What ever happened to the transhumanists?

115 points14
notsapiensatall12 hours ago

IMHO it's in a trough on the hype curve. Tech needs to improve before it'll rise again.

The promises of devices like neuralink are decades away from widespread voluntary adoption, at least. You can get small things done today, as you could 10 years ago, but they aren't ready for primetime.

Anecdotally, I got a small coated neodymium magnet implanted in a finger during my youth. It was cool as a college student, I could feel strong AC currents/PWM/etc and I never lost small metal parts like screws.

Those were small benefits though, and the risk was quite high. If the coating had breached, my immune system would have attacked the magnet. Accidentally smacking it into things was painful. I was always aware of the intrusive hardware in a mildly unsettling way. Etc.

When I entered a more nature-y phase of my life, I got it removed by a local tattoo artist who dabbled in body mods. They mentioned that the newer versions were much smaller, and would require serious medical facilities to remove.

At the end of the day, active body mods have too little going for them and too many awful failure modes. Passive ones can be fun - I've seen transdermal plastic beads put in some interesting places - but they're hardly transhumanist.

2muchcoffeeman4 hours ago

>IMHO it's in a trough on the hype curve. Tech needs to improve before it'll rise again.

You're assuming that the technology will still be attractive even as other technologies improve in parallel or as we learn more about how the use of technology effects people.

The article mentions RNA vaccines are partially transhuman, but I'm not sure I buy that. Maybe my concept is wrong, but the perception I got was always more cyborg than biological.

The magnet implants always seemed to have a very, very low benefit to me. Making interfacing with computers even easier seems to have a similarly low benefit. We are already at the point where people go on tech cleanses, your technology gives you screen time reports so you can make sure you are not using it too much, people are abandoning social networks. We are literally trying to use computers less.

koheripbal8 hours ago

I would really like to know more about this topic. Is there a forum that people who dabble in mods post to?

notRobot8 hours ago
kragen6 hours ago

What did you coat the magnet in, and how big was it?

notsapiensatall5 hours ago

I didn't make it, but IIRC it was coated in a biocompatible polymer or wax. It was a cylinder maybe 3mm tall, 5mm diameter?

kragen3 hours ago

Thanks! I didn't realize there were already biocompatible implantable magnets on the market.

Nuzzerino8 hours ago

> Tech needs to improve before it'll rise again.

No, it doesn’t, and waiting for the iteration of tech-consumerism that resembles your childhood fantasies is everything that was wrong with the transhumanist movement. It attracted too many people who sat on the sidelines and did nothing to move the needle. It was a magnet for people who couldn’t cope with reality, which occasionally helped, but usually stirred chaos.

It definitely needs a rebranding. In fact, a reasonably good attempt was made as early as the 1980s.

mlinksva7 hours ago

Just curious, what 1980s attempt are you referring to?

Nuzzerino6 hours ago

Extropianism (talked about in the post I linked)

toofy4 hours ago

We currently have a massive chunk of society who are losing their collective minds about people engaging in the very early iterations of transhumanism—transgender folks.

I still regularly encounter people who are spitting angry against transgender folks and then later in the conversation will completely unironically talk about how much they love the cyberpunk genre.

Not many of them realize they would be the weird cultists in the background of the story holding signs preaching about unnatural technology.

mise_en_place2 hours ago

That's arguing with bad faith and framing the argument incorrectly IMO. Nobody is " against trans " people, whatever that means. Many are against children joining that lifestyle, which may result in irreparable harm to the child.

As an adult, I am on androgen replacement therapy but I am also very careful with it, regularly checking my labs to make sure I don't torch my liver in the process. I can make informed decisions about it because I've read the research and understand the risks. A child or even a teenager doesn't understand the risks of taking hormones. Not fully anyway, as the brain doesn't fully develop until 25 or so.

yarg3 hours ago

I really don't feel that's a fair comparison.

The transgender community needs to stop pushing the notion that it's healthy and desirable; it's not - it's a devastating hormonal/fertility disorder.

We can't even look into the extent to which the androgenisation of humanity is the consequence of the pollutants that we've introduced into the environment.

Now, comparing this to trans-humanist body mods - how many of those result in sterility?

The changes that trans-humans want are intended to extend the capabilities of the human; but a sex change leaves an individual in a physically compromised super-position of the body that they were born with, and the body that fits the mind.

jeremysalwen3 hours ago

> trans people make body modifications that don't prioritize my values (fertility)

Doesn't seem like a very strong argument that it doesn't fit into the cyberpunk ethos. Modifying your body for reasons you care about seems very cyberpunk, and exactly the sort of thing that other people would have moral qualms over, especially if they don't share your values. Certainly the technology could be improved for people who do care about fertility, but, well, newer, improved versions of body modification technology is also very cyberpunk.

yarg3 hours ago

A disingenuously paraphrasing quote?

Sure thing.

But I'm not espousing my values, but values vital to the continuation of life.

Values that have been around for thousands of millions of years.

Perhaps there's the potential for this to change, but it'll just be fertility in another form.

LesZedCB2 hours ago

who cares though? species have come and gone, and will continue too

if you died and then a millisecond after a chicxulub scale asteroid obliterated all mammalian life (again), who would be there to care about fucking fertility or propagation of the species??

the point is we don't have to be limited to biological mandates -- that's what transhumanism is about. moralizing it is just wasted and you clearly don't understand what it's about.

instead you decide to whinge about trans people being mentally ill. please

taylorius2 hours ago

Is an amputee cyberpunk?

space_fountain2 hours ago

Yeah if your replacing it with something better for you

edflsafoiewq2 hours ago

Cyberpunk != transhumanism

Rodeoclash2 hours ago

You mention sterility. As a thought experiment, what if the science was perfected that you could change gender perfectly (ala The Culture novels). Would you still feel the same way about it?

yarg2 hours ago

Grow a hollow in a vat and insert the brain?

It'd be prohibitively expensive for most, but why not?

fallingfrog2 hours ago

Personally I think that would fantastic and fun. Who wouldn’t want to see what life is like on the other side?

causality04 hours ago

I don't think it's a one-dimensional line with pro/anti modification. For example, if you were against people integrating weapons into their bodies or upward-facing eyes into their feet for looking up skirts, that wouldn't make you anti-transhuman.

axblount3 hours ago

Right. But being able to live as your authentic self is a good thing, unlike your examples. Opposing good modifications is anti-transhumanist.

adrianN2 hours ago

I think a big fraction of the anti-transgender movement is not against adults modifying their bodies, but against a) children modifying their bodies, b) persons with modified bodies claiming to be the opposite gender thanks to their modifications (or indeed, before any modification). They probably would have much less of a problem with an adult replacing one of their eyes with an x-ray camera or whatever.

ianbicking2 hours ago

Putting aside the debate and controversy around transgender folks, if I just step back and think about the act itself, it is truly an incredible act of will over self... redefining yourself, redefining your relationship to society, acting so strongly against the defaults of your life... I'm not sure I could do it.

As an act of tremendous will over self I genuinely respect it.

inawarminister2 hours ago

Sounds like a religious conversion to me.

Especially those that require body modification, such as Jewish and Islam's adult circumcision.

agileAlligator3 hours ago

>I still regularly encounter people who are spitting angry against transgender folks and then later in the conversation will completely unironically talk about how much they love the cyberpunk genre.

There is a difference between messing with your body and augmenting it. Transhumanists generally believe in augmenting the human body with cybernetic parts, not changing the body's internal chemistry.

axblount3 hours ago

Then how do you explain common transhumanist ideas like nootropics and biohacking? I think the line you've drawn is a bit arbitrary.

monstertank3 hours ago

The problem is that the venom spitting transgender ultra-progressives insist that it IS NOT a choice. Transhumanism, however, is the epitome of a choice based lifestyle.

I would assume that many non-transgender transhumanists would still couple their sexual identity to their gender identity...even if a complete transhuman experience allowed total physical body swapping.

The majority of people have no problems with their sexual/birth/gender identity and do not wish to detach from it. In fact, after a transhumanist era, it could be that this issue becomes the one remaining tether of real pre-transhumanist life.

I always wondered how the LGBTQI++ community will react when transhumanism allows all their sexual identities to become a choice. Will they still insist that they have no control over it? Will it morph into some kind of socio-economic lack of choice that defines the ability to choose transhumanity? I hope I get to witness it, as it will be very interesting.

Unfortunately, I feel like transhumanists have had to take a back seat to the wild west of trans-sexuality politics...that is what happened. The word trans became inflamed to the point people actively try and avoid it. The LGBTQI community ran with transhumanity as a way to subvert technological politics...(I mean, think of any transhumanist movie WITHOUT a strong LGBTQI presence)

To me, transhumanity should be more like Ghost in the Shell "What is it to be human" style philosophy, and the gender/sexuality discussion just overwhelms it to the point it generally boils over into political hatreds, thus, killing off the actual original discussion or thinking.

daoist_shaman12 hours ago

I used to identify as a transhumanist and believed that technology could do no harm. I was an adolescent donning rose-colored glasses, with a burning passion for science, technology, and improvement of our species.

Only after an electrical engineering degree, 10-15 years of more wisdom, and dabbling in biohacking have I realized that we really have no clue about the massive deleterious impacts that technology has on the natural world. From mental health decay to environmental destruction, the unintended side effects of technology were completely lost on me as a child.

I believe humanity needs to pump the brakes and take a critical step back to evaluate the damage we’ve caused. I hope that it isn’t too late to try to fix what we’ve destroyed.

Edit: Brakes

FFRefresh12 hours ago

I think I agree with the thrust of what you are saying, in that we do need to think about the negative externalities of different technologies before scaling them out as a species.

I am getting a little tripped up on your usage of 'the natural world' and 'environmental destruction' though. Aren't humans 'natural'? And if we are natural, shouldn't anything that springs from us also be 'natural'? We are subject to the 'laws of nature'. Is a beaver dam a natural thing? An ant hill? A bee hive? A bird's nest?

It's obviously nitpicking semantics and word usage, but I think people often use 'natural world' to refer to their own human preferences for how the world should look (often just as it looked as they were growing up), and by using the term 'nature', it carries a sense of absolute purity, and anything that goes against it must be wrong.

'Natural' arguments have been used throughout history, and still get frequently used today as a cudgel to dismiss any sort of social/technological change happening.

Now this is not to say that there can't be arguments against certain changes or that all change is the same, but the invocation of what's 'natural' always feels like a cheap rhetorical tactic in place of a stronger argument about why one state of the world is inferior to another state of the world.

revolvingocelot11 hours ago

Are you serious?

An ant hill or a beaver dam are mere reorganizations of known matter types, and could be analogized to humans building things like walls. Stone, and even some types of mortar, participate in the great cosmic dance of Gaia [0], just like the works of the animals cited above. They decay, they are broken down by various processes over time, they are fashioned of things found in the environment.

PFAS, by comparison, does not, cannot, and is not, respectively. It doesn't break down, and was never present in any ecosystem nor any part of the water cycle until a few decades ago -- an fraction of an eyeblink in the sort of evolutionary time it'll take for PFAS' presence to be integrated into the cosmic dance of Gaia, and until then it's just gonna cause cancer.

I can agree that invoking the naturalistic fallacy isn't good argumentative practice, but some things are decidedly unnatural. Creating novel waterproofing chemicals that don't have naturally-occurring ways to break down and then dumping them into the water supply isn't something beavers, or ants, or birds, can do. Humans have transcended the natural world. I can tell because of all the new types of things we're adding to it.

[0] should be read less as some pseudoreligious thing and more a handwave about the ancient, stable systems that repurpose atoms from moribund things into newer, more vital things: microbes, fungus, rot, uptake of substances by plants, etc

JoeAltmaier11 hours ago

Not sure that's accurate. Animals aren't trying to create things that break down easily; they're not trying to do anything but survive. The argument is circular: if animals make it, it's part of Gaia else it's 'unnatural'. Animals didn't make plastics, so they're 'unnatural'. By definition I guess, not by any real difference between them and bone or termite mounds or dinosaur bones or know, things that can last for millennia.

Hell, even the Earth itself is made of crystals and granite and lead and arsenic and on and on. What's more natural than mother earth?

I don't applaud plastics entering the environment carelessly. But not sure we have a handle on why it's bad, when we say its not natural.

revolvingocelot11 hours ago
zajio1am9 hours ago

> Creating novel waterproofing chemicals that don't have naturally-occurring ways to break down and then dumping them into the water supply isn't something beavers, or ants, or birds, can do.

Genes encode proteins, proteins are chemicals, so evolution creates new proteins, and organisms often dump them to environment. The difference is that other organisms produce new chemicals through genetic evolution and not memetic evolution, like humans. Some of these chemicals are initially non-breakable, for example after lignin was introduced, it took millions of years to evolve organisms able to break it.

taylorius2 hours ago

I would define "natural" as meaning something that has evolved on this planet, and through that process has reached a sustainable, though arbitrarily complex balance in the ecosystem.

magpi38 hours ago

You're just playing with semantics. If everything humans do is natural than everything is natural: computers, plastics, concrete, etc. The purpose of using the word natural is to distinguish from what is unnatural, and without grabbing a dictionary, for me that generally means something that does not "naturally" occur (i.e. without human intervention specifically) in the natural world.

Chemical engineers create unnatural things, things that don't exist in the natural world.

drdaeman6 hours ago

That's the whole point. Word "natural" is not good in any serious argument because it simply doesn't have well-recognized unambiguous semantics most people can agree on. Ask a bunch of folks if some things are natural and while they'll most likely agree on the basics (wild forest flower is most likely would be called "natural", while a mobile phone is most likely not) the opinions will start to diverge on less obvious stuff (e.g. penicillin).

It's like a concept of "god" - everyone has their own idea what it might mean. (full disclosure: I'm ignostic).

With such words it's best to either start with a definition, or pick some different, less ambiguous term.

daoist_shaman9 hours ago

I guess when I say “natural,” what I truly mean is “that which is not made by man.” Any substance which is found in the natural environment and mechanically altered does not count in my definition of man-made; this is essentially the same notion of natural that revolvingocelot points out.

I think the crusade against “natural bias” is unfounded. Of course there are plenty of natural things that are not good for us—such as viruses— but the painful and uncomfortable truth about natural maladies like viruses is that they represent nature working as intended (protecting us from the ills of overpopulation, for example).

The bottom line is that changing everything we dislike about nature can lead to our demise. She’s already thought a million steps ahead of whatever we hope to accomplish.

xvilka5 hours ago

A lot of, probably even majority of viruses are a good thing - they add horizontal gene transfer to improve the evolution[1] and survival chances of species, sometimes even multiple ones at once, also making our own human virome[2].



austinl12 hours ago

Speaking of pumping the breaks, I really enjoyed the recent documentary, The Year Earth Changed, which explores how the lockdowns from COVID had a significant positive impact on the natural world. The message is optimistic—essentially, it is still possible to make an impact if we're able to change our behavior.

One of the more moving stories is the that Himalayas were visible for the first time 30 years in Jalandhar, which were previously hidden due to air pollution. Infant mortality rates amongst a number of species improved substantially as well (whales, penguins, dolphins, and cheetahs are among a few the documentary covered).

mysterydip12 hours ago

> I believe humanity needs to pump the breaks and take a critical step back to evaluate the damage we’ve caused.

I agree, but I don't think this will happen as long as the money continues to be made. And as long as those with the money keep employing psychologists to essentially hack their customers into compliance, there won't be any resistance from that side, either.

hinkley12 hours ago

After 3 years of tai chi I learned that most of us are pretty oblivious to the limits of the human body. And that as someone who was previously an endurance athlete.

Sports medicine is optimizing the effort/return of such pursuits, but we also have islands of information that could be normalized as well, in particular looking for missed opportunities for complementary interactions. If you took Wim Hoff and made him a master of yoga and tai chi, would he be even more 'alien' to the rest of us? Maybe we need to set the minimum bar higher?

justinator11 hours ago

Now I'm curious about the lessons you learned from tai chi!

hinkley11 hours ago

Sure why not.

The biggest are that some things cannot really be explained with words. They can be highlighted, they can be pitched, but at the end of the day you need to feel someone doing it before you understand. Either yourself or a model.

Time and again I was reminded of the first line of the Tao Te Ching (many, but not all tai chi people pay lip service to Taoism):

> The Tao that can be written is not the eternal Tao.

If you pull on that thread enough you learn that intellectualizing everything doesn't work, and you start to wonder what else in your life you've been intellectualizing that maybe you shouldn't be, and what you're doing and how you're feeling about the things that don't respond well to it. We in tech are particularly bad at this. The act of participating in HN is pretty heavily tilted toward it, and in my very limited experience looking at cybernetics and transhumanism through that filter, I find a whole lot of questions I want to ask the person daydreaming about this altered state they are looking for. Are you trying to become more than human because it's awesome, or less than human because it hurts?

In a more pedestrian bent, there are a lot of positions the human body thinks it can't maintain but it actually can, and for much longer than you would have imagined (though things always look easy until you try them, which takes away some of the marvel. Big deal, I could stand like that for a minute. No, no you can't.) I have to be careful on rocky terrain or near boats to turn around and say, "Kids, don't try what I just did, you will hurt yourself. Take my hand, and I won't ask you twice." Gaps and slippery surfaces are made deceptively mundane looking by some of my betters. I know a couple of people who can do the form in socks. Including horse stance.

Edit #? I got into it for joint and back pain. I never achieved complete relief from the back pain, but I can do some things with my muscles that stretch and reset things without 'doing a stretch'. It's half parlor trick, but very useful in situations like crowds or lines, or where busting out into a stretch is a faux pas, like in the middle of someone else's argument, or story.

nemo44x12 hours ago

I wonder if Ted Kaczynski will be hailed as a great philosopher in the future and humans 100 years from now will condemn our time for our treatment of him while justifying his actions as that of a desperate man on the right side of history. It's ironic writing this on a website.

filoeleven12 hours ago

From the manifesto:

> But it is obvious that modern [REDACTED] philoso- phers are not simply cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack these concepts because of their own psycho- logical needs. For one thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satis- fies the drive for power. More importantly, the [REDACTED] hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior).

Without looking, what should [REDACTED] be replaced by?

Barrin9211 hours ago

I always find this kind of argument ironic because one, it's obviously intensely psychological itself, as are most philosophical attitudes (which does little to disqualify them) and secondly if you just were to take postmodern philosophy as a predictive science I don't think any discipline has been more prescient in describing our current condition.

nemo44x11 hours ago

Obviously “post-modern”.

revolvingocelot10 hours ago
mellosouls12 hours ago

No. He is only famous because of the callous methods he used to get his paper published.

aliqot12 hours ago

Within the confines of this thought experiment: I wonder sometimes if anybody would have read it at all had he not committed these crimes. Obviously the gravity of his crimes overshadowed any bit of sense in what he wrote, and effectively nullifies all ability in most people to even bring reason to the words as they read them.

That being said, there is undoubted truth in some of what he said regarding the perils of modern technology and the sociological effects on society. In the beginning it was great. These inventions unified everyone and made knowledge available, but then we got so far ahead of ourselves, that knowledge is now buried upon layer and layer of neon colored saccharine trash.

pixl9711 hours ago
daoist_shaman12 hours ago

Rewilding is an extreme answer, but an answer nonetheless. Could humanity ever have the discipline to only allow “some technology?” Maybe, but the extreme answer will always be there waiting for us.

That his ideas were undermined by his actions is just as sad as the actions themselves. They weren’t terrible ideas. As you’ve pointed out, we might be on the path to a dystopian future where we’ll look back and say, “Damn, Ted was right.”

pixl9711 hours ago

>Rewilding is an extreme answer, but an answer nonetheless.

Right up until the point some easily solvable by science calamity occurs and people re-invent science for that reason.

I mean at this point we're treading off into "The Foundation" and setting up techno-priests to regulate learning and technology.

Banana69912 hours ago

What do you mean the future ? I hail my Ted as a hero on the right side of history now.

AnimalMuppet10 hours ago

What's your threshold? How many innocent people does he have to kill and/or maim before you no longer are willing to consider him a hero?

And yes, they were innocent. The one I met personally was a tech at the store where I bought my first computer. (And if you consider that enough to make him "not innocent", well, you're using a computer to read and comment here, so...)

To me, he is condemned by his methods. If you're willing to deliberately, actively, persistently attempt to blow up innocent people, I can't trust your judgment on how people should interact with each other to make society better.

Banana6999 hours ago
Nuzzerino6 hours ago

You must have missed out on the 2014 Technoprogressive declaration, which was co-signed by a number of prominent transhumanists (including the author of the OP).

> Emerging technologies could make things dramatically better or worse. Unfortunately too few people yet understand the dimensions of both the threats and rewards that humanity faces. It is time for technoprogressives, transhumanists and futurists to step up our political engagement and attempt to influence the course of events.

ftio12 hours ago

There is a great book (a tiny novella) called Psalm for the Wild Built[0] that explores these ideas very beautifully. Highly recommend it.


daoist_shaman12 hours ago

This looks like my cup of tea. Thanks for the recommendation!

seydor12 hours ago

Transhumanism , like all trans- movements is not about maintaining the "natural" order of things, whatever that is. Nature is not better in absolute

red75prime7 hours ago

> I hope that it isn’t too late to try to fix what we’ve destroyed.

It will be like pumping the brakes and critically thinking, while staying in a landslide (caused by you, but blame assignment will not do much at the moment). Climate change will not wait. Extinct species will not pop up back into existence. Asteroids on impact course (if any) will not stop moving for that matter. We need to run faster than ever to have a chance to fix at least some things.

upupandup12 hours ago

what i found peculiar of all these identity movements is how much corporate fingerprints is behind them.

a holistic, humane, and spiritual approach to elevating our collective awareness is written off as voodoo from "others" yet the rich, affluent in the West are increasingly gravitating towards it while the rest attack each other.

human advancement need not be digitally/pharmaceutically driven but good luck telling this to giants.

vorpalhex3 hours ago

Corporatism is taking what people want (whether it's a shiny phone, or oneness, or meditative creds) and then selling that.

Optimistically you would say they are selling expertise. You can try to figure out meditation on your own - but there's a lot of cranks and nonsense and some stuff that works. Or you can give headspace $20/mo and they will give you a good experience.

Of course no mass produced experience can ever meet the true need. You can't mass market meditation - and we know this! Ask the Buddhists!

yuuu12 hours ago


daoist_shaman12 hours ago


formerly_proven12 hours ago

There's a reason why literally every fiction work on transhumanism is a dystopia, even those were transhumanism is just a generic stand-in for technological advancement.

kragen6 hours ago

There's a reason why Batman is fighting costumed supervillains in literally every fiction work on him, but it isn't because costumed supervillains are a real thing, or because Batman would really be fighting them if he existed.

okasaki12 hours ago

What's the reason? I guess because it's easier to write?

falcor8412 hours ago

Is the reason fear of the unknown?

pixl9711 hours ago

I mean that is a common trope, but why not fear of the known also.

"Rich Capitalist optimizes future for themselves leaving the poor destitute and screwed"

matthewmacleod12 hours ago

That is absolutely not true – Iain M. Banks' Culture novels are probably some of the most well-known works of fiction with themes of transhumanism, and would hardly be called dystopian.

ThrowawayR24 hours ago

The existence of an average citizen of the Culture always seemed terrifyingly vacuous and stagnant. 99.999% of the trillions of individuals that exist are not talented or interesting enough to produce any artistic works or scientific research (particularly compared with the vastly superior intellects of the Minds) of value so they simply amuse themselves any way they can, under the gentle care and supervision of the Minds, until their body stops working. I am reminded in particular of the ship's crew who gave themselves colds simply because they wanted to experience being ill and the Minds' "Infinite Fun Space".

It is a very comfortable dystopia to be sure and possibly even the best outcome any sapient species could ever hope for but there is something very bleak about it.

MichaelZuo3 hours ago

In any possible future, y% of the x number of individuals that exist are not talented or interesting enough to produce any artistic works or scientific research.

giraffe_lady8 hours ago

In the books the culture is frequently called dystopian by people outside of it. Usually to some extent out of ignorance but not completely and not always.

Within the culture itself in the books, there is an awareness of the dystopian potential of the culture's powers, and tension about what applications are acceptable. The political and cultural shape of the culture itself sort of makes a silhouette around the dystopia it is trying not to be, or could become.

It's a positive transhumanist take for sure, but it directly confronts how necessarily tangled up that is with much worse worlds, and should get credit for it.

rowanG0779 hours ago

Isn't that just because it wouldn't be interesting to write about a utapian transhuman society? I really wouldn't put much stock into what a few story writers came up with.

Nuzzerino6 hours ago

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect was very interesting to read at least.

photochemsyn11 hours ago

To become transhuman or posthuman, you'd first have to understand what it is to be human, and we're not anywhere near that. Some of the enthusiasm about the hopes for such a transition were raised by this:

> "The Human Genome Project finally released a complete human genome sequence in 2003, in a project that took 13 years to complete."

The most remarkable thing about that accomplishment was how little it resulted in. Almost all of the hopes about medical breakthroughs and finally gaining a complete understanding of human biology have not been realized. There are many reasons for this - for example, the genome edits itself as it develops in different cell types, so the genome of your nerve cells is not the genome of your immune cells, heart cells, liver cells etc. Communication between all these cell types is incredibly important and that's hard to get from the genomic sequence. It turns out the 3D structure of the genome is as important as the 3D structure of proteins is, as it is an active dynamic entity in all cell types. There are probably dozens of other reasons on top of those.

As far as the notion of uploading one's consciousness into an artificial substrate while retaining one's sense of self, that seems highly implausible when we don't really understand the basic physical mechanism of consciousness, other than a vague idea that the brain is the most important component (even though nerves saturate the entire body).

Hence the whole subject remains in the science fiction arena and will stay there for a good long while, perhaps a century or more.

jholman10 hours ago

> To become transhuman or posthuman, you'd first have to understand what it is to be human

What? Why?

I'm post-adolescent (at least biologically, please don't bring up all of my emotional immaturity), and I still don't (and definitely didn't then) understand what it is to be adolescent.

I live in a post-feudal society, and while I think we understand a few things about what it means to be feudal, I wouldn't bet on us having a full and complete understanding.

There's a plant on my balcony that's post-living, and as far as I know it never understood anything at all, much less understood what it was to be living.

Why is transhuman-ness or posthuman-ness a special exception to the general rule that surpassing (or at least passing) something does not in fact require understanding it?

zizee5 hours ago

I am interpreting the parent as saying before we can say something is post-human, we have to define (understand) what "human" is. If we cannot agree on what it is to be human, how can anyone be post-human? I.e. you can't define a "noun with modifier" until you define the noun.

tomhoward9 hours ago

You didn’t have to create a new technology that enabled you to transition to post-adolescent.

I think your parent commenter meant “_we_ would have to understand”, as a species, rather than all or any of us individually.

In practice just the people creating the technology. But it’s a big leap.

jholman8 hours ago

But we did have to invent the (social) technology that enabled us to transition to a post-feudal society. And we did so without fully understanding feudal society.

For another technological example, we didn't fully understand bronze when we transitioned to the iron age (in fact, at least in the west, the transition to the iron age happened in large part due to our understanding of bronze getting substantially worse).

tomhoward4 hours ago

No one person had to understand everything about feudal society for the next stage to emerge. It just emerged, as always happens in an evolutionary process.

To try again with a more complete answer to your initial question:

Why is transhuman-ness or posthuman-ness a special exception for the to the general rule that surpassing (or at least passing) something does not in fact require understanding it?

In all the examples you’ve given, organic life is the common denominator. Each is a case of the natural progression of life, either the natural life cycles that have existed for billions of years, or of the culture that has emerged out of that.

If by “transhumanism” we mean a transition of human “life” (i.e, consciousness and culture) off our evolved biological platform onto some other recently or newly-created technology platform, someone would have to understand what human life actually is in order to make it happen or recognize that it has happened.

If we mean something else then people need to explain what they mean, but that’s really why we get stuck in the weeds on this topic; we don’t have a simple, agreed understanding of what it is we’re transitioning from/to and what is doing the transitioning.

But the simple answer to your central question is that the key difference here from the rule you’re positing is that we’re talking about a departure from the natural biological and cultural evolution that has brought us to this point.

walterbell8 hours ago
koheripbal8 hours ago

That seems like an artificial barrier.

We can improve certain aspects of ourselves without deeply understanding the entirety of what it is to be human.

peteradio11 hours ago

You could potentially make a thing that acts like you, that's it. The only reason our existence is tolerable is that we agree with the guy that when he goes to bed he is dead and I take over in the morning and I make the same deal tomorrow.

stubish6 hours ago

Salami tactics (Yes Minister) would work around this. Replace and extend your brain and nervous system small parts at a time. Until one day you are entirely hardware, and thus your consciousness entirely software. Continuity of consciousness remains uninterrupted.

peteradio5 hours ago

Sure, as soon as you offload your conscience though I think you are dead.

nickff11 hours ago

I quite like that phrasing (in your second sentence); did you come up with it yourself, or did you catch it somewhere?

peteradio10 hours ago

I think I've read it somewhere but I never keep track of citations. Might have been Michael Keaton in that movie, moral of the story, if you copy yourself then your copy is gonna bang your wife.

awayto6 hours ago

I enjoyed this article posted here recently about the topic. Author goes into some interesting thought experiments on the topic of always waking as a brand new person.

Previous thread

walterbell8 hours ago

A sub-plot of Travelers on Netflix, created by Brad Wright, creator of Stargate SG-1.

maroonblazer7 hours ago

What, or where, is the "I" in this deal?

armchairhacker12 hours ago

"Transhumanism" is already here, in a way. We have medications including some complex drugs, most people at least take multi-vitamins, we have surgeries and sometimes do weird stuff like transplant limbs or faces. Even simpler, we have knowledge of diet and health which lets us stay in better shape than before (though a lot of people are in worse shape due to junk food...we have access to high-protein diets and effective exercises though).

On the other hand, "transhumanism" where we upload our consciousness or modify ourselves to the point where we don't resemble humans anymore, probably won't come for a long time. Even problems like aging and disease and significantly hard to solve. Most of what we know about the human brain is psychology and large-scale things like hormones. Because evolution is a process which doesn't favor simplicity or straightforwardness, and the brain and body have trillions of microscopic cells all working more or less simultaneously - we don't have nearly enough computational power or resources or technology to even remotely "thoroughly" understand this.

I think in the near future we will gradually develop more bionic and cybernetic augmentations, like improving on those bionic arms and legs I heard about a few years ago, and implanted chips and medications. But it's going to be gradual and take a long time, and some things are just nearly impossible.

pixl9712 hours ago

I have small portable machines stuck to my body that monitor my blood sugar and inject insulin as needed. In this sense for me transhumanism is here. This stuff keeps me alive and keeps me healthy.

I think we'll start seeing a lot more genetic modification that will go hand in hand with biological/machine modification. Just sticking technology in us quite often triggers immune responses that our body fights, these things will have to grow hand in hand.

pizzathyme12 hours ago

Agree. It seems like this article is just talking about trans humanism as a cultural topic that goes in and out of popularity. But real transhumanism occurring seems inevitable if technology continues to march forward.

Is anyone in the year 2100 really going to be talking about genetic modification or wearables? No, they will be everywhere

koheripbal8 hours ago

The biggest example is our cell phones. They may not be implanted (yet), but we keep them physically with us 24x7 and they have significantly altered our behavior.

pessimizer11 hours ago

> "Transhumanism" is already here, in a way. We have medications including some complex drugs, most people at least take multi-vitamins, we have surgeries and sometimes do weird stuff like transplant limbs or faces. Even simpler, we have knowledge of diet and health which lets us stay in better shape than before

This reminds me of the religious claim that the the second coming of Christ and the judgement isn't an upcoming event, but actually already happened in 70 A.D.. It's entirely a rationalization around the fact that Jesus predicted (written in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that the apocalypse would happen during the lifetime of the audience he was talking to.

mensetmanusman8 hours ago

I never knew the bar was so low as to include taking vitamins. Once we are all transhumanist no one is a transhumanist.

jandrewrogers10 hours ago

As someone who was quite plugged into the transhumanist scene in the 1990s and well-acquainted with several of the people referenced, I have a perspective that I think explains it more succinctly.

When I was introduced to it in the early 1990s, the movement was dominated by extremely technical doers and thinkers, with a culture that encouraged rigor. It was philosophical rather than political. In the late 1990s, transhumanism had its Eternal September moment, when it became fashionable and trendy to be "transhumanist". The discourse became dominated by people hijacking the transhumanist movement in service of their political and social agendas, with nary a nod toward rigor. The doers and serious people originally associated with the movement and which gave it its intellectual gravitas became greatly outnumbered and mostly moved on.

Many of the early transhumanists stopped labeling themselves as such because they did not want to be associated with the kind of people that came to define it.

MichaelZuo3 hours ago

This seems to be the progression with everything.

neilv12 hours ago

The article mentions Steve Mann. At the same time Mann was at the MIT Media Lab (as one of the first "Wearables" computing people, along with Thad Starner, Bradley Rhodes, and others), more conspicuously involved specifically in Transhumanism thought and discussion at MIT was Sascha Chislenko.

Sascha was associated with Marvin Minsky and Pattie Maes, and (like Minsky's protege, Pushpinder "Push" Singh), was one of the few people who'd wander the halls of the Lab, at all hours, striking up impromptu intellectual conversations (new AI methods, transhumanism, philosophy, economics, etc.) with random students. (Basically, much of what I imagined MIT would be like, they were it.)

Tragically, Sascha died way too soon. I don't know how much this impacted the future of Transhumanist thought, but I'm sure he'd have done more to advancing that and whatever he saw that thinking should be evolving into.

neilv12 hours ago

I should add that Sasha seemed not just a talker, but a doer. He'd worked at Maes's startup, and, shortly before his untimely death, had joined a investment firm, to advise on tech directions, and vet companies.

kragen5 hours ago

Like Push, and like my friend Aaron, Sasha killed himself:

We need to figure out how we can have what you imagined MIT would be like without driving our best thinkers to suicide.

gcr5 hours ago

oh believe me we're still around! you're just not gonna find a lot of that "above ground" so to speak. the good stuff happens in hushed tones or among small social circles.

And in places you wouldn't otherwise think to look, like transgender people. 'Cause when you think about it, taking synthetic experimental hormones to give our bodies new capabilities and reconnect ourselves to our minds more deeply reflects the essence of "trans humanism," no?

The overlap between the queer/furry community and the transhumanist/cyberpunk community is very strong and has always been. If you're looking for keywords to google for, check out the "Freedom of Form Foundation" and its research (this is both explicitly furry and explicitly transhumanist), some of the Korps RCG propaganda stories, the postfurry embassy, any of the plurality/tulpa/multiplicity/DiD recovery communities (a rare example of putting mind tech into practice today rather than fantasizing about it in the future), the people who make those full-body drone suits at hypnokink events, anything Naomi Wu touches, etc etc etc ...

Waterluvian4 hours ago

I’m rather convinced, with really no evidence, mind you, that all the best future cyborg implants will be surficial and removable. Glasses. Skin patch. Etc.

I’ve seen how good we are with tech. I don’t see why we’ll need to cut people open to apply it.

concinds12 hours ago

It was replaced by Virtual Reality.

The transhumanist philosophy was transcendental. Man, armed with innovative genius and deep technological knowledge, could one day remake himself and transcend his limitations. It wasn't so much a "philosophy" as a prediction of an inevitable and obvious future, which they were simply impatient to reach. Freedom from all biological, physical, intellectual constraints!

Today, people understand that technology isn't just a tool, it's a weapon. Corporations want to corral people into virtual worlds they control, and governments want perfect surveillance and infallible enforcement of all laws, and soon social rules. Your brain implant will have NSA/China backdoors, regular 0-days "observed in the wild" (sorry, no refunds), or will crash occasionally because the QA team got laid off.

Smart technologists today can see that virtual reality (which is indissociable with brain implants and most other transhumanist tech except perhaps nanobots) just means far deeper corporate/elite control over people's psyches. Read "The Rise of Virtual Reality" by Anthony Napoleon. The replacement of "real reality" (governed by the laws of nature) with a reality fully governed by other humans (and their flaws). It's very hard to get giddy and impatient about that future.

bufferoverflow11 hours ago

No, it was not replaced by VR. I am a trans humanist. As soon as there's a better than natural artificial heart proven to work for decades and with low risks, I will happily undergo surgery. Major cause of death avoided.

My eyes are good for now, but I imagine in 20 years they will start really going downhill. If there's an artificial option, I will switch.

Same goes for most organs.

Unfortunately all these advances are decades away. Connecting to the nervous system isn't a solved problem, so no comparable arms or hands any time soon, even though they may be much more durable, strong, fast very soon. You still need the skin to feel. OK, maybe not "need", but really want.

concinds11 hours ago

Transhumanism isn't just advanced medicine. The idea isn't to replace a human heart with an artificial heart that's mostly functionally identical (current-day technology). The whole idea is to transcend biological limits using technology, i.e. develop eyes, ears, and brains that are functionally different and superior.

Prolonging human longevity is just one of the (many) goals of the transhumanist movement). Its core definition (according to Oxford dictionary) is: "the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology."

The original transhumanist dream was that we would each gain more control over our biology (that sounds like freedom to me); the realities of today's world mean that we would instead gain marginally more control, while corporations and governments gain exponentially more control (that sounds like tyranny to me).

bufferoverflow11 hours ago

It's inevitable that artificial organs will be better than the natural ones. But you first have to reach parity.

trhway11 hours ago

> while corporations and governments gain exponentially more control

that is unavoidable. Transhumanism doesn't guarantee preserving full individuality. Achieving transhumanism most probably would require giving up significant degree of individuality as the tightly connected "collectives/hives" - once such possibility become practical - would outcompete individuals. I.e. Borg is one of the most probable and close description of the future transhuman society.

adastra2211 hours ago

Am I being dense? What does VR have to do with transhumanism? Seems like a total non-sequitur.

concinds11 hours ago

See my answer to bufferoverflow.

Also: virtual reality isn't just a heads-up display or an iPhone camera feature. Augmented ears that can hear things normal humans can't hear, augmented eyes, or an augmented brain inherently means you lose sovereignty over your own mind since there is a necessary and irreducible degree of trust you need to have in your government and in corporations: trust that they are not interfering with what you hear, see, or think.

I count that as virtual reality, just as movie theaters (where, early on, people screamed when they saw a train driving towards the camera, i.e. towards them, though that may be apocryphal) were a very primitive and early form of virtual reality. Ok, duh, movie theaters aren't dystopian. But the frontier is soon going to breach the boundaries of our bodies and skulls. There are clear dangers involved.

Neither the Free Software movement, nor any "cognitive sovereignty" legislation as proposed by some transhumanists, would solve this. There's a fundamental trust issue that seems unsolvable.

I am trying to provoke thought; to me, the core issue with transhumanism is that other humans will be capable of subtly, undetectably and plausibly-deniably change your perception of reality and of yourself. Even people who focus on the "politically dystopian" aspects of transhumanism tend to ignore this; and instead focus on inequality, discrimination, and so on, which in my view are secondary.

Vecr2 hours ago

You can augment your ears and eyes by purchasing night vision tubes (more tubes are better, better light input area and field of view, but they ultimately need to combine into two phosphor screens projecting into your eyes), a active hearing protection headset, and possibly a HUD projector to attach to the front of one of the night vision tubes. Attach all that to a high-cut helmet, and possibly a battery/compute/etc unit under your rear plate. More modern active hearing systems (3M Comtac V/Ops Core AMP/possibly others) let you set how much you want outside sounds to be amplified, and do advanced signal processing to prevent passthrough of not just loud explosive noises, but other noises that would normally prevent you from comfortably turning up the amplification as high as you might want to hear potentially relevant sounds. I guess strapping 50,000 USD worth of stuff to your body just to look like a mix between a 1990s MIT Mixed Reality Lab reject and mass shooter might be a deterrent to people actually doing this though.

kragen5 hours ago

Why wouldn't free software solve this? Where it is successful, it keeps your government and corporations from making you run software you don't want or keeping undesirable features (like interfering with what you hear or see) secret from you.

It's true that some backdoors or vulnerabilities might go unnoticed, but you can choose firmware with an extremely low chance of those. If your enhancement needs are modest, you might even be able to write your own firmware from scratch.

It might be convenient for you to choose to trust some little-known firmware that hardly anybody has vetted, in order to get extra functionality. And there's always the possibility that all the supposedly independent people who have vetted some firmware are part of a conspiracy to hide its antifeatures. But that's very different from it being necessary to trust governments and corporations.

adastra2211 hours ago

Most transhumanists I know are interested in biological immortality, mind uploading, hive minds, etc. VR does nothing for that.

concinds11 hours ago

Mind uploading and hive minds are perfect examples of what I mention in my last paragraph (which I edited after posting, and you may not have seen before replying); my concerns are more than relevant there.

camdenlock12 hours ago
trebbble11 hours ago

Zero progressives I know want that. Most distrust technology generally, and hate surveillance especially, government or otherwise. You've created a straw-man.

pessimizer11 hours ago

Tbf, it depends a lot on who you're labeling "progressive." If you go by people who label themselves progressive, you have to count the entire Democratic party, who generally love (and often operate) surveillance.

Of course, Republicans love it too, but that's irrelevant to the question of whether a love of surveillance is widespread among progressives.

trebbble11 hours ago

> you have to count the entire Democratic party

Progressives wish the Democrats were progressive. There's a progressive caucus, and it's stronger than it used to be, but is still far from steering the party.

seydor12 hours ago

I didn't know it was a "movement", i thought it was the logical conclusion of our current technological trajectory. I didn't even know they went in hiding, we are closer to transhumanism today than ever. Some of the technologies are within the visible horizon now, for real, like neurotechnology and artificial wombs. We just injected half the population with an mRNA protein template, repeatedly. I don't expect to reach the end my life while still a human, hopefully.

xvilka6 hours ago

It's dangerous to modify something we don't know in details - risk breaking it is too high. The only sane action transhumanism could do is to throw money and working hands on the biomedical research, also biomedical engineering. Even nanotechnology is less relevant since those nanobots would need to know exactly what to modify. At the end, likely we will just design new proteins which are true nanobots already existing in our bodies.

jccalhoun5 hours ago

I was hoping this would be more specific and do followups on people who were featured in places like Wired. For example they have a picture of Anders Sandberg wearing an eyepiece and carying around a computer. Does he still do that? I've heard about people implanting rfid chips in their hand. Do they still use them a few years later?

0xbadcafebee12 hours ago

Is there a pre-agricultural movement I could sign on to? It seems like every development post-hunter-gatherer has been in service of extending our lives while simultaneously making them (and the environment) worse. We talk about quality of life, but what kind of life is it to sit inside a box 2/3 of your life, or breaking your back in a factory, or on a farm? Most hunter-gatherers actually have more leisure time and work less, are healthy, don't pollute.

solveit11 hours ago

For the same reason that I think it's good for people to live in a different culture for a while, I wish it were possible for people to live in a different era for a while.

There was a time when it wasn't smoking and obesity that killed people, but smallpox, plague, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases. When a single epidemic could kill a double-digit percentage of the entire population of whatever unlucky region got it. For reference, COVID killed maybe 0.2% and HIV killed 0.4% over forty years.

To quote Munroe, our heroes have slain one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and here you are complaining about sitting in a cubicle.

Forty percent of the people in your office would have died before the age of five. Many of the rest would have died young of now completely avertable causes. Perhaps something as small as a cut that got infected, or fucking diarrhoea.

The natural maternal mortality rate is something like 1.5%. That's per birth. Because half your children will die, most women will have half a dozen children (modern estimates for hunter gatherer fertility rates). Do you feel lucky? Another reason women had half a dozen children because reliable birth control wasn't a thing.

You know what else wasn't a thing? A working justice system. You may fantasize about a just and noble justice system that runs on tight-knit personal connections in a small village where everyone knows each other, but everything we know about criminal justice tells us that small insular groups of people are actually terrible at justice. My people mete out justice, your people punish on whims and gut feelings, they are extrajudicial lynchers. Actually we're all extrajudicial lynchers, because no judicial system, remember?

I could go on, but I have to finish reading my printed book teaching me the fruit of thousands of years of accumulated wisdom. (I'm a grad student and I'm trying to learn quantum field theory). It took me two hours of my underpaid grad student labour to make enough money to buy the book. I bought it because I like reading paper books. I could actually just download it and read it on my LCD display connected to the entire world's knowledge. That laptop was a bit more expensive. Maybe two weeks wages. For reference, it took maybe ~500 hours labour to make a shirt in medieval times. When they had division of labour and looms. Hope you don't mind wearing the same animal hide for years on end.

jholman11 hours ago

You think that smallpox, plague, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases were major killers of pre-technological hunter-gatherers? I don't think that's correct.

But you're certainly right about the problems with child mortality, maternal mortality, birth control, and infected cuts. I think it's not a given whether or not these are necessarily deal-breakers (personally I think the maternal-mortality-plus-birth-control combo is the most horrifying, but YMMV), but they're certainly very huge problems. Very huge problems.

But I am not so sure you're right about problems with the justice. Again, GP didn't talk about the wonders of 15th-C England or 3rd-C Rome (never mind the really bad eras), they talked about pre-technological hunter-gatherer societies. Since "justice" is just a fiction we've come up with to try to match our evolved intuitions, my guess is that we'd be happier with the justice of that era than we are with the justice of the present era (and I agree that the present-day first-world situation is much better than pretty much all of the alternatives in the last 10,000 years). But you made a particular claim here, that "everything we know about criminal justice tells us that small insular groups of people are actually terrible at justice", and so maybe you have some references you'd care to share that could help me understand how right you are. I'd appreciate that.

Personally, I, too, am a pretty big fan of printed books and (the output of) looms. (I mean, I'm actually a big fan of LCDs, too, but I think that's a less obvious win.) But I think that your final paragraph is basically begging the question. My understanding is that existing hunter-gatherers (the very very few of them that there are) are actually happier.

Tenoke12 hours ago

I don't know how to break it to you but many if not most pre-technology hunter-gatherers lived horrible lives, full of pain and misery and died much younger, usually as babies.

jholman11 hours ago

My understanding of the research is that the "horrible, pain and misery" is mostly wrong. My understanding is that pre-tech hunter-gatherers lived fairly pleasant lives, without a lot of pain and misery, with less work, less stress, more leisure, more play. However, it was much more possible to have an accident that leads to immediate or near-term death. And yes, the infant mortality rate was much, much higher. Higher quality of life while you're alive, but lower security (although higher individual security than pre-modern agriculture societies).

The real problem with wanting that lifestyle is that it has a huge footprint in terms of relatively-good land required to support a small group. That's even true for the best land (places where fish just come to you, like parts of California or British Columbia), and it's even more true other places. So agriculturists can raise 100x the population, and thus 100x the army, on the same land. And they do so, and then they take your land.

So to me, the answer to 0xbadcafebee is:

nope, not unless you have a way to buy a lot of land and keep the surrounding culture at bay

pessimizer11 hours ago

> died much younger, usually as babies

This is of course because they were pretty long-lived, but had a high infant/childhood mortality rate. It's certainly a way to look at it, but if you counted every miscarriage as a negative lifespan, you could make the average lifespan even shorter.

When hunter-gatherers lived past childhood, they lived almost as long as we live.

0xbadcafebee11 hours ago

Hunter-gatherers are still living today without technology and they don't have miserable lives. Infant mortality is probably a feature, not a bug, considering what happens when there's too many humans in a given area.

solveit11 hours ago

Actually it's good that women go through pregnancy and labour only to have the child die. Every woman should go through that once (or half a dozen times) in their lives. If they get lucky, they could die too!

pixl9712 hours ago

And were completely at the whims of nature around them. Yea, this is great when you live in a nice stable climate oasis, but most places on the planet are not like that (and that's even before we add in man made climate change).

It's all fun and games until you stub your toe and get an infection that could be treated with antibiotics, well except by choice you don't have any and you get to watch your body rot until you die.

TheOtherHobbes11 hours ago

It looks like we're going to get a pre-agricultural culture soon, whether we want one or not.

A species that spends more time living in a techno/economic LARP fantasy world than dealing with very obvious and real problems has extremely limited survival prospects.

From that POV the transhumanists already won.

Practically - here we are, self-defined as a huge success while our cities flood and/or burn.

eckmLJE12 hours ago

It would be nice to keep the technology/medicine that keeps mothers and babies alive through childbirth, though.

mindcrime11 hours ago

Maybe Anarcho-Primitivism? Not sure how many advocates / activists are out there proselytizing for this these days, but I'm sure there are at least a few.

xvilka5 hours ago

> face a new feudalism, as control of finance and the power that goes with it will be at the core of technological human enhancement, and democracy…will be dead in the water.”

While there's a significant risk of it to happen, it's not a given. Brain augmentation connecting people to each other might give a rise to the direct democracy when hundreds of the collective decisions take place every day: from desiding if your local road needs an upgrade between community members to voting for the national parliament members.

fallingfrog2 hours ago

I mean Altos labs is out there trying to cure aging, so you might say it’s gone mainstream.

psyc12 hours ago

I discovered transhumanism around the turn of the century. I thought I'd found a treasure trove of insight. I was all about it for 3 or 4 years. Told people who weren't interested all about it. It was really easy to believe in radical transformation of the status quo in those days. There was a feeling in the air that the advent of the Web would solve everybody's problems, end scarcity, make everyone rich (especially us) and propel the stock market upward from then on.

Well, that feeling was short lived. It wasn't too long before I decided futurism in general was not an analysis of where the world is heading, but what certain communities of sci-fi nerds and techies wanted to happen, and believed they themselves could or would make happen. And that's fine I guess. But I was much more skeptical that their hockey-stick takeoffs would happen, at least in my lifetime.

What's happened in my lifetime so far is you can get more stuff delivered to your door, and faster; and computers got smaller and better at the same time. Ok. Well, computers were already getting smaller when I was born. Maybe they can get smaller. I'm not sure what that looks like. The display is probably a light pair of reading glasses. Maybe the computer is a wristwatch. Or a nose ring.

And then maybe later the computer goes inside you and injects into the optic nerve. And hey look at that, there's some transhumanism, I think. But I doubt anyone living knows how to do that. I'm just rambling now...

marcosdumay11 hours ago

With our current relationship with tech, nobody on their right mind would want to anticipate transhumanism. Fix tech first, then people will start to hype it again.

foobiekr10 hours ago

This is the true and underappreciated answer.

People do not trust technology and technology companies.

And they are right in that thinking. Almost all of the big tech companies are straight up evil almost to the point of being impossible to satire and tech workers defend them due to the high compensation.

emptyparadise3 hours ago

Imagine buying a Facebook neuralink and having then datamine your thoughts.

svnt5 hours ago

Poverty auto-responder: I am aware of your message but unfortunately I can’t respond right now because I need to pay $25 through a series of corporate relationships to a small consortium of sociopaths to reactivate my retinas. If you would like to contribute to the restoration of my vision, please click the following link:

orthecreedence10 hours ago

Right, this is my sentiment exactly. Give me open-source, modular devices created by people operating outside the incentive structures of a capitalist mode of production and I'll take a look.

As far as the devices of the current order, I keep that dirty bullshit as far away from my body (and home) as I reasonably can.

danjoredd13 hours ago

Does anyone working in tech ACTUALLY thin transhumanism is a good idea? It seems like a field ripe for criminal exploitation and hacking, even in an optimistic future.

Unless I lose a limb, or an eye, keep my body offline.

wongarsu12 hours ago

In a way I already use my smartphone as an extension of my body. Compared to the pre-smartphone era I remember fewer facts, knowing that I can easily look them up. I outsource even moderate arithmetic to my smartphone instead of calculating it myself. I use pictures and notes to aid short-term memory.

Of course that's dangerous (just imagine the gaslighting potential), but also very useful. The only real drag is the awfully low bandwidth between my brain and my phone. The display-to-brain connection over the visual cortex is ok-if-wasteful, but the input with touch is a real drag. How cool would it be to just have a math-coprocessor implanted that I can communicate with at the speed of thought. Or a knowledge database that I can query with my inner voice?

Is it incredibly dangerous? Yes. But many things are, and hopefully we will learn to mitigate the dangers.

elliotec12 hours ago

That's a pessimistic and myopic view of transhumanism. Where it becomes a good idea is a context that humanity is limited in its current (biological) form.

There are lots and lots of things that could kill our species over the next several thousand years and the transhumanists simply think it is worth investing in looking into how we could potentially use technology to adapt to those threats or enhance the human experience.

ethbr012 hours ago

Working in tech + have a pathologist for a father.

Unequivocally yes, I think transhumanism is a good idea.

Arguing against transhumanism is arguing that you believe either (a) the body was created perfectly or (b) that we'll do more harm than good if we tinker with it.

The body is a machine. A bloody complicated machine, with many parts we don't understand, but a machine nonetheless.

I don't believe in a future where substantial body modification doesn't make us better, in all objective senses.

And we do it today: vaccinations, pacemakers, artificial hips and joints and valves, cochlear implants, the myriad of drugs to modify various bodily processes, limb replacements, mRNA drugs.

The body is programmable: it's just very complex. But that hasn't stopped up as a species from achieving other equally difficult things.

jakzurr12 hours ago

Thanks, and well put. It's amazing how people who think, "I don't want to mess up my body," will come to a different conclusion, once they are facing death or disability.

Perhaps experience really is the best teacher. ;)

danjoredd11 hours ago

My main area of concern is people who can exploit these augmentations for political, personal, and profit reasons. Even in the best scenario possible, these things are going to happen. All code is flawed in some fashion. Unless we plan on keeping these augmentations completely offline, they can and WILL be exploited by hackers. Imagine how giddy North Korea would be to be able to mess with the President's body, or having a competitor hack your eyes to see corporate secrets. Or a disgraced lover wanting revenge. These are already real threats with current technology to an much more deadly will these threats become when we can't just throw the tech out or modify them, because they are parts of ourselves?

Even better yet, what happens when those parts of yours no longer get support? There are already people who were able to gain sight through robotics, but lost vision again once the company that sold them the eyes went out of business. We can't just blindly think about the best case scenario and call it good. We need to think of worst case scenarios to provide a safer future.

philipkglass11 hours ago

Even in the best scenario possible, these things are going to happen. All code is flawed in some fashion. Unless we plan on keeping these augmentations completely offline, they can and WILL be exploited by hackers.

I think that companies are capable of making secure systems when they have the right incentives. The Xbox One, launched 9 years ago, has never had its security broken such that it could play copied games. That's even though customers have physical access to the hardware and ample incentives to hack it. Microsoft prioritized security because it's directly aligned with the money the ecosystem makes from game sales. Implants don't need to run all the complicated software a modern game console does (which includes a web browser and video players as well as actual games), so they could have a much smaller software attack surface in the first place.

danjoredd10 hours ago

While you are correct about the xbox, it will eventually be cracked one of these days. Its not a matter of if, but when. But would you seriously trust that when it is your own body we are talking about? What is the incentive for companies to continue supporting old parts? Good will? Maybe if there is regulation, but if it is more profitable to pay the fees than issue a recall or consider continuing support, then why bother?

Even Microsoft's security isn't perfect...a group of hackers found the full specs and software for the Xbox One months before it was released or details were announced. Look up "XBox Underground." Even if the device itself is safe, there are other alternative ways of jacking things up. Imagine if the eyes you use are safe...but the server they connect to isn't, and some creep decides to watch you and your lover having sex.

stubish6 hours ago

Your argument applies to biological machines too. Think of advertising. The only reason your mechanical augmentations seem more exploitable is because the technology involved seems better understood fnord.

pixl9711 hours ago

People are already transhuman now. I have two pieces of technology glued to the outside of my body as we speak, they are monitoring my blood glucose levels and adjusting the amount of insulin my body receives in near real time.

Could someone hack it and attempt to overdose me with insulin. Yes, it is a risk.

But it is a risk I'm a thousand percent willing to take because life before it was chore where you risk falling to sleep and never waking up again.

danjoredd11 hours ago

Yes, but would you have it if you didn't need it? That was my point. I can see using transhuman augmentations to help those in need...give the blind sight, amputees limbs, etc. But my concern is when it becomes a vanity issue over a needs-based issue. Replacing body parts should not be a light decision unless it is something needful.

pixl9711 hours ago

I mean, it's not a light issue currently because the risks are high. As high risk individuals have these parts replaced over time we'll be able to quantify these risks. The risks will reduce and eventually people in 'no risk' scenarios with their current body parts will be able accurately judge if added risks of mechanical parts are worth it. Eventually the risks will be borne by the people that do not accept augmentations. But typically these things will take very long periods of time to play out.

seanmcdirmid12 hours ago

> Does anyone working in tech ACTUALLY think transhumanism is a good idea?

No long as technology advancement proceeds at a faster pace than evolution, human obsolescence is bound to happen someday. Transhumanism was an optimistic movement that humans could somehow stay in control as cyborgs (when it is much more likely that artificial life replace humans without human components).

frostwarrior12 hours ago

IMHO Technology has the potential to be awesome.

It's just that we're focusing most of the engineering effort on selling ads and generating dark patterns in phones.

danjoredd11 hours ago

My main area of concern is hacking. Imagine how easy it would be to jack someone's life up because they bought a "smart arm" or got AR eyes. Where technology exists, bad actors will exploit it.

delecti12 hours ago

Agreed. The smartphone market ruined the idea of cybernetic augmentation for me. It made it clear that any augmentation would inevitably have to be sold and maintained by some company, and I couldn't think of any companies I'd trust to support hardware in my body.

taco_emoji12 hours ago

Does anyone working in tech actually think it's a PLAUSIBLE idea? The idea of a computer being able to work AT ALL similarly to a human brain is laughable to me. The brain is a physical organ that we barely understand. Simulating a human mind would probably require simulating interactions at a molecular level, which may not ever be possible.

spywaregorilla12 hours ago

It's also not just your brain. Like... what are you without your stomach?

coenhyde12 hours ago

I'll be keeping my body offline. But I think fusion with AGI is inevitable if we want to remain somewhat in control of our future. Otherwise we will be super ceded by super intelligent AI and become their pets.

jazzyjackson12 hours ago

where do people get this idea that a flat plane of silicon can ever out-compete the chemical interconnectivity of fractally-folded grey matter (don't get me started on performance-per-watt)

AI's greatest risk is people assuming it's superior while being little more than a charismatic magic 8-ball

coenhyde12 hours ago

Who said anything about silicon? Maybe AGI will be built on our current bread of processors or maybe the next generation. The only way i see you can be correct is if today's exponential technological advancements come to a halt or reverse. I do not foresee a future where we do not eventually create an AGI superior to us. Maybe in 5 years time, maybe in a 100. But it is coming.

pixl9711 hours ago

Because that fractally folder grey matter has only been generated via random walk and what survives to breed. It is also filled with massive stupidities that can end an individuals life in a moment.

You're also thinking quite 2 dimensionally and limiting yourself to one medium. Carbon nanotube computing, chemical computing, even computing with DNA are all platforms that we can harness and have the potential to master.

jakzurr12 hours ago

Which actually might not be all that bad.

Or we could go all conspiracy theory and suggest that we already are pets. ;)

coenhyde11 hours ago

Hah, A lot of us already are pets, but at least the masters are still human.

trasz10 hours ago

We wouldn’t even notice we’ve become pets of any kind of superintelligence; one can’t notice intelligence vastly superior to their own, same way your cat can’t even remotely grasp what the code on your screen is for.

NateEag4 hours ago

Heh - this sounds kind of like theism. :)

Animats11 hours ago

"Like so many others after 9/11, I felt spiritually and existentially lost. It’s hard to believe now, but I was a regular churchgoer at the time."

Ah, the will to believe. In something. Anything. The believer crowd is usually not the group that makes it work. Today's "metaverse" enthusiasts and actual metaverse implementers have quite limited overlap.

AndrewKemendo7 hours ago

*waves hand*

I have at certain points in life considered myself part of this movement. I think I'd still consider myself one, but with a lot more cynicism.

At this point it's unquestionable to me that people will eventually do some version of "mind uploading." However I doubt we'll ever answer the question whether you'll be uploading "yourself" or not - my guess is not.

Unless we somehow make a literal "Matrix" like the movies, it's just not going to happen and I see no reason we would or should build such a thing.

hinkley11 hours ago

> For Cameron, transhumanism looks as frightening as ever, and he honed in on a notion he refers to as the “hollowing out of the human,” the idea that “all that matters in Homo sapiens can be uploaded as a paradigm for our desiderata.”

Jonathan Coulton, The Future Soon:

    Cause it's gonna be the future soon
    And I won't always be this way
    When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away
    It's gonna be the future soon
    I've never seen it quite so clear
    And when my heart is breaking I can close my eyes and it's already here 
It's important to note, if you're not familiar with JoCo, that he is a satirist and this is a song about someone accidentally becoming a cyborg supervillain who causes a robot uprising, all because a girl dissed his secret admirer note in high school.

Do you want to be a transhumanist because you are embracing something, or because you are running away from something, like the fictional character in this song? The latter is deeply unhealthy, perhaps fatally (or in this case, genocidally) so.

pc2g4d7 hours ago

My disgust reaction is provoked by enough transhumanist ideas that it feels more dystopian than utopian to me. I guess I'm too... human... to trans-human too hard.

kerblang11 hours ago

I have no problem with enhancing our lives thru technology, but seeking eternal life in this universe is incredibly stupid because you're effectively seeking eternal damnation. Eventually someone captures you, locks you away and tortures you for thousands of years if not forever.

Creating heaven is hard, but hell is well within reach.

kanzure12 hours ago

Reposting a comment of mine from 10 months ago:

Extropians are everywhere. Many names come to mind, like Assange, Hal Finney, Jurvetson, Carl Feynman, and many others.

I hope that something like this group comes back, but with a vengeance. Call me an optimist, but if they had put their minds to it, they could have accomplished much more than a mailing list, which has unfortunately dwindled in the last 10 years.

Cypherpunks write code- but what about the extropians?

chejazi12 hours ago

> Cypherpunks write code- but what about the extropians?

As Jim McCoy said, it takes Evil Geniuses to really get the job done.

neilv12 hours ago

Circa 1999, the Zero Knowledge Systems (ZKS) startup had a group called Evil Geniuses.

schoen7 hours ago

There was also a cryptography startup later on called Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow (working on peer-to-peer stuff that I think is slightly akin to Filecoin).

pigeons12 hours ago

I was looking for the source of the quote as I had never heard it, but didn't realize my brain had assumed Leonard not Jim.

rgrieselhuber12 hours ago

Yuval Noah Harari’s speech on how control over one’s biometric data should be handed to the elites in order to hack the human animal was really inspirational.

ArtofIndirect12 hours ago
Tao33006 hours ago

They finished transitioning.

ravenstine11 hours ago

Transhumanism never left. It became mainstream.

dr_dshiv8 hours ago

I once went to an early 2000’s transhumanist party with Nick Bostrom. He had a transhumanist leadership position at that point, if I recall. (The party was rad)

The most transhumanist thing in my life currently: getting into flow states writing academic papers with GPT-3. It is genuinely mind melting.

doctorhandshake12 hours ago

Personally I think widespread use of a certain kind of mature augmented reality will make its users effectively transhuman.

f38zf5vdt12 hours ago

All humans are actively engaged in various levels of transhumanism, especially from a medical standpoint. We all hope that medicine will help us achieve what is, to us presently, superhuman lifespans. Many of us are mentally altered through psychotropic medicine and prefer living this way.

Transhumanism as a movement is just a vocal proponent of a process of technological adoption already happening on a regular basis.

zajio1am9 hours ago

I think there is clear philosophical division between 'humanist' medical position, which tries to fix what is broken, but considers healthy human body and mind as ideal, and 'transhumanist' medical position, which considers improvements important regardless whether they just fix what is broken, or improve beyond natural abilities.

gcr4 hours ago

See that's the thing! You're looking for the furry (and especially trans) / queer communities, especially the Freedom of Form Foundation or the "digital self-identity" simulacra folks. All of these communities are grounded in imagining existing the ideal versions of ourselves, and making that work actually happen

jsnk12 hours ago

This seems like the most appropriate description of transhumanism.

I think for a long time in human history, technology simply wasn't there to alter the physical nature of humanity. But in recent decades, we understand much more about human physiology enough to alter human body in a drastic and permanent way.

This is generating lots of contention between groups about what's acceptable to change and what's not acceptable to change. Also I think about how people think they are rational about their positions on these matters but they are more like strong cultural presumptions about what's right and wrong.

Let's consider situation we already have.

Consider sex change operation. There's one camp that's complete fine with people getting sex change operation, while there's another camp that condones and some, want to outlaw such operation. The liberal camp likes to say that a person should be able to do what they want to do with their body.

However, at the same time, the both of the camp tends to dislike male steroid usage to change one's physique ( For some reason, same reason to let people decide what they want to do with their body, doesn't apply when it comes to male physique.

It's interesting to see how technology is challenging our preconceived notion of right and wrong and sheds lights to inconsistency in our rationale.

pixl9711 hours ago

>However, at the same time, the both of the camp tends to dislike male steroid usage to change one's physique

I mean, yea with how often 'roid rage' happens, and some of the extreme negative side effects of steroid usage I don't want people blindingly going into modifying their bodies without understanding they massively increasing their risks of stroke and heart enlargement.

mindcrime11 hours ago
Kye12 hours ago

Eagerly awaiting the pill that turns me into my fursona.

csdvrx13 hours ago

I'd say just waiting for the possibility to be like actually possible?

I don't know if I would call myself one, but I believe I'm just a (very advanced) piece of software.

Whenever the possibility of hardware upgrade becomes available, count me in!

naillo12 hours ago

What's the story of how gizmodo is still around? I thought Peter Thiel killed them off.

RappingBoomer10 hours ago

transhumanism is a cult composed of defective biological machines, and I say that as a signed up cryonicist...

xwdv5 hours ago

I think transhumanists eventually just grew up, realized how silly the whole idea was, and then were never replaced by some younger generation that shared the same naive optimism about technology that they had in early years. We’ve learned to look at technology with a more cynical eye these days. It’s like for any technology you imagine, I can instantly see how to exploit it at the expense of the human experience.

AtlasBarfed10 hours ago

Transhumanism should be about freedom and increased ability.

But the future is about corporate authoritarian dystopia, extreme wealth inequality, and environmental armageddon.

Pessimism for the future is beginning to take over.

I mean, look at "Meta", and the fact it's tied to effing facebook and all the crappiness that entails. VR is a lot like transhumanism in many ways, and it's clear VR will be attached to megacorps and google-class lockout and non-customer service.

flancian12 hours ago

Some became Flancians, I say.

swayvil8 hours ago

Self cultivation via meditation and related methods is where it's at. Smoother and deeper than mere machines. It's the old and good "transhumanism".

It really is impressive stuff.

dekhn12 hours ago

they rebranded as effective altruism

EddySchauHai12 hours ago

I don't think so, there's overlap but the groups are separate.

(Admittedly weak) Source: I lurk on the extropian mailing list && was fairly involved in EA.

atlasunshrugged12 hours ago

As someone who is relatively active in EA and was interested but not super active in transhumanist orgs outside of a brief volunteer stint many years ago, I think this is incorrect. I'd guess there's quite a lot of overlap in people who are interested in both, but I don't think there was an active merging of communities

the847212 hours ago

or became more concerned with AI alignment than thinking about potential upsides

EddySchauHai10 hours ago

Stuff like AI alignment is why I'm less interested in the EA groups nowadays tbh. Too much preference is given to these sci-fi ideas over rational known solutions to real issues. I also find it's not CS guys talking about these issues but philosophers and I don't believe you can weigh up risk/reward of issues in the mid-far future off of peoples views who don't understand (even theoretical) implementation details. I still fully agree with many other parts of EA though, like giving what we can and focusing on effective charities.

shrimp_emoji5 hours ago
aaron6957 hours ago
formerkrogemp11 hours ago
AlgorithmicTime12 hours ago
bjt2n390412 hours ago

This guy is asking where the transhumanist movement went?

We're using plastic surgery and chemicals to change people's gender, and he's asking where it went?

knowaveragejoe12 hours ago

You sound like you're getting caught up on the prefix "trans" in conjunction with the current culture war zeitgeist. That's not what transhumanism is.

api11 hours ago

Why not? Isn't part of transhumanism the idea that a person could control their own biology? Trans people (especially those who have actually transitioned) seem like early adopters to me.

I think the histrionic overreaction to trans people shows one of the things that will hold any kind of real transhumanism back though. If you think we have a culture war now wait until we have extreme life extension, really powerful intelligence augmentation, and the ability to more deeply alter our physical form.

A certain subset of the religious and social conservative sectors are going to crusade hard core against any of this stuff. You can already hear it on the far right and most of this stuff doesn't exist yet.

bjt2n390411 hours ago

Right on point. TH encompasses TG, and is really it's spiritual essence.

Yes, there will be political and religious pushback against this. But it is certainly not histrionics, or an overreaction.

With regard to transgenderism, the brutal surgeries are a poor facsimile. Even atheists and those on the left are hesitant to pursue intimate relationships -- and the stories of physical suffering are just beginning to surface.

bluescrn7 hours ago

Yeah, if you think things are pretty grim at this point in 'late-stage capitalism', it could rapidly get a whole lot worse if anti-ageing tech comes along, and we're suddenly living under a ruling class of immortal billionaires/trillionaires.

platz8 hours ago

So, transhumanists are just techy progressives?

mensetmanusman8 hours ago

“ Transhumanism made a lot of sense to me, as it seemed to represent the logical next step in our evolution, albeit an evolution guided by humans and not Darwinian selection.”

Cringe-worthy misunderstanding of Darwinism…