Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yet Another Post-Transhumanist



My pal n8o is the latest of many sensible folks to wash his hands of the Superlative silliness. Click the link for his whole piece (you should be reading his blog Promoting the Progress anyway), but here are my personal favorite bits:
"Smart drugs"? not really. What's the point of being smarter? What does being "smarter" mean, exactly, anyway? I already am happier just with the drugs I already have some access to. But even as sluggish and primitive as they are, I'm pretty satisfied with them…

More and more, I'm starting to see "enhancements" or "augmentations" as only things that I would really "need" in order to compete in the workplace. This is not something I consider legitimate. I object to that. More than anything, I just want out of the rat race. It simply appears, to me, that dropping out has been and will be more effective than trying to "win" it…

Given the demonstrable risks of modern IT security, which do not seem to be easily solvable, will uploading or brain computer interfaces ever really be safe? Will human intellectual limits be the only things that insure relative safety…?

Does it really bother me that I'm going to die? I can always prefer to live longer without being afraid of dying.

Another technoscientifically literate secular democrat for sustainability and consensual lifeway diversity. Sure, you can't fit a phrase that gawky on a bumper sticker, but it's got a good beat and you can dance to it!

4 comments:

De Thezier said...

n8o said:

"Smart drugs"? not really. What's the point of being smarter? What does being "smarter" mean, exactly, anyway? I already am happier just with the drugs I already have some access to. But even as sluggish and primitive as they are, I'm pretty satisfied with them…

According to Hubert Doucet, professor of bioethics at the University of Montreal, smart drugs, by making the human brain more efficient, transform the human condition:

"This leads us towards the post-human which will be totally dependant on technology, and we must ask ourselves to whom this will serve and what will happen to those who don't have access", wonders the bioethicist. He continues by explaining that many drugs like Ritalin, Prozac and growth hormones have lost their therapeutic function in order to gain an utility that is more esthetic and superficial. "In the United States, people worship individual rights, explains Doucet. In the context of a liberal economy, can the desire to protect the becoming of humanity as it is have priority over the rights of individuals to use some medication especially if they are willing to pay the price?" Will we have to test university students before every exam? Will companies force their employees to take these drugs to make them more productive? Those are, according to him, the many questions society will quickly have to face. Despite the fact that most chemical drugs were at first created in pharmaceutical laboratories (LSD, heroine, ecstasy...), this new generation of "smart" drugs no longer has the effect of reaching nirvana. "In the 60s and 70s, there was a zeitgeist of liberty, creativity, claims Hubert Doucet, we were going to change the world! Today, it's disillusionment: we cannot change the world therefore we will conform to it. Rather than transforming our environment and reduce stress factors, we are transforming ourselves in order to better function stressed!"

n8o said:

More and more, I'm starting to see "enhancements" or "augmentations" as only things that I would really "need" in order to compete in the workplace. This is not something I consider legitimate. I object to that. More than anything, I just want out of the rat race.

According to Klaus-Gerd Giesen, a professor of political sciences at the University of Leipzig in Germany, who is especially interested in the philosophies and ideologies of technology, "the underpinnings of the transhumanist ideology mesh perfectly with the mindset of some in Big Business who demand a constant increase in personal productivity. Since it is possible to intergrate technology more and more in the production process, in order to obtain continual progress in the performance and profitability of a worker, they could convince the worker to intergrate himself in the technosphere, thereby acheiving a truly giant leap in matters of both exploitation and alienation..."

Nato Welch said...

Careful. Maybe I'm just jealous I didn't get any juicy speaking gigs as a futurist.

Dale Carrico said...

Hey, I thought you were satisfied with the ways you're getting juiced already!

jfehlinger said...

Nato Welch wrote
( http://n8o.r30.net/dokuwiki/doku.php/blog:posttranshumanism )

> "Smart drugs"? not really. What's the point of being smarter?
> What does being "smarter" mean, exactly, anyway? I already
> am happier just with the drugs I already have some access to.
> But even as sluggish and primitive as they are, I'm pretty
> satisfied with them.

Weeelll. . . Not that I'm holding my breath or anything,
but I'd have to say that my thoughts on this topic
are exactly those of Bruce Sterling (as he expressed
them four years ago):

Bruce Sterling, "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole"

(Eighth "Seminar About Long-Term Thinking"
[ http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/ ]
given by the Long Now Foundation at
Fort Mason Center, San Francisco,
11 June 2004)

. . .

BRUCE STERLING: I once got asked by _Wired_
magazine: it's like, if you could have
sort of the ultimate _Wired_ gizmo, any
kind of **thing** you wanted, right?
What kind of, like, really cool machine
would you want? What would you most
like?

And I said I, I wanted a box with just
one big dial on the front, and when
I **twist** it to the side my IQ goes up
to eight hundred. Right? And yeah, that
really is what I want. In some sense.

And if I were presented with one, and
was left alone in a room with it,
[laughter] I really don't think I could
keep my hot little monkey-paws [laughter]
off o' that dial. Y'know? I would hope
that I'd be able to twist it back
through an act of will, but, um, I'm
not sure I have the willpower to do that,
or even to resist twisting it in the
first place. [Gotta make sure you
have Jill Haworth standing
by to yank the dial back when you've
told 'em to turn it forward. JF ;-> ].

Y'know, that is an absolute leap into
darkness; that might be positive, that might
be negative, I'm not sure that any... I'm
not sure that any such judgment makes
any sense when the dial is twisted, but
I think I **would** twist the dial, and
I suspect that most of the people in this
room would twist the dial. And this is
our Faustian bargain, there. So, y'know,
what about positive ones [i.e. Singularities]?
I dunno, I don't think you get to make that choice.

STEWART BRAND: OK, here's a practical question
with that box and that dial. You're alone
in the room with the box with the dial.
Would you red-line it, or creep it up
gradually? [laughter]

STERLING: Well, y'know, strictly speaking,
I think I'd probably set up some little
Rube Goldberg device. Y'know, I mean, you
oughta have, like, at least as much smarts
as, like, a guy indulging in autoerotic
asphyxiation. [laughter] Right?

BRAND: Right.

STERLING: Like a tangerine between your
teeth, and, y'know, some... like a,
I dunno... [laughter] S... A stretchy
condom over the dial so you could, like,
pitch backwards... [laughter]

BRAND: [laughs]

STERLING: ...automatically whips
back, I don't... y'know... I would... I would
give it some design thought. I'd...
I don't... Y'know... [laughter]

BRAND: [laughs]

STERLING: But, no, I, I... I suspect,
y'know... I suspect that if I twisted
it up to four hundred, um, I would almost
certainly go to eight. I mean, I don't
think that the **me** at four would sort
of stop and say "no", I think the 'me' at
four would sort of hesitate, get my
head around it, and say "Well, I gotta do
it again!". [laughter]

BRAND: It sounds to me like you, you
crank it and when you eventually get up
to eight hundred the first thing you
do is take the back off the box, and see
if you can... You're gonna hot-rod it, right?
[laughs]

STERLING: Yeah, we'll go to eight thousand.
[laughter]

Well, y'know, yeah I, you know, why bother
there, why don't I just put a, like a
lazy eight on the side and twist your IQ
up to infinity, but... [laughter]
I think that's a little much to ask from
a Condé Nast publication. [laughter, applause]

It was a really good issue! [laughter]