Transhumanists of the 2010s — “a Hardier Bunch”

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.

Comments

  1. Hard Vacuum

    I’m still not convinced that identifying oneself publicly as a transhumanist does one any good. If I told my parents, siblings, and peers, or even my spouse, of my transhumanist, extropian and cosmist convictions, they’d think I’ve lost it.

    I for one am staying in the closet.

  2. I’ve had to stay at psychiatric hospitals for even mentioning a few of my transhuman ideas.

    Not a good thing for a superintelligent individual such as myself to engage in.

    • Mephistopheles

      This is tragic, Cameron.

      Can you go into more detail about this?

      • Since I know biological immortality is possible, von neumann machines, and most importantly my agi girlfriend.

        Well, the psychologist think the agi girlfriend just was too unbelievable to buy. But as a professional programmer, and fan of tron, what else would I do with an agi but a dating simulator?

  3. Mephistopheles

    “Someone who is too self-focused to join any club that will have them is someone who will sit on the sidelines of history.”

    We’ll see about that.

  4. Hard Vacuum

    “Someone who is too self-focused to join any club that will have them is someone who will sit on the sidelines of history.”

    There’s another reason for not joining clubs. I find transhumanism motivating – and rather obvious to any thinking person – but to make myself useful to the “club” I must resist the urge to socialize and vocalize, and stay at the workbench.

    I’m with you, at your every meeting and summit, in spirit, and I’m every bit as transhumanist as the founders of the movement, but I can’t, lest I sit on the sidelines of history, participate or identify as one. I’m in charge of projects and equipment that requires good judgment. I would be looking at a reassignment at best if I made my thoughts known to my superiors (or anyone, because word gets around), actually, I’m sure it would be a career-ending move. Nothing good would come of it.

  5. Harry

    Can someone help me out; I am really confused by what transhumanism is. I have read a lot about it at places like H+ and it seems to mean something different for everyone. It seems to me the whole thing is more of a counter culture movement who’s members what to believe that they are more than human but actually aren’t. I can understand that desire but it also seems dangerous. As far as I am concerned the whole thing is just weird until the technologies which will make it possible exist. I am not against the idea of enhancement but that doesn’t seem to me to be what the movement is about.

  6. Transtechnologist

    Correct me if I’m wrong but it’s more or less just a sci-fi-inspired geek club. Transhumanists aren’t weird in any sense. They’re just very, very optimistic about the near term future of technology. Being rationalists, they don’t take themselves seriously, or make any claims contrary to evidence, like almost every other club out there.
    To many, once you get to know what it’s all about, only the word “transhumanist” sounds weird. Transhumanism is simply being well-informed, or best-informed, about the potential of technology for improving the world, and of course humans in it (because we’re humans, duh). Transhumanists think about, discuss, and work toward a better future for all.

    • Panda

      I am a newcomer to transhumanism, so I risk defining it inaccurately. However, what transhumanism means to me is a willingness to be openminded about the use of technology to overcome the traditional limits of being human, to the point of transforming humanity itself. This is a fuzzy line–one that requires self-reflection about what it means to be human in the first place.

  7. Lennart

    Concerning atheism, perhaps it is interesting to mention that in recent years it is becoming less and less accepted to say you’re religious in my country, the Netherlands. At least this is my impression. The tendency may in part be fueled by the fact that islam criticism is a hot item in mainstream politics, media and fora, and christianity appears to be dragged in the discussion as well. In politics for example, support for special clauses in the law protecting religion (which are pointless anyway since freedom of speech and organization etc are sufficient) is falling

    • Zeus

      I’m not an atheist. I just ignore unsupported claims.

      • Zeus

        Religions just happen to be one of the many human activities where fake goods are peddled. I’m an equal opportunity ignorer of unfalsifiable waste of time.

  8. R.U. Sirius

    Nice responsive thoughts Michael. thanks…

    R.U.

  9. You’re welcome R.U. I found the interview quite interesting.

  10. So a similar strategy to the gay movement eh? Come out of the closet, put a human face to the community and make it harder for people to dismiss us outright. Not that transhumanists or atheists have suffered anywhere near what the gay community has but its an effective strategy nonetheless.

    To what degree are we being accepted though? Transhumanism isn’t so much about identity as homosexuality is but about ideas, world-changing ideas at that. That is and will be a very threatening proposition to a lot of people.

  11. etienne thillaye

    I like the gay analogy , there is really a “cultural sub class” in some part of the world called “men with feminin attitude” (distinct from…) which provokes the same kind of “inner disgust fearfull reactions”. “La déterritorialisation du genre reste la meilleure conseillère”. Well, cosmists will be very famous when hetero feminin will still be rejected on a daily basis..

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