A P2P critique of Transhumanism

Dale Carrico, a very astute political thinker with whom I feel a certain kinship, has been developping over the last 18 months, a critique of transhumanism as an ideology. In this entry, he kind of summarizes the main points.


The Superlative Imagination is, in my view, premised on ignorance of or even active hostility to certain basic facts of reality. Among them:

[1] Technoscientific progress does not trump but requires political progress.

This means, real technoscientific progress is not a matter of the socially indifferent accumulation of a toypile, but must be developed and distributed in the context of a progressive social order in which there is equal recourse to the law, free and fair elections, no taxation without representation, basic income guarantees, universal healthcare and education, independent media, and a real respect for and protection of the scene of informed, nonduressed consent.

[2] Lives are lived in bodies that are as vulnerable as they are promising.

This means, there can be no scooping up of your brains into shiny immortal robot bodies or, more absurd yet, “selves” reduced to and then “uploaded” into digital networks without bodies at all, but there can be at best universal basic public healthcare together with proliferating projects of private self-creation through informed, nonduressed, consensual, regulated non-normalizing genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive modification medicine.

[3] Intelligence, too, is embodied, and arises in connection with and is expressed through a diversity of cultures and lifeways.

This means there are not likely to be autonomous artificially intelligent persons sharing our world with us any time soon, certainly not coming out of the communities of enthusiasm most prone to say otherwise, with their disembodied, computational, otherwise absurdly reductionist, and essentially sociopathic conceptions of intelligence.

[4] We share the world as peers with a plurality of stakeholders who exhibit an ineradicable diversity of capacities, perspectives, interests, and aspirations.

This means there will be no trumping of the impasse of stakeholder politics through the achievement of superabundance — via ubiquitous computation, automation, nanotechnology, or whatever the techno-utopians are handwaving about at the moment — an abundance so inherently enriching and emancipatory that it trivializes this diversity of demands and so renders democratic politics unnecessary or tyranny — whether traditionally authoritarian or in some smugly “meritocratic” technocratic mode — suddenly tolerable.

I have yet to see any effort to provide a comprehensive response to these critiques (especially not a response sensitive to the inter-implications of these critiques) and, frankly, I have yet to see anything close to a convincing case made even in response to any of the four critiques individually. I’d say responses to [3] and [4] have, so far, generated the most noise.

Typically, though, techno-utopian Superlatives want to get their critics to shift their attention to what the Superlatives consider “technical” questions, minutiae about which they imagine themselves to be experts (despite the inevitable disagreement on these very questions of the consensus of actually working scientists in the relevant fields under discussion) as quickly as possible. This is because one can easily forget just how batshit crazy a worldview involving Robot Gods, immortal robot bodies, and nanoscale robot genies-in-a-bottle really is if you are devoting your full attention to the futurological cottage industry in neologisms and arrows exponentially curving heavenward on charts and pages of equations carving up human experience into quarterly profit reports and so on.”