Thursday, February 17, 2005

Thinking more about conservative transhumanism

Here and on wta-politics we've been debating the feasibility of a conservative transhumanism, and whether it would be welcome. More reflections:

I am looking forward to a clearly articulated "conservative transhumanist" presence in the noosphere. I think most American libertarian transhumanists are just juvenile conservatives without kids - once they have to think about their kids taking drugs and f-----g I expect them to hold their nose at being in the same party with the Christian Right and join the Republicans. So better that we are clearly welcoming of that orientation than lose them altogether.

I am also sincere that I think there is room for some kind of conservative transhumanism as a wedge against the biocons, and a right wing to the transhumanist bird. As I said before the principal conceptual difficulties that I would like to see the few extant conservative transhumanists address are:

- Who are the transhumanist conservatives? (Michael Fumento is one to look at BTW.) What do they believe? Are they organizing? What kind of connections can we make? Can we invite them to something? A five way debate with the left and right biocons, libertarian transhumanists and us, the dem-trannies?

- What are the issues on which transhumanist conservatives agree and disagree with transhumanist libertarians and democratic transhumanists? There is a corner in the political model in my book for conservative transhumanists, albeit an empty one. (You can see the summary table for that at the bottom of this page:

One start would be to create a column in that table for conservative transhumanism, and fill in each box.

- Another challenge is for the transhumanist who considers themself both an atheist and a conservative. There is a very strong correlation between religious belief/orthodoxy and conservative social values. Secularists are overwhelmingly social liberal. If they are also economic conservatives, they end up libertarians, or in the libertarian wing of conservatism.

For instance, the General Social Survey asks a random sample of Americans annually how liberal or conservative they are, and whether they believe in God. Compressing the slightly conservative, conservative and extremely convservative into "conservative" the 1100 folks they polled broke out like this:

Belief in God
Atheist Agn/Doubts Believer

Liberal 1.6% 10.5% 13.3%

Moderate 0.9% 11.7% 28.0%

Conserv 0.4% 9.6% 24.1%

Which means that atheists constitute 6.4% of liberals, but only 1.1% of conservatives. Even if you include those who said they were agnostic or had some doubts, non-believers are 47.7% of liberals and 10% of conservatives. Conversely if you have to be an atheist to be a transhumanist, atheists in the US were 56% liberal, 31% moderate, and 12.5% conservative. That was also in 2000. Polling suggests further political polarization of the religious-secular in the last four years in the US.

On the other hand, the neo-cons represent a crypto-secular/big-US-military/smaller-welfare-state wing of conservatism, so they are prima facie evidence that secular transhumanists who nonetheless support "family values" could be part of the conservative landscape. Wesley J. Smith is another example of a non-theistic biocon who has found a quasi-theistic language with which to talk to theists. Non-theist conservative transhumanists could work on finding a similar language.

- The most important political challenge for a "conservative transhumanism" is articulating how a transhumanist can support the restrictions on bodily autonomy, cognitive liberty and civil rights that are integral to conservative policies. For me, both a rejection of fetal personhood and a commitment to adult women's right to control their own body, requiring in turn unrestricted access to abortion, is pretty central to transhumanist values. Articulating the conservative transhumanist case for more restrictions on abortion, or conversely why conservatives should defend abortion rights, would be pretty important. Same for gay rights, stem cells, the Drug War, prayer in schools, creationism, and a lot of the other defining issues of modern US conservatism.

- Finally, conservatives could find an enthusiasm for transhumanism if the case could be made that enhancement technologies provide an avenue for the strengthening of families, communities, and traditional values. (Obviously the case can also be made that they are good for capitalism and military strength.)

We could imagine the consensual use of neurotechnologies by individuals in traditional communities to suppress desire for premarital sex, homosexuality and adultery, to accentuate religious belief (especially if there is God Gene) and other "virtues" such as charity, patriotism, honesty and so on. I actually make that argument, on behalf of empathy and morality, at the end of Citizen Cyborg.

So, again, I look forward to a clearly articulated conservative transhumanism to join the mix. I think it would strengthen transhumanism and clarify the biopolitical debates.


Dale Carrico said...

What's so bad about folk-singing that you hadda go self-censoring like that?

12:48 PM  
citizencyborg said...

For instance, Rev. Thomas Scott Painter R-FL, the blogger at considers himself a transhumanist.

His most recent Blog posts:

* Support Space Exploration
* Fight Adultery
* Bear Witness to the Truth
* Fight Suicide
* Boycott the United Nations
* Boycott Sports (the NBA is liberal)
* Prevent Sin --> Prevent Death
* Be a Pro-Lifer
* Renounce Mammon


2:15 PM  
GOP Christian said...

My opinion for what's it's worth:

- Who are the transhumanist conservatives?

I usually can't stand to travel in liberal anti-theist "tranhumanist" circles long enough to find out who else is being ostracized, but I do know many of the 1,500,000,000+ Christians are more transhumanistic than most tranhumanists want to believe.

-What do they believe?

[Let's see if this translation works.] Insure modest gains for the next generation, having great faith in your eventual resurrection rather than selfishly gambling everything on yourself and risking the survival of the human race which is supposed to play a role in your eventual resurrection. We don't want to die, but most of us don't see much hope of extending our maximum lifespans during our lifetimes, so we are highly involved in propagating our memes, ensuring the remaining remnant of humanity will take part in the resurrection which prepares us for the day in which we are judged by the superintelligence which made us human because he wanted human things to be done. Our main purposes in life is to please the superintelligence by giving him all glory and honor and power for no other reason than he is who he is. I like to call him God but all names are his because he's responsible for everything. :-)

-Are they organizing?

We tend to focus on more immediate threats to the survival of humanity, but transhumanism simmers in the background if you look for it.

-What kind of connections can we make?

...single issue caucuses focused on single issue results. Use focus groups rather than presenting your agenda as a whole and allow everyone to support ideas we support without having to support everything we don't. There is also a huge language barrier, so make sure you're really speaking our language rather than trying to redefine it. ...and no debates. Liberals debate. Conservatives fight right-wing terrorists who want conservatives dead for protecting liberals. ...believe it or not. :-)

- What are the issues on which transhumanist conservatives agree and disagree with transhumanist libertarians and democratic transhumanists?

This is a great question to elaborate upon, but for the sake of simplicity and the fact I've been writing this for hours I'll sumarize by saying we conservatives support SMIILE, though we expect only modest gains, so we focus on passing on traditions to the next generation.

2:47 PM  

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