"L'uomo che rimane umano, ma che trascende se stesso, realizzando le nuove potenzialitą della sua natura umana, per la sua natura umana"

 

Humanism as core value of transhumanism

 

 

Anders Sandberg                                                  

 

 

Abstract
 

        I describe the roots of transhumanism in renaissance and
        enlightenment humanism, and discuss its relationship with the
        collectivist "transhumanism" in the 20s and 30s. I also discuss
        my own experience of how the transhumanist environment has
        developed during the 90s. I then argue that transhumanism is not
        an ideologically empty idea, but that inherent in it are strong
        humanist values that resonate well with both libertarianism and
        liberal democracy. These values are however not consistent with
        collectivism or fascism, and not tied to technology per se.
        Finally I discuss the need for transhumanism as a movement to
        identify its core ideology and begin developing it.
 

 

Contents
 

1. The roots of transhumanism
2. What is transhumanism really about?
2.1 Transhumanism across the 90's
2.2 Core values of transhumanism
2.3 Critique of collectivist transhumanism
2.4 What ideologies are compatible with transhumanism?
2.5 The problem with a technology identified transhumanism
3. What should transhumanism as a movement strive towards?
 

 

1. The roots of transhumanism
 

James' paper claims that contemporary transhumanism is based in anarcho-capitalist thought. I would say, given some views expressed on this list and encountered in society, that one could just as well claim it has technocrat communist roots. In fact, it is likely more important to get away from those roots than the libertarian ones.
 

The paper begins with the history of ExI, and this produces the impression that ExI really *is* modern transhumanism. While the influence of Max, Natasha, T.O. Morrow and all the other founders and thinkers linked to ExI is beyond doubt, they did not start out in a vacuum with their ideas. Later in the paper FM 2030 is acknowledged, and further back even more remote historical sources. I think this approach creates the mistaken impression that transhumanism is something very recent and with shallow
roots.
 

But the true origin of transhumanism can be traced back to the renaissance humanists. Mirandola's triumphant _Oration on the Dignity of Man_ expresses the transhumanist project admirably:
 

        "We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor
        endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place,
        whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation,
        select, these same you may have and possess through your own
        judgement and decision. The nature of all other creatures is
        defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you,
        by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own
        free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for
        yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at
        the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point
        you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the
        world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven
        nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you
        may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion
        yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to
        descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able,
        through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders
        whose life is divine."
 

While the renaissance humanists were more concerned with issues of human freedom and dignity than the possibility of immortality or morphological freedom, there is no contradiction here and as Brian Manning Delaney pointed out at TransVision 2001 they would likely have embraced it. They in turn drew on the Aristotelian ideas of eudaimonia, the life of excellence.
 

After the renaissance these ideas of human freedom, potential and dignity became central for the enlightenment. Technological progress was still mainly seen as separate from (but helpful to) human progress, although early ideas of technological enhancement of the human condition per se are suggested in the writings of Benjamin Franklin and Condorcet. Many of the enlightenment ideas are today so integral to liberal democracy that they are not even recognized as being non-trivial and based on a certain perspective on humanity (except possibly when challenged by theocrats and conservatives, who have different views of what constitutes a human being and the good life). When extropians are called libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, it often turns out that the issue is often their defense of enlightenment ideas in opposition to later romantic and especially collectivist ideas.
 

The first real "transhumanist" vision (n.b. that I will call it transhumanist here for simplicity, although I will in the next section show that it is not a correct denotation) that clearly included technological enhancement of the human condition was stated by (as James points out) H.G. Wells, and followed by the influential writings of J.B.S. Haldane and J.D. Bernal in the 20's and 30's. Now the ideas of life extension (as science, not magic), cyborgisation, a future in space, posthumans, enhanced intelligence - and of course eugenics - appear at full strength.
There is no coincidence that the above people were socialists - as Bernal put it, "a good scientist is a communist": Marxism was regarded as science, and a correct model of how the world worked would need to include it. Science, society, progress and moral righteousness were not separate things but a whole. This view was prevalent even among non-socialists: it was the age of the engineered or managed society, where both the left and right envisioned a controlled society as the best possible solution.
 

It is important to note the collectivist emphasis here: the goal was not to create a better life for individual humans but for all of humanity - the collective, rather than the individual ("the individual is only a function of the collective", as Marx put it). The profound influence of collectivism in this period cannot be overstated, regardless of it being Marxist class collectivism, Nazist race collectivism or nationalist collectivism. It is no coincidence that Stapledon describes his posthuman and advanced alien civilizations as communist or fascist states, with global consciousness as the supreme goal.
 

WWII devastated the collectivist form of "transhumanism" by its association to nazism and fascism, as well as the absorption of the socialists into the east-west dialectics. The stagnation of technological development in the east - especially in the biosciences - moved the idea of human enhancement into the mists of social conditioning and dialectical evolution, i.e. back to the old idea that the only changes necessary or possible were due to social and mental factors.
 

The ideas of technological enhancement in the west instead took the route through science fiction and the pro-science subcultures that emerged during the space race, where they eventually stimulated thinkers like FM 2030 and Max More. Note that this postwar period also largely separated them from the social ideas before - the enlightenment ideas were largely taken for granted since they were embodied in the surrounding (American) society and the idea of a unity between science and progressive ethics was lost in the gulf between the two cultures of the humanities and the natural sciences (especially since the humanities came to drift in a somewhat more leftist direction).
 

 

2. What is transhumanism really about?
 

On Mon, Jan 07, 2002 at 10:45:19PM -0500, J. Hughes wrote:
>
> But a central point of my essay, and a point expressed by many, is that
> transhumanism, i.e. the idea that human beings should be able to improve
> themselves radically through technology, does not have much intrinsic
> political content. It is probably imcompatible with theocracy, although I
> bet a theocracy could prove us wrong (maybe the Scientologists). And
> racialism is bad science. But I don't think it makes sense to say that
> simply because most transhumanists are anti-Nazi that transhumanists can't
> be Nazis.
 

I feel it ironic that James began his essay by quoting me about this. I have indeed argued in the past that transhumanism in its pure form as rational radical improvement of the human condition is largely independent from political ideology. But I have also changed my opinion greatly on this since 1994 when the quoted text was written.
 

The problem here is the definition of transhumanism, and what goals it is assumed to aim for.
 

 

2.1 Transhumanism across the 90's
 

I think a digression about my own ideological development may be in place here, because I also think it shows a change in transhumanist thought.
 

When I started out thinking along transhumanist lines, I took a wholly technocentric view. The goal was to maximize the information content or complexity of the universe; to achieve this certain steps of technological development were necessary (such as space colonization and AI), and to make these possible other developments, including political, economical and social ones, were necessary subgoals. Society and to some extent the individual were secondary to a grandiose technological imperative.
 

As time went on, I realized that these sub-goals were in fact important. A transhumanism that did not care for the individual or the real, current world other than as a stepping stone would never truly motivate anyone, get anywhere or if it did, become a kind of techno-fascism I found distasteful. Instead I began to focus on methods of self-transformation, the issue of how humans - real, individual humans - could become better in different ways. I did not concentrate on collectives since I knew that people are unique, have different goals and opportunities.
However, I was still largely seeing the whole issue as one of technology - softer technologies like mental training and biotechnology, but still a process driven by technology. I also did not care for ideology; having grown up as an apolitical person and with a serious distaste for collective dogmas I viewed it as a nuisance. Openness and tolerance appeared a far better way of maximizing the diversity and impact of transhumanism. This attitude was also mirrored quite widely: instead of closed mailing lists where agreement with fundamental tenets was assumed the lists were opened or other, open forums appeared. In Aleph, we explicitly pronounced ourselves non-ideological and open to all transhumanists.
 

This was the position I had in 1994 when I wrote the quoted text: transhumanism would, through its inherent positive technological effects, not need any specific ideological position other than those necessary to bring about the effects. In a way it was a mirror of utopian socialist idea that as technology marched on everybody would become socialists.
 

But the story does not end there. The more I interacted with people inside and outside transhumanism and learned about the history of ideas and technology, the more I realized that *politics does matter*. Philosophy matters. Technology doesn't solely drive social and cultural changes, quite often they instead drive technological development. Without any values to motivate and direct transhumanism it would not get anywhere, and quite likely become hijacked by other groups. Even more, not all interpretations of transhumanism were meaningful - quite a few were simply transhumanist ideas of technological transformation arbitrarily tacked onto political views with no attempts as consistency. As the breadth of transhumanism increased, it also became shallower. In the ever more noisy list environments any discussion that did not keep to strictly defined engineering matters and instead moved into issues related to ideology and current day policy would be embroiled in a low-quality discourse where most participants lacked significant knowledge and instead let their opinions play freely.
 

I more and more felt that transhumanism as a term had lost any meaning if it could denote both someone advocating a centralist socialist economy, someone advocating anarcho-capitalism and someone advocating mystical contemplation as long as they all thought nanotechnology was great. Transhumanism seemed to be nothing but technophilia or even just awareness of radical technology as a possible future option (which was a definition that circulated briefly during the work on the Transhumanist Principles - according to that definition Jeremy Rifkin would have been a transhumanist! That observation of course quickly led to an amendment of the definition).
 

Over the last years I have come to the conclusion that we need to rethink the core values of transhumanism, or rather, define the core values. The problem is that the term transhumanism is by now so diluted that it hardly means anything, and that there hardly exists any standards body that can claim "ownership" of the term or its official definition - WTA might be the closest thing, but we shouldn't overestimate the impact of such pronouncements.
 

 

2.2 Core values of transhumanism
 

Is there any core values of transhumanism? Note that the definition of transhumanism as "rational radical enhancements of the human condition" does contain an assumption that there has to be some underlying values being furthered - something is enhanced relative its past state. It also implies some concept of human condition (and of what is rational and radical, but I'll leave those for another post).
 

Where does these values come from? Either they are inherent in transhumanism, or they come from other assumed value systems such as political ideologies hooked on to transhumanism as some kind of external motivating engine.
 

But in the later case it seems pointless to discuss transhumanism at all, since the issue would rather be "How should we socialists work to bring about the nanotechnology revolution" - transhumanism would simply be a part of the big program of the ideology than anything independent of the ideology. In this case the transhumanist forums would be just meeting places of people of different politics sharing a few goals, just as there are non-political forums of peace, environmentalism or furthering the humanities. If this is true, thentranshumanism is nothing more than a shared issue.
 

But this is contradicted by the history and scope of transhumanism, the amount of interest that has been focused on problematizing the human condition, examining the consequences of human enhancement and its relationship to the world. I would argue that transhumanism is in fact - or should be - seen as an ideology on its own.
 

If we look back at the roots of the idea, we see that - with the exception of the pre WW II collectivist "transhumanists" - there were strong underlying assumptions about what it means to be a human and what the goal of a human life ought to be. The human concept is the humanist one, with an independent yet social human seeking individual self realization. If this humanist conception of human and the individual good is extended (mutatis mutandis) to current technological visions we get essentially the "mainstream" transhumanist view (here in a somewhat abridged form):
 

Humans have an inherent value in themselves, a human dignity that must be respected. They are uniquely individual, yet social beings. They have different goals, ambitions and abilities, but in general they achieve happiness and fulfillment by striving to excel along their freely chosen directions. There are many different tools and methods that can support this striving for individual excellence, including help or interaction with others as well as technology. The goal should be to develop oneself to one's fullest potential.
 

These humanist values and ideas embodied here are in my opinion core values and ideas of transhumanism, and not just something externally added on. A movement might advocate technological transformation, but unless it is based in humanism, it cannot honestly call itself transhumanism or any other title including humanism. It would be just as semantically incorrect for people disagreeing with Marx to call themselves Marxists (it might of course be politically expedient, but for the moment we are looking at the definitions of core ideas rather than how they best can be implemented).
 

Liberal democracy is also built on much of this humanist concept. It is founded on the idea of the rights of individuals, rights which in the end are traced back to the properties and goods of humans and the desire to further the individual good. What distinguishes liberal democracy from collectivism is that the well-being of the existing individuals is the goal rather than the well-being of an abstract class, and that their rights are valid even when they interfere with the desires of the majority.
There does not exist any contradiction between the transhumanist core values I have suggested above and liberal democracy.
 

Also, there is no contradiction here with a libertarian stance, since it is based on the same respect for human rights. The difference between a radical anarcho-capitalist and a liberal democrat lies mainly in the emphasis and relative ranking of certain rights, general views on how society should be organized and - usually the controversial part - what level of coerciveness is acceptable. While this tends to lead to loud and long-winded debates here and elsewhere (and in practice of course deals with extremely important social issues), it is imperative to recognize that both parts (and the whole spectrum between them) have more in common with each other than with the groups with a non-humanist perspective.
 

 

2.3 Critique of collectivist transhumanism
 

I have already criticized how collectivist perspectives place abstractions such as humanity, the race or the collective above the existing humans, and not just treat them as theoretical primaries but also the beneficiaries of the good society. This perspective makes humans mere tools to support abstractions.
 

Many collectivists would however protest against this, since they claim their aim is truly to help the existing people en masse. But it is unlikely any approach that attempts to externally impose the good on people or bases this interaction on a collective view of people will be successful, at least not if one has a humanistic view of what it means to be a human.
 

The good life is not universal. We are all unique, with different background, predilections and opportunities - my ideal life is utterly different from your ideal life, even if they may share some or many elements. The individual usually knows best what is good for him or her, so most systems that attempt to centrally bring about the good to everyone will in fact usually not supply it at all. But even if some system could know what the best possible life is for every person, it could not force them to live it. It is impossible to force somebody to be rational, since rationality is a volitional state and cannot be activated by somebody else's coercion (at best it is activated to deal with the coercion attempt). That a human changes their life situation has to be based on knowledge about the situation and why it can become better, as well as their own will to change it. To impose a decision on somebody, even if it is a good one, is not a way to get them to understand their situation and begin a better life.
In fact, it treats them as a lifeless object and makes them dependent upon others.
 

Even when certain things may have been good for us if we had chosen them on our own, they may not be good for us when they are imposed from the outside. In this case we are being reduced to an externally controlled robot, and we lose an important aspect of our humanity, our agency. Agency is necessary for living a good life since we need to be able to take responsibility for our own actions (and this responsibility vanishes when somebody else controls our actions) and to develop our full potential - it is the active life that is the good life. Without agency we cannot grow, we can at best be shown how a good life might have appeared from the outside but we do not experience it.
 

A good life is not anything we create for others, because it is not possible to give another human prestations, achievements, happiness, self-realization or self-worth. They can only be created from inside through moral, character, willpower and integrity.
 

Freedom may not be a sufficient condition for living a good life, but it is a necessary condition.
 

 

2.4 What ideologies are compatible with transhumanism?
 

If transhumanism is to be interpreted as driven by humanist values rather than any imported value system, then it is clear that not all political aims or ideologies are compatible with it.
As I have argued above, the basic humanist vision is compatible with both libertarian rights-based views and not too coercive liberal democracy, and it is incompatible with most forms of collectivism
. If we now turn to the examples of fascist transhumanism brought up by James, we can apply the same analysis.
 

The Prometheans are calling for loyalty to and sacrifice for an eugenic super-race. There does not appear to be any real concern for achieving human happiness or individual excellence, all is subordinate to the survival of the race. This is a good example of collectivism at its worst, and obviously has nothing to do with any form of humanism. Hence it cannot be regarded as transhumanism.
 

The debate about the removal of the Xenith site is otherwise a good example of why a better definition of transhumanist core values is necessary. The problem was the lack of consensus or official position on what is and isn't transhumanism rather than a sizeable support for the ideas. With a better awareness of the ideology inherent in the term transhumanism the issue would have been far easier to resolve.
 

A group that was not dealt with much in James' text is mystical transhumanism. Although some of the millennialist aspects of the Singularity concept were mentioned, a far more common thread is the tendency towards "cybergnosticism" that Mark Dery derided and the intoxication with cosmic perspectives that combine transhumanist trappings with what is essentially a pre-rational world of Powers, grand evolution towards the highest and personal transcendence. By its openness the transhumanist movement has acquired a sizeable contingent of people who are more interested in the mystical overtones than the practical reality.
 

Mystical transhumanism fails through its irrationality; most adherents are not seeking to actually become posthuman through their own efforts, but rather to achieve it thanks to the mercy of posthuman deities. While this passivity is not per se against humanism, it seems that it does not produce any incitement towards personal excellence in most of its adherents. If one adds the rationality aspect of transhumanism to the definition, mystical transhumanism is not transhumanism in the same way as laying on the sofa waiting for the revolution of the proletariat to provide for one is not a correct interpretation of socialism.
 

The concepts of radical democratic transhumanism mentioned cover a broad range, from specific issues like Haraway's cyborg feminism over welfare reforms like guaranteed income to utopian (nano)socialism and Ken MacLeod's pro-dynamist skepticism of both the traditional and non-traditional left *and* right. It is not clear what the connecting thread is, except that they are not part of the libertarian perspective (which is doubtful in the case of Ken MacLeod) or the strongly collectivist perspective (which is doubtful in the case of Singer). It does not appear that a political program or society could incorporate all or even most of these.
 

Still, as a hypothetical program one could imagine something akin to a modern western liberal democratic welfare state, with a commitment to equalization of opportunity through voluntary treatments and a certain level of income redistribution, basic guaranteed minimal income and medical treatments and culturally dominated by ideas of tolerance, cooperation and the rights of minorities. While there are many practical issues about the financing of such reforms, how to ensure government accountability and fairness, and what limits on coercion this state would pose, the main question is whether this is compatible with the transhumanism.
 

As far as I can see, such a system may be in accordance with the humanist conception of the human as a striving, self-realizing being: help for individual striving is provided, but giving help or advice is not agency-limiting coercion. The protection from abuse is also in full accordance with humanist rights. Where things get iffy is the secondary consequences of providing these things; since some form of taxation has to be employed to pay, means of coercing taxes from the citizens (or their organizations) have to be included which limits individual freedom beyond the limitations that appear due to the reciprocity of rights (if I claim to have a right to my property, I must also acknowledge your right to your property or end up in inconsistency). This could in principle be avoided if the society was recognized as a voluntary organization where citizens agree to play by the legal rules and submit taxes for their mutual benefit.
 

There are other potential effects counter to humanist aims due to strong equalization attempts, such as equalization of outcome (which can occur even if the aim is equalization of opportunity if citizens achieving good outcomes are relatively penalized both by taxation and by extra support given to competing outcome-poor citizens) and the risk of mistaking or switching negative rights for positive rights (a quite common tendency today, where rights are often interpreted as entitlements). But given the assumption that this society rests on a voluntary basis there is no fundamental ethical reason why it would not be transhumanist. It might be less (or more) effective in supporting human excellence than other possible societies, but if the participants have agreed on this society it is their problem and by the same arguments given before against collectivism it would seem that it would be inconsistent with a transhumanist position to prevent them from doing so. On the other hand, forcing people into agreements to join such a society is by the same arguments, counter to the humanism underlying transhumanism.
 

To sum up, the version of radical democratic transhumanism I have sketched here seems to be in accordance to the basic humanist values as long as it is voluntary. Adherents to this form of transhumanism will of course argue that it is a more effective way of achieving human excellence than other forms such as libertarian transhumanism, but the effectiveness issue is not as important in this context as the recognition that both sides share important core values. That they also have very divergent outlooks is not a problem, since in principle a voluntary radical democratic transhumanism (somebody better invent a shorter term!) can co-exist and cooperate when suitable with a libertarian transhumanism. Just as individual excellence can be pursued in many unique ways, there is no reason transhumanism - even with defined core values - has to be expressed or implemented in a single model. But the same arguments that lead to humanist recognition that this pluralism of individual striving must be respected lead to the respect of people to freely choose what social models to join.
 

It seems to me that the best way of reconciling the differences between the different views is to recognize transhumanism as a meta-ideology, not attempting to prescribe all aspects of political ideology but providing an underlying set of values and assumptions.
 

 

2.5 The problem with a technology identified transhumanism
 

I hope that by now it is fairly clear why I do not accept a definition of transhumanism only in terms of its commitment to advanced technology. Such a definition has no core values (other than possibly that technology itself is somehow a good), and even when paired with another ideology such as utopian socialism (nanotechnology will provide us with enough material plenty to enable a true communist society) the result is meager. Besides just creating a slightly updated variant of an old ideology, it also makes this variant strongly dependent on the actual success of the technology. Should nanotechnology never arrive, or have properties making it unsuitable to the vision of public domain matter compliers in every corner, then the nanosocialist vision crashes.
 

But the future development of technology is highly uncertain (although plenty of transhumanists suffer from technological determinism, one of the less desirable inheritances from the enlightenment progress idea) and subject to not just random accident but complex social, economic and political factors, where ideologies and visions are important. Connecting an ideology too strongly to a certain technology is a recipe for either becoming obsolete, or an invitation towards technocracy where the ideology now motivates its adherents to implement the technological vision it believes in, regardless of whether it is truly efficient or achievable.
 

Transhumanism is not about technology, it is about placing technology, the human condition and their interactions in a humanist context.
 

This escapes the trap of requiring certain technologies to achieve transhumanity - we might live in a cruel universe where most of the technologies discussed on this list are impossible.
But that would not make transhumanism worthless, merely limit what forms of excellence we can aspire to. Recognizing that transhumanism is not just about technology also avoids the trap of assuming technology is all we need, which can lead to technocracy ("If we can control technology we can control everything") and technonaivism ("Technology will fix all problems") - two of the main accusations commonly leveled at transhumanism.
 

 

3. What should transhumanism as a movement strive towards?
 

I have now dealt with some of the roots of the transhumanist movement, as well as a concept of transhumanism that is firmly based in terms of the humanist perspective and an ideology in itself. Now, what do we do about it as a movement?
 

It is important to remember that there is a difference between the movement (which consists of a number of persons adhering to views they themselves call transhumanist or share with other self-professed transhumanists) and the ideology of transhumanism.
As James showed in his paper at present the movement encompasses many mutually incompatible ideologies. As I have argued, only a part of these views are actually compatible with the name transhumanism, and these share underlying core values that are actually found in mainstream transhumanism, be it libertarian or democratic left in outlook.
 

Redefining the term transhumanism in a more narrow sense and with clearly defined values is trivial; the nontrivial part is to turn the redefinition into political reality. Maybe one could call it humanistic transhumanism, but such a redundant term seems far less appealing than either reclaiming the term transhumanism, developing a new term or maybe ignore the naming issue altogether - it is in many ways a trivial distraction, and a movement that needs a shared name to exist clearly lacks the shared ideas to survive.
 

As James points out the transhumanist perspective is under serious attack from a variety of directions, and it is clear that unless the movement does something it and its views are going to be relegated to an insignificant underdog position (something that may actually appeal so some people, since being an underdog culturally in the west has been viewed as a sign of purity and righteousness - as well as a way of getting one's own small, manageable social corner rather than have to deal with complex issues in a setting where there is a plurality of opinions and one is just one part among many). However, if there is no other transhumanist ideology than "technology often is good" then it seems unlikely many people would invest their time and effort to counteract the often persuasive and passionately delivered opposition - it is too broad and too shallow. Instead, if transhumanists are ideologically aware of their underlying values, how these values also underlie many other highly regarded institutions in modern democracies (everything from freedom of press to the dignity of man) and their long historical roots connecting them to an immense amount of philosophical and cultural capital - then they can find not just motivation but powerful allies.
 

There is a danger in assuming that the broadest possible movement is the best. There are always people eager to flock to any banner but who do not contribute anything, do not share the basic values or are willing to compromise them in exchange for small victories. This problem becomes worse if the movement is overly broad and does not know its own values. When discussion turns to actual politics, it can be devastating to not have developed one's own ideas fully.
 

We have seen many examples during the 20th century of how strongly ideological groups, even when they wield minimal power or have relatively few members, have affected broad policies and shifted political consensus in their direction by exploiting the lack of ideology of their opponents (e.g. the environmental movement and parts of the left). What happened was that the less ideological part made a compromise and moved halfway to their opponent, while the opponent remained at their original position.
The result was that the middle of the road moved ever towards the ideologicals, while the compromisers found themselves ever more biased.
 

We are currently seeing how the corporativist-technocratic establishment is starting to crack; instead of the until recently mainly technological/administrative discourse in politics value issues are becoming more important again. This is an opening, but also a terrible risk. There are many other values out there, and many of the currently most successful values are not particularly conductive to human flourishing - be they religious or political fundamentalism, romantic nationalism with fascist overtones, national security as more important than human rights in the US or European "throw out the niggers so we get more welfare" racism in Italy, Holland, Denmark and Austria.
 

Virginia Postrel's description of the struggle between dynamism and stasism may be a (helpful) oversimplification, but one thing is clear: the anti-humanist ideas above are clearly on the stasist side in that they seek to control and limit the future and human potential. On the dynamist side we find ideas about the right of humans to set up their own goals, to create their own life projects freely - necessary conditions for transhumanism.
Dynamism is in the end about having an open ended society, where creativity and freedom are allowed to generate progress even when it is unpredictable. Transhumanism as a humanist ideology would be squarely on this side.
 

In the end we as transhumanists want to live in a dynamistic world where our own aims of personal and social excellence are possible to pursue to their fullest. But to reach this we clearly need to 1) recognize our core values, 2) extend our ideology/ideologies from these values, 3) show the other people the moral and practical benefits of embracing them as practical policies. This is a large task, and cannot be done in the wrong order.
 

Transhumanism has so far never been truly fighting a political battle, neither as an ideology or as a movement of people. So far it has never produced any truly hard and innovative challenges to the current dominant ideological systems. That has to change.
 

The ideologies of today in general have their roots in other material and cultural conditions. If we seek to retain ties to ideologies that at best developed in 1850 (and in several cases long before that) because they are our only source of values, then we are bound to lose touch with reality. We cannot rely on naive faith in technology.
 

But we can recognize our core humanist values and build on them. In a changing world, they are surprisingly stable and likely the last things we will ever change in ourselves in some unimaginable posthuman future. We can strive for human flourishing and recognize what is and isn't transhumanism in this sense. We can extend our ideas beyond a mere liking for technology into an integrated ideological framework wide enough to encompass a wide spectrum of practical dynamist position - while at the same time having clear enough goals to avoid getting shallow and opportunistic.
 

 

"I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I
can say is they must change if they are to get better
" (G. C. Lichtenberg).