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Is the World Transhumanist Association legitimate?

  1. Nov 15, 2004 #1
    I'm curious to know what the academic community has to say about transhumanism, or more specifically the WTA. Can anyone provide me with some references? The most I could find was a listing on Wikipedia. I thought this might be an appropriate forum.
    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2004 #2

    marcus

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    never heard of it

    sounds Grand Wacko

    let's start our own Transhumanist Discussion Circle.

    I believe that genetic engineering methods should be used to
    create several distinct human species

    all definitely trans
    not sub
    or even merely super
    but certainly altogether trans
     
  4. Nov 15, 2004 #3
    http://www.transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/index/

    I'm no expert in this area, and haven't heard the term 'transhumanism' before. I agree with stemcell research, but I always get a bit worried by enthusiasts for this sort of thing as it can easily sound like eugenics. And even in the hands of right-minded people (i.e. ones who think like me :tongue2:), we never quite know what the long-term consequences will be e.g. breeding out something that seems like a nuisance today, but turns out to be necessary to our evolution. I'm not a risk-taker when the stakes are so high, so I'd only begin to advocate limited use after decades of good research.
     
  5. Nov 17, 2004 #4
    What about their board of directors, does anyone know if any of these guys have reputations, good or bad.
    Chair Nick Bostrom Ph.D.
    Vice Chair Giulio Prisco
    Secretary-Treasurer James Hughes Ph.D.
    Publications Director Mark Walker Ph.D.
    Chapter Liaison Jose Cordeiro
    Mike Treder
    Michael LaTorra
    George Dvorsky
    Michael Anissimov
    Erik Aronesty
    I've read about Bostrom before with his ideas concerning the anthropic principle and know that he is an oxford professor, what do you think?
     
  6. Nov 18, 2004 #5

    Chronos

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    Well, Nick Bostrom asserts there is no objective reality. That is well and good given there is no way to prove or disprove such an assertion. I would say that is baloney. Science is about predictions based on observation. If observation is not objective, why/how would scientists who have never met agree predictions match observation?
     
  7. Nov 18, 2004 #6
    kcballer21

    I would say most of the academic community would dismiss transhumanists as wackos or at least as sane but overly optimistic technology enthusiasts, but they would do this without bothering to investigate the actual issues. It's the otherwise productive "hmm, they're making some very drastic claims about what the world will look like, so they must be mad, so let's ignore them" heuristic misfiring. (98% of it is just unfamiliarity, and stupid stereotypes, IMHO.)

    I would also say most of the academic community is dead wrong about this, and that if you learn more of various sciences and read what transhumanists have to say with an open mind, rationally weighing all the evidence, you will probably come to agree with me.

    There are also some (such as Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama) who take transhumanism seriously, but think it's a moral evil. I think they're wrong, too.

    I urge you to read up on various things and form your own judgment, instead of relying on reputation.

    I recommend the FAQ for general information. If you're specifically looking for references on transhumanism's and the WTA's reputation among academics, I can't think of any; reputation is a very intangible thing, made up of many people's individual opinions.

    I assume you've already googled?

    marcus

    Perhaps, but *please* look beyond superficial first impressions. It's the rational, civilized thing to do.

    Most transhumanists think these revolutionary technological developments will happen in the first half of this century. They tend to be sane, rational, intelligent, and very scientifically literate people. Isn't it worth spending some time reading things on the web, just to see for yourself whether or not they're wackos?

    kcballer21

    I really like his work (pretty much all of it), which can be found on his website at nickbostrom.com.

    Chronos

    Where, and in what context? Or are you making this up? It doesn't sound at all like something he'd assert.

    kcballer21: I'm sorry if I seem a bit testy about all of this, but, come on, you placed this in "skepticism and debunking", among all the UFO and astrology idiots. Whether or not the claims of transhumanists are generally true, it should be almost immediately obvious that they don't belong in the woo-woo category.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2004
  8. Nov 18, 2004 #7
    You should judge things on what they are, not on what they sound like.

    http://www.transhumanism.org/resources/faq.html#32

    The point of transhumanism is to take evolution into our own hands; the biological tooth-and-claw kind may become obsolete.

    As it happens, I personally think biotechnology is mostly a red herring; nanotechnology and "infotechnology" (AI, cybernetics, uploading) are likely to make a bigger impact on a shorter timescale.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2004
  9. Nov 18, 2004 #8
    From the post before I am encouraged more crazy people the better down my neck o fthe woods keep it up dude:). Not sure what transhumanisim means but I heard the word eugenics, what about voluntary eugenics! you have a pregnant woman (and or spouse) and you have a choice if the kid is prone to say heart disease, do you modify your childs chances of heart disease ot be much less through gene therapy or leave it as it is. Of course what iam msaying is (only) a little bit hypothetical and could have been alot more extreme. But mappingour own path through natural selection/mutation is already areality give it 200 years and we ill see. Maybe world peace or slavery to the few we will see.

    EDIT: maybe somewhere in the middle like always(what does thst mean) , but i dont think so! I Also diagree with the above post but not by much..
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2004
  10. Nov 18, 2004 #9

    marcus

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    evolution (or genetic drift)
    is made much more rapid if there is an isolated genepool
    like a subpopulation (e.g. of birds in the Galapagos I.) splits off.

    right? (wasnt that one of the young Darwin's insights?)

    if you want to promote rapid evolution (which may also entail human costs)

    then one practical first step is to cause a split-off----the formation of a different species i.e. that cannot have fertile offspring with the rest.

    any takers?

    I believe they do this with strains of experimental animals--or anyway it is a known technology. you change the set of chromosomes and you have a new species. can anyone comment on the means that could be used?
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2004
  11. Nov 19, 2004 #10
    What would be a better forum? I am very fascinated by transhumanism and see nothing wrong with its philosophy. But, after googling I realized that there are few resources and also that there seems to much 'skepticism' about how likely some of their goals are. I was going to post in the Kaku forum because his book "Visions" seems to be agreeable with transhumanist ideals, but I thought I would try here instead.
    I am not implying that transhumanism belongs in the 'woo-woo' category, it sounds like a good idea to me. I just wish them luck in convincing the rest of America that the implementation of technology should rely on provisional ethics, and not on absolute morality. :approve: It's gonna be a rough 4 years for transhumanists.
     
  12. Nov 20, 2004 #11
    Good point. Feeling humbled, I read the faq you posted and can only conclude that transhumanism is eugenics. A rose by any other name is a rose. Just because they are not nazis, doesn't mean they are not advocating eugenics, if of a voluntary kind. My trusty OED list eugenics as: "the science of improving the (esp. human) population by controlled breeding for desirable inherited characteristics". I can understand that the transhumanists want to distance themselves from racism, but it is disingenuous (or perhaps a blue herring) to claim they are not advocating enlightened eugenics.

    Nature has a funny way of biting mankind's butt, often called hubris. We simply can't see far enough into the future to predict how all variables (environmental & biological) will interact down the generations. Diversity insures that if some die, others will survive, and its sheer scientism to presume that we know what traits are 'best'. If you take an extreme example like inherited cancer, the argument against eugenics is weaker, but if you take something like promoting inherited intelligence... well, intelligence may be the very thing that will breed us out of the history books.
     
  13. Nov 20, 2004 #12
    kcballer21:

    OK, sorry for having been a bit unfriendly;

    I don't think there are that few resources. There is a lot of reading material (on transhumanism and related topics) on
    http://www.aleph.se/Trans (no recent links, though), http://nickbostrom.com, http://kurzweilai.net, http://www.betterhumans.com, http://www.jetpress.org/contents.htm, http://singinst.org/intro, http://crnano.org, http://foresight.org, and so on.

    While it's always good to be skeptical -- I'm not claiming typical transhumanist claims should be seen as certainties -- I think many of the reasons put forward why these technologies can't happen, or can only happen in the long-term future, are misguided. I don't think you'll find many systematic technical critiques (as opposed to ridicule), but if you find them, please post them.

    A few examples:

    * people tend to judge the plausibility or time frame of technologies not by how difficult they seem to achieve, but by how large their consequences would be
    * people often underappreciate the speed of exponential technological growth -- see Kurzweil, though he has his flaws
    * people usually underappreciate the impact that transhuman intelligence would have on technological and scientific advances
    * people come up with incorrect philosophical reasons why e.g. AI can't work: Goedel, the Chinese Room, and so on
    * people don't want to seem like sci-fi-worshipping geeks

    Sort of; I think Kaku makes some of the mistakes listed above, and ends up making overly conservative predictions.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2004
  14. Nov 20, 2004 #13
    That can't possibly be true: most of transhumanism doesn't even have to do with genetics. There is a part that does, but it consists of genetic modification, and not "controlled breeding", not even in the completely voluntary sense. You simply will not find (mainstream) transhumanists to be interested in that, and I don't see how you could possibly have gotten that from the FAQ.

    Or are you defining the creation of any sort of genetically modified children to be "controlled breeding"? In that case, you're simply playing games with words, because when you call something "eugenics", people are going to assume it's the other kind. You can't judge something based on the flaws of something else that you call by the same name, unless you can show that these two things have flaws in common.

    On the other hand, calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.

    The concept of "hubris" has no validity in a universe not ruled by the ancient Greek gods. The universe itself isn't conspiring for or against humanity; it just doesn't care. Murphy's Law is cute, but false.

    Your point about unintended consequences is well-taken, but on the long term, not doing anything is probably also going to have unintended consequences. This is exactly why we need transhuman intelligence combined with transhuman wisdom.

    Some disadvantages of postponing or preventing technological developments:

    * In the mean time, humanity might unnecessarily die out in various different ways.

    * In the mean time, hundreds of millions of individual people are going to die potentially preventable deaths, and hundreds of millions more will undergo potentially preventable suffering.

    * We can't simply decide, as a civilization, not to do develop technologies; even if we reasonable people wait until all the research is out, the less scrupulous will at some point develop them anyway, and will then be in a much better position to abuse them.
     
  15. Nov 21, 2004 #14
    :zzz:

    Wake me up when the debate is over and you want to have a proper discussion.
     
  16. Nov 23, 2004 #15
    I just found a great article about The Extropy Institute. http://www.geocities.com/godawa@sbcglobal.net/hollywoodworldviews/ExtropyfullLengthSCP.pdf
    "The word Extropy is self-coined by transhumanists as a rejection of the second law of thermodynamics, the increase of entropy. Entropy is the measure of disorder of a system, its decay".The co-founders are Max More and Tom Morrow - I wouldn't lie about a thing like this.

    "...imagine the citizen of this new world order as immortal, capable of living forever. Death and decay have been overcome through technological enhancement of the human body. Through cryonic freezing, sickness has been
    delayed till eventual cure. Those who are unsatisfied with their current body have their minds “uploaded” to a computer and then “downloaded” to a new body, or simply have themselves reconfigured with bionic body parts".

    I want to join! I want to join! Where's my birthday money?
     
  17. Nov 23, 2004 #16
    Just to play devil's advocate; if you read the very last paragraph of that article, it is clear that the author has a bias, and an agenda. Nevertheless, it was my understanding from previous readings that the WTA was not part of the Extropy Institute, and it was founded by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce.

    After looking back I found a quote: "[The WTA] allows for more political and ideological diversity than tolerated by the Extropians," (James Hughes)

    I still don't see anything wrong with their philosophy.
     
  18. Feb 5, 2005 #17
    Intentional intergroup diversity as a check on mistakes in planning

    Hence, Raymond Cattell's Beyondism requires intentional intergroup diversity:


    (A New Morality from Science: Beyondism. Chapter 7.1)
    http://www.efn.org/~callen/anmfshtml/section7.1.htm
     
  19. Feb 6, 2005 #18
    Interesting stuff, Mr Squad. Its a bit off-topic, but perhaps the same applies to culture in general i.e. its not a good idea to try to homogenize the world e.g. global consumerism, global democracy etc.
     
  20. Feb 7, 2005 #19
    Transhumanism vs racial diversity

    If biological diversity is off-topic in regards to analyzing the merits of transhumanism, why did you bring it up?
     
  21. Feb 7, 2005 #20
    Bad gerbil! Down boy, down! The off topic bit was my reference to culture in general, not your obviously pithy contribution. So, now that that's been cleared up, what do you think: it applies to consumerism etc?
     
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