Transhumanism

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Transhumanism

Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:46 pm

This might belong in Science, but then it also might belong in the Morals and Ethics one, too, so I stuck it here.

Anyway, I'm leading a discussion group on the subject of transhumanism tomorrow, and I'm wondering if any PWebbers were familiar with the idea and wanted to share any cool ideas or arguments.
"But at any rate, the point is that God is what nobody admits to being, and everybody really is."
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Postby neo-dragon » Wed Sep 15, 2010 10:05 pm

Um, I like "Ghost in the Shell" and "Gattaca". :D

But seriously, it's a very fascinating topic for me since I often contemplate about what makes us human. If you're born human, is there a point where your body or mind is modified so much that you are no longer human? If so, when is it? Does it make a difference if such alteration occur before birth?

I'll probably post more in this topic when I have time and something worthwhile to say.
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Postby Wil » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:19 am

Bicentennial Man. Specifically the movie, since I've not read the book.

What makes us human, I think, is all the parts of the whole. We are organic, though some parts of us may be mechanical. We start life, at least, as an organic life form. We can procreate, though some of us can not. We can reason and deduce through a wide range of situations, even those which we have not encountered before.

While we can program computers to emulate human behavior, we are still not at a level where computers are as basely intelligent and capable as even a toddler's mind. Even the smartest computers are not capable of recognizing an item sitting on a table, which is a basic 'ability' of even a newborn. Even if computers reach a state where they can perfectly emulate human behavior - that is to say, the ability to learn and reason in new situations and apply these to encountered problems - without the need to be taught (programmed) beyond a point, since we created them in our own image, to emulate us, they will only be considered human in one part of the whole.

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Postby neo-dragon » Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:34 pm

Bicentennial Man is more like transrobotism.
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:56 pm

Well, it deals with transhumanism too, with robotic elements developed by said robot being employed to extend and improve human life.

As someone who works with and studies disability, I find transhumanism a thorny philosophy. On the one hand, I see little objectively wrong with impairment, and disability is almost entirely subject to social attitudes. A paraplegic man is not at any disadvantage when he's faced with people who understand paraplegic does not equal stupid, when he has a wheelchair and building codes are made with him in mind, to grossly oversimplify things. Transhumanism promotes the idea that impairments are to be defeated, or that it is the impairment that disables. Impairment and disability seem conflated, and in that way, transhumanism is, itself, disabling.

Looked at another way, the fancy wheelchairs and incredible prosthetics we have today are already transhumanist. Transhumanism could mean that we use impairments only to see just how far we can go with assistive devices.

It's a tricky issue, and I think my opinion depends on which approach is being taken. Sadly, and this comes from experience, it's the former approach which is more prevalent in western society today. Impairments should be eradicated! Being impaired is scary and bad and worse than death! The number of people who take the latter approach and celebrate diversity are few in number.

And before anyone asks, no, I would not "fix" any of my clients/friends. There are cases where, if given the power, I would remove the effects of trauma or illness, but those are things which obscure the person. I would never want to make any of my friends "normal." Just for the record, because I've been asked before.
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Postby jotabe » Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:33 am

I believe that impairments are to be defeated. But impairments are not simply what is commonly known as disability. We are all impaired, at one degree or another. And i'd like to see them all defeated.

Wouldn't the hemiplegic want to go for a walk, or run, with his own feet? I find it hard to believe, that given the choice, they wouldn't want to be able to use the full potential of their bodies.
But why stop there? I want to run faster. I want to jump higher. I want to think deeper. No matter how well trained you are, you will find limitations: impairments produced not by illness or disability, but by our own extremely faulty genetic inherittance. The same a disabled person could ask "why do i need a wheelchair to move?" i ask "why do i need a car to move faster? why do i need a plane to fly? why do i need a computer for fast and reliable data manipulation?"

That doesn't stop you from being human, in any case, no matter how drastic the transformations are. My conception of what means to be human is admittedly very loose, not restricted to being homo sapiens. I would equate human to sentient... at least in legal terms. Being able to produce independent thought (this is in itself something very hard to define), use abstract concepts, and acknowledge onself as an individual.

I don't like looking at disability and "celebrate diversity". It reminds me of this couple of sightless women who wanted to have a child and were looking for a sightless male sperm donor, because blindness wasn't a disability, but a different culture.
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Postby Rei » Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:35 am

I don't like looking at disability and "celebrate diversity". It reminds me of this couple of sightless women who wanted to have a child and were looking for a sightless male sperm donor, because blindness wasn't a disability, but a different culture.
I've only run into this with the D/deaf community, but I don't believe this is the basic form of celebrated diversity. If anything, it's a movement to the opposite. I know in the Deaf community there is a strong antagonism towards hearing and even especially towards deaf people who have hearing aids or cochlear implants. This does anything but allow for diversity, so I don't think the example holds, especially when there are many examples where disabled people are able to live in community with other disabled and abled alike without that antagonism (although sadly not frequent enough examples).
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Postby neo-dragon » Fri Sep 17, 2010 3:22 pm

I try to be open-minded and I think that I'm usually pretty successful, but I can't help but fall into the 'disabilities are something to be fixed' camp.

None of us would choose to be blind, deaf, paraplegic, or have down syndrome. None of us would choose it for our children. That does NOT mean that people with these impairments can't lead happy and fulfilling lives. It does not mean that they cannot be loved and appreciated as much as anyone else. I just can't see how it wouldn't be preferable to be able to eliminate such impairments.

So for me the question is do we try to obtain the superhuman? I'm not opposed to that either. I mentioned "Ghost in the Shell". For those who aren't familiar, it's a cyberpunk manga/anime set in a near future in which cyberization is as common as cellphones are today. Most people have "cyberbrains" which are basically hard drives with wi-fi in your head. Others are "full cyborgs", meaning that the only part of them that is still organic is a portion of their brain. The series uses the term "ghost" as a synonym for soul. While it's taken for granted that even the most cyberized person has a ghost and is therefore still human, it's only implied or tentatively suggested that a highly advanced A.I. might have one.

This form of transhumanism is awesome in fiction, but doesn't appeal to me in reality. Yeah, I would like to be faster, stronger, and smarter, but I'd rather not be more machine than man. Genetic enhancement, on the other hand would be... tempting.
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:10 pm

I try to be open-minded and I think that I'm usually pretty successful, but I can't help but fall into the 'disabilities are something to be fixed' camp.

None of us would choose to be blind, deaf, paraplegic, or have down syndrome. None of us would choose it for our children. That does NOT mean that people with these impairments can't lead happy and fulfilling lives. It does not mean that they cannot be loved and appreciated as much as anyone else. I just can't see how it wouldn't be preferable to be able to eliminate such impairments.
But deaf people don't want to be fixed. They don't want hearing. Many of them do choose deafness for their children, or would if they were given an option. They really, really don't want to be hearing, or told that hearing is better. The same attitude is present in blind and mobility-impaired populations, though possibly less militantly. It's also very strong in the autistic/neurodiversity population.**

To them, it's very similar to saying "Why wouldn't all black people want to be white? There are so many advantages to being white!" I am not joking in the slightest that attempts to eradicate impairment are seen as genocidal.

No, I wouldn't choose Down Syndrome for myself, because that would be not me. Equally, I wouldn't choose "normalcy" for any of my friends with Down Syndrome, because they would cease to be themselves. There isn't anything wrong with them.



** That is even leaving aside the issue of a rare form of body dysmorphia similar to transexualism where people feel they should have a missing limb (for example). I got into a long debate once where I insisted that cutting off a penis was no different than any other limb, in terms of the mental "illness" required to desire such surgery.
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Postby jotabe » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:16 pm

This form of transhumanism is awesome in fiction, but doesn't appeal to me in reality. Yeah, I would like to be faster, stronger, and smarter, but I'd rather not be more machine than man. Genetic enhancement, on the other hand would be... tempting.

Cells are just nano/micro-machines that work using C-based molecules, and DNA is just the physical storage of their program :D
We are machines already ;) just meatbag machines.
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Postby Satya » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:20 pm

But deaf people don't want to be fixed. They don't want hearing. Many of them do choose deafness for their children, or would if they were given an option. They really, really don't want to be hearing, or told that hearing is better. The same attitude is present in blind and mobility-impaired populations, though possibly less militantly.
You know I like you, but sometimes you're a little too open-minded, you know what I mean? Seriously. A 'disability' that I can achieve with a blindfold or a pair of headphones isn't some kind otherworldly, special status to have. I know there's this whole 'empowerment' theme going on in the world today, where everyone wants to be special, but uh... for real, what the hell. Disabilities are something to overcome. They're disabilities. I can't fly, that's a disability. I'm unable to fly. If there was a way that it could be overcome and I could achieve unassisted flight, hell-yeah I'd take it.
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Postby Wil » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:39 pm

If deaf people could choose to make their children deaf then I would question their sanity. Choosing to give your offspring a disability or impairment is so impossibly stupid I can't even find the words for it. One should be looking to give their child the best chance in life, not removing an entire sense simply because it it gives them and their children some kind of social perk or whatever you wish to call it. Despite what they may think, hearing IS better. It was absolutely vital to the well being of our ancestors, and gives them the ability to be much more aware of their surroundings. Every sense that we have is of absolute importance, and is a gift, and only those that have never had hearing could at all believe it to not be of any importance.

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Postby neo-dragon » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:40 pm

Sorry, Ali. I know that to you this is grossly trivializing the issues and most likely sounds insensitive, but my thoughts can be summed up in five words: don't know what they're missing.

Let's just say that my opinion of anyone who would choose for their child to have an impairment is less than favourable.
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Postby Young Val » Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:20 pm

I have to agree with the views Brent and Ali have expressed about the Deaf. I've spent a lot of time in the Deaf community and what they've mentioned is true. Most Deaf people do not consider themselves disabled. And on a quick side note that is, I think, related: contrary to popular belief, American Sign Language (ASL) is not English communicated with hand gestures. ASL is a separate language, with its own grammatical structure. There is such a thing as Signed Exact English (SEE) but it's not the native language of the Deaf in this country. Being Deaf is a cultural identity, not just a matter of whether or not a person can hear.
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Postby jotabe » Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:34 pm

So, what happens with hearing-impaired people who pursue hearing aids and surgical reconstruction of the inner ear? They aren't "true deaf people"?
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:10 pm

So, what happens with hearing-impaired people who pursue hearing aids and surgical reconstruction of the inner ear? They aren't "true deaf people"?
Hilariously, yes. (Or sadly, I've lost track.) "Traitors" is roughly the sentiment. "Fascist Nazi collaborators", depending on who you ask.

Kelly: SEE is a lot of fun as a language (or transliteration, whatever the heck, Greg). I'm significantly less familiar with ASL, since I've got friendship reasons to learn SEE. I like its precision (from English) and its capacity for visual puns (from the signing).

Everyone else: I can bet any amount of money you don't have a clue my personal feelings on all of this. I have both a personal investment in disability culture, but also a professional and research one. There are aspects of these subcultures that profoundly disturb me. There are points where I think the struggle for self-determination have gone overboard. It's an extremely complicated issue.

But whether any of us like it or not, this is a reality. Frankly, no one has the right to force people to be "fixed" against their will. And there is a richness which the variety of experiences add to humanity which is valuable. Until you've stepped into that world on its own terms, you really have no ability to judge that.
Last edited by Eaquae Legit on Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:12 pm

A lot of the time, they become outcasts, Jota. You do not want to be going to an all-deaf school if you have a cochlear implant.
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:58 pm

BTW, if anyone wants serious literature on this instead of anonymous internets posts, I'm sure we can rustle something up for you.
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Postby surditate_vero » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:25 pm

Right. I'm only going to say this once.

It may surprise a lot of you, particularly considering that I rarely post on here (witness my post count), but I just had to post here.

I'm deaf.

Now, however, I am not Deaf.

What this means is that I am physically deaf. I was born without any natural hearing at all. I have two cochlear implants. I consider myself part of mainstream society under the label "hard of hearing".

To be Deaf is to consider yourself part of a culture that celebrates deafness, a culture with its own language (ASL), its own history, its own traditions. This culture has been around since the early 19th century, first in the eastern States, then the rest of the US, and Canada.

Right. That's out of the way. Now, to the subject at hand.

Unfortunately, I have to say that a number of you have fallen into the classic mentality of paternalism.

I'm willing to bet that a lot of you will praise me for being "good" and learning to listen and speak with my cochlear implants and learning to be a good "normal" person (whatever the hell that means).

News flash. I don't know what "normal" is, nor do any of you. "Normalcy" is an illusion, really. It's the assumption that we all have common experiences, and that's where disability comes into play. The paternalism displayed here in varying degrees can be said to be a major cause of disability in society. Paternalism assumes that since I don't have the exact same experiences as the rest of you by virtue of the fact that I don't naturally hear while the rest of you do, I must be disabled because I obviously have different life experiences.

You know what? I went to school. I went to university. I work. I pay bills. I pay taxes. I have hobbies. I read. I cry. I laugh. I swear. I travel. In short, I do the same things that all of us human beings do. The only difference is that I do some things differently. So what? If the end result is the same, why should we fixate upon the means?

What a lot of you have failed to realise is that we do not know the other side's experiences. By this, I mean that you can tell me what it sounds like to hear this or that until the end of time and I just will. never. know. AT ALL.

Let me put it in perspective for you. The human ear can hear over 6000 frequencies. My implants can process 23 frequencies. Math time!

23/6000 = 0.0038%

Yes, you read that correctly. Two zeroes after the decimal! My implants don't come ANYWHERE near letting me hear even a hundredth of the frequencies that you can with your ears. And you know what? I'm not torn up about it. I do pretty dang well with 0.0038%, thankyouverymuch.

I hear with my implants. I will, however, never know exactly what it must sound like for you guys when you listen to Beethoven (who composed music even though he went deaf in later life, FYI). I have no doubt that Beethoven is even richer and more nuanced and incredibly, incredibly subtle to your ears, something that I probably will never come anywhere near experiencing.

What I'm saying is that this is normal for me. Having to put my implants on in the morning and needing to take them off before I go to bed each night is normal. Having to work to make sure that I understand people and am clearly understood is normal for me. I don't lie awake at night wondering what it must sound like to truly hear. I don't cry myself to sleep because I think I've been "punished" by being born with a disability.

Having a disability, to me, is normal, simply because it is the only experience I will ever know. In a way, I'm better off than you guys, if you think about it. The majority of you will experience hearing loss as you progress through life, and I'm willing to bet that a few of you will - gasp! - need hearing aids, or maybe even cochlear implants in order to recover some of your hearing later in life. The irony, I think, is that you all run the risk of having to deal with a sense of alienation and loss that I have seen many people who have experienced hearing loss experience. I will never have to deal with that simply because I had no hearing to begin with.

Helen Keller was asked once if she would rather be able to see or hear if she ever had the opportunity to regain one of her senses. Everyone thought she'd say that she'd rather have her sight back. She said that she'd rather hear, because she would rather be able to communicate more easily with people. Seeing people wasn't as important to her as it was being able to easily communicate with them. And before anyone thinks that she was just really lucky, she worked very hard. She was fluent in English, French, Latin, and German. (She was composing letters in impeccable Latin to her tutors before she was fifteen, people!)

Now, I will admit that I do find things like the Deaf community odd, but it does make sense. Most disabilities do not preclude us from being able to communicate because we have our hearing and speech organs, to some degree. Deafness takes hearing away and that has a direct impact on speech, obviously. So, of course people who are deaf gravitated together and developed a language based on visual representations, representations that became refined over time to form a language with grammar as complex and vocabulary as vibrant as any oral-aural language on the planet. (If any of you dispute this, please consult William Stokoe's studies on ASL.)

(Also, someone brought up the point of cochlear implants in schools for the deaf. That's been changing over the last ten years, believe it or not. More and more children who go to schools for the deaf have cochlear implants nowadays. They can still be marginalised, certainly, but it's indisputably becoming more mainstream.)

To the issue of deaf people wanting their children to be deaf, if you all really thought about it, it would make absolutely perfect sense.

We all want our offspring to learn our language, our history, our culture. Deaf people want the same for their children. The difference is that they're between a rock and a hard place - if their child is born hearing, then there's a gulf between them right off the bat. They can't teach their children how to speak because they themselves do not know how to speak, or cannot speak well enough to teach their children on their own. That is what Deaf parents fear, not being disabled by society, but being disabled by their children simply because they cannot experience everything with their children that hearing parents can, or that they can if they have a child who's born deaf.

Deaf people are not thinking about retarding their child's development. They are thinking about giving that child the best possible start in life.

Put it another way. If your parents were suddenly struck mute when you were born, that'd kinda suck for you language-wise. You'd have to rely on family members who were already here, or even strangers (in the form of speech-language therapists, say), to teach you English. You wouldn't be able to work on your English at home with your parents. You'd have to ask people outside of the household if your English was good, etc. You'd likely also lag behind your peers in terms of your language development for a good while and possibly even your whole life, depending how much (or little) effort you put into mastering the language.

Can any of you honestly say that you would prefer that over being taught your native tongue by your parents and being able to take constant and stable linguistic reinforcement at home for granted?

Having a disability does not mean that we're weak or useless. People who are disabled tend to be very creative and resourceful, qualities that many of us are lacking today, sadly. I have to be creative and resourceful in figuring out how to make sure that I can communicate well with everyone I meet, and this spills over into all other areas of my life. I'm very adept at thinking outside of the box, and so are many people who have disabilities.

Really, people with disabilities are the only ones who can disable themselves. It is not society. We have a choice. We can either buy into society's mentality that we're poor, disabled people who just can't do anything, or we can tell this mentality to go take a hike because we will work hard to take our place in society.

Besides, we're all deaf. A pretty smart guy figured it out waaaaaaaay back in 45 BC. Fellow by the name of Cicero. Ladies and gents, I give you Cicero! (In English, of course, although I'm tempted to retain the Latin.)

What evil is there in deafness, truly? ... My countrymen as a rule do not know Greek, nor the Greeks Latin. Therefore we in their language and they in ours are deaf, as are we all deaf in the languages of the world, countless in number, which we do not know.
~Cicero - Tusculan Disputations, bk. V (45 BC)

All I ask is that you all please do me - and all other people who have disabilities in this world - the courtesy of walking a mile in our shoes first. (And that does not include plugging up your ears with cotton or blindfolding yourself for just an hour. Try doing it for an entire day, say. Even then, you won't really know what it is like to live with a disability, but that's all right. I'll never know what it is like to live without one.)
What evil is there in deafness, truly?
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Postby neo-dragon » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:59 pm

I don't think that anyone is denying that there are people who would choose to keep their impairments or saying that they should be forced to have them removed. My stance is that it would without a doubt be a good thing if such impairments could be prevented or removed so that no one would have to have them. If someone wants to stay hearing impaired why on Earth would I have a problem with that? I may not agree with their reasoning, or even be capable of understanding it, but the same could be said of them towards me. Then it's just a matter of live and let live. It would be just as wrong for me to force "normal" hearing upon a hearing impaired person as it would be for them to force deafness on me.

If that comes across as unreasonable or discriminatory then frankly we will never see eye to eye on this issue.
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Postby surditate_vero » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:30 pm

Fair point.

But then I put this to you. What you're suggesting is that we strip away something that lets us each have our own identity instead of being uniform human beings with the same bodies, minds, and experiences.

Personally, I'd find such a world a horribly boring place to live in. I'd rather this one, with its wonderful riot of difference.

And if we "eliminate" disabilities, what is there to stop us from eliminating other things that make us "different"?

In short, who decides what makes us different? Who has the power to say that this difference is a bad thing and should be removed?
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Postby neo-dragon » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:44 pm

Fair point.

But then I put this to you. What you're suggesting is that we strip away something that lets us each have our own identity instead of being uniform human beings with the same bodies, minds, and experiences.
All I'm saying is that if I woke up deaf or blind tomorrow I would pray to God for some way to undo it. My wish being granted takes nothing away from you.
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Postby surditate_vero » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:48 pm

Nope, it doesn't take anything away from me.

Quite frankly, if I woke up tomorrow fully hearing, I'd want it taken away from me for the same reason you'd want deafness taken away from you.

Our experiences now are all that we know, and experiences that we haven't yet experienced, or never will, for that matter, fill us with trepidation. That's what makes us human, fear of the unknown.
What evil is there in deafness, truly?
~Cicero

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Postby Rei » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:58 pm

This is, in some ways, what makes the film Gattaca so fascinating.



****Possible Spoilers (although if you haven't seen it, you should just go out and watch it anyway)****



It isn't about promoting transhumanism. If anything, it does the opposite. Contrary to all expectations, the disabled older brother (I say disabled because that is how society views him) is able to do the same things as well as any of the advanced, abled people. This is especially exemplified by the swimming contest between himself and his "normal" brother where he pushes himself, takes a risk, and beats him.

****End Possible Spoilers****


As for a later acquired impairment, I can't blame anyone who would want to be restored to how they were. If I suddenly lost my hearing or sight and an option existed to mechanically restore it, I would sign up straightaway. Where it gets complicated is not when it's a matter of restoring someone to a state they are already familiar with, but rather to preventing such a state in the first place. Is it acceptable to require people to "upgrade" their children, either from deaf or autistic to "normal" or from unenhanced to "normal"?

Edit just to add: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that." - Shylock, Merchant of Venice
Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point.
~Blaise Pascal


私は。。。誰?

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Postby Wil » Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:14 am

Quite frankly, if I woke up tomorrow fully hearing, I'd want it taken away from me for the same reason you'd want deafness taken away from you.
No, I'm sorry. Just, no. The fact that you can not hear isn't so much a trait that makes you, you as it is just a fact of life for you. I sincerely doubt that if a person who had been deaf their entire life were given the gift of hearing that they would wish it gone, and it would NOT change them as a person. Imagine if you had been blind your entire life and you were given sight. You wouldn't wish it gone, you would be filled with joy. There is so much joy in sight, and you miss out so much on life were you not to have it. The same holds true for hearing.
Our experiences now are all that we know, and experiences that we haven't yet experienced, or never will, for that matter, fill us with trepidation. That's what makes us human, fear of the unknown.
That is only part of what makes us human. The other part is that we CAN fear the unknown, that we have the conscious ability to think about it and try to comprehend that which we have not experienced. That we will actively seek out that which we have not experienced. Many people are held back because of fear, and for many fear is what drives them forward. Many are, in fact, excited about the prospect of getting to experience the unknown. Experiencing that which we have not experienced is easily and without question one of the purposes of life.

Many people have to experience things which they have not experienced in their life, and sure, they might be afraid, but getting to experience that is what makes live worth living. Going to school for your first time. Being asked out, or asking someone out for the first time. Your first love. Your first date. The first time you drove a car. The first time you made love. Your marriage. Your first child. Your first child experiencing the first things you did.

The same holds true for senses. The first time you saw a rainbow. The first time you saw the ocean. The first time you heard Bach. The first time you smelled a flower. The first time you tasted your grand mothers peach cobbler.

Sure, I say this as a biased human with all of their senses, but I have a very hard time imaging any person wishing they or those they loved to miss out on anything, including the amount of experience we get just from the senses. Any person that believes that they would be upset by receiving the gift of any sense, just imagine yourself without one that you take for granted (sight), and imagine being exposed to it for the first time. If you can honestly say that you would go back to not having the gift of sight after receiving it, then you are lost.


ETA: Speaking about this subject to someone else, they brought up a point which I had not considered. It would perhaps be a very difficult thing to cope with, being deaf or blind for many years and then suddenly hearing or seeing so much. This could easily be overwhelming, yes. However, I would also imagine that it would not be any more overwhelming and any more difficult to overcome than it would be for those that have been able to see and hear for many years and loosing those senses.

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Postby surditate_vero » Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:11 am

You're not getting it, sadly. You've completely and utterly missed the point.

Your comment about a blind person being filled with joy at being able to see makes no sense, quite honestly. You're working from the assumption that the person knows s/he has lost a sense. If s/he was his/her entire life as per your example, then the sense of sight is not lost, nor can it be lost, as it was never there to begin with. Same thing in my case with hearing. I never had it, so I never "lost" it. You're working from the position that we know what it is that we have "lost" and, therefore, stand to "gain (back)".

Let me put it this way. Can you describe what it's like to see to someone who's been blind their whole life? You'll probably say that yes you can.

No, you can't. Nor can I. None of us can tell a blind person what it's like to see the colour red. You can't tell me what it's like to hear Bach, nor can I tell you what it's like to be able to turn off my implants in the middle of a noisy room and hear absolute, complete, utter, perfect silence. I am not disputing the fact that you can hear perfect silence as well, merely that you can never experience it quite the same way I can, so no, we can never quite explain similar experiences to each other's satisfaction.

Also, you're assuming that this is an instant "cure", for want of a better term. If I were given my hearing tomorrow morning, so what? I'd have to learn how to listen and speak all over again. Everything would sound alien, different, and probably loud as heck. (I have no idea - I'm guessing!) It's the same with your hypothetical blind person. He or she would have to learn to see, to use his or her eyes to find people and objects instead of relying on touch and hearing alone, or in combination.

In short, this would require an incredible amount of effort to change a life. Perceptions would have to be changed. Habits, behaviours, routines would have to be changed as well.

(Your edit doesn't work as well, I must say. Your edit works on the premise that people lose their senses gradually. It's extremely rare to just up and lose a sense (although that can - and does - happen). You also know what it is that you're losing, whereas with me and the hypothetical blind person, we don't know exactly what it is that we are gaining.)

That is the point. People who are disabled have developed routines that have allowed them to be successful in the world, just as you and all other "normal" people have done the same. You're only thinking about the "cure" without even bothering to consider its potential consequences, both good and bad.

You're being horribly paternalistic here, Wil. Perhaps you would be filled with joy at receiving the gift of a "lost" sense, but that's just it. I don't consider my hearing "lost". I never had it to begin with. Your hypothetical blind person never had it to begin with either, presumably. You're assuming that I - and other disabled people - want to be "fixed", to be "cured", to be "made whole".

Did you consider that perhaps we do consider ourselves whole as well? That we don't consider ourselves defined by our disabilities?

Think about yourself. If someone told you that they could "cure" you and make you "better" or "perfect" instantly, right now, but that it'd require you to take an incredibly long time to essentially relearn your behaviours, perceptions, and the like to fit your "better/perfect" self, would you still do it?

Now, what would you say if the above question was put to you...but you were then told that you had no choice, that you were going to be made "better" or "perfect" simply because your senses weren't enough and that you needed BETTER senses without specifying what exactly "better" meant, what would you say or do? Would that fill you with joy? Or dread?

(PS. As I said, I have two cochlear implants, so I'm a cyborg. Fun stuff, that! It's a bitch having to plug myself into the charger each morning. Beats coffee, though!)
What evil is there in deafness, truly?
~Cicero

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Postby neo-dragon » Sat Sep 18, 2010 1:49 am

Last very quick post before I go to bed:

I don't think that Wil is saying that you're not whole or happy. I think he's going for the 'don't know what you're missing' idea.
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Postby Satya » Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:21 am

And I reiterate the point that anything I can simulate with a pair of earplugs isn't enough to be "special" or count as something to be proud of - being born deaf is no more reason to be proud as being born black, latino, white, American, Mexican...... etc. "I'm proud to be an American..." Uh, that's stupid. So is "I'm proud to be deaf." If someone doesn't want to hear things, ever, fine. Whatever. But whereas that used to be, for those born with such a deficiency (and yes, it is a deficiency - something you could have been born with, and were meant to be born with according to you human biology but due to circumstances beyond your control were not), that used to be something you had no choice about, it is now something where you do have a measure of choice in - as Surditate is a prime example of. So what's the point, in the end? If a person is born without hearing, but they have a choice, through medical science, to be able to hear (at various levels of effectiveness), and they choose not to - for whatever stupid reasons of pride and arrogance about how 'special' it is to be deaf - then whatever residual sympathy others may feel for them must be scrubbed. I can understand how people with other disabilities want to maintain their independence, you know, not have to rely on others or not want help... But if you have a choice to remove such an obstacle from your life (or mitigate it's effect), and you choose not to, you are making a mistake. I'm pretty sure I can't be convinced otherwise. Life is hard as it is without additional obstacles. Life is hard if you're so-called "normal." Life is hard, period. You can't stick your head in the sand just to have some kind of cultural identification with 'deaf society.'
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Postby jotabe » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:34 am

I still don't get it.

You know how frustrating is being limited to what our eyes can do? We can only perceive the "visible" spectrum of radiation. We can't see all the beautiful color patterns that, for example, flowers show in UV. We can't perceive just by looking where sources of heat (IR) are. We can't see see the magnificence of Andromeda in our night sky because of the unadjustability of our retina's exposure time.
Being able to use gadgets that increase the spectrum of what you can perceive... it's awesome. And it's frustrating, because there is a whole world out there I still can't perceive. You could see the galactic center, if your sight could extend to radio frequencies. You could hear the whole range of a whale's song. Heck, you could hear the atmosphere humming! But you can't. I can't. We can't!

Surdi, you are limited, in what comes to your hearing ability. Well, i am limited too! i can't hear all there is to hear. Maybe your limitation is greater than mine, but still, it's nothing that needs to be fixed. You are as normal as i am, you just have one limitation, one disability, while i have others (and god knows i am full of disabilities, they just aren't called so). I agree we need to change society, to treat people with "standard" disabilities the same as everyone else. To understand others' limitations and treat everybody kindly and helpfully.

But this is just humanism. This is not what transhumanism is about. Transhumanism is about realizing we are all fundamentally limited. That we can't be happy being limited. We want more. Why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we improve ourselves, if we can?
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Postby Janus%TheDoorman » Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:17 pm

All I ask is that you all please do me - and all other people who have disabilities in this world - the courtesy of walking a mile in our shoes first. (And that does not include plugging up your ears with cotton or blindfolding yourself for just an hour. Try doing it for an entire day, say. Even then, you won't really know what it is like to live with a disability, but that's all right. I'll never know what it is like to live without one.)
I've done this, actually. A blindfold, anyway. Had some friends to help me not get hit by cars and everything, but I kind of understand your point - it's a different world. It doesn't seem to be better or worse, really - I didn't feel like I'd "lost" something, so much as I was just interacting with things differently.

But that's the point - the blind and deaf world is different, but not special in any way, just like the bodies we have now, the mental capacity we have now is different from where we could be as transhumanists, the way we are now holds no special precedence, and after my day with the blindfold, I preferred having my sight back because it widened my horizons. I could go see a movie and share the experience with my friends. I can puzzle over a leaf in the wind, the interplay of the color. There is not measure to say whether this is better than being blind, but it is certainly more. And having that more broadens the experience of my life, and allows me to share more with my friends and family, and that is better.
In short, who decides what makes us different? Who has the power to say that this difference is a bad thing and should be removed?
Disabilities aren't like other differences - disabilities narrow experience. A fully ambulatory person could live their life in a wheelchair. A sighted person could shut their eyes and live blind, and a hearing person can plug up their ears and live deaf. Those with disabilities cannot do the reverse.

Now, what would you say if the above question was put to you...but you were then told that you had no choice, that you were going to be made "better" or "perfect" simply because your senses weren't enough and that you needed BETTER senses without specifying what exactly "better" meant, what would you say or do? Would that fill you with joy? Or dread?
You're creating a straw man. No one is threatening to make ambiguous upgrades to the human race without the information being available before hand, and the only upgrades anyone's making are those that broaden possibility. A Transhuman could live exactly as a Human does now, but a Human cannot live as a Transhuman might.

The only pseudo-compulsory component to Transhumanism is adaptation to the environment and competition, but that's already a component of our existence - you said it yourself that the deaf have to develop routines and techniques the same as anyone else, but the hearing have more options. If you find yourself able to live in our society now without the breadth of capabilities available to the rest of us, why do you imagine a Transhumanist society would be so different?
"But at any rate, the point is that God is what nobody admits to being, and everybody really is."
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Postby Psudo » Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:34 pm

Transhumanism seems like an obsession. Overcoming obstacles, removing one's own weakness to become a better version of oneself, that stuff makes sense. But transhumanism seems to take it to an extremity that is not necessarily reasonable, in which that principle of self-improvement vetoes all other concerns. It's like Communism: helping other people is good, but communism takes it to an unsustainable extreme.
is there a point where your body or mind is modified so much that you are no longer human? If so, when is it?
Similarly, if the moment of birth is unknowable, where is the beginning of humanity? When does a fetus, altered or natural, become a human if the moment of birth cannot be used as a reference?
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The book is SO much better.

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Postby jotabe » Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:50 pm

But transhumanism seems to take it to an extremity that is not necessarily reasonable, in which that principle of self-improvement vetoes all other concerns. It's like Communism: helping other people is good, but communism takes it to an unsustainable extreme.
Please, explain. What are those concerns that would be harmed by the improvement of the human body and could supercede it?
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Postby Caspian » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:11 pm

Though I understand that in this context you think it's not and I understand why you would think that it is not, "improvement" is a deeply subjective term.
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Postby Eaquae Legit » Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:28 pm

Just for perspective (because I'm too tired to debate at the moment), Greg's deafness is complete without his implants. Ear plugs don't even come close - he has absolutely no hearing without them. No muffled sound, not even the kind you get when you hear yourself talk and it vibrates through your skull. It's as impossible for us to imagine as it is for him to imagine our ~6000Hz of frequencies.

Also to be considered is just how difficult it would be for someone blind/deaf/whatever from birth to suddenly have the missing sense/ability. From birth, those normal neural paths have been neglected, ignored, and re-purposed. Greg touched on that, but I'm not sure it got through. The sudden, horrifying, baffling cacophany of sight or sound would be very unpleasant for a brain with no ability to interpret it.
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Postby neo-dragon » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:23 am

The sudden, horrifying, baffling cacophany of sight or sound would be very unpleasant for a brain with no ability to interpret it.
Of course. Coincidentally, for no reason at all, shortly before this thread came along I was wondering what it would be like to have been born blind and suddenly get sight. Of course I can't actually imagine it, but I figured that it would at the very least be terrifying and confusing. I can't guess if or how long it would take for a brain to adapt. Maybe if the missing sense could be incorporated gradually, in a way mimicking the evolution of the sensory organ. For instance, instead of going from blind to full vision, start out just being able to detect light and go from there. But then maybe working up to full vision would take so long that it wouldn't be worth it.

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- Frank Herbert's 'Dune'


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