Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
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Technoprogressives and Transhumanists: What’s the difference?

Mike Treder

Ethical Technology

June 25, 2009

Nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science—the so-called “NBIC” technologies—have the potential, especially as they converge, to radically transform both human beings and human societies.

Let’s consider a couple of questions raised by the powerful possibilities that loom in the near future.


Complete entry


Posted by veronica  on  06/26  at  12:26 AM

“How quickly should transformative new technologies be developed and implemented?

How many people should be able to benefit from transformative new technologies?

Hard-line bioconservatives would say that no one should have access to transformative technologies, because they should not be developed at all.”

I’d be able to figure out where I land on your chart if I had a good working definition of “transformative.” Perhaps there’s another article on IEEE that goes into detail? (For instance, is a prosthetic limb for an amputee an example of a transformative technology? If so, I don’t think anyone opposes R&D into that. How about drugs that are very promising as far as treating problems with concentration? Again, I imagine even bioconservatives would be pretty excited about that.)

Posted by Cyber-Communist  on  06/30  at  11:05 AM

From the Wikipedia article on Techno-progressivism:

‘‘Although techno-progressivism is the stance which contrasts with bioconservatism in the biopolitical spectrum, both techno-progressivisms and bioconservatisms, in their more moderate expressions, share an opposition to unsafe, unfair, undemocratic forms of technological development, and both recognize that such developmental modes can facilitate unacceptable recklessness and exploitation, exacerbate injustice and incubate dangerous social discontent.’‘

Posted by veronica  on  06/30  at  11:50 AM

Thanks, cyber-communist. With the following statement: “my views place me at a fairly radical end of each set. I’m strongly in favor of making access to the benefits of NBIC technologies available to all who want them:but I also tend toward reasonable caution in developing and implementing them,”
Mr. Treder seems to want to fit in both the radical AND the moderate expressions of techno-progressivism. (An observation, not a criticism.)

Posted by veronica  on  06/30  at  05:21 PM

OK, I’m sorry if I didn’t understand this:
“my views place me at a fairly radical end of each set. “
to mean this:
“I characterize myself as “fairly radical” on the vertical axis, but more moderate on the horizontal axis”

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  08/03  at  02:18 PM

My position on the charts:

How many people should be able to benefit from transformative new technologies?

First thought, 1. All (everyone, without qualification)

I think all people should be able to benefit from transformative new technologies. At the same time I recognize that transformative new technologies may be initially deployed as very experimental and expensive options which only a few can afford. Note that in this case the early adopters also assume must of the risks associated with not yet fully understood medical procedures.

So, my answer is 2. Most (as many as feasible)

How quickly should transformative new technologies be developed and implemented?

4. Full speed ahead

In my opinion this is also the best way to manage risks. If there are restrictions, you can bet the bad guys will develop transformative new technologies underground and deploy them on black markets, with important risks for us all.

Posted by Don Spanton  on  12/23  at  04:41 PM

I don’t have any strong disagreements with how Mr. Treder defines the positions of bioconservativism, libertarian-transhumanism, progressive-transhumanism, etc. However, I fail to see how the line of reasoning he presents above in any way differentiates ‘transhumanism’ from ‘technoprogressivism’. 

My own thoughts on this issue are that individuals who self identify as technoprogressive tend to be more pragmatic. They like to focus more on present day techno-political issues and less so on overly abstract thoughts about some hypothetical posthuman future.

Basically, technoprogressivism should be seen as a strictly political affiliation, while transhumanism should be seen as more broadly cultural.

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