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Published 3 years ago with 12 Comments
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  • staxofmax (edited 3 years ago)
    +6

    The PostHuman dream is of uncorrupted immortal bodies housing the minds of gods, as far beyond us as we are beyond cats and dogs, where all aspects of emotion, suffering and intellect are under conscious control. Our animal heritage finally jettisoned in favor of the new and immaculate conception. A world without suffering or stupidity or violence.

    Am I the only one who finds this vision absolutely horrific?

    I can relate with transhumanist goals; extending the length of time that our consciousness exists. But I'm skeptical of the whole concept of uploading. It reminds me of the thought experiment of teleporting in Star Trek. Does the teleporter relocate the traveler from one place to another with the consciousness intact? Or does create a duplicate of the traveler and destroy the original? Uploading sounds to me to be the latter; creating a simulation of the brain's bio-mechanical processes, and destroying the original. And if that's the case, then what is ultimately the point of creating a whole race of simulated philosophical zombies?

    Edit: philosophical zombies, not psychological

    • staxofmax (edited 3 years ago)
      +4

      Furthermore, even if consciousness is preserved there are no guarantees that simply improving our processing power will do anything to ameliorate our base instincts and tendency to violence. Sure, you could alter the brain simulation by say altering the simulated affects of adrenaline or endorphin's or testosterone or whatnot, but where is the stopping point? Who decides what aspects of our mind must be preserved and what can be discarded or augmented? Is there no limit? How long before we change ourselves into something completely unrecognizable? Would this state really be preferable to good old fashioned biological death?

      • spaceghoti
        +4

        The typical I get from transhumanists is that we're constantly undergoing change anyway. Would the five-year-old version of yourself recognize you as you are today? Probably not. Your thoughts, priorities and attitudes are likely far different than they are today. The idea is that transhumanism allows us to control our own evolution, to tweak ourselves in real time as we see fit and discover what works versus what doesn't.

        Personally I think I'd go insane from too much continuous consciousness within the first ten thousand years, but having the opportunity to experience ten thousand years of reality does appeal. I think it's largely wishful thinking on their part, at least until we get a better grasp on what consciousness really is and how it works.

        • staxofmax
          +6

          I think our lack of understanding of the nature of our existence is ultimately why I'm hostile to many of transhumanism's aims. Disclaimer, the following is a bunch of pseudo-existential garbage so if you have no interest in continuing reading I understand completely.

          If our consciousness is illusory and merely a byproduct of our brain's internal processes and sensory input then my consternation is misplaced. However, I don't like the idea that our experience is merely due to a mishmash of hormones and electrical signals bouncing around in a lump of nerve bundles. I like to think that consciousness and qualia is a manifestation or something that is external to our biological bodies. I don't know if I believe it, that's too strong of a word, but I like the thought of it. For whatever reason that incorporeal process has an attachment to the biological components of our mind, and the separation from the biological mind that comes from death is an integral and fundamental component to our existence. My fear is that by extending our physical existence indefinitely we'd be trading a temporary prison for an eternal one.

          I'm probably wrong though. I have no solid rational basis to believe any of this, but I'm ok with that. But say there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that our nature is dualistic. Is transhumanism worth the risk if it fundamentally perverts our existence?

          • spaceghoti
            +5

            I'm probably wrong though. I have no solid rational basis to believe any of this, but I'm ok with that. But say there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that our nature is dualistic. Is transhumanism worth the risk if it fundamentally perverts our existence?

            I'm going to be honest here, I think you're wrong. There's no evidence to support an external/dualistic explanation for consciousness; all the evidence points to consciousness being a manifestation of sufficiently dense neural tissue. But let's assume you're correct. I don't think any transhumanists are asserting that everyone must necessarily undergo the transformation whether or not they want it. Like any other elective procedure it would be your choice whether or not you partake of it. If you feel your immortal soul would be imperiled by it, you wouldn't have to do it. You could refuse the risk and allow yourself to pass onto whatever afterlife you felt was waiting for you.

            Alternatively, even if souls are real and someone undergoes the procedure the worst that can happen is that the original en-souled body dies and goes on to the afterlife while whatever information the process is able to secure continues on in an artificial body.

            • AdelleChattre
              +4

              That's some cold comfort, there.

            • staxofmax
              +3

              If our existence is purely physical and temporary then what's the point of life extension? I'd assert that there would have to be some dualistic component to our consciousness for an upload to serve its intended purpose. Otherwise at best it would be destruction of our consciousness and creation of a facsimile. If the human mind is just the result of sufficiently dense neural tissue and nothing more, then what is so special about it that makes it worth preserving?

              Why not just focus on the development of AI? If we're intent on creating a lasting legacy it seems to me better to start with a blank slate without all our cultural, instinctual, and evolutionary baggage.

            • spaceghoti
              +4
              @AdelleChattre -

              Meh. I don't expect to have to make that choice before I die anyway. And as I said before, I doubt I could survive more than ten thousand years or so without going insane. I've never seen that reality has ever cared about our comfort, that's our own obsession.

            • spaceghoti
              +2
              @staxofmax -

              If our existence is purely physical and temporary then what's the point of life extension?

              Because it's purely physical and temporary. Limitations tend to increase the value of things in our minds. Besides, what's the point of more experience except to experience more? Are you going to turn down a good meal just because it will be gone when you're done?

              Ultimately, it's irrelevant. Whether or not I want there to be a dual existence has no bearing on whether or not it's true. Following the evidence we currently have available leads me to the conclusion that we do not possess a dual existence.

              If the human mind is just the result of sufficiently dense neural tissue and nothing more, then what is so special about it that makes it worth preserving?

              That's up to us to decide. If you don't feel there's anything about you that's worth preserving then you don't have to. Other people may feel they have more they want to do or more they can contribute. I wouldn't mind spending another hundred years coming up with the perfect novel. I would find great satisfaction in the act of creating that. In the end this isn't about what we want, it's about what we can do.

              Why not just focus on the development of AI? If we're intent on creating a lasting legacy it seems to me better to start with a blank slate without all our cultural, instinctual, and evolutionary baggage.

              I believe the efforts are related. If we can create an AI then we'll have taken another step toward preserving our own intellect. Maybe you're right, it'd be better to start off with a blank slate but again, I'm not a transhumanist. I can't answer that question.

    • AdelleChattre
      +3

      No, you're not the only one. Fukuyama’s take, cached version here, is fairly to-the-point. Having grown up on Twilight Zone, it's not too hard to see the ironic twist coming. As for transporters in Trek, they destroy the original and yes, there is signal degradation. Hence Bones’s wincing aversion, and ours.

      • staxofmax
        +3

        I didn't think about the whole equal rights angle of it. Thanks for sharing!

  • FistfulOfStars (edited 3 years ago)
    +3

    In my view, as an ethos transhumanism relies largely on pessimism and myopia in order to grow in numbers.

    Pessimism, meaning that it requires an assumption that humanity can't reach as 'ideal' of an evolution as the one offered up by our own engineers. This is quite the assumption, to claim clairvoyance at such a time scale.

    Myopia, meaning that the 'long arc' of the moral universe, which Theodore Parker and MLK Jr. asserted bends towards justice (directed by the hands of human endeavor,) is outside of the scope of human consciousness.

    These two traits (which I would call negative) are currently tightly woven into the fabric of our society: We live in a time when the ills of humanity are held up as the only exhibit of our existence, and in my experience anyone who speaks of the beauty and potential of humanity is shouted down as a naive imbecile by way of examples of the past and current human condition.

    But amidst all of the current atrocity and anxiety, it's quite easy to see the long arc bending in the right direction even as we speak, and the bell curve is becoming faster as well.

    To use an American example - thousands of years for the collective consciousness to declare slavery abysmal, 200 years for it to recognize racial minorities as equals, 50 years for it to recognize and accept the spectrum of sexuality. Some will point out that examples of slavery and racism still exist, but to deny that collectively we are moving past them in my opinion shows the myopia I'm talking about.

    I don't think it's such a long shot to believe that once we reach the point in that long arc where we can stop dividing ourselves with concerns about energy, food, power struggles, etc, that our natural consciousness and existence will expand at a greatly accelerated pace, without the need for self-augmentation. But then again, maybe I'm just a drooling optimist.

    The idea that we know the best direction for us to head in an evolutionary sense is hard for me to swallow. Leaving humanity behind like a rotting husk seems rather presumptuous to me personally.

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