The Transhuman Principles - An Analysis
The Transhuman Principles - An Analysis
Copyright (C) by Erik Möller 1996
Version 1.01, Dec 30 1996
Summary: Possible dangers of the transhuman principles.
Keywords: Principles, Fascism, Coercion, Media, Technophobia, Stagnation
Strive to remove the evolved limits of our biological and
intellectual inheritance, the physical limits of our environment,
and the cultural and historical limits of society that constrain
individual and collective progress.
Strive to remove cultural and historical limits of society? A very diffuse
definition. What are historical limits? Shall we forget the Holocaust
immediately. Shall we forget our mistakes and repeat them? With this
principle, one can argue like this: "The writings about the Middle Ages
constrain individual and collective progress. They prevent us from achieving a
society with unlimited freedom. We must forget them!" A Nazi might say:
"The Nazi crimes must be forgotten because they prevent us from discussing
the racial differences!"
Use whatever tools prove effective toward this goal. Technology, and
the intellectual disciplines used to develop it, are currently
among the most effective such tools.
If I want to remove cultural limits and I consider Christian religion to be
one, I may do it with a machine gun if this proves effective. Hey, that's
3. Memetic propagation.
Support the proliferation of transhumanist principles and goals,
consciously setting an example that others may follow or promoting
the principles of transhumanism directly. Spread awareness of the
dangers of technophobia, coercion, anti-humanism and other
This is a very dangerous principle. First, if everyone knows about the
possibilities of >H tech, this knowledge can be misused. If nationalist groups
learn about Uploading and believe in it, they'll try to be among the first --
"Spread awareness of the dangers of [...] coercion [...] and other destructive
ideologies." Coercion is not generally a destructive ideology, it is, today,
partially a necessary ideology. But of course you have to define 'coercion'
It is coercion if one person forces another to do something by violence. This
kind of coercion is rarest today, even in dictatorships it is usually not
used. If you use this kind of coercion against too many people, they turn
against you -- you can't keep them under control anymore.
But is it coercion if one person is a good rhetorian and the other person is
quite uneducated and not very intelligent, and the rhetorian convinces the
other person to do or believe something he/she wouldn't have done/believed
before? Most people would say no.
But if you say this, it is not coercion if a grown-up tells a kid to take his
(turned on) TV set into the bath-tub, even if the kid dies of the shock. If
you say this is no coercion, the kid died by free decision.
It is clear that we have to broaden the definition. And this "broader" kind of
coercion is applied every day. Usually not deadly for the individual, but
possibly deadly for our whole society. The people who coerce are not the big
bad politicians who try to cut our freedom. It is the media tycoons.
The worldview of a young child born into this world is determined by the media
it consumes (and smaller means of indoctrination: the school system, the
Spreading awareness of the dangers of all kinds of coercion is alright.
But calling coercion a destructive ideology is simply wrong. It can be
destructive, it can be constructive, it depends on the way it is used and the
way it is defined.
Technophobia is no "destructive ideology" either. It actually is natural fear
which can be useful.
A better "principle" would be:
"Support the proliferation of transhumanist principles, goals and ideas to
those who are unlikely to misuse them.
Spread awareness of the dangers of all ideas and actions that threaten to
cause more damage than gain to humanity or that might lead to stagnation. This
includes violence, useless and dangerous technologies like nuclear power,
fascism and other similar ideologies, but also absolute market liberation.
There are many other ideas and actions that may be dangerous and you will have
to make your own considerations for finding them. Think by yourself. Act
rationally and not emotionally, always use logical arguments in your
Note the passage "but also absolute market liberation".
Whether seeking health, fitness, intellectual goals, or financial or
social success or political accomplishment, strive to achieve your
individual ambitions. Cooperate with other innovators and
optimists to reach goals both personal and global.
Achieving financial success -- probably the most common goal -- is not without
danger and should therefore not be encouraged. Any financial advantage
achieved by one person usually leads to financial disadvantages for others.
The higher the money concentration is, the lower is the life standard for the
This principle also collides with #1. If the reader is supposed to strive to
remove "the evolved limits", he cannot achieve any other goal anymore.
Otherwise a "goal-collision" might occur.
Promote human efforts to grow and adapt to an ever-changing universe.
Tolerate people of all schools of thought that do not seek to
limit the extent or variety of your achievement. Discourage any
attempts to impose will or ideas through coercion.
No clear definition for "seeking to limit the extent or variety of someone's
achievement". In other words, if I seek to rule the world and there's someone
who wants to stop me, I may kill him? Again no definition of coercion. If we
use the definition above, all TV stations should be prohibited as they try
to "impose will or ideas through coercion".
The better principle would be:
"Promote human efforts to grow and adapt to an ever-changing universe.
Discourage any attempts that may damage our society or lead it into
These principles should evolve, in order to address the needs of
future Transhumanity; but resist any change in the principles that
limits transhuman activity.
Right, but who decides which change could limit transhuman activity? Who
decides what a transhuman acitivity is, anyway? I am sure many Transhumanists
would call the achievement of totally free markets a transhuman activity,
although it would lead directly back to the Middle Ages.
The purpose of these Principles is to define a "consensus platform" of
Transhumanism that would allow us to see what ideas and goals we have
in common as a group, and to present them to people trying to
understand what this transhumanism is all about.
This purpose apparently cannot be achieved by a small group of people,
so the following document is just a draft that as we hope will be
discussed and modified on the list, after which we can agree on the
first "official" version of Principles.
A draft with some dangerous implications, I am afraid. Defining a consensus
platform where there is no consense is quite pointless. Anyone who acts to the
benefit of humanity is a Transhumanist. But nearly everyone believes
that he acts to the benefit of humanity or at least that his actions do not
cause damage to humanity. So what the principles are trying is to define and
Only the future can reveal who was really a Transhumanist and who believed to
be. There are only very few principles we can put up while being absolutely
sure that they are not wrong.