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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nauru Needs Futurologists!

Ben Goertzel is the director of "research" at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence whose day job involves thinking he is busy coding the Robot God who one day soon will end human history either by sooper-parentally solving all our problems for us or by transforming the world into uber-goo (also thereby solving all our problems after a fashion). He is a founding member of the really-and-for-true-not-a-parody Order of Cosmic Engineers (lampooned by me here), and is signed up with Alcor to be frozen or vitrified or otherwise techno-mummified in anticipation of resurrection and near-immortalization in a shiny robot body or possibly as an angelic avatar in cyberspace. That is to say, he is clearly a very sane soopergenius I would have to be very ignorant and unkind to describe as a Robot Cultist, and if I did call him a Robot Cultist it would probably just be because of my rampant luddism, my worship of death, and the menacing anti-Enlightenment relativism I exhibit as a consequence of my elite effete aesthete education in the humanities.

[UPDATE: Goertzel informs me in the Moot that he is now just an "advisor" at SIAI though he remains "friendly" to their sect of the Robot Cult and is still hard at work coding the Robot God among his other transhumanistical and techno-immortalization efforts. He seemed to regard this correction as very important, so there ya go.]

Here's Ben's latest sensible and not at all Robot Culty idea:
The desert island nation of Nauru needs money badly, and has a population of less than 15,000. There are problems with water supply, but they could surely be solved with some technical ingenuity…

[Steal underpants… profit!]
Suppose 15,000 adult transhumanists (along with some kids, one would assume)

[A safer assumption might involve 14,990 white guys who have never been on a date or eaten a meal that didn't involve pushing buttons on a phone or a microwave.]
decided to emigrate to Nauru en masse over a 5-year period, on condition they could obtain full citizenship. Perhaps this could be negotiated with the Nauruan government.

[Negotiated by means of the well-noted diplomatic skills of prickly software coders and flamewarrior fanboys.]
Then after 5 years we would have a democracy in which transhumanists were the majority. Isn't this the easiest way to create a transhumanist nation? With all the amazing future possibilities that that implies?

[Amazing future possibilities such as 14,990 Piggies without their asthma inhalers still trying to plug their laptops into the bases of palm trees while complaining that Naboo wasn't anything like this in the movie?]
This would genuinely be of benefit to the residents of Nauru, which now has 90% unemployment. Unemployment would be reduced close to zero, and the economy would be tremendously enlarged. A win-win situation. Transhumanists would get freedom, and Nauruans would get a first-world economy…

[Because if history ever showed us anything at all it is that imperialism really always is such a good deal for occupied people.]
Tourism could become a major income stream, given the high density of interesting people which would make Nauru into a cultural mecca.

[This irresistible lure of the white guys of "The Future" helps explain why transhumanism has managed in three decades to swell from a marginal Robot Cult consisting almost entirely of a few hundred white guys in the US and Europe who can't tell the difference between science fictional wish-fulfillment fantasizing and serious scientific practice and policymaking to a few thousand white guys in the US and Europe who can't the difference between science fictional wish-fulfillment fantasizing and serious scientific practice and policymaking.]

By way of conclusion to this rather sad bit of snark, let me point out that Ben Goertzel's proposal is in fact the latest episode in a rather long comedy series in which various Robot Cultists pine after some separatist enclave. Goertzel's futurological Secret Pirate Island fantasy comes, for example, swift on the heels of failed dreams of creating a cryonics town in Arizona. After all, in a time of global warming and failing infrastructure what safer place for your frozen head could you find in all the world than in a desert survivalist compound in a Red State under the care of libertarian sociopaths many of whom think Atlas Shrugged is some kind of bible?

The curious -- and almost always richly hilarious -- ideological admixture of the libertopian and techno-utopian that produces what I like to call the Ayn Raelian sects of Robot Cultism are especially prominent among futurological clarion calls for radical separatism. Whether this move is inspired by the Strike of the Randroidal Soopermen or by the more quotidian flight of panicky white-racists from a diversifying America is a complicated question, but it is hard to miss the reactionary get-off-my-lawn undercurrents among the champions of seasteading, anti-aircraft platform principalities (futurological wet-dream-meet-reality), crappy cruise ship utopiae, as well as various endlessly and never anything but failed "private space programs" promising profitable-therefore?-inevitable space hotels, moon bases, edenic asteroid-belt treasure-caves, Martian and Europan colonies but leaving nothing behind but a litter of CGI-cartooned brochures, dead links to online manifestoes, and, sometimes, if you're very lucky, a chance to ride in a high-altitude airplane for a pile of cash in exchange for a scam artist assuring you this makes you an astronaut.

Needless to say, an inbred tinpot fiefdom monoculture is little likely to maintain anything remotely like the institutional and practical richness of the diverse creative commons on which actual scientific discovery and creative expressivity depends -- let alone the resilience to solve unexpected problems, among them the problems produced by the unanticipated consequences of prior problem-solving. Hell, who would even keep the Robot Cultists' hair cut or their asses wiped on Nauru?

I daresay these would-be techno-ruggified individualists probably need to get both that whole desktop nanofactory genie-in-a-bottle problem as well as that whole soul-migration into a shiny invulnerable robot body problem licked before and not after they decide to take their leave of the mehum masses upon whom they presently depend for their survival and flourishing whether or not they are quite aware of it in their declared futurological sooper-geniusness and extreme-level un-future-shock-ability and so on.

Of course, though I am quite pleased to ridicule these futurological escapist fantasies, I am the farthest thing from truly meaning to discourage this separatist impulse of theirs -- indeed, little could please me more than for the Robot Cultists and the Randroids who endlessly threaten and boast about "Going Galt" or hiding out in some mad-scientist lab to unleash their Robot God on us all to actually make a go of their fanciful little experiment and discover just how ill-prepared they really are to make it on their own, to get that circle-squared or that perpetual motion machine off the ground, to discover just how indifferent to them are the workings of the larger world to which they seem somehow to fancy themselves indispensable. Of course, I don't expect the Robot Cultists actually to make their migration or actually build their pleasure dome, but honestly what fun it would be to enjoy the festival of fail they would make in actually trying to put their money where their mouths were.

Of course, it's easy to see why a True Believer in techno-transcendentalizing acceleration of acceleration of acceleration in the midst of a popping petrochemical bubble all the straight white guys foolishly mistook for the Inevitable Triumph of the Genius of Western Civilization would pine now for a separatist monoculture of superlative futurologists. Inside it, they could still have -- nay, have more intensely even than hitherto -- the sub(cult)ural substance of "The Future" they already provide one another in the present in the palpability of their shared belief in the most hyperbolic futurological variations of that reductive, imperial, promotional, eugenic, immaterializing Civilizational narrative: They could enjoy the false-positive communal confirmation of their faithly community that their finitide, mortality, dis-ease, vulnerability, proneness to error, humiliation, violation, exploitation, contingency are all as nothing inasmuch as they are always-already collaborators in The Way to the techno-transcendence of that finitide, toward a super-predicated techno-quasi-godhood of super-intelligence, super-longevity, super-abundance that is at once unknowable and hence immune from criticism but utterly reassuring inasmuch as it is figured merely as the amplification beyond bound of every parochially preferred norm, category, wish of incumbent interest.

48 comments:

jimf said...

> Goertzel's futurological Secret Pirate Island fantasy comes
> swift on the heels of failed dreams of creating a cryonics town
> in Arizona.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Larry Johnson had an interesting thing or two to say about
that place in _Frozen_:
http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2010/05/robot-cultists-have-won.html?
showComment=1272901849003#c6422267849109124859


A related document:
Manager of the Creekside Preserve Lodge and Advisor and
Secretary for The Society for Venturism, ImmInst member
John Grigg helpfully answers questions about his life,
cryonics and physical immortality
http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?act=ST&f=67&t=2467&s=


Another autobiographical piece by the same
gentleman is just heartbreaking:
From: "John Grigg"
Subject: My views on things
http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=11777

"[L]earning disabilities, a.d.d., clinical depression and my father's
abandonment of me has hamstrung me in my life. I am so frustrated and angry
by these things. . .

To me cryonics offers the possibility of a life here in this world that is
what I should have had in the first place. . .

I belong to the Mormon church. I even served a two-year mission. . .
We believe in the resurrection of the body in a perfect,
immortalized form. . .

I feel that I need cryonics to peer over the horizon
of world events. If Christ is coming back which I believe he is,
it could be in a few decades, but perhaps not till at least the
late 21st century. I might be brought back to face the final
tribulation events! [Though s]ometimes I think the very technologies
the extropians talk about could be the basis for the
power of the AntiChrist, should he arise."


But oh those Mormon transhumanists:
Lincoln Cannon
syncretizing religion, science, spirituality and
technology
http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2008/11/reproductive-technology-and-gay.aspx

Reproductive Technology and Gay Marriage

"I recently came across a document. . . which presents
"The Case Against 'Same-Sex Marriage'". This is, to date, the
best argument I've read from opponents of gay marriage.
It accounts for the importance of religious perspectives,
but does not argue from them, and instead appeals to
secular ethics. . ."

:-/

Martin said...

Did you read the comments to Ben's post? Every time they talk about how difficult it would be to establish one enclave or another, they are tacitly admitting just how much they rely on, and benefit from, this society right here.

Their continued presence on the mainland is a tacit admission that all the taxes they pay are still the best deal you can get for a society.

Ben Goertzel said...

This comment is from the guy whose blog post is being lampooned on this page...

Carrico, your writing is excellent, but not quite good enough IMO to compensate for your underlying intellectual vapidity and propensity for distortion of the truth.

Your reliance on tired B-movie tropes is particularly befuddling. E.g. you write


white guys who have never been on a date or eaten a meal that didn't involve pushing buttons on a phone or a microwave


Har har har. I am indeed white (mostly of Jewish descent), but really, the meme that "nerds can't get laid" went out in the 70s, didn't it? Personally, I have 3 kids by my first marriage, and have had plenty of romantic adventures since that marriage split up years ago. And I don't really eat microwaved food; if you'd done more research, you would have found out that many of us transhumanist nerds are now health & fitness nerds as well ... I stick fairly close to the Paleo diet. Lots of fish. Should work well on Nauru ;-) ....

More seriously, in your lampoon you distort the nature of my proposal in a significant way. You make it sound like I was suggesting for a bunch of futurist freaks to secede from mainstream society and form an isolated community on an island. Not so. My proposal was to create a futuristic super-hi-tech city on Nauru, which would be connected by high-bandwidth Internet and frequent flights with the rest of society.

Of course, as I stated in my proposal as well, I merely chose Nauru as an example to make the idea concrete.

Re


libertarian sociopaths many of whom think Atlas Shrugged is some kind of bible


my politics have always tended more toward democratic socialism, truth be told. I'm in favor of eliminating "victimless crimes" like human cloning, drug use and prostitution; but I'm in favor of improving, not eliminating social welfare programs. My mother runs a social welfare program in Philadelphia, so I grew up with an acute awareness of the need for, and value of, that sort of thing.

More in the next comment...

Ben Goertzel said...

(continuation of my previous comment)

Regarding


imperialism really always is such a good deal for occupied people.


that's a complex topic, but I did stress in my post that Nauru is a democracy and I wouldn't advocate creating a Nauruan "Transtopia" without free approval of the Nauruan people. If such approval weren't forthcoming we would find another location -- or maybe build one, a la seasteading.

I am a dual US/Brazilian citizen, and I have a lot of experience in Third World countries, especially Brazil and more recently China. I think it's possible to create win-win situations involving Third World countries and First World technologies and technologists, with a bit of creativity and open-mindedness (two qualities that seem to be lacking in your lampoon, I must say).

You say I


can't the difference between science fictional wish-fulfillment fantasizing and serious scientific practice and policymaking.


but in fact I'm a serious practicing scientist with many books and papers published by prestigious publishers and journals. So are many other transhumanists. Your caricature doesn't match the reality.

Lastly, you say that transhumanists view the envisioned Singularity as


merely as the amplification beyond bound of every parochially preferred norm, category, wish of incumbent interest


but it's just not true. I tend to agree with Vernor Vinge that once AIs are dramatically more generally intelligent than humans, all bets are off. Our minds are not adequate to predict what will happen, after that. My unscientific, spiritual gut feel is that we will be brought into contact with broader forms of intelligence that pre-exist us, and will shatter many of our expectations, as well as fulfilling some of our dreams. But who really knows.

As I also noted on the blog post that you lampoon here, speculation about building cities on remote islands is not something that takes up much of my time. As well as a busy family life, I spend my time working on practical AI research, technology consulting for companies and government agencies, and helping biologists figure out how to make drugs that cure disease and extend life.

Don't be surprised if one day you go to the doctor with an age-related ailment and get prescribed a pill discovered via applying AI to genomics data. Will you refuse the pill on the grounds that it was developed by wild-eyed transhumanists, and contentedly fade away to Heaven?

Dale Carrico said...

my politics have always tended more toward democratic socialism

For a democratic socialist you sure ally and hobnob preferentially with some curiously reactionary folks. Enabling corporate-militarists and eugenicists isn't made better by the fact that you are sensible enough to wrinkle your nose fastidiously when the likely outcomes and fellow-travelers of your advocacy are exposed to scrutiny.

I'm glad you enjoy my writing, whatever its vapidity however.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm a serious practicing scientist with many books and papers published by prestigious publishers and journals. So are many other transhumanists. Your caricature doesn't match the reality.

Serious as a heart attack.

@siibo said...

I was in the fence in the impassioned debate right until the very wire! The very wire, I tell you!

But then came the comment that sealed it for me:

serious as a heart attack.

Which I think would have been better as:

Serious as a HEART ATTACK!!!!!1

You could also have added, "Boom boom! Slam! Kapow! He shoots, he scores! Boom goes the dynamite!"

Which I feel would have only added to the excitement I felt.

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

Martin said...

Ben, if you're a social democrat or democratic socialist, then why do you share these escapist fantasies? It makes sense from a libertarian perspective, because they are under the delusion that we are autonomous agents. Of course, as soon as they think about leaving, they realize how deeply embedded in their environment they are. Not that that ever changes their mind.

This particular fantasy is literally right out of Ayn Rand's playbook.

jimf said...

> > libertarian sociopaths many of whom think Atlas Shrugged is some kind of bible
>
> my politics have always tended more toward democratic socialism

To give credit where credit is due, Ben Goertzel has indeed never seemed
to me to have been as mired in the cult of Ayn Rand as many of his
Extropian fellow-travellers are.

Indeed, putting aside such assertions as this one, from three years ago

""$5M . . . is a fair estimate of what I think it would
take to create Singularity based on further developing
the current Novamente technology and design."
( http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2009/08/imagination-of-robot-cultist.html?
showComment=1250510408560#c2049257328237211264 )

Goertzel has mostly been a voice of reason in, e.g., his puncturing
of the more outrageous posturings of some of the denizens of
Singularitarian mailing lists such as SL4.

He loses his cool a bit, though, when he makes comments such
as that directed to Dale above ("your underlying intellectual vapidity
and propensity for distortion of the truth") and he will of course
throw in his lot with the "usual crowd" when the broad
"Singularitarian consensus" on more ostensibly theoretical
matters such as approaches to artificial intelligence is threatened,
as he did in the great Richard Loosemore debacle
from a few years ago that began on SL4 and found its way
into other on-line >Hist venues, including Extropians,
Singularity, and AGI mailing lists. E.g,
http://www.mail-archive.com/agi@v2.listbox.com/msg12641.html

That spectacle, by the way, was very enlightening when it
comes to exposing the assertions of the >Hists that their
critics (or even their would-be sympathizers who question some
of their pet orthodoxies) never engage them on a "technical"
level. See, e.g.,

http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2007/10/superla-pope-peeps.html?
showComment=1191876780000#c7959772476554734517

http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2009/03/from-futurological-confusions-to.html?
showComment=1238904120000#c5832261689840720982

However, these squabbles aren't so very different from those
surrounding such gurus as Ken Wilber or Andrew Cohen. For that
matter, they're not so different from the social dynamics described in
the section "E-mail lists and Forums" in John Bruce's article
"The Sociology of Model Railroading"
http://www.trainweb.org/lfnwfan/html/Sociology.htm

Chad Lott said...

What's wrong with eighties tropes? Aren't all nerds really just trying to win the ski race or throw that extra wobbly javelin as far as possible?

Ben Goertzel said...


Serious as a heart attack.


Funny comment, since one of my current projects involves using AI/bioinformatics software to help Genescient develop drugs to prevent heart disease ;-) ...

jimf said...

> He is signed up with Alcor to be frozen or vitrified or otherwise
> techno-mummified in anticipation of resurrection and near-immortalization
> in a shiny robot body or possibly as an angelic avatar in cyberspace.

Speaking of being frozen in anticipation of being resurrected as an
angelic avatar in cyberspace, Melody Maxim (a qualified perfusionist
who has been vainly exhorting cryonics companies to invest
in real medical personnel and equipment rather than employing amateurs
using ad-hoc tools, and who writes about the cryonics "industry"
on her blog), had an article this month about cryonicists'
fascination with uploading (to the detriment of their more
immediate ostensible concerns):

Saturday, October 2, 2010
Cryonics and Uploading
http://cryomedical.blogspot.com/2010/10/cryonics-and-uploading.html

Ben Goertzel said...

Sorry for the multiple comments, but this one pertains to an error of fact. Maybe you just want to modify the post and remove the error, in which case this comment is needless.

The post states


Ben Goertzel is the director of "research" at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence


I resigned that post earlier this year, due to some differences of opinion with the SIAI people. I'm still friendly with them however, and still working with some of them on other projects. And I'm still an Advisor of SIAI.

markantony1 said...

Hey Dale don't diss my Trans-mates! Your just scared because we are going to be the Atlanteans of prophecy! we will be a bit like Tracy island as well, with international rescue and we will humanly supply (Saps)Sapiens of their needs but we wont transfer all technological advancement to them it would be Dangerously unethical in Saps hands! So we will have all the Cool Gadgets :) and be the envy of the world! FAB Fantastic-Artificial-Brains

Impertinent Weasel said...

Don't be surprised if one day you go to the doctor with an age-related ailment and get prescribed a pill discovered via applying AI to genomics data.

LOL. Applying neural networks, evolutionary algorithms, and expert systems to data -- even genomics data -- isn't anything new. And there are always incremental improvements being made to the software and hardware tools being used for genome research. And surely someday in the future, as has already happened in the past, some person will devise a way to improve these tools. And yes, the improved tool might help somebody else discover an interesting relationship in the genome data that suggests a process or method which may work to accomplish some medical objective. And some clever person will devise a series of experiments to test this relationship. And some other person will take the experimental results and devise a compound to manage or otherwise affect the relationship. And some other person will examine the compound for safety and effectiveness. And some other person will approve it for use on humans. And some other person will supply the capital to manufacture it. And some other person will run the machine that produces it. And some other person will create the heart-breaking commercial that markets it. And some other person will carry the free samples into your doctor's office, and perhaps, if you need it, and you're lucky, you'll be prescribed the pill.

Yes, all of this could certainly happen. But after all of this, it's laughable to think an AI researcher would seriously take credit for it.

Never mind taking credit for it in advance, like this Goertzel fellow.

Ben Goertzel said...


Ben, if you're a social democrat or democratic socialist, then why do you share these escapist fantasies? It makes sense from a libertarian perspective, because they are under the delusion that we are autonomous agents. Of course, as soon as they think about leaving, they realize how deeply embedded in their environment they are. Not that that ever changes their mind.


If you're actually curious about my philosophy on politics, humanity and life in general, check out my short book "A COSMIST MANIFESTO", which is available from amazon.com or for free online at

http://cosmistmanifesto.blogspot.com/

Unlike my dozen scientific works, this is a nontechnical futurist tract ;)

I'm a democratic socialist but the society I live in is certainly very different from any democratic socialist ideal. I disagree with many particulars of how current societies are operated. A short list is

-- psychedelic drugs are illegal

-- the education system focuses on rote memory and obedience and squashes creativity

-- research like stem cell research and cloning gets banned due to religious reasons

-- most resources are controlled by large, narrow-minded corporations

-- advertising and media encourage a culture of unthinking obedience and consumerism

etc. etc.

But I certainly don't have power to reform all these things in the US, Europe, China, etc.

I understand it doesn't make sense to escape from the modern world and create an isolated enclave of like-minded people. The world is a complex, interconnected system, and our very selves are entwined in and defined by the whole teeming mess of it.

But nevertheless, it does make sense to create communities with different sociocultural systems than the mainstream.

Just as Xiamen is different from DC which is different from Dubai which is different from Reykjavik which is different from Tokyo, etc. ... so a small city formed by transhumaninsts would be significantly different from any of the above. It would be a quite interesting component of the world with unique aspects and a unique influence. And it might even have a major positive effect on the world.

Every now and then a particular part of the world has a disproportionate effect on the whole. Silicon Valley in the past few decades. Paris in the early 20th century. Athens at the height of ancient Greek culture. Perhaps a transhumanist enclave could be equally impactful, at the very critical moment in human history which we're now approaching.

I'm sure that sounds wildly fanciful to you -- but how much of the modern world would have sounded fanciful to your grandparents in their teenage years??

Ben Goertzel said...


Yes, all of this could certainly happen. But after all of this, it's laughable to think an AI researcher would seriously take credit for it.


My point with that comment was not to take credit for anything -- but rather to point out that transhumanist aspirations are inextricably connected to important practical pursuits. They are not fantasies disconnected from reality. They have some far-future aspects and some here-and-now aspects.

One thing I can take credit for is a diagnostic for Parkinson's Disease that was discovered using my AI software, and is now being commercialized by a firm in Charlottesville. That is work I did in 2005, which should provide real benefit to people. It's work that happened because of a connection between Rafal Smigrodzki and I, who are both transhumanists interested in indefinite life extension and hence wanted to do some work on age-associated diseases.

My current work on cardio and neuro diseases and life extension, with Genescient Corp., is similarly motivated.

My main research interest is Artificial General Intelligence, but I also work on bio applications largely because I want to apply my skills and ideas to help people. Many other transhumanists have similar motivation. That is, transhumanism and humanism are not opposites, they're complementary and can even reinforce each other.

Dale Carrico said...

transhumanist aspirations are inextricably connected to important practical pursuits. They are not fantasies disconnected from reality.

Wow, you Robot Cultists must really think people are too lazy to use the google.

Ben Goertzel said...


Wow, you Robot Cultists must really think people are too lazy to use the google.


The use of the word "cult" in this context is pretty ridiculous.

There is no cult that all transhumanists belong to -- no leader; no fixed set of beliefs; no single organization of which we are all members, etc.

Simply a loosely organized network of people, sharing in common a loosely organized network of intuitions and interests (which you happen not to feel kindly towards). Nothing like a cult.

Athena Andreadis said...

Just as the Singularity is really the Rupture, the latest "steading" proposal is really Bwana Politics: "We'll gift them with beads... er, WiFi!"

As for Genescient, I know Greg Benford personally and from him I know their entire work is based on Drosophila genomic arrays. I'll let you in on a tiny but crucial fact about fruit flies: they don't get Parkinson's. Their neurons aren't myelinated and their dopaminergic neurons have a totally different structure and function from ours. So though they're interesting primitive model systems for the molecular networks, they're utterly useless for directly applicable drug or device testing.

Ben Goertzel said...

Athena wrote:


Just as the Singularity is really the Rupture, the latest "steading" proposal is really Bwana Politics: "We'll gift them with beads... er, WiFi!"


Not at all, this is an unwarranted insult.

Why do you assume that, if a plan such as I suggested were adopted, it would be done in a destructive and tactless way? Because you know me personally and know me to be an exploitative jerk??? You know no such thing, you're just making unwarranted generalizations based on stereotypes in your own mind.

Why do you assume that, if a bunch of transhumanists really did move to Nauru to start a new city, it wouldn't be a mutually rewarding process of mutual education and growth?

Because you know everything and can foresee all possibilities, and thus you know me better than I know myself??? and you know all the rest of us transhumanists better than we know ourselves???

What grating, foolish, arrogant narrow-mindedness. Urrrgggh.



As for Genescient, I know Greg Benford personally and from him I know their entire work is based on Drosophila genomic arrays. I'll let you in on a tiny but crucial fact about fruit flies: they don't get Parkinson's. Their neurons aren't myelinated and their dopaminergic neurons have a totally different structure and function from ours. So though they're interesting primitive model systems for the molecular networks, they're utterly useless for directly applicable drug or device testing.


This is not the place for a detailed discussion of genomic research, obviously.

The work I mentioned regarding Parkinson's Disease was stuff my company Biomind did with folks at the University of Virginia, not Genescient work. Look in the Journal of AI in Medicine from 2005 for our paper if you're curious.

Yes, Genescient's work involves the genomics of long-lived fruit flies. Greg Benford is one of the founders of the firm, though not involved in the day-to-day research.

However, it is untrue that fruit fly genomics has no lessons to teach regarding human disease and therapeutics.

Many fly genes have human homologues, including fly genes that are involved with fly neurodegenerative disease.

And, our current research at Genescient does strongly suggest that fruit fly genomics will have major implications for therapeutics for human disease, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease.

It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that this particular blog is no place for serious, honest, open discussion -- but is rather a place for an "in crowd" of anti-transhumanists to amuse themselves and each other via trashing transhumanism and transhumanists in a facile and intellectually shallow, sardonic way.

Too bad. But I guess I should leave y'all to it.

Dale Carrico said...

You Robot Cultists really are so funny.

The moment anybody points out your eager affiliation in a self-described "Movement," with an archipelago of actually-existing membership organizations, helmed by a fairly static cast of marginal characters most of whom are the most patent cranks and wannabe gurus imaginable suddenly you retreat and protest you are a nebulous cloud without a material trace in the world!

The moment anybody skeptical or sensible about the curious number of demonstrably existing, usually loudly proclaiming market fundamentalists, eugenicists, reductionists, self-appointed soopergenius elites, white boys playing with imaginary toys, enthusiasts for and True Believers in not just one, but one after another after another marginal and pseudoscientific position and techno-transcendentalizing wish-fulfillment fantasy, from good old fashioned AI dead-enders, to cryonics scam artists, to Drextopian nano-cornucopiasts, to incoherent "mind"-uploading immortalists, to straightforward self-esteem huckters and phony nutritional supplement salesmen, suddenly you retreat from your own declared identity, affiliation, sub(cult)ure and protest that none of you actually have anything to do with one another!

Honestly, it's all too facile and absurd for words.

I say a bit more about the use of the term Robot Cult elsewhere, for example in the post Let's Talk About Cultishness.

Ben Goertzel said...

Dale, I would be happy if the transhumanist movement WERE better-organized --- not a cult, but a less internally-fractious, more coherent group, clear on its commonalities and mutually supportive etc. But that's not so much the case. I'm spending a certain amount of time working to make it the case, in my role as Chairman of Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Organization). But right now, it really is a bloody disorganized "movement." I'll let you know when and if that changes ;-) ....

Much of the reason for the disorganization is, of course, that many of us transhumanists spend the bulk of our time on other pursuits than advocating transhumanism -- such as building software and doing AI and genetics research, in my case...

Martin said...

Dale brings up a good point in a follow up post: whether it's hippie communes or separatist militias or religious cults, no escapist enclave has ever been successful (for long), and every enclave has been dependent on a larger society to one extent or another. And at least those enclaves remained on one mainland (The Farm) or another (Jim Jones).

Building artificial islands or invading a poor island nation seem destined for failure. This is a utopian fantasy that has been around for a long time.

Dale Carrico said...

Ben, of course I agree with you that your cult is shitty.

Ben Goertzel said...

Dale brings up a good point in a follow up post: whether it's hippie communes or separatist militias or religious cults, no escapist enclave has ever been successful (for long), and every enclave has been dependent on a larger society to one extent or another. And at least those enclaves remained on one mainland (The Farm) or another (Jim Jones).

Building artificial islands or invading a poor island nation seem destined for failure. This is a utopian fantasy that has been around for a long time.


Most probably the Nauru-Transtopia idea will never happen.... It's certainly not a focus of my efforts right now -- just an interesting speculative idea!

However, I wish you guys wouldn't systematically distort the idea, such as it is.

The idea is NOT to make a separatist enclave, disconnected from the rest of the world.

Dale made my idea seem that way in his lampoon, but don't confuse the lampoon for the reality.

In my original post on the topic, I stressed that most residents of the hypothetical Nauru-Transtopia would work for employers in the rest of the world, interacting via the Internet and traveling back and forth frequently via plane.

Ben Goertzel said...

My friend and fellow transhumanist Giulio Prisco gave me the following advice just now:


Ben, don't waste your time debating Carrico. Besides being an idiot, he is so intellectually dishonest that, if you say 2+2=4, he will claim that you said 4+4=2 and insult you for it.

Some of us used to debate him, also because he was a member of the transhumanist community before being kicked out, but we have stopped bothering. Believe me, better ignoring him.


This seems to be accurate. I regret having wasted my time trying to engage in meaningful dialogue in the comments of this blog post. There's no such thing as a meaningful dialogue with people who are intent on having a different sort of interaction ;p

Dale Carrico said...

Quite so. There really is nothing remotely so effective as talking only to fellow Robot Cultists to reassure you that you're not in a Robot Cult.

Ben Goertzel said...


Quite so. There really is nothing remotely so effective as talking only to fellow Robot Cultists to reassure you that you're not in a Robot Cult.


Actually I live near Washington DC (not really a transhumanist hotbed), and almost none of the people I interact with in my everyday real-world life have a transhumanist orientation (except my immediate family). Also most of the people I interact with in my work life are not transhumanist in orientation, but are drawn from a variety of areas of the for-profit and non-profit sectors.

I frequently enjoy discussing transhumanism with all sorts of people, including those who disagree with the ideas. I'm very capable of learning from those who disagree with me, even on foundational issues.

But I don't really like discussing things with people like you who are openly hostile, and who aggressively and intentionally distort others' words to create false impressions.

As Giulio said, the annoying thing about you isn't that you disagree with transhumanism -- it's that your tactics for expressing this disagreement are so profoundly intellectually dishonest.

I would be annoyed at anyone within the transhumanist movement who employed such tactics, as well.

Martin said...

Ben: then what is the goal of your enclave if you're not truly separated? Lower taxes? The federal government will tax your overseas business activities as long as you remain a US citizen (and up to 10 years after). Doing psychedelic drugs? Again, you could be prosecuted for drug tourism (if the Nauruans even allowed it in the first place). The federal government is actually smart enough to see right through these loopholes. Without complete separation, what exactly can you accomplish on a tiny Pacific island, thousands of miles away from anything important, that you can't do right here on the mainland? This is a stupid, pointless fantasy.

There are relatively poor places right here in the United States. West Virginia is one, and some cities there give nice tax cuts for businesses that are willing to move in (that's why there's an Amazon.com call center in Huntington, WV). Why don't you try an enclave there first?

Ben Goertzel said...


Ben: then what is the goal of your enclave if you're not truly separated?


One goal is the freedom to pursue advanced, experimental technologies free of over-conservative government regulations.

10 years from now, the whole thing could potentially be funded via stem cell therapy longevity clinics, which are not allowed in the US due to FDA conservatism.

The whole idea makes a lot more sense if you believe a technological Singularity is coming in 2-7 decades, which I do. In this case, it follows there is likely to be a period when new technologies are emerging very rapidly and large governments are struggling to keep up. Whereas being outside the scope of large governments would give you a lot more freedom to adapt and experiment.

If you don't think the Singularity is really near, then the Transtopian idea will make a lot less sense to you.

I understand the imminence of Singularity is unproven, and that my guess that it will happen is a mix of evidence-based reasoning with intuition. But, I'm confident enough of my guess to be willing to take some personal risks that are dependent up on it.

Aside from freedom to pursue experimental technologies, there is simply the matter of partial physical isolation fostering the development of unique culture.

Putting a bunch of interesting, roughly like-minded people in a place where they interact way more with each other than with the rest of the world, you're likely to get the emergence of a lot of new interesting culture. Of course you don't need to be on an island to do this -- that could be done within any reasonably free country as well. But it's certainly an interesting benefit of the plan I suggested.

Putting the emergence of a novel transhumanist culture TOGETHER with the freedom to experiment with novel tech, one has the potential for a damn interesting place, IMO....




Lower taxes? The federal government will tax your overseas business activities as long as you remain a US citizen (and up to 10 years after).


Lower taxes are not the motivation. I'm not wealthy; but if I were, I suppose I could find ways to minimize my tax liability like most wealthy Americans seem to ;-p ...



Doing psychedelic drugs? Again, you could be prosecuted for drug tourism


That of course is BS. Different countries have different drug policies and that's OK. Saudi citizens can drink alcohol in the US, and US citizens can eat hallucinogenic truffles in Amsterdam.



Without complete separation, what exactly can you accomplish on a tiny Pacific island, thousands of miles away from anything important, that you can't do right here on the mainland? This is a stupid, pointless fantasy.


China and the US are not completely separated, yet are vastly different places, due to the different cultures and different governmental systems.

Actually, I think a plan analogous to this is much more likely to be done within some larger existing country than on a Pacific island. The Pacific island suggestion was mostly for fun ;-) .... But who knows. Maybe it will be a on a seastead. Maybe in Arizona near Alcor, as Dale alludes to. Or I have particular fondness for New Zealand where I lived in the 1990s for a while...

The main points are, as I said, freedom for technological experimentation, and fostering the emergence of a rich and creative transhumanist culture.

Martin said...

That of course is BS. Different countries have different drug policies and that's OK. Saudi citizens can drink alcohol in the US, and US citizens can eat hallucinogenic truffles in Amsterdam.

Not for long...

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-5231

H.R. 5231: Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010

"To amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that persons who enter into a conspiracy within the United States to possess or traffic illegal controlled substances outside the United States...may be criminally prosecuted in the United States, and for other purposes."

A conspiracy is a "meeting, negotiation, or arrangement" to execute a drug transaction. So if you call up the Nauru Transtopia Tourist Board and ask what kinds of drugs they have available, and then fly out to do them, you've entered into a conspiracy to execute a drug transaction. Under this bill, you could be prosecuted, and it's specifically designed to address the problem of drug tourism.

Dale Carrico said...

Ben Goertzel writes: I live near Washington DC (not really a transhumanist hotbed), and almost none of the people I interact with in my everyday real-world life have a transhumanist orientation (except my immediate family). Also most of the people I interact with in my work life are not transhumanist in orientation…

I'm sure there are Scientologists and Ayn Randian Objectivists and Pentecostal Christianists and mystic-crystal revelation homeopaths to be found hobnobbing among sensible people in Washington, DC, too, at the corner store, at the post office, in the cafeteria line. All remain perfectly ridiculous in my view, nonetheless.

It's interesting that you refer to a transhumanist "orientation," as others who take umbrage at my charge of Robot Cultism will also often refer to a transhumanist "movement" or "identity," or even "ideology." I agree with you that one can delineate a reasonably representative transhumanist orientation, and with them a reasonably representative transhumanist movement, identity, and ideology.

Presumably we can agree that self-identified transhumanist membership organizations also indisputably exist?

Can you also admit that most of the things uniquely believed by people who share this organized subcultural ideology orientation and movement are marginal to consensus science? I am not asking for you to agree that all these unique beliefs can be shown to be logically impossible (I don't need anything so strong as that for the argumentative purpose at hand), but simply for you to admit that the technodevelopmental preoccupations and predictions typical among transhumanists have not attracted outside the subculture a comparable consensus among scientists in the fields associated with them as to their plausibility or relevance. Can you admit to that marginality for the beliefs unique to transhumanists? Can you admit that despite this marginality, these unique beliefs are held nonetheless in a less qualified fashion than marginality tends otherwise to occasion in people who pride themselves in their scientificity? Can you admit that among the marginal views held by transhumanists tend to be assertions that certain individuals celebrated within the subculture, but rarely comparably respected if known at all outside futurological subcultures -- like Eliezer Yudkowsky, Hans Moravek, K. Eric Drexler, Aubrey de Grey -- represent the cutting edge of scientific and technological disciplines in defiance of consensus in the disciplines themselves (as measured, say, by sympathetic discussions in peer-reviewed journals to which research institutions actually subscribe or in articles regularly cited by figures outside the subculture and in the fields presumably in question or research grants or discipline specific prizes or non-frivolous patents)?

At what point, after how many such admissions, might it become useful at least in principle to note there are ways in which all the techno-transcendentalizing talk about ending history and sweeping the world with your movement with your guru-wannabes leading the way sounds a bit, well, you know, culty? Never? Really? Not at all? Honestly?

Dale Carrico said...

Now, of course I don't think your Robot Cultism makes you incapable of being a functional adult, any more than alcoholism or Mormonism or Republicanism does. This doesn't mean it is wrong to say Robot Cultism is ridiculous and it doesn't mean it is wrong to ridicule the ridiculous. I don't expect Robot Cultists to welcome or enjoy my ridicule of them (though some do), nor can I say I hope to persuade Robot Cultists to give up their foolishness in consequence of my ridicule (though, happily, some have reported precisely that unexpected but welcome result in their own lives).

As Giulio said, the annoying thing about you isn't that you disagree with transhumanism -- it's that your tactics for expressing this disagreement are so profoundly intellectually dishonest.

I make fun of you and you don't like it. That's understandable, but there is nothing the least bit intellectually dishonest about it. I beg your pardon, but I never promised you a rose garden. I must say, I would be very interested to hear more particularly just what you think you can actually show in the way of distortion and dishonesty in my critiques of superlative futurology. Is there any form of lampoon that you would not regard as "profoundly intellectually dishonest" such that you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of disapproving all varieties of satire and parody? Is there any form of critique applied from a vantage whose terms and assumptions actually differ substantially from your own that you would not regard as "distorted" and "unmeaningful" such that you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of disapproving in advance nearly any actually radical critiques of your guiding assumptions and ideal outcomes? I say that this would be an uncomfortable position for you to find yourself in, but I must add that it is indeed just the sort of position people in cults -- or even, to be generous, people in defensive evangelizing sub(cult) ural membership formations organized around highly marginal but strongly-held beliefs involving personal and historical transcendence -- all too often find themselves in when confronted by actually knowledgeable critics.

There is plenty that I take seriously and critique seriously in futurological discourse, as the writings archived at the sidebar copiously attest, while there is also plenty to laugh at as I also do. My hope is that the ridicule will discourage the technoscientifically ignorant and technodevelopmentally innocent from taking you people the least bit seriously on your own terms and to discourage legitimating public figures, media outlets, and credentialzing institutions in their own ignorance and innocence from providing you legitimacy you could never achieve on your own terms, exposed as they are, by me and others who actually know you quite well, in all your hilarious extremity and delusiveness.

I really do think you should pay a non-negligible reputational price not just for the kooky things you say in public places but also for the kooky and pernicious company you keep, and I think institutions that help legitimize your kookiness should fear damage to their reputations as well. I cheerfully accept that should your Robot Gods or Robot Cult prevail it is my reputation that would be damaged by the relentlessness of my critiques and ridicule of you. People should have the courage of their convictions, and I for one lose no sleep at the thought of the acquaintance I might lose in disdaining superlative futurologists as I do.

Dale Carrico said...

By way of conclusion, I encourage readers actually to read some of my actually-available engagements with Giulio Prisco (links extravagantly provided) whose sage counsel Ben Goertzel takes in preference to my dreadful distortions, for example here and here and here. Prisco is quoted as declaring me "an idiot… so intellectually dishonest that, if you say 2+2=4, he will claim that you said 4+4=2 and insult you for it." Needless to say it is not altogether disconsolating to be called an idiot by one you find to be an idiot yourself, however I am happy to propose a challenge to Prisco and any who cherish him as one of the leading lights of their techno-transcendentalizing-organized-subculture-and-history-ending-membership-movement-that-isn't-a-cult-so-stop-saying-that! My challenge for them is to point to actual instances in which I declare 4 + 4 to equal 2 or -- and here's the kicker -- declare as false anything at all that they take to be a comparably warrantedly assertible belief as to a matter of fact. Of course, I don't expect Robot Cultists to write checks their asses can cash, but it would certainly be fun to see them declare their mind-uploading schemes and utility fog handwaving and friendly post-biological superintelligence scenario-spinning as somehow quite as certainly true as twice two makes four. But, they're not, you know, True Believers or anything, why that would be like they're Robot Cultists or something. I know that Richard Jones and Athena Andreadis have both corrected me in the past from time to time, but always in ways that resulted in making my statements even less and not more generous and congenial to futurological formulations, if anything. Unlike some people, I do not claim to be a scientist but just a reasonably technoscientifically literate rhetorician and critical theorist, after all, and I welcome such corrections from respectable scientists, though corrections by pseudo-scientists indulging disreputable rhetoric are rather less helpful if usually incomparably more amusing.

As Oscar Wilde said, "A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies."

Ben Goertzel said...

About cultishness...

I just read through

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

and some other online definitions of "cult" -- and based on these, no way, I really don't think transhumanism as a "social movement" is anything like a cult. It's just a lot more diffuse, it lacks purposeful techniques for mind control, it doesn't try to shield its members from outside influences, etc. etc. No.

Of course transhumanists tend to hold some beliefs that are marginal with respect to the mainstream of society and of the scientific community. But that simply does not imply "cult" according to any of the standard definitions thereof. And I think you know that perfectly well, and are just throwing the word "cult" at us to be insulting, and to mislead people who may read your blog and take your words seriously, without looking into the matter for themselves.

Regarding my accusation of intellectual dishonesty, I was referring to stuff like that

-- you intentionally making it seem like I was proposing some sort of informationally separate enclave, when I explicitly stated otherwise (that I was envisioning a Transtopia in which there would be intimate interaction with the outside world)

-- your insinuations that I'm somehow "Ayn Randian" in orientation, when you have no reason whatsoever to infer that, and a little study of my own online writings would refute the idea

-- your insinuation that I am not a "real scientist", which is just not the case, as my scientific record shows. I haven't won a Nobel Prize or anything like that, but in terms of the scientific mainstream, I'm a respected contributor and not some kind of marginalized crackpot, unlike the impression you sought to give.


I don't always mind being made fun of, what I mind is when someone intentionally tries to give others a false impression about myself and my ideas. That's annoying.

Dale Carrico said...

Do you actually hear yourself? So, you're not a perfect instantiation of some dictionary's definition of a cult, but only, you know, saliently culty. Whatever get's you through the night, guy. If I had a dime for every fracking defensive True Believer online who bores everybody for hours lecturing them on how they're not technically in a cult so we should find some other word to describe their cult-likeness I could pay off my student loans. I wish you Robot Cultists were equally scrupulous in your deployment of terms like "intelligence" and "longevity" and "nanotechnology" fer cryinoutloud. In future, whenever you hear me derisively refer to the marvelously transhumanistically-oriented people of your peer-group just treat that as a convenient short-hand for "techno-transcendentalizing-organized-subculture-and-self-appointed-presumably-history-ending-world-sweeping-avant-garde-membership-movement-that-isn't-a-cult-so-stop-saying-that!" I don't see how that makes things better for you particularly, but, hey, I'm feeling generous.

I don't expect you to believe me when I say this, or at any rate to admit it even if you do, but I truly believe I am correct in describing the implications of your beliefs. Of course mine are not the terms in which you describe your own beliefs, of course you don't accept the reactionary entailments and assumptions I ascribe to your stated views. If you did, surely you wouldn't believe them any more unless you were some kind of surreally evil person in addition to being the kind of surreally silly person who joins a Robot Cult. If you feel you are being outrageously distorted by anybody who draws different conclusions from yours, derives entailments you haven't considered and with which you would take issue if you had, proposes consequences that disturb you, offers glosses of your views you find unflattering then you really must be more foolish even than I thought you were.

markantony1 said...

Dale your expounding on the nature of orthodox science doesn't negate Transhumanism at all, irrespective of transhumanists input potential in relation to furthering technologies, they epitomize what it is to be humanitarian, the omega physician of the human ailment.
The word Transhumanism I believe in most transhumanist minds is just an expression of using beneficial technology to alleviate/ diminish human and sentient suffering and improving well being on this planet if you somehow see that as a cult I believe that would make you a myopic contemporary having affected vision and blurred sense of reality wile also neglecting humanities current situation.
I find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose to take such a naysayers perspective towards a prospective node/hub of innovators,technologists scientists that would induce greater rapidity of realizing vital new technologies and their respective implementation in effort towards achieving negligible sentient suffering and aiding sentient well being.

Dale Carrico said...

is just an expression of using beneficial technology to alleviate/ diminish human and sentient suffering and improving well being on this planet

Who knew transhumanists invented the idea of using technology to improve things?

if you somehow see that as a cult I believe that would make you a myopic contemporary having affected vision and blurred sense of reality wile also neglecting humanities current situation.

Robot Cultist... or poet? You decide.

Impertinent Weasel said...

Boy, I just saw that Goertzel's debate coach in this instance is Giulio Prisco. Isn't Giulio Prisco the guy who gets angry with himself every time he poops? I seem to recall that the cult known as The Order of Cosmic Engineers (of which Prisco is the leader, I think) has their meetings in the World of Warcraft precisely because the in-game characters can eat in-game food all day without pooping. I know, pooping does definitely suck, and maybe it's not a perfect solution, but science is working on the problem of poop, and we're getting ever closer to the solution.

Dale Carrico said...

I have occasionally enjoyed pooping. Is that so wrong?

jimf said...

Ben Goertzel wrote:

> About cultishness...
>
> I really don't think transhumanism as a "social movement"
> is anything like a cult. . . [I]t lacks purposeful techniques
> for mind control, it doesn't try to shield its members from
> outside influences, etc. etc. No.

Well, my own (merely anecdotal, of course) experiences with
online >Hism suggest otherwise. Here's an example, without
naming names. Ten years ago, on one mailing list, there was
a participant who fancied verself (to use Greg Egan's genderless
pronoun) a List Enforcer. Ve would intervene shrilly and
vociferously, and not always especially intelligently by my
lights, when anybody dared to color outside the lines of
prevailing orthodoxy.

This same person also spoke in lyrical language of the desirability
of proselytizing for the techno-rapture:

"It seems to me easier to move religious people to see that
many of their fondest most deeply held aspirations are realizable
through technology and active good will than by prayer, belief
or waiting for their next life. . . If you come out with
'we respect your highest aspirations and want to show you how
to fulfill them for every person on the face of the earth' then
we have a chance. . . It is not an attack to help someone make
their deepest heart come true. . . [T]he broad appeal will
come when the religious see the possibility of real
'salvation' here in this world."

In a similar vein, one extremely prolific self-appointed
PR coordinator for the whole >Hist movement once let slip
in a comment thread "Since childhood, I've always wanted to be
a saint."

The "list enforcer" mentioned above was also praised by one
of what Dale calls the "sooper-geniuses" of the on-line >Hist
world as "a serious student of rationality." What this
meant, in practice, turned out to be that the person in
question is a fierce disciple of Ayn Rand.

None of these eyebrow-raising habits, incidents, or views
ever seems to, well, raise any eyebrows, at least not publically.

And some of the self-appointed gurus of the on-line >Hist movement,
even when they make outrageous public spectacles of themselves,
seem to be insulated by their very outrageousness from open
criticism, at least in the public forums. See, e.g., the
uncharacteristically frank discussion in
http://www.mail-archive.com/singularity@v2.listbox.com/msg00842.html
which contains remarks such as "I. . . know people on these lists
and elsewhere who know enough cognitive science to pass judgement
on the technical aspects of [a certain guru's] comments. . .
these people are of the opinion that his understanding of the issues
actually under discussion on that occasion was risible. . .
But, sorry, I cannot produce these people as witnesses. Why do you
suppose that any of these people would want to become involved in
public statements about _____? They would rightly consider it
both foolish and a stupid waste of time to come out in public and
make their opinion known. I would be embarrassed to ask them to put
themselves in the line of fire by openly speaking their minds."

This sort of disconnect between public and private discussion,
the concern with not besmirching the "public face" of a
movement, the reluctance to confront a guru openly (the fact
that there is a "line of fire" one braves is doing so) -- these are
all at least warning flags for cultic organizations and movements.

You might well dismiss these particular examples as insignificant.
Taken separately, maybe they are. But taken together, and combined
with many other things I've witnessed over the years,
the "cult" label emerges more and more clearly as a probable
fit.

jimf said...

> I have occasionally enjoyed pooping. Is that so wrong?

Only if you're a party pooper.

Dale Carrico said...

All right, now, wild man. Let's not get all crazy now.

Martin said...

That was a hell of an entertaining email you linked to, jim :)

Ben Goertzel said...

Jimf: Yeah, there have been some subgroups within transhumanism to have cultish tendencies. But these have never involved more than a tiny minority of transhumanists.

You could just as well call Christianity a cult, because there have been some subgroups within Christianity to, well, be cults.

But the presence of cults or cultish groups as a minor component of a movement, doesn't make that movement as a whole a cult or cultish.

To take another example, in my late teens I was a fairly committed Marxist, and I was involved with various Marxist groups. Some of those were definitely cult-like, way more so than anything I've ever seen within transhumanism. But I still wouldn't call **Marxism** as a whole a cult -- it's much broader, more disorganized and more heterogeneous than that.

Dale Carrico said...

I knew both Christianity and Marxism, sir, and your Robot Cult is no Christianity or Marxism. But this is a teachable moment, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and think.

That you grant here that among the few thousand mostly privileged white guys who over two decades of techno-transcendentalizing futurological evangelism have identified as transhumanists in your marginal sub(cult)ure there are nonetheless subgroups even you admit to the very "cultlikeness" you protest in my own observation of it, is fairly stunning when you think on it.

You do seem like a bright enough person that if you do indeed think on it you might draw the proper conclusion and find your way to more sensible positions and associations.

Martin said...

After giving it some thought, I've chimed in on the cult debate over here:

http://martinstriz.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/is-transhumanism-a-cult/

Unfortunately my blog had to move off my hosted site, because some fucking hacker won't leave me alone.