Dale, do you think the organizations, which are just a tiny group of people, writing on some web sites have much or any influence on the vast majority of people…?Organization amplifies influence. That self-identified "transhumanists" are a comparatively tiny and marginal sub(cult)ure does not rule out their having an impact. I think this is especially the case since they are saying things that have great appeal (which is far from saying they are either worthy or true): some to rubes eager to be told they don’t have to die because they might be "uploaded" into cyber-heaven or that easy wealth may come to them via nanobots any day now and so on; some to elite-incumbent corporate-military CEOs and footsoldiers eager to rationalize their privileges and also to be told in line with their narcissism that they are indeed The Protagonists of History; some to ignorant or sensationalist media types all too pleased to megaphone dramatic or simplified techno-triumphalist or disasterbatory narratives rather than help everyday people better understand complex technoscience and fraught developmental quandaries in their actual terms the better to deliberate on these in their own best interest. And so on. I talk about these and other points at greater length but still fairly concisely in Ten Reasons to Take Transhumanists Seriously.
people who just happen to think some ideas about technology and the future are interesting and worth thinking about, and perhaps doing something about…I cannot stress often enough that neither “The Future” actually exists, nor does “technology” treated as a monolithic generality. These terms function as mystifications -- these words are smokescreens behind which far more fraught and complex and difficult issues are hidden, almost always to enable indulgence in evasions, deceptions, and wish-fulfillment fantasies. Rarely does such indulgence facilitate the "doing of something," indeed, more often than not, this sort of "thinking" enables others to "do something to" the one caught up in the deception, the distraction, the daydream.
Intel acknowledging the plausibility of the technological singularity idea of self-improving machines… could be said to be de facto transhumanistsI personally think we should describe as “transhumanists” only those who self-describe as such — just as we should when it comes to Randian Objectivists, Scientologists, Mormons, Bene Gesserits, and the like.
I have often noticed that advocates of transhumanism like to claim credit for scientific accomplishments they had nothing to do with or like to pretend greater prevalence by identifying themselves with broader intellectual currents that predate or subsume them. Also, critics of transhumanism are sometimes confronted by True Believers who want to declare any criticism of them somehow tantamount to a rejection of medicine or science or the role of logic in argument. Needless to say, medicine, science, and logic have managed quite well hitherto without self-described transhumanists to bolster them up in between their cheerleading for cryonics or mega-scale climate-engineering wet dreams and all the rest of their nonsense.
I personally take it very much amiss when I am sometimes declared a “closet transhumanist” either by bioconservative anti-transhumanists or even sometimes actual transhumanists, just because of some position I take up in defense of consensual non-normativizing medical-prosthetic-multicultural practices (like my strong Pro Choice politics, my rejection of the racist War on [some] Drugs, my support of neuro-atypical and deaf communities of affinity, or my defense of body artistry) or my championing of actually warranted consensus science and science education and medical research. None of these are views, I hasten to add, unique to or originating in transhumanism, of all things, while many views that are in fact uniquely or originally transhumanist strike me and most other secular consensual technoscientificially literate democratic progressives as utterly outlandish -- the presumably near-term developmental timelines and resulting “policy quandaries” of genetic posthumanization and superlongevity, “mind” uploading, desktop nanofactories yielding superabundance, history-shattering nonbiological superintelligence, better than real immersive VRs and so on.
One of the reasons I coined and use the phrase superlative futurology is to delineate a field of logical, topical, tropological connections between the overlapping discourses and subcultures and fandoms and organizational archipelago in which transhumanists, singularitarians, techno-immortalists, nano-cornucopiasts, geo-engineers play out their assumptions and aspirations, but also how these discourses and formations connect to more prevailing currents in marketing discourses and neoliberal developmentalist policy discourses, and also how these connect to deeper currents still from reductionisms, to utopianisms, to theological doctrines like omni-predication and dualism, to literary tropes from folk mythology to post-WW2 science fiction. It is crucial to the study and critique of futurological discourses that one not limit oneself merely to the expressed intentions of True Believers or the self-interested declarations of membership organizations.
That said, about your point in connection with Intel -- First, I would say not that “Intel [is] acknowledging the plausibility of the technological singularity” so much as that Intel is finding the figures and frames and formulations of singularity discourse congenial to its purposes.
I think the reasons for this congeniality are pretty obvious (rather like the pretense in so many of their television commercials that intelligent robots hobnob with coders in their employee cafeteria despite the fact that such robots neither exist nor even remotely threaten to arrive on the scene), and they certainly provide little reason to treat as more plausible the idea that human history is about to end due to the arrival of a Super Dad slash Robot God “who” will solve all our problems for us or reduce us all to computronium goo depending on how "friendly" we induce it to be according to the parochial prejudices of a priestly elite of self-appointed caped coder superheroes.
Second, I daresay any therapist or literary critic will have more useful things to say about such utterances than any scientist or policy wonk would. But, hey, I’m a muzzy humanities type, right, what do I know? By the way, I happen to think the person you should be reading to grasp the congeniality of singularitarian and other superlative futurological tropes to folks at Intel is Lanier on cybernetic totalism quite as much as anything I happen to have to say on that subject (which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is also quite a lot).