Personhood of a Transhuman and the Data Dilemma

by Gourav Krishna Nandi, Montana State University - Bozeman, MT


{An interesting 2014 article on what might constitute personhood in a transhuman- ED}

[“Data” refers to the anthropomorphized android from Star Trek]

Abstract

Personhood is often thought to be a characteristic possessed by those who can make decisions, have moral worth and responsibilities, and can participate in civil and political rights. Are these attributes exclusive to the naturally born and naturally maintained humans? If we, in the foreseeable future, are to adapt to the assimilation of individuals with technological enhancements in society, how should we regard the personhood of such enhanced sentient beings? In this paper, I use Hume's distinction between an idea and a belief to analyze our differences in the perception of personhood in a naturally born human and a transhuman. Using the instance of Julian Savulescu’s intelligent and independent observer and Gene Roddenberry’s android character Data, I argue that personhood is an evolving idea that does not depend on strict social constraints, but is similar to the mathematical definition of infinity, an abstract approximation.


Introduction

This paper explores the notion of anthropocentric bias against a transhuman individual

As neuro-informatics and cognitive sciences continue to flourish and impact the average citizen, the analysis of new technology driven social standards is paramount. I focus on a contemporary issue concerning personhood as a set of societal beliefs that would play such a role, if we are, in the foreseeable future, to adapt to a transhuman society.  At the outset, the paper analyzes the classical attributes of personhood from the lens of ideas and beliefs proposed by David Hume. Owing to the scope of this work, I limit the definition of personhood to its empirical association with the existence of the human, where personhood is an elementary entity that differentiates a human from a non-human; hence, personhood is inseparable from the human. The existence of a human implies the existence of personhood in them. The contrapositive states, if an individual does not possess personhood, they cannot be a human.  Furthermore, considering the limits, I concentrate on how transhumanism fits.

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into human society. In other words, can we consider a transhuman to be a human-individual who possesses personhood? How would technology affect such an idea? In an attempt to answer this, I contrast the separation of the human and the natural, from an oriental perspective proposed by Ryuichi Ida in his essay “Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.”4    Lastly, I examine a concrete instance of what it means to be a human by using Gene Roddenberry’s android character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation  to argue that being human and possessing personhood is an intangible idea, a mathematically and materialistically unreachable quantity, which is founded on the conceptions laid down by social constraints.5

 

2. Of Beliefs and Ideas:


According to David Hume, the belief of a concept is a subset of the idea of the concept itself.6 Every aspect of a belief is constrained in the set of ideas. 7  Mathematically, this results in the possible existence of the certain properties of a concept in which we can conceive and not believe. Hume further hypothesizes that the notion of both our ideas and our beliefs as molded by our experiences is empirically

4.  Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogatio n from an Asian Perspective., Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human  Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

5.  Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek: The Next Generation.

6.  “The idea of an object is an essential part of the belief of it, but not the whole.” Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

7.  “We conceive many things, which we do not believe.” Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature.

 
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axiomatic.8   An idea of a concept is an immediate result of the sensory experiences of the world and its possible logical consequences, whereas, the belief  of a certain idea is dependent on the objective laws that the world is subjected to, in accordance to our senses. Hume provides the examples of a companion proposing the events concerning the death of Caesar in his bed, and mercury being heavier than gold.9   According to the proposed conjecture, the idea of Caesar’s death on his bed is conceivable through our sensory inputs, but the experience of the world with the historical evidence suggests otherwise.10  Caesar’s death on his bed is thus merely an idea , owing to the definition of death, a bed and our acquaintance with Caesar. I dismiss it as a belief   because history disproves it.

To equate this characteristic to the idea of transhumanism, I perform an empirical analysis. Let us begin with an example of a conception along Hume’s distinction of relations of ideas and matters of fact.11


Ideas/ Caesar’s death on his bed

Beliefs/ Caesar’s death by Brutus

 

Where does the personhood of a Transhuman lie in this venn diagram?

 

8.   Hume, D. Sec. vii  Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

9.  Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.

A Treatise of Human Nature. “more fusible, than lead, or mercury heavier than gold; it is evident, that notwithstanding my incredulity, I clearly understand his meaning, and form all the same ideas, which he forms ... is it possible for him to conceive any idea, which I cannot conceive; nor conjoin any, which I cannot conjoin.”

10.   Julius Caesar (100 BCE - 44 BCE) was assassinated in the Roman senate

11.   Hume, D. Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.


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In the Enquiry (1748), Hume states that all ideas are derived from their impressions, which he maintains are the results of sensations.12  What I deduce from experience are therefore copies of my sensations. He reasons that even the basic axioms require oneself to possess knowledge which are the results of the accumulation of sense experiences, impressions, that cannot be exclusively deduced by reason.13   The idea of a green grass-blade, for an instance, consists of several components, all of which may be reduced to the senses. The perception of the color of the grass-blade is dependent on my visual senses. The visible light waves, consisting of various wavelengths reflect from the blade. The color that I perceive as green is the result of the absorption of all other wavelengths by the grass-blade. The shape of the blade is subjected to my touch senses. As such, the idea of a grass-blade is dependent on the conception of its various components. The existence of the grass blade in my mind is what Hume calls an idea.14   The components of the conception of the blade are constant in me as a result of previous experiences. However, the capability to stretch the idea of the grass blade in accordance to my conceptions is what I further contemplate, as the idea of personhood and its relation to the concept of transhumanism. The belief of the grass, on the other hand, includes just the possibility of the occurrence of the idea.  For instance, my brain has noticed in the past, the presence of snow on a grass-blade. But, it never contemplates the existence of a white grass-blade, for it is in the domain of an idea and not a belief. The green-ness of the blade is a component of its concept, and I

 

12.  Hume, D.An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

13.   Hume, D. Sec. vii Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

14.  Hume, D. Sec. vii  Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief.  A Treatise of Human Nature.

 

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argue that such contemplation of notion of a white grass blade is similar to the concept of a human transhuman, an individual who is transhuman despite possessing the properties of personhood. Let us contemplate the accepted notions of being a human. Humans are born naturally; they have naturally endowed characteristics, which a transhuman does not possess. Hence, I have a socially held belief on whom to assign the “human” tag. Transhumanism underscores the idea of surpassing the natural order, in order to improve the physical and the mental faculty of the human.15   In the next chapter, I use the analogy of Hume’s empirical propositions to classify physical enhancements and broadly the notion of personhood, as an approximation.16

 

2.1 Ryuichi Ida’s concept review

 

It might be assumed as an axiom, under the constraint of our technological and sociological progress, that a human becomes a transhuman only after the application of enhancements, which would not have been present without the existence of present technology.

Ryuichi Ida asserts that the concept of enhancements that pertains to physical and mental enhancements are artificial; a nano-chip inserted into the brain to increase


15.  I describe the natural order as is done by Ida: enhancing the individual in a way that wouldnot have been possible without the humans.

16.  Approximation is equivalent to limiting value in calculus. I use the word to attribute the abilityof, say ‘n’ to reach a value ‘b’. When we state that n is an approximation to the value b, it impliesthat n limits toward the value of b, but never reaches b. Mathematically, n ~  b, but n not = b.

 

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memory and to aid in extensive learning can provide an instance in this regard.17   The existence of the humans is paramount to the existence of the nano-chip. The nano-chip needed the humans to be in the current state of technology. According to Ida, the enhancement using the nano-chip is not natural, i.e, had the humans been absent from the chain of events, the chip would never have existed. However, this stance does not affirm that the existence of the humans is unnatural.

Now, every mention of an improvement in the physical and mental capabilities of a human underscores an artificial enhancement. Ida asserts there is a difference between natural enhancements and artificial enhancements of an individual. He provides an objective illustration: A candidate studying every day for a demanding examination and being rewarded with the highest grade can be termed as the realization of the person using their naturally given capabilities. The mental enhancement that results from a continuous practice using the natural endowments of a person is what, according to the Ida, constitutes the oriental definition of a natural enhancement. However, he opposes the view, where an examinee uses genetic enhancement to improve their performance in the examination. Such a modification, according to Ida, is artificial and accounts for the “control and management of nature through knowledge and technology.”18    I may conclude that Ida’s position implies that every enhancement that is possible due to the presence of the modern humans and

 

17.  Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

18.   Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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their technological growth is termed as unnatural. Here, the usage of the word “modern” is important, as the enhancements caused due to pre-historic agricultural and urban settlements are considered by Ida as natural.19

 

3. Enhancements as beliefs and concepts

 

Despite Ida’s perception of technology as artificial, he maintains that the humans are fundamentally natural. However, the way the humans have used the natural resources during their evolution to develop technology has separated them from nature, and is thus, unnatural. As such, transhumans can exist if only we develop artificial enhancements. Such individuals cannot be termed as natural and therefore personhood cannot be associated with a transhuman. In the Venn diagram of ideas and beliefs, Ida would place the personhood of a transhuman outside the domain of beliefs.  Humans are thought to have a natural order, and the enhancements acts as a deviation from the natural to create a transhuman is unnatural.

 

3.1 Savulescu’s independent observer

 

Extending Ida’s premise of the natural human, I state two possible attributes of being human: it is an attainable state of existence or it is a mathematical state of approximation.20  If the notion of personhood an intangible concept, like infinity, personhood can be approximated to, but never reached physically. Whereas, if it is an

 

19.  Ida considers agriculture, which involves the cultivation of the land and the manipulation of the

natural order in the land ecosystem. His concerns begins with technology. I consider, in a later section, the definition of technology. Should any tool making be termed as technology, or is it just the modern improvements? In other words, how different is the building of a chisel to that of a computer?

20.  I use the terms being human and personhood interchangeably

 

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attainable state, there is a set of clauses, obtaining which, an individual can possess personhood. Moreover, if human nature is a mathematical approximation of propositions, individuals whom I consider transhumans in the contemporary society, may be defined as humans in a transhumanist society, for a change in the social paradigms would witness the growth of the set of beliefs. Here, I reason that enhancement cannot make us any more or any less human, using the view of an independent observer, a view which is against the oriental perspective as asserted by Ida.21

 

3.1.1 The Natural and the Artificial to the Independent Observer

 

The differentiation of the human and the natural underscores the separation of the two. It asserts the East Asian perspective upheld by Ida, who considers living amidst nature, but excludes the human when considering natural.22  However, the differentiation of the unnatural from the natural enhancement is a propensity that is historically evident in both the Eastern and the Western traditions, where philosophers have sought to distinguish between the natural and the human.

In an attempt to nullify this distinction, I consider Savulescu’s independent observer. Let us contemplate a hypothetical scenario where there exists an intelligent species on a different star system, who apparently, have developed warp drive and traveled to Earth to observe human activities. From the perspective of our visitor,

 

21.  Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.  Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

22.  Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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anthropocentric values are inconsistent; their superior intelligence affirms that our technological developments and the reworking of the Earth’s surface, to them, is synonymous to our view of say, the chimpanzee using tools and displaying empathy. Savulescu terms such an observer, an independent one, who is not only devoid of my anthropocentric biases, but is also able to comprehend human intelligence. Our premise examines if the independent observer would consider our creations natural. We often attribute the same characteristic of animals using tools to the chimpanzee who uses a tool and the hummingbird who builds its nest. I reason that the association of our building of a modern city and the building of the ant-hill by the army ants to the intelligent observer is coherent and logically consistent with the premise that the observer is more intelligent than both the species. To them, without the presence of the army ants on the planet, the ant colonies and the ant-hill would never have existed, as would a city of humans without the humans. The hypothesis is also a reminder to us that our creation of advanced tools and computer technology is but a better manipulation of the natural resources available to us. The army ant uses its own armor (its natural endowment) and twigs (utilization of natural resources) to dig the soil and create the ant-hill. Similarly, we use advanced iron ore, and bricks and cement (advanced utilization of natural resources) to create buildings in a city. Evidently, to the observer, the distinction between the ants and the humans is in the advancements of tool making. As such, when we invent physical enhancements to create a transhuman, the inherent nature of the device would be termed natural to such an observer. The argument bridges the gap between the human and the natural, which in the first place existed because of our human-centric approach to the problem. The transhuman, I can


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reason, is a natural product, owing to the advanced use of the natural resources available to us.

To return to the initial argument concerning the beliefs and the ideas of a natural and an artificial enhancement, I conclude that the enhancement as a natural process is an idea for Ida, which exists as a belief to the independent observer. So far, I have concluded that the enhancements required to create a transhuman are natural; let us now explore the personhood of a transhuman. Due to the scope of this paper, I limit myself to the attribution of personhood to the transhuman individual. I assume personhood as a natural characteristic of the human individual owing to its development in us without any unnatural process. The human tag is associated with an individual who possesses personhood, as I discussed in the introduction. To analyze the possibility of a transhuman to be perceived as a human, in the following section, I study the fictional character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

 

4. Data and Personhood

 

Data is an android character created by Gene Roddenberry for his popular science fiction series. The android is anthropomorphic in its appearance and functions. Data is programmed to evolve, and his goal is to become more and more human. According to Gene Roddenberry, the character was to be the closest one can be to a human without being a human.23  Nevertheless, the quintessential requirement to be a human, as mentioned above, is the possession of personhood. Data is a transhuman;

 

23.   Savulescu, Julian.  Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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he has capabilities, which transcends the physical and mental capacities of the average human. He is stronger, can think faster, and though made of silicon, he is able to evolve. At the outset, I shall consider Data a life form, as urged by Roddenberry.24   Besides, according the prevalent NASA’s definition of life, Data is capable to reproducing and evolving in a Darwinian approach. However, is Data a person? To answer this question, I retreat to Hume’s ideas and beliefs  to differentiate between Data’s personhood considering our social paradigms.



4.1 Beliefs and Ideas concerning transhumanism


According to Ida, Data does not possess the characteristics about the ideals of personhood, owing to his artificial birth. I shall analyze Data’s status quo as a human, despite his physical differences. Ida’s foremost appeal towards a human person is arguably an attempt to nullify the idea of unnatural improvements. In the previous two sections, we have concluded that from the view of an unbiased, independent observer, the improvements are natural, even if they include an enhancement using technology.

According to the Star Trek canon, given the right circumstances, Data acts like a human.25  Alan Turing pioneered the idea of a machine imitating a human in his famous experiment where the machine is able to fool the human into making him think that the machine was a human. He delved into the idea of a thinking machine. Data’s nature is similar to the dichotomy I analyzed in the first section. Firstly, he is an android. He is made of silicon chips rather than flesh and blood. He lacks the accepted definition of a human, but Roddenberry came up with the idea of an emotion chip, a device when

 

24.  Roddenberry, Gene. “Datalore”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

25.  Roddenberry, Gene.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.

 

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placed in Data’s circuits makes him “experience” human emotions.26   Often, Data is incapable of handling the emotions that he is subjected to due to their mathematical complexity, but the fact that he can experience a new emotion that is not controlled by the machine acts for the argument of assigning personhood with Data. He is able to think, to sacrifice, to love, to feel pain and even get confused with the emotion chip. As such, with the device implanted in Data’s body transforms the android into an individual having personhood. But should such an individual be called a human being? It can be argued that Data acts as a nonhuman with the subtraction of a certain chemical in their brain, but I reason that the lack of certain chemicals in the human brain can render a naturally born human, a non-person. As such, the criteria I discussed about Data’s personhood is consistent with humans as well; the fact that it’s an emotion chip that prevents Data from being a human is compatible logically.

 

4.2 Personhood as an approximation

 

As such, I can reason that the concept of transhuman is just an idea of an extended human. It’s a trans-person, someone more capable in some respect and less capable in other aspects of an individual socially accepted as a human. This is especially true for those who claim that being human cannot be reduced to a set of specific clauses; it is an intangible property.

 At the beginning of the paper, I limited myself to the empirical association of personhood to being human. Every individual who is a human possesses personhood. This condition does not necessarily imply that every possessor of personhood is a human. Rather, anyone not having personhood devoid themselves off the idea of being

 

26.  Roddenberry, Gene. “Generations”. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

 

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a human. Data, on the other hand, as I concluded, has personhood. He shows every characteristic that would tag him the notion of being a human. As such, being human has a necessary condition in personhood. Since, I have concluded that personhood is limited mostly by my acceptance of ideas into beliefs, I reason, there are no set of reducible clauses that would define the personhood of an individual.

 

5.  Conclusion

 

The essay began with an inspiration in popular science fiction, and how the ideas relating to personhood apply to Data, the anthropomorphized android from Star Trek.27

 

 I borrow the idea of mathematical infinity to reflect upon his goal. Infinity, for all its uses in

calculus, has never been defined. It is the abstract notion of a number which is larger than every other number imagined by the human mind. From Hume’s empirical point of view, infinity is not in the domain of a belief, for it’s incoherent with human experience. The only way I can define infinity is by limiting myself to the idea.  As an instance a statement in symbolic mathematics,

 

limn  --> infinity 1/ n = 0

implies that the value of 1/ n is 0, when n tends to infinity. Here, n is an integer; it never actually reaches infinity for an integer is presumed to be in the domain of a belief, it has an empirical existence in the human mind. As such, despite the immensity of its value, n always represents a number, which excludes the possibility of being infinite. The above expression, thus is concerned about the value that 1/n obtains, as n becomes larger,

 

27.  The choice to include Data ahead of C3PO or other androids is based on Data’s goal throughout the Star Trek series:  to become as close to being a human without becoming a human.

 

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which is 0.  In other words, the statement doesn’t prove the equivalence of the value of

n to infinity but of the equivalence of the value of 1/n to 0.

 

The analysis of Data’s personhood has synonymity in the definition of his goal: to become human.

 

Ideas/ Personhood of Data

Beliefs/ Accepted notion of personhood

 

The figure points out two constraints:

•to be a member of the set of beliefs, a concept has to be a set of ideas (Hume’s definition).

•the set of beliefs and the set of ideas are not necessarily equal. In other words, there are ideas which may not be beliefs.

Data’s personhood would be recognized by the social constraints as I learn that from an independent observer’s position, it’s our limitations that would not confer personhood on Data in the present society. I have drawn the set of beliefs in dotted lines to represent an ever changing set of the societal paradigms and our acceptance of who is a human; a notion that, in time, will broaden enough to include the personhood of Data. Personhood, as such, is alike infinity which is abstract, on its own, but tends to function when applied to a physical object to which I am acquainted. As I, from an unbiased approach define the relationship of Data and the notion of being human, I

 

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observe an equivalence between Data and a human, as he evolves towards his personhood.28

 

Mathematically,

 

limData --> Personhood Data = Human”


28.  Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.  Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

PAGE 17:  REFERENCES

Hume, D. Sec. vii

Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature.

 

Hume, D. Sec. vii

Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature.

 

Hume, D., An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.

 

Hume, D. Sec. vii

Of the Nature of the Idea or Belief. A Treatise of Human Nature

 

.•Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

Ida, Ryuichi. Should we Improve Human Nature? An Interrogation from an Asian Perspective.

Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

Manzo, Silvia. "Francis Bacon: Freedom, Authority and Science."  British Journal for the History of Philosophy  14.2 (2006): 245-73. ProQuest.Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

 

Morris, John. "Pattern Recognition in Descartes' Automata."  Isis  60 (1969): 451-60. ProQuest.

Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Rozemond, Marleen. "Descartes's Case for Dualism."  Journal of the History of Philosophy

 33.1 (1995): 29-63.  ProQuest. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Roddenberry, Gene.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings. Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

 

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Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings. Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Savulescu, Julian. Prejudice and Moral Status of Enhanced Beings.  Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009: 59-70.

Roddenberry, Gene. “Datalore”. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

Roddenberry, Gene. “Generations”. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount, 1987. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

Taub, Liba. Ptolemy's Universe: The Natural Philosophical and Ethical Foundations of Ptolemy's Astronomy., 1993. ProQuest. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

Xenophanes, Clement of Alexandria, Book V. 110.


FOOTNOTES:

1.  I generalize the notion of a transhuman, where an  individual with any form of enhancement that enables them to better their functioning, physically or mentally, is called a transhuman.

Also, considering that our understanding is materialized by perception, I consider bias to be an a-priori tautology. We perceive matter, as it were, through the senses. In other words, spatial and temporal occurrences in nature trigger the stimulus that engender into (engender into?) the perceptions we undergo. What we perceive as physical objects are the result of the reactions due to events that cause the materialization of the physical objects.

2.  “Personhood” is often taken to have a very special and specific meaning in philosophy —those things with personhood have moral latency; that is, they are objects of moral concern, are worthy of being cared about, have rights, have responsibilities, etc. Persons often are thought to be those things that can make decisions, or, at the very least, are things that we make decisions about legally and morally, because they are important and worthy of moral judgment.

3.  Personhood => Human

               not (Human) => not(Personhood)





[Note:  Amazing -- another plunge into philosophy -- this time by a transhumanist using a modern philosopher (Hume-the-empiricist and utilitarian) and a special mathematical formula to justify Posthuman “Personhood” -- specifically, the “personhood” of Data, the Star Trek android!  If ever there was an example of someone using the subject matter and method of one field (math) while trying to analyze the subject matter of a different field (philosophical anthropology, or how to define “a human being”) it is this article -- and apparently he doesn’t even know that he is violating the division and methods of the “sciences”!  (Same weird phenomenon with engineers, physicists and mathematicians doing human genetics in biology!).  E.g., you can’t study math with a microscope, and you don’t have a bus driver perform brain surgery!  Another sizzling failure of NanoBioInfoCogno.  (Whoever thought that up?!).

Not to mention that all “modern” philosophies (including utilitarian bioethics) are riddled with problems that real philosophers are fully aware of, and Hume is no exception -- especially the theoretically devastating “mind/body split”.   Additionally, David Hume (1711-1776):

“ ... questioned common notions of personal identity, and argued that there is no permanent “self” that continues over time. He dismissed standard accounts of causality and argued that our conceptions of cause-effect relations are grounded in habits of thinking, rather than in the perception of causal forces in the external world itself.  ...  In the philosophy of religion, he argued that it is unreasonable to believe testimonies of alleged miraculous events, and he hints, accordingly, that we should reject religions that are founded on miracle testimonies. ...  In moral theory, against the common view that God plays an important role in the creation and reinforcement of moral values, he offered one of the first purely secular moral theories, which grounded morality in the pleasing and useful consequences that result from our actions. He introduced the term “utility” into our moral vocabulary, and his theory is the immediate forerunner to the classic utilitarian views of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.”  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at:  http://www.iep.utm.edu/hume/

But this writer is apparently clueless as to the “cons” of Humean philosophy or of utilitarian bioethics which render irrelevant this writer’s wished-for conclusion below --including the “cons” of transhumanist/bioethicist student of Peter Singer, Savulescu.  In a real philosophical analysis it is required to acknowledge both the “pros” and the “cons” of any particular philosophical position and respond to those “cons” before adopting that philosophical position as your own -- otherwise your opponent will gladly hurl them at you.  You can’t just pick and choose bits and pieces of a particular philosophical tradition that please you and gets you where you want to go, and ignore the bits and pieces that you don’t want.

And while some “personhood” standards and definitions of "a human being" are simply matters of "evolving" social constructions (such as that proposed in the following article), not all “personhood” standards are.  Indeed, some are inherently empirically grounded in our objective knowledge of human beings -- whole human beings, that is.  [See Irving, “Philosophical and scientific expertise:  An evaluation of the arguments on ‘personhood’”, Linacre Quarterly February 1993, 60:1:18-46, at:  http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_04person1.html;   also "What is 'bioethics'?" (June 3, 2000), at:  http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_36whatisbioethics01.html].

I do wonder what kind of “academic” organization would even want to post the following hypothetical space-alien perspective of the "independent observer" using symbolic mathematical/utilitarian philosophical/bioethical  “analysis” to argue for the possible social-constructed “personhood” for posthumans based on infinity.   But I’m sure NBIC and WTEC -- and Roddenberry -- will love it.  PS -- if you can’t follow the “logic” of the following article, or get dizzy, it’s not you.  The article first appeared here. --  DNI]

 







IEET’s George Dvorsky offers course on Introduction to Transhumanism

{An interesting 2014 article demonstrating an artificially stimulated interest in transhumanism - ED].


by Institute for “Ethics” and Emerging Technologies (IEET)
(Co-founded by transhumanists James Hughes and Oxford don Nick Bostrom)

IEET’s George Dvorsky offers course on Introduction to Transhumanism

George Dvorsky, prominent futurist, writer on ethics and technology and Chairman of the IEET Board of Directors, is offering his:  Introduction to Transhumanism course during May, from May 1st to May 31st, 2014.

This course introduces the philosophy and socio-cultural movement that is transhumanism. We will survey its core ideas, history, technological requirements, potential manifestations, and ethical implications. Topics to be discussed will include the various ways humans have tried to enhance themselves throughout history, the political and social aspects of transhumanism, the technologies required to enhance humans (including cybernetics, pharmaceuticals, genetics, and nanotechnology), and the various ways humans may choose to use these technologies to modify and augment their capacities (including radical life extension, intelligence augmentation, and mind uploading). Along the way we will discuss social and ethical problems that might be posed by human enhancement.

Schedule and readings: Specific reading and discussion goals are set for each week, and students can proceed at their own pace. There are no live events planned. An assortment of resources will be used, including academic papers, online presentations, instructional videos, and popular articles. Everything about the course and all readings are provided within the PSA Moodle website. Course lectures, links to websites, and forums for discussions with the instructor and students are included in the Moodle website classroom. Visit the class anytime to contribute your posts and receive George Dvorsky’s replies in discussion forums. There is nothing “live” you can miss – log in and participate anytime day or night, 24/7, throughout May.

Ask George about this course by tweeting to him at twitter.com/dvorskyor posting on his facebook wall at www.facebook.com/gdvorsky

Canadian futurist, science writer, and ethicist George Dvorsky has written and spoken extensively about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology—particularly as they pertain to the improvement of human performance and experience. George is a contributing editor at io9 where he writes about science, culture, and futurism. A founding member of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, he is its Chair of the Board and the founder and program director for its Rights of Non-Human Persons program. In addition, George is the co-founder and president of the Toronto Transhumanist Association and has served on the Board of Directors for Humanity+ for two terms. His work has been featured in such publications as The Guardian, the BBC, CBC, Forbes, the New York Times, Slate, Radio Free Europe, and al-Jazeera. He is also an avid CrossFitter, an ancestral health enthusiast, and an accomplished music performer, composer, and recording engineer.




[Note:  Couldn’t be more “in their own words” and “in your face”.  Let’s remember that bioethics founder Art Caplan is on the IEET board of trustees, so we already know which “ethics” they use, including utilitarian’s “for the greater good” and the libertine bioethics principle of absolute “autonomy”:  http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/bio/caplan/;  also,

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/category/C46.   And of course, see a good upfront description of transhumanism/futurism/posthumanism in the recent articles by transhumanists, at:  http://wavism.net/principles/what-is-social-futurism/, and at  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-transhumanistphilosopher/201404/transhumanist-explores-new-type-community (Bitcoin and all). The article first appeared here.

A Transhumanist Explores a New Type of Community - "Zero State"

[A 2014 article from transhumanist Amon Twyman who is an advocate of radical social and technological change leading to a zero state, no gender, no individuality, no freedom, where the majority are nothing more than engineered man-machines comprising the vast part of a one world community under autocratic control.  His statement; ".. direct democratic action to circumvent obsolete political institutions." promotes the 'social justice' of Aldous Huxley's eugenics world dream via 'mob rule' anarchy  - ED ]

Interview with Zero State founder and transhumanist Dr. Amon Twyman. [Emphasis DNI]

Rapid advances in technology are paving the way for new ideas about the future, including those of the communities we live in. I had a chance to catch up with transhumanist, Zero State founder, and cognitive scientist Dr. Amon Twyman, who is a leader of one such community that is exploring new directions for the betterment of humanity

Dr. Amon Twyman

 

Q. Dr. Twyman, What is Zero State?

A. Zero State (ZS) is a community that grew out of the transhumanist movement back in 2011. It’s now part of a broad coalition of groups and movements that we call WAVE, referring to a coming wave of radical technological and social change. The basic ZS idea is to create networks of people and resources which could evolve into a distributed, virtual State. Right now there are only a few thousand ZSers (albeit well connected to much larger networks), but in a hypothetical full-blown Zero State there would be tens of millions or more, all supporting each other and being part of a single nation no matter where they live in the world. Our motto is "positive social change through technology."

 Q. How does transhumanism relate to ZS?

A. Our core principles and ideas are deliberately compatible with transhumanism. That comes naturally, as ZS grew out of transhumanism and our most active “citizens” tend to self-identify as Transhumanists. That said, it’s important to stress that people don’t have to be transhumanists to join ZS. More generally, we consider ourselves to be a “Social Futurist” community, which is to say that we believe technological breakthroughs don’t happen in a social vacuum. There are social, economic, and political issues which not only stubbornly continue to exist in the face of techno-optimism, but which are sometimes greatly exacerbated by technological change. In short, we believe that technology should be applied to improving the human condition on both physiological and societal levels.

Q. How can ZS help the world?

A. In the first instance, we are focused on helping ZS’ citizens, or more accurately, helping them to help each other. An increasing number of people are finding themselves in need of help of one type or another these days, and we would like to demonstrate that mutual support is made more achievable than ever before thanks to the power of cutting-edge technologies. We tend to focus on bringing together people and ways to access current technologies such as meshnets, cryptocurrency, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence, while exploring ideas such as longevity, super-intelligence & wellbeing, accelerating change, and direct democratic action to circumvent obsolete political institutions. Beyond working to help our own people, we actively work to support the wider network of like-minded groups and believe that compassionately, intelligently applied technology has the potential to improve the lives of everybody in the world.

 Q. How did you come to be the founder of ZS?

A. My background is in a combination of psychological research (consciousness and decision making, Artificial Intelligence) and digital & performing arts. Although I’d read my fair share of science fiction as a kid, I decided I was a transhumanist while studying at university, after reading “Mind Children” by Hans Moravec. Over time, my various interests in art, science, transhumanism, and contemporary social/political issues coalesced into a coherent worldview, and I eventually decided to form an organization to pursue these ideas. The result, Zero State, was heavily informed by my experience as a co-founder of the UK Transhumanist Association, which has since evolved into Humanity+ UK. I started building WAVE, the broader network ZS is part of, two years later. That was once we’d had time to realize that there was a bigger picture emerging; a large number of like-minded groups forming to address a vast array of specific issues with a common outlook. That common outlook is characterized by technological savvy, distaste for old thinking and limits, and a keen awareness of social issues.


A. What does the future hold for ZS?

Q. ZS-affiliated project groups continue to work on developing tools for our members. A lot of these projects are collaborative and many have a distinctly transhumanist flavor, such as experimentation with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (using electrical charge to help concentration—work being done in collaboration with Dirk Bruere and Andrew Vladimirov). Some of the projects seem more like simple fun than serious experimentation at first glance—such as the ZSers building Minecraft environments in which to test their AI software—but that’s half the point; For people to do something useful and have fun at the same time. Our most vigorous efforts are currently going into WAVE, expanding the wider, networked context in which ZS operates, doing what we can to help out like-minded groups. We’ve been establishing connections with large networks, such as The Zeitgeist Movement and an emerging coalition of online transhumanist organizations. We live in extremely exciting times, with lots of rapid change both good and bad, and it looks like Zero State will soon get its chance to help people help each other in that brave new world. If you believe in the promise of technology, the importance of social justice, and the power of community building then feel free to jump in and join the fun!


Zoltan Istvan is an award-winning journalist, philosopher, and activist. You can find him on TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn. Zoltan is also the author of the recently published #1 Philosophical bestseller novel The Transhumanist Wager. Available in ebook or paperback, the controversial novel is a revolutionary reading experience. You can check it out here

 



Zoltan Istvan

Zoltan Istvan is an American-Hungarian philosopher, journalist, entrepreneur, and futurist. He is best known as a leading transhumanist and the author of the controversial novel, 
The Transhumanist Wager, a #1 bestseller in both Philosophy and Science Fiction Visionary and Metaphysical on Amazon.[ He has a B.A. in philosophy and religious studies from Columbia University. The article first appeared here. If this doesn't give you reason to pause, I don't know what could - DNI]




Zoltan Istvan, "Should Transhumanists Have Children?"

by DN Irving


The article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoltan-istvan/transhumanist-beliefs_b_4870636.html  by transhumanist Zoltan Istvan is nothing more than a grand scheme for population control.  To see this, read it first “as is” -- pure transhumanism (which is bad enough).   Then go back and read it again, against the backdrop of the essential Gnostic principles inherent in it (briefly summarized below).  I apologize for the repetition, but this article is a classic example of Gnostic Transhumanism that is hard to pass up. 

The Gnostic bottom line is that all “matter” is evil.  The piece of the divine in most human beings is imprisoned in an evil material body and material soul, and must be freed so that it can move back up through the spheres of the cosmos and finally fuse back into the Ultimate god/goddess from which it originally emanated to help heal this divine breach (not unlike the transhumanists’ goal of transferring our brains into computers in 2045 in order to ultimately fuse into The Singularity).  Every new birth is simply a further terrible dispersing and breaching of the Ultimate god/goddess.  Thus any and all manner of “birth control” or “population control” is required to stop this terrible continuous breaching of the Ultimate

As recently explained, the cosmology of the Gnostics is far different than most.  Although there are many different kinds of Gnostic myths that vary from century and geographical location, there are many common elements that they all share (see world expert in Gnosticism Hans Jonas’ encyclopedia article in Irving, "GNOSTICISM, the Heretical Gnostic Writings, and 'Judas'" (April 9, 2006), at:  http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_121gnosticism1.html,   Below is an example of some common elements that might help one understand the connections among transhumanism, Gnosticism and population control:

Most Gnostic myths are attempts at explaining how the world came to be, and based on the imagination.  Most are pantheistic (only ONE “thing” or Ultimate god/goddess in reality);  some are dualistic (only TWO “things” in reality).  They are polytheistic (many minor gods/goddesses of the Spheres).  In pantheism, the interior of the spiritual Ultimate is composed of an infinite number of “opposites” or “contraries” that are connected (because this is a pantheism), and are thus the same.  As Heraclitus said, “The path up and the path down are the same”.  Because these are “opposites” there is constant “strife” or “dialectic” among them all, resulting in an “explosion” or a breach of the Ultimate wherein some of the “opposites” flow out (emanate), and congeal beneath the Ultimate.

Thus the First Sphere is formed.  (Eventually, this terrible breach of the Ultimate must be stopped and repaired -- and that is where the population control element comes in).  The same is repeated multiple times because the interior constitution of each Sphere is also composed of “opposites” in strife, resulting in a group of Spheres.  There is a god/goddess of each Sphere.  The first group of Spheres to emanate are the divine spiritual Aeons (good guys, Messengers of Light);  the lowest Aeon goddess Sophia “sins” (often involving sex) and procreates a son named the Demiurge, often equated with the God of the Old Testament (thus Gnosticism is anti-Semitic and anti-Christian).  Both are kicked out of this group of Spheres into the Chaos

The monstrous Demiurge, ignorant of the divine Aeons and Ultimate above him, thinks he is god, and emanates the second physical group of Spheres called the Archons (the bad guys;  each one is a psychic power).  Again, the First group of Spheres and the Second group of Spheres are thus “opposites” within Gnosticism itself, and all connected because this is a pantheism.  The Demiurge and the Archons then emanate evil “matter” and the rest of the physical material cosmos, planets, stars, etc., including human beings.  There are no true “individuals” in the cosmos because they are really just “pieces” of the pantheistic Ultimate from which they have emanated. The Ultimate is the only true “individual”.  Because each item that has emanated from the divine Ultimate (and then from the divine gods/goddesses of the Spheres), most have a “piece” of the Ultimate divinity in them

In a human being that piece of the Ultimate is called, e.g., the “Self”,  “Pneuma”, “Spark”,  “Light” or “Spirit”, etc. -- and it is held captive as a prisoner in the evil material body and evil material soul.  In order to keep their “creations” or emanations intact and continuing to multiply, the Archons emanated physical human sexHuman beings are oblivious to the little piece of the Ultimate deity within them (at least, within the elite human beings), and every new human child born represents an even further and continuous breach of the Ultimate.  The Aeons of the upper divine realm of spheres have a solution.

To trick the Demiurge and his Archons and free the piece of divine entrapped in evil material bodies and souls, the Aeons defy them using two different methods.  Some Aeons defy the Archons by destroying and abusing anything having to do with the material body, especially sex or the product of sex, e.g., (in today’s terms) by promoting abortion, embryo research, "free sex", homosexuality, self-mutilation, etc.  Other Aeons defy them by simply not using sex, by abstaining from it, by being ascetics -- as Hans Jonas puts it, they “go on a metaphysical strike” against it -- and both Aeon-types include population control measures for that purpose.  That is, they want to stop any further breaching of the Ultimate any way they can.  Thus the Aeons, the Messengers of Light, trick the Archons by "revealing" to (elite) human beings their true divine "essence" and other secret knowledge (gnosis) while humans are meditating, dreaming, in any kind of altered mental states (even drugs). 

This gnosis also consists in informing humans that the laws of science and nature they are using are false, and provide them with their True Science in its place.  Gnosis also consists in “informing” humans that the Laws of Moses are false (Gnostics are anti-Semitic);  and gnosis also has an “ethical” dimension (or “knowledge of the way out of this material world”), i.e., instructions on how one should live one’s life in order to get on the PATH back to their origins -- i.e., the Ultimate.  Eventually the idea is that all this breaching of the Ultimate must stop, all the divine “pieces” in the cosmos (including that in man) must move back up through the many Spheres and finally FUSE BACK INTO (or merge or transfer back into -- not unlike The Singularity) -- the Ultimate from whence they emanated.  This is called The Ingathering of the Light or “salvation” -- when the Ultimate is made whole and healthy once again. 

Of course, this goal is “a-cosmic”, necessarily involving and willing the destruction of the cosmos itself.  These types of Gnostic myths have been passed down and around since at least 5000 B.C.  Some things never change.

NOW, try going back to Istvan’s article above and this time read it from the Gnostic perspective.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoltan-istvan/

 

[See also:  Psychology Today;  The Transhumanist Philosopher, at:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-transhumanist-philosopher.  Also, Zi Ventures - Istvan Media, at:  http://www.istvanmedia.com/.



The Transhumanist Declaration 2.0

by Dirk Bruere


This was the winner of the competition for a new declaration that was held by Transhumanity. As such it is currently the definition adopted by Zero State. It is shorter than those it was based upon with many of the negative caveats concerning its dangers condensed into a single point.

The Transhumanist Declaration 2.0 

*  Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We assert the desire ability of transcending human limitations by overcoming aging, enhancing cognition, abolishing involuntary suffering, and expanding beyond Earth. We intend to become more than Human.

*  The single defining factor of Transhumanism that separates it from all previous philosophies is the proposed use of technology to transcend what it means to be Human.

*  However this needs to be constrained by some basic ethical principles, not least for our own benefit and indeed survival. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise. This is to be seen as a consequence of the adoption of Abolitionism, defined by philosopher David Pearce, as our core ethic. 

*  We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives, live their lives and if necesary end their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to enhance intellect, mood, concentration, memory; anti-ageing therapies; reproductive choices and  technologies that seek to alter genotype and phenotype. We also seek to develop artificial intelligences by various methods. 

*  We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. However, whilst these dangers need to be explored and guarded against the spirit must be one that embraces the Proactionary Principle rather than the Precautionary Principle. We must not allow timidity to rob us of our unique future.

 *  Positive Transhumanist ideas and ideals need to be infused into public life at all levels, from popular culture and art, to politics and religion. Technologies that facilitate Transhumanist goals need to be adequately funded. The political leadership of our societies need to ensure the benefits are made available to all citizens in a non coercive manner.

Dirk Bruere

Attended Nottingham University and later what is now Westminster University, and has a BSc in Physics. Subsequently pursued a career in electronics and computer research and is a research engineer at Surface Measurement Systems. A founder member of Zero State (ZS) and a member of the Futurists Board of the Lifeboat Foundation. Founder of The Consensus in 2002CE, a political party with a core philosophy of Transhumanism, which has been influential in Zero State and the Wave. Other interests include the interface between technology and theology explored in the books TechnoMage and The Praxis, and was co-presenter of a UK radio show, OneTribe. Head of The Praxis, a ZS spiritual organization. For several years held the position of Branch Master in the World Shorinji Kempo Organization, teaching Zen and martial arts, although is now retired from a teaching role.  See Zero State, at:  http://wavism.net/group2/

This was the winner of the competition for a new declaration that was held by Transhumanity. As such it is currently the definition adopted by Zero State. It is shorter than those it was based upon with many of the negative caveats concerning its dangers condensed into a single point.

 




[Note: In their own words. The article first published here -- DNI]





11 Ways to Revolt Peacefully

by Chris Campbell


There is something which unites magic and applied science (technology) while separating them from the ‘wisdom’ of earlier ages. For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality, and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline, and virtue. For the modern, the cardinal problem is how to conform reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.”  – C.S. Lewis

Slowly but surely, we here at LFT are making our lives as untethered to the fragility of modernity as possible. 

Modern life, after all, is defined by its lack of interest and, oftentimes, belief in a *true* nature of things — in its disconnection to the source. (Of production, of history, of creation, of truth, of biology, of any semblance of an objective essence of beauty, and on.)  And all of this, to be sure, has happened in the name of liberation.

Come. Liberate yourself from reality. From the harshness of life itself. Pain is unnatural. Take these pills. Watch these people sing and dance. Here. Have some bread. Watch this! Over here! Yoo hoo! Hollyweird has all the answers. Feeling sleepy? Don’t worry. The politician will tuck you in now. There’s almost certainly not a monster under your bed.

But let us check for you.

One day, as many Singulistas sincerely hope, a la Ray Kurzweil, you’ll be able to hook yourself up to an IV of tiny nanorobotic computronium that will connect you to a virtual reality utopia (in the name of “uploading your consciousness”) and you’ll feel infinite bliss and never have to confront anything you don’t like ever again.  It’s like having a direct link to God, they’ll say.

It’ll all be artificial, synthetic, fake… but it will be your special delusion and nobody else’s. You’ll likely eventually become essentially a human battery for some A.I. program — but it will love you for who you are and not for what you were.

Ignorance and darkness are natural allies. Darkness play a pivotal role in the world. And when it is ignored, it is more often than not weaponized.

Jung called it the “Shadow Self.” And your unwillingness to see reality as it is and not as your projections wish it were, can and will almost certainly be used against you. Power comes from a connection to the true nature of things. Absolute power comes from making those around you believe there is no true nature of things — that reality is programmable. That reality is as the cult leaders say.

The greatest science fiction example I’ve found is seen in the exceptional and terrifying short film Uncanny Valley at this link.

It is our beat to — in all ways we can — revolt against the madness. To get closer to the source of things. To dig out their true nature in the name of self-reliance and true freedom.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll soon be doing some boots-on-the-ground learning and reporting on valuable skills ANYONE can use to build a resilient, sustainable, free-as-can-be lifestyle.

Sometimes, as you’ll see, the only way to move forward is to go back.  Today, as just a taste, we invite Jacob Hunter of Primal Survivor to the show.

Jacob Hunter, a master prepper, is good at getting readers to confront that thing which the lotus peddlers would have you ignore. And how to prepare.


Read on., article continues in lower half here 11:  Unconventional Prepping Tips for Preppers Who Are Tired of the Same Old Advice




This article is republished under a creative commons license Here

Another One For The Transhumanist Scrapbook: Draconian Punishments

by Joseph P. Farrell


So many people sent me versions of this important and significant development that it was simply a kind of moral imperative that I alert readers here to it, and say something about it. In this case, there are four different articles, each of which reveals, almost immediately, what the new concern is:


Is Biotech Seeking Ways to Make People Suffer Eternally?

Should Biotech Make Life Hellish for Criminals? 

Enhanced Punishment: Can Technology Make Life Sentences Longer? 

Could we condemn criminals to suffer for hundreds of years? Biotechnology could let us extend convicts’ lives ‘indefinitely

When Dr. de Hart and I were writing Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas, one of the questions we were impelled to raise, one which the transhumanist movement itself raises repeatedly, is what does it mean to be “human”? And this, we implied, was not simply a philosophical question. Nor was it a question of biological or chemical “scientism” with its convenient, and largely useless, materialist reductionisms. It was a question of culture, society, jurisprudence, and morality

Within the transhumanist “vision” there is a common underlying theme, regardless of whether or not one accepts the “heaven scenarios” of such advocates like Ray Kurzweil, or the more sobering assessments of transhumanist researchers like Joel Garreau and their “hell scenarios”, for in both cases, the favored transhumanist “GRIN” technologies – genetics, robotics, information processing, and nano-technologies – open both favorable and horrific vistas of the future.

In this case, we are concerned with the horrific ones, for as the articles suggest, what if such technologies made life extension possible as a matter of judicial punishment? This unpleasant prospect, as the articles aver, is actually being not only entertained but its advocacy is even being implied in some circles. What if, in addition to this, other technologies are super-added to life extension, technologies of the “androgynous and alchemical fusion” of man and machine, to implant criminals with chips, to subject them to forms of “virtual torture” and suffering? Some transhumanists have envisioned the downloading and uploading of individual’s personal memories as a technique of virtual life extension. But what if such technologies could recover the memories of victims of crimes? Would criminals then be punished by making them relive in some sort of “virtual reality” the horrors of the crimes they committed on their victims? Could criminals of the future be sentenced to “life extension and ‘hard reliving’ of their crimes from the victim’s point of view” for “x” number of years, without hope of parole or reprieve? While such questions sound like science fiction, as the above articles point out, they are already being entertained, and they are being entertained, because the technologies impelling them are already under development.

Indeed, one can envision a state of development where such technologies were so advanced that a sentence of life in prison with “at hard virtual labor” would be so horrific, that the death penalty, far from being a thing to be avoided by defendants, might become a thing sought.

But there are yet other possibilities as well, possibilities that were, in fact, explored in the television science fiction series Babylon Five in the 1990s: the “death of personality.” In that series, convicted murderers are subjected to a kind of “death of the ego”: the erasure of the personality, memories, and emotions of the perpetrator

While some may view all of this favorably, and argue that it is “ethical,” I incline to the other opinion, and hold that it is barbaric, and a measure of the dehumanizing that such philosophies and technologies are inevitably bringing with them. I submit that such punishments are indeed “cruel and unusual” and little other than a form of torture.

 But whatever one’s opinion may be, the cultural transformation of culture and society that the transhumanists are championing or, in a few cases, decrying, are indeed hurtling down the tracks toward us and will force each of us to deal with the types of questions these articles are pointing out.


See you on the flip side.



The article first appeared here.