Thursday, August 25, 2011

World News Daily Discovers Transhumanism...

And the results are not pretty.

This blog is a strongly transhumanist blog. I support the transhumanist movement, and I self-identify as a tranhumanist technoprogressive. I've written a few articles on transhumanism, examined some of the basic principles of my technoprogressive philosophy, and am even in the process of an ongoing story updated at least once a week that runs rife with transhuman themes.

I like to think I'm fairly familiar with what transhumanism is and isn't.

This article over at Whirled Nut Daily caught my attention because it discusses "trans-humanism", confuses it for posthumanism, takes the wild imagery of the "what do you mean it wasn't written on drugs" criticism of the Roman Empire by John of Patmos, and bashes them together with all the grace and aplomb of two drunken, overweight frat boys doing a belly slam against one another.

Transhumanism opens the door to some pretty weird stuff. Neogenetics, genetic manipulation, and the ability to produce artificial intelligence and the like means that the norms go right out the wind in pretty short order. When you inject this otherwise plausible situation into something that uniformly rejects reality, like Darbyism and the Dispensation Crowd, the results are down right strange.

A lot of transhumanism is found in science fiction, but like most science fiction, there's some truth to it, and it's likely that we'll see something similar to it in the future. There's quiet a bit of overlap between science fiction and religion; usually, the overlap explores the nature of the two, or explores how religion will adjust when confronted with new scientific understanding of the world around us (does heaven have a meaning when you're effectively immortal? When you can trade one body for another? What use is an afterlife if you never die?) This article from Whirled Nut Daily is a really weird sampling of that. Apparently, transhumanism is going to bring about the apocalypse.

"One of the first things that President Obama did at the executive level as soon as he became president," he says in "Trans-Humanism," "[is] he overturned restrictions that had been put in place by President [George W.] Bush which would have prohibited federal dollars, American taxpayer money, flowing in to pay for experiments to be done on human-animal chimeras (combinations) and other forms of science such as stem-cell sciences – which is also important to the transhumanist movement.

"But what most of the public doesn't realize is when we're talking about stem-cell sciences, we're almost always talking about the creation of a human-animal chimera from which those stem cells are being derived. But now, tax dollars in the United States from the federal level are flowing into thousands of laboratories."
I, for one, welcome our new, half-animal overlords. I'm not sure why so many people are put off by the prospect of a human/animal chimera. Think of all the happy Anime Otakus would could finally have the cat girl of their dreams?

In all seriousness, I see zero wrong with it. Using genetic manipulation to create whole new species is something that's not only possible but something that's a worthy endeavor. So long as you remember those species are intelligent, individuals who deserve to be treated as such rather than slaves or chattel, all should be well. This edges perilously close to the concept of uplifting; the two are related in that they create new sapient species, but one uses neogenetic means, or requires the sculpting of an entirely new genome from scratch, where the other uses an already existing genome and just requires modifications to it in order to support a larger intellect. This is the difference between uplifting a crow and uplifting a Troodon - the crow is here, it can talk (yes, they can. Google "talking raven." A raven is nothing more than a larger crow), and we can use in utero or in vitro manipulation of the genome to create a creature that, from birth, is sapient. In the case of a Troodon, we'd have to redesign that genome from mostly scratch, probably backwards engineering a turkey or eagle, and then build from that, before we could even dream of uplifting it. That's an example of neo-genetics verses uplifting. In the case of Moreau-style chimeras, it's a matter of finding the right genes.

Now, I ask why someone would want to do that. I'm sure that it'd be cool to be a tiger person for a day. There's a subset of the furry fandom who already think they're actually animals, so they'd probably welcome this, but that's the only group of people who I can think that would want to see this through from start to finish - it's remarkably impractical. I'd rather see the money spent on shipping our CO2 over to Mars or something or dropping floating cities on Venus so we could get off this rock and leave the mentally stunted individuals over at WND behind.

*sigh*. Stem cell research. Of course. Because finding a cure for cancer is some much like producing human/animal hybrids. I guess to people who don't understand science, one "ooga-booga" word is as good as any other. They could've put "Muslim" there and it wouldn't have made any difference.

As researchers have focused on blending animal attributes with human characteristics, the Reuters news agency published a report in 2009 in which scientists admitted their comfort with a "50/50 mix."

"The public mostly is still under the impression that this is being done at the embryonic level, and that the amount of human DNA in a transgenic animal is so minute as to be excusable," says Horn.

"But where they want the debate to go now is, 'Can we raise these to full maturity in the public's knowledge and experiment on part-humans, part-animals that are fully grown?' And by admitting that that's now where they want the public to be comfortable with this research, they also said that they knew that there are some rogue scientists out there that are not operating with federal dollars, and they're getting ahead of them in this technology and it could even become a new kind of a weapon of mass destruction. It could, at a minimum, become a molecular biological nightmare."

But why is there such a strong push for animal traits?

It might be desirable for some, says Horn, because, "Animals can also see into areas of the light spectrum that we cannot see into, and that is viewed in transhumanism as a future benefit and even one of the causal reasons we would want to merge ourselves with the animal kingdom so that we can open these new modes of perceptions into realities that right now we are blinded to."
In Human Black Box, Chloe has the ability to see from the terahertz range to the gamma ray range. All this really does for her is create half a dozen new ultracolors and infracolors that we humans can't experience today. It also grants her the ability for a sort of limited-night vision, in much the same sense that cats or dogs possess night-vision (it's actually near-thermal electromagnetism, but nobody's keeping count). This is a very real possibility. Imagine how much better our lives would be if we had the ability to see in the dark and had access to all these new colors? When you look at the picture of a nebula - those absolutely gorgeous photographs that have all those vivid colors and such in them - that's not how the nebula looks in real life. In real life, the nebula is a milky white color, and hazy. Those colors are achieved through the application of multiple spectrum-overlap creating what we call a "false-color image." That's the closest analogy to what the world would look like with the new colors that we'd get. And that's before you get into things like smell, or hearing, or enhanced magnetoreception (like what birds have), meaning you automatically align yourself with the north pole and you know where it is at all times. Giving humans these things does not constitute a "human animal hybrid." Not even remotely. We're taking ideas from nature and we're implementing them in ourselves.

Rogue scientist; you know the kind. They kind who "want advancement for its own sake" and who "tamper with Gawd's Domain." As opposed to the kind that says "we're fine where we are now and we shouldn't try to go any further" or "God gave us Harlequin babies for a reason, maybe we shouldn't try to do anything about them with transgenic modification to fix the problem." The kind popularized by the Counter-Enlightenment; the technoprogressive who keeps pushing forward rather than being content with where we are now, knowing that there's something better just over the next hill.

I can almost hear the scary backdrop music. Any second now, expect to hear the scare cords. You get the deep, dark voice:

"Transhumans look like your neighbors. They may even act like your neighbors. But did you know that they spent your tax dollars producing pig-chicken-cow hybrids in their backyards and at liberal universities?"

Not that it matters. Like I said, one "ooga-booga" word is as good as any other. Just replace every mention of anything that has anything to do with "science" with "Muslim-Commie-Socialist-Nazi-Homosexual." Not only to does it not make any more sense, but it's a funnier read.

Honestly, I'm beginning to get concerned. There's a lot of the whole "technology man was not meant to have" underscoring this. Maybe people say that because they aren't confident that they can handle the technology. In this situation, some of this stuff can be pretty scary. But if you handle it with care, I see no reason why any research in the area should be halted.
"The Sophia Project" at the University of Arizona, for instance, declares it is investigating "the experiences of people who claim to channel or communicate with deceased people, spirit guides, angels, other-worldly entities / extraterrestrials, and/or a universal intelligence / God."

In that light, Horn says some transhumanists desire animal traits since they suspect some creatures are aware of dimensions presently invisible to human eyes. He cites the Old Testament account of Balaam striking his donkey which refused his guidance because the animal saw the angel of the Lord, though Balaam couldn't see the angel until his eyes were supernaturally opened.
Most transhumanists, myself included, are atheists. This means we don't believe in any God, universal intelligence or otherwise. The "Sophia Project" sounds strangely Gnostic, with just a touch of Pantheism thrown into the mix. I imagine it as something like Evangelion, but with all the Kabbalistic stuff pulled out and replaced with Gnosticism and Pantheism.

You can read about the Sophia Project here. The shortened gist of it is that it's an attempt to explain why people hear voices, communicate with God/The Universe/Sufficiently Advanced Aliens/etc.

Indeed. It's my understanding that some animals can see outside of time-space and understand well how the curves of a Calabi-Yai Manifold work in 7d space. They can see the many dimensions of String Theory, and they are not bound by our four dimensions of Length, Width, Depth and Time-Space. There are plenty of animals that are capable of sensing this stuff, like some ass in the Bible, and we transhumanists want a slice of that pie (because gaining half a dozen new colors is the same thing as being able to visualize an 8d cosmic string). Maybe I'm being unfair here, but I can't stand to see that word used like that. What he means is alternative universe, or parallel universe (which also have mathematical backing to suggest their existence), but damn it, if you're going to write a science article, get your scientific terminology right.

Of course, this is coming from the same crowd who thinks that "Evolution is just a theory" is damning proof that Evolution doesn't exist. Just like Gravity being "just a theory" being proof for Intelligent Falling.

This sounds like that New Agey garbage that animals are psychic/magic sensitives. I own a cat. She is not psychic/magic. She just has a keener sense of hearing, and senses that I do not possess that, while not in my possession, are no more supernatural than a bird's ability to always sense which direction is north.

Of course, now we come to the heart and soul of the matter, if one can pardon the pun:
The possibility of humans eradicating their own existence through technological advancement has some Christians cracking open their Bibles to see what Scripture has to say on the matter.

The 24th chapter of the Book of Matthew is often cited, as Jesus talked specifically about the end of the current human age, saying, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." 
Of course. Because Mat was so head of the curve he was describing cyborgs. That's what they mean when they say no flesh will be saved. You so totally can't circumscribe any meaning you want over that because it's so ambiguous.

Or, if you want to take it literally, it just means there's going to be a Zombie Apocalypse. After all, it's well known zombies are not wasteful and, thus, there will be no flesh saved because it's all going to get eaten. As for the days getting shorter, well, I dunno. Maybe Mat's predicting Daylight Saving's Time or something.
Taken in its original context, Jesus did not necessarily say that unless those days are shortened, "humanity will not survive." Instead, he said unless those days are shortened, "no flesh will survive."

If the transhumanist movement suceeds in transforming the human race into a race of "posthumans" who no longer need flesh covered bones to survive, then these words of Jesus take on an entirely different meaning.

And it doesn't take an illogical leap of faith to draw this conclusion.

Because everyone will be so willing to jump head first into a computer simulation, a la Matrix. I'm not even sure I understand this. What is being suggested? Is the ability to survive without flesh and bones for a few people all that's required? While Mind-uploading is awesome, I'm sure everyone will be running head long to become an infomorph. And then there's the controversy over whether or not it's even possible. If it's not, then we're stuck with these fleshy bodies and might as well make the best of them (not necessarily a bad thing). Which means that this "prophecy" is bunk and bullshit.

Transhumanism =/= Poshumanism. Transhumans want to be stronger, better, faster, and all around better than humans today are. We want to live longer, and we want to share this technology with everyone. That's what it means to be a "technoprogressive." Posthumans are something all together different. Posthumans want to leave any thought of humanity well behind. While they have overlapping themes, and Posthumanism is not a bad thing, they're not the same thing.

No, it doesn't take an illogical leap of faith to draw that conclusion. All faith is illogical.

I love how arrogant these people are. "Jesus was talking about us, specifically, in this day and age. Screw the people who were alive back then. Jesus was talking to us now."
During the discussion with Quayle, Horn sounded ominous as he talked of "that future moment ... that gives birth overnight to some version of the artillects (artificial intellects) who suddenly come online as conscious, living, synthetic superminds that are immensely more powerful than humans."

"It appears, at least in my belief system," he continued, "to be the billion-pound elephant standing in the middle of prophecy circles right now that the lion's share of critical Christian thinkers don't seem to be recognizing, or very few of them are waking up to it."

"This is coming whether people want it to or not. It is so close to being unveiled. I'm not talking cosmologically close. I mean it is very close now. It could happen literally at any moment, and I think it carries magnificent prophetic themes around it. We're literally talking about large-scale genetic, neurological re-engineering of humanity. ... Anybody who thinks this is wishful thinking on the part of the transhumanists, just pick up your newspaper, get your newest science magazine and start reading."
Not all bioconservatives are nuts like these guys. I tend to look at bioconservatives as quaint and backwards, with the same mindset that people look at the Amish today, but that's just me. Bioconservatives might be that way because of religious reasons, because they don't understand, or because they just don't want to join us on this journey, and for some reason, they'd rather stay where they are rather than advance. It could also be they're scared. If that's the case, education and knowledge are power. But in any case, it's all cool. If that's their choice that's their choice.

Artillects - that's a new term for me. A combiword of "artificial" and "intelligence." Personally, I prefer AGI and Seed AI to describe "Strong" AIs, which is what I guess Horn is describing here.

"OMG SKYNET GUNNA KILL UZ ALL!"

I think that last sentence is probably overstating things a big. I know some of this stuff will happen. I just can't be sure what. That's part of the fun of being a futurist, and knowing this stuff. It's a sense of wonder about the future; knowledge of what may come to pass, without ever really being sure. Of course, that also means not pining for "gold eras" that never happened, either - something these guys have forgotten how to do.

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