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#19: Transhumanism: there are at least ten different philosophical categories; which ones are you?
Hank Pellissier   Dec 13, 2015   Ethical Technology  

According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2015? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of the top 30 articles published this year on our blog (out of more than 1,000), based on how many total hits each one received.

The following piece was first published here on July 8, 2015, and is the #19 most viewed of the year.

In Nick Bostrom’s essay, Transhumanist Values, he states in the first sentence that transhumanism is “a loosely defined movement.”  Further into the essay, he lists five “examples of currents within transhumanism.”

They are:

Extropianism Dating back to at least 1988, this early version of transhumanism was catalyzed by the “Principles of Entropy”, authored by Max More, currently CEO of Alcor. Extropianism advocates a proactionary approach to human evolution and progress, placing strong emphasis on rationality and optimism. Extropians - according to wikipedia - have an optimistic view of the future, predicting advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology, lifespans, biomedical technology, mind-uploading, cryonics, etc. Many seem to have names advocating entropy, or humor: Max and Natasha Vita-More, Tom Morrow, Mark Plus, Regina Pancake. Wired wrote a wonderful cultural report here.

Singularitarianism believes the transition to a posthuman world will be a sudden event in the “medium future” - a Technological Singularity created by runaway machine superintelligence. They believe actions should be taken to ensure that the Singularity benefits humans. A 2010 article lists the Top 10 Singularitarians of All Time -  Ray Kurzweil tops the list, followed by Vernor Vinge. MIRI (Machine Intelligence Research Institute) belongs in this category; it was previously called the Singularity Institute. Singularity Utopia, too.

The Hedonistic Imperative This fusion by British philosopher David Pearce combined transhumanism with hedonistic utilitarianism, in 1995. It seeks the “abolition of suffering” in all sentient life, via genetic “paradise engineering” and nanotechnology. Pearce co-founded HumanityPlus in 1998 with Bostrom, and he’s a Fellow at IEET. In keeping with his philosophy, he’s also a vegan, stridently opposed to factory farming. His “Abolitionist” brand is easily confused with the USA anti-slavery movement; in a recent email exchange with he suggested a new term: Transhumanist Effective Altruism” aka TEA.

Democratic Transhumanism is defined as as a synthesis of transhumanism with social awareness and democratic decision-procedures. The term was coined by Dr. James Hughes, IEET founder/CEO, in 2002. Democratic transhumanists support equal access to human enhancement technologies to promote social equality and lessen the divide between the socioeconomic classes. Typifying this is IEET support of Basic Income Guarantee.

Survivalist Transhumanism, according to Bostrom, “emphasizes personal survival and longevity.” This group is perhaps the most populated of all transhumanist categories. Anyone who espouses radical life extension as the most important goal of transhumanism belongs in this camp. Jethro Knight, protagonist in Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager is a representative, with quotes like, ““Death must be conquered… that is my first and foremost aim in life. That is the quintessential first goal of the transhumanist.”

Two additional categories that must also be included are:

Libertarian Transhumanism is a mashup of libertarianism and transhumanism, advocated by personages like Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, and Timothy Leary. Libertarian transhumanists are rational, ethical egoists who want technologies to enhance human capacities. They regard upgrading as a civil right and civil liberty, and they reject government regulation. Prominent libertarian transhumanists include billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, and The Seasteading Institute.  Many early Extropians were, and still are, libertarian transhumanists.

Religious Transhumanism Most transhumanists are atheistic, but active and organized religious contingents exist that regard tranhumanism as wholly compatible with their creeds. The Mormon Transhumanist Association was founded in 2006; it presently has 530 members. The Christian Transhumanist Association was recently formed, with members like Micah Redding who has penned dozens of articles with titles like “Christianity is Transhumanism.” Two IEET contributors who are Religious Transhumanists are Lincoln Cannon (MTA founder) and Florida pastor Christopher Benek.


Most transhumanists fall into several of the groups listed above. My pie chart below, for example, illustrates that I am 44% TEA (Transhumanist Effective Altruist), 22% Survivalist, 22% Democratic Transhumanist, and 12% Singularitarian. I am certainly Extropian, too - !

Readers, what type(s) of transhumanist are you? It is important to comprehend where you philosophically fit in, or do not belong. For example, it would be time-efficient to realize which organizations and transhumanist thought-leaders represent your views.

Please post statistics of you own pie-chart in Comments below, or send your pie chart and I’ll post it in the article. I created my pie chart here.  Also, if you believe there are additional categories, let me know.

Here are additional categories, sent to me by IEET staff members:

Steve Umbrello (IEET Advisory Board) sent me this category (below):


Cosmopolitan Transhumanism - Cosmopolitanism, coming from the Greek meaning the ‘universal city’, is a philosophical doctrine of the unity of all humans. Both the Stoic and the Cynic schools adopted cosmopolitanism as a fundamental tenet of their philosophies. In essence, cosmopolitanism says that we are not citizens of towns, cities, countries, ethnic groups, but rather citizens of the cosmos, all equal; with no individual worth more or less than another. Transhumanism on the other hand, is the philosophy of how the ethical use of technology can be used to evolve our species beyond the capabilities of biology. Combining the two philosophies is seamless, together they can increase empathy, compassion and the unified progress of humanity to become something greater than it currently is. The exponential advancement of technology is relentless, it can prove to be either destructive or beneficial to the human race, but we can only become something greater if we abandon our nationalistic, patriotic and geopolitical allegiances in favour for global citizenship that fosters cooperation and mutually beneficial progress. “I am a citizen of the world” - Diogenes of Sinope


Giulio Prisco (IEET Board Member) directed me to the category below, that he ascribes to. The definition appears in the recent book Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity authored and edited by RU Sirius and Jay Cornell.


Cosmism is a sort of philosophically laid-back version of transhumanism. In a culture that tends to be argumentative and filled with people who like to insist that their views are correct, cosmism doesn’t care if you’re viewing the universe as information or quantum information or hypercomputation or God stuff or whatever. Nor does it ask anyone to commit to AGI or mind uploading or brain-computer interfaces or fusion-powered toasters as the best way forward. Rather, it seeks to infuse the human universe with an attitude of joy, growth, choice, and open-mindedness. Cosmism believes that science in its current form, just like religion and philosophy in their current forms, may turn out to be overly limited for the task of understanding life, mind, society, and reality – but it teaches that, if so, by actively engaging with the world and studying and engineering things, and by reflecting on ourselves carefully and intelligently, we will likely be able to discover the next stage in the evolution of collective thinking.


Here’s #10 - more information on it can be found on Facebook

Anarcho-Transhumanism is a branch of Anarchism that takes seriously the values of traditional and modern Anarchism and combines it with Transhumanism and Posthumanism… Anarcho-Transhumanism takes a stance of anti-capitalism, while valuing democracy and consensus decision-making…. Anarcho-Transhumanism is a combination of syndicalism, socialism, technology, and radical democracy, maintaining an anarchist stance of the lack of religion, the destruction of the capitalist and/or socialist State, and the idea that minds (humans, posthumans) have the right to force political, economic and religious ideas on one another… Anarcho-Transhumanism assumes that the future will bring a kind of interconnectedness through technology that will allow individuals and communities to communicate and vote very rapidly, abolishing the need for a State.


Didier Coeurnelle, IEET Advisory Board Member, sent in the following comments:

“My choice is clearly Democratic Transhumanism, but I prefer to use the word “Technoprogressism”.  As far as I know, all transhumanists are in favor of life extension. So, they are all “Survivalist Transhumanists”.

Nicole Sallak Anderson, another IEET Advisory Board member, defines herself thus:

I’m a Democratic Transhumanist, though I may border on Hedonistic because I believe that the end goal of our technological revolution should at least include the reduction of suffering for all sentient life, including animals and I’d say the entire planetary ecosystem. Ideally the Democratic process would be purified through technology and human evolution to enable a transition from a death culture (that includes the killing of humans, animals and ecosystems for profit and gain as well as allowing death to continue as a natural process) to a culture of life, where all life is honored, protected and nourished and extended in freedom.

Perhaps that internal viewpoint, one of death and destruction to one of life and possibility, is the foundation of the future on some level. That’s the idea put out by Diamandis in his books. Until we change our minds, our technology is a slave to those who fear.


Here’s my Pie Chart!

Here is B. J. Murphy‘s Pie Chart! (He’s an IEET Affiliate Scholar)

Here is Chase’s Pie Chart!

Here’s Brent Reitze‘s Pie Graph - he’s also on the IEET Advisory Board

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.



And then there’s me.  Ya know… the succubus who doesn’t really fit in any of those categories because she’s a succubus and doesn’t see one single word up there about the reality of Morphological freedom and the probability of a world with a lot more cat-girls, vampires, and other non-human sentients who will be scattered everywhere.

Ice, are you at all concerned that you and other people who can morph their appearence, after centuries in Virch, will become insane and mentally out of control? Philosophically, this question could apply to dying and then going to heaven. So, in my imagination, Abe Lincoln, could, over the years after his death, become less interested in US politics, and after 1933, some of the newer, fellow, deceased, describe a “movie” called King Kong. Over the years, the late president becomes increasingly infatuated, with the King Kong character, so much so, that honest abe, now wishes to become the mighty Kong. The writer of the Gettysburg Address eventually forgets his ties to humanity, and instead focuses on devouring young women sacrificed unto him.

This whole proposition is crazy, but how do our descendents living in Virch stay sane??

First, allow me to disabuse you of one assumption you are making.

I am not at all talking of VR.  VR is merely a step, and not a destination. It’s at best, for me, a pleasant diversion to while away a few hours.  I have no intention of living in VR, or even much interest in VR in the manner of what you are implying in your questioning.

There is a effing universe out there, and far too many questions to find answers to for me to lock myself away in a limited fantasy that has definite boundaries, no matter how much fun spending some portion of my time there might be.

Now, given that, to answer your scenario, if Abe decides he wants to be Kong, SO LONG AS he is in his own private world, eating non-existent sacrifices who have no sentience, WHO CARES?  Unless he is ACTUALLY harming another sentient being, he’s free to do what he wants. If he decides to come up for air into the real world, he has to abide by the principles of not causing harm to other sentients, or BE HELD TO ACCOUNT, at which point, I personally would just toss him back into his fantasy, and lock him there. With a guardian AI monitoring him so if he finally decides he wants to stop being harmful to others, and rejoin reality, he has that choice.

Beyond that… how do you define sane? Right now, I can tell you flat out that the real me is a succubus, stuck in a human’s body, and the wrong gender on top of that, and because I can actually deal and function rationally in current society, and not run around trying to devour people’s souls (which I wouldn’t really do anyway. Seriously. I don’t even believe in souls) I can pass for a sane person.

But 50 years ago, just thinking I am a woman stuck in a man’s body would be termed insane. Being Gay was insane. Not being Religious was “insane”

I know dragons, Unicorns, werewolfs, cat girls, robots, aliens and virtual people. I also know that while right now, they may just be “dreams”, this will not always be the case, and it most certainly will NOT be merely Virtual. Look up a few of articles on where I see VR heading, and it’s not into dreamland, but into an overlay MERGED into day to day “reality”

I will not stay a “virtual” succubus. And I don’t really think that many humans will REMAIN in VR forever. We tend to get really chaffed by limits. VR only seems attractive now, because too few people find reality to be wondrous. We think VR will be a solution to boredom, but I’ve been in “virtual worlds” since before the Web even existed… and they always lose that sparkle once the shiny has worn off, and they become familiar. And I, personally, know far too much about what is developing because I have spent years researching it. I am not about to go hide my head in a VR world when I can have a ringside seat to humanities evolution into an infinity of possibilities.  John Smart and I have absolutely diametric views on that subject.

So… in essence…. I really don’t imagine that it will ever actually be any sort of real problem, but is merely a what if scenario that seems plausible now, but will be increasingly less plausible as time goes by.

You don’t see the technical advances we all dream’t about, receding into the remote future? That is optimistic! Control of the solar system,  minerals, ices, etc, seem generations, away- despite spiffy articles about asteroidal gold mining. With VR anything is achievable, but Newtonian reality resists.

Depends on what evidence you examine Spud, dear.

I am not an optimist. I don’t base anything on wishful thinking, regardless of how often I have been accused of it. I simply have been willing to examine evidence that most people refuse to. It’s all cause and effect.

I am fully aware how many people have been convinced by the hopelessness meme. It’s one that’s been programmed into you daily by people who desire nothing to ever change, because change threatens their hold on the social order, but progress cannot ever be stopped. Study history, because time after time after time, you will see attempts to prevent progress by those who are profiting from the status quo, always getting stronger and stronger, and more and more controlling… right up to the point that they collapse, and change rolls over them.

I recommend reading my articles, at the link posted above. All of them. And maybe start looking at the past to see what happens to those who try to prevent progress.

I don’t think things will magically “get better” Spud. I see an entire pattern of cause and effect that is about to bring down the house… so that we can move on to the much nicer house rising up from underneath it. And it’s going to be a quite rapid event when it happens. Time doesn’t pause for anyone… no matter how hard anyone wishes it would.

Everything, and I mean everything, I have ever written is based on logic and cause and effect. Nothing has ever been based on “hope” or “optimism.”

You may indeed be correct, Ice. Hopelessness is not a meme instilled in us by evil, kapitalist, rulers, but more by learned experiences in life. My sense is that the billionaire ruling class gives not a thought to the middle class, whom they resent, if thought about, at all. I am guessing you anticipate SIAI, to spring up like dandelions, after a spring rain?I am not sure if you view this as wonderful, inevitable, and instantaneous? Color me doubtful, but I am viewing, a hard climb to the skies, if we get there at all. VR offers escape, for the price of electrons or photons. As Timothy Leary said 5 decades ago, “turn on, tune in, drop out.” With VR, the dropping out will last the ages, because there’s nothing else to physically change the universe.  My take is we’re screwed, but fortunately, most people thankfully, disagree with me.

Fur shur, Instamatic. Writer Rudy Rucker, called his own attempt to cope with very tough times, “life with potholders,” but Rucker wasn’t referring to religion, in his case. For religious transhumanism, you need look no further than Ben Goertzel and Guilio Prisco’s re-worked version of Russian Cosmism. It has been presented on IEET in the last several years, but like many things is a work in progress. My way of thinking is that the fastest progress in this area, will rely on science discoveries that are not sensational, but matter of fact advances in understanding of the universe. By this I emphasize that the originators of these papers almost cerainly, will not wish, themselves, to go in the direction that I will take it. So be it.

Spud, at no time did I say hopelessness was installed by “evil, kapitalist, rulers”.  I stated “It’s one that’s been programmed into you daily by people who desire nothing to ever change, because change threatens their hold on the social order”

That includes EVERYONE who finds ANY KIND of benefit from the “Status Quo.”

You think your buddy who gets all the girls wants a world where his “benefit” is meaningless, because everyone can have any body they want? Maybe your friend down the street doesn’t want gender equality, because it means he can’t order his wife around like he believes his religious beliefs entitle him to. That guy with the BMW at the local Walmart certainly doesn’t want any kind of change that will make that status symbol of his meaningless.

Everyday, from every level of society, you will find people who DO NOT WANT CHANGE, because they are afraid change will mean they lose status in comparison to others. From jocks who will not like enhancements that could let the geek play football as well as they can, to the geeks who don’t want the jocks to have mental enhancements to get as good grades as they do.

Every where, at every level, no matter how rich or how poor, there is a significant fraction of the populace who is TERRIFIED of change, and they are CONSTANTLY pushing the “hopelessness meme”. They can’t see any benefits, only potential losses to their self image.

You can’t fight city hall.
Why bother, it’s easier to go with the flow.
Don’t rock the boat.
Nothing ever changes, just give in.

Even your “but more by learned experiences in life” IS THE HOPELESSNESS MEME, PUSHED by YOU.

So far, ALL you have expressed has been “hopelessness” meme after “hopelessness” meme.

There is no need for a “conspiracy” spud. Not when you’re more than willing to promote that viewpoint yourself, instead of looking at the millions of advances occurring daily that are actively forcing change on society and where they are leading.

I don’t predict change because I am optimistic. I have said this over and over. I predict it because I SEE IT OCCURRING, and I simply extract it to the logical end.

Lack of mass justice?  Lack of taste? Lack of virtue?

By who’s criteria? Yours?

Tell me how justice will not be far more easy to obtain in a world where no-one can escape being accountable? Where no-one can harm another human in secret? Where every action, no matter how trivial, is recorded?

As for taste and virtue? One man’s evil is another man’s good. And a side effect of not being able to escape accountability is the elimination of BIGOTRY AND OPPRESSION from ANYONE. For ANY reason.

Hell, I’ve even pointed out that in the future, once we’ve eliminated death as more than a temporary event through “backups”, we’re likely to have the most violent bloodsports humanity has ever known. Deathmatch arenas that would make Rome cringe. Why? Because it’s a great way to work out aggression for some people. And when YOU CANNOT PERMANENTLY HARM someone, who will care?

Paradise means different things to different people. So long as no-one is harming other WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT, anything should go.

...Wow, a part of me knows better than to get involved, but I’m curious as to what happens if I wade in too.

@Valkyrie Ice - What happens if someone helps someone without their consent?  A la the Incredibles movie where Mr. Incredible rescues someone who doesn’t want to be rescued?  Thus causing a lawsuit, and “anti-hero” sentiment.

@Spud100 - I can relate to what Valkyrie is implying about non-human sentience, and a plethora of Forms/Bodies that we simply have to deal with.  I must ask you though what makes you consider “Sanity” a positive value?  I mean isn’t it just a relative mean based upon a norm?  I mean one could admit that arguing points online with people that one doesn’t know could be “crazy”...  Although I can agree with your sentiment about events taking time due to “reality’s constraints”, and possible pleasure about getting lost in the Virtual.

@Instamatic - I don’t think ideology can “die”.  It probably just takes on an appearance that one can’t readily identify.  I also think Religion is just a formalized ideology.  For instance, I consider the following as my “ideology”;  In a plane of nihilism where nothing has inherent worth.  It is up to us to build edifices that we deem of value, for what greater value can there be than what we instill into our “works”.  Yes, others may come along and devalue/destroy an “ideology”, or “works”.  And yet it is a learning experience.  We learn where our values lie, and we can build anew upon a firmer foundation.  To some extent I think this is what matters, the rebuilding.  Even though it is absurd because it will get torn down again.

Overall though, I found all your comments interesting.  Along with the article, and in that sense.  I must add that although I identified myself as some “label” the first time the article was originally posted.  I think it has likely changed to something I haven’t identified yet.


The already ongoing creation of personal tutor like personal assistants is the answer to ignorance and “stupidity.”

The majority of that fear occurs due to lack of sufficient knowledge about the change in question by those who resist it. It’s not fear of change, so much as it is fear of UNKNOWN consequences from that change.

For an example, let’s examine a hypothetical lottery. Let’s say I told you that there is a 5% chance that if you lose the lottery, you lose your head, and a 95% chance that if you win, you get a hundred dollars.

Would you play that lottery? I am willing to bet you probably wouldn’t. The potential win to loss, even though the chance of losing is low, is too great. You would not play that lottery, and you would beg and plead with your friends and family to not play either, no?

But what if you misunderstood the rules of that lottery, and didn’t realize that it’s not a 95% chance to win $100, but a 95% chance to win 10^10 dollars… vs a 5% chance to lose your head. All due to the fact that misread ^ as times, instead of “to the power of”, because you didn’t understand the terminology.

That’s what lies behind so much of the fear of change. A overwhelming failure to understand the benefits vs the potential losses.  Read some of the comments to this article, where I point out the difference between privacy, and the difference between OMNIdirectional surveillance, in which EVERY member of society has equality of vision, vs UNIdirectional surveillance, in which only a select few have vision. Note how no matter how hard I try to point out the difference, several people cannot wrap their brains around the concept that there could EVER be equality of vision, instead of merely top down surveillance.

But with Watson class Assistants, and a continual program of “stealth education” combined with various other “intelligence enhancements” like perfect memory (lifeblogging hardware able to record every second of every day and archived for instant access, always on demand access to information via the net through your “personal watson”, etc.” we will also be entering a world in which the kind of ignorance we accept as “normal” today WILL NO LONGER EXIST.

And along with the elimination of ignorance, I strongly feel it is likely that fear will become less useful as a tool to manipulate society.

Okay RJP, I’ve been thinking about your question at work for a bit… and to be honest. I suppose it comes down to your point of view.

As I see it, the “lawsuit” in the Incredibles was a sham. It really wasn’t about “not wanting to be helped so much as it was about “Hey, you’re famous, so you must be rich, and I WANT YOUR MONEY!!!!!”

In much the same way, the other “lawsuits” against the heros was pretty much the same thing. Liability lawsuits placed by people who’s property was damaged, or opportunistic “give me free money” cases.

And to be honest, we’ve already got “Good Samaritan” laws in place to protect well intentioned attempts to help someone who then sees that attempt at help as just an opportunity to exploit the person trying to help for “more benefits”

However, there will be one MAJOR difference in the future about this kind of situation.


So let’s look at the scene again, only this time, Mr. Incredible has a realtime HUD with a smart agent AI. As he’s trying to stop Bomb Voyage, he see the other guy, and instead of seeing a “innocent bystander who needs to be saved,” he sees a big Warning “Person committing Suicide, does not wish to be saved.”

After all, it was whatshisname’s choice, so *HIS* Smart Agent should easily be able to transmit that warning to Incredible’s HUD, and thus remove him from the “needing to be saved” category.

But, if he IS NOT transmitting a warning, and his “smart agent” had recorded absolutely nothing prior to the incident that would support the “committing suicide” claim, then it would be easy to establish from Incredibles smart agent that Incredible was “acting in good faith to help” and that Whatshisname was seeking to exploit the situation for personal gain.  With actual records of the event from both actor’s viewpoints, it would be much easier to determine intention.

And it would also probably result in a warning flag next time Whatshisname is involved with a similar situation, telling any potential “Good Samaritans” that he is a bitter and exploitative ass, and to not bother.

And this would be possible, because not only would they both be using “Always on HUDs” for interacting with the virtual and real world, as well as net access and communication, but because their personal smart agents would be lifeblogging them, to enable them both to have perfect recall, and would probably also be communicating in real time with “Reputation” apps, (see Cory Doctorow) which would allow people to access basic information about anyone they meet.

To be blunt, this all is part of what I have spent years discussing, i.e. the creation of INESCAPABLE ACCOUNTABILITY and omnidirectional surveillance.

However, I will also point out that with this kind of technology, the entire “Superhero” thing is pretty moot, because Syndrome is absolutely correct… when everyone is “super”... no-one is.

So to sum up, it’s going to be harder to accidentally help someone who doesn’t want to be helped when YOU KNOW THEY DO NOT WANT HELP before you help them. And, at the same time, it’s going to be far easier to know who DOES want help.

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