Categories of Transhumanism

Transhumanism: there are [at least] seven different philosophical categories; which one(s) are you?

There seems to be another category (which includes at least me, and I suspect a growing number of others 😉 ) which has aspects of all of the categories you cite above, and more.

I consider myself something of an eclectic humanist realist intuitive systems thinker. I have been confident beyond any reasonable doubt that indefinite life extension was possible since October 1974.

It seems clear to me that the concept of evolution is one of the most powerful around, and it is far more than Darwin initially postulated when one views it from a strategic systems perspective.

It seems that evolution starts from very simple strategies, simple replicators, and uses differential survival in different environments to develop populations of variations.

That much of evolution most people seem to get.

What far fewer people seem to get is that it is possible to view successive levels of complexity as resulting from the emergence of new levels of cooperation within the systems. As Axelrod demonstrated, all cooperation requires attendant strategies to prevent cheats from taking over. It seems that there are an infinite set of classes of such stabilising strategies, and the simplest of these are in the retaliator class.

So one can see a trend in evolution where cooperation gains an ever more dominant role in the process (in terms of the emergence of complexity in a systems perspective).

Thus one can see that we as a species are on the verge of a breakthrough, where cooperation completely takes over from competition, as the dominant factor.

This systems level emergence seems likely to express in many different areas:
It seems likely to result in abundance based technology taking over from scarcity based market capitalism.
It seems likely to result in indefinite life extension, and a continuing exponential growth in tools and models.

It seems that once one enters such a realm there will likely be an explosion of diversity of phenotypes that must logically result from individuals taking personal paths of discovery through the infinite set of infinities that seem to be possible in this universe.

All existing cultural constructs fail at this point.
Market capitalism most particularly doesn’t simply fail, but actually becomes a major source of existential risk (perhaps the dominant source over the next few decades).

It seems that the sort of stability required to actually allow individuals a significant chance of living a very long time (thousands of years and beyond) requires that we have individual life and individual liberty as our major systemic values.

Our systems need to deliver the essentials of life and liberty to everyone.

Clearly, when one examines any market based system, the values are based in scarcity, not abundance. The more there is of something in a market, the less it is worth, the less there is, the more it is worth. This made sense when things were genuinely scarce, but makes no sense when we have technology that allows us to deliver genuine abundance through automation.
It seems clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that market based capitalism has “passed its use by date”.

So I am a transhumanist, in the sense of evolving beyond our biological and cultural past, and a realist in the deep systems that actually underlie our current social systems, and what is actually necessary if we are to live a very long time.

In this sense, I don’t see any of the “thought leaders” as you call them accurately representing my view, and each of them has some aspects of it.

[followed by]

Hi Nicole

It seems to me that there are two major strategies that appear to be the simplest (in the systems space sense), that are likely to emerge to get us over the “activation energy” hump from market based to abundance based thinking.

One is simply the idea of abundance itself.
One method of preventing cheating is to remove any value from the goods and services. So one way of stopping people stealing from you is to ensure that there is no trade value from those goods, everyone else already has all they need, so there is no point in taking yours.
At a more abstract level, it seems that the price of freedom always will be eternal vigilance. At more abstract levels, there is always the possibility of cheating at a level that has nothing to do with physical goods and services. At this level, the presence of broad decentralised trust networks seems to be the most powerful stabilising tool.
We are a social species, and require social networks. Some of us intersect through many different networks (I have about 50,000 people who know me on a first name basis – from homeless people to street cleaners to prime ministers and millionaires). I have trust relationships with people who are highly unlikely to form trust relationships except through some intermediary like myself.
Developing tools that allow us to share that domain specific trust data automatically with people within our trust networks seems to be a stabilising solution to the problem.

The problem I haven’t yet solved to a probability I would like, is how to create the first fully automated set of machines that can make and maintain themselves and deliver a limited range of goods and services.
My educated guess is that about $30B in today’s reality would produce such a thing (a set of groups of total about 5,000 competent individuals in engineering, robotics and mostly programmers, working for about 6 to 8 years). I’ve had http://www.solnx.org out there for over 30 years. Robert Freitas beat me to publication of a similar idea (in a NASA publication) by a couple of years, but it took a decade for us to find out about each other – the developments were quite independent. I first published a precursor concept about 30 years ago, but that is irrelevant. All Ideas build on those who have come before. I owe huge debt to the thousands whom I have read, philosophers, engineers, biochemists, observers of nature and science fiction writers (particularly Asimov and Clarke, and dozens of others).

So yes, in one sense it is a matter of organising these ideas into a form that can spread and stay and influence (a sticky meme). I have been consciously working on that for 30 years. Any and all help gratefully received.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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