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The Transhumanist Declaration 2.0

Posted: Thu, March 28, 2013 | By: Dirk Bruere



This was the winner of the competition for a new declaration that was held by Transhumanity. As such it is currently the definition adopted by Zero State. It is shorter than those it was based upon with many of the negative caveats concerning its dangers condensed into a single point.

Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We assert the desireability of transcending human limitations by overcoming aging, enhacing cognition, abolishing involuntary suffering, and expanding beyond Earth. We intend to become more than Human.

The single defining factor of Transhumanism that separates it from all previous philosophies is the proposed use of technology to transcend what it means to be Human.

However this needs to be constrained by some basic ethical principles, not least for our own benefit and indeed survival. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise. This is to be seen as a consequence of the adoption of Abolitionism, defined by philosopher David Pearce, as our core ethic.

We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives, live their lives and if necessary end their lives.This includes use of techniques that may be developed to enhance intellect, mood, concentration, memory; anti-ageing therapies; reproductive choices and  technologies that seek to alter genotype and phenotype. We also seek to develop artificial intelligences by various methods.

We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. However, whilst these dangers need to be explored and guarded against the spirit must be one that embraces the Proactionary Principle rather than the Precautionary Principle. We must not allow timidity to rob us of our unique future.

Positive Transhumanist ideas and ideals need to be infused into public life at all levels, from popular culture and art, to politics and religion. Technologies that facilitate Transhumanist goals need to be adequately funded. The political leadership of our societies need to ensure the benefits are made available to all citizens in a non coercive manner.

 



Comments:

“Non coercive” is the rub, here.  This is as fine a manifesto as I could hope for, but let’s not kid ourselves about the way these technologies are being introduced into the population: as “must have” toys for keeping up with “the Johnsons”; as inexorable universal surveillance that does not reach both ways to hold the powerful accountable; and as federally protected ecological devastation cloaked behind “sustainability” and “international development.”

How on Earth do we expect (or can we even deliver on) “non coercive” when the growing power disparities between technological haves and have-nots leads to INTRINSICALLY coercive social dynamics?  As a society we continue to develop technologies with the laissez-faire free market rhetoric from early Capitalism and the wholly unscientific Enlightenment myth of the self-determining individual – a philosophy thoroughly dismantled by the very ecological, neurocognitive, and cybernetic research that kindled transhumanism in the first place – reapplying a century-old obsolete model of evolutionary dynamics to a world in which we suppress scientific findings on how cellular phones cause tumors, or certain GMO crops lead to sterility, and dismiss concerned parties as “Luddite alarmists” standing in the way of our painless godhood.

Not to mention that all of these noble claims of growing into our great creative destiny occlude the actual emotional basis for many transhumanists – specifically, the fear of death and pain.  These are not trans- but pre-human motivations – unsuitable within, and insufficient for entry into, the godlike realms to which we aspire.  And without examining them we will continue to enter one Faustian bargain after another.

In other words, I refuse to live in a future designed exclusively by emotionally adolescent engineers.  I think we can do better.

This manifesto is a beautiful piece of rhetoric but we’re a long way from living up to its ideals.  Technology won’t fix THAT problem; true transhumanism requires that we first fully embrace the present condition of our humanity – including, especially, the heart.

“Don’t Be Evil” isn’t good enough; it still draws our attention to a world none of us wish to inhabit.  Let us follow the guidance of a truly healthy vision of our potential – the festival planet homeworld of Spielberg’s ET – and choose instead to “Be Good.”

http://michaelgarfield.net

PS - If “The single defining factor of Transhumanism that separates it from all previous philosophies is the proposed use of technology to transcend what it means to be Human,” then the ancient yogic systems are transhumanism, and deserve our serious attention…

By Michael Garfield on Mar 29, 2013 at 12:55pm

Good points, Michael.  Particularly the postscript.  Humans have been transcending ourselves for as long as we can remember, using any means at our disposal.  It behooves technological transhumanists to make a study of world religions, because there we can find a wealth of information about what directions have been explored and where they have led, before we pick a direction and strap on jetpacks.

By Corvinity on Mar 29, 2013 at 7:07pm

“[..] then the ancient yogic systems are transhumanism, and deserve our serious attention…”

I, for one, do not see how that follows.

By Noetic Jun on Jul 15, 2013 at 4:28am

I do not think such a general and overarching document should contain default references to specific thinkers or philosophers, that might be seen as endorsement or personal bias.

In this particular case the above statement is relevant because not all transhumanists, while probably sharing most other principles and goals, will subscribe under abolitionism as stated by D. Pearce (*especially* under the “gradients of bliss” part, which I myself also find not completely agreeable).

My 2%.

By Noetic Jun on Jul 15, 2013 at 4:32am

No single declaration will ever cover all Transhumanists. Probably not even if it were reduced to “Technologically augmenting Humans is good”.

By Dirk Bruere on Jul 15, 2013 at 7:40am

That particular point seems to me a bit exaggerated, though I do get the general idea.

By Noetic Jun on Jul 15, 2013 at 7:42am

Noetic Jun, if this quote doesn’t explain why yoga as a practice of self-transcendence is actually MORE transhumanist than the goals of many self-described transhumanists, then please feel free to contact me directly.

“Now most recent usages of ‘transhuman,’ it seems to me, have forgotten most of this, and mistaken the ‘transhuman’ for the ‘ultrahuman’ – a kind of upgrade to the same basic model, still denying our connection to each other and the environment. Huxley, a biologist, very much intended ‘transhumanism’ to indicate a change in who and how we are, and this change centered on a recognize of our radical interconnection with the cosmos, a perception of unity. Now ‘transhuman’ etymologically suggests ‘beyond the human,’ and in my view much of what we call ‘transhuman’ these days – the technological enhancement of our already existing nature to cling to life and deny the role of death, for example – is, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, ‘human, all too human.’ It is an individual ego’s vision of evolution.”
– Richard Doyle, information scientist
http://www.acceler8or.com/2011/06/the-interwingularity-is-here-sex-psychedelics-interconnection/

By Michael Garfield on Jul 15, 2013 at 8:05am

I know at least one self styled Transhumanist that does not believe in technologically augmentation of Humans

By Dirk Bruere on Jul 15, 2013 at 3:12pm

@Michael Garfield: I see what you mean, though I heavily disagree with it on almost all of the points I can discern in that idea.

In general, it seems to me that, in certain circles, the word “transhumanism” has acquired so much fashionable vagueness and has become so loaded with notions from mysticism and cryptoreligion that it should perhaps adopt another name, or family of names, to remain distinguishable from the memeplex delineated by the foundational structures such as the Extropy Institute, WTA/Humanity+ or SL4 (I suppose I can be counted among the “purists”, by the standards of http://transhumanity.net/articles/entry/fear-loathing-in-transhumanism).

If indeed we have already people who count themselves among transhumanists and at the same time deny the central idea of H+, namely, the radical betterment of human existence through rational application of science and technology, then the splitting has already happened, even if the new (?) memeplex has not yet acquired a distinct name.

It is precisely in this light that the supreme relevance of the statement and attitude expressed in http://mariakonovalenko.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/stop-discriminating-the-serene-ideas-of-transhumanism and elsewhere is revealed and expressed as both appeal to reason and a cautionary warning.

By Noetic Jun on Jul 15, 2013 at 4:43pm

Noetic Jun,

I agree that there is a wild diversity of perspectives in the cultural ecology of “transhumanism” (something that former MIT cultural historian & founder of the arguably transhumanist trans-disciplinary think-tank, The Lindisfarne Foundation, would call a “noetic polity”) – and that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?: that as we move through this evolutionary radiation of body and mind, we’re likely to find new tensions between our conceptual horizons.

Add the developmental spectrum of human psychology to this and transhumanism is going to be understood differently by humans at different levels of selfhood (e.g., premodern, modern, and postmodern).

In light of this I think that it is laughable to arrive at a consensus definition of what it means to be human – since “human” is itself a construct based on conceptual metaphor – and thus impossible to agree on what it means to be “transhumanist.”

However, I think it’s my view and Rich Doyle’s as well that if we define transhumanism as “the radical betterment of human existence through rational application of science and technology,” then we absolutely HAVE TO give credit where credit is due and look back to the historical precedents of both yoga and shamanism as coherent schools of praxis in which the most rigorous body of observations and the most complete set of techniques available to those respective cultures were applied to that very end.

(You are speaking to an evolutionary ecologist, by the way, as a matter of transparency and framing context.)

By Michael Garfield on Jul 16, 2013 at 6:37am

Exactly what credit is due where? What has been achieved through the practices of shamanism or yoga that they deserve the merit of being part of transhumanism or human enhancement in general? Is that not the same fashionable postmodern nonsense as the tirade about “a palpable and unmistakable sense of being taught by [psychedelic plants]” or “the Intertwingularity” (pardon if I cannot say the last with a straight face)?

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t have much against people practising yoga or even getting wasted in shamanistic “spirit journeys”. It’s just I don’t think that those things have anything to do with either science, transhumanism or human enhancement research as such.

If we are to lower our standards so much, we have to accept that even my glasses or somebody’s artificial teeth are transhumanist technology - an approach that blurs the valuable distinctions and violates the “virtue of narrowness” (http://lesswrong.com/lw/ic/the_virtue_of_narrowness).

My 2%.

By Noetic Jun on Jul 17, 2013 at 5:59am

If you lose context, you lose perspective.  The virtue of narrowness, I’m sure you’ll agree, doesn’t apply to minds.

By Michael Garfield on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:33am


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