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IEET > Security > SciTech > Rights > PostGender > ReproRights > Life > Innovation

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Sexuality and Beyond


Ben Goertzel
Ben Goertzel
Cosmist Manifesto

Posted: Jan 23, 2010

A futurist friend of mine likes to tell people of his aspiration to somehow remove all sexuality from his brain.

Most people think he’s nuts in this regard (including his wife, with whom he has an active and healthy sex life), but he’s convinced that sexuality is one of the main factors slowing down our progress toward the Singularity, immortality, superhuman benevolent AIs, and all the other good stuff.

The point he always makes in these conversations it that it’s amazing, when you really think about it, how much of modern human society is structured around sexuality. Marriage, kids, dating ... buying nice clothes and making oneself up to impress the opposite sex ... buying cars or houses or the latest cellphone to impress the opposite sex with one’s success ... etc. Sexuality pervades nearly everything in our lives, implicitly even when not explicitly.

imageAs is now common knowledge, the power sex has over us is rooted in the power our DNA has over us. We are evolved to obsess over reproducing, over extending our DNA to future generations. Even though most humans in First World countries now use birth control for nearly all their sexual encounters, and many humans choose not to reproduce at all, we are still strikingly controlled by the mind-patterns ensuing from our DNA’s urge to persist itself.

But evolution has tangled sex up with all manner of other aspects of our psyches. As Freud, Reich and others pointed out so thoroughly, human motivation is deeply tied with our inner sexual energy. Eunuchs seem to generally lack aggressive, enthusiastic motivation even for things outside the realm of sex. But when my anti-sex futurist friend speaks of blotting out sexuality from his mind, he doesn’t want to blot out his passion and energy generically—he wants to focus it on things other than simulations or enactions of the reproductive act.

And of course sex, at its best, is a profound “altered state of consciousness” experience, just as self-melting and reality-changing as meditation or psychedelics or any other extreme of human experience. It brings you outside of your ordinary self and state-of-consciousness, putting you in touch with wholly different ways of being, interacting, experiencing.

Beyond Sex

imageAs satisfying as sex and sexuality are for human bodies and minds, there seems little doubt that, eventually, transhuman minds will discover new forms of pleasure and fulfillment going far beyond what we now get from sexuality. Sexuality is wonderful but it’s also a mess ... it wraps up confusion and pain with pleasure in complex ways, surely more than is necessary based on the innate interconnection of pain and pleasure that exists in any finite mind.

It may seem cold or eccentric to say so, but the fact is that orgasms and genitals and romantic relationships—as glorious as they are—are hideously badly designed ... it’s obvious that other entities serving the same purposes (and more) could be developed…!

But what do we do now, while we’re stuck in legacy human form? Should we embrace asceticism, so as to more effectively work toward transhumanity without distraction? Or should we make the most of the pleasures afforded by the human form, while they’re the only ones we have ... so long as we can do so without killing our chances to find something even better later on?

To what extent is a healthy sex life needed to give the human mind/body an effective grounding for making the difficult judgments that will come in the next decades as technology develops?

There are no easy and immediate answers to these questions ... each of us has to make their own judgment.

All Cosmism does is urge us to make such judgments based on a rich understanding of the issues from multiple perspectives. And urge us to obsolete the dilemma, by fixing the underlying problem, which in this case is the rootedness of our experience in a body and brain that are very difficult for us to reflectively modify and manipulate according to our deliberative desires and conclusions.

What Would Asexual Aliens Think of Human Sexuality?

One interesting exercise is to view sexuality, or other practical issues, as if one were an asexual alien viewing humans objectively and for the first time. What would such an alien think about the role of sexuality in human society and psychology?

Assuming the alien perceived the human race as being on the cusp of a technological Singularity or something similar, what would the alien think about the optimal human relationship with sexuality and other in-built obsessions of the human brain/mind?

 

This brief article is part of the overall Cosmist Manifesto.


Ben Goertzel Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, and founder and CEO of two computer science firms Novamente and Biomind, and of the non-profit Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (agiri.org).
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COMMENTS


Thanks for re-posting from the Cosmist Manifesto. It is a wonderful document, which I recommend to everyone.

But what do we do now, while we’re stuck in legacy human form? Should we embrace asceticism, so as to more effectively work toward transhumanity without distraction? Or should we make the most of the pleasures afforded by the human form, while they’re the only ones we have ... so long as we can do so without killing our chances to find something even better later on?

As it is often the case, my answer to this question is not either-or, but AND. We can work toward transhumanity, AND make the most of the pleasures afforded by the legacy human form.

Someday, perhaps in this century, humans will have the option to move to cyborg or robotic bodies, or to become software beings who can swap physical and virtual bodies as they wish. Working toward transhumanity is good, let’s keep doing so.

At the same time, my advice to readers in their teens, 20s and 30s is, enjoy the pleasures afforded by the legacy human form as much as you can and as long as you can, because they don’t last forever (ask anyone on the bad side of 50).

Sadly, even many young people cannot enjoy these pleasures for many reasons, often due to severe physical, mental or social handicaps. We owe to them to develop options to permit everyone to enjoy life.





I really appreciate this article - This is a facsinating question and one that has preoccupied spiritual people and those interested in human development for millenia. It is true that sexuality often gets in the way of higher aspirations, and takes up tremendous emotional, psychological and intellectual energy. But my inclination would be towards infusing it with true humanity, qualities like trust, care etc., by striving to be more conscious than cave men or sex-and-the-city postmodern boomers, who both act compulsively. Then we might very well decide to go beyond that drive, not out of fear or a sense of vitimization, but out of our own spiritual victory over impulses further down on the evolutionary scale.





What would an ‘alien’ think of human sexuality? A few lines from Shakespeare says it all: from his poem, Venus and Adonis.

Call it not love for love to heaven is fled
Since sweating lust on earth upsurp’d His name.
Under who simple semblance man hath fed
upon fresh beauty blotting it with blame,
which the hot tyrant stains and soon bereaves
As caterpillars do the tender leaves.

Love comforteth like sunshine after rain
but lust effect is tempest after sun.
Love’s gentle spring doth always fresh remain.
Lust’s winter comes, ere summer half be done.
Love surfeits not, lust like a glutton dies,
Love is all truth, lust full of forged lies.

http://www.energon.org.uk





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