Meh Transhumanism

I was going to title this “Against Transhumanism,” but then realized I’m more indifferent than against; it distracts some folks from what I think important, but probably attracts others; I can’t really tell if there is much overall effect.

The history of the future is the rise and fall of groups claiming to advocate for the future, with advice that just happens to also raise the social status of their affiliate groups.

When I was very young there was still lots of cold war futurism, about how the future would be ours because our side was more industrious, smart, moral, etc.  Each of us could help make a bright future for the world by by helping our side win, via full support of our heroic governments and big corporations.  Unity yeah, divisiveness boo.

Then there was enviro-futurism, about how the world will go to hell in a handbasket unless we followed their lead and cared less about greedy materialistic dominance, and more about peaceful submissive less-kids-n-stuff harmony with nature. Flowers n drugs yes, SUVs no. There is still lots of this around.

Then arose techno-optimism, about how everything depends on our brilliant engineers, especially heroic ones who risked personal failure to fight incomprehension and entrenched interests to bring us innovative new techs.  We should get government off their backs, celebrate their genius, and maybe sleep with them once in a while.  Those old pesky problems of war, environment, jealosy, etc. will be swept away in a tsunami of new tech changing all.

Then there was transhumanism, a clever appropriation of the reigning academic storyline of defending minorities oppressed by a reigning majority.  Here the minority is not an ethnicity or sexual orientation, but imagined future tech-modified people.  Conservatives who accepted other kinds of diversity could be goaded into opposing this kind, allowing advocates to heroically defend against such prejudice, and get tenure in the process. Rah disliked future folk.

Yes I’d mostly favor letting future folks change themselves, yes tech is powerful, yes environmental problems are real, and yes it mattered who won the cold war.  I’m not so much against the main claims of these groups as I am against their concept of themselves as the main folks who care about the future.  These just won’t be the central issues when the future arrives.  Yet when the media reports on the future, reporters pretty much only ever quote these sort of futurists, who have hijacked the future to support their side of certain current disputes.

Truth be told, folks who analyze the future but don’t frame their predictions or advice in terms of standard ideological categories are largely ignored, because few folks actually care much about the future except as a place to tell morality tales about who today is naughty vs. nice.  It would be great if those who really cared more directly about the future could find each other and work together, but alas too many others want to pretend to be these folks to make this task anything but very hard.

FYI, I’ll be on this futurism radio show tonight at 10-11p EST, in preparation for speaking at this Foresight conference Jan. 17. I’ll also debate Mencius Moldbug there on futarchy Jan 16.

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