Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Transhumanism: Conundrum, Dichotomy, Science, or Selfishness?

Putting faces on machine mutation
The answer is "all of the above," depending on the context of the moment.

Which is probably a result, to some significant degree, of the media in our culture fostering an unsound basic language: doublespeak.

If we remember that the evolutionary science Anthropology, which tracks the evolution of Homininae, is nothing more than the record of incremental "transhuman change," i.e. human evolution, from a species "close to the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees and humans" to the present time.

There is some debate as to the exact details of past evolution, but the use of the word "transhuman" as it applies to the future is where the more savage debate raises its ugly head (see e.g. Transhuman, Transhumanism, and Transhumanist Declaration).

In that sense of evolutionary science, the past is more clear than the future, because the baseline for that debate is anthropogenic technology.

Two divergent viewpoints arise, one is that the future is bright with human technological evolution solving all problems (5 Future Forecasts).

Another viewpoint is that the future is bleak because of fossil-fuel-based human technological evolution, and it is only going to get worse (Viva Egypt - 2).

That divergence of opinion concerning transhumanism no doubt is due in some degree or another to the doublespeak in our culture which is the result of doublethink in our cognition (The International Language:, New White Trash: Doublewide Doublespeak, Propaganda Is A "Toxic Asset").

So, let's consider what we know:
The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.
(What We Know, AAAS, emphasis added). Our technology requires an economy, which currently requires the habitual and increasing use of finite substances: oil and other fossil fuels.

The addiction to oil, a finite resource, brings up the specter of the problem of peak oil (The Peak Of The Oil Wars, The Peak Of The Oil Wars - 9), which brings up the specter of the collapse of civilization and its technology along with it.

But civilizations, empires, and nations came, prospered, and went into collapse time and again in history:
A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
(Exploded Planet Hypothesis - 2, quoting a NASA project). No technology of history has been able to perpetuate nations, cultures, or civilizations.

The ideology of the transhumanist named FM-2030, who wrote the book "Are You a Transhuman?: Monitoring and Stimulating Your Personal Rate of Growth in a Rapidly Changing World," seems to me to be primarily selfish.

We can't focus on ourselves to the exclusion of our nation, culture, and civilization, because if they suffer collapse then we become members of a collapsed civilization with who knows what implications that brings.

In closing, let me say that transhuman or transhumanist are simply words that mean "human change," for better or for worse.

So, like every other "ism," it is no panacea unless it means human change that facilitates a lasting civilization along with the individuals within it.

Which fundamentally requires, in the first instance, cosmic adults rather than cosmic technology (The Evolution of Cosmic Adults - 2).

Night Blindness, by David Gray

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