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Betting Against The Transhumanist Wager
Rick Searle   Sep 16, 2013   Utopia or Dystopia  

There have been glowing reviews at the IEET of Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager. This will not be one of those. As I will argue, if you care about core transhumanist concerns, such as research into pushing out the limits of human mortality, little could be worse than the publication of Istvan’s novel. To put it sharply in terms of his so-called First Law of Transhumanism “A transhumanist must safeguard his own existence above all else”; Istvan, by creating a work that manages to disparage and threaten nearly every human community on earth has likely shortened the length of your life

The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

G.K. Chesterson

You shouldn’t be worried about anti-transhumanist, fundamentalist terrorism or any other sort of boogey man but a much, much bigger danger: the collapse of the very supports, financial, political, and social by which transhumanism could obtain any of its ends. Indeed, if what Istvan presents in his novel as the philosophy of transhumanism is anything near to reality, the movement does not deserve to survive. Techno-progressives should then truly divorce themselves from a movement which sadly has taken a fascistic and frightening turn.

Where even to begin?

The protagonist of The Transhumanist Wager is a man called Jethro Knights. At least in the first half of the novel, Knights recapitulates the inarguably fascinating life of Istvan himself: solo-circumnavigation around the world on a ship filled with books, writer for a barely disguised version of National Geographic, war correspondent. From there, I have no idea how the views of the protagonist and the novelist diverge, but Knights himself shows all the traits of narcissistic personality disorder meaning one of the core clinical traits of a psycho-path.

It is not merely that Istvan’s Knight is in the in the throes of NPD in terms of being “preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence” he builds an entire transhumanist philosophy – Transhumanist Egotistical Functionalism (TEF) around such narcissism.

Knight’s idea of what he calls “the omnipotender” is certainly an example of an ego that has lost its grip on factual reality:

“His ultimate goal was that of the omnipotender: one who contends for omnipotence. He wanted a universal dictatorship- or at least a draw over everything and everyone.” (80)

And again:

Jethro desperately yearned for life, for power, for air into his lungs, for his mind to control and triumph over his physical surrounding- for the universe that only his will forged. (emphasis added) (171)

Knights is a man who thinks the universe is his to own and control. In this reading, the continuation of life is not the ultimate goal of transhumanism, but merely the stepping stone on the road to a kind of Randian-technologic power fantasy- the desire for which Knights takes to be the throbbing heart of evolution itself.

This omnipotender is an unyielding individual whose central aim is to contend for as much power and advancement as he could achieve, and whose immediate goal is to transcend his human biological limitations in order to reach a permanent sentience. “ (33)

Starting from such turbocharged Hobbesian assumptions it should come as no surprise that the philosophy Knights crafts ends up being a kind of fascist utilitarianism. Again, this is firmly in line with NPD in the sense of“failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings”, or better still the worth of others’ thoughts and feelings.

As Istvan describes Knights:

Even if he looked a person in the eye, he often failed to recognize anything of utility. Jethro perceived their presence, the space they took up the resources they used on his planet.  (p.12)

If individuals you have actually met in the flesh have no value for you beyond some utilitarian calculus in reference to your own ends, it stands to reason that the vast majority of human beings whom you have never and will never meet are little more than mere “variables” in your calculations. Fellow human beings whose worth can be deemed negative or positive based on what you desire to achieve.

We need to divert the resources to the genuinely gifted and qualified. To the achievers of society- the ones who pay your bills by their innovation, genius, and hard work. They will find the best way to the future. Not the losers of the world, or the mediocre, or the downtrodden, or the fearful. They will only drag us down, like they already have. (127-128)

There was not right or wrong when it came to dying or not dying. There was only success or failure. It spoke of using whatever means necessary to accomplish those aims, of thinking and acting with the same cold clarity a super-intelligent machine would use- something they were quickly evolving into anyway, the essay asserted. The world and all of its inhabitants were not worth living and dying for. (53)

It is not clear whether Knights himself has devised what Istvan calls “The Humanicide Formula” or if it is the product of anti-transhumanist propaganda. Whatever its origins in the narrative it certainly aligns with the overall immortality of TEF and Knights himself.

… not all human beings will be a net-positive in producing omnipotenders. Any individual who ultimately hampers the optimum transhuman trajectory should be eliminated.  (215)

Knights is truly not being hyperbolic when he says something like:

A transhumanist has no immediate concern for others, for family, for state, for heritage, for humanity, for God; only for its power and the preservation and growth of that power. (281)

Indeed, he is willing to apply this kind of emotional lobotomy to his own heart. Under “inquisition” by the cartoon of religious evil Istvan has set up as the foil to his protagonist, Reverend Belinas, Knights admits of his wife, Zoe Bach, the woman he has loved the most deeply:

What you say is true, preacher. I would kill my wife a thousand times over to reach my goals. (246)

If any of this strikes you as inhuman rather than post-human Knights would claim that it not him, but you, who suffers from psychological disconnect.

This was the essence of the world’s unmasked collective soul, the quintessential character flaw- that people were bred and conditioned to be afraid to do what they most deeply wanted to do: become invincible.  (242)

If The Transhumanist Wager was supposed to be a novel of ideas, an artistic representation of transhumanist thought, as Istvan has stated it, the book fails miserably on the score. Real novels of ideas put more than one idea up against one another, explore the space between the known and unknown. By contrast, The Transhumanist Wager has only one idea- a fascistic interpretation of the meaning of transhumanism in which the complexity of every other current of human thinking, including transhumanism itself, is reduced to a cartoon.

Futurism has always contained within itself a hatred of the past, and everything we have inherited from the past, religion yes, but also culture, art, architecture, literature. Istvan’s novel has left no room for continuity between transhumanist aims and the longings and attempts at transcendance that was invented by the world’s religions, even if the version of transhumanism he presents is nothing but a ripped off and upside down version of fundamentalist Christianity. In fusing the so-called militancy and cultural illiteracy of the New Atheism with a religiously infused interpretation of transhumanism, Knights, or Istvan, has merely created a new form of fundamentalism- its barbarism no better than the kinds of real barbarism seen when the Taliban destroyed the beautiful 5th century Buddhas of Bamiwam.

Istvan’s imagined willful and unnecessary destruction by transhumanists of cultural treasures in the West; Vatican City, where the Pope himself is killed, the incomparable Notre Dame and Versailles, along with the jewels of Western culture it holds, certainly struck home for me, and I am sure they will not fit well with many other Westerners of similar secular bent to myself who nonetheless understand the exquisite and fragile beauty of these places.

Yet, the damage of Istvan’s novel for the transhumanist movement might be much more strongly felt outside of the West rather than inside it. He imagines transhumanists destroying the Imperial Palace in Japan, The Forbidden City in Beijing (which even the anti-historical madman, Mao, left in tact), Delhi’s parliament building and its cultural treasures are destroyed, Moscow’s gorgeous Kremlin- leveled. The most sacred site of Muslims, the Kaaba, is destroyed along with their Dome of the Rock. The Wailing Wall, sacred to Jews both religious and secular since 70 C.E. is annihilated. Istvan’s transhumanists destroy what is probably the most exquisite piece of architecture built on the African continent the Great Mosque of Djenné, and blow up Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer.

All of this is troubling and amounts to madness, for certainly there were other ways of displaying imagined transhumanist power in the novel that refrained from destroying the civilizational legacy not just of particular cultures but all of humankind. It is perhaps easy to sit in the comfortable West where religious violence is largely a figment of our imagination, and persons who write inflammatory tomes like Istvan’s aren’t arrested but protected by the police from the assault of maniacs and fanatics. It’s quite another thing to be associated with these ideas without any such protections and indeed their opposite.

The Transhumanist Wager might very likely put the lives of some transhumanist individuals in danger, and suck in individuals who are merely trying to move their societies in a more scientific direction. If you were living in Saudi Arabia and interested in transhumanism to the extent of owning literature on the subject, wouldn’t you now burn these books and papers, if not for your own protection, then, so unlike Knights himself, that of your family? Might you not also be tempted to burn your books about science given the possible conflation between an interest in science and a sympathy for transhumanism?

Where I am left is wracking my brain is in figuring out the origins of these fascist trends in in transhumanism, for it is twice now that very recent books have pushed the thinking of the movement in the direction of what can only be understood as technological fascism. It is clear that it is not his individualistic Randian assumptions alone that led Istvan in the directions of this type of thinking, for Steve Fuller, in his Humanity 2.0 arrives at a similar anti-human philosophy from a collectivist rather than a hyper-individualistic perspective.

The more I think on it, the more it seems that the kinds of fascist transhumanism seen in Fuller and now Istvan is a result of a quite narrow understanding of the meaning of technology which transhumanists of their stripe have adopted from the world of technological hardware, the kinds of things we normally associate when we hear the word technology, but whose narrowness when applied to the human and living world can lead to some pretty dark distortions. In a sense all transhumanism, even clearly progressive transhumanism, suffers from a kind of technological fetishism, and thus might gain insight from confronting what results when the logic of a mechanized technological advancement itself becomes the end through which human aspirations are funneled.

If we get out of the mindset that technology is only something that we have deliberately engineered it’s quite easy to see almost everything human beings do as making use of a sort of technology. In this interpretation law is a sort of technology which mediates social and economic interactions. Religion is a sort of technology, a  path to some particular human definition of transcendence. A kind of universal moral heuristic such as the Golden Rule is a sort of technology which guides human moral behavior.

The kinds of fascist transhumanism seen in Fuller and Istvan treats both persons and culture as if they were something like cell phones. The “functionalism” at the end of Istvan’s TEF gives it away. He has established criteria by which the “worth” of a human being can measured like one would a gadget. If someone fails to meet this criteria, or worse from his point of view, is a bug in the overall system they are to be “discarded” like one would a smart phone model from the last innovation cycle. Fuller goes so far in his desire that we reconceive our nature to be one of “designers” that he is a vocal supporter of teaching the pseudo-science of intelligent design in schools in order to inspire students with the “god-like” tasks in front of them.

Perhaps what morally grounds techno-progressivism as a branch of transhumanism is that it is more prone to tap into deeper ethical stands and currents (themselves a very potent form of moral and social technology) and is thus informed by traditions such as that of rights (including animal rights), or the desire for social justice that is lost by the transhumanism of Fuller or Istvan that reduces everything to the cruel logic of products. Yet, if narrow ideas regarding technology can result in the emergence of fascist trends of thought within transhumanism, the kind of heavy weight put on what is now mere engineering is also often too much for that type of human action to bear.

On the one hand there is the collision of our daydreams with the sheer complexity and surprises that confront us when faced with reality as shown to us by science. We have inherited aspirations regarding human life from religion and political philosophy which may or may not have a technologically engineerable solution, and there is no way to know in advance if they do or do not. Just because we can dream of something does not mean it is technologically or economically possible, or may only prove possible in ways utterly different from our initial dreams, though we may be able to achieve some ends such as social justice not through gadgets and technical innovation but through changes in the technology of  economic structures and using the “engineering” that we call politics.

Indeed, some of our least sophisticated and deliberately engineered means of human enhancement are the best we have so far. Quality education, good nutrition, and supportive and loving home environments continue to be more effective in raising human intelligence than all the neurological interventions we have come up with. The biggest gains we have clocked in increasing human longevity were not so much the product of high- tech medicine, but decidedly low-tech improvements in public health.

This is not to say that much greater gains in cognitive capacity or longevity aren’t there for us to find once we have a firmer grasp on neurological mechanisms and a more developed understanding of the process of aging. What it does suggest is that unless we free ourselves from our narrow understanding of technology we might end up running to stand still as failure to invest in education robs children, in the aggregate, of the ability to learn, or failure to invest in public health gives rise to a median decline in lifespan at the very moment we’ve grasped the neurological mechanisms behind learning and memory and discovered how to slow life’s clock. What good, after all, would an understanding of the underlying neurological mechanisms behind artistic ability do us if we no longer publicly supported art classes for kids?

The temptation transhumanists face is the urge to re-orient all the resources of society towards technological efforts to solve only one problem- the problem of personal death.  In setting the bar so high, as in the achievement of personal immortality within their lifetimes, many transhumanists have enabled a sort of existential panic as the years pass by without the needed breakthroughs to definitively achieve such an end. Istvan’s Jethro Knights is cruel precisely because of the intensity of his impatience. The whole world needs to be overthrown because unless it is he will die.

What is lost in this impatience is the space between humanity and the at the moment very uncertain promises of post-humanity. Almost all ideas regarding post-humanity rest on what amounts to speculative science and technology even in the face of the fact that human beings have a very poor record predicting such things. The science and technology of the future will in all likelihood prove full of surprises- closing off some aspirations while at the same time making us aware of new ones.

The danger here is that the scientifically probable suffers in comparison to the enchantingly possible. Istvan is telling here for he is especially disdainful of investments in what is often called public health seeing it in a sense as a rival to much more ambitious transhumanist medicine. This attitude skirts the fact that it was largely the investments in rather mundane public health that nearly doubled our longevity in the first place. Istvan’s impatience due to his own mortality leads to a blindness to the likely gradualism to anything like post-humanity. We’ll probably learn how to keep people fit and healthy into their 80’s long before we figure out if biological immortality is scientifically possible let alone something like uploading. Viewed from a social rather than a personal level gradualism towards greatly changed conditions for human beings is probably a very good thing- giving society time to adjust.

Techno-progressives need to pay more attention to this space immediately in front of us. Such an effort would give us a better idea of where to prioritize their political efforts in terms of pushes for research funding and the like that would have the greatest immediate impact. Given the accelerating pace at which the world’s population is aging many of these priorities are likely to be shared by a broad swath of society many of them, yes, religious.

This is a much better strategy than engaging in a power fantasy in which your personal survival has become a political question, nothing in the world is more important than this survival, and what you believe most puts your survival in question is the fact that the whole world is your enemy. For, if transhumanists continue to put out works like Istvan’s Transhumanist Wager such paranoia may tragically become true and almost nothing could be worse in terms of real progress towards the movement’s long range aspirations.

Rick Searle, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a writer and educator living the very non-technological Amish country of central Pennsylvania along with his two young daughters. He is an adjunct professor of political science and history for Delaware Valley College and works for the PA Distance Learning Project.



COMMENTS

Hi Rick - well, I completely disagree with you, like I often do.

I very much liked The Transhumanist’s Wager. I found it a thrilling novel, and IMO, transhumanism needs novels, popular and readable, to advance its ideas. Transhumanism is rather one-dimensional now, bogged down with academic and scientific tomes, but very little art and imagination. The Transhumanist’s Wager serves as an exciting and inspiring work of creative fiction, that promotes transhumanist philosophy and goals.

Your accusation of “fascism”  - I don’t view the book that way at all. I regard the anti-transhumanists in the novel, the religionists, as the fascistic enemies of life…

Jethro Knight’s POV (and mine) is that he wants a radically long life. This is the #1 goal of the majority of transhumanists (I conducted a “Terasem Survey” that indicates this). Jethro’s subsequent reasoning is that, to attain his goal of living forever, he needs to combat any opposition that wants the current status quo, i.e, that wants him to die.

His actions, to attain a radically long life for himself and other transhumanists, are aggressive and wonderfully successful!

Yes, he blows up some religious monuments along the way. Ho Hum. Really, isn’t that a small price to pay for immortality?  I see it as very minor damage.

I find it discouraging that some readers - like you, Rick - are appalled by the conviction and subsequent aggressiveness of Jethro Knight. It seems to me that either…

1. you don’t want Transhumanist goals, like superlongvity, at all
2. you only want them if it doesn’t “inconvenience” anyone else

Your…passivity?  or… reluctance to annoy and confront? ... doesn’t make sense to me…

the book presents a “Transhumanist Revolution” -

revolutions need revolutionaries, people who aren’t “passive” people people who willing to annoy and confront those who are in the way of creating a better society.

if you’re not willing to challenge the status quo, Rick - the status quo will remain firmly in place.

@Hank:

Are you willing to openly subscribe to a movement that intends as part of its contingency plan should there be resistance to it obtaining its goals by the United States government blowing up the White House, US Capitol or Washington Monument as Knight’s movement does?

Doubtful.

There is a real difference between REAL revolution and adolescent
power fantasies such as the TW.

Real Revolutionaries openly espouse violence to obtain their ends if necessary and build their organization around such a violent struggle- is that really what you think would be the best course for trans-humanism? 

I emphatically do not, and the fact that I do not means that I have to accept certain ideas such as gradualism, compromise, and tolerance none of which are found in the armchair revolution seen in the TW.

Hi RIck—

I have no objections to transhumanists blowing up those landmarks that you mentioned. I don’t have any great affection for them so I’d probably do it myself for an extra week of life.

while we’re on that topic - the way I see the book is - here’s 2 possible futures:

#1 The TW path - A small group of highly-intelligent, technologically-advanced Transhumanists Take Over The World… the new rulers obliterate religion, and “force” humanity to embrace technology that grants them far longer & healthier lives. (is this really horrible to you, Rick? it isn’t to me…)

#2 The Current Path - Things proceed as they are presently going in the USA - in our money-corrupted, militaristic pseudo-democracy where tax-exempt Religions bilk billions out brainwashed followers and the citizenry continues to die at @ 80 years old.

Our disagreement, I think, lies in your words - “gradualism, compromise, and tolerance”—

you see those words as representing… Civilized Behavior?

I see them as representing Passivity, Conciliation, Stagnation, Surrender…

how “gradual” do you want progress?  How much “compromise” is acceptable to you?  When does “tolerance” become… enabling and outright surrender?

155,000 people die every day.  How many of those deaths are you willing to allow, in the interest of “gradualism, compromise, and tolerance”?

You are obviously more comfortable with far more people dying before tranhumanists goal are reached, than Jethro is.

but… does that make you more “ethical” than Jethro, or less?

@Hank:

I am glad to see that you are at least honest and consistent in this foolishness.

I think, for one, you are confused as to the message of the narrative-Jethro Knights isn’t interested in saving you or any of the other 155,000 who die every day- he is interested in saving himself and would kill you if you at all prevented him from obtaining POWER of which his personal immortality is a mere underlying condition.

If you were really earnest in you or anyone else living longer you would try to gain as broad a base of social support for longevity research as possible. The absolute worst way to gain such support is to engage in adolescent fantasy where you pump your chest in idle and fantastical threats that have nothing to do with the political reality as it exist and is likely to continue to exist.

Rage is most often the product of impotence, and the publication of TW is not a good sign for the movement. Continuing in this direction will indeed likely make your life shorter than it need be: most likely in undermining the social basis for longevity research, less likely in waging a Pyrrhic war against powers of the world who are of such a scale that you could not possibly defeat, or least likely of all by being murdered by the “ominpotender” for whom you are a barrier to his desire for omnipotence.   

Hank - Your utilitarian jusitification of Knight’s violence is the same logic that leads to torturing detainees and building Guantanamo. Rick is absolutely right about the strawman caricatures of the opposition, which is a typical demonization technique of those who try to justify killing. I’m not a pacifist, but the justifications for war have never embraced destruction of cultural landmarks just to teach people a lesson. The Taliban do that, people who believe in the barest application of humanism to the conduct of war don’t. And it would have been a lot more complicated novel if there had been nuns and Buddhist monks with the slightest qualms about Knight[‘s totalitarianism mowed down along with the Christian fundamentalists.

if you want a far more nuanced look at the trade-offs of top-down transhumanist fascism versus bottom-up struggle please look at Ramez Namm’s Crux. One of his protagonists has a technology that would give him complete control over millions, and he tries to use it for good until he confronts a man who has the best of intentions who wants to use it to solve the world’s problems. Mez creates a much more nuanced view of the struggle - including some very unappetizing transhumanist terrorists - in building his moral case for bottom-up support for transhumanism in a way that respects individual liberties and democracy. I see Transhumanist Wager as the novel those transhumanist terrorists and would-be enlightened monarchs are reading as their bedtime story.

..sadly, and after much deliberation, I’ve taken down my review of the book from one of the review sites.

This is a hard step for me to take, considering the book is by a fellow author and on-line friend. My reason is, I thought I was reviewing fiction for the larger part and benign philosophy, but I’m not so sure now, after coming to realize from reading and listening, that parts of the not so benign views put forth in the philosophy of the book are crossing over from fiction…into a call for action.

To a certain extent you could say one of the Popes himself passed through a “transhumanist” phase (knowingly or unknowingly) when he underwent emergency surgery. [Science] saved his life after being shot back in 1981.

As long as science leads by example as in the Pope’s case… transhumanism will segue with humanity and there is no reason to create or push a radical front for transhumanism.

To me, transhumanism is science and technology for the betterment of humankind, nothing more.

No wonder the Transhumanist Wager warns against [foolishly] getting lost in the complexity of etiquette..

First, let me say I am very much siding with Hank Pellissier here..

Rick, - I actually understand your fears and objections to some of the rhetoric in the T-Wager, but I find it wrong and unfair to take all statements literally. Zoltan Istvan has repeatedly said his aim is to generate some constructive debate, and that he is not necessarily ready to follow Jethro Knights ´til the end.. – I’d advice readers to see beyond the rhetoric, and beyond half-truths..

One such half-truth is that being “preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence” is indicative of NPD.
– I say: If that’s the case, then bring it on !

Now consider this, and tell me what’s psychopathic about it:

“We will make it so the fruits of Transhumania can all be harvested together. We will openly share with you our amazing science, medicine, technology, innovation, and inventions, as well as our inspiring philosophies and unfaltering leadership. We can start a better, more promising world together immediately. Your new lives can start today. You can remain free, raise your families, pursue happiness, live healthily, accumulate wealth , gain access to education, work towards personal improvement and, most importantly, strive to fulfill the goals of transhumanism”.

My personal overall impression of Jethro is that he is way more decent, altruistic and kind than you would have us believe. Unlike “religulous”, self-righteous and narrow-minded folks, - (I am NOT talking about you !), - Jethro makes no false claims.

Your insinuation, that implementation of the ideas proposed would result in a failure to invest in education is absurd. Consider these paragraphs:

“There is, however, one all-important service Transhumania will provide completely gratis. Transhumanists vehemently believe in comprehensive, religion-free, scholastic education”.

“Jethro also wanted to begin confronting the nation’s inadequate educational system..”

“Free, high-quality public schools, institutes, and universities popped up everywhere on the planet, often newly built by the government. Many millions of teachers and professors were hired by Transhumania and sent out across the globe to educate”

There are other issues.., but dinner is ready.. : )

 

@ Rick - I share Jethro’s “existential panic” about death and his subsequent “impatience” and I am happy to admit it.

I’ve heard transhumanists described as, “the people who are terrified to die”—

I don’t think there’s anything shameful about having this fear, indeed it feels quite rational.

My desire and instinct to survive, and thrive, seems normal and intrinsically “human” to me - it seems bizarre that it gets subcategorized as “transhuman”—

(most of) Humanity has accommodated itself to what is viewed as the “inevitability” of death and aging…

Now, increasingly, Death & Aging are viewed as perhaps-not-so-inevitable…

This leads to (what seems to me) a Very-Normal-Impatience to take the necessary Final steps to end Aging and Death.

You define Jethro’s impatience as “narcissistic, juvenile” etc.

I define it as dedicated, heroic, pro-active.

Every Revolution has had both “Jethros” and “Rick Searles” - people who wanted to move Very Fast, and people (like you) who regard the Jethros as violent, dangerous, impatient.

For example - the abolition of USA Slavery had John Brown (the impatient “Jethro” who was hanged after his armed insurrection at Harper’s Ferry) and Henry Clay, (a “Rick Searles”) who created the Compromise of 1850, which delayed the Civil War for a decade.

John Brown and his supporters killed 5 pro-slavery advocates, and he was subsequently hanged.

Henry Clay secured the continued slavery of 4 million Africans for ten years. He is widely regarded as a great American politician.

but… who… in your opinion… was the more ethical person? The impatient John Brown who fought violently for what he thought was right? or the comprising, tolerant, gradualist Henry Clay who doomed millions to continued degradation?

I think the future has room for both types, You and Jethro.

But my alliance… is not with you and Henry Clay

my alliance is with bolder “impatient” activists -  Jethro & John Brown…

 

You know, after the numerous failures of the 20th century, I would have thought we would have learned to treat the builders of utopia with a healthy amount of skepticism.  They always promise that they will build a paradise on earth, as long as we submit to their will and adhere to the tenets of their particular ideology (or not, since they’ll blow us up if we don’t.)  Funny how, after the submission is complete, the paradise never seems to materialize. 

@Joern:  If Istvan doesn’t actually believe what he’s writing, that makes him even more irresponsible (though it may explain why the book is so terribly written).  He’s written a book which has, for whatever reason, become a major topic of discussion among transhumanists and the central thesis of which can be summed up as “the future is coming, join us or die.”  For anyone in the public who reads this book, that will be there impression of the transhumanist movement.  If Istvan doesn’t even want to defend the ideas he puts forth, then this book doesn’t make him a revolutionary.  It makes him a child poking a bear with a stick and then saying “I’m not touching you!”

Oh, and why is Jethro psychopathic?  Because despite all of those examples you cited about expanding education, he doesn’t actually care about educating people.  He cares about maximizing the ability of other people to help HIM live longer.  If he thought that infecting everyone on earth with the ebola virus and watching them die in agony would help him live longer, he would do that.  That is psychopathic, and it’s a point of view held by a disturbingly large contingent of transhumanists (i.e. LW and their torture/dust in the eyes debate).

@ James - My “justification of Knight’s violence” ?? ... I don’t see Knight as “violent” - he spends 90% of the book defending himself, and his wife is killed by the opposition… Guantanamo?...  I don’t like it at all…

the Transhumanist’s Wager is interesting to me, in it’s parallel to the Paris Commune (1871). 

The Paris Commune seriously considered burning Notre Dame Cathedral down to the ground, utterly destroying it. This annihilation of a beautiful religious edifice is carried out, in multiples, in The Transhumanist’s Wager, to Rick Searles’s consternation…

The Paris Commune’s primary goal was “anti-religious.” The revolutionaries wanted to separate church from state, they wanted to appropriate all church property and make it public property, and they wanted to exclude the practice of religion from schools.

These primary objectives of the Paris Commune are also main goals of Jethro in The Transhumanist Wager.

Let’s ask me the following questions:

Do I wish the Paris Commune had successfully attained these goals?
YES

Do I think the French people - especially the downtrodden poor French of the 1870’s - would be better off if church property became public property?  YES

Would I be willing to sacrifice Notre Dame Cathedral, to have had this happen?  YES

The Catholic Church supported all conservative, counter-revolutionaries in the 19th centuries. Ditto for the 20th. Ditto the 21st…

I find that both Rick’s and Hank’s viewpoints as being the fundamentalist of both sides. Rick takes on a very passive approach to Transhumanism, whereas Hank takes on a very militant approach. I consider myself a revolutionary, but then I’m also a very compassionate person - or at least I’d like to think so.

Unlike Jethro Knights, I wish to not only achieve my own indefinite life extension, but also the rest of humanity as well. Insofar, at least, for those who subsequently wish so. Whereas, quite like Jethro, when push comes to shove, I’m going to push back. Let’s not forget that in The Transhumanist Wager it was the Reverend Belinas who waged literal warfare against the floating city of Transhumania, subsequently killing Jethro’s love-of-his-life. If I was in Jethro’s position then, seeing as how they were originally only pushing for their own section of the world to pursue their ideas, I would most definitely fight back as well. To not do so would be disheartening and a betrayal to those who fought long and hard for what was achieved already.

Would I go so far as to throwing around nuclear weapons? No, not really. In fact, I find any weapons of such to be absolutely deplorable. I believe there’s room for revolution without unnecessary mass death. I, too, find historical figures like John Brown quite inspiring. He organized a rebellion and fought valiantly. But then he fought against slave owners - the oppressors. Launching a nuclear strike would not only kill your intended target, it would also kill several, several innocent lives - all of which I’d argue to be absolutely unnecessary.

So, yes, when push comes to shove, push back! If war is waged against you, then you give them a reason why they made the biggest mistake of their lives - literally! But doing so doesn’t then necessitate senseless killing; mass death; genocide; etc. etc.

Zoltan Istvan, the author of this great fictional novel, as Joern noted above as well, has repeatedly mentioned that he, too, felt that Jethro went beyond in many cases that he, himself, would take. That his novel wasn’t meant to be taken as the absolute, literal course of action for Transhumanists as they wage a revolutionary struggle for their own Transhumania, but was rather meant to create dialog - to start a debate on what courses of action we can take, which ones we cannot, and the implications of such. Dialog is the key here, especially when most of society today prefer action packed, rising above all odds, revolution-inspiring literature and visual entertainment.

V for Vendetta certainly presented a character who was willing to kill almost anyone, and blow any building he felt necessitated it, to ensure the success of his own revolution. But then, its inspiration didn’t create lunatic “revolutionaries”, killing police officers and blowing up buildings. No. It instead created dialog, and consequently a mass movement for social change - all done so with people wearing Guy Fawkes masks - it became a symbol for hactivist circles, like Anonymous.

So to then claim that The Transhumanist Wager will be detrimental to the actual Transhumanist movement is absolutely absurd, IMHO. Then again, I also find it equally absurd in thinking that Jethro Knight is the absolute figure we should aspire to. Eventually he became a fanatic and took things way too far when other options could’ve been brought to the table.

It reminds me of the recent conflict going on right now in Syria. Where crimes are occurring everywhere in Syria, the U.S. govt then began pushing for airstrikes against the country. An absolutely unnecessary position to take, as we’ve come to realize. Instead it was Russia who presented an alternative route - peaceful dialog and the handing over of chemical weapons to the international community. All while this is occurring, the Syrian govt and its military are still combating against religious fundamentalist terrorists. Are they being passive? No. Are they being absolutely wreckless? It would appear not so much.

So I find both Rick and Hank’s positions as one-sided - albeit antithetical. I believe there’s room for something somewhere in the middle - a gray area of this black-n-white verbal conflict occurring here. To be peaceful at all costs and humane, but then be an ardent revolutionary when push comes to shove, without unnecessary mass violence.

@ BJ Murphy—well spoken, I completely agree with your POV. I especially like your mention of the Guy Fawkes masks of Anonymous, originating with V for Vendetta.

The Transhumanist Wager doesn’t have to be “the” guidebook for transhumanists. But it should - IMO - be warmly welcomed as a potential source of philosophy and inspiration.

There aren’t that many “transhumanist” novels yet! 

If any transhumanist finds a phrase or character or envisioned action that motivates them in TW, I encourage them to use it…

“Eternal life…”
“The ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it; it comes only through the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.”
―Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn

If Obama doesn’t start WW-3 in Syria. There is a good chance we will be able to move forward regardless of the pathology of those who would would attempt such litany of tech fetish. They are a small minority that is supplanted by the ethical majority. Real time awareness will prevent anyone from gaining the upper hand and dominating the zeitgeist. Spirituality is the main goal of the future that when the limits classical computation is reached those who want to have higher consciousness will develop quantum naotech that will eliminate suffering and enable immanence within.

Type 1 civilization will be reached. Ideals of the meaning and purpose of life shall come into question. Mega structures and art will thrive.

I’m with Rick and James. This book creates a caricature of adversarial religion in order to justify annihilating it without mercy. In the end it merely supplants this caricature with an equally abhorrent flavor of fundamentalism.

Now what we have here, at least, is a genuine battle of ideas.

@Maya:

I actually think your decision to take down your review of TW is unfortunate. It is better for things to stay open and confront them.

The TW indeed can be used to justify violence and is guilty of the kinds of dualistic good vs evil mentality that leads to violence, but perhaps Istvan has merely said things that are latent among many- it is these beliefs themselves that need to be confronted. Without the book they would have remained unspoken. 

@Matt Brown to Joren:

“Oh, and why is Jethro psychopathic?  Because despite all of those examples you cited about expanding education, he doesn’t actually care about educating people.  He cares about maximizing the ability of other people to help HIM live longer.”

Right on! And BTW, Matt, you have what has to be one of the coolest jobs in the world!

@B.J:

I am surprised that you lend any support for the TW at all given the fact of its deep in-egalitarian anti-socialist bent. It’s world view is capitalism on steroids and techno-fascist. Are you merely justifying violence for some political ends? Okay, some situations require violence- I admit that- I am not a complete pacifist. But as your Syria example shows, most situations don’t require violence at all, and I would argue NONE of transhumanist aims would be enhanced by a positive embrace of violence.

@Hank:

There are much worse people to be compared to than Henry Clay.
Did 750,000 Americans (which I think is the number now) have to die in the Civil War for slavery to end? It’s a counter-factual- but I don’t think so, and it wasn’t even a successful version of an emancipatory struggle in any case- African Americans ended up in almost the same situation they were in before the war and for almost a century from a few years after the war forward.

The problem is you have mis-identified the “enemy” and even the problem. The enemy in the case of longevity isn’t some religious bogey-man, but the complexity of the problem itself. There are plenty of problems that need to be tackled that are actually mundane rather than revolutionary- having the FDA consider aging a disease pouring funding into dealing with the looming mega-crisis of Alzheimer’s. That’s not as sexy as immortality at your fingertips via revolution but it is the REALITY.   

“The enemy in the case of longevity isn’t some religious bogey-man, but the complexity of the problem itself. “

Rick - I agree that we under-emphasize the complexity of our problems and the need for mass support for our ends, and over-emphasize the alleged conspiracies against our goals. But I do think there are organized institutions that promote death-ist beliefs, and many of them are religious. I have never characterized the IEET mission as being an explicitly secularist one since I myself have an attenuated religious orientation and I believe religious institutions are flexible enough to eventually adapt to all the things we propose. But nonetheless when we try to do things like legalize gay marriage or decriminalize drugs, contraception, and control over dying we find that even liberal majorities are often trumped by illiberal religious institutions. In Europe the situation is more complex since there are equally powerful institutions on the Left standing in the way of techno-progress.

So the enemy isn’t just complexity, it also the way that beliefs about the inevitability of death, disease and disability are promoted by powerful agencies that must be countered. Where we agree is that violent adolescent fantasies are not the way to inspire real engagement with promoting our ideas, much less convince the convinceable about the attractiveness of our ideas. The role of this kind of didactic fiction should be to create real complex understandings of the world and the characters in it so that we understand the arguments and strategies we can pursue to change the world. This book doesn’t do that.

Rick, the reasoning I’m defending Istvan’s novel is because it’s a great novel! I’m defending it for what it is - a science-fiction novel! When all the philosophical context written inside is all said and done, and all the fast-paced action occurs and is done with, it’s still just science-fiction literature. It’s not an actual Manifesto. I’m fairly sure Istvan, if he wished to write one, would do so and have it published.

In the end, we must learn to differentiate fiction from non-fiction works and their purposes. A non-fiction work - for example, a manifesto - is written for the purpose of reaching out for people to read what is said and follow by its example. Science-fiction, on the other hand, isn’t so direct. It’s there to throw around several different ideas and routes that could be taken and put into a collage of thought constructs, and then lets its readers decide which more relates to them individually. As I said before, it creates dialog. Case in example: look at this comments section! lol

Daniel H. Wilson, another great author of both non-fiction and science-fiction, had based his entire writing in debunking nonsensical, Hollywood-esque events to occur in a near-Singularity future. And really, he was poking fun at all the crazy, bullshit scenarios these dystopic sci-fi films rely on. Even then, though, Wilson eventually conceded to the idea that it’s okay to write a some-what violent novel of science-fiction, i.e. Robopocalypse, AMPED, and Robogenesis. Why? Because it reaches out to a much larger audience and because he knows people aren’t going to read his books and think, “Oh, hey, I’m going do exactly that,” or “OMG, this is exactly what’s going to happen,” because it’s a work of fiction and people are smarter than that and much more humane than that. What it does do successfully, as The Transhumanist Wager does, and as Ramez Naam’s Nexus and Crux does, is create dialog on the diverse elements taking place in these wonderful - albeit fictional - novels.

The fact that Wilson’s novels are now being slated for feature length film production adds in a much larger audience, once again! It’ll create an even larger dialog, providing an open venue for those of us who understand better and are practically the organizers and thinkers of this movement we call Transhumanism.

Yes, I’m a socialist, but then I also enjoyed reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Not because I believed in all the individualist nonsense being thrown around, but because it was an interesting, well-written novel that sparked dialog. Everyone within the political sphere knows of Atlas Shrugged because of how much dialog it sparked due to its controversial ideas and setting. Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager is no different in that sense when it comes to Transhumanist circles, or really STE(A)M circles as well. And for that, it will continue to be talked about and it will continue to be debated.

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, Rick, without Istvan’s novel, we wouldn’t be having this dialog right now. And for that, I’ll continue defending the novel’s importance.

@James:

“So the enemy isn’t just complexity, it also the way that beliefs about the inevitability of death, disease and disability are promoted by powerful agencies that must be countered.”

I actually agree with this more than might be apparent at first-glance. On the social issues, of course, many religious institutions have been and continue to be anti-progresssive.

And I agree that some of this anti-progressive stance can be found in resistance to transhumanist ends. I have a post in the works that in part deals with the way Leon Kass tried to use fear of materialist immortality among religious persons to argue against what I consider to be a near universal transhumanist position that we should use science to increase healthful longevity- horribly immoral and dangerous.

My view is that, at this scientific, historical, political demographic juncture, transhumanists should double down on this idea of healthy human longevity and distance themselves somewhat from ideas of “immortality” that tend to alienate the larger public upon whom the financial and social support for the longevity project will need to rest.

A religious war requires at least 2 rival religions and for me at least transhumanism should be less of a religion than a dedication to using science and technology to extend human flourishing possibility and freedom. What religions will build off of that or
resist I do not know but in the long run those that thrive I am certain will be those that have most fully embraced such flourishing.

@B.J:

I see TW as a political novel is the same way that London’s Iron Heel is a political novel.

http://utopiaordystopia.com/2012/09/30/the-iron-heel-and-the-long-view/

If we were in a creative writing workshop we’d spend our time confronting the aesthetics of the novel. But as a political novel it asks that we confront it politically. As politics it is openly hyper-capitalist and fascist. There is none of this sort of dialogue and debate we have here within the novel itself- I don’t count Zoe Bach as a legitimate example of Istvan’s confrontation with other world-views.  Zoltan merely drives home a view he already has and gives it the shape of a power fantasy. We shouldn’t let people off the hook with the defense that “it’s only art” unless we want all art to be reduced to mere entertainment.

So you don’t count Zoe Bach as an important character within the novel’s story line, and subsequently unimportant to Istvan himself? If that’s so, why even include her throughout the entire book and have her as a balance to Jethro’s militancy? And anyone who can correct me if I’m wrong, please do, but I remember reading or hearing it somewhere that Istvan’s sequel to The Transhumanist Wager will be emphasizing more greatly on Zoe’s outlook into Transhumanism.

To me it appears that you’ve already made up your mind, Rick, with unconditional slander against the novel, calling it outright “fascist”. Which is quite absurd, IMO.

No, Zoe is a kind of cartoon of the “mystical” outlook on life. She comes close to killing herself out of the belief that the universe will “save” her.

I can see where Istvan is going with this: in the novel Jethro temporarily dies to see if there is another side where he can find Zoe. He sees nothing.

In the sequel he’ll do a kind of Frank Tipler Physics of Immortality thing where he can bring her back to life. 

I am just calling it like I see it. I am not quite sure how anyone could read lines in the novel such as:

“… not all human beings will be a net-positive in producing omnipotenders. Any individual who ultimately hampers the optimum transhuman trajectory should be eliminated.”

And NOT come to the conclusion that it is fascist. I almost have the feeling that I am the only one actually taking Istvan seriously…

@ Rick -

Henry Clay, known as “The Great Compromiser” and “The Great Pacificator” - owned slaves himself, as many as 60.

http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/henry-clay/

I don’t see him as remotely a role model for transhumanists…

B.J. is right again, TW is just “fiction” - “Jethro” is not Zoltan.

I’m hoping your terror of the book’s message will drive up sales.

 

@Hank:

Are you trying to make the argument that Henry Clay’s ownership of slaves is an argument against pursuing compromise before violence in achieving moral ends?

Hitler liked dogs and children that does not mean WE shouldn’t like dogs or children! Or better, Jefferson owned slaves- that doesn’t mean we should reject the Declaration of Independence because it was written by a slave owner.

You guys seem caught between the what TW justifies is morally justifiable and “it’s just fiction” arguments. Make a final stand.

I am in no way “terrified” by TW’s message- I find it adolescent and silly. But silly things can be harmful. It’s biggest dangers are in undermining support for things I think are very good- namely longevity research- and in drawing all sort of neo-nazi thugs to the transhumanist movement in search of the lost uberman.

@Rick, the reason I took down my review is precisely for the reason that seems to be confusing many; that of fiction v/s cloaked manifesto (which admittedly even I did not see on first reading)

I don’t want to give readers of my review the impression that I support the heavy political and manifesto slant that is dressed up in fiction.

In fact, I distinctly remember stating something like this in one of my Replies right here on IEET to another article on the novel, cautioning people to make a distinction between fiction and manifesto.

On hearing a few sound bites and interviews, I became aware that this was not mere fiction and actually had far more serious manifesto overtones that somehow I missed or did not take seriously on first read.

In fiction, to move the story forward (at least in page turner fiction) you need conflict. In manifesto cloaked as fiction, you also need to do the same. It’s in the follow up conversations, the interviews, and when discussing the agenda of the story and the call to action in the right circles (read: pro Supremist transhumanist circles) that the true message of a book come out.

Okay Maya, I understand your decision. Perhaps a critical review would be better than silence?

Rick—I just read your other essay -

“Towards a Transhumanism - TechnoProgressive Divorce”
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/searle20130820

that essay is really a prologue to your butcher review on Zoltan’s novel.

You really don’t like Transhumanism at all, you want to purge Technoprogressivism of it, and you had that POV before you read TW.

Personally, I find the ideas of “technoprogressivism” so watered down that it doesn’t really need a name.  I feel the same way about the term and philosophy of “H+” - very uninspiring.

I spent a lot of time last year trying to create an aggressively “pro-transhumanist” website that wasn’t ashamed to use the term and advance what I regard as exciting goals.

I only succeeded very briefly, then I burned out, I ran out of time and funds. I am happy Zoltan’s book takes the aggressive stance that it does - I find it very refreshing.

@Hank:

You know, it makes a great deal of sense to me that you would find little to like about techno-progressivism…

@ Rick—

Henry Clay’s ownership of slaves indicates, obviously, that he wasn’t committed to ending slavery.

Even if he said he was…

Henry Clay was content to dither, compromise, procrastinate, and find excuses to keep slaves in bondage. Both in the USA and on his own plantation.

John Brown had no slaves and he sacrificed his life to free slaves.

My point is… the man of action who some might regard as “violent” - John Brown - is far more moral than the “nonviolent” compromiser - Henry Clay.

Jethro Knight sees death as injustice, because the option of extended life exists. He uses the means at his disposal to end this injustice.

I regard—Dithering, Compromising, and being Tolerant of the “Deathists” POV as Ineffective and akin to “Collaborating.”

@ Rick - of course I “like” technoprogressivism—but why not just call it… Democratic-Liberalism-With-An-Interest-In-Gizmos ?

Without the goals of transhumanism, I don’t see anything on the TP platform that deserves it’s own sub-categorization…

@Hank:

And I consider totally unrealistic political fantasy whose pursuit is likely to undermine the achievement of the very goals you seek as akin to suicide.

@ Rick: Trust me, you’re not the only one who takes Istvan at face value.

@ Hank: Just for fun, let’s compare another group of gradualists and revolutionaries.

Democratic socialists worked slowly through the political process, and won universal health care, greater rights for workers and a much more equitable society.

Revolutionary communists violently overthrew the previous order and brought us the Soviet Union, one of the most oppressive regimes in the history of humankind. 

I make that comparison not to disparage revolutionaries or to claim that violence is never a possible solution.  I make it because revolutionaries have a habit of not delivering the vision they promised.  We should be wary who we follow onto the breach.

@Hank,

Should have included this: I’m pretty sure your characterization of
technoprogressivism as “Democratic-Liberalism-With-An-Interest-In-Gizmos” indicates you don’t really “like” it after all, or at least have a very narrow understanding of what it is.

@ Rick, Matt -

my opinion is that Visionary Political/Social Ideas that decide to make massive concessions to the mainstream… end up losing the “vision” they started with… they castrate themselves of all ingenuity, and vanish into boredom.

@ Matt - this game of Gradualists vs. Revolutionaries that you introduce won’t end with either you or I as the winner. There are numerous examples on both sides.

for both of you - FYI - it might disappoint and surprise you to know that I actually don’t forsee a future anything remotely like TW. 

But… I support Zoltan’s right to aggressively assert his vision, I admire his nerve and his message, I found it a very thrilling read—- and…

I haven’t remotely agreed with any of his critics, who seem to have had their sense of fun catastrophically ruined by… what? their deep-set political agendas?

RIck - my opinion of “technoprogressivism” is that it is democratic transhumanism that is very heavily watered down, so that it won’t be offensive to ordinary liberals. 

I am also sure it is actually “technoPROGRESSIVISM” - high-lighting the second half—to deter anyone who is skeptical about the largely-failed processes of abysmal American-style democracy.

Actually, I find the discussion here rather depressing…

I was Managing Editor at IEET less than a year ago - when I was here, transhumanists and militant atheists were very encouraged (by me).

But now - the tide seems to have completely turned. Rick’s shrill condemnation of Zoltan’s novel is just the latest of several that attack transhumanism and (militant) atheists…

if anyone has read this far,
and they actually like Transhumanism,
I have another site to suggest…

another think tank, in Canada—it isn’t “active” yet, but it’s link is:

http://centerfortranshumanity.com/

nice one hank - so you are accusing me of not being “militant atheist transhumanist” enough and implying that it takes someone to push people to be that way, people cant think for themselves, etc?

The IEET is not militant atheist - that simply alienates people.
And when it comes to “militant transhumanism” - the movement is not nearly as large as it should be, and adding the word militant to a philosophical movement is never a good idea…

And from the description of the “CFT” I would say that the IEET has and will continue to be very much like them. We do not have to be militant. radical - yes, we are dealing with radical technology, but sometimes you need to think about what your doing, hence the IEET, which is an ethical thinktank, not an army.

I do however think that we NEED to start protesting in the streets for better science education, against any oppressive philosophy, and demand that science and technology (leaning towards transhumanism and posthumanism) should be one of the largest priorities of our society.
radical democracy. radical healthcare. housing. radical innovative philosophy, science and technology. extensive emphasis on real progressive education. wide-ranging egalitarianism. That is the future, and it should also be the NOW.

Also, Hank, you might want to review several of my articles:

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/notaro20130316a
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/notaro20120821
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/notaro20110309

As I say in my review, I have mixed love/hate feelings about this novel.

I wrote: “I think The Transhumanist Wager [] promotes an interpretation of transhumanism that I find far too militant and devoid of compassion. At the same time, while Zoltan and Jethro don’t have all the answers, they do ask important questions, and offer some valid answers. I find their [ideas] too militant and uncompromising, but at the same time, I think it’s important to affirm [similar] ideas loud and clear in today’s dull, politically correct, anti-libertarian cultural climate.

This is an edited version of what I wrote in my review, where I used the term “libertarian” to refer to Jethro’s ideas. But on second thought, Jethro is not a libertarian, certainly not in the live-and-let-live sense that is dear to my heart, and the frequently voiced comparison with John Galt is mistaken. On the contrary, he is an authoritarian control freak. Real libertarians would take any measures to protect themselves from aggression, but they would not impose their rule on others.

Re immortality, it is not a realistic goal for our generation. Just forget it. I hope Aubrey will prove me wrong, but I am afraid I am right. Perhaps future generations (maybe even those who are babies now) will enjoy indefinite lifespans via biotech and/or mind uploading, but not us. Just get over it. That leaves cryonics as a possible escape option, but in this case there is no urgency: they freeze you now, and unfreeze you whenever we conquer death, in decades or centuries or whatever.

re “In the sequel he [Zoltan]’ll do a kind of Frank Tipler Physics of Immortality thing where he can bring her [Zoe] back to life.”

From my review, “In her “Quantum Zen” outlook, Zoe is not so focused on immortality: she imagines that future super-science will be able to resurrect the dead. Jethro agrees, but he considers far-future speculations as a distraction from his overpowering drive to launch his transhumanist revolution and attain immortality here and now. The tension between Jethro’s and Zoe’s philosophies is, for me, the most interesting aspect of the novel.”

Yes, I hope Zoltan will develop the sequel this way. I consider technological resurrection (Tipler, quantum weirdness, or whatever) as a possibility, and that is how I cope with my conviction that indefinite lifespans and post-biological life will not be developed in time for us, but later. Since this is basically equivalent to religion, I don’t share Jethro’s rabid hostility to religion. On the contrary I think appropriate interpretations and formulation of religion may actually help promoting our ideas. As James says, “I believe religious institutions are flexible enough to eventually adapt to all the things we propose.”

@ Rick

Seems you have ignited a flame war, concerning Trans-Humanism vs Humanism values? I am not surprised in the slightest. These are the types of bigotry displayed here concerning attacks on theology in the past, today it is “Lilly-livered Techno-progressives”, (how sad). It is enlightening to know who you may be standing shoulder to shoulder with here, yes?

Seems Matt is also correct, dig deeper and find out more about the man to unravel truths about his philosophy. No one writes a book with leading philosophical ideas without intent.. do they?

I have not read the book, and thanks for the heads up. I would say that if Zoltan really was a trans-humanist he would do his very best not to harm the movement, wary of spreading the wrong messages. Does anyone know how/if this book is being debated over at Tom Horn’s site?

What price Unity?

Alexander and Genghis Khan and Napoleon also had lofty ideals of unity under oppression.

Why is it that “Liberals” always know what’s best for mankind and want to oppress and impress upon everyone and for their own damned good?

I am wringing my brains in order to pin-point what exactly it is that bothers me so much about this deeply hostile review, - this brutal review as Hank so rightly said, and some of the comments. - Well, actually I know what bothers me, I just have to express it a - hopefully - constructive and respectful way, but I cannot avoid using some strong language here..

As a self-declared free speech fundamentalist, I am not a supporter of IEET’s Buddhist Right Speech policy,  introduced by Hank Pellissier I believe.., and, as far as I know, still being practiced here, but I was just wondering.., - is calling an author a fascist, - and don’t tell me you only have a fictional character in mind, - and a violent, dangerous psycho not a violation of said policy.., - just curious..

Istvan is accused of setting up a (religious) bogey-man.. – How about “Neo-nazis” ? –

Hopefully, readers of the T.W. will realize themselves how absurd and unjustified Rick’s wild accusations are, but a couple of examples for potential new readers:

Apart from the downright lie that Istvan-type transhumanism would result in a failure to invest in education, there is the ridiculous claim that his “silly, adolescent” book – (Buddhist right speech, anyone ?) “undermines support for things I think are very good- namely longevity research” – I mean, which planet are you on.., or is it me who is completely mistaken in reading the T.W. as one long, passionate speech in favour of just that: longevity + research !

Then Rick claims that “there is none of this sort of dialogue and debate we have here within the novel itself”. – Complete nonsense, as everyone who’s read – or hopefully is going to read the novel, - (CygnusX1 : ).. will know. In fact I’ve seen reviews accusing the book of lengthy rants, coming from both Jethro Knights and his adversaries, supposedly disturbing the thrill.. – and thrilling it is !

As for the commenters.. - Matt Brown says:

“He [Zoltan ?] doesn’t actually care about educating people.  He cares about maximizing the ability of other people to help HIM live longer”

Well, an ungrounded, hostile and prejudiced statement if I ever saw one..

Kris Notaro says: [militant atheism] “simply alienates people”

Well, some people no doubt, but ironically, alienation may be the best description of how I feel myself after reading this.. *** (self-censored..) review and some of the shameless comments. Point is: Alienation works both ways, and this review could very well alienate /chase off a number of transhumanists who don’t recognize themselves as belonging to some “We-are-the-morally-superior-good-guys/ “progressives”-you-are-a-bunch-of-(potential)-neo-nazis club, but wait.., that is perhaps precisely what Rick aims to do ?! – Seperating sheep from goats, techno-“progressives” from ??

No wonder I am ever more uncomfortable with the term “progressive”, - (sorry, CygnusX1), - despite counting myself as one.. – I constantly hear “progressives” moralizing about the importance of inclusiveness, tolerance and respect, - yet they shamelessly pour buckets of *** on decent folks who don’t comply to their self-rigteous standards.

I think it is this shaming of, in my view, freedom-loving people, - that puts me off more than anything, but it is also a distinct, tight-lipped, in the sense of snobby.., lacking sense of fun, as Hank so rightly puts his finger on.
The T-Wager is just that: A lot of fun, refreshing, a breath of fresh air, an antidote to dusty, reactionary socalled “progressives”.

Apart from being a self-declared PROGRESSIVE, a social-liberal, - (as opposed to Social-Democratic), - I am also a self-declared Universal Human Rights fundamentalist, a keen supporter of egalitarianism, - after all I am Danish.., - and I’m saying because I believe I have more in common with Rick than this comment would have you believe.., - I just REALLY don’t like this hostile review at all, and I would advice Rick to meet Zoltan Istvan personally or at least talk to him first before being too sure about his assesments…

For starters, take a look at Zoltan’s Facebook page. You’ll see Zoltan in the company of a killer-animal, and I happen to know he’s been involved with WildAid, - this just to say that “progressives” don’t have a patent on animal welfare.., nor on morality in general..

@ Joern

So with regards to individual freedoms, you must agree then.. ?

“Why is it that “Liberals” always know what’s best for mankind and want to oppress and impress upon everyone and for their own damned good?”

And thus also in Rick’s right to free speech to express his opinions also? What’s good for the Goose.. etc

I may just take some time to read it, (can’t promise), however, it does sound rather like another antithetical “Good versus Evil” storyline, (*yawns*).

Concerning your suggestion..

Zoltan Istvan: The Transhumanist Wager Is A Choice We’ll All Have To Make

“While I personally loved the first half of The Transhumanist Wager and disliked much of the second, I am convinced that the novel is a must read for anyone interested in the future of our civilization.

In my view the novel is full of interesting and controversial contradictions. For example, on the one hand Zoltan Istvan is a philosophically sophisticated author using elements from Plato’s Republic, Nietzsche’s Overman (Übermensch), Thomas Moore’s Utopia, Zen Buddhism and other eastern and western philosophies. On the other hand Zoltan has chosen to give us a kind of simplistic, Atlas Shrugged-style of a plot in its black-and-white depiction of an evil government and the lone hero who dares to stand up to it. Regardless of my personal views, however, I enjoyed reading the book and believe that it does a good job of mapping out the dangerous period that our civilization will have to navigate in the next several decades.”

http://www.singularityweblog.com/zoltan-istvan-the-transhumanist-wager-is-a-choice-well-all-have-to-make/

@ Kris - I’m sorry if you took my previous post as a criticism, and I very much like the articles you referred me to.

It’s just that these 2 articles bum me out :

“Towards a Transhumanism - TechnoProgressive Divorce”
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/searle20130820

& the review we’re discussing here, the hatchet job on Zoltan
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/searle20130916

These 2 essays—Alex Jones would love them, so would Dale Carrico, because they are virulently anti-transhumanist

this has happened before quite recently—

The Longevity Party divided in half because a large contingent - now called The Longevity Alliance - didn’t want to be associated with Transhumanism, (or the word Immortalism) they regard transhumanism as detrimental to their life extension goals, because it’s too “weird”

I understand that IEET wants to reach out to people who are turned off by radical militancy and far-out thinking. Its the same decision that Longevity Alliance made.

I do not entirely agree with one of your statements above, though. You say “militant atheism just alienates people.” Yes, that’s true, it alienates many people. But it has also united many people.

Zoltan’s philosophical alliance between transhumanism + militant atheism is probably what enrages his critics the most.

This all leads back to the other point I addressed earlier -

If a movement is hesitant to say anything that alienates people,
if it proceeds in a manner that overly-emphasizes “tolerance, gradualism and compromise” -
well, that is just Self-Castration
Over-concern with the comfort of your opposition, seems like a losing strategy to me.

Regarding the Right Speech policy, it was a collective decision and it is still the governing policy. I think the context of the use of a term like “fascist” is important in determining whether it is being used in an out-of-bounds hostile manner, or whether it is descriptive. I have communicated to Rick that I don’t believe it is appropriate to bandy that term at a leftish academic like Fuller, who I have invited to reply to Rick’s criticisms, although I suppose he is trying to figure out where to start. But applying it to a fictional character, and some of the ideological trends he might represent, seems acceptable. Rest assured I’m keeping an eye on this heated conversation and am prepared to shut it down if it gets out of hand. We are not a public forum, we are a think tank trying to move forward an ideological agenda.

Regarding the content of technoprogressivism, it is a work in progress, but I refer you to the diversity of people who identify with the term in our recent survey. They run the gamut from radical Left to libertarian. I don’t think there is an implicit attitude about the legitimacy of violence in the idea of TP yet, but clearly most of us see it as a broadly anti-authoritarian stance although not an anarchist one. It is certainly not American liberalism plus transhumanism, or transhumanism lite. It started with a group of us trying to explore the space on the left of transhumanism with people who were left-leaning but not transhumanist, but has grown to encompass a more general stance about the interdependent and complementary nature of social and technological progress. We’ve seen its application to issues like geo-engineering and GMO crops, which have nothing to do with human enhancement. Insofar as it is rooted in a liberal Enlightenment set of ideals it has broad implications for positions on international relations, gender politics and so forth. But it only has that content if people apply the term and its nexus of ideas. It is an experiment.

As to whether the IEET has changed course on atheism or religion, it has not. Several members of the leadership, including myself, have a deep engagement with religious ideas and dialogue, although all of us are atheists. We have run a lot of discussion of religion and atheism on the site, all the while maintaining the stance that our core mission encompasses at most the separation of church/state and promotion of rationalism and secular society, but not an active atheist stance. We have been and intend to continue to be open to both atheists and believers, as difficult as that is sometimes. I don’t see one review critiquing the fictional destruction of religious monuments as indicating a tilt one way or the other.

@Joren:

I did not mean for this debate to engender such hostility. Look, I am not attacking the character of Zoltan the man, and in all sincerity wish him well- but nor do I think a book with a section called “The Humanicide Formula” is as you say: “A lot of fun, refreshing, a breath of fresh air”. Instead, I find it dangerous. I actually take the book seriously. If I am seemingly self-righteous on such a score or particularly harsh it is because I believe the way Zoltan has crafted this story has the potential of putting innocent people in danger. Whether he intended that or not is not my concern what is my concern is that people who read his work don’t create a form of militant transhumanism that not only ends up harming people but in the end destroys itself. 

He imagines transhumanists destroying the Imperial Palace in Japan, The Forbidden City in Beijing (which even the anti-historical madman, Mao, left in tact), Delhi’s parliament building and its cultural treasures are destroyed, Moscow’s gorgeous Kremlin- leveled.

Suppose a transhumanist world governance receives democratic sanction to do those things. Then people might hail Istvan as a visionary who showed us the way to build a proper sort of world, though that could also put progressives in a bind by showing the problems with their democracy fetishism.

I apologize for arriving late to the discussion, but I discovered The Transhumanist Wager fairly early after its publication because I regularly search for books about transhumanism on Amazon. The novel reminds me quite a bit of the 1930’s film, Things to Come, based on H.G. Wells’s idea of “progressive” social philosophy. Jethro Knights serves a function similar to the John Cabal character played by Raymond Massey: Both characters rescue a dysfunctional civilization by organizing the geeks to overthrow the warriors and politicians and run things technocratically.

If you’ve read H.G. Wells’s nonfiction works, you would also know that Wells advocated “humanicide” and eugenics to get rid of the people who didn’t meet his standards, but this part of his philosophy didn’t make it into the movie, for obvious reasons. The left’s enthusiasm a century ago for eugenics and thinning out the human herd has conveniently fallen down the Memory Hole, but at the time progressive opinion-makers considered these proposals discussable in print and they didn’t disown the intellectuals like Wells for advocating them. They had the understandable desire to live in a world where people had “beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds,” as Wells phrased it.

And so does Zoltan Istvan, apparently.

So what thought crime has Istvan really committed, then? Reviving an old progressive idea about the kinds of people we should have in the world in the wrong time, or in the wrong context, or in the wrong way?

I agree with Joern’s POV—about “Right Speech” and how it could have been applied to this review.

Zoltan Istvan is a hardworking transhumanist.
He should be welcomed, IMO, into the IEET community.
He has most of the same goals as everyone else here.
I think he and his novel deserved more respect—from what is traditionally a transhumanist-friendly website.

It is absolutely fine, of course, to dislike his book. It is fine to hate it.

But to say Zoltan/TW is “fascistic” “juvenile” “psychopathic” “narcissistic” “adolescent” “foolish” “silly”—-

... this is, of course, not remotely courteous or welcoming to a new writer who has used to be defined as “IEET goals”

I take this review quite personally because Zoltan is a friend and neighbor. I live in North Beach, he lives across the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley. We have gotten together twice and he is an amiable, friendly, likable, normal “non-psychopathic” guy.

—-

Regarding my earlier comment that IEET seems to be actively wanting to purge transhumanists, how else am I supposed to take this line from Rick’s review:?

      “Techno-progressives should then truly divorce
      themselves from a movement which sadly has
      taken a fascistic and frightening turn.”

?????

@Hank:

“fascistic” “juvenile” “psychopathic” “narcissistic” “adolescent” “foolish” “silly”—-

All these words were used in reference to TW itself or characters in the book. You are conflating the judgement of the work with the judgement of a man, something I have no right to do because I do not know him and he has done no act by which I could judge him. It’s much too easy too defend an innocent person than a work that is so unjustifiable as the TW.

Fini.

@ Hi Rick—I am curious about your intentions, of course…

You want to “divorce” Transhumanism from Technoprogressivism - you’ve said this multiple times…

can you elaborate?

This is a matter of personal concern for me, because I’m a transhumanist who has 81 essays posted at IEET, the vast majority written exclusively for IEET, for free, etc…

Writing this quantity of work took me hundreds, perhaps 1,000 hours.

I am a bit disheartened to know that my essays created so laboriously are now sequestered on what seems to be morphing into an anti-transhumanist website…

I see that you wrote “Towards a Transhumanist-Technoprogressive Divorce” on August 20, and six days later you were elevated to Affiliate Scholar… 

I don’t regret the time I spent writing for IEET, but like Joern says, this is all very alienating…

Hank - please, you are being absurd. All of the leadership of the IEET describe themselves as transhumanists, we publish transhumanist articles all the time, our audience is 70% transhumanists, and then we publish one essay that questions the relationship of technoprogressivism and transhumanism and you freak out. We need to have an open discussion about these things, and your attitude that having this discussion at all amounts to heresy is not helpful.

James, sorry & your remarks are very reassuring…

I just wasn’t sure if Rick was a minority POV, or if he was intrinsic to a IEET shift in direction, or something in between…

my apologies!

#FacePalm

Is this commentary for real? Critique of an author and his book now being taken as personal insult? Where have I heard all of this BS before?

Such petulance, such martyrdom?

No Hank, no one is attempting to be divisive here.. except?

Your articles, even the most controversial and antagonising of these are still valued as worthy? Don’t see anyone flushing them now or never, nor under-valuing them. Therefore you should show and extend the same courtesy to others perhaps?

And before you question the Trans-human/Techno-progressive divide and blurred lines you should note that this has all been debated many times here in the past, with folks including myself and Giulio opposing this apparent “divisiveness” to the point of exhaustion and boredom.

@ James

So let’s clarify one point here please? Mike Treder promoted this site and his personal tendencies/preferences towards Techno-progressive in comparison and contrast to say H+Magazine?

Has this position now changed?

Experiments you say? huh? This is news?

And a special note regarding “perceived” offense and terminology - Fascism is a philosophical and political ideology not an offensive word, yes? If such term is directed towards a “real” individual as opposed to fictitious characters, then what of it, if it may be true? It is still not an offensive word? It is a word and term to be debated and contested yes?

Sometimes I get the impression that Americans are hyper-sensitive to use of certain words and terms, (must be a cultural thing?)


If Rick wants to promote Techno-progressive over and above Trans-humanism then so what? This does not detract from the quality of his articles or their pertinence? Rick, is also more than able to support his viewpoints and arguments.


IF? Anyone here bothered to notice at all, they will see that the link I posted was Zoltan One2one interview with Socrates, regarding his book, in his own words?

 

@Cygnus

I’m not sure I understand the question. Mike Treder and I both agreed that technoprogressive was the ideological stance of the IEET, and we both wrote things clarifying its relationship to transhumanism:

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/3197

Mike was more uncomfortable with our continuing association with the transhumanist community than I was; I focused more of my anxiety at Peter Thiel and the singularitarians. Hank has spoken for himself that he never saw the point in promoting the technoprogressive meme and prefers transhumanism. Kris, George Dvorsky, Marcelo Rinesi, Russell Blackford, Mike LaTorra, Mark Walker and Giulio can all can also speak for themselves, but none of them have been uncomfortable with our describing ourselves as technoprogressive so long as we don’t get too narrow about it, which I don’t think we have.

In the recent survey the audience saw defining technoprogressivism and its policy implications as one of their top three priorities for the IEET, and we intend to take that seriously.  I think hammering out these first principles and their implications makes a significant contribution and creates a solid basis for our moving forward together. Transhumanism is by comparison a much narrower project - enthusiasm for the right to human enhancement - although I admired Bostrom’s tentative efforts to further elaborate H+ ethics and policy implications. One of the original reasons for the creation of the IEET was that the minimal agreement about human enhancement in the WTA left us paralyzed about questions such as how to relate to drug and device regulation and universal healthcare. Elaborating TP can I think give us a much more coherent basis for political action, and clarify how we overlap and diverge from a variety of adjacent movements that we might form coalitions with.

Does that answer your question?

@CygnusX1,

I followed Treder’s work very closely and I assure that there is no swaying off from Technoprogressivism here at the IEET.

I welcome very critical essays and studies on transhumanism/posthumanism and technoprogressivism so that we can continue to make progress.

As I have said before, if anyone has any questions or concerns they can contact James and myself anytime.

I will continue to strive for the furthering of technoprogressive thought pertaining to transhumanism, posthumanism, and even the modern human condition. Any suggestions, opinions, or ideas to help with these ends are always welcome.

@ James

I guess I’m a little confused here? I was responding to especially this..

“Regarding the content of technoprogressivism, it is a work in progress, but I refer you to the diversity of people who identify with the term in our recent survey….
But it only has that content if people apply the term and its nexus of ideas. It is an experiment.”

However you have answered my questions yes. Confirming that both Trans-humanism and Techno-progressivism are not incompatible, can cohabit here together and do not serve to be divisive?

@ Kris

Thanks also for clarifying.

 

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all your comments and the dialogue, which I’ve read carefully. I rather not jump in and say anything (just out of personal preference), but I did want to say that I appreciate the time everyone has taken to make comments, including Mr. Searle and his review.

I especially appreciate that IEET has run both positive and negative reviews of my novel. I respect IEET all the more for that.

Wishing everyone a good day. Cheers, Zoltan Istvan

I’ve been watching the festivities long enough…time to jump in…

Since I wrote my “glowing” review of Zoltan’s book, which you can find here on IEET, BTW, I’ve had many long interactions with other readers and not-yet-readers of the book in many different places online. I have since become so fascinated with Zoltan’s book and ideas and the ways that people react to it, that I am writing a book on the subject: At Any Cost: A Guide to The Transhumanist Wager and the Ideas of Zoltan Istvan.

When I had written my review, it was based on one read-through of the book and represented my first reaction to it: an expression of the way it affected me, mentally and emotionally. Through the subsequent process of intense cross-referencing of all kinds of things…micro and MACRO…in the book and re-reading several sections, and also having read, heard, and seen many interviews with Zoltan, combined with many online conversations, I have been able to see certain trends in the reactions of people.

The predominant “mental error” that I see is: context-dropping.

It is perfectly reasonable for people to think that the many extremes in the book are preposterous, unrealistic, would NEVER happen, are “juvenile” or “adolescent fantasies.” You can refuse to accept the plausibility of the book’s premise all day long, but what you DON’T get to do, according to logic, when evaluating the actions of the characters, is to ignore the context of facts and the causal sequence of events that comprise the world that Zoltan has created, however farcical, ludicrous, simplistically “black and white” you find it to be. Even if you do it UNCONSCIOUSLY, it is still a breach of logic that will lead you to erroneous conclusions.

You don’t get to merely go on your gut reaction to some harsh and distressing words without noting whether the worst of those words were ever played out through actions—whether those “words had consequences” later in the story. In THIS story, some do and others do not, and it is extremely salient to the evaluation of the characters’ and the novel’s “moral landscape” which are which. 

Examples:
Contrary to his harshest and most OBSCENE rhetoric, once Jethro is in control of the world, he doesn’t set to work implementing the HUMANICIDE FORMULA to evaluate each “drone” in the Transhumanian “hive” to determine their existential fitness and “eliminate” the useless. Even during the war phases of the struggle, he doesn’t treat non-combatants as dispensable “variables” that may be killed without concern, as any competent fascist psychopath worth his salt would do.

To the contrary, he even sends out boats to rescue ENEMY survivors who only minutes before were part of a worldwide navy that attempted to commit MASS GENOCIDE against himself and 10,000 other transhumanists. He also warns civilians REPEATEDLY about the precise times that specific buildings and monuments will be destroyed because his intent is to have no civilian casualties.

Of course, to say: “He’s not as bad as he sounds” ain’t exactly high-praise, but these distinctions DO need to be made.

I’ll quote from my review…

“I have an intuition or hunch that the majority of the negative feelings people have for Jethro just may be for his words more than his deeds. I have a suspicion that if all the same actions were taken, but with FAR FEWER explicit, in-your-face explanations, the negativity toward Jethro might be much less intense.”

If Zoltan had decided to have Jethro actually implement the worst of the extremist things he had said, he would have lost me. I would then have written a review of a story about a true irredeemable MADMAN and totalitarian. However, the “sins” that Jethro ACTUALLY committed fell FAR short of some of his harshest Nietzschean, TESTOSTERONE-POISONED rhetoric.

On the night I first read the above review, I emailed Zoltan and said, in part:

“He was just fundamentally indignant and offended, as any normal compassionate humanist would be, by many of the most strident and Nietzschean-esque statements of Jethro.

“I could have written some of that essay myself, if I had only let myself react to those abrasive words without looking deeper into certain crucial and strategically placed plot-points and philosophical-drivers that mitigate many actions that are much more shocking and inexplicable minus those considerations.”

Rather than the interpretation that Jethro is a classic narcissistic psychopath and budding dictator who actually wants to conquer the world JUST BECAUSE…that’s what these mutants do after all, here are a couple of alternative possibilities…

This is a story about characters who are intending to live “forever” and undoubtedly some of them will live quite a long time and their adventures will be recounted in subsequent sequels. At the beginning of the story, Jethro is a twenty-something philosophy student, and later, a graduate. He spends several years sailing around the world while absorbing the contents of 500 books and then towards the end, virtually the ENTIRE cannon of transhumanist thought that was provided to him by a leading, and much more seasoned, transhumanist.

He is in the formative years (a virtual embryo for a being who might live hundreds or thousands of years) of the development of his personal philosophy. He is forming the premises and conclusions (which I will dissect in a later post) that he deems to be necessary to achieve his immediate goal: NOT DYING. He envisions that some people may take actions that will impede or completely block is movement toward that goal. He decides, therefore, that the more personal power he can accumulate, the better chance he’ll have to be triumphant against people who want to thwart his goal-directed efforts. (There are other important elements, which I’ll post about later)

Now, being a young man, with a young man’s passions and energy and, not to mention, HIGH TESTOSTERONE LEVELS, he quite naturally couches his embryonic philosophy in forceful, in-your-face, uncompromising Nietzschean-esque, Jethro The Conquerer terms. When push comes to shove, in the real world however, he doesn’t implement all that is mentioned in his most belligerent rhetoric.

One reason for this could be because of a strategy, which is possibly foreshadowed more than once in the story (I need to do more research on this to be sure) and that is: Jethro views military conflict between the transhumanists and the rest of the world to be inevitable and he would rather get it over with sooner rather than later so they can get back to their life-extension research because they are all in a race against a heretofore unavoidable death-clock.

Notice that the transhumanists don’t actually take any actions to precipitate each successive escalation of planned and actual violence by the governments. It is Jethro’s uber-forceful/scary words that frighten the world powers into military action each time. We don’t know for sure if Jethro is just being his natural, “charming” self or if he may be laying it on a little extra thick in order to incite his adversaries into action so that he can justifiably kick-ass in self-defense. Jethro is nothing if not brilliant, and unless he really is a psychopath who may be somewhat clueless to others’ emotional reactions to such things (which is not borne out in his interactions with the people closest to him), he HAS to understand how his Genghis Knights MIGHT-MAKES-RIGHT Barbarian Overlord schtick will be received by the “unwashed” and already fearful masses. 

(More about his actions after the war in another post)

Now, to the most pervasive and consequential example of context-dropping…

The aggressive ACTIONS (not words, not thoughts, not philosophical speculations/conclusions) that Jethro Knights takes are in the context of…what?…wait for it…

SELF-DEFENSE and the aftermath of attacks by the militaries of the 10 most powerful countries of the world, in a WAR they DECLARED, with the intent to commit GENOCIDE against 10,000 transhumanists. 

First, war is declared on all transhumanists for the “crime” of being transhumanists. Then the first attempt at mass slaughter by the world powers is for the CAPITAL CRIME of what?…thousands of scientists going off to a floating city and working on science without interference from these very same beligerant governments.

Later, these blood-thirsty governments decide that nuking the entire population of transhumanists is the best solution.

Jethro’s technology is advanced enough to thwart both of these attacks with much less loss of life than would have occurred if the battles had come to fruition.

The trend I have seen, from the serious haters of this novel, is that these explanatory and mitigating FACTS OF THE CASE, are almost entirely overlooked, disregarded, or absent from their analyses. They are content to quote “scary-talk” and sling around terms like dictator and fascist without mentioning the very context that would shed a very different light on those actions and statements.

I did a search in the above review for the words: “government” “declare” “war”…the result? No match for the first two words and the only mention of “war” was about Zoltan having been a war correspondent.

Really? No mention AT ALL of the governmental aggression against the transhumanists that necessitates their self-defense and subsequent “de-fanging” of the beast that is out for their blood? No mention AT ALL of the major driving force of the grand events that dominate the story and motivate the characters in this fictional world?

Was this an oversight? Was it intentionally omitted?

Imagine if you saw a video that starts in the middle of a very brutal fight and you see one very skilled fighter systematically demolishing 5 or more other guys. I mean he seriously overwhelms and defeats them. One reaction might be to assume that guy is a real violent bastard who is abusing and maybe bullying all those other guys who clearly aren’t as skilled as he is. It seems like he’s the perpetrator of a lot of violence.

And then someone says, “Oh, you came in in the middle of it. Let me rewind it to the beginning.” And then we see the dude who was the “perpetrator” sitting on a park bench reading a book and a gang of guys come up and attack him and try to rob him. The only flaw in their plan was that they are a bunch of minimally skilled, undisciplined gansta-wannabes and the guy on the bench is a martial arts expert with decades of training and experience under his belt. Oh wow, with that piece of information in hand, your whole interpretation of the guy’s actions changes. Exact same actions, but there are now mitigating factors to be considered.

The point to grasp here is:

It makes absolutely NO DIFFERENCE if you think this whole TW scenario is ridiculous and juvenile, this IS the scenario we are to deal with in the world that Zoltan created, when judging Kinghts’ actions. Everyone needs to be aware of a potential mental-trap that’s fairly easy to fall into if we’re not careful, and that is: To unconsciously evaluate Jethro’s actions as if they were happening in a world that is more like our “real world” as opposed to the extreme world that Zoltan has created. A corollary to that is the tendency to isolate certain statements and actions from their context of a war and of self-defense and find them to be, therefore, extreme and inappropriate. If you omit that context from your consideration, your analysis of Jethro can’t help but be incomplete and inaccurate.

I’ve seen the same thing with peoples’ reactions to Atlas Shrugged, to which TW is routinely compared, and for good, albeit superficial, reasons. People would say: “Why did he have such an extreme reaction?” or “Real people don’t talk/act that way.” And they are quite right if they are thinking of the people they know and present-day America, where things are generally pretty stable compared to other parts of the world.

But what I have to keep reminding them is that, in the world of EXTREME circumstances and the hyper-idealized businessmen/creators and hyper-villians that Ayn Rand created, the characters are reacting extremely to extreme situations in THAT fictional world, in accordance with the psychologies and motivations that RAND GAVE THEM. Their actions make sense, given THAT FICTIONAL WORLD and their RAND-GIVEN personalities.

These characters are reacting in ways that make little sense to you because they have a psychology and motivations that are extremely different from your own. However unrealistic you find this world to be, it still must be judged in its own context and on its own terms. If you drop that context, your comprehension of it will be entirely off-base.

I have several other points to make, but those will be in subsequent, and THANK THE GODS, much shorter posts.

Till then, enjoy! grin

To those who conflate Zoltan with Jethro and think that the TW is a prescription and call for militant action: I have seen, heard, and read many interviews of Zoltan and he speaks of purposefully writing in EXTREME terms as an artistic and rhetorical choice. He doesn’t personally adhere to or endorse ALL of what Jethro says or does.

From interviews:

“I also hope the scenario in my book is precautionary rather than predictive. Nothing would make me happier than an efficient, peaceful, and lasting transition to a truly pro-science culture in the world.”

“My intent with writing the novel was not to blindly follow someone like Jethro Knights, but to create a story that is both a warning of the future—and also a chance to consider new ideas. The novel and Jethro’s character is, hopefully, also a way to entertain people while challenging them.”

On the issue of the plausibility of the scenario in TW:

Even Zoltan himself has said in the Singularity 1 on 1 interview: “We paint these pictures as novelists in such scenarios where it probably…a set of circumstances like that will never occur.” This does not mean, however, that Zoltan has disowned or doesn’t want to “defend” his ideas. He has created extreme scenarios to push his characters to see how far they will go for their “ideals” and to get the readers to ask THEMSELVES where their own boundaries would be if pushed by an extreme situation.

On the issue of the destruction of the governmental and religious structures:

These were not destroyed “just to teach people a lesson.”

I would propose that Knights had a PRAGMATIC reason for doing this and not merely a symbolic one, or just to be needlessly vindictive. Remember that this was right after the transhumanists had successfully defended themselves in a war declared on them by an alliance between religious people and many governments.

Just as after WWII, the victors didn’t let Germans continue to use all their Nazi buildings to hold Nazi meetings, and they didn’t let the Japanese Emperor, who some (most?) Japanese people believed to be a god, just carry on with business as usual, retaining all his power and status, Knights wanted to erase the infrastructure of the two forces that had banded together to TRY to commit, yes, GENOCIDE, against the transhumanists.

He didn’t want government and religion to have their same old places to congregate at and start-up their shenanigans all over again. They had already proven themselves to be a TOXIC MIXTURE of fearful bronze-age mythologies and military power. They miscalculated and lost the war and were no longer in charge…and Knights intended to keep it that way.

From Knights’ point of view, enough of the world governments had REPEATEDLY demonstrated their willingness to attack the transhumanists such that he didn’t want to take a chance of leaving SOME governments intact that might try to cause trouble or even get taken-over by some group who would be able to use their weapons to cause trouble.

Knights told the world at the end of the war that he was going to install his own people in the leading governmental positions in every country, not because he wanted to be the DICTATOR of the world, but because that was the only way he could be sure there wouldn’t be any governments that would try to attack and kill them again.

He only DICTATED things as long as it took to create a stable world that was not going to attack the transhumanists again and would enable the transhumanists to work on the necessary scientific and medical advancements that were going to further the transhumanist’s goals and consequently create many benefits to the rest of the world. Once this was all humming along nicely, Knights gave up all his “dictatorial” power.

So I would say, in comparison to historical dictators of the world, he used his power only to ensure the survival of the transhumanists and only for as long as necessary and not to rule over people for the sake of ruling. In this way, he was not even in the same CATEGORY with other historical dictators. He exerted temporary power in a post-war, martial-law scenario in order to put the world back together in a way such that it was no longer a LETHAL KILLING MACHINE directed toward himself and his fellow transhumansts nor ANYONE ELSE.

As to the charge of Jethro being a complete dick-head who, with “wanton disregard of all that is decent and utter malice aforethought,” destroyed irreplaceable artifacts and structures that were highly valued by nearly all NORMAL HUMAN MAMMALS for their nearly priceless historical and/or artistic and/or religious value…

Jethro pleads: GUILTY AS CHARGED.

As he said, he is a “futurist” not an “archeologist.” He had the opportunity to make a clean break with the two great backward-thinking and transhumanism-impeading institutions and he took it. He had a finite and dwindling supply of weapons at that point and could not count on his luck in battle holding out indefinitely, so he decided to do all he could to “de-fang” the double-headed snake that had pursued him so enthusiastically.

Hey Jethro: Why so serious?

I think the reason that I never took Knights’ most belligerent beliefs/rants and even his most authoritarian actions as anything like a blueprint for transhumanist dictatorial world domination advocated by Zoltan, is because I’ve watched far too many martial arts movies in my life. Yes, seriously.

As soon as I read the CLASSIC plot device, whereby the hero’s loved ones are killed by the bad guys, (or sometimes it’s the hero’s beloved kung fu master who is killed) I was instantly prepared for a story in which Jethro is going to go to extremes and do MANY things that he wouldn’t normally do without all that opposition from the bad guys, including the murder of his wife and unborn child.

From that point on, Jethro Knights was not giving ANYONE the “benefit of the doubt.” He was going to go in a straight line to acquire as much power as possible to insure that he would prevail over the people who killed his family and tried to kill ALL transhumanists. Yes, if you overlook what happened to him and what the world was TRYING to make happen to the other transhumanists, it’s easy to get quite nit-picky and academic in analyzing whether, at each step, he went a bit farther than was strictly justified by genteel and refined rules of gentlemanly decorum and democratic principles.

But at that point, Jethro had had ENOUGH of their crap and was going to put a stop to their aggression in the most direct way possible.

Zoltan, from an interview:

“I admit that Jethro Knights, while inspiring and brilliant, can go too far. But in the context of his wife being murdered, his life being repeatedly threatened, and his passion to overcome death, we find a man who no longer values people over his own path towards immortality.”

And really, when you think about the kind of martial arts movies that use this same death-of-loved-ones motivational plot device, in which the hero engages in an all-out blood-bath of revenge, Jethro’s actions are really quite minimal and measured by comparison. He used his principle of “functionalism” to do only as much as was needed to get the job done as quickly and safely as possible for the transhumanists.

I think people can get really upset and hate Jethro and the book in general if they see Zoltan as advocating everything Jethro says and does as a good way to move forward to a new transhuman world. But, Zoltan, decidedly, DOES NOT.

Random thought:

I wouldn’t be surprised AT ALL to discover that Zoltan, first had the idea for a story in which transhumanists came to be the prevailing world culture, not through a process of a long struggle with alternating forward progress and setbacks over the course of decades, but in a sudden punctuated eruption enabled by a sequence of fortuitous events and THEN he “reverse-engineerd” a character who would have all the most grandiose and uncompromising characteristics that would be needed to get this outlandish job done, and came-up with our dear Jethro Knights entirely ex post facto.

I must ask Zoltan about this most implausible hypothesis…

I guess this argument can go on forever, so I’ll point out why I disowned my initial review of the book (which I thought was “entirely” fiction and not manifesto cloaked in fiction).

Here’s one of the reports from an event:
Humanity+ Event at Zero1 Garage

Here’s one of the worrisome excerpts…

Following Wilson, Zoltan Istvan gave a talk on his book, The Transhumanist Wager.  I guess it’s about a guy who takes over the world in order to live forever.  I didn’t read it, and from the various book reviews I have found online, I don’t think I will.  Istvan is basically arguing that transhumanists should form cells and start combating religious groups directly. 

I’m not kidding; here is an excerpt from his interview with Serious Wonder:

Z: I’m currently creating networks of transhuman activists across America and beyond that will begin systematic confrontations against those that are hostile to life extension and human enhancement science.

I plan to use aggressive tactics that will garner media attention for spreading transhumanism.

Of course, I’m also using my novel, The Transhumanist Wager, as a tool for how passionate that activism should be …

Read that slowly.., then read between the lines.
So for me, and me alone… something does not jibe with “it’s fiction”

But call me techno-progressive or transhumanist lite or whatever,.. I subscribe to this comment from the article

To me transhumanism is a misnomer.  Humans have always augmented themselves and always will.  To augment is essentially human.  It’s what technology is all about. -

 

Hi Maya,

I too think it’s a bummer that you withdrew your review.

That guy you quoted has always been particularly annoying to me because anyone who says he hasn’t read a book and probably won’t and then says, “I guess” blah blah blah about the book he hasn’t read is obviously lacking the good sense and integrity to self-censor and should STFU and refrain from commenting on it until he HAS read it.

Jethro doesn’t take over the world so much as the world hands itself over to him on a silver platter by being a bunch of beligerant FOOLS who make their own “Anti-Transhumanist Wager” and lose decisively.

Is it possible that, by “reading between the lines,” which is essentially adding information that is NOT there, you are scaring yourself needlessly?

The words, “combatting” and “aggressive tactics” do not necessarily refer to physical violence or the use of weapons or anything of the sort…as happens in Zoltan’s book, initiated by the anti-transhumanists, I might add. There are also such things as “wars of ideas” and “battles for hearts and minds” and “fighting” against things like the stifling of stem-cell research because some religious people think a collection of cells is somehow “magic.”

When he speaks of the same level of passion as in the book, that is a statement about commitment and determination, not about violence of the sort in the book.

I understand if you have qualms and want to draw a line, but I just wanted to offer a different perspective.

grin

>>That guy you quoted has always been particularly annoying to me because anyone who says he hasn’t read a book and probably won’t and then says, “I guess” blah blah blah

It’s not his critique about the story I’m interested in. It’s his attendance at a live event, and the answers he got, and the quotes he quoted of other interviews that show that this is not so much fiction as it is manifesto wrapped up in a story.

The point being, that the author has written a political book, which he (in his own words) intends to use as a tool to further his cause and not let anything stand in the way - examples of outcome are made abundantly clear in the book.

It would be naive (bordering on insulting someone’s intelligence) to suggest that the words “combating”, “aggressive tactics” and “activism” when put in context to - standing on a stage and addressing an audience - are merely figures of speech as you suggest. That might have been plausible, had the prose in the book been written *differently*

To me, shockingly… it was Jethro speaking, testing the waters, so to speak.

Ok, you perceived that Zoltan was inciting people to actual violent action at that gathering.
I can understand why you’re afraid.

Why “afraid”? .. “repulsed” or revulsion while too strong for the sentiment… would be more apt. Sorry.

Ok, I stand corrected. grin

No call to arms needed… even the Vatican uses Google I’m sure…

Will Google Solve Death - Times Magazine - Sept 30 issue.

?Chris, Maya?

I was at the San Jose Zero1 Garage presentation and Zoltan was not, by any rational stretch of imagination, inciting transhumanists to “actual violent action.”

Maya was Not at the presentation, but s/he apparently got that very erroneous impression, via reading a blog post…

here’s the facts:

The San Jose Zero1 Garage event was produced by Peter Rothman of HplusMagazine. Zoltan was the 3rd and final speaker.

Scott Jackisch was there… he is the founder of a small group called East Bay Futurists, I am an occasional member, the event was a “Meet-up” for East Bay Futurists and there was a handful of EBFs there.

I introduced Scott to Zoltan and they talked amiably for while, but they have their different POVs…

Scott does not identify himself as a “transhumanist” - He hadn’t read Zoltan’s book, and I think he still hasn’t read it.

After the event, Scott wrote a report in his blog “The Oakland Futurist” expressing his views. Scott (without reading the book) has the same fears as Rick Searles, that TW might provoke some kind of backlash.

Scott’s blog post in The Oakland Futurist is what Maya read… Maya was frightened by it, and took down her/his review…

IMO, Maya should not form opinions based on second-hand hearsay information, from people who have not read TW, but are reporting on their impressions of a presentation and/or conversation. I haven’t read Scott’s report but it might be as erroneous in its details as Rick Searles review was.

the link to Scott Jackish’s report is below:

http://oaklandfuturist.com/humanity-event-at-zero1-garage-zoltan-istvans-inconsistencies-abound/#sthash.TWl1T3Co.dpbs

I’d also like to talk about Zoltan’s “actual violent action” ideas a bit, since this is something I have conversed with him about.

Zoltan used to work for WILDAID, a wonderful group of environmental activists who try to save endangered animals, like sharks and rhinos. His experience there showed him the success of “creative actions” that gain media attention, and sympathy for the causes that the activists promote.

He would like transhumanists to utilize “creative actions” to further their goals, and garner media attention.

WILDAID LINK:  http://www.wildaid.org/

I have written about WildAid myself, for the online SF Chronicle, about their goal to ban shark fins in San Francisco Chinatown.  WildAid’s “actions” include educational presentations, and “undercover” videos of sharks getting finned, that are used in advertisements.

LOL LOL LOL—No humans were hurt or killed in these WildAid actions!

link to my WildAid article: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Shark-Fin-Soup-An-Eco-Catastrophe-3238522.php

I have talked & brainstormed with Zoltan about ideas for “transhumanist actions.”  The ideas are non-violent. Here’s two samples:
1. He’d like to get a ROBOT donated that would participate in the transhumanist events. An actual robot would attract media attention.
2. I suggested making youtube videos in cemeteries, with transhumanists singing pro-immortality songs.

Neither of those ideas are “violent” - I have never heard Zoltan suggest any violence.  Why would he? It would be very detrimental to the cause, and we’d go to jail.

I have written about activist groups that I admire immensely that occasionally do “property damage” - 2 groups I admire are FEMEN and PETA. I think their actions are colorful, imaginative, provocative, entertaining, and advance their causes.

if you don’t know about FEMEN or PETA here’s some links:

http://immortallife.info/articles/entry/femen-six-reasons-why-i-totally-love-the-half-naked-ukrainian-activists
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/PETA-Activist-Bares-Her-Agenda-3183533.php

Okay, to conclude -

1. Zoltan thinks “activist - in the street” actions would be beneficial to the transhumanist cause.  Very little work like this has occurred. There’s been a Longevity March in Israel, 2 or 3 Longevity demonstrations in Russia, and other small events in Belgium and the UK. NOTHING IN THE USA.

links:  http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/life_extension_demonstration_israel
http://transhumanity.net/articles/entry/the-brussels-summit-of-longevity-activists
http://mariakonovalenko.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/second-transhumanist-political-meeting-took-place-in-moscow/

2. IMO, this discussion has been marred by what I perhaps rudely define as “bad journalism” and “irrationally-gathered evidence.” People are expressing their strong opinions about a book they never read. The review by Rick contains “inaccuracies” in reportage, that Joern noted. People like Maya make decisions based on something they read somewhere on the internet written by someone they don’t even know?!

I think Zoltan’s ideas for transhumanist actions are Safe and Wonderful - if anyone wants to help him, you can contact him via his Facebook page. Let’s Take Transhumanist Ideas into the street, the public view, the media spotlight.

I think the present situation - transhumanists and anti-transhumanists just bickering endlessly amongst themselves on a few small websites -  is tiresome, and rather futile…

by now, we all agree on that, don’t we?

@Chris Anderson, I based my opinion on Zoltan’s conceptual framework by reading interviews with Istvan and hearing him speak.  I feel no urge to either read that book or STFU.  I am skeptical that there is some hidden secret wonderment within the book that isn’t clear from the outside.

Transhumanism as a label is deeply flawed because it seems to assume a straw-man human that balks at augmentation which needs to be transcended.  A better name might be trans-Omish-ism. 

Also, good luck with your activism that confronts religious folks.  I am skeptical of activism of any kind since it mostly seems like ineffectual noise making.  But if it COULD work, it would need to target actual levers of power.  The religious are the tools of the elites, not the fulcrums of change.  I could go on and one about all the other ways this entire framework is flawed and get into embodied cognition, etc.  if anyone is interested.

Thank you Hank!
It’s VERY helpful to have another perspective from someone who was there and knows Zoltan.

BTW, just in case anyone might think that my low-key and deferential response to Maya meant that he was swaying me toward his view, never fear. I don’t have the slightest doubt that Zoltan wasn’t talking about violence.
Maya has a VERY different perception of Zoltan’s intentions than I do and I’m not going to harangue him about it.
I’m confident that Zoltan’s actions going forward will eventually disabuse Maya of this view.

>>Scott’s blog post in The Oakland Futurist is what Maya read… Maya was frightened by it, and took down her/his review…

Hank ..please.  What gives you that idea - or the right to impose your (flawed) interpretation? Frightened - What makes you think and assert that? - Seriously, the word you’re looking for is maybe; “repulsed”.

In all the rambling that you’re doing in the comments section, brevity and conciseness of thought would help. Here are the arguments in points:

(*)  It is not the blog post (alone) I read that made me change my mind. It is that, AND the interview on Serious Wonder where the actual statement of “aggressive tactics” was spoken.
If you scroll back, I also posted the same Zero-1 report of Scott’s that contains the whole context that you took up space to re-type above. Who’s not reading and forming opinion now?

For your benefit, I’ll re-copy one of the things we need to focus on - that of the author’s Serious Wonder interview.

Z: I’m currently creating networks of transhuman activists across America and beyond that will begin systematic confrontations against those that are hostile to life extension and human enhancement science.

I plan to use aggressive tactics that will garner media attention for spreading transhumanism.

Of course, I’m also using my novel, The Transhumanist Wager, as a tool for how passionate that activism should be …

If the book was written in sophisticated prose, then there would be reason to play devils advocate in favor of thinking the statements and words chosen by the author were benign. (both in the book and at live speeches)... however the book is written with a certain “rawness” and Rick’s description of:

the cartoon of religious evil Istvan has set up as the foil to his protagonist, Reverend Belinas,..
holds true, in my opinion.

That is exactly how you’d wrap up Manifesto in story - otherwise it’s just a manifesto with no alibi.
When I first read the book and reviewed it, I read it as “fiction’... strong fiction… and it was Ok by me. After-all it was fiction.

What was off-putting was the fact that unless one hasn’t read any good fiction lately- or- one has only been reading Scientific and statistics journals… one would be able to see where fiction ends and a policy draft bill begins. In real-life the book has indeed become a “tool”... a Bible if you will (yes I get the irony) for a radical version of transhumanist ideology… that the author himself openly admits in the Serious Wonder interview above - he intends to make use of.

That - and that alone- is why I withdrew my review.
I do not want to be, by any way of ambiguity- mistakenly associated as endorsing this flavor of Transhumanism.

>> People like Maya make decisions based on something they read somewhere on the internet written by someone they don’t even know?!

Now, you know I’ve read both the book - and heard the interviews and read the interviews and read other authors (Scott is an author too) first hand interactions with the author of TW.

Nothing “frightened” me into removing my review.
Unless… you think people should be frightened by radical Transhumanists?

I wouldn’t want to go into such a long explanation - the reason is, I am an author myself. - I work in actual technology solutions that contribute to Transhumanism and science, and if there’s anything remotely frightening—it is as Rick says in his essay above -

You shouldn’t be worried about anti-transhumanist, fundamentalist terrorism or any other sort of boogey man but a much, much bigger danger: the collapse of the very supports, financial, political, and social by which transhumanism could obtain any of its ends.

...by now, we all agree on that, don’t we?


(P.s: Maya is only the screen-name for Clyde - you can click on it to go to my website. I also remember, it is you who introduced me to IEET to write articles. I’m grateful for that.
The argument we are having on the book is a different argument and a different topic, as I hope you’ll understand.)

 

I’d like to address one part of Rick’s critique in his essay above..

>>

Knights, or Istvan, has merely created a new form of fundamentalism- its barbarism no better than the kinds of real barbarism seen when the Taliban destroyed the beautiful 5th century Buddhas of Bamiwam.

Istvan’s imagined willful and unnecessary destruction by transhumanists of cultural treasures in the West; Vatican City, where the Pope himself is killed, the incomparable Notre Dame and Versailles, along with the jewels of Western culture it holds, certainly struck home for me, and I am sure they will not fit well with many other Westerners of similar secular bent to myself who nonetheless understand the exquisite and fragile beauty of these places.

I too understand the exquisite and fragile beauty of these places… and PROMOTE awareness and the use of real technology for digital documentation and preservation of them.

Here’s an article that I’d written back in 2011 on the topic of” Digitally preserving real world historic architecture.
(pay particular attention to this paragraph in that article: “The more locations that are filmed in 3D, the more data there will be available should there ever be a need to re-create a Historic piece of architecture that may get destroyed by Age, Terrorism / War or forces of Nature such as earthquakes, cyclones etc.” )

I’ve removed the page protection from the article so it can be read in it’s entirety for the sake of this discussion. (Normally only an excerpt is visible as is the case with this article on Laser Scanning

So when someone banally proposes (in a NON-FICTION manner) to blow up Heritage sites to teach someone a lesson - I think they are really doing Transhumanism a disservice.

Do I exaggerate? - No. Quantum Archeology - deep learning, period/era simulation etc… all holy-grails for post humanity, and transhumanists (when we reach a point where we want to simulate our past for whatever reason - Science, medicine, cutural studies) will suffer, if these monuments and the space-time they occupied are blown to bits by - Transhumanators who might carelessly incite impressionable “young minds”

 

Revolution vs gradualism: which is better?

Should we shock-and-awe people into agreeing with us - or at least considering our point of view - or is it better to start from a position of empathy and gently coax?

When is fear good, when is it bad, and how should it be expressed?

Is Buddhist Right Speech really still the policy here? Should it be?
Half of the comments I have read on this thread were divisive, there was probably a degree of dishonesty (or at least wilful exaggeration) in many of them, and arguably some of them were downright idle. But it was a fascinating read.

Basically I think it’s good that we’re having this debate. We need to discuss what kind of future we want, what we are willing to do to achieve it, how flexible we need/are prepared to be.

It is normal to be afraid of death, but is it good? At what point does our fear of death just end up making our lives, and/or those of others, miserable? I’ve certainly been there, which is one reason why I am engaging in life extension activism cautiously. I’d kind of come to terms with death, sort of, and then come the transhumanists and get my hopes up again.

Anyway, there are multiple futures. In some I wake up tomorrow a revolutionary, in others a gradualist. In some I don’t wake up at all.

@Giulio
I was impolite to you on an earlier thread (a few weeks ago), for which I apologise.

You may be right that ‘immortality’ (or, more accurately, radical life extension) is not a realistic goal for our generation. Like you, I hope Aubrey and others prove you wrong. And not only hope: I am also working on it. Cautiously.

@Maya

This is a novel!
FICTION.
What do you mean “in a NON-FICTION manner”?

>>What do you mean “in a NON-FICTION manner”?

This part:
Of course, I’m also using my novel, The Transhumanist Wager, as a tool for how passionate that activism should be …

The whole “using the novel as a tool” part.

And do you think Zoltan means by that, that he is trying to cause EVERYTHING in the novel to be implemented in OUR ACTUAL NON-FICTION WORLD?

Zoltan Istvan:
“My intent with writing the novel was not to blindly follow someone like Jethro Knights, but to create a story that is both a warning of the future—and also a chance to consider new ideas. The novel and Jethro’s character is, hopefully, also a way to entertain people while challenging them.”

It has everything to do with timing of comments (also called damage control).
You’ll have to retrace the tone, settings, and timestamp of all the authors audio interviews/ review backlash/ text interview/ fine tuning of comments to arrive at a complete picture.

but now this is getting into sticky territory, so I’ll not venture into this and keep my opinion to myself (and the reason why, again, for me alone, I got dis-illusioned and removed my review).

Kind Regards.

Let’s look at what today’s big news means:
Will Google Solve Death - Times Magazine - Sept 30 issue.

Does this mean that gradualism wins the day? - I hope so. See, that way we all win and there does not have to be a Transhumanist Agenda/intefada/jihad/wager.

Google is everyman ..and if everyman says they want to live f̶o̶r̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ / longer, the world can move on to what matters most - Working on the science to make it happen.

And if gradualism works, you and I and Zoltan will ALL be VERY happy.

Zoltan:
“Nothing would make me happier than an efficient, peaceful, and lasting transition to a truly pro-science culture in the world.”

“I’ve been telling people that “The Transhumanist Wager” can serve both as a source of inspiration and as a warning. Like many other transhumanists, I also hope we can transition to the future peacefully and expediently.”

But if people try to impede this research, it’s time to get more active and aggressive with our efforts to remove those impediments.

And NO, neither I nor Zoltan are talking about BOMBS here. We’re talking about NON-VIOLENT MEANS.

Amen! (oops!) Chris! smile I understand. Hopefully we all embrace the idea and have the ability to become a hive mind - a la “Crux”

Best Regards.

Amen brother! grin

@ Maya—

you’re right—I apologize—you never said “frightened” - you said “repulsed”—sorry!

yes, I know you are Clyde DSouza - I am very happy to have introduced you to IEET - you are doing a great job here, congrats!

in your recent comments, you remark that Zoltan used the word “aggressive” (twice) and the word “confrontation” (once)  but somehow, it seems to me, you interpreted those words to mean “violent” - ?

“Aggressive” tactics, IMO, do not mean “Violent” tactics.
I consider FEMEN and PETA to be “aggressive” but not “violent”
and WildAid, where Zoltan worked, is certainly not “violent”

I guess “aggressive” and “confrontational” implies something too close to “violence” for you… ?

My point is, it’s inaccurate to label Zoltan as advocating “violent” action, when in fact he didn’t use that word.

Also, I criticized your decision to remove your review of TW because I got the impression, from what you wrote, that simply reading the review that Scott wrote, “repulsed” you…

I still think that… well… you don’t know Scott, you don’t know where he’s coming from (he’s not a transhumanist for example), you don’t know if what he’s saying is 100% accurate, etc etc… so you could have taken Scott’s review “with a grain of salt” - as they say.

It’s fine to “change one’s mind” - of course. But to change one’s mind because you read something on the internet by someone you don’t remotely know, plus you define “aggressive” and “confrontational” to mean something that they actually don’t -

I just think you jumped to some conclusions a bit quickly - and deleted your TW review without sufficiently logical reasons to do so.

——

P.S. sorry again about my mis-represention of your response.

 

Either you’ve not read my previous comments, or you’re attempting a Jedi Mind Trick. Which is it? wink

>>

It’s fine to “change one’s mind” - of course. But to change one’s mind because you read something on the internet by someone you don’t remotely know, plus you define “aggressive”

You have to scroll back a few posts and read where I clearly say that the *Author* in his Serious Wonder interview and *not* Scott’s review alone, + from hearing other audio and text interviews is what made me come to my conclusion. On the use of words “aggressive” etc - read my comment on the prose used in the book.

My comment for sake of easy scrolling starts with:
(*)  It is not the blog post (alone)

Repeatedly typing “something you read on the internet…and someone you don’t know” is akin to a Jedi Mind Trick

Hopefully this clears it up. I would not normally reply with redundant text such as this, had it been someone just trolling this comments section - but you, I hold in higher esteem.

Still, I understand you may have skimmed through the comments above , so I’m clearing my stance again.
Kind Regards.

“And if gradualism works, you and I and Zoltan will ALL be VERY happy.”

But not everyone, in my view. Take this, for example, from one of Hank’s first responses to Rick on this thread:

“Our disagreement, I think, lies in your words - “gradualism, compromise, and tolerance”—

you see those words as representing… Civilized Behavior?

I see them as representing Passivity, Conciliation, Stagnation, Surrender…”

I’m not suggesting Hank is necessarily against something like “gradualism” - like “aggressive”, “confrontational”, and even “violent”, whether a word conveys something positive or negative very much depends on context and intended meaning. But Hank certainly had a problem with the way Rick seemed, from his perspective, to be using it.

In addition to “readers” and “not-yet-readers” of Zoltan’s book, there are presumably also “will-never-become-readers”, and among readers there are of course those who have read it thoroughly with interest, those who skimmed through it, those who started it but got bored, and all sorts of other variations. Obviously Chris falls into the category of “has-read-thoroughly-and-not-just-once”.

What interests me less than the merits or otherwise of the novel, which I myself have not (yet?) read, is what this discussion tells us about where we are going, where we want to go, and what kind of conflicts and risks are likely to arise along the way.

Clearly some of us are willing to get “active and aggressive in our efforts to remove…impediments”. Maybe blow up a cultural landmark or two? Does it matter if people are inside? Mohammed Atta evidently thought not. Presumably he thought that those inside were either impeding God’s will, or if they weren’t they would be rewarded in heaven, so it didn’t matter.

At the very least, I think we need to bear in mind that the difference between “aggressive / confrontational” and “violent” is less clear-cut than Hank seems to be implying, especially when the term “aggressive” is illustrated by reference to blowing up religious monuments.

Should the book, as Hank and others suggest, “be warmly welcomed as a potential source of philosophy and inspiration”? Honestly, I don’t think it matters. The novel has been written, and rather than arguing about whether we should be “welcoming” it or not, or whether Maya was right or wrong to remove his review, surely it must be better to heed the author’s “warning of the future” and advice to “consider new ideas”.

So maybe the question to ask ourselves is: are there any genuinely new ideas here? What is the novel, or Rick’s review, or this discussion, telling us that we didn’t know already?

@Peter Wicks

It’s always good to have keen eyes scrutinizing our posts and leading us to things that need better clarification…

When I agreed with Maya regarding his comment about gradualism (and even included Zoltan, in absentia, as being in agreement…oops.), I should have clarified that, within the context of a few posts, I was agreeing with the cooperative spirit he was talking about and people not trying to stop transhumanist progress, but the connotation of “slowness” inherent in “gradualism” is problematic to me and to Zoltan as well. And this time, I’m not BLOWING-IT when I presume to speak for him…as his first installment in a new, and ongoing, Psychology Today online blog called, The Transhumanist Philosopher, makes abundantly clear:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-transhumanist-philosopher/201309/origami-cranes-and-the-transhumanist-philosopher

Also, related to the topic of gradualism AND (possibly - I need to do more research to determine this) to your question about what, if anything, TW may provide in the way of “new ideas” for transhumanism, I am writing an article on “The Three Laws” of transhumanism from Zoltan’s book and pointing out that these are not fundamental premises or axioms in Jethro’s philosophy, but are, rather, more like conclusions or “theorems” of a more fundamental axiomatic concept, one that is the actual fuel that drives virtually ALL of Jethro’s actions, and that is:

“Transhumanist morality is defined and decided by the amount of time we have left to live.”

…which confronts the “gradualism” question head-on and is really at the root of Jethro’s more aggressive statements as well. I’ll be examining many consequences of this premise in the TW and also some consequences that could be possible outside of the TW “Matrix”: in our “real” world.

Regarding:

“Clearly some of us are willing to get ‘active and aggressive in our efforts to remove…impediments’. Maybe blow up a cultural landmark or two?”

As Zoltan has said in interviews:
“I admit that Jethro Knights, while inspiring and brilliant, can go too far.”
Since, I haven’t asked Zoltan what HE would do regarding the “blowing-up-cultural-landmarks” question, at this point, the only thing we know FOR SURE, is that a fictional character named “Jethro” was willing to do this.

Thanks for the kind words, Chris. I like the idea that transhumanist morality is defined and decided by the amount of time we have left to live. I don’t agree with it, but I like it.

The reason I don’t agree is that it feels like an overstatement. “Defined and decided”? How can that be? If we did have an infinite length of time to live, what would we want to do with it? If we don’t know, we haven’t got anywhere, and if we do know, then why don’t we just live that way for as long as we can, build whatever legacy we want to leave behind, and then depart gracefully?

Me, I’m neither a revolutionary nor a gradualist. I find neither label satisfactory. Call me rather an observer, with a love of life, but also a fear of the possible consequences of giving into my fear of death.

As an aside, having a Christian upbringing I pretty much bought into Pascal’s Wager for a while, until I realised it was likely that my eternal destiny would depend on whether I ate scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning as it was that it would depend on believing in Jesus. I guess we just need Cantor’s mathematics to tell us how big is zero times infinity.

@futurist_2035

Sorry, I’m just getting back to you now, I just ran across your post today.

Yes, I can dig that you were responding to some things other than the book, but what annoyed me was your flippant and misleading one sentence description of the book, which I doubt you would have said if you had read it. Now admittedly, I take this book very seriously and scrutinize all kids of nuances about it that most readers don’t even notice, because I am currently writing a book about Zoltan’s book and ideas. So, it wouldn’t hurt me to chill a bit.

One thing I didn’t understand: Did you mean to say trans-Amish-ism rather than trans-Omish-ism? You had me Googling Omish to see if it was some freaky new thing that “the kids” are into these days, or something.

You said:
“Transhumanism as a label is deeply flawed because it seems to assume a straw-man human that balks at augmentation which needs to be transcended.”

It is quite easy to find people who are disinterested in, or oppose, many of the most adventurous H+ ideas. And when religious people get into power and retard America’s stem cell research for 8 years, that is a REAL problem, and is the kind of thing that needs to be confronted and opposed. If, however, you have the impression that this is a much bigger issue to transhumanists than it actually IS, because of the scenario you’ve “heard” about in Zoltan’s book, again, if you would READ THE FREAKING BOOK, you would see that there is a much different context in the fictional world Zoltan created than currently exists in our “real” world.

In his book, there are extreme pro and anti transhumanists and both sides generate a lot of fear in people. In this fictional world, there is an extremely huge amount of VIOLENT “balking” going on from the opposition. Real-world transhumanists are not confused by this book and mistake it for a news account of current events or anything of the sort. Zoltan has purposefully set up a scenario of extremes that only MIGHT be reached in our world, as more extreme H+ advances, which overturn deeply held religious paradigms/values, become successful and widespread. There are many other nuances that play into this as well, which are apparent only to actual READERS OF THE BOOK.

@Peter Wicks

Duuuuuuude, I haven’t heard a reference to Cantor’s theory of transfinite numbers since the 80s when I was a CompSci/A.I. geek.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

Just been reading this thread again (and Rick’s review), partly because I finally got round to actually reading the novel (I’m currently about 2/3s of the way through), and partly because I see a link with the recent spate of articles about “neo-reactionaries”. I’m a bit curious to know whether Rick and others regard Zoltan, or at least Jethro, as “neo-revolutionaries”.

According to the Wikipedia entry, Zoltan himself (but perhaps he can confirm/comment on this?) believes that Jethro “goes a bit too far”. As Hank says near the beginning of this thread, it’s a novel, not (necessarily) Zoltan’s opinion. For SURE there is much to critique about Jethro’s philosophy, and yet…honestly? As I read it I am egging the Transhumanists on.

In summary: while I find it helpful for Rick and others to point out the risk that this kind of talk might bring about or reinforce the very anti-transhumanist backlash that threatens progress, I think there are nevertheless ways to be positively inspired by the novel without falling into this trap.

At any rate, it’s a cracking good read.

@Peter:

I have no desire to go back down this rabbit hole but since you asked if I think Jethro/Zoltan should be considered neo-reactionary I feel obliged to take a short dip:

What makes neo-reactionaries somewhat different from the run of the mill right, as far as I can tell, is the fact that they long for a pre-enlightenment version of the political order.

Jethro is a more modern and modernizing authoritarian of the kind we’ve seen one too many times since the French Revolution though he also has these Randian elements. Both are decidedly on the right of the political spectrum. The neo-reactionaries want to move back to the era before social democracy appeared, and, sorry for the spoiler if you haven’t gotten that far in the book, Jethro will use the power of Transhumania to deconstruct social democracy worldwide. “No more freebies” as he says.   

The European right has had this authoritarian streak since the beginning, but I find it to be a new and troubling sentiment on the American scene.

Thanks Rick. I don’t know much about this “neo-reactionary” movement, which is partly why I was curious to know whether you put Jethro in that category or not.

What I will say, though, is this: there is an impatience amongst some of us who grasp the potential of accelerating technology and an anger at the extent to which this is being held back by superstitious and muddled thinking, together with a fatigue of corruption and pork-barrel politics which is of course shared by…well, by now a rather large majority of the populations of both the US and Europe. So while I can sympathise with your angst at this trend towards authoritarianism, I can also to some extent sympathise with those who are driven to such positions. Jethro’s philosophy is extreme (certainly more extreme than I am prepared to be at this point), but some of us want these transhumanist dreams to happen, and sooner rather than later…and we are losing patience with the naysayers.

Impatience is the vice that leads all revolutions to violence. As Zoltan himself says “My morality is determined by the time I have left to live”. Which ends up meaning no morality at all.

I suppose it depends how you define “morality”. For me, morality is any kind of normative framework, including one that puts individual survival above all else. I’ll respond to your “impatience is the vice” point on the other thread

Perhaps this is where Jethro, and perhaps also Zoltan, go wrong: “let the abominations of irrationality, control by religion, encouragement of fear, ineptitude by government, collectivism over individualism, and the war against transhumanism, all be wiped away”. I’m fine with all of that, except “collectivism over individualism”. Why does he see this as bad?

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