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Old 08-11-2010, 11:54 AM   #1
Astromancer
 
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Default The Politics of Transhumanism

We've gotten close to this several times. Mainly by either declaring Transhumanism scary or by proposing that their will be big changes from Transhumanism, or by my throwing up thought-experiments (general declared outrageous or wish fufulment) but propably falling far below the level of transformation and chaos that any Transhumanism break through would cause. But the point is, Transhumanism is profoundly political.

If you can change what it is to be human, you end all previous societies, period end of discussion. Mind you, that doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it is a profoundly political act.

Take the Transhumanism goal of extending the human lifespan. Assume a treatment that would cost about 5000 dollars over ten years that would add several decades to the average human life. However, if a person lacks access to clean water and reasonable santitation, the benefits are lost. Most of humanity couldn't gain the benefits. The political struggle over access to the treatment would force transformation.

If you can restructure the human body freely, allowing a fat, clumsy, bald, guy (like me) to be slim, graceful (massive neurological work there), handsome as a movie star, then you can transform anybody. What would ethnicity, race, or gender, mean, if you can change your body type more easily than getting your kitchen remodeled? In the West, we can deal with this, in much of the rest of the world, it would be explosive.

What should the political take on Transshumanism be? Myself, I'm technophillic and believe that humanity can rise to the occassion. It may be a bumpy road, but it's worth traveling. Others may disagree.

Please, give your take on these issues.

No flames, nor accusations of flaming, please.
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Old 08-11-2010, 12:41 PM   #2
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

Meh, we're all gonna get eaten by grey goo anyway, right? [/joke]
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Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post
If you can change what it is to be human, you end all previous societies, period end of discussion. Mind you, that doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it is a profoundly political act.
I'm not sure that's true, depending on what you mean by "change what it is to be human" or to end a society.

America just after the Revolution, and America now, are clearly different societies, but there has been political continuity (at least more-or-less) since that time. Same with any number of pre-industrial societies which have made the transition.

Now, there are some arguments that transhumanism (especially intelligence enhancement and AI) are more radical than the industrial revolution, better compared to the development of agriculture or even the origin of life.

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Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post
Take the Transhumanism goal of extending the human lifespan. Assume a treatment that would cost about 5000 dollars over ten years that would add several decades to the average human life. However, if a person lack access to clean water and reasonable santitation, the benefits are lost. Most of humanity couldn't gain the benefits. The political struggle over access to the treatment would force transformation.
Moderate life extension is hardly a revolutionary change. Life expectancy has increased by more than 25 years in the last century (US). Even after factoring out infant mortality, you see 15-20 year increases.

Inequality of outcomes is nothing new, either. Even without life-extension therapy, sanitation, clean water, and basic medical access (vaccines, etc) have huge effects, but you don't see a universal presence in the modern world.

Indefinite life-extension might be another story, but with accidents (and violence) still taking their toll, I'm not even sure about that.
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Old 08-11-2010, 05:26 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

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Originally Posted by Astromancer View Post

Take the Transhumanism goal of extending the human lifespan. Assume a treatment that would cost about 5000 dollars over ten years that would add several decades to the average human life. However, if a person lack access to clean water and reasonable santitation, the benefits are lost. Most of humanity couldn't gain the benefits. The political struggle over access to the treatment would force transformation.
That's OK, people who don't have access to clean water and reasonable sanitation probably can't afford 5 large for a life extension treatment in the first place. Frankly I'm not seeing the transformation here. Yeah, the people from the poor areas would be disgruntled and envious...but aren't they already?

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If you can restructure the human body freely, allowing a fat, clumsy, bald, guy (like me) to be slim, graceful (massive neurological work there), handsome as a movie star, then you can transform anybody. What would ethnicity, race, or gender, mean, if you can change your body type more easily than getting your kitchen remodeled? In the West, we can deal with this, in much of the rest of the world, it would be explosive.
The neat part would be the areas where socio-economic pressures would be on poor men to switch sexes so they can join the harems of rich men. Well maybe not.
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

I often think that Transhumanism should be treated like other philosopho-religious issues:
  • No government activity for or against Transhumanism.
  • The right of every person to have an opinion and practice any flavour of Transhumanism (or neither of them all!) as long as this does not infringe the rights of others.
  • A person should be free from discrimination based on his opinions and/or practices related to Transhumanism (so no 'Bioroids only!' schools/bars/jobs and vice versa).
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Old 08-12-2010, 09:56 AM   #5
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I often think that Transhumanism should be treated like other philosopho-religious issues:
  • No government activity for or against Transhumanism.
  • The right of every person to have an opinion and practice any flavour of Transhumanism (or neither of them all!) as long as this does not infringe the rights of others.
  • A person should be free from discrimination based on his opinions and/or practices related to Transhumanism (so no 'Bioroids only!' schools/bars/jobs and vice versa).
Why should transhumanist treatments be exempt from the regulation similar to that for, say, medicine?

And, conversely, if we have a safe, inexpensive, effective transhuman treatment, isn't government support appropriate? Doesn't it make sense to, for example, pay for a treatment to slow aging rather than pay the (significantly higher) medical costs for the elderly?

And, of course, there's the "what about the children" argument. Should we allow parents to have make risky or distasteful decisions for which their children suffer the consequences?
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Old 08-12-2010, 10:41 AM   #6
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

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[joke]Meh, we're all gonna get eaten by grey goo anyway, right? [/joke]
I'm trying to make freinds with the grey goo so it will eat me last :P

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I'm not sure that's true, depending on what you mean by "change what it is to be human" or to end a society.
If I remove or alter a basic limitation of being human, that changes what it means to be human. If I create a system by which megabytes of data can be downloaded into the human brain (lets just steal the gizmo from DOLLHOUSE shall we), then I can grant everybody on the planet an education that would make the proverbial Renaisance man look ignorant. Knowledge is power, power would be radically democratised (although control of the syatem would be a major bone of contention). Change the power dynamics in every human society, and you upend the social hierarchy of every society, effectively ending it. Any technical change that alters the basic rules of life, transforms society.

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Now, there are some arguments that transhumanism (especially intelligence enhancement and AI) are more radical than the industrial revolution, better compared to the development of agriculture or even the origin of life.
Agreed, and some of these technolgies would need only a partial success to transform the world.

Quote:
Moderate life extension is hardly a revolutionary change. Life expectancy has increased by more than 25 years in the last century (US). Even after factoring out infant mortality, you see 15-20 year increases.
First, those increases are to the Average life expectancy. The very oldest people in the Third World and the industrial nations were in the same general range. What I'm talking about is an increase in both the Average and the Absolute life expectancy. Thus an average lifespan of 150 years and an absolute life of 240 years. (150=2*75; 240=2*120)

Quote:
Inequality of outcomes is nothing new, either. Even without life-extension therapy, sanitation, clean water, and basic medical access (vaccines, etc) have huge effects, but you don't see a universal presence in the modern world.

Indefinite life-extension might be another story, but with accidents (and violence) still taking their toll, I'm not even sure about that.
If the increase is enough to create the illusion that those getting the treatment are more than human and make the misery of those unable to get the treatment sharper and the world seem less just, then society will be made to change. Dramatically!
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Old 08-12-2010, 10:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

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Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
That's OK, people who don't have access to clean water and reasonable sanitation probably can't afford 5 large for a life extension treatment in the first place. Frankly I'm not seeing the transformation here. Yeah, the people from the poor areas would be disgruntled and envious...but aren't they already?
As media improves, more people see what is commonplace elsewhere. Societies feel presures they never felt before. If one part of humanity suddenly lived twice as long, and looked damm good doing it, it would have an impact. It doesn't matter what the educated would think, the masses would see it their way.

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The neat part would be the areas where socio-economic pressures would be on poor men to switch sexes so they can join the harems of rich men. Well maybe not.
GURPS : CyberWorld described that as "Custom Cuties." Basically the rich would pay to have someone (willingly or not) scupted, physically and mentally, into their exact sex fantasy. The Perfect Lover to order. Given the sex trade as it exists in today's world, it's a crime that would logically happen at least a few times. And it fits the THS setting.
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Old 08-12-2010, 10:52 AM   #8
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
I often think that Transhumanism should be treated like other philosopho-religious issues:
  • No government activity for or against Transhumanism.
  • The right of every person to have an opinion and practice any flavour of Transhumanism (or neither of them all!) as long as this does not infringe the rights of others.
  • A person should be free from discrimination based on his opinions and/or practices related to Transhumanism (so no 'Bioroids only!' schools/bars/jobs and vice versa).
In the West, it could and probably will be. However, their are societies that can barely stand today's world. Those cultures will explode.
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Old 08-12-2010, 12:02 PM   #9
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

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Originally Posted by gjc8 View Post
Why should transhumanist treatments be exempt from the regulation similar to that for, say, medicine
Basically, there should be quality assurance, but a consenting sophont should be free to modify its body (including brain) as it sees fit, as long as it does not infringe the rights of others. If Michael Jackson wants to look like X and Y, then it's Jackson's right, even if others don't like the looks. Same with other modifications that do not infringe the rights of others.

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And, conversely, if we have a safe, inexpensive, effective transhuman treatment, isn't government support appropriate? Doesn't it make sense to, for example, pay for a treatment to slow aging rather than pay the (significantly higher) medical costs for the elderly?
If the government allows a citizen to choose between a retirement pension from 60 onward and a 'free' anti-agathic treatment from 45 onward, then I agree this is okay. However, requiring such treatment (incl. through coercion of all sorts) would be an infringement.

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And, of course, there's the "what about the children" argument. Should we allow parents to have make risky or distasteful decisions for which their children suffer the consequences?
Ah, this is where it gets tricky. I'm of the opinion that many things parents do already fall into the set of 'distasteful' decisions with suffering as a consequence. In some way, modern children have fewer freedoms than animals, and more people trying to make them happy the way those people understand happiness, not the children. Here are some ways of resolving the issue that at least seem consistent (though I definitely do not make the claim that any one of them is exactly 'right'):

1. Children* are sophonts. Thus, they should get the all the human rights from the start, and modifying them without explicit consent is illegal (OTOH, their consent is enough to allow a modification).

2. Children* are non-sophonts, but are covered by the 'No Cruelty to Sub-Sophonts' clause. This is a slightly more consistent variant than what we have today.

3. (The ugliest version.) Children* are non-sophonts, and are considered technically an extension of their parents' organisms (despite being physically separated), until they pass the qualification of becoming sophonts.

4. Children* are non-sophonts, and The Big Uncle has a list of explicit definitions of illegal treatments of children.

5. Children* are sophonts, but second-class citizens, and The Big Uncle has a list of explicit definitions of illegal treatments of children and behaviors illegal for them to engage in.

* == Definitions of these may vary, and are probably worth a tangent discussion.
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Old 08-12-2010, 12:38 PM   #10
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Default Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

Transhumanism will change things, but unless aliens arrive and suddenly drop future tech into our laps, those changes will be evolutionary instead of revolutionary. You will not be able to pick any specific point and state "Society X ended and Society Y began in the year 20XX."

As was stated before, the people and societies that feel like something suddenly happened will be the ones who don't like change already, and aren't following what is already happening in their drive to resist it.
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