Of course there are the usual personal insults: “idiot, bullshit, jackass...” and even a new word that I had to look up in a dictionary: “doofus”. But I am impermeable to Carrico’s insults, for which as usual the best policy is one-ear-in, other-ear-out. What I find interesting, instead, is that he is defining humanity in terms of shit.
Yes, shit. In his passionate defense of the body: “it is true that life is lived in bodies, and that bodies are various and vulnerable and mortal and hungry for connection, and that embracing embodied life demands an embrace of all this about bodies. To deny their variation, their vulnerability, their mortality, their sociability is to deny the body”, he makes references to the alleged body-loathing of “Transhumanists who want to talk about living forever in computers and not having bodies that have to poop”. I and other transhumanists are “dispirited at the prospect of continuing to have to poop or whatever it is that freaks you out so much about bodily life”….
Yes, I Shit. I Belch. I Fart. When I was in high school I won many farting contests, and I am as proud of this as of other sporting achievements. But if I had to choose between never farting again and never reading Shakespeare again, I think I would go for Shakespeare. I do not define human nature in terms of farts. I prefer to define it in terms of curiosity for reality, overcoming limits, and love for others. And I believe these things would survive the transition to an enhanced biological body or a uploaded consciousness.
To all those who define their human identity in terms of shit: please feel free to do so. I will feel free to define my human identity in terms of other things.
So far, Prisco's response has occasioned one comment, which I reprint in full: "Bravo! You are right, it is better to leave the insults of imbeciles like Carrico enter one ear and out of the other. His insults they show that has nothing valuable to say. I think that his hatred towards transhumanists is a masked religious fundamentalism." Clearly, something to think deeply about.
In an interesting side note, Prisco also announces "a seminar on Morphological Freedom in Second Life, by Natasha Vita-More & Anders Sandberg" described in these terms: "Do individual humans have a natural right to Morphological Freedom -- the right to seek augmentation and enhancement -- and the right not to be coerced to augment and enhance?"
One is perplexed to find the profoundly denaturalizing project of prosthetic self-determination described as a "natural right" -- of which I personally think there are none, only stubborn but contingent sociocultual accomplishments in an ethical formulation that solicits universal assent, always seeing in "right" the resonance of its etymological birth in ritual, in "rite."
But I do think it is a very good thing for this debate to be happening among transhumanists, given my worries about the ways in which they might stealth a policing of human lifeway diversity in their reductively functionalist understanding of medical "enhancement" construed as always only facilitating "optimality," especially in those variations that conjoin "enhancement" to a project to ensure -- and insist on -- the provision of universal healthcare (which, of course, I too approve of, so long as it doesn't come at the price of universal involuntary conscription in some Robot Cultist's zombie army).
Prisco goes on to say of "Natasha [Vita-More] and Anders [Sandberg, that they] are two of the principal transhumanist thinkers. Natasha has given a good definition of transhumanism in a recent interview: “Transhumanism is a set of ideas which represents a worldview to improve the current situation that we as humanity are facing, which includes short lifespan, limited cognitive abilities, limited sensoral abilities, erratic emotions…starvation, lack of housing, or lack of, basically, getting any of the necessary fundamental needs met. We look ardently at how technologies, including the NBIC technologies—nanoscience, bioscience, information science, and cognitive science – can possibly be used to help solve some of the problems in the world that address humans being stuck in a state of stasis.”
I must say I enjoyed the inevitable genuflection in evidence here to world hunger and homelessness (which of course is never the practical focus of any of these discussions, but always just thrown in to make transhumanists seem non-monstrous and remotely real-world relevant), before they get seriously down to the "business" of sooperpowers, techno-immortality, and Nano-santa sooper-money in your personal future!
Note that "the current situation we… are facing… includes… limited cognitive abilities, limited sensoral abilities, [and] erratic emotions." I'll leave as an exercise for the reader to imagine whether the "non-erratic" emotions wanted here amount simply to relentless go-getter Randroidal assholery treated as norm or require instead the simple expedient of simultaneously and permanently anaesthetizing everybody on earth. More interesting to me is the return yet again, even in the briefest and most popular formulations of the perspective, to the transhumanist hostility to the very idea of "limits."
Surely, even increasing (they actually mean "intervening to change," but of course it always has to be framed as bigger, better, faster, more!) our cognitive abilities and sensoral abilities (as hallucinogens, writing technologies, caffeine, libraries, universities, p2p formations already have the one, and aesthetic and media techniques -- perspective, montage, avant-garde experiments in form -- spectacles, a plethora of scientific instruments, and so on already have the latter) still leaves these "limited."
Limits define and articulate (even if only contingently) the determinateness of actually-existing capacities, they are not an "offense" but a condition of existence, and the existential revolt against limits as such (the contrary of which is not a resignation to the precise limits that prevail in the moment of our birth, clearly as prosthetic, artifactual, cultural beings we are constantly renegotiating the defamiliarizing refamiliarizing denaturalizing renturalizing boundary between agency and sense), this revolt against finitude is a repudiation of the condition of worldliness at a profound level in my view, far more nihilistic than emancipatory.
In political terms, it seems to me the declaration of the refusal of "All Limits!" is always the pampered greed-head's declaration of indifference to costs they imagine they will not be expected to bear, the ugly assertion of the privileged that there will always be others around to clean up their messes for them. It is very interesting that Vita-More foregrounds that her perspective on NBIC paradigm technologies (which, I grow ever more convinced these days, is simply a paradigm designed to mainstream one version of singularity discourse, it's "acceleration of acceleration" converging onto "techno-rapture/technopalypse" version) as "ardent" when it consists of a systematic misconstrual and repudiation of the dynamism of actually-existing human multiculture and social struggle and open futurity as being "stuck in stasis."
I assume by this she and other likeminded transhumanists -- of especially the more Ayn Raelian "extropian" persuasion -- mean that they think there is money to be made even at this late date by continuing to flog tired 90s techno-utopian irrational exuberance and self-help mantras to the rubes.