Transhumanism contains the essence of the revolutionary spirit June 25, 2010Posted by Summerspeaker in The Singularity, Transhumanism.
Drawing on Marx, I define the revolutionary spirit as the belief that we can and should radically transform the world for the better. It spurns compromise and necessary evils, opting instead for creative solutions and consistent morality. It ever struggles against restraints and limitations. The revolutionary saves both the spider and the butterfly or dies in the attempt. “We’ll have both equality and plenty,” say the communists. “We’ll have both freedom and order,” say the anarchists. “We have both longevity and happiness,” say the transhumanists. This mindset motivated Ricardo Flores Magón to dream of a Mexico without the state, bourgeoisie, or clergy. It caused Howard Scott to struggle for an economy of equally distributed abundance and Shulamith Firestone to advocate cybernetic communism. The same impulse drives Eliezer Yudkowsky to push problem-solving superintelligence and Aubrey de Grey to stump for the defeat of aging.
This spirit is not universal within the movement but it is prominent and important. Internally, it stands beside millennialist notions of utopia unfolding from historical processes regardless of our involvement. Externally, it contrasts with the reformist and conservative positions, which argue dramatic change to be impossible, undesirable, far off, or some combination of the three. Transhumanism contributes to the revolutionary discourse by expanding the conceptual territory subject to transformation. In the sense that anarchism addresses social relationships, communism the economy, and feminism the home and family, transhumanism looks to the body and mind as sites for improvement. Additionally, it encourages ambitious scientific investigation specifically targeted to enable transformation. Optimistic futurism sets no boundaries beyond the known laws of physics, which themselves are written in clay rather than stone.
While I favor revolution over reformism in the abstract and thus have a natural affinity for the movement, radical change can be employed by most any value system. My assessment of transhumanism in this respect by no means implies an endorsement of the goals and methods of current leading figures. Moreover, the whole transformative project lends itself to the traps of hubris and self-righteousness. Any would-be revolutionary need proceed with circumspection and caution. Yet, with those dangers in mind, I perceive vast potential in synthesis between the technological and political visionaries. Our stated core values overlap more than not. At present, the transhumanist program exists at grave risk of enshrining in diamond the oppressions of het white male supremacy and economic inequality.
Together, we just might have chance. Our shared commitment to making things better from the roots and denying all but the most adamant of limitations will unite us. The odds of successful transformation may be small, but I guarantee they are smaller still if you discard the possibility.