6 thoughts on “A New Transhumanism Blog”

  1. Égalité or diversity?

    It’s both at the same time. It only seems like a contradiction because they’re using Oldspeak.

  2. It seems a little muddled to me, like he hasn’t really thought out carefully the definition of his terms. For one thing, he seems to confuse equality before the law with equivalence more generally. No reasonable person thinks all human beings are equivalent, in any important sense. One person makes a better sailor, one a better miner, one a better wife, one a better father. We sort people all the time, in many ways.

    Equality before the law — including equal rights — is a wholly different concept. It says nothing about what you may earn, or achieve, or what portion of what others may choose to freely bestow upon you (respect, wealth, fame) will be yours, instead of someone else’s. Rather, it says you have the same inalienable, irreduceable rights to be left alone by your fellow men.

    Id est, you may not be denied the right to speak your mind free of fear of punishment, just like anyone else. But that does not guarantee you an equal audience as someone with more interesting things to say, or a more entertaining way of saying them. A fact most leftists and young people seem not to fully understand.

    I have a feeling what he’s groping toward is the idea that our notions of rights and legal equality and universal human dignity are somehow rooted in our feelings of fellowship — the fact that we are all H. sapiens, all less strong than elephants, slower than cheetahs, and all doomed to die in less than 150 years. If that is the case — what happens if some of us become really different? Stronger than elephants? Able to live on Mars? With life expectancies of 500 years? Will H. superior regard the rest of us as little more than talking monkeys, and reduce his awarding of “rights” concomitantly?

    The answer is very likely yes of course, but I doubt it matters. We give fewer rights to monkeys less because we are jealous of awarding more — because we have some urgent reason to push them around against their will — than because experience tells us they can’t usefully comprehend and enjoy more rights. What does a right to free speech mean to a cat? Nothing important.

    In the same sense, it would be odd if H. superior, in granting us orthos fewer rights, did not choose to withhold only those rights that we can’t understand (the right to fnordize without hegelian puppetry) or can’t make practical use of (the right to communicate telepathically without being wiretapped by government agents).

  3. Carl,

    Without addressing the bigger picture, two comments:

    Doesn’t your analysis ignore guardianship? Consider a baby with a trust fund. Even if the baby can’t understand what’s going on, the baby has useful rights, the management of the trust fund usually entails a fiduciary duty to the baby, etc. Similarly, coma victims, etc.

    Also, it doesn’t really matter for your argument or mine, but your animal examples are unconvincing. Many animals could “usefully comprehend and enjoy more rights” than they currently have under human laws. A monkey in the zoo can usefully comprehend its freedom and enjoy the right to not be imprisoned only because it was the one that didn’t escape. A cat who is punished when it makes a noise could usefully comprehend and enjoy a right to free “speech”.

  4. Bold points, bob.

    I don’t see how guardianship applies unless one assumes H. sapiens is capable of growing into H. superior, the way a baby is capable of growing into the competent management of (and enjoyment of) his inherited wealth. There have certainly been amusing sf stories along these lines, where alien species function as guardians of humanity, which is presumed to be growing into a much more wise and powerful species, capable of usefully enjoying rights — e.g. the right, on an individual basis, to use thermonuclear reactions any way you like — that it can’t competently manage right now. But I have assumed arguendo that the distinctions between humans and transhumans are genetic, hence fixed, and no guardianship could apply.

    Bob, your minor exceptions to my general arguments are not sufficient to ruin them. Do bear in mind that nearly all monkeys do not live in zoos. Also, if you think the notion of “free speech” should protect the right to yowl at midnight on the back fence — I will note parenthetically that it does not in the case of humans — then simply substitute the notion of a free press, or the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, or the right to vote for President at age 18. Can your cat make use of these?

  5. Sorry for the formatting trouble.

    How does your argument apply to a person who requires guardianship his entire life due a unchanging genetic problem (say, severe Down’s syndrome)?

    And regardless of the need for a guardian, a person can often make use of or enjoy rights he can’t comprehend — I think non-comprehension of a right is, sometimes at least, not a reason to take it away.

    Confession: I have not read the original article – I just saw your name, and figured you’d say something interesting and entertaining, but wrong. 🙂

  6. Goodness, bob, I had no idea my mind rays had acquired such potency that I can cause you to think X merely by espousing Not X.

    By the way, I think it would be a terrible idea, a deep affront to the principles of liberty and justice, positively inhuman, if you would mail me your personal check for $4000, which I happen to need by Friday to pay my daughter’s spring tuition bill. Just thought I’d mention that.

    Anyway. What you appear to be getting at first seems in the nature of a charitable impulse based on unusual bad luck. Why do humans take care of, say, a profoundly retarded child who will never be capable of earning his own living, dressing himself, et cetera? Certainly in harsher times past that would not have occured. The ancient Greeks or Romans would simply have “exposed” the child and allowed it to die. Certainly it does not occur among animals — a tiger cub with a profound birth defect is simply killed and eaten by the nearest predator, and the community of adult tigers do not sacrifice themselves to prevent that.

    Well, we have charitable impulses, that as a general rule do us great credit. So we do indeed take care of such a person. But not, I think, as a matter of rights. I don’t think you can build a successful society that incorporates the notion that people “unable” to take care of themselves must be taken care of by others. Even leaving aside the profound problem of defining that tricky word “unable,” this violates too many rights of the others. (I will note parenthetically that the Democratic Party and the left in general holds as a sacred principle today that one person may not be legally forced to take care of a blood relative, id est her own child, when that child is utterly unable to take care of himself, for a mere nine months. An admirable dedication to the principle of refusing to allow the need of the one to override the needs, wishes, rights and liberty of another, perhaps. But…er…not too consistently followed in other areas.)

    You can hope for charitable impulses, and make it one of your core social values, transmitted from father to son, like honoring service in the military or not telling unnecessary lies. You can strongly promote it as a good and noble thing. But it can’t be a right.

    I think non-comprehension of a right is, sometimes at least, not a reason to take it away.

    Oh absolutely. For example, every infant (and 26+ week fetus) can make very good use of the right to life, without in the least bit comprehending, or being capable of comprehending, the nature of life and death.

    I don’t recall arguing that understanding a right is a pre-requisite to making good use of it. I thought I just challenged you to explain how your cat could make good use of the right to a free press or the right to keep and bear arms.

Comments are closed.