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 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!"

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 pragmatism!

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 -- maybe successfully.

"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' exactly.

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 parents).

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 warnings."

Note the passage "but also absolute market liberation".

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 masses.

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.

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 stagnation."

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.

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 fix beliefs.

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.