Posted: Thu, March 07, 2013 | By: Ian D. Mclean
I’ve been approached by two people so far to write an article about elitism in transhumanist communities. I’ve been reluctant to accept these offers for a couple of reasons.
First, I don’t like stirring hornet nests. Second, I’ve not spent a lot of time in meat space with other transhumanists, so I don’t feel that my observations can be generalized to beyond the couple of offline events and the couple of online communities that I’ve lurked at. Third, and most importantly, I don’t feel I can do the social critique of privilege and intersectionality justice. Fourth, I can’t yet quantify my claims.
I’ve been approached because I’ve voiced some concerns about transhumanist ideals and methods. It seems to me that there is a notable absence of people of color, women, and trans* people in the community. From the demographics that I’ve seen so far, your average transhumanist is a young to mid-age white affluent male with at least some college or professional education. Given the technical orientation of the transhumanist ideals and the economic costs intrinsic to complex technology, it seems to me that it immediately follows that the community is at high risk of reinforcing social inequality and privileged norms rather than critiquing, challenging, and deconstructing them.
While lurking around transhumanist communities on Facebook—notably the H+ magazine contributor’s group which is an open group—I found the community to be lacking in scientific and technical literacy; also, I’ve run into some rather intolerant and arrogant people; some who are contributors to the H+ magazine or board members. There is a general culture—so it seems to me—of smug superiority. For some it’s simple economic superiority and for other’s it’s intellectual superiority. There are discussions of eugenics which of course sparks fears of white supremacy in discussion. Regardless of the specific form, classism seems to be a common property in the community.
I’ve raised some concerns about how the technology developed and championed by transhumanists will actually be used. I’ve watched for a couple of decades now as transhumanist technologies have been honed into weapons of war and tools for police states. I went to the Singularity summit in 2011; I left the summit with the distinct impression that the Singularity community was a special interest of the wealthiest in the society. Capitalists, oligarchs, and monopolists looking for yet greater ways to increase their power relative to others. There are discussions about longevity, practical immortality, and achieving godhood right along side Ayn Rand like libertarianism. It reminds me of manifest destiny and similar imperialistic ideals of history.
Recently, I introduced some of my friends from the post scarcity communities to the Human 2.0 Council on Facebook. The response to ideas like basic income have been pretty uniformly hostile.
“Everything there is totally wrong.
People are not equal in skill, intelligence, character, ambition, or vision. Forcing them to be equal in financial outcomes is the very opposite of justice. How do you expect greater utility from taking away from the relatively more competent at producing value and giving to the relatively less competent?
If I cannot better my condition [by] working harder, learning more, reaching further then how long do you think I and others would continue to do so? How long if you insist we must lift the entire mass of humankind to advance our own condition in any material way?
Property is not an arbitrary construct of society. It is an obvious part of having the right [to live] your own life. You produce value. It is your property that you are free to trade for the value produced by others. Government exist to protect such rights not to insist that it is arbitrary to say that you own anything at all, even your own life.” -Samantha Atkins
I tried to tell a couple supporters of the basic income scheme that not only is it immoral, but it would never work in the long run. I got the typical statist talking points and just left them to their own devices. They obviously know better than me, so let them prove it. These people that support this basic income bullshit can’t be reasoned with because they already have their minds made up. -Anthony Bruce
This is fairly common sentiment in my experience. When I gave my Transhumanism and Animal Uplift Presentation at FurCon 2013 this year—also a predominantly affluent demographic notably with a skew towards LGBTQ—I got some pretty clear negative feedback when I said that transhumanist technologies, particularly cybernetic implants and elective prosthesis, would become common and affordable precisely when we adopted universal single payer healthcare. There were quite a few people who got rather upset at that notion.
Much of this leads me to the tentative conclusion that the transhumanist community—if these behaviors, beliefs, and ideals are representative—is primarily a wealth cult cheer leading a future in which the wealthiest not only get wealthier but become as gods compared to puny mortals like us.
This is licensed under the Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 unported license.
This essay was originally posted at Ian’s blog HERE