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See Maken, transhumanism doesn't have an ethics, per se. Sophia deems this a problem, which is a conversation we could have. But transhumanists are merely people who support the development and deployment of the technologies discussed so far, advocate the use of reason in all human affairs, and are supporters of the advance of science, seeing it as key to the happiness of mankind. That is all stuff Objectivists agree with (well, except maybe for the technologies, but I think most are unobjectionable). Some have offered visions of transhumanism as a totalized philosophy, but I don't think that is possible, to be honest. There is far too much room for variation within the bounds set, and huge variances among transhumanists themselves. Some are laissez-faire capitalists, a few are socialists, perhaps the majority are mixed-economy types. The majority are utilitarians of one stripe or another, but many are rational egoists (even if they're not Objectivists), and some are more deontological in their bent. Most are altruists of one form or another, but again, many are rational egoists of some sort. Some are determinists, some are compatibilists, some are volitionists (is that the word?). Some think man is inherently flawed, some hate their bodies, etc. Many think man heroic and love their bodies (and still think they can make them better).

Basically, I'd summarize it like this: transhumanists all have certain elements in common, including a strong respect for reason and science, and are pro-man (as opposed to man-hating environmentalists). They support technologies that extend our lives and improve our health, and also expand (not necessarily all, but most of) our abilities. Beyond this, they differ greatly among themselves. Transhumanists each have their own individual philosophy, which is only partly in agreement with other transhumanists.

Also, might I advise in the future to quote some portion of my post, rather than the entire thing (unless its relatively short)? It can take up quite a bit of space and doesn't help further the discussion overly much.

Have you tried investigating transhumanism at all on your own? Has anyone who has participated in this thread, besides me and Hotu?

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I would like to make another point, which is that I find it interesting that the thread on "should we seek immortality" had a resounding "YES!" as the answer (provided we're talking indefinite lifespan, not literal impossible-to-die immortality), and yet here we have people railing against it. Am I missing something? Or is it only this whole calling it "transhumanism" thing that people are hung up on? Here's a link to that thread if you want to review it:

Should we seek immortality? thread

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Sorry for the long quote on the last one, didn't think about that :dough:

As for Transhumanism and ethics, I would be curious as to what Transhumanists base their beliefs on. I haven't done much research outside of looking it up on Wikipedia but it seems like most of Tranhumanism is based on a Utilitarian calculation that it would be best for everyone.

If you can hold Objectivist values and seek out Transhumanism, I don't see where the problem is. I think the problem arises when Transhumanists try to have values without ethics and ethics without a base. I think that is the main problem with what Hotu has said in previous posts.

If you divorce Transhumanism from any sort of ethical structure and want to say that Objectivists should seek to maximize their life span then I would agree that it is compatible.

As soon as you start bringing in strict Transhumanist values you are venturing into ethics and that would lead you into a whole mess of trouble (mainly circular logic and ethics that can't be compatible with Objectivism).

I also struggle with the idea that all Transhumanists respect reason and science when you said yourself that many are altruists and Utilitarians. These are not philosophies founded on reason.

Hope that made sense.. lol

Edited by Maken
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I would like to make another point, which is that I find it interesting that the thread on "should we seek immortality" had a resounding "YES!" as the answer (provided we're talking indefinite lifespan, not literal impossible-to-die immortality), and yet here we have people railing against it. Am I missing something? Or is it only this whole calling it "transhumanism" thing that people are hung up on? Here's a link to that thread if you want to review it:

Should we seek immortality? thread

I object to the utopianism implicit in transhumanism, which is explicit in "extropianism". The communists wanted to make a "New Soviet Man", if they had access to genetic engineering they would have tried it. Certainly Hitler would have because he had a eugenics program. Checking up on Wikipedia:extropianism it seems that extropism is the new thing, and it is about abolishing property in the future because somehow we won't need it anymore.

Capitalism is already changing the human condition in the proper ways. I think one good critique of transhumanism is the word is a distraction from capitalism, it is rather unjust and inaccurate not to name capitalism, the moral political system, as the source of current and future medical, material and moral progress for all of mankind.

Another objection I have is derived from Ayn Rand's "immortal robot" explanation of how values are derived from needs. Imagine a continuum of entities with increasing amount of replacement of body parts with less vulnerability and less dependence on the environment, i.e. fewer needs, up to the immortal robot as the end of the spectrum. Along the way, life will become more controlled, more autarkic, less motivated by needs, less value filled and less interesting. You could remember what you once valued but if you still had the capacity to learn it would eventually sink in that everything matters less and less the more invulnerable you became. It would suck the passion out of life. Why not throw yourself off the wall like Humpty-Dumpty for the experience, especially if you are confident that all the king's horses and all the king's men can put you back together again? At least the boredom would be relieved for a while. People already bitch about the ennui of being raised in suburban housing tracts and the relation to suburban meth labs.

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I also struggle with the idea that all Transhumanists respect reason and science when you said yourself that many are altruists and Utilitarians. These are not philosophies founded on reason.

Hope that made sense.. lol

Well, in my opinion, transumanism is not a full philosophy, and rather denotes certain agreements with a few philosophical positions, and certain values (long healthy lives, technological advance, that sort of thing).

I've never heard of a religious transhumanist, except maybe for a Buddhist or something. Almost all are atheists/agnostics. They explicitly state that reason and science are the means by which we can understand the world, and the means to achieve human happiness. The book Hotu refers to in his OP actually explicitly states that philosophy has neglected its duty and become mired in irrationality and innanities (a sentiment which seems very popular in transhumanist circles and in Objectivist ones as well).

Many react by embracing a certain Scientism, where they think science can answer every question, and often are very reductionist and in many cases determinist. However, I see this as an honest error. It is one many many people fall in to in our culture. Richard Dawkins is somewhat utilitarian and is an altruist, but I don't think him an enemy because I think he is basically honest (he is not a transhumanist, but I am just giving a well known example). I think that many such people are quite similar to me (I used to be one a few years ago): fundamentally committed to reason, but mistakenly accepting the assumptions of our culture about reason and where it can be found. This is why I think most are fundamentally committed to reason, even though they are mistaken in ethics (our culture makes it really hard to get ethics right, lol).

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I object to the utopianism implicit in transhumanism, which is explicit in "extropianism". The communists wanted to make a "New Soviet Man", if they had access to genetic engineering they would have tried it. Certainly Hitler would have because he had a eugenics program. Checking up on Wikipedia:extropianism it seems that extropism is the new thing, and it is about abolishing property in the future because somehow we won't need it anymore.

Well most extropians (a subset of transhumanists) are laissez-faire capitalists. I do not know much about "extropists" and I will have to look into it further. I am on the "extropy chat" mailing list, which caters to extropians, and I never heard of this extropism thing. The desire to get rid of property isn't a part of transhumanism as such.

As for utopianism, except for "extropism", no yranshumanist I have ever heard of thinks that there won't be any problems in the future. Rather, like Objectivists, they think that any problem can in principle be solved by the application of reason. I think that goes along with a benevolent sense of life.

Another objection I have is derived from Ayn Rand's "immortal robot" explanation of how values are derived from needs. Imagine a continuum of entities with increasing amount of replacement of body parts with less vulnerability and less dependence on the environment, i.e. fewer needs, up to the immortal robot as the end of the spectrum. Along the way, life will become more controlled, more autarkic, less motivated by needs, less value filled and less interesting. You could remember what you once valued but if you still had the capacity to learn it would eventually sink in that everything matters less and less the more invulnerable you became. It would suck the passion out of life. Why not throw yourself off the wall like Humpty-Dumpty for the experience, especially if you are confident that all the king's horses and all the king's men can put you back together again? At least the boredom would be relieved for a while. People already bitch about the ennui of being raised in suburban housing tracts and the relation to suburban meth labs.

At last a new topic to discuss! See, what you describe is a real objection, thank you. My reply is that if you master something, or it is no longer risky for you, then you can do bigger and better things. If fighting normal crime is boring because its too easy, fight supervillains instead. Designing little airplanes not a challenge? Design a jumbo jet, or start a new career. Maybe you'll be able to one day go into the star-making business (literally).

Being more able shouldn't reduce one's ability to achieve values, but rather increase the size and scope of the values one can achieve.

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Well, in my opinion, transumanism is not a full philosophy, and rather denotes certain agreements with a few philosophical positions, and certain values (long healthy lives, technological advance, that sort of thing).

Alright I see what you are saying. The issue I was arguing was whether Transhumanism was viewed or taken as a philosophy on its own or if it was movement based on some other philosophy.

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At last a new topic to discuss! See, what you describe is a real objection, thank you. My reply is that if you master something, or it is no longer risky for you, then you can do bigger and better things. If fighting normal crime is boring because its too easy, fight supervillains instead. Designing little airplanes not a challenge? Design a jumbo jet, or start a new career. Maybe you'll be able to one day go into the star-making business (literally).

Being more able shouldn't reduce one's ability to achieve values, but rather increase the size and scope of the values one can achieve.

Due to the indefiniteness of transhumanism it is hard to argue against. You and Hotu Matua talk a good game about making reasonable improvements and replacing failed organs, but then you guys inject some crazy megalomaniacal raving. I am referring to your star-making comment, and Hotu's screed:

"He looked at his extremities. To be made strong as iron, elastic as rubber, durable as diamond. He looked as his thorax. To be the home of a heart who never collapses. He looked at his abdomen and thought of the digestion ocurring inside. To be transformed into an efficient metabolic factory, to emerge as an extraordinary source of nutrients for his brain. This body, he thought, is here for me; wating the laser, the genetic engineering, the nanorobots and my voice; waiting to be strengthened, healed, enabled, powered, reborn; wating for the shape my mind will give it".

What a fantastic picture of a XXI century Howard Roarks!

I have an immediate emotional reaction in complete contradiction to Hotu Matua's evaluation, but that of course is not an argument or persuasive. But now here is an argument, clearly stated:

Values are items of knowledge. Values have a hierarchical arrangement, as all knowledge does. If you don't have any existence needs, then you can't have any values at all. If you don't need shelter because your gold-plated titanium-steel skin is immune to corrosion, if you don't need to eat because you get your energy from a miniature fusion core embedded in your thorax, if you don't fear any danger at all because you can always be reconstructed from a backup if damaged or destroyed, then the hierarchy of values is cut off at the root.

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Due to the indefiniteness of transhumanism it is hard to argue against. You and Hotu Matua talk a good game about making reasonable improvements and replacing failed organs, but then you guys inject some crazy megalomaniacal raving. I am referring to your star-making comment, and Hotu's screed...

Well, my star-making comment was an example of the sort of thing wihch is theoretically possible (there is no reason one could not manipulate a gas cloud using a number of means from nuclear detonations to large mirror-type structures or miniature black holes generated in ultra-high energy particle accelerators, in order to cause it to collapse under gravity. For instance, one might be able to artificially ignite Jupiter using a set of infrared mirrors that could be built out of asteroidal material. It wouldn't be self-sustaining (the mirror system would have to be maintained), but one could do so if one desired for a number of reasons (including providing a nice energy source for space colonies in the area). When you master something, do something harder. And mega-scale projects, while outside of our reach for now, aren't impossible from a physics standpoint, and so I see no reason why humans won't one day undertake such activities (if they decide it suits them).

I find the idea of living for billions of years perhaps quite exciting, all the things I could see (the center of the galaxy for instance, the death of the Sun, other planets, perhaps meeting other intelligent species) and do (ignite stars, seed planets with life, produce energy from black holes, really probe the highest energies attainable and figure out the physics there, etc.). I look at the prospect with glee. You spoke of your emotional reaction to reading his statement. Well my reaction when I think about death and disease is a deep revulsion. I view man as essentially unlimited in his power to change the world (obviously, he can't change the laws of physics, things like that) to suit his needs or desires. Death from disease or aging are problems, nothing more, and all problems can be solved. Any and all threats to the lives of humans are problems which may be solved under the application of reason. Nothing physically possible is beyond the range of the reasoning mind. In the service of his own life, man can and should, through the use of his intellect, command all the Universe into a form which suits him. Is there a disease? Cure it. Is there an asteroid coming to the Earth? Move it, or leave Earth. Overpopulation? Move into space. Not enough resources? Move into space. Need more energy than one star can give? Move to others. Are the stars all dying (roughly 100 trillion years from now)? Take energy from black holes. There is no problem that is in principle insurmountable. It might not be doable within some timeline, or doable by you. But every problem can be solved (so long as your not breaking the laws of physics to do so).

Got a little passionate there. But that is how I view the world. It seems to view man as pretty heroic to me, and is definitely a benevolent view.

Values are items of knowledge. Values have a hierarchical arrangement, as all knowledge does. If you don't have any existence needs, then you can't have any values at all. If you don't need shelter because your gold-plated titanium-steel skin is immune to corrosion, if you don't need to eat because you get your energy from a miniature fusion core embedded in your thorax, if you don't fear any danger at all because you can always be reconstructed from a backup if damaged or destroyed, then the hierarchy of values is cut off at the root.

We will always have existence needs. We will always need energy in order to survive, and any source of energy can eventually be exhausted. Nothing is indestructible. There is always a risk that your backup was corrupted (really, backups are the only challenging thing in there). But let's look at what you are saying for a moment: You are basically saying, that the more able you are to survive, the fewer values you can have and the less they can mean to you. So the rich man can't have very many values at all, right? After all, if he is as rich as Bill Gates, it is basically unimaginable that (if he had all that wealth in cash of some form or another) he could use it all in his pursuit of life before his maybe 100 years of life are up. All his values would have to be things like medical care and safe appliances or whatever, as they're the only things which pose a risk. No need to be productive, he already has met his needs. The whole point of the virtue of productivity is that one can NEVER have too many values, too much in the way of cushion for themselves. It is literally impossible to become indestructible, it is literally impossible to be "can't die ever due to any cause" immortal. You will ALWAYS have to pursue some course of action to continue living, so Rand's indestructible robot does not apply. Your proposed continuum is invalid, because the reason it could not have values is because it absolutely could never be destroyed. If you can be destroyed, you can have values. And indeed, you can have many values.

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I disagree that life is self-sustaining. One must make choices in order to live, an evasion of the necessity to make choices cannot lead one to sustain his life.

When I say that life is self-sustaining, I don't mean automatically so. I mean it in the same way that Rand spoke of it, as "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action." Self-sustaining here means that the continuance of life depends on the actions taken by the organism in question. In the case of man, this does indeed mean making conscious choices while keeping one's own life in view.

If the purpose of one's life is to achieve immortality and to prolong life and that that was the value above all other values, then there definitely is circular issues. Transhumanism, at least the position taken by some in this thread, holds that all values are impossible without life and that, therefore, man must look to prolong his life above all else. This means that the value of "prolonging life" implicitly rises above the Objectivist values that life is an end in itself. This can lead to rights violation and neglecting to enjoy one's life for what it is.

I think you're trying to sneak something extra into the Objectivist ethics. At root, the Objectivist ethics is about prolonging a sustainable life as long as possible. Now, qualifying that with "sustainable" life (my choice of words) rules out survival at all costs, because long-range survival cannot be attained by undercutting our most central values. Respecting rights isn't about restricting one's life for the sake of others as ends in themselves; it's about the personal survival value of a system of rights. Rand's central ethical argument wasn't that we should sometimes sacrifice our life to the Objectivist values, but rather that the Objectivist values are necessitated by any attempt to live our lives for the long term. Aiming at long-range survival, prolonging a sustainable life, and abiding by Objectivist values are one and the same.

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... You are basically saying, that the more able you are to survive, the fewer values you can have and the less they can mean to you.

No, that is not accurate. Lessened needs does not equal more survivable, anymore than it makes sense to say that a rock is more survivable than a tree. Rocks don't need to survive. Turning yourself into a machine is turning yourself into a rock.

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No, that is not accurate. Lessened needs does not equal more survivable, anymore than it makes sense to say that a rock is more survivable than a tree. Rocks don't need to survive. Turning yourself into a machine is turning yourself into a rock.

Well, no one said you would turn yourself into a machine/rock. So long as you still have a characteristically human consciousness with volition, memories, the ability to reason, etc. then you are alive still, even if all your organs have been replaced with artificial ones, or if you have somehow (don't know if its possible, but it might be one day) changed the substrate for your consciousness to something other than a biological brain.

By the way, is there something ineffable about life, in your view? Like, some extra stuff that gets thrown in there somehow to distinguish living things from nonliving things? If not, then why can't I change the structure of my body in various ways to make it more rugged? Say, replace my blood cells with little nanomachines that are way more efficient at carrying oxygen around. Redesign some of my genome to make the proteins more efficient and capable of doing their jobs. People are made up of a bunch of nonliving things (proteins, mostly), so I don't see why we couldn't have something made out of a bunch of other nonliving things (nanomachines designed by man) and have the whole be a living thing as well. Obviously it seems almost impossibly difficult from our perspective now, but eventually we might be able to do such a thing. I don't see why we couldn't in principle. Point is, changing ourselves in various ways (changing our blood, our genes, our proteins, most of our organs, etc.) should not necessarily have any negative effects - that is, it shouldn't make us "not alive" anymore.

In principle, I see a big difference between a rock and a tree (as the tree is alive, it goes through a process of constant action to stay that way and the rock doesn't). But nevertheless both are made out of inanimate things, just put together in different ways that result in different characteristics of the whole. I don't see why we could not, in principle, change little parts of the tree over time, and have it still be the same tree but made out of different stuff.

By the way, what exactly is the difference between making my immune system immensely stronger and not needing so much medical care? Or making myself physically stronger and needing less technological help to lift stuff? Or making my metabolism more efficient and needing less food? Making my blood better at carrying oxygen, and needing fewer breaths? Each of these things, each useful and valuable in different context, comes with a reduced dependence on the environment. Increased resilience and innate capacity to survive goes hand in hand with reduced needs. So, are those things bad, as they mean you need less from your environment? It means you don't need to take as much action to stay alive anymore as you once did. However, that doesn't mean you can't have other values to replace the ones you "lost", you could then go climb Mount Everest without a sherpa or oxygen tank, or go exploring in the rain forest without fear of disease and with a minimal amount of supplies.

Oh, and thank you Dante for your post, I thought it was quite good, and I pretty much agree completely.

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When I say that life is self-sustaining, I don't mean automatically so. I mean it in the same way that Rand spoke of it, as "a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action." Self-sustaining here means that the continuance of life depends on the actions taken by the organism in question. In the case of man, this does indeed mean making conscious choices while keeping one's own life in view.

Oh OK I see what you mean. We MUST make choices in order to live, that is an automatically given fact about reality. If we don't make choices we can't live. If we make the right choices we are self-sustaining but if we don't then it will lead to destruction (in the way Rand meant destruction).

Thank you for clarifying.

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I am in shock.

I have almost finished reading The Transhumanist Manifesto, by Simon Young. Transhumanism has so many coincidences with Objectivism, that I can't help but bringing this to you immediately.

I typed "Transhumanism" in the search bar of this forum and it returned me no entries, no threads. So I suspect this has not been discussed before.

I am really thrilled.

Transhumanism is "the belief in overcoming human limitations through reason, science and technology".

It declares itself "romantic", "individualistic", based on "self-interest" and "love for life".

The thesis is simple:

Men are rational beings, and our mind is our tool for survival, but guess what? our genes are programmed to make us die, to make that "tool for survival", eventually, a failed tool.

Since we love life, and our minds have the ability to transform nature (including our bodies)to ensure our survival, the overriding of our genetic programming is the rational and moral course of action. In other words, love for life translates logically into the search for the continuous enhancement of our bodies and minds and immortality.

Transhumanism seeks to put your body processes (and hence, your destiny) under the control of your reason, through science and techonology. It abhorss totalitarism and statism. Body-enhancement is to be placed under the control of self-interested individuals, even when the consequences of that will benefit all humanity. In this sense, it also considers itselfe "compassionate".

Trashumanism beliefis in the primacy of existence over conciousness, although the wording seem somewhat different than that used by Objecivists.

It strongly condems the nihilism and relativism embedded in postmodernism. It holds that knowdlege of reality is possible. "The purpose of science is to understand nature so that we can improve it, i order to make life easier, less of a struggle, more pleasant, better."

Transhumanism also roots ethics in reason. "The chief task of twenty-first-century philosophy is the unification of science and ethics". It rejects the vision of man as a puppet of its genes or environment. It also belives that the ethical should be the practical.

"Benevolence is simply common sense". For transhumanism, "good is sensible self-interest, the ability of the rational mind to inhibit antisocial impulses in the interest of maximum survivability and well-being".

Even when it does not openly attacks altruism, it places "sensible self-interest" constantly at the base of its ethics. "Self-interest has always motivated propagation. That is the way human beings are programmed: to survive and reproduce. There can be nothing immoral in self-interest unless self-preservation is deemed a crime". In explaining why we cooperate wit others, it establishes self-interest at the root: "Benevolence is simply sensible self-interest, the optimum tactic for mutual survival. In short, we have a better chance of getting on in life by cooperating, whether instincively through innate feelings of empathy, or rationally through concious effort".

Transhumanism is romantic. "The belief in human trascendence... is the essence of romanticism. Thus, the ethos of the emerging Self-Enhancement Society might be called technoromanticism, or neuroromanticism, the passionate belief in the transcendece of human limitations -not through religion or politics, but through science-- product of the rational mind in the technowonderland of the modern world.

Transhumanism claims to embrace modernity and defines modernity as "the condition of a culture based on the underlying belief in ongoing human progress toward ever-increasing knowldege, abilities, survivability, and well being, attained through reason, science, and technology, as opposed to irrationality or superstition".

Although the book glosses over Politics, it does dare saying "Libertarianism and individualism are the safeguards against malevolent ideologies. Let us keep Superbiology away from state control and in the hand of individuals"

Excellent post. I agree 100%

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Sin? Flaw?

You didn't choose your genes, Grames. There is no sin to feel guilty for.

I don't know what exactly you mean by flaw, in the context of your answer.

being born with any condition that endangers your survival is undesirable, if your goal is to live.

Our genetic programming is undesirable, to the extent that it kill us.

If we agree that being born deaf is undesirable ( which hinders but not prevent us from living qua man ), how could we deny that being born with a program for self destruction is undesirable?

Being humans does not entail by necessity getting old, demented, frail and dead.

There is nothing in Objectivism that equals being a man with being sick and mortal. All the opposite.

When would a man stop being a man? When he gets 150 years old, 300 years old, 1000 years old?

You stop being human when you die.

So let's stop dieing. Let's keep enjoying life.. on and on and on...

Awesome response, man. You hit it out of the park.

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I'm not sure that there is anything that is objectionable in your original post, however...

This is not a useful approach to freedom. Freedom does not mean freedom from mortality; it cannot mean this, or no one will ever be free. Freedom indicates freedom of action, freedom from external coercion. Freedom as defined as freedom from death and disease would mean that any step, using others to attain a little more space form disease or death would be a step towards freedom. This is not the Objectivist view of freedom.

This is correct. OP did misuse the word 'freedom' in his second post.

"And when I say "freedom," I do not mean poetic sloppiness, such as "freedom from want" or "freedom from fear" or "freedom from the necessity of earning a living," I mean "freedom from compulsion - freedom from rule by physical force." Which means: political freedom.

Edited by Roark2
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Count me out of your reckoning.

I desire to live well, honorably and prosperously.

Length is of no meaning to me.

Just as I would rather make an adequate living over a fortune if I had moral issue with the means, so would I take issue with lengthening my days if the means were problematic

The "means" I am referring to are reason, science and technology. I am referring to voluntary, self-interested means.

What kind of "problematic" means are you talking about?

Besides, length is of interest of you, inasmuch as you are making plans as if you were going to live tomorrow. You are betting for tomorrow, because you want to live tomorrow.

Animals care only about today's survival.

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Due to the indefiniteness of transhumanism it is hard to argue against. You and Hotu Matua talk a good game about making reasonable improvements and replacing failed organs, but then you guys inject some crazy megalomaniacal raving. I am referring to your star-making comment, and Hotu's screed:

I have an immediate emotional reaction in complete contradiction to Hotu Matua's evaluation, but that of course is not an argument or persuasive. But now here is an argument, clearly stated:

Values are items of knowledge. Values have a hierarchical arrangement, as all knowledge does. If you don't have any existence needs, then you can't have any values at all. If you don't need shelter because your gold-plated titanium-steel skin is immune to corrosion, if you don't need to eat because you get your energy from a miniature fusion core embedded in your thorax, if you don't fear any danger at all because you can always be reconstructed from a backup if damaged or destroyed, then the hierarchy of values is cut off at the root.

I have two objections to your argument: a soft and a hard one.

Here is the soft one: a member of a primitive tribe, faced with the vision of the modern man would have feared the very same thing. Look at you : Are you really worried about the possibility of not having food to eat over the next week? Over the next month? Are you concerned about contracting cholera or smallpox and die because of it? Has the sex act lost its glamour because of Viagra? Has progress taken passion out of life?

No. You keep pursuing values and enjoying life, even when your life is infinitely less dangerous than that of a caveman.

Here is the hard one: The value you are pursuing is more than biological survival. You are pursuing a flourishing, lucid, bountiful life. And this challenge requires all your wit, commitment, intelligence, perseverance and virtues. You may live one day without the fear of cancer, but a cancerless life will not mean a happy life by itself. It would still require YOU to make it happy and meaningful. Values derive not just from the pursuit of life but from the pursuit of a particular kind of life.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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This is correct. OP did misuse the word 'freedom' in his second post.

"And when I say "freedom," I do not mean poetic sloppiness, such as "freedom from want" or "freedom from fear" or "freedom from the necessity of earning a living," I mean "freedom from compulsion - freedom from rule by physical force." Which means: political freedom.

I did not misuse the word "freedom".

Rather, you are dropping the context.

The freedom you are referring to ( freedom from coercion) belongs to a political context.

Every time Ayn Rand pronounced a definition of freedom, she started with the warning "in a political context" and then proceeded to define the concept. You can quickly check this out in the Ayn Rand Lexicon.

She knew that there was be more then one context. Otherwise this disclaimer made no sense.

The context I am using "freedom" or "shackles" here is clear for anyone who wants to understand.

If you want to use "independence" instead of "freedom" or "limitations" instead of "shackles" that is fine with me. My point is not affected.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Tara Smith picked the question on how the quest for "survival" translates into the quest of, say, designing the tablet thatwill beat the iPad, or spending holidays in a luxurious resort in Tahiti.

Living, for a man, means achieving, creating, self-challenging, innovating, expanding his mind and experiences, or like some transhumanists would put it, displaying a " will to evolve".

We humans don't just want to breathe, eat and reproduce. We are interested in becoming. We are builders of our character. We are the writers of the play we are acting.

Therefore, every time I think in immortality, I am thinking in a life qua man.

However, life qua man does not imply, by necessity, keeping an appendix, tonsils, or earlobes.

Man is an integrated unit of mind and body. So far so good. But... What specific kind of body? What specific kind of tissues, cells, metabolic processes, neurotrasmitters? Objectivism does not provide an answer... And it does the right thing, because that belongs to the realm of biology, not philosophy.

I would say that the right kind of body is the one that provides the better chance for the existence and success of that integrated unit. A body that allows my mind to keep working, creating, evolving. Remember: it is the mind, and not the body, the primary, direct tool of survival. Ayn Rand never said " Hands are man's tools of survival ". So, if my hands in their current state are doing a nice job in assiting my mind in the quest for a bountiful life, good. If they are not, I better do something about it. I will have to repair them or, if this is not feasible, replace them. Whether my hand is now a bionic cyberhand or just an arthritis-free hand is irrelevant. It will be part of my renovated body, which is helping me efficiently to preserve myself as an integrated unit.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Yeah, but Tara Smith learned from Harry Binswanger how to resolve the survive vs. flourish false dichotomy. Binswanger's presentation on the biological and philosphical issues involved in that is The Biological Basis of Teological Concepts. I will dig up the relevant passages if you are interested, but he makes a case on just what the distinction is between a biological entity and a machine.

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Yeah, but Tara Smith learned from Harry Binswanger how to resolve the survive vs. flourish false dichotomy. Binswanger's presentation on the biological and philosphical issues involved in that is The Biological Basis of Teological Concepts. I will dig up the relevant passages if you are interested, but he makes a case on just what the distinction is between a biological entity and a machine.

I'm not sure how this even matters for the discussion. A machine doesn't even have a rational faculty, but no one is talking about machines like the computer in front of me. As I'm sure you will mention, a machine is not self-aware and not self-directed in action. Maybe in some future world using sci-fi imagination, there will be non-biological rational thinkers that can't be classified as either mechanical or biological, which is fine to me. I don't see what would matter if you make your body completely artificial, except *possibly* a complete mechanization of the brain.

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As usual, the model (by which one imagines the substrate to work) is a matter of choice. The implementation is not important per se; you can't see the inside of things anyhoo, so focus on the interface -- what does it do?

If an entity acts volitionally by nature, it is worthy of respect so long as it respects me. Note: I am not omnipotent, and I am happy doing things that might seem quaint to a "higher" being. Similarly, I might be able to create an entity that acts with volition in a limited fashion. This could be quite useful for, say, a house-cleaning robot that had to decide how to wash certain delicates, or even which clothes were delicate. And as long as the entity were happy with its role and station, acting volitionally within its limitations and nature, then there is no moral issue here (except: I would not want to own such an entity, I would accord it the respect of asking it to work for me -- if its nature were to enjoy such work, like a dog pleasing a boy, then this is no problem.

The key point in all this: note how you model (explicitly or not) uncertainty, and how the fact of change/uncertainty gives rise to your sense of time. It is as if my mind is processing an algorithm that is changing whilst being processed, evolving as it computes! Now, if one could learn how to create an analog of this "uncertainty processing", not attached to a human body, why it would be "transhuman" -- or would it?

Rights of conceptual beings are not disputable among rational individuals.

- ico

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I'm not sure how this even matters for the discussion. A machine doesn't even have a rational faculty, but no one is talking about machines like the computer in front of me.

The more extreme versions of transhumanism are dreams of becoming computers or entities within a computer (super-futuristic computers unlike the one in front of you), so there is relevance. If nobody here wants that, well then that is good.

Those entities at the end of Stephen Speilberg's movie AI are the kind of 'spiritual machines' Kurzweil might dream up for the far future.

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The more extreme versions of transhumanism are dreams of becoming computers or entities within a computer (super-futuristic computers unlike the one in front of you), so there is relevance. If nobody here wants that, well then that is good.

Those entities at the end of Stephen Speilberg's movie AI are the kind of 'spiritual machines' Kurzweil might dream up for the far future.

I'm not against it in principle, but I would need to be able to know that it actually works: that I would have the same memories, that I would have volition, etc. That sort of thing could only come from interacting with such artificial intelligences (or uploaded natural intelligences) and seeing if they appear the same- as well as, of course, looking at the science involved. The truth is, we simply don't know if it is possible or not (I think that it probably is, but is going to tremendously difficult and we won't be able to do it for at minimum another hundred years, possibly a thousand). I haven't seen "AI: Artificial Intelligence", so I am unsure as to what you are referring to.

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