor and treating it as the only metaphor is the same as the distance between humble science and dogmatic religion.

Here is a partial roster of the component beliefs of cybernetic totalism:

1) That cybernetic patterns of information provide the ultimate and best way to understand reality.

2) That people are no more than cybernetic patterns.

3) That subjective experience either doesn't exist, or is unimportant because it is some sort of ambient or peripheral effect.

4) That what Darwin described in biology, or something like it, is in fact also the singular, superior description of all creativity and culture.

5) That qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of information systems will be accelerated by Moore's Law.

And finally, the most dramatic:

6) That biology and physics will merge with computer science (becoming biotechnology and nanotechnology), resulting in life and the physical universe becoming mercurial; achieving the supposed nature of computer software. Furthermore, all of this will happen very soon! Since computers are improving so quickly, they will overwhelm all the other cybernetic processes, like people, and will fundamentally change the nature of what's going on in the familiar neighborhood of Earth at some moment when a new "criticality" is achieved- maybe in about the year 2020. To be a human after that moment will be either impossible or something very different than we now can know.
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In case you ever start to think transhumanism will empower people:

Facebook and Apple Offer Egg-Freezing Perk So Women Never Stop Working

Tech corporations have perfected the science of the employee perk: a lavish amenity designed to keep workers in the office and fixated on the job. The recent announcement that Facebook and Apple will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs is perhaps the most fascinating example of what's behind America's unbalanced work-is-life mindset.
The fact that Lean In is really waging a battle for work and against unmonetized life is the reason pregnancy, or the state of reproducing life, looms as the corporate Battle of Normandy in Lean In. Pregnancy, by virtue of the body's physical focus on human reproduction, is humanity's last, biological stand against the corporate demand for workers' continuous labor. For Sandberg, pregnancy must be converted into a corporate opportunity: a moment to convince a woman to commit further to her job. Human life as a competitor to work is the threat here, and it must be captured for corporate use, much in the way that Facebook treats users' personal activities as a series of opportunities to fill out the Facebook-owned social graph.

By arguing that women should express their feminism by remaining in the workplace at all costs, Sandberg encourages women to maintain a commitment to the workplace without encouraging the workplace to maintain a commitment to them.


The Hollowness of Radical Bioethics

The authors’ reading of Darwin is, however, unhistorical. It projects back onto Darwin, a deeply teleological thinker who lived and died in the nineteenth century, some of the tenets of twentieth-century neo-Darwinism. But more important for our purposes is that it leaves them without a leg to stand on when it comes to opposing transhumanism and other Promethean projects. The fact that the Roses, like other intelligent and well-meaning leftists, do oppose these projects points again to the tendency of progressivism to become conservative in the face of the contradictions that result from the attempt to realize the progressive project in practice. Nevertheless, it is clear that identifying good reasons to oppose Prometheanism will demand a firmer theoretical foundation than the one that the Roses’ progressivism can provide.

Perhaps such a foundation is provided by what one could call “Darwinian conservatism,” represented by thinkers like Darwin himself and, in more recent times, the likes of E. O. Wilson, James Q. Wilson, Roger Masters, Larry Arnhart, and Jonathan Haidt, who, whether they identify as political conservatives or not, seek to ground human morality in an understanding of the evolved, semi-enduring biological nature of human beings. But this foundation, too, is weak, and the Roses make some cogent and compelling objections to it: for instance, evolutionary psychologists claim to explain the similarity of human moral beliefs across time and space — but when they claim that variation simply represents different “expressions” of the same universal moral principles, they leave us with a theory that, as the Roses say, “explains everything and therefore nothing.”

Moreover, even if evolutionary psychology could provide an empirical explanation of conventional moral principles, this would not amount to a normative justification for acting in accord with those principles, much less an argument against supplementing natural selection with artificial selection and technology. As Thomas Nagel argues in his recent book Mind and Cosmos, moral realism requires a nature conceived in non-Darwinian terms, or in terms that are not completely or comprehensively Darwinian — a truth, Nagel argues, which in turn suggests that teleology and value are ingrained in the natural world. But science has no duty to provide us with what we want or even what we need, despite the hopes of the Darwinian conservatives that we can buttress morality with biology instead of religion or an older anthropology.

We are left, then, with the question of whether all opposition to Prometheanism is ultimately rooted in religion — in a sense of divinely ordained limits to human nature. Or can it be rooted in a secular respect for the human being, for human dignity, for tradition? Whatever the answer, what is needed is an understanding of human nature that goes deeper than what the popular trends in the biological sciences offer. The moral challenges created by modern biotechnology may best be met not by deepening our commitment to modern biological science, but by turning to the wisdom found beyond it.


Some interesting ideas regarding the movie Transcendence (the movie's plot is spoiled):

I'd been warned off Transcendence by people ranging from ordinary sci-fi fans to hardcore grinders and singularitarians alike. Everybody seemed unanimous that this was an instantly forgettable movie, bordering on a hate-crime against the future. So it was much to my surprise that upon eventually watching it – and hell, I'd sat through all three Left Behind movies (for reasons!), I could do this, surely – what I discovered was, ultimately, a stunningly anti-human movie that's arguably about our genocidal origins and fear of a world transformed turning against us. Less a technothriller than a tale of humanity's struggle against the forces of futurity it has unleashed upon the world; its inability to comprehend them and instinctual reaction to lash out against what it doesn't understand and can't empathise with.

Allow me to unpack my argument, and in the process completely spoiler a generic blend of Terminator 2, The Lawnmower Man and every other SF flick about the "rise of the machines" or a technological superman. Honestly, if you want a better examination of the ethics and issues of AI, watch the recent episode of Elementary, "Bella". If you want a more dramatic tale, read about Roko's Basilisk.
The reviewer doesn't attack the movie Transcendence at its most vulnerable level: the basic absurdity of its premise that AI will soon (or some time) achieve consciousness and beyond human intelligence. A good essay on just one of the reasons (the language problem) why AI at the level assumed coming by transhumanists is pure fantasy, an impossible dream, is at .

Consider the natural English language statement: "The large ball crashed right through the table because it was made of Styrofoam. What was made of Styrofoam, the large ball or the table?"

Watson would not perform well in answering this question, nor would Deep Blue. In fact there are no extant AI systems that have a shot at getting the right answer here, because it requires a tiny slice of knowledge about the actual world. Not "data" about word frequencies in languages or GPS coordinates or probability scoring of next-best chess moves or canned questions to canned answers in Jeopardy. It requires what AI researches call "world knowledge" or "common sense knowledge."
The problem of commonsense knowledge -- having actual, not "simulated" knowledge about the real world -- is a thorny issue that has relegated dreams of true, real AI to the stone ages so far.

Given that minds produce language, and that there are effectively infinite things we can say and talk about and do with language, our robots will seem very, very stupid about commonsense things for a very long time. Maybe forever.
Notice that "knowledge" inherently implies "knowing", which is an inherent aspect of consciousness, not of mere number crunching processing of stored digital information. Of course, this issue is a big one in consciousness research.


One thing that I'm curious to see is the break downs of who resists augmentation & on what grounds. I think many would expect the non-spiritual to be more for it and the more religious to be more against it, but I think it'll be more complicated than that. Especially if you can live socially in VR.
Heh looking back I'm not sure why I was so sure VR would make a difference in class disparity and the like...But I wanted to go back to this post because I found it interesting that a Transhumanist would also come out for the paranormal*:

The change of mind I'm going to write about here has been of the latter kind -- data-driven.
My current view of these "survival-ish" paranormal phenomena is quite different. I definitely haven’t had any sort of religious conversion, and I don’t believe any of the traditional stories about an afterlife are anywhere near accurate. But I now am fairly confident there is SOMETHING mysterious and paranormal going on, related to reincarnation, channeling and related phenomena.

My new perspective doesn’t fit that well into our standard contemporary verbiage, but a reasonable summary might be:
  • Individual human minds have an aspect that is "nonlocal", in the sense of not being restricted to exist within the flow of our time-axis, in the same sense that our bodies are generally restricted.
  • Due to this non-localized aspect, it’s possible for human minds that are evidently grounded in bodies in a certain spacetime region, to manifest themselves in various ways outside this spacetime region – thus sometimes generating phenomena we now think of as “paranormal”
  • This non-localized aspect of human minds probably results from the same fundamental aspects of the universe that enable psi phenomena like ESP, precognition, and psychokinesis
  • The path from understanding which core aspects of physics enable these phenomena, to understanding why we see the precise paranormal phenomena we do, may be a long one – just as the path from currently known physics to currently recognized biology and psychology is a long one
I don't want to impugn Ben by saying his reasons are to better sell transhumanism, but I do find the idea of immaterialist transhumanists an interesting one. (Similarly Basch's Prime Mover + Computationalism stance fascinates me. There seems to be growing middle ground between the extremes Skeptiko covers.)

On the one hand I think some (myself included sometimes) equate transhumanism as a largely materialist-leaning movement but really someone who thinks they have a soul or live multiple lifetimes might see their core-self as beyond the alterations they make to their bodies.

Today's religions might largely oppose transhumanism...but I'm not really sure if that's the case at least in America where there does seem to be overlap between Christians and Libertarianism?

*It's possible Ben's changed his mind since then, I haven't kept up with him...but if not I think he'd make a fascinating Skeptiko guest. AFAIK he still holds to the ideas in that blog post but one would have to probably ask him.


Heh looking back I'm not sure why I was so sure VR would make a difference in class disparity and the like...But I wanted to go back to this post because I found it interesting that a Transhumanist would also come out for the paranormal*:

Another transhumanist, Giulio Prisco, agrees with him.

My friend Ben Goertzel has written an awesome must-read post titled “Paranormal Phenomena, Nonlocal Mind and Reincarnation Machines.” As usual, I agree with all that Ben says. Read his post now, then my comments below.

Ben, a card-carrying transhumanist and a renowned expert in Artificial Intelligence and other futuristic, scifi-like technologies, often throws stones at the sacred cows venerated by the dull, ultra-rationalist bureaucrats of science and philosophy. In this post, he admits that he is at least open-minded about a certain class of paranormal phenomena that seem related to religious notions of “survival after death.” He says a lot of forbidden, totally unkosher words like psi, paranormal, spirit, soul, reincarnation, afterlife, and even dares to mention the theories of, God forbid, Rupert Sheldrake. I am sure that Ben’s post will be savagely criticized by the dull bureaucrats, but Ben doesn’t give a damn: “Peer pressure doesn’t really work on me.” I most certainly don’t give a damn either.

Ben imagines some kind of Pattern Space, which may exist outside our space-time continuum and include our space-time continuum as a special set of patterns, strongly interacting with each other....