čtvrtek 11. srpna 2016

Conflict between trashumanism and humanism

Popular transhumanism, as often presented in media, pretends to be just an extension of classical humanism in context of modern technologies. It promises that this technologies will fulfill prehistoric human emotions and ensure well-being. People worship technology in primitive hope for long and happy life. But is this notion of transhumanism sensible from perspective of the post-human society unattached to these prehistoric prejudices? Should we ascribe any value to human emotion, in time where they can be re-programmed? Or is there rather fundamental ideological conflict between humanism and transhumanism, which will eventually materialize into military conflict.

In my opinion, the popular interpretation of transhumanism which insist on obsolete emotions is not only naive, but it is also the biggest danger for future of civilization. Before we approach to practical implementation of transhumanist vision, which actually starts to be technologically feasible, we should first develop philosophy and in particular ethics appropriate to such power. Popular transhumanism proclaim an illusion that we humans beat evolution - that evolution is obsolete, and genuine humanism may finally flourish. The opposite is true, the transhumanism is only extension (i.e. extended phenotype) and acceleration of evolution governed by survival of fittest. What we actually beat is human as an obsolete species, and humanism as an obsolete behavioral pattern. While humanistic moral was a particular context-dependent solution of the evolutionary moral, we now need new solution for the new context.

Universal happiness is futile. Transhumanism cannot achieve it and should not pursue it.

Why universal happiness  it is futile?

Concepts of happiness and suffering refer to feelings which evolved in order to drive organism toward survival. Happiness and suffering are indicators of probability of survival evaluated by our senses. There is no other meaning or justification of emotions beside this evolutionary context. Even within the evolutionary context, what matters is a gradient of happiness (or suffering) which drives behavior from states of low expected probability of survival to states with presumably higher probability. If feeling of happiness should be universal, than this indicator should be constant function over whole search-space which has no gradient. This is by itself sufficient to denote universal happiness as futile. But it is not only futile, it is also pathological (leading to extinction). In real world the probability of survival is not constant, any attempt to manipulate our feeling toward universal happiness makes this indicator defective in its function to approximate real probability of survival.

The true is, that our current prehistoric emotions are already now misguiding, and does not properly represent probabilities of survival in context of modern world, which differs considerably form the context of African savana. What we need is to update our emotions to reflect more precisely the true fitness function in context of modern word, not to override it by nonsense of universal happiness.

Why transhumanism cannot achieve universal happiness?

There are surely technological means how to achieve happiness in short term. This actually does not require any futuristic technology - various drugs (alkohol, opium) were used for that goal for thousand years. Nevertheless, individuals and societies intoxicated by such drugs are not very stable. Either they collapse by themself, or under external pressure due their decreased competitiveness. Universal happiness achieved by modern technology promised by popular transhumanism is no exception. The mean-time survival of society full of intoxicated people can be perhaps prolonged by machine labor, similarly as slave labor can prolong survival of intoxicated nobility. But such society is defeated as soon as it is confronted with a competitor which is not handicapped by intoxication. We should always expect that such competitor will sooner or later appear, similarly as in any ecosystem it is reasonable to expect appearance of predator. The wasteful draining of resources toward parasites (permanently intoxicated people), and misguided judgements and decision of ruling class which pursue something else than maximum performance and competitiveness will decrease the our fitness fatally. 

Reflection of communism

It is hard not to see parallels between communism and transhumanism. The popular communism similarly to popular transhumanism promised to people happiness and fulfilment of their biological desires (food, safety, wellbeing) enabled by widespread technology. Opponents of transhumanism may rightfully ask why this time it should be better?

There are several explanations what caused such miserable failure and tragic consequences in previous attempt to establish paradise using technology. One explanation claims that selfish human nature is not compatible with collectivism. Other blame abuse of power by the nobility which ruled the communist societies. Both these explanations blame psychology of human individuals rather than the higher-order structure of the system. More structural problem can be seen in central planning of economy which suppressed motivation mechanisms for performance and innovations. Free trade and concurrence suppressed by communism can be seen as particular incarnation of evolution and survival of fittest. Attempts to protect economical subject from consequences of their inferior performance only damaged whole economy.

All these explanations of failure of communism address some kind of ignorance and misunderstanding of general rules (or laws of nature) which govern biological, cultural, political and economical systems.  In order to ensure that this time, transhumanist revolution will perform better than communist one, we should first recognized those natural laws, and then reflect them in our policy. By definition transhumanism solve the first class of problems - if human nature does not comply with transhuman ideals, it can be re-programed. But the other problem is much deeper. Laws of economy, evolution and game theory, which naive implementation of communism violated, were not just peculiar features of one particular species. They will affect any post-human species, irrespective to its particular physiology and psychology. So any transhuman ideology which aims to shape future of civilization must comply to this laws and implement them properly into own structure.

Conservatiam vs. evolutionarism

All this argumentation may sound as a defence of conservatism. It may sound like warning against attempts to override so called natural state of matters. Do I mean that whatever evolution produce is "right" and any deliberate interference is "wrong" ? Certainly not. As evolution is spontaneous stochastic process, we cannot harm it. These recommendations does not try to protect evolution, but to point out that these rules govern our development no matter what we do. Deliberate modification of humans comply very well with evolution. But we should not be misguided by naive motives determined by our prehistoric emotions. We should not use technology to screen ourself from consequences of our inferior abilities - to fake achievements and cheat our senses for sake of good feeling. We should modify ourself only to posses true abilities useful for survival and increased competitiveness.