Rapture with Constraints?
H+, Transhumanists  hope that science and technology will eventually
radically improve human characteristics and capacities (mental and physical).
Radical and profound transformations (Rapture of the Nerds ) are not
on everyones wishlish though!
Indeed, some believe it would be wrong for humans to tamper with fundamental aspects of themselves.
February 28th, 2010 - by Simon Laub - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wrong to create a new ersatz religion. A ''religion'' based on greed - for longer and healthier lives,
additional intelligence and memories etc. - and naive dreams about utopia.
And some just don't think humans are capable of radical and profound transformations.
Certain, it will just never happen.
So, who is right?
a) Will human characterics and capacities radically change?
b) Should people hope for such changes?
Indeed, will such proposed changes be moral or immoral?
An investigation follows.
Clifford Stoll in 1995:  Predicting the future of the internet.
Obviously, we won't know the future until we get there.
On one side we have the singularity crowd that tells ud that
just about everything tech will happen soon.
And on the other hand we have sceptics - luddites,
technophobes and (certainly) realists,
who doesn't buy into
current (2010) singularity dreams.
Personally, I think some sort of middle ground seems to be the best approach.
When the singularity crowd tells us that we will all be wearing brain caps (Arthus C. Clarke style)
- and more - in 20 years time - I'm a little sceptical.
Futuropolis 2058 is just not that easy to create.
But on the other hand, I think Arthur C. Clarke gave us some pretty good quotes:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible,
he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible,
he is very probably wrong.
Arthur C. Clarke, Clarke's first law.
At the present rate of progress, it is almost impossible to imagine any technical feat
that cannot be achieved - if it can be achieved at all - within the next few hundred years.
Arthur C. Clarke, 1983.
The elderly scientists and reporters certainly seem to go out of their way to prove Clarke right.
My favourite example is Clifford Stoll's piece about the internet from 1995:
The Internet? Bah!
Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn't, and will never be, nirvana
Consider today's online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages
across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard
cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens
band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen.
How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow
of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet
Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and
newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.
Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shoppingójust point and click for great deals.
We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts.
Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire
Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over
the Internetówhich there isn'tóthe network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.
Clifford Stoll in Newsweek feb 27th 1995 .
Stoll is the author of "Silicon Snake Oil--Second Thoughts on the Information Highway."
It doesnt prove that you will be wearing a braincap in 20 years time,
or that the socalled Rapture of the Nerds, uploading our consciousnesses into cyberspace,
is a certainty.
But it does suggest that the answer to a) is probably not going to be
''human characterics and capacities will always stay the same'' ! :-)
See the Long Now list  for additional reflections.
Rapture of the Nerds - Future wishlish of the singularity crowd.
To transhumanists, glasses and birth-control pills are but the first steps in becoming
a true cyborg....
Which is all good, as noone can ''seriously argue that the apex of intelligent life is the state
crafted by the processes of natural selection''?
Indeed, most transhumanists will tell you
that the human species
is not forever destined to remain a purely biological entity!
Advances in biotechnology, cybernetics and information technologies, molecular nanotechnology etc.
will, according to transhumanists, make it a pretty safe bet that humanity is poised to under go
a transformation that will be nothing short of radical and profound!?
If not the full Rapture of the Nerds with uploading of consciousnesses into cyberspace,
then surely the transhumanists expect things like:
According to the transhumanist credo :
"...to the extent intelligence can be improved,
- Safe biotech enhancement to alter personality .
- Boost of intelligence and memories.
- Abolishment of sleep.
- Much longer and healthier lives.
- Sex changes ad libitum.
it will be improved."
And why stop here on Earth with humans? In sci-fi novelist David Brin's  the uplift wars one
sapient species after another (throughout the galaxy) uses genetic engineering to uplift
non-sapient species to sapiency .
In Brin's books, humanity uplifts dolphins and chimps. But, it can come as no surprise
many transhumanists see this is as way too little too late :-)
Indeed, what should stop us from uplifting cows, if we just gave them hands?
The ''no-singularity please''-crowd sees it differently though.
Here, uplifting a non-human species is a crazy idea. As is the idea of creating diminished humans.
Indeed, uplifted creatures (that are then the moral equivalent of humans) serves what purpose?
Are they to be subhumans, happy slaves, creatures with constrained or predetermined psychologies,
beings to be used for demeaning or dangerous work? - sounds kind of immoral?
And what might happen if the uplifters overshot and created cows that are smarter than we are?
The ''no-singularity please''-crowd is indeed sceptical!
And Googling it gives you a lot more scepticism:
- Human choice and value is based on limited lifespans! I.e. there will be no real human choices left,
if human limitations, such as vulnerability to aging, maximum life span, and biological constraints
on physical and cognitive ability are all done away with. Human lives will no longer be meaningful
in a world where such limitations can be overcome technologically?
- The Vatican joins in: Changing the genetic identity of man,
through e.g. the production of a subhuman is radically immoral.
And transhumanism makes no sense, as Christians already enjoy,
however post mortem, what radical transhumanism promises,
such as indefinite life extension and the abolition of suffering. In this view,
transhumanism is just another representative of a long line of utopian movements,
who try to create ''heaven on earth''.
- Transhumanism is really just immoral greed, as it is all about empty pleasures and/or
intensified competition in the name of selfish ambition.
- Radical life extension will kill civilization. We will end up with a lot of old people,
and scientific and cultural stagnation...
- Superlongevity is ushering in a debilitating apathy and disdain for life. Life will then be a long
reactive state to repetitive or tedious stimuli, suffering from a lack of interesting things to see or do.
It is a condition of pervasive boredom to the point where one tires of the Earth itself.
And actually, the only solution is death.
- People will end up insane in the era of superlongevity. Because,
over long stretches of time there will be no psychological self-continuity.
A human mind can not store memories from many centuries.
- So we will end up in a world were governments decide when citizens have to die,
- The finitude of human life is a blessing for every individual, whether he knows it or not.
- The good transhumanist stuff is actually also bad,
as human enhancement technologies will be disproportionately available to those
with greater financial resources, thereby widening the gap between rich and poor,
and greating a "genetic divide" - a two-tiered society of the genetically-engineered
''haves'' and the ''not augmented'' ''have nots''.
Rapture with constraints.
So, are we convinced by the singularity-tech-yes or the singularity-tech-no crowd?
Probably, most people end up in the middle - as usual :-)
So for b) the right answer is ''With rapture -- there should also be caution and constraints,
but then we might proceed...'' :-)
Indeed - Inhancements, moral or immoral - What will we think?
Probably, we will end up using the tried and tested trial and error approach !?
If some biotech treatment or enhancement induces a sense of purposelessness,
meaninglessness or feeling of immorality, then people will not choose it.
Otherwise - they just might. And so, towards the singularity....
Posted on Usenet - March 6th 2010:
Subject: Rapture with Constraints
From: Simon Laub
Keywords: H+, Transhumanists, Singularity, Future Society, Rapture of the Nerds.
Sent: Saturday, March 06, 2010 10:31 PM