IEET > Rights > Economic > Contributors > Kris Notaro
Transhumanism and Anarchism
Kris Notaro   Aug 21, 2012   Ethical Technology  

A short and simple overview of how anarchism relates to transhumanism.

Libertarian socialism The first anarchist journal to use the term “libertarian” was La Libertaire, Journal du Mouvement Social and it was published in New York City between 1858 and 1861 by French anarcho-communist Joseph Déjacque.“The next recorded use of the term was in Europe, when “libertarian communism” was used at a French regional anarchist Congress at Le Havre (16–22 November 1880). January the following year saw a French manifesto issued on “Libertarian or Anarchist Communism.” Finally, 1895 saw leading anarchists Sébastien Faure and Louise Michel publish La Libertaire in France.”

The word stems from the French word libertaire, and was used to evade the French ban on anarchist publications. In this tradition, the term “libertarianism” in “libertarian socialism” is generally used as a synonym for anarchism, which some say is the original meaning of the term; hence “libertarian socialism” is equivalent to “socialist anarchism” to these scholars. In the context of the European socialist movement, libertarian has conventionally been used to describe those who opposed state socialism, such as Mikhail Bakunin. (Who I am not a big fan of) The association of socialism with libertarianism predates that of capitalism, and many anti-authoritarians still decry what they see as a mistaken association of capitalism with libertarianism in the United States. As Noam Chomsky put it, a consistent libertarian “must oppose private ownership of the means of production and wage slavery, which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labor must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer.”

Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which endorses syndicalism. Syndicalism is an alternative co-operative economic system. Adherents view it as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the state with a new society, democratically self-managed by workers. Anarcho-syndicalists seek to abolish the wage system, regarding it as wage slavery, and state or private ownership of the means of production, which they believe lead to class divisions. Anarcho-syndicalist theory generally focuses on the labour movement.

Anarcho-syndicalists regard the state as a profoundly anti-worker institution. They view the primary purpose of the state as being the defence of private property and therefore of economic, social and political privilege, even when such defence denies its citizens the ability to enjoy material independence and the social autonomy which springs from it. In contrast to other bodies of thought (Marxism–Leninism being a prime example), anarcho-syndicalists deny that there can be any kind of workers’ state, or a state which acts in the interests of workers, as opposed to those of the powerful. Reflecting the anarchist philosophy from which it draws its primary inspiration, anarcho-syndicalism holds to the idea that power corrupts.(1)(2)

Technology: Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The word technology comes from Greek τεχνολογία (technología); from τέχνη (téchnē), meaning “art, skill, craft”, and -λογία (-logía), meaning “study of-” (3)

Noam Chomsky on Technology: “technology can be compared to a hammer. “It doesn’t care if you use it to build a house or crush someone’s skull. The Web is valuable if you know what you’re looking for, if you have a framework of understanding. But you always have to be willing to question whether your framework is the right one.” He compared simply browsing the web for information to pointing a student at the library knowing they had no idea what they were looking for. “Exploring the internet can just be picking up random factoids that don’t mean anything”, he said. “The person who won the Nobel prize in biology isn’t the person who read the most journals. It was the person who knew what to look for,””(4)

Transhumanism: is a intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities. The movement regards aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death as unnecessary and undesirable. Transhumanists look to biotechnologies and other Emerging technologies for these purposes. Dangers, as well as benefits, are of concern to the transhumanist movement. (5)

Reality of the Production of Technologies Under Current Capitalism: “On the surface, companies like Jabil [HP, IBM, Intel, Cisco, AT&T, Motorola, Wal-Mart, Foxconn, Apple ] look clean and high tech.  It seems well-run.  But people looking in from the outside do not realize that the workers at Jabil are not treated like human beings.  The workers must obey all demands from the factory and have absolutely no right to express disagreement.  The workers are seen as components of a machine.  During the entirety of their 12-hour shift, they are stripped of their humanity.  They are not allowed to have their own personalities, feelings, desires or needs-even using the bathroom.  For every second of every minute, they are controlled and ruled over by a prison-like management system.”(5)(6)(7)(8)

Capitalism and Working During the Human Condition: “To move beyond Marx and Anarchism in our current paradigm of the human condition may be an actual fallacy, an over criticizing of theory by intellectuals [including transhumanists] or Anarchists which have, out of awareness, a desire to move on past Marx and anarchism out of [the knowledge] of the dangers of simplifying the way people are supposed to be.  Progress seems to come out of paradigmatic crisis, and this intuition may lead some to the point of over analyzing, yearning to either create crisis or move beyond crisis to a new paradigm because of authentic intuitive feelings of the yearning for progress and egalitarianism which many intellectuals experience and write about through out their lives.” (10)

“Though capitalism is meant to be based on competition, those at the top of the food chain have also shown themselves to be capable of inclusiveness and solidarity. The great Western Capitalists have done business with fascists, socialists, despots and military dictators. They can adapt and constantly innovate. They are capable of quick thinking and immense tactical cunning.But despite having successfully powered through economic reforms, despite having waged wars and militarily occupied countries in order to put in place free market “democracies”, Capitalism is going through a crisis whose gravity has not revealed itself completely yet.” (11)

Long story short: For all you republican, libertarian, and liberal capitalists out there that want to see a transhumanist future, the evidence is clear: you will have to abide by a broken system under the human condition. This includes capitalist free trade, unnecessary war, and wage slavery – are you really prepared to see transhumanist gadgets be set in stone within the history books as a time like that of apartheid or European and American slavery of the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries?

Is your wealth, or dedication to the government and corporations that lead the way towards a transhumanist future really what you are all about? Transhumanists know that the future will include technologies that will replace government – worldwide. Transhumanists also know that democracy and/or singularity like computer intelligence will dictate our existential, utilitarian, and categorical imperative future. We will be networked together to feel and think as one via brain to computer interfaces. Whatever the means for higher critical thinking may be, rather morality drugs, nano-blood-bots, brain to computer interfaces, gene therapy, etc, the outcome will be socialized anarchism. Critical thinking does not lead the mentally “enhanced” individual or super-computer to be selfish, indeed just the opposite. Let’s take what we have so far as examples of critical thinkers who have come to the same conclusion but under the human condition. The list is long, but a few major examples are Marx, Einstein, Hawking, Chomsky, Russell, Arundhati Roy, most philosophers, anthropologists, and sociologists.

If we base human intelligence, logic and critical thinking on examples like these we are left with one conclusion: The mentally enhanced will be socialist anarchists, regardless of what kind of technology they may be – for universal health care, anti-war, anti-authoritarian, anti-discrimination, pro-democracy, pro-choice, anti-racism, and even anti-speciesism will be regarded as the highest value system ever pondered by the brain/mind.

Scientific inquiry, the scientific method, and scientific revolutions will bring the enhanced mind together. Scientific discoveries and theories, in my opinion will bring brain/mind together like that of the social theory of Anarcho-syndicalism. Science however does not need a State, government, or leaders to be accepted as the truth – the scientific method speaks for itself.

In conclusion, we have several things going on here: Transhumanism being State and corporate funded under a “race to the bottom” wage slavery economic system. But, we also have the claim that transhumanism will increase intellectual thought and compassion towards brain/mind. I personally would rather see the compassion come before transhumanism so that history doesn’t reflect that of our ancestors. Anarchism also allows the free-thinker some time to ponder what is right and wrong without an authority figure proposing and in some cases forcing concepts and theories on them.  The scientific method, revolutionary liberal universities, colleges, and peer-reviewed journals will be of the utmost valued way of learning what is true and real - morally, ethically, and scientifically.


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Kris Notaro served as Managing Director of the IEET from 2012 to 2015. He is currently an IEET Rights of the Person Program Director. He earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.


I like this piece, though it is too rich to reply to with one comment (and commenting 2 or 3 times in a row is not right). So, will zero in on some micro-points related to it:
many libertarians in America are basically Republicans with a veneer of anarchist tendencies—though this is naturally a gross generalisation. However anyone who has lived in America their entire life knows how old-fashioned (non-technoprogressive) the interior of America is—it may be techno but it sure is not progressive. The two coasts are somewhat progressive, but “flyover country” is not. Only a few bubble communities in flyover country are progressive; Madison, Boulder, Austin- a few others.
Where you live affects you, and unless you want to be a marginalised rebel, you are going to have to adjust to others’ norms and standards. Therefor, if you live in a cornball community, you are going to be a cornball to some degree. A libertartian might want to be a libertarian, but unless he is a super-rebel he is going to have to adjust to a Republican community by being a Republican.
The following is a purely political footnote, but though it is true how many on the Left, the far-Left, have and still do react too violently to the Right, most of you are probably old enough to remember how in the past there was accomodations made with the Right. The truly militant Communist-influenced Left evaporated as soon as military conscription was terminated and America withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. During the ‘80s many former Leftists drifted to ‘hip capitalism’ and some became outright Republicans. Reagan Democrats, as the designation implies, accomodated to Reaganism.
In the ‘90s, radicals weren’t as visible as before, and in the last decade there were no mobs rioting a la the Days Of Rage in 1969, only a few protests occurred, to heckle financiers in Seattle and a few other locales. I don’t see that Occupy were unfair, not particularly unfair—seeing as how they were younger people left out of the loop and how many had held their fire during the previous decade.

The Chomsky quote regarding hammers vis a vis skulls is what comes to mind when I see the sort of euphoric fantasizing on display here.

SHaGGGz, you point out the problem of dealing with criminals.
But any criminal act in such a post-scarce society would be considered flawed logic or in the event that it is deliberate coercion, the criminal would be seen as empirically broken.
Both are instances which would demand immediate behavioral cancellation and correction since they are either illogical in the environment or directed malicious intent (as a display of present structural error.)

Kris has some good material above; now I’d like to see a piece written by a first-rate thinker on how PR Sarkar relates to technoprogressivism. It’s always Westerners such as Marx, Adam Smith, Hayek, von Mises, Friedman, Rand, etc;
don’t Easterners count for more than that?

Hi Kris! While I applaud Notaro’s promotion of socialist anarchism, I cannot support your reasoning. I’m for freedom because it’s what I want, not because it’s more true or real than anything else. I deeply doubt intelligence leads inevitably to compassion, much less left anarchism. That line of thinking strikes me as a deadly trap. If the narrative of moral progress influences transhumanists toward anarchism, okay, but don’t support so-called enhancement technologies in the hopes that they’ll inexorably produce anarchist thought.

Intomorrow, are you religious? Anarchism in short, No Gods, No Masters.  Also I mentioned Arundhati Roy, one of India’s greatest critical thinkers.

Summerspeaker, compassion, freedom, and mutual aid - how do you get better than that? also what is it called? its basically anarchism. However, it is my belief that when you have an intelligence which has surpassed human intelligence in all areas, not just lets say math, that it inevitably leads the critical thinker to compassion instead of lets say selfishness. I have my reasons for this and have already started a paper on it. I do not believe in unfriendly AI, SAI, or AGI, and will explain myself in my next paper.

But while we are on this subject, what is it about intelligence greater than that of the human which we should be afraid of?  Why would it be selfish and become some super american libertarian republican capitalist?

I see no correlation between intelligence - admittedly a murky concept - and anarchism. To invoke a stereotypical example, the Nazis excelled at science and technology. Innumerable geniuses support and have supported the horrors of modernity. My enemies aren’t stupid people - quite the contrary. Throwing out a handful of names like Chomsky and Roy doesn’t provide sufficient evidence for your thesis. Few hotshots even in the humanities - arguably the least intellectually challenging sector of the academy - embrace libertarian socialism.

Summerspeaker, I think intelligence is the seeking of truth through critical thinking and the utilization of the scientific method. (Hitler’s Mein Kampf mentions God, while atheists Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, where too power hungry) Yes, these concepts can be used by selfish evil people – but in a world where science can help us create a value system I don’t see how that can lead the enhanced mind over to the “Right” or to capitalism. Leftist ideals have a logic to them, a sense of fairness. I could be wrong though, but senseless killing (illegal wars, etc) stealing the lives of millions (sweatshops, sex trafficking, etc) and the non distribution of wealth (925 million people hungry and starving, etc) just doesn’t seem like ideas the critical thinker who values human life and truth seeking through science would value, they are ridiculous, horrendous nonsense.

However, the real critical thinker would value:

The rights of workers to self organize.
The lack of a vanguard party.
The lack of leadership by a few people.
The use of true democracy - even consensus based voting.
Worker solidarity, brain/mind solidarity, pure real solidarity.
The idea that power corrupts.
The lack of competition for money.
No “race to the bottom” around the world.
No “1%” controlling most of the resources and money.

@Summerspeaker re “I’m for freedom because it’s what I want, not because it’s more true or real than anything else.”

I totally agree. I tried to make this point here many times, but you said it better.

Think what you want, do what you want (without causing harm to others), and don’t bother “justifying” it with rational arguments. You are more important than rationality.

@Kris: The claim that something so broad and ill-defined as an intelligent system would inevitably converge on the specific political outlook that just so happens to overlap with yours reveals more about your inability to assume a perspective external to your own cranium than it does about some factual state of affairs.

@Glullo Prisco - What is rationality and reason? Are there morals and ethics? Or do we simply live in an atheistic existential nihilist world where science, logic, rationality and reason can’t lead to any promising moral and ethical outcome? Please read my article and comments
in reaction to Treder just getting up and leaving the country.

I hope its not all in my head, for I do live in this world 😊

I majored in Existentialism and Philosophy of Science and was part of the Left since high school. I took to the streets in protest after the Seattle WTO meeting.  I remained agnostic about whether I was Libertarian Left, all the flavors of anarchism, leftism, socialism, and communism.

I read, talked with, and witnessed the Right, Middle, Liberals, and the Left. I have gone to countless of protests and meetings. I guess your on to something that it’s in my head that a rational, logical outcome of an enhanced mind would be: Libertarian Socialist, Anarcho-syndicalist, and value science and philosophy. However im not sure your right either.

Ontology and Epistemology are not done by any means. The progress is slowish in both fields. The only thing I can present to you is:

1. My own experience
2. The experience of others
3. Philosophical theories presented by moralists, and ethicists, like Kant, Mill, Sartre, De beauvoir, and other critical thinkers.
4. Political theories and theorists.
5. Modern Moralists – (I have Harris’ book “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values” next to me) along with the countless journal articles by Ethicists and Epistemologists that are currently published, or in the process of being published, etc.
6. Oh, then all the rational documentaries out there, take for example some crazy right libertarian conspiracy theory documentary like Alex Jones’ “Endgame” and compare it to Naomi Klein’s “The Take” and tell me what is more rational and coherent.
7. The Socratic Method

ShaGGGz: For example: Do you believe in a vanguard party leading the working class (including the military) through a world wide workers revolution eventually leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat? 😊

“To be or not to be, that is the question?”

Although tenuous, I would say there is a link between intelligence, logic, and critical thinking. And that in rising above all conflicts and “political” and polarized thinking, (if that’s indeed Human(e)ly possible), we may rationalise that we should do our very best to limit suffering for all? And endeavour to use technology and build machines to help us achieve this?

Contemplating the uppermost question, and assuming “to be”, then peace and non-harm is the most logical/rational state of existence?

Then there’s this viewpoint?

Better to have never been

@Kris: Let’s ignore for the moment the reality that all of the thinkers you list stem from European culture and do not take into account other cultures from around the world, which can and have developed in different ways, and grant for the sake of argument that all human civilizations would inevitably converge upon the same values given the proper social structure conducive to free inquiry. This still ignores the fact that our capacity for “rational” conceptual thought is but the tiniest tip of an evolutionarily-accreted iceberg that is beyond the access of conscious thought and yet shapes its development from the foundational level. The specific quirks of our neurology, particular to our evolutionary history, shape the higher-level philosophical and moral outgrowths. You completely ignore the vast possibilities of mindspace that are beyond our tiny corner of it.

@SHaGGGz: Arundhati Roy, Hugo Chavez, the zapatistas, Vandana Shiva, the Tibetan people, are a few examples of anti-imperialists anti-neoliberalists and anti-capitalists along with being critics of Western foreign policy especially that of the United States. The list is long, very long. Also I have no clue what mindspace is, even though philosophy of mind is my academic passion (oh im sorry, thats a western nonsense area of philosophy, therefore it must be wrong or doesn’t consider other possibilities like an infinite god, gods, or some other new-age crap) I am sorry I beleive that 2+2 is indeed 4, that when matter comes together gravity is created, etc. Also posthumans will, within their mindspace of non-western culture find that 2+2 is actually 5, and that science, scientific revolutions, the scientific method and the rejection of religion is all just a product of humans limitations of thinking.

Re “when matter comes together gravity is created”

I am afraid Einstein would disagree.


One doesn’t need religion to see that a “pro-choice” philosophy is the most selfish of all.  Worse than Hitlerism, its victims can’t defend themselves.  Technologies like IVF *are* human-trafficking. 

Furthermore, universities have no freedom to debate this:  that abortion is to be accepted as an ethical option is foisted upon students and faculty with cultic intimidation and scorn, with discriminatory policies enacted in the mandatory student funding of university “health” centers, etc. 

Therefore, I agree that higher intelligences tend to anarchy; but compassion is nowhere to be found within them.  Lucifer could think most clearly; such little potency in him; and yet like the scientist, thought that the results of his own excellent activity were the gage of reality; he ignored metaphysics and the mystery of a loving God to his peril.

Intelligent people are compassionate when they die to themselves.

@Glullo, when matter comes together gravity is created, - yes, more mass or density of matter equals more curvature of spacetime, in theory.
@Henry, Anarchism is not “anarchy”, in fact its “order”, and have you ever once met, seen, talked with, or felt god? Also, I didn’t realize that one must force womyn to have children. Ever hear of back ally abortions? How about hangers? What about rape? How about over-population? hmm, what about incest? What if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mental and physical health of the fetus or woman?

“Think what you want, do what you want (without causing harm to others)”

Unfortunately, there is no way to know what remote effects one’s actions are having, so actions are based on expediency as well as ethics.

“Intomorrow, are you religious?”

No, am backwards-looking—looking towards the past for guidance—which is not technoprogressive.
Anyway, PR Sarkar lived in India from the ‘20s to the ‘90s, so he naturally was religious, as Martin Luther King was naturally a Christian. Sarkar’s popularizer, Ravi Batra, is not religious.

@Kris: Now you are suggesting that ethical/philosophical/political systems are at the same level of unambiguous scientific hardness as physics and mathematics, a position that is far from established.

Mindspace is the spectrum of all possible minds, a psychological landscape analogous to the moral landscape you referenced, a possibility space for minds. My point in bringing this concept up is that our psychology is the product of a particular evolutionary context, subject to a particular and unique set of environmental and resource constraints, and could have turned out differently. This billions-year old collective unconscious we all share lays the initial conditions for the chaotic system that is our mind to unfold from.

Yes, you’ve namedropped some famous theorists. None of you agree with each other on every conceivable philosophical question, especially as details of ever finer granularity are sussed out. There is no monolithic immaterial reality “out there” for all of you to perceive and thus come to agreement upon.

I think SHaGGGz’s point about the impact of our evolutionary history on our conceptual thought is crucial. On the whole we value happiness for (in decreasing order) ourselves, our loved ones and the wider community. It’s the way we’re wired. Our upbringing, other influences on it, or eccentricities in our genetic make-up complicate the picture to some degree (as reflected, for example, in summerspeaker’s apparent devotion to freedom for its own sake), but on the whole we’re fairly consistent, especially when we’re being honest with ourselves. There is no guarantee that AGIs will share let alone improve on these values, and history seems to me to provide little encouragement for the idea that anarchism will make them more likely to do so, however fashionable it may be (in American universities) to believe that it will. It’s just taking us back to Ayn Rand, which Piero Scaruffi critiqued excellently in his recent article.

“Do you believe in a vanguard party leading the working class (including the military) through a world wide workers revolution eventually leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat?”

Probably even Communists don’t believe in a vanguard party leading the working class through a world wide workers revolution eventually leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat; Communists today may be using Communism as a way to work with unions on arbitration—and nothing more.

@Kris re “when matter comes together gravity is created, - yes, more mass or density of matter equals more curvature of spacetime, in theory.”

Einstein would rather say that matter and geometry define each other in a self-consistent loop. Bent space-time tells matter how to move, and matter and its motion tell space-time how to bend.

Back to topic, I _like_ anarchism and I share many of your ideas, at least in theory. But I remain persuaded of the validity of Hume’s “you cannot derive an ought from an is.” Social issues are in the domain of ought, and scientific issues are in the domain of is. You cannot mix these two domains in any consistent way, they are just different.

@Peter, Giulio and SHaGGGz:

Lets try and forget the troubles that epistemological knowledge tends to bring into philosophical philosophical conversations, and jump right to a Logic Tree. If compassion and egalitarianism is what we want, there are not billions of ways to get there (except the 7 billion people on earth).
As Peter pointed out “on the whole we’re fairly consistent, especially when we’re being honest with ourselves.”

Anyway, lets be honest and consider a few things. Let’s assume we will have super intelligence, maybe even mind uploading in the future, etc. Let’s also assume that we will be able to be conscious of many things at the same time, that all brain/mind parts will be enhanced. Let’s even consider something I think which will come before mind uploading, - the attachments of other biological and computer parts to the human brain and body. So lets assume that we have enhanced our brains, added sonar to see in the dark, and are attached directly to the Internet via brain-wifi, etc.

Now does this all lead to anarchism? On the face of it, it seems like - hell NO! However, if the brain is enhanced, if it has access to vast amounts of information WHY please tell me why you think a conscious enhanced human brain would rather stay the same politically, not become more compassionate and perhaps play around with the capitalist stock market.

When presented with a logic tree of political theories and their outcomes, why would the enhanced mind ignore such a thing? Wouldn’t an enhanced mind be “more evolved” and perhaps want to know more about the world around it? When confronted with the fact that certain stocks play a major role in the killing of millions of people around the world for profit, wouldn’t the enhanced mind find a better stock to trade, or not trade at all?

To me, a large portion of the transhumanist movement almost assumes that more intelligence and enhancement means less compassion and more competition. This sounds like devolution to me instead of evolution?

More compassion AND more competition. More of everything. It is the definition of intelligence. I am more compassionate and more competitive than my doggy.

Hi Kris - great article, excellent discussion.

I am very interested in your statement - “I do not believe in unfriendly AI, SAI, or AGI, and will explain myself in my next paper.”

I agree with you, intuitively, and I’m looking forward to your thoughts on that.

In passing, you cannot derive an ought from an is, but you _can_ derive an is from an ought. The history of technology, social organization, and politics, is the history of ought becoming is.

Life IS preferable to death?
Less suffering IS preferable to more suffering, (especially concerning the status quo)?
Peace IS preferable to conflict?
Rationality IS preferable to irrationality?
Security IS preferable to fear?
Trust IS preferable to distrust?
Order IS preferable to chaos?
Stability IS preferable to instability?
Equality IS preferable to inequality?
Freedom IS preferable to slavery?
Love is preferable to hate, (derived from fear and distrust)?

So what values “ought” we pursue logically and in designing logical systems, (machines)?

I agree that in the (not inevitable) scenario you describe we are very unlikely to want to “stay the same politically”, and doubtless we will want to continue to play around (as we have already been doing) with the “capitalist stock market”.

But…“compassion and egalitarianism” is NOT, in general, what we want. What we want is happiness first for ourselves (as individuals), then for our loved ones (indeed, the very expression “loved ones” demonstrate that we don’t love all equally), and then for various levels of “wider community”, in some cases (but in general not) embracing other species. Our politics reflects this.

I believe in many futures, and I believe that free will resides in our ability (albeit not very reliably) to steer ourselves towards the ones we like, and away from those we don’t. If I was really persuaded by the evidence for your disbelief in unfriendly AGI I would find that comforting, but I am not. I believe that unfriendly AGI is a distinct possibility, and that one doesn’t give oneself the best chance of avoiding risks by denying they exist. Positive visions are essential, but they should not be presented as inevitable, unless there is good reason to believe they are.

@Kris: If it was a cut-and-dried matter of deducing which sorts of values lead to a “better” life, which we supposedly did centuries ago, then we would all be living in rationalist techno-utopias by now. Life in the real, meat-based, finite human world of competing agents with differing conceptions of the good and conflicts of interest, is a lot messier than your neat and simple conception where things from the Platonic realm of optimalities manifest themselves merely by virtue of their superiority. If things were so simple we wouldn’t have things such as the prisoner’s dilemma, resource hoarding, tragedy of the commons, and innumerable other scenarios in which the optimal course of action is apparent and yet obstinate reality gets in the way of its realization. Just because I have technology that allows me to literally feel what millions of others feel doesn’t mean that I will necessarily use this knowledge to create a utopian commune based on compassion and empathy. What’s stopping me from using this knowledge to further my acquisitive instinct, or other selfish desires that come at the expense of others? Knowing what’s right does not imply doing what’s right (assuming that there is a single way to be “right”, which I also very much doubt).

The problem when dragging moralism in to trump logic, is that we fail to distinguish “subjective” morality from the pursuit of “Universal values” - which are, on the whole, objective and rational, and their pursuit is logical none-the-less?

Human desires are also animalistic and primal, and some we do share deeply with animals, and thus should, “ought”, take reflection and note, because we “know” “logically”, not just in our hearts but in our “minds” that we should not inflict pain and suffering on others and on other species?

Another example: We humans, and “most” other animals, may deem “freedom” as either crucial, (intellectual), or at least limiting to physical and mental well-being when removed, (animals/primal). Yet the subjective moralism humans politically argue/justify and practice/apply has little connection with the Universal case for this and its application?

Rather like Randians associating “objectivism”, darwinism, and linking capitalism and economics?

@Cygnus: How do you propose we distinguish between “subjective morality” (redundant) and “universal values” (oxymoronic)?


But I already have both here and elsewhere, and so has Kris here? Logic and rationality, using increasing reason and future intelligences will lead to greater success?

If you scrutinize my first comment above, then yes, there is rational argument against even existence and life itself, and we cannot totally eliminate the future possibility that an omnipotent machine demiurge may choose nihilism?

Yet, let’s step back from this, and agree that life and existence is not “worthless” and is of “Universal” value? Surely you can agree on this “reason” and logic at very least, if nothing else?

The CEV that we may aspire to build need not be capable of even Self-realisation/awareness, (although I’m not sure how we could ultimately prevent this)? However, one step at a time, let’s evolve the global interconnected mind using the noosphere, here a CEV need only serve a collective aspiring to “Universal values”, life and reduction of suffering for all?

Subjective moralism is not redundant, and objective morality is debatable, yet all of this may be viewed in more “naturalistic” light, and reason logically the human nature, condition, wants and needs, neuroses etc?

Does Ayn Rand’s Objectivism describe subjective moralism or objective logic pertaining human frailty and weakness? Can we draw closer to distinctions between logic and moralism? I think we can, do, and will yet further?

@Cygnus: So you admit that there is a rational basis for nihilism, and yet you wish to “step back from this” and pursue an alternative value system, yet claim that morality is an objective matter?

Yes, I agree that existence is of value (for myself, at least; I wouldn’t try to impose this belief on one seeking euthanasia, for instance), but I don’t delude myself into believing that this belief is somehow not based on emotion, or has some absolute or objective status. As Peter pointed out, oughts and ises are are fundamentally different kinds of things.


Your logic is very testing, like Socrates, I respect this! However..

Although I admit that “some” may espouse nihilism I do “not” view this as either rational nor logical and always argue against this. I simply highlighted this view to provide perspective and balance. Logically and rationally, existence, (life), IS preferable to non-existence? The Universe has evolved thus, “physics” and the potential for existence and its perpetuation is rational? This is not based on my feeble human emotions?

You should not let euthanasia cloud your logic, as those poor “souls” that choose this “always” do so because their suffering has become unbearable?

There is definitely distinctions to be drawn between “oughts” and what is, and these are interchangeable, this is the whole point of my argument, to draw distinction between application of “subjective moralism” and what IS logic. Agreed we need to utilize and appreciate both are at play and thus distinguish?

@Cygnus: Exactly. *You* do not view their preferences as logical or rational, and you *choose* to view your own preferences as logical and rational. It is this kind of subjective dependence that makes matters of ethics fundamentally different from something that actually is objective; a chemist cannot choose to believe in a formula to thus make it work. There is nothing internal to logic or rationality that stipulates that existence is preferable or desirable.

Unbearable suffering is not the only possible reason for voluntarily ending one’s life.


OK, I am willing to concede that for humans at least, only “choices” are real and pertinent, (materialism aside), and most certainly agree that logic does not exist as some Universal “thing in itself” and is rather a methodological tool that humans, and other complex brains utilise to contemplate and rationalise possibilities?

So let me try and apply some here? If the Universe (potential) existed in some nihilist non-existent stable state, I would say that “logically” there is no reason or requirement for any change, and that since the reverse is apparent, then for this Universe at least, existence and change is rational? Ergo, existence rather than non-existence is rational and that logically we should subscribe?

Of course I cannot apply any categorical imperative here that proposes that existence is “morally good” or beneficial, yet logic dictates that this is neither necessary nor important? The Universe “exists” and this should be satisfactory?

Regarding reduction of suffering..

With regard to the acceptance of circumstance, we could say that “logically”, there is no reason to pursue change and ease of suffering? Yet by the same measure, if it is within my powers to ease suffering then it appears “rational” for me to do so, (logical contemplation)?

Yes, it would appear that this is still yet a choice, (no argument), yet can we propose ease of suffering as logical enterprise rather than solely moral?

If we can agree that ease of suffering is logical? Then “critical thinking” has served fit for purpose?

“Life IS preferable to death?
Less suffering IS preferable to more suffering, (especially concerning the status quo)?
Peace IS preferable to conflict?
Rationality IS preferable to irrationality?
Security IS preferable to fear?
Trust IS preferable to distrust?
Order IS preferable to chaos?
Stability IS preferable to instability?
Equality IS preferable to inequality?
Freedom IS preferable to slavery?
Love is preferable to hate, (derived from fear and distrust)?”

I know you are (apparently) distinguishing ought from is yet IMO there are very many who prefer chaos to order; perhaps the majority—and to go out on a limb, frankly the majority may prefer slavery to freedom in that they want to enslave others... they might want to enslave others for their own families’ benefit. ‘Course, they are not going to tell you this, it is something they would want to keep secret.
And slavery exists widely in the sense of how wage slavery is more slavery than it is wage.

Yes, that list was rather stretching my point somewhat, and the Universe, (materialism), may well prefer chaos to order?

Yep, how much freedom can a human mind handle? What price unity?

How ‘bout..

Perceived Freedom IS preferable to real autonomy?
Disguised Corporate slavery IS preferable to Self sufficiency?
Pseudo democracy IS preferable to taking “real” responsibility?

Regardless, “Ought vs is” arguments only serve to obstruct and slow, (to a snail’s), progress. We “should” ditch the befuddled olde worldy word?

Apple IS preferable to Samsung?

the spread of knowledge - through technological means i believe is inevitable. whats why i associate myself with “technoprogressives”. Information, information technologies, transhumanism and anarchism seems to be the key to a successful worldwide revolution of the liberation of mind/brain.

Knowledge and being conscious of it: here we are dealing with the assumption that in the future via transhumanism and posthuman means, a mind will know about every political theory out there. It then becomes a matter of logic and critical thinking – which political theory will the mind choose?

I propose that after centuries of political epistemology the mind will choose libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist ideas because they are the most logical theories out there if your looking for solidarity, wealth distribution, egalitarianism and freedom at the same time.

@Kris:  The injustices you mention, though realities for women, are not the baby’s fault.

“@Kris:  The injustices you mention, though realities for women, are not the baby’s fault.”

@Henry Bowers
Henry, First, Why in all hell would you bring up abortion in an article about anarchism and transhumanism?
Second, to be technical we call them fetuses for they are not fully developed babies.
Third, Why am even responding to you, not because I want to be right, but because I know that I am right? Do you know you are right? All I can offer you is that A. This is not the forum to be chatting about abortion, and B. There is no Christian god, I am sorry.

With that said, I can offer you some more reasons to be pro-choice.

“Mariah, 19

Shortly after turning 18 and in my final semester of high school, I found out I was pregnant by my boyfriend of two years. I thought we were in love and could successfully raise a baby together but upon telling him, he broke up with me and claimed we could only be together if I terminated my pregnancy. I was extremely heartbroken and in distress about what to do, but my relationship with my boyfriend was the least of my worries. After considering my options, I decided I would get an abortion. I’ll never forget that cold January morning that my mother took me to a Family Planning Group in a nearby town, and all the horrific pro-life protesters that nearly dissuaded me from my decision. Almost a year later, I look back and have no regrets about my decision because I know having a child would have ruined its life more than my own; above all, the procedure really helped me move on with my life and want to pursue a very successful future. I only wish I could change the fact that there are so many hateful groups that exist to torment women that choose abortion. I hope one day, all women of all ages can reside in a nation that allows for guilt-free freedom of choice about their sexual health, and men as well.”

“Andrea, 42

In 2002 my life was saved by an emergency abortion and surgery at a city hospital in NYC. I was uninsured and bleeding to death from an ectopic pregnancy. Today I am grateful to be alive and the mother of a beautiful boy.”
“Each person has a unique reason to be pro-choice. Here are some of ours.

I am pro-choice because I don’t think there is any reason why a woman should have to face all the consequences from something she did not do alone. If a guy can get a woman pregnant and then run away, there is no reason why she should be the one responsible for everything. Having more options puts a woman on more equal footing with men, instead of being someone of whom they can take advantage. In addition, I believe that it is best for a child to not be born at all than to be born hated, to a mother who is forced to have him because she has no choice, and not because she wants the child.
Undergraduate Student in Chemistry

The single most important factor for women’s advancement in society is our ability to control our fertility. Without that, we are trapped by the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and chilrearing; rather than a privelege and a gift, these aspect of being female become an unbearable burden. Attempts to limit women’s reproductive freedom are no more than a gambit to keep women “in their place”—a gambit in the guise of religious moralism. True, the guise can run deep, and many so-called “pro-lifers” genuinely believe that killing a fetus is equivalent to killing a human being. But such religious feeling has no place in the public policies of a country that claims to separate church and state. In the words of supreme court justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Souter: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” No one wants to plan an abortion. But the best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies: through sex education, improved distribution of birth control, and general empowerment of women to shape our own individual lives.
Graduate Student in Biology

I think one of the biggest problems with the abortion debate is that the two sides aren’t in direct opposition. The pro-life movement seeks to force their moral beliefs on others - grounded in their own religion or personal philosophy. The pro-choice movement doesn’t make claims on the morality of abortion - we leave that as an individual choice for every woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy. If they feel abortion is wrong and they want to give their child up for adoption, or keep it, we will support their decision. Pro-life people say “Abortion is wrong;” we only say “Abortion is.” Making abortion illegal won’t stop abortions from happening, it will only stop them from being safe. 43% of abortions worldwide are illegal. Changing laws doesn’t solve the problem, making contraception available and affordable does. If we are to maintain the separation of church and state so central to our nation’s identity, we cannot have some people forcing their beliefs on us all.
Undergraduate Student in Linguistics and Philosophy

I believe strongly in taking responsibilities for one’s actions. I believe that people should practice safe sex or abstinence. And I believe that the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy can be worse than the “benefits” of having irresponsible sex. However, in some cases, I believe that abortion IS taking responsibility. Bringing an unwanted child into the world is irresponsible. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. I believe that every woman should decide what to do with her own body without restrictions placed on her by a strongly religious government that ironically preaches the 200 year old doctrine of the separation of church and state. On that note, I think religious freedom and education are also a constitutional right of every citizen, but they do not belong in the hospital room. Reproductive freedom is just as sacred and constitutional as religious freedom. And I am not the opposite of “pro-life.” I love life and I love babies, but an unwanted life can be worse than no life at all. I think safe sex and abstinence education is needed. Like many pro-choice believers, I want the number of abortions to be limited, or at least I want to limit the overwhelming need for abortions.
Graduate Student in Materials Science and Engineering

I’m pro-choice because it’s the only option that isn’t poisoned with misogyny. I believe that we are responsible for justifying our beliefs, and just as one cannot claim that a given race is inferior to another because “it’s what I believe”, I don’t think one can argue that old white men can assert control over a woman’s uterus—and future—because they claim to believe that a fetus is comparable to a human life. That belief is so clearly a result of the fact that only women can get pregnant and only women would ever have to carry an unwanted fetus to term that I find it laughable that anyone claims being anti-choice has anything to do with concern for potential life. Can anyone really believe that abortion would even be an issue if men had to face the possiblity of giving birth to and raising a child because of one night of failed contraception?
I think Florence Kennedy said it best: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrement.”
Undergraduate Student in Mathematics”


I am sorry, I suppose I was the one to bring up abortion in saying that “The mentally enhanced will be socialist anarchists, regardless of what kind of technology they may be – for universal health care, anti-war, anti-authoritarian, anti-discrimination, pro-democracy, pro-choice, anti-racism, and even anti-speciesism will be regarded as the highest value system ever pondered by the brain/mind.” I still stand by that statement and probably will forever.

” I still stand by that statement and probably will forever.”
If we make it to a post-human future I think we will transcend such labels. Still, I like the positive vision. Just don’t regard it as inevitable. It depends on what we do, right here, right now.

@Kris: “I propose that after centuries of political epistemology the mind will choose libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist ideas because they are the most logical theories out there if your looking for solidarity, wealth distribution, egalitarianism and freedom at the same time.”
Those high-level concepts are notoriously ill-defined and hard to pin down. The devil is in the details. Your definition of what “freedom” is will differ from someone else who purports to share your ideological label. No, it’s not enough to simply cite the harm principle and declare it a settled matter. The notion that it’s simply a matter of logical deduction towards inevitable convegence upon anarcho-syndicalism completely ignores these questions of subtlety.

“It then becomes a matter of logic and critical thinking – which political theory will the mind choose?”
It’s not a question of what “the mind” will choose because it’s not a single mind doing the choosing. Emotional predispositions are the foundational axioms upon which we build our conceptual edifices, and they are outside the realm of rationality. Humans have more than one way to “do rationality” (be emotional) and thus different conclusions are reached that are wholly outside the realm of logical thought.


liberation (ˌlɪbəˈreɪʃən)

— n
1.  a liberating or being liberated
2.  the seeking of equal status or just treatment for or on behalf of any group believed to be discriminated against: women’s liberation ; animal liberation

the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.
exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
the power to determine action without restraint.
political or national independence.
personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery: a slave who bought his freedom.

Take Liberation and Freedom and their meanings and compare them to Oppression.

the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.
an act or instance of oppressing.
the state of being oppressed.
the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.

There seems to be a difference between the first two concepts and the third.

When I said “mind” I meant it in a plural sense. I guess because I lean towards panpsychism and have realized that scientists have come to the same conclusions half away around the world without knowing it, that A. The scientific method’s outcomes are peculiar. B. Philosophical logical operators seem a priori in nature. C. That “mind” is part of the universe with its own innate features (but I do not want to make that an official stance of mine)

Let me be somewhat “logical” about logic for a minute: It seems that if logical operators are a priori, then some simple arguments that are sound AND true, are thus true. If “mind” has a priori features then it seems that some feelings and/or concepts may also be a priori. I think I will leave it at that for now, but will continue to add to this discussion and my next article about the highly illogical nature of “unfriendly AI”.

@Peter Wicks

I agree with you, and at the University learned that Marx was wrong about something: the working class, under capitalism does not inevitably lead to a revolution of the proletariat. However - as paradigms of scientific and philosophic knowledge increases, it seems that we can pin point down concepts that make more sense, logically and emotionally. This should lead to people in the real world, in the here and now, to act appropriately – one would hope.

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