The Singularity, and Transhumanism - 2
2/27/2003

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"The Singularity"
    The first thing I would say about "The Singularity" is that it hasn't happened yet. The past is littered with predictions that didn't come true. In the 1950.s, we were certain that the world would run out of oil in the 1970's. I worried about it. We were equally certain that World War III would happen soon. We were worried about the mass starvation that would occur by the 1970's or 1980's as overpopulation outstripped the world's ability to feed its brood. This would lead to internecine wars, and probably, to World War III. In the United States, we were worried because the U. S. was running out of natural resources, and was about to become a "have-not" nation.
    Remember "The Club of Rome"?
    But some funny things happened on the way to the present, and those particular calamities weren't among them..

The Extropians
    Not convinced? The following links are to the Extropians, which is a subset of the transhumanist movement. 

     One of the first is Mr. James Lewis' "Time Table". Mr. Lewis' time table, prepared in 1998, sets:

    Another interesting link connects to Nick Bostrum, Ph. D.'s Home Page    

    It may be of interest to note that the Extropian position on government is that, like the Communist expectation 100 years ago, government is expected to melt away once Transhumanism arrives.
    You might want to catch the home page of the recently-elected president of Extropia,. Natasha Vita-More
    
   
In defense of humanity- Against transhumanism by Karl Jahn at Moutopia is a less-flattering assessment of transhumanism. 

My Take
    I find it interesting that such a movement, anticipating the future as though it were the present, should arise and take root. I get some impression that the transhumanist movement has, possibly, been co-opted by colorful individuals. Where there is no mechanism for controlling admission to an avant-garde organization, there might be the potential for a generous diversity of ideas and opinions regarding the organization's goals and positions. I could be a little concerned about the possibly harmful impact that Transhumanism could have upon the technologies that it espouses. The Raelians have shown how effective a colorful organization can be in drawing attention to, and mobilizing public opinion against what they are doing.
    In 1956, I took a course in servomechanisms to prepare me for the imminent Age of Robotics. But it's taken a little longer to arrive than we thought it would back there in 1956. That was 47 years ago, and by now, I've forgotten most of what I learned in that servo class. That's OK, though, because it turns out that robotics, when it finally does arrive, won't be based upon servomechanisms, but upon digital logic. (I wasted my time taking that course.)
Genetic Manipulation
    I could imagine that genetic manipulation will gladly be embraced to ward off crippling or deadly congenital diseases. 
    The rub will come when parents want to enhance their unborn children to keep them up with other parents' unborn children. Parents would like their children to be bright, good-looking, healthy, and cheerful, but it seems to me that "designer genes" are a slippery slope. Pre-natal genetic modification could develop into an "arms race" among parents. Since conception will be a one-time opportunity, most parents might give in to temptation, and seek (through a black market, if necessary) genetic advantages for their as-yet-unconceived child. 
    However, I suspect that this issue will have its day in the sun when we reach the point where it becomes more feasible. Things have a way of working themselves out more reasonably and benignly than many would predict. For example, biochemical supplements might temporarily provide proteins that boost memory or IQ like appropriate genes, but without inheritable alterations to someone's genome. 

(To be continued)