Transhumanism

The fact that some people’s idea of utopia involves “uploading” your personality into a computer and living forever frankly gives me the creeps. (I also am not sure it’s even a coherent idea. In what sense would that be me rather than just a Max Headroom-style copy of me?)

I have no idea how many people actually adhere to this “transhumanist” ideal. I’ve never met any in real life. But the fact that they can put on conferences suggests there are a few.

The transhumanist idea of the “Singularity” has been called “the Rapture for nerds,” but it’s really gnosticism for nerds. It’s the idea that material things like our bodies and the Earth are icky death-traps that need to be left behind.

6 thoughts on “Transhumanism

  1. Sophia Sadek

    Thanks for the posting.

    The Wiki entry reminded me of a computer heuristic that replicated elements of the personality of Howard Hughes. It wasn’t pretty.

  2. Wow. It has been a while since I thought about Transhumanism. I wrote a paper in college about science fiction, horror, and the quest for eternal life, which meandered from zombies into transhumanism. I hadn’t thought much more about it since then, but I think your observation that it is closely linked to a neo-Gnostic ideal is pretty accurate.

  3. Welcome to the philosophers’ puzzle of personal identity.

    What are you? Are you your body? Some proper part of your body like you brain or central nervous system?

    Are you a mind or a soul, conceived as an immaterial whatnot enduring over time, to which experiences happen and that decides, acts, etc.?

    Are you a succession of experiences and memories linked to each other in some right way?

    At least one strand of theory leaning on this “succession of experiences” notion (said to originate with John Locke’s memory theory of identity) would legitmate this idea of surviving in computer.

    Challenges to this idea of identity basically involve variations on the thought you already brought up, that it is impossible on this view to tell a copy of you from a survival of you.

    And then there are the worries about what happens to the relation “X is the same person as Y” when 2 copies are made.

    When that happens the relation will hold between the two copies X and Y while yet we (obviously, since there are two copies) do not have X = Y.

    Some people think that proves this theory of identity false, since “X is the same person as Y” should entail “X = Y”.

    And so on. It’s pretty messy.

    Weren’t you ever alarmed by Captain Kirk and the transporter room?

    My own view was that the process actually killed Kirk and replaced him at the receiving site with a duplicate built up of either the same or different bits of matter, depending on just how you thought the transporter beam worked.

    The matter at site B is built to look like Kirk, and the right sorts of memories are put into the copy for it to think it’s actually him, and for “everything to work” as though it really was him.

    Does the transporter send your matter from point A to B, or just the pattern by which matter can, at B, be assembled into “another you” complete with the right memories?

    Either way, I say you’re dead when they throw the switch in A and your body gets totally disassembled.

    And I’m an immaterialist!

  4. bs

    Transhumanism, at least the version of it that is obsessed with an “intelligence explosion”, seems blissfullly unaware of the conceptual problem lurking beneath its project: we have yet to develop a consensus on the concept of intelligence. How does one arrive at the conclusion that he or she has created an ultraintelligent machine if one does not know what makes an object ultraintelligent?

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