R.U. Sirius writes:
Today, I think there are many more self-defined transhumanists. There is more willingness, particularly perhaps with post-Gen X young people, to define themselves — to stand up and say, without reflexive irony, “I’m a transhumanist!” or “I’m an atheist!” or “T’m a socialist” or “I’m a libertarian!” whereas it would have seemed almost gauche in the 90s.
Yes! More socially aware and technologically connected than people of the “Me Decade” and the decade right after it, the leaders of the 10s recognize the importance of groups and movements beyond the individual. This is the age of Facebook and Causes. People realize that intellectual movements, like atheism and transhumanism, need their support and identification to exist. Someone who is too self-centered to join any club that will have them is someone who will sit on the sidelines of history.
When I say “I’m an atheist”, it makes it slightly more acceptable to be an atheist, because I’m another person “putting my name on the line”. The point is that it shouldn’t be questioned or considered at all abnormal to be an atheist. To dispel the stigma we need to take the association and lend it positive affect. Same with transhumanism, though the stigma on that appears to be evaporating, even directly in the mainstream.
Anyway, many of those who do self-define as transhumanists today might be seen as a hardier bunch–they’re going to keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak, whatever comes at them–or alternatively, they could be seen as simply more ideologically convinced, or in some cases, more willing to elide or ignore or underestimate the crises around them.
Let’s go with “hardier bunch”. Transhumanists of the 2010s realize that the problems on the front page of the news are nothing compared to the greater background problems of civilization, like poverty, disease, aging, and violent conflict. We seek to decisively solve all these age-old problems, not just chip away at them with the same old failed strategies. To go with a phrase that my friends Sergio Tarrero and Philippe van Nedervelde like to use, “radical improvement”.
Self-defining transhumanists are ideologically confident and do not let the mainstream think for them. To quote the recent TIME article on the Singularity:
Not all of them are Kurzweilians, not by a long chalk. There’s room inside Singularitarianism for considerable diversity of opinion about what the Singularity means and when and how it will or won’t happen. But Singularitarians share a worldview. They think in terms of deep time, they believe in the power of technology to shape history, they have little interest in the conventional wisdom about anything, and they cannot believe you’re walking around living your life and watching TV as if the artificial-intelligence revolution were not about to erupt and change absolutely everything. They have no fear of sounding ridiculous; your ordinary citizen’s distaste for apparently absurd ideas is just an example of irrational bias, and Singularitarians have no truck with irrationality. When you enter their mind-space you pass through an extreme gradient in worldview, a hard ontological shear that separates Singularitarians from the common run of humanity. Expect turbulence.
People confident enough to look at the evidence, think carefully, come to an interim belief, and then remain confident of their position in the face of social pressure are people I can respect. I respect all people like this, not just Singularitarians or people I agree with!
There is a strain in hipster culture that to be apathetic about everything is cool. In opposition to that is a larger philanthropic entrepreneurial subculture that really cares about actually improving the world. Transhumanism is just a little part of this emerging and powerful subculture. GOOD magazine, founded by a 26-year-old in 2006, is generally considered representative of this new movement.