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Comment on Tilting at windmills or Enlightened vision? (Zoltan Istvan - An original interview and essay for SC )

Spaceweaver Sat, May 23, 2015
Thank you Wildcat for bringing up these fascinating and critical issues about the future of the human. Here below I repost with a few minor changes a comment on Zoltan's book I published a while ago in ieet.org.

Though the Transhumanist Wager raises many good points and stimulates a fertile discussion of transhumanist philosophy, it fails badly in one point which I deem critical to the future of transhumanism. The whole development of the story, its characters, their relations and interactions and of course the outcome are staged on the basis of the contemporary human psychological construct. This very construct having its roots in the evolution of the human ape goes deeper in its implications than any “cultural baggage” that is mentioned in the book. A struggle of vain egos, a simplistic value system of ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’, good guys and bad guys that hopelessly fail to perceive the complexity and interconnectivity of all life including us humans, the belief that coercion can be philosophically justified or work on the long term and most of all the ‘spirit of revenge’, to use Nietzsche’s own term, that is so strongly embedded in the story (with the exception of Zoe Bach's character), are only a few examples to this “ape mentality”.

Nietzsche’s concept of the Overman from which the author draws much inspiration is poorly interpreted and remains imprisoned within the limitations of the contemporary human psychological construct, the very limitations it was meant to overcome and breakthrough. It is no wonder therefore that the transhumanist vision presented in the book rapidly escalates into a pointless violent struggle that do not offer at its culmination a real evolutionary and liberating path, but rather more of the same old ape mentality now endowed with everything technological but profoundly boring in its repeating the tragedies of history.

I must admit that I was quite disappointed especially because I strongly identify with the passion of the author and the apparent effort he invested. Disappointed is perhaps a too reserved word here. I deeply pained what I realize as the ultimate failure in a disguise of a victory of Jethro the protagonist. And even more that he falls into the illusion of accomplishing a real transformation while merely submitting to the imperatives of common human psychology and the historical pattern it inexorably propagates. Jethro, whose commendable single mindedness degenerates into narrow mindedness, did not overcome himself or his own humanity, he succumbed to primal instincts braced by philosophical convictions that got the better of him.

But perhaps this book is a much needed wake up call to transhumanists; a finger pointing towards that which is missing from the transhumanist vision: a vision of a new mind, a new psychology and a new culture. A vision of a path that will liberate us from our own conditioned and wanting humanity and propel us towards the post human. Indeed we will one day become immortal, roam the stars and unbound inner spaces. We will become as gods. Still, if we fail to pursue such a path, we will become ape-gods, as grotesque and pathetic as they will be grand. The seeds of just that future can already be found in the last pages of the Transhumanist Wager.

In so many fields our imagination soars ever so far and still when it comes to transforming our own minds, the dynamic intelligent pattern that defines us, our imagination terribly fails to dream beyond its historical self. Do we really want the same ape mind immeasurably augmented technologically to run this planet and even beyond? More tools may take us to the stars and to indefinite life extension eventually. More tools will allow us one day to redesign our own brains as well. But into what are we going to redesign the core of our mentality, our emotions our prime motivators, our values and the very core of our identity? Technology will allow us an ever extended freedom, but what are we going to become with such an open ended freedom in our hands?

Without addressing these difficult questions the transhumanist endeavor is bound to remain arrested in infancy.