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Monday, January 05, 2009

Yes!Trons Defending "The Transhumanist Core" from the HumanityPlusTrons


A manifesto has been published by denizens of one of the sub-basements of the already basement universe of Transhumanist Sub(cult)ure, this one called The Order of Cosmic Engineers. I think their motto is something along the lines of "We do more Cosmic Engineering in an afternoon while reading dogeared sf and eating Cheetos in our undergarments than you mehums will do in a lifetime!" or something to that effect.

I keed! I keed!

Come what may, the manifesto is entitled YES! to Transhumanism and it seems to be very angry with certain transhumanists who are saying NO! to transhumanism through their efforts to behave like "nice, soft spoken, moderate, ethical, responsible and politically correct quasi-mainstream social clubs." Henceforth, I will call the Cosmic Engineers who approve the manifesto the Yes!Trons, since they say Yes! to! Transhumanism! as against, I suspect, the transhumanist-identified folks at the World Transhumanist Association who recently re-branded themselves (one must admit, rather hilariously) "Humanity +" and whom I like to call, in consequence, "HumanityPlusTrons."

One is left, to be sure, a bit flabbergasted at the characterization of any transhumanists as "moderate" or "politically correct" given the whole let's freeze our brains while awaiting the Robot God to immortalize us in a cyberspatial paradise "program" that most transhumanists favor, at least in broad-strokes, when they aren't busy advocating neoliberal eugenicism and big industrial technofixes to industry-caused climate catastrophe in the meantime. But I do suppose it is nice (not to mention amusing) to find confirmation that even in the futurological funhouse one can observe the usual sectarian squabbles that characterize human, all too human, organizational efforts more generally.

I especially like the part in the Yes!Tron Manifesto in which the Cosmic Engineers briefly genuflect in the direction of "complex scientific, technical, cultural, moral, societal and political challenges to deal with. They require careful assessment, planning, and leadership. These challenges need to be met head on with due courage, forbearance, focused attention, rationality, compassion, empathy and wisdom. We must and will continue to do our best to overcome them. We will persevere to mitigate their potential and actual dangers, while safeguarding the maximizing of their potential and actual benefits." Funny (and not funny ha ha) how none of these problems are actually specified, how no suggestion of the ways in which they will be "mitigated" are suggested (Yes! to! Leadership! Yes! to! Wisdom!), how they never return as concerns once they have been hastily mentioned and shunted to the side the better for the eager Yes!Trons to move on to bigger and better things (sooper brains! imperishable robot bodies! hott virtual sex!), how they make no effort to even pretend that these concerns have anything to do with what actually matters to them at their own trasnhumanistical "core." I suppose it would be too "politically correct" and HumanityPlusTronic to hope for more on this score.

Quite apart from all that is actually batshit crazy about the Yes!Tron Manifesto, I have to say that what I find really striking about it is how content free it finally manages to be, especially given how convinced its authors seem to be that something really radical is going on here. "Transhumanists have always sought personal improvement; to free themselves from all the limitations of biology; to radically upgrade their mental and physical faculties; and to beat a path to the stars."

I get it -- what we have here is the usual posthumanistical catnip combination of capitalist motivational speaking conjoined to a little Western body loathing conjoined to millennial escapist fantasy. In a nutshell, in space nobody will have to poop.

But weird as all that is, it isn't actually all that substantial when all is said and done. I mean, are these "ideas" exactly, let alone radical ones? Honestly, quite apart from their wrongheadedness, is it intellectually interesting in the least to, like, dislike ageing and death? And don't, for heaven's sake, ask what concrete forms this Yes!Tronic "seeking" to get all post-biological and post-planetary have actually taken in the actual world -- inasmuch as they almost surely mean nothing more earthshattering than reading the yellowing pages of paperback space opera and taking multivitamins and the occasional recreational herb.

Although the manifesto protests that the Yes!Trons are grand defenders of the Old Tyme Transhuman Religion, it isn't at all clear what this Core they are defending really consists of, especially considering the way transhumanists get all fired up about what a Philosophy and Movement and Culture and all that they are supposed to so radically and so uniquely and so revolutionarily to represent.

As far as I can tell, the "Transhumanist Core" defended by the Yes!Trons consists of the expression of a rhetorical question: "Wouldn't it be nice if we could, like, live forever like glamorous sexy rich people in some glamorous sexy beachside resort or, you know, its Oort Cloud analogue or whatever?" And then, there follows something like a "program," admittedly a bit lacking in particulars: "Maybe science will somehow deliver all that, maybe even, like, you know, really soon! (Science fiction, science fiction, science fiction, science fiction...)" And then, finally, there is the crucial -- I do believe actually definitive -- expression of uncritical enthusiasm: "Wouldn't that be teh awesome? And aren't we teh awesome too for thinking so?"

Would somebody please explain to me how this fairly infantile and idiotic attitude constitutes, of all things, a "philosophy" worthy of the name, let alone a novel or unique perspective in the post-Enlightenment era West? Few people are particularly thrilled at the prospect of a painful ageing process followed by death, after all, and few would deny that it's nice to have nice things.

But how far beyond this do the transhumanists really sensibly manage to get? They do have a whole lot to say about how lovely nanobotic genie-in-a-bottle desktop anything machines would be, and how bad it would be if goo ate the world, and how they would be first in line to be therapized into getting model-hott athletic bodies and genius brains should the relevant science swing the feat, but it isn't exactly clear why sane people are expected to treat their wishfulfillment fantasies as philosophical insights or policy-recommendations whereas the wish-fulfillment fantasies in this vein discussed on the whole more interestingly in any group of geeks enthusing over their favorite science fiction novels, or even, one fears, in the ruminations of an eleven year old's scribbling in My First Diary -- the one with Chococat on the cover -- are rightly treated as, you know, not policy-recommendations at all. How this Yes!Tronic sort of thing rises to the level of a "worldview" or "movement," quite aside from what is actually problematic to the point of incoherence about it on closer scrutiny, is completely beyond me.

I must say, even given the low bar I set for Robot Cultists in general, the Yes!Tron sect seems even more than usually dim.

18 comments:

Eric said...

'The Order of Cosmic Engineers' is a pretty good [read: awful and hilarious] tech-religion name, but I think the Adeptus Mechanicus thought along those lines first, and their "philosophy" is more robust:

http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Adeptus_Mechanicus

Seriously though, at first I thought that 'cosmic engineers' thing was Dale's mockery of them, not an actual name they had actually chosen for themselves.

jimf said...

> [T]he manifesto is entitled YES! to Transhumanism and it
> seems to be very angry with certain transhumanists who
> are saying NO! to transhumanism through their efforts
> to behave like "nice, soft spoken, moderate, ethical,
> responsible and politically correct quasi-mainstream
> social clubs." Henceforth, I will call the Cosmic Engineers
> who approve the manifesto the Yes!Trons, since they say
> Yes! to! Transhumanism! as against, I suspect, the
> transhumanist-identified folks at the World Transhumanist
> Association who recently re-branded themselves (one must
> admit, rather hilariously) "Humanity +" and whom I like
> to call, in consequence, "HumanityPlusTrons."

Oh, this tempest-in-a-teapot is at least five years old.
Remember when -- gee, am I allowed to say his name
on TV? (hint: he has the same first name as I do). Well,
let's just call him Dr. No. Remember when Dr. No was
accused of railroading all the hard-core Extropians
and libertarians out of the leadership of the WTA?

Dr. No is a Commie, dontcha know.

Dale Carrico said...

He hearts the market fundamentalists of Reason Magazine more than any commie I know -- and wouldn't you just know, these "libertarian" leanings seem to fail him at the very point at which they might be of some use, that is to say where pesky questions of consent might create hurdles to the implementation of parochial versions of "optimality" like his where medical "enhancement" of atypicality is under discussion.

jimf said...

> in space nobody will have to poop.

And it's a darn good thing, too! Can you imagine how much time
an immortal pooper would have to spend on the toilet?

Not to mention the infinite supply of toilet paper required.
It would be more than the nanobots could supply even if they
reduced the entire universe to grey (or pink) goo.

Dale Carrico said...

It would be more than the nanobots could supply even if they
reduced the entire universe to grey (or pink) goo.


They could always just make recourse to pages torn from the collected works of John C. Wright.

Anonymous said...

Dale:

Are you aware that the transhumanists are having a discussion at this very moment about whether "Order of Cosmic Engineers" is too juvenile a name? As indeed they should.

When you have some time, I'd love to you take a look at some of the wikipedia entries on this crew. I'm sure you'd get some mileage out of it.

Dale Carrico said...

Are you aware that the transhumanists are having a discussion at this very moment about whether "Order of Cosmic Engineers" is too juvenile a name?

Of course the moniker is juvenile. But the actual problem is that transhumanism is infantile, hence juvenilia is apt.

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_cosmic_engineers

LOL

Robin said...

Seriously though, at first I thought that 'cosmic engineers' thing was Dale's mockery of them, not an actual name they had actually chosen for themselves.

I'm sticking with the Guild of Temporal Adventurers (an early Kendra Smith band that certainly should've started some sort of cult purely to take advantage of the great name.)

Robin said...

Omg, I just looked at that wikipedia entry and I can't stop laughing.

Whoever is responsible for that - my hat's off to you.

"The current parliamentary group is named the College of Architects and the latest vote as of 31 December was whether or not architects were supposed to wear a golden fez emblazoned with glowing stars and planets."

Pure gold.

Dagon said...

Thanks robin!

Actually I am a critical but lurking member of the above CE/HPT collective. And I *certainly* do not agree with some things said there but I am not ashamed being part of it.

In fact, I am pretty sure that the technologies too often quoted by Dale as being nonsense are rather going to kill all of humanity, to the very last stray spermatozoa in dale's rectum (and there is nothing wrong with that) rather than elevate us all to deities. I have very little expectation nano-, AI, life extension, bio- and spacetech are going to benefit anyone but the small minorities of ultra rich who will survive in deep-well salt mines far beyond 2100, while the rest of us dies screaming.

Dale, being a leftist with a paranoid siege mentality, consistently apears to believe CE/robotcultists/H+/Extropia/Singularitarianism (etc) are right wingers insofar they arent nutjobs.

"they" are not. As an example, - I am a registered socialist voting batshit leftist technoprogressive. I am more worried about economic elites than dale is.

But dale has a habit of heaping poo with belgian truffles while drooling obscenities like a kintergarten schoolyard bully.

Dale, please become more consistent and coherent. Stop with hate and prejudice or take (more) Xanax. I can see where you are coming from, and buddy, you are lying at a deep spiritual level by what you say here.

We have those in the netherlands here as well - it's these young maroccans, a marginalized minority who is shat out by society. So what do they do, to prove their cultural retardation? They pick on someone who can't get out of his wheelchair to defend himself. Because they CAN.

Dale Carrico said...

Welcome, Cosmic Engineer! I won't waste too much time in idle chit chat, since it seems that Cosmic Engineering is quite a serious and time consuming business. As the Prospectus of your Order would have it (and, yes, I quote):

"The OCE views as its ultimate, very long-term aspiration -its cosmic-scale mission if you like- the permeating of this universe -by means of cosmic engineering interventions such as so-called 'computronium'- with benign intelligence.

We see the perfusing of our universe with benign intelligence as a step towards the (re-)constitution or (re-)integration of (possibly hive-like) "societies of mind" or "global brains".

These in turn would ultimately evolve into -a possibly new and ever so slightly improved version of- these 'original' god-like super-beings."

Well, then!

So, I don't want to keep you from, er, all that.

Still, I will note with mild perplexity that a person who accuses me of "being a leftist with a paranoid siege mentality" also declares, in the same missive, indeed without the pause of a single sentence to separate them:

I am pretty sure that the technologies too often quoted by
Dale as being nonsense are rather going to kill all of humanity, to the very last stray spermatozoa in dale's rectum (and there is nothing
wrong with that) rather than elevate us all to deities. I have very little expectation nano-, AI, life extension, bio- and spacetech are going to benefit anyone but the small minorities of ultra rich who will survive in deep-well salt mines far beyond 2100, while the rest of us dies screaming.


"Dagon," Cosmic Engineer, ladies and gentlemen.

Martin said...

There are some smart, educated, reasonable transhumanists (Eugen Leitl comes to mind), but stuff like this shows that much of transhumanism is the religionization of science.

Yeah, wouldn't it be great if everybody was smarter, hotter, richer and never died? Sure, and wouldn't it be awesome if a place existed with golden clouds and chocolate rivers? This stuff is so far out there, I don't see how anybody would take them seriously as a "lobbying group."

BTW, the CAPTCHA just happens to be "bychable." :)

Mildred said...

Wow, Dagon. I'm pretty sure that if James Hughes knew you were such a homophobe, you'd be out of the WTA in no time. That is just not cool.

Dagon said...

I am not a homephobe? I am bisexual.

Actually I kinda have the hots for dale.

Dagon said...

..but do bear in mind I am NOT part of the anglosaxon tradition of criticism, restraint and "political corectness".

Do consult this here to see how "the dutch" speak their mind:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_uncle

barry gillis said...

Hello medelander, i agree on a lot of your harsh critisism of dales commenting, if he could use the same standards to his own critisism as he would expect from others this would be a more valuable learning expierience.

But i suppose all of us have our own limitations, ridiculing is the easiest way to handle those scary subjects you cant let go.

I started reading this blog to find out about the critisisms of transhumanism but it seems to be stuck on a certain level.His other writings are interesting tough, i think i hang around for a little more.

Also i can see how you get to the gay reference to dale, the male centaurs? There are female centaurs too, stop ignoring your lesbian and straigt male reader dale!

http://www.amuzant.ro/uploadedpics/580214female-centaur.jpg

barry gillis said...

Why do you try to fool us dale ?Beyond the ridiculing there are actually great points you make, only pure chance made me read back a little, but i could easily have missed it.

Perhaps you could make it easier to find or did i just catch you in a period where you stopped caring about convincing and resorted to ridiculing?

Anyway i suppose i have to read some more of your archives to get to understand you better, you seem to be more than just a loudmouth idiot.

Got any more good stuff hidden behind that counter?