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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom -- Soc

One of the most intriguing things about intelligence and creativity is that human beings exhibit these virtues in incredibly diverse ways, despite our all-too-frequent attempts to categorize people and limit their choices.

Philip K. Dick was one of the edgiest, darkest and most bizarre science fiction writers of the 20th Century. Yet this speech by the same author reflects a very religious, Christian-influenced view of reality from an SF author most people would not automatically associate with matters of faith, much less Christianity. Famous for works such as Minority Report and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick's creativity seems in no way hampered by his religious beliefs. His speech also contains another interesting insight:
...The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get inside his head and imagine how he saw the world. Certainly, I decided, that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans do. And then I began to think, Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. And that led me wonder, If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe, it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too diffrently, there occurs a breakdown of communication... and there is the real illness.

Perhaps there is something to be learned from his example. Given the number of prominent scientists over the years who were known to believe in God, in some cases passionately, the philosophical and religious beliefs of thinkers should not be used as a criterion for assessing the worth of their other ideas.

And perhaps more significant to human potential advocates... we shouldn't allow our own assumptions about the course of human/posthuman evolution or the most viable enhancement technology paths to blind us to real progress along other avenues. Nor should we allow our assumptions to prevent us from utilizing techniques and technologies that would otherwise enhance our ability to make progress in whatever sphere of activity we deemed most valuable for ourselves or for the future in general.

Applying political or religious litmus tests to scientific truth (as opposed to the application of scientific principles) always turns out badly. So why go out of our way to do that in supposedly objective, rational circles?

And finally, there is something very odd about the impulse many futurists have to maintain a kind of ideological and religious purity to their worldviews. How so? Because so many radical futurists, whether Singulatarians, Transhumanists, professional AI programmers, genetic engineering advocates, accelerated learning researchers or would-be eugenicists, not only put forward a vision of technological reality sharply at odds with that of most of humanity, but often vigorously espouse an entire philosophy of life as part and parcel of their "self-evident" futurist ideas.

It's nice that you believe in the Coming AI Gods, or Uploading All Humanity, or Rewriting Our Children's Genes, or Reprogramming All Brains, but isn't that enough? If you're trying to promote half-a-dozen controversial ideas already, remember that if you have any more. There are enough outspoken Libertarians, democratic Socialists, Anarchists, micronation founders, techno-shamans, science fiction writers, utopian dreamers and neo-Fascists in the midst of these movements to begin with. Your views may seem conventional based upon your real life and online friends, but that doesn't carry much weight with the other 6 billion+.

So bear in mind, some people may disagree with you. If you want to get along with these people, if you want to promote your agenda, consider that before you tell them "All religious people are stupid," "I hate Capitalists," "The poor only live like that because they want to," "I hate liberals," "I hate corporations," "I hate educated people," "I hate the rich," "I hate foreigners." Believe it or not, not everyone agrees with any of the above statements, even after you've argued for half an hour with them. In fact, all you're doing is ticking those religious, capitalist, poor, liberal, corporate, educated, rich, foreigners whom you're offering the Word.

If you have an agenda to promote, you have few enough natural allies as it is. Why push aside most of the ones you have left?

Frankly, if you're of the belief that an AI posthuman will one day arise (and you hope to be the first) and you think that the first ethical thing such a being should do is forcibly upload every human being into a computer substrate... Well, that's fine. But if your agenda can be summed up as "All Brains Must Be Eaten," then remember that at some level you sound like the tagline of a zombie movie, and cut people a break when they describe their politics or mention their church or other religious faith.

In the eyes of many, you may be some kind of weird cultist already. If you persist in treating them that way, why should they give you the benefit of the doubt?

Just be clear -- if you're a radical futurist of virtually any stripe, then in the eyes of the world, you're the crazy one.

Future Imperative