RE: [new-tampa-philosophers] Fukuyama's Transhumanism

From: Bob S.
Sent on: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 10:07 PM
It is precisely my point, Krishna, that such modification changes the fundamental rules of the game. That incredibly profound thinker Simone de Beauvoir wrote, in The Second Sex, of a time when women would be able to reproduce, without men, via parthenogenesis. She got the procedure wrong, but human reproduction without sexual selection is hard upon us.

However, that's NOTHING compared to such reproduction subject to INTENTIONAL genetic modification. I made a more subtle point that I hope people don't miss because I was somehow unclear about it: Even a small change in the underlying neurological substrate can have unpredictably large effects on the emergent phenomena of consciousness that in turn have effects on the neurological substrate. These are ENTIRELY uncharted waters. We simply cannot predict what a given consciousness, given even relatively minor changes to the substrate, would be like, but given the network effects and the recursive operations of the neural sustrate and emergent mind upon one another, we can predict that that it would be vastly different from anything we would recognize, and likely different in truly fundamental ways, even ways as fundamental as those that you are addressing.

Robert D. Shepherd
www.bobshepherdonline.com
[masked]th Avenue, Apt. 213
St. Petersburg, FL 33716


[address removed]
[masked]

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"E questo dubbio [about the meaning of life] e impossibile a solvere a chi non fosse in simile grado fedele d'Amore." --Dante, La vita nuova



From: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [new-tampa-philosophers] Fukuyama's Transhumanism
To: [address removed]
Date: Wed, 15 Feb[masked]:56:50 -0500

Hi Bob,
Most of what you say about the profound change in consciousness itself is true. But none of this would be profound or watershed, except in its scale unless the new species, transcends the pyscho-sexual games underlying game. That is the key question, as long as those games are played, there is no real transcending, it is just about pretending. It is also quite possible that transhumans might see the, ultimate pointless of the pyscho-sexual games which in turn lead to moral games. Once the rareness of female gamettes are neutralized, that is when the game will cease and evolve in different direction. Else, it is just more of the same, played on a more dramatic stage, with regular pointless human moral pretensions as usual and pathetic drama that goes with it.

NOTE: I have no preference for which way the gamette inequality is neutralized. Just that it has to be, It could be very well be complet trans-human-lesbian species only.

But once that ceases, the species will no longer be recognizable as human at all, not even trans-human. They wil no longer operate by the rules of evolution, they will evolve as they please out of curiosity, because at that point, they would be bored with limited scope of emotions too.

What willl such a species do to us? Most likely they will muse at us, like we do at the chimps and our pet dogs. But during their intermediate phase when they have to transcend the pyscho-sexual-moral-pretentious nature, they could easily wipe of humans. But, Oh well, not much can be done about it anyway. One more stupid species bites the dust.

- Krishna Thota.


From: Bob Shepherd <[address removed]>;
To: <[address removed]>;
Subject: RE: [new-tampa-philosophers] Fukuyama's Transhumanism
Sent: Thu, Feb 16,[masked]:12:45 AM

Years ago Virginia Postrel wrote a book with the wonderful title The Future and Its Enemies. The premise of her book was that this opposition to where our technology is leading us is the one thing that conservatives and liberals (in the current sense of the term) can agree upon. But as Galen so accurately observes, being opposed to the future is like being opposed to hydrogen atoms. I'm reminded of what the woman told Kurt Vonnegut (who is in heaven now) when Kurt told her he was writing an anti-war book: "Might as well write an anti-glacier book, for all the good it will do you." Anti-war books serve a purpose. Anti-future books are just silly.

Anna, in answer to your question to Galen, I think that it would include much of what is said in The Singularity Is Near and in The Age of Spiritual Machines (which is a better-written book). Both the opponents of transhumanism (Fukuyama) and the singularity rhapsodists (Kurzweil, Vinge) make an enormous mistake in thinking that they can predict what the future is going to bring here. I think that they fail to realize the enormity of the change that is occurring and the consequent difficulty of making predictions given that enormity. For the first time here on Earth, and evolved entity is going to be tinkering with its own evolution. No telling what that might mean. I suspect that it means that all bets are off.

It's one thing to imagine genetic therapies to tackle the 4,500 or so diseases that we know of that have significant genetic components. It's another entirely to imagine the ramifications of even the most modest tinkering with our own biology, via genetics or neurological prostheses or both. Our neurological substrate, by processes that we do not understand, give rise to emergent phenomena of consciousness, qualia, agency, etc. What happens when we change one little part of the underlying substrate? Suppose, for example, that we discover that we can make one minor change and so improve our visual acuity so that we have the distance vision of the eagle. Does anyone really understand what differences even so minor a change would make in our subjective states and thus in our desires, goals, modes of behavior, social structures, etc? What changes would humans make in their environments if they saw in this way? How would those changes in turn affect them? How would a consciousness that saw in this way be different from one that does not? How would such a consciousness behave, and what effects would that behavior have on the underlying neurological structures of the brain that gives rise to that consciousness, given the plasticity of the brain? In what ways would even such a minor change ramify? And the transhumanist literature is full of stuff MUCH MORE PROFOUNDLY ramifying than such a relatively minor change would be. In addition, such people are talking about modifications in a highly complex system, and as we know, in complex systems, very minor modifications in initial conditions can have profoundly unpredictable effects. It will make a difference what modifications are made first, by whom, when, and where, and under what other prevailing conditions. THis is, I think, what Galen means when he says that the literature on this subject, pro and con, is simplistic.

Bear in mind that we are NOT simply talking about the next step in evolution here. We are talking about a fundamental change in the very rules of the game: Evolved systems intentionally modifying the direction of their own evolution. It's never been anything like that before here on planet Earth. This is one of those events that changes everything utterly. Please note that I said "modifying the direction of their evolution," not "controlling their own evolution," for only an extreme hubris would lead us to think, given considerations like those that I raised above, that we shall have anything like CONTROL there.

All that said, there is no stopping our movement to this next stage. We are already well into it. We were when we developed the first prostheses, like the grinding stone or the atalatl. I suspect that there are places on the planet today where there are children with significant intentional genetic modifications toddling about. If there aren't, this would be a great surprise to me, and certainly, there will be soon.

So, Fukuyama's is an anti-glacier book. A waste of perfectly good trees.

Bob

Robert D. Shepherd
www.bobshepherdonline.com
[masked]th Avenue, Apt. 213
St. Petersburg, FL 33716


[address removed]
[masked]

-----------------------------

"E questo dubbio [about the meaning of life] e impossibile a solvere a chi non fosse in simile grado fedele d'Amore." --Dante, La vita nuova



From: [address removed]
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [new-tampa-philosophers] Fukuyama's Transhumanism
Date: Wed, 15 Feb[masked]:23:42 -0500

Galen, that wouldn't include "Singularity is Near", in your opinion, would it?

On 2/15/2012 8:20 PM, Galen Matson wrote:
You asked if we agree or see flaws.  Clearly we see flaws.  If I started from scratch I might make a different argument against transhumanism but could not at all be a motivated devils advocate in defense of his position here.  It's fallacious logic built on a weak premise.  

Though he did point out that a lot of transhumanist literature is unrealistic, amateurish and scary.  In that he is correct.  

On Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 05:29, Anna <[address removed]> wrote:
looks like none of you bright minds want to challenge my irritation with Fukuyama's position.

As to Pete's suggestion, I think Fukuyama needs to start with classics, like Dawkins's "Extended Phenotype".

On the arguments from emotions, the one he is the most concerned is that if biotechnological manipulations removed our ability to feel emotions like anger, hate, or violence, we would in some sense not be human beings any more. He seems to be arguing that to be a human being one must possess all of the emotional capacities characteristic of our species. I wish him good luck to never needing any Prozac then, otherwise he would become inhuman.

Bob, keep the fun coming:)

On 2/15/2012 7:46 PM, Galen Matson wrote:
It boils down to this: "But it is very possible that we will nibble at biotechnology's tempting offerings without realizing that they come at a frightful moral cost."

Meaning, we are not moral enough to be trusted.  Best not to try.

He then makes a slippery slope argument: "If we start transforming ourselves into something superior, what rights will these enhanced creatures claim, and what rights will they possess when compared to those left behind?"

And then an emotional appeal: "We need a similar humility concerning our human nature. If we do not develop it soon, we may unwittingly invite the transhumanists to deface humanity with their genetic bulldozers and psychotropic shopping malls."

I hope this is not considered a convincing argument against transhumanism.

Next question.


On Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 04:30, Anna <[address removed]> wrote:
The limited group of Thinkers on Facebook are not replying, so I figured I'll ask here: so, the most vocal opponent of transhumanism is Francis Fukuyama. Though I myself disagree with him on this, I would like to hear other opinions on his position. Please, take a look at his article on this topic and let me know if you agree or see any flaws:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2004/09/01/transhumanism



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