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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-24 10:40pm
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VarrusTheEthical wrote:
And living cells are NOT examples of molecular machinery, living cells are orders of magnitude beyond the molecular scale.


I think you're missing the point here. At the fundamental level, what is DNA replication, transcription, and protein synthesis? A living cell is nothing but molecular machinery. Enzymes, structural proteins, and DNA are all part of a complex system that needs all the pieces to function, but it's still molecules jiggling around to make things happen.

Very few people looking at real-world possibilities for self-replicating nanomachines consider a lone molecular-scale assembler working in vivo to be a realistic option; would you suggest that that Drexler's nanofactory concept isn't an example of molecular machinery simply because it operates on the macro-scale?



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-24 11:40pm
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What's more important, Thomas, is that the constraints of the working environment for medical nanotech (the human body) affect what you can do with it. You can't risk generating excessive heat, or chemical byproducts that poison the body. You can't have nanites that the body will identify as hostile viruses because that would kick off autoimmune disorders. You can't have nanites that are small, in the bloodstream, if they risk getting broken up by the liver or filtered by the kidnes or some such. Remember that the human body has evolved to avoid letting random bits of foreign molecular machinery survive and thrive inside itself; if you want to function in there you have to play by certain rules.

This adds a great deal of complexity and "unknown unknowns" to the problem.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 12:29am
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I don't argue with any of that. Not only do I not argue with it, I'm confused as to how it's even remotely relevant to the example of protein-based "tiny machines with minimal heat tolerance" operating just fine within the temperature range of a human body.

It'd be pretty stupid not to look at what life does when trying to design systems that emulate its basic features better than any existing technological solution, in any event.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 12:35am
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Part of the problem is that if nanotech is constrained by the same limits that apply to proteins before it can survive in the human body... well, it's not that obvious why the nanotech would be all that much more impressive than the proteins were. Why would substituting artificial protein-analogues for natural ones suddenly boost our brain's performance by some large factor?

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 01:14am
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I don't know if it would be. I'm fairly skeptical of robust nanotech of a fantastic nature, not because I don't want it to work, but because I want to see somebody build something close to it before I gush over it. That said, I don't think guys like Drexler or Freitas are invoking magic, either, and the human body is only one tiny sub-set of what life can do with a selection of DNA sequences and amino acids.

I think any realistic nanomedical solution would have to come at the problem from both ends, so to speak, with a combo of bioengineering and diamondoid mechano-synthesis (if it's workable).

As to why artificial proteins would enhance our brains when natural ones don't, that's a equivalent to asking why amphetamines can improve cognitive performance to a higher degree than norepinephrine; sometimes the artificial versions do Neat Shit that the natural analogs don't. In this case, it'd be a matter of some kind of functionality that you wouldn't find in, or construct out of, the naturally-occurring versions. Maybe something as simple as cultured neurons on a chip plugging into the well-chosen spots on the neocortex and used as Wifi antennae to connect to your iBrain's cloud account. I don't know if it really matters beyond that whether it's constructed of proteins or atomically-precise carbon.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 09:12am
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Broomstick wrote:
So yes, I can very much see cybernetics being used to compensate for injury or birth defect or disease, but the technonerds don't seem to understand that most people actually either don't mind or even like being meat people and see no pressing reason to swap out functional limbs and senses.

Aside from the quick obsolence of your cybernetics already mentioned, people tend to forget that these implants will need maintenance from time to time(unless you are in a soo far future that they are pretty much magic to us), which will be costly too. The more implants you have and the more you use them, the faster they'll worn out. Spare parts and replacements will cost too.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 09:58am
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I'm not convinced that, say, a cybernetic connection to a vehicle would be inherently superior to a meat person using optimized controls. Even if it turns out that is so, would the additional cost of outfitting, maintaining, and periodically upgrading a cyborg for that purpose be worth whatever marginal gain is obtained by making such a link?



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 10:17am
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In vehicle control i see a rather obvious vector of possible improvement for a cybernetically upgraded pilot: reaction time and situational awareness. If the person is literately wired up to the vehicle, integration with the vehicles sensors and actuators is much more tight than it is in today's cars and airplanes. The only other possibility of improvement (i.e. without very sophisticated brain-machine interfaces) is some sort of shared autonomy between the pilot and the vehicle's computers, which is pretty much a tendency in today's R&D, together with better visualization and sensor data fusion.
However, how much improvement a direct brain-machine link to a vehicle provides depends strongly on details of that interface, the vehicle and its sensors and electronics. However, if the benefits justify the costs remains an open question and also depends on details of the technologies in question and their respective costs.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 11:02am
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Broomstick, the better question would be, why would a person want to continue on being a bipedal land-creature when his physical form can fly in the skies or stars while his mind cruises on the radiowaves in the electrosphere?

Hell, the person could do that while his mind also simultaneously stays human, or humans rather as he can have multiple human bodies, and while his mind is also in a pure electronic form coursing through the datanet (and through this, thus occupy multiple bodies), etcetera.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 12:02pm
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Broomstick wrote:
I'm not convinced that, say, a cybernetic connection to a vehicle would be inherently superior to a meat person using optimized controls. Even if it turns out that is so, would the additional cost of outfitting, maintaining, and periodically upgrading a cyborg for that purpose be worth whatever marginal gain is obtained by making such a link?

Number Theoretic wrote:
In vehicle control i see a rather obvious vector of possible improvement for a cybernetically upgraded pilot: reaction time and situational awareness. If the person is literately wired up to the vehicle, integration with the vehicles sensors and actuators is much more tight than it is in today's cars and airplanes. The only other possibility of improvement (i.e. without very sophisticated brain-machine interfaces) is some sort of shared autonomy between the pilot and the vehicle's computers, which is pretty much a tendency in today's R&D, together with better visualization and sensor data fusion.
However, how much improvement a direct brain-machine link to a vehicle provides depends strongly on details of that interface, the vehicle and its sensors and electronics. However, if the benefits justify the costs remains an open question and also depends on details of the technologies in question and their respective costs.
Yep, but in general, the only people who really need that integration will be the ones who are involved in high performance activities like racing or flying military craft. Both will be a bit of a niche market at first. Meanwhile neither bus driver Bill nor trucker Ted or commuter Cole needs lightning fast reflexes for their daily activities. But they'll need better fatigue and probably alcohol monitoring (yeah I know nanny state, nanny cars ...), with some advanced lane keeping and adaptive cruise control to allow the vehicles to avoid obstacles and prevent drifting out of the line. Better sensors to detect dangers on the road (like ice under snow) etc etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 01:00pm
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Thing is, for commuters and truckers and the like, there's no need to wire the hardware to do this into your brain. You want the car to be safe even when the driver is not- hence what Folti is talking about.

For example, a car that buzzes to alert the driver if he starts drifting out of his lane without engaging a turn signal would be cool- because it limits the effect of driver fatigue causing lane weaving. But there's no reason to wire the buzzer into your head, instead of into your steering column. So improving the tool is a totally valid substitute for improving the user- and likely to be cheaper and more flexible, since there will always be people who can't get cybernetic implants installed, or whose implants aren't working.

Which is a problem for any body improvement technology: if it's supposed to augment something my body does, I want it to either work all the time, or at least let me be able to function even if my augmentations aren't working.

If I have one leg and get a prosthetic leg, I can accept that once in a while my prosthetic's knee will seize up, or its electronic sensors will malfunction in the cold, or whatever, because it's better than having no leg at all.

But if you wire my eyeballs with electronics, and the electronics fail and I can't see anymore, then that's very bad, because now having the augmentation is worse than not having it. So either the electronics need to be so reliable that my vision never glitches on me, or I need to be able to shut the electronics down and still be able to see normally. This makes the implants more difficult to design and make nonintrusive.

With a car that has a lane keeping system this is less of a problem- if the lane keeping system is buggy, I can turn it off or ignore it and fall back on my own driving skills. But if the lane keeping system is wired into my head, and something goes wrong, will I still be able to drive at all?

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 02:57pm
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All very valid points. Today's vehicle development gradually turns to shared autonomy and eventually fully autonomous cars and trucks anyway. Same goes for civil air traffic: in 2006 the German Aerospace Center simulated a fully autonomous airliner flight across the Atlantic. They fed real air traffic data into the simulation and even introduced some hazards. The simulated flight completed flawlessly. Unfortunately i can't find the link anymore. And given the strain that truckers experience on very long transport runs, i'm fairly sure that they will be replaced soon by unmanned trucks.

So, that really leaves only the military and perhaps racing as a reasonable field of application for direct brain-machine links.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 03:47pm
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Simon_Jester wrote:
For example, a car that buzzes to alert the driver if he starts drifting out of his lane without engaging a turn signal would be cool- because it limits the effect of driver fatigue causing lane weaving. But there's no reason to wire the buzzer into your head, instead of into your steering column. So improving the tool is a totally valid substitute for improving the user- and likely to be cheaper and more flexible, since there will always be people who can't get cybernetic implants installed, or whose implants aren't working.

Not just cheaper, it would be more powerful, because you won't have the same size, power supply and waste heat removal constraints than cybernetics. It can easily draw on the vehicle's resources for power and cooling and much easier to tuck a let's say book sized, 1kg heavy box into the smallest cars than the cybernetics with the same performance into an average human. Much easier to replace it if it malfunctions or you want to upgrade to a newer model, than going under the knife.

You can add bunch of other features to it, for example taking over and call emergency services if it looks like the driver is incapacitated or with a refined access control, don't allow reckless driving if somebody drives it without license or a student's license.
While I expect last one to be the most hacked part, it could reduce the number of accidents when unexperienced (and reckless) teenage drivers try to drive daddy's muscle car.

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Which is a problem for any body improvement technology: if it's supposed to augment something my body does, I want it to either work all the time, or at least let me be able to function even if my augmentations aren't working.

If I have one leg and get a prosthetic leg, I can accept that once in a while my prosthetic's knee will seize up, or its electronic sensors will malfunction in the cold, or whatever, because it's better than having no leg at all.

But if you wire my eyeballs with electronics, and the electronics fail and I can't see anymore, then that's very bad, because now having the augmentation is worse than not having it. So either the electronics need to be so reliable that my vision never glitches on me, or I need to be able to shut the electronics down and still be able to see normally. This makes the implants more difficult to design and make nonintrusive.

Or you forgot to hook up your prosthetics to the charger before going to sleep... :)

People simply ignore that barring illness or injury their body parts are rather reliable and versatile all by themselves. They can work for decades without major problems, can take some abuse and heal themselves if injured.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-25 03:54pm
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Number Theoretic wrote:
All very valid points. Today's vehicle development gradually turns to shared autonomy and eventually fully autonomous cars and trucks anyway. Same goes for civil air traffic: in 2006 the German Aerospace Center simulated a fully autonomous airliner flight across the Atlantic. They fed real air traffic data into the simulation and even introduced some hazards. The simulated flight completed flawlessly. Unfortunately i can't find the link anymore. And given the strain that truckers experience on very long transport runs, i'm fairly sure that they will be replaced soon by unmanned trucks.

So, that really leaves only the military and perhaps racing as a reasonable field of application for direct brain-machine links.


Given the performance of military aircraft, I think military pilots are one of the few candidates where extensive augmentation would make sense. Specifically, not only would there be value in them directly interfacing with their aircraft, but there bodies could be modified to increase there G tolerance, thus giving them an edge against their enemies because they can push their aircraft harder before running into G-LOC. It could also be a way for flesh-and-blood pilots to compete against drones, assuming drones themselves aren't made obsolete by advances in Electronic Warfare.

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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-27 01:58pm
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Destructionator XIII wrote:
The status quo never needs justification.


Hell yes it does. If history has taught us anything, it's that the status quo has flimsy to non-existent justification all too many times.

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BTW anytime someone says "why not?" it just puts me into a seething rage.


Why? It's a perfectly valid question.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-27 11:58pm
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Haha, D, I'm sorry but if you plan to be really backwards could you at least be backwards for reasons which aren't a mess of poorly constructed nonsense? Clue: you can't treat society and culture like it's a logic puzzle. I know you well enough by now to know that you are dead fucking serious and it is unbelievably ill comedy.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-28 12:35am
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I think you are radically underestimating the amount of shit I don't give about your inability to comprehend that the real world does not conform to the untenable figments of your imagination. If I say 'there's no such thing as default action in human culture', will you get it? Or is the depth of your mental incompetence so staggeringly Miltonian in scale that you won't? Society and culture as they are now did not spring forth fully formed from the brow of Zeus. I would construct an example using your outright braindead mental model but a) it would demean the intelligence of literally everyone and b) in doing so I would actually be lending some degree of credibility to your idiocy, no matter how minor.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-28 01:52am
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In a thread where someone has asked 'how would I turn off my internet connection', you are still chilling on the island of having absolutely no clue. There's nothing philosophically sound about your proposition. It's just 'I like the way things are right now' dressed up in a way to make yourself seem clever, when just saying 'I like the way things are right now' is a perfectly valid thing to say. You aren't more 'right' because you made up a flimsy justification complete with its own inane visual metaphor.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-30 08:26pm
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Destructionator XIII wrote:
Just like moving in a straight line requires a net force...

That's really the extent of it. "why does an object in motion tend to stay in motion". answer: "it just does".


That objects move in straight lines when they have no forces acting upon them is an observable fact. It doesn't need justification. An explanation, yes, but not a justification.

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If you are going to change things, that goes against the default. Axiom: suggestion to go against the default is where the burden of proof lies.

Sometimes an action is already justified, in which case not doing it requires a stronger justification. Suppose you're in a car and something goes wrong as you drive.

Default action: do nothing, let nature take it's course. This is always the starting point.

Instead you want to hit the brakes. Justification required: nature taking it's course may lead to a collision, which is bad.

Now, someone says don't do that. You've already justified doing it, so that's the winning position - he has to justify the change. Braking might cause the car to spin and lose control, so it's safer to gently roll to a stop.

OK, sounds good. Now if you want to hit the brakes again, a justification is once more required. There's a tree directly ahead, for instance.


If something goes wrong with a conveyance I am travelling in, I stop it or attempt to egress as appropriate, or at least as appropriately as I can in the circumstances. The justification for that being the prospect of death or serious injury if I do not.

I don't see what this has to do with what looks like a seriously conservative outlook on society and development.

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It's shifting the burden of proof.

"why not go to Syracuse?" Because I'm in Watertown now. Going to Syracuse takes effort - there needs to be a reason to go there, not to stay here.

The answer to "why not" is almost always that trivial. Doing anything has a cost, and costs need to be justified.

"why not buy some candy?" -- "it costs money."

"why not eat peanut butter?" -- "i'd have to go to the kitchen"

but i'm hungry so I'm going to the kitchen.


Doing nothing (in your case, going hungry) can have costs as well. It's then a question of which costs do we want to put down for, and why?



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-30 09:05pm
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Destructionator XIII wrote:
It's about the process of decision making. In each step, the driver had a reason to make a new decision: either something changed, causing him to react to to the change, or someone pointed out an error in his original plan.

Applying this to transhumanism: we're already humans, so making the decision to change needs to have a positive reason, and (the magnitude depends on the individual) probably a pretty strong one too.


How much of human decision-making actually works this way, with rational conclusions arrived at through logical processes, though?

I don't disagree with your general premise, because I think a lot of people will be naturally skeptical and conservative about this kind of thing -- just look at the trouble that a debate about stem cells or performance-enhancing drugs stirs up, let alone talking about brain implants and deeper kinds of transformation -- but I think you might be underestimating the emotionally-driven thinking that will push people into bizarre decisions that have no rational cause.

People will do all kinds of weird or unpredictable things for little or no reason besides "felt like it", and I can't see that the motivation to self-modify would be exceptional in that regard.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-30 09:27pm
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Destructionator XIII wrote:
It's about the process of decision making. In each step, the driver had a reason to make a new decision: either something changed, causing him to react to to the change, or someone pointed out an error in his original plan.


A single human driver in such a scenario is making decisions on instinct, and/or making snap judgements. Debate doesn't enter into it - there's no time for it. On the other hand, societies change more slowly.

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Applying this to transhumanism: we're already humans, so making the decision to change needs to have a positive reason, and (the magnitude depends on the individual) probably a pretty strong one too.


A shot at immortality feels like a pretty strong enough reason. It's a concept that intrigued humanity throughout the ages, or at least those sections who weren't too busy finding their next meal.

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If you fail to convince me to remain human, it doesn't matter - I'll naturally stay that way whether I like it or not, unless an active decision is made to change things.


Well, if you want to stay human I don't see the problem with that. It's a phenotype with considerable sentimental value. :wink:

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Even a list of positives doesn't necessarily hold any weight. "Floor it!" "Why?" "You'll go faster!" Yeah, I guess, but maybe you don't care about going faster, or maybe there's a red light ahead, so you'll just have to stop soon anyway.... so going faster now doesn't even get you to the destination any faster!

The red light is why I don't expect much societal change from AI and the sort. Maybe you can run faster, but if you hit a red light and have to wait anyway... I can still catch up with you.

The red light in the real world might be building new physical infrastructure, getting the materials or data together (for instance, when doing a science experiment, analyzing the data might take a lot less time than taking the measurements), waiting on a team mate, or talking to people to figure out the requirements.


I think this makes the same kind of mistakes that people make about technology or evolution. Multicellular organisms haven't supplanted single-celled organisms any more than touchscreens have replaced buttons. Similarly, I don't think AIs or transhumans will necessarily replace humanity; their unique natures will allow them to fill different niches in a larger meta-civilisation.

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Of course, the competition aspect Ford Prefect talked about on the last page might convince a lot of individuals to change, which probably changes things about society too... but even that I really doubt will be revolutionary. As a civilization, we'll keep doing basically the same things, just, at most, a wee bit faster on the whole.


"More of the same, but bigger" is not borne out by the history books. We don't build pyramids the size of Everest to bury our god-kings in.

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Sure, but suppose you fail to justify the way things are. That isn't going to make things change on it's own. You have to convince people to take action to enact change.


But of course. That's why I'm not happy with the transhumanist movement as it currently stands - too many sociopathic libertarians and wannabe supermen.



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 Post subject: Re: Transhumanism in Sci-Fi PostPosted: 2011-10-30 10:02pm
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Destructionator XIII wrote:
Obviously, people don't literally talk it out, but the process isn't that different - you see things, quickly process it, and act.


I don't think the decision-making processes are comparable. Societies aren't individuals.

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Many people feel they already are immortal (thanks to the afterlife). Though, life extension is a borderline area - you could argue we're a little bit transhuman today, thanks to modern medicine, and most people have embraced that.

Personally, I don't find it very convincing. Death isn't on my mind most the time.


It isn't constantly on my mind either, but if say, uploading were a possibility I would consider it as an end-of-life option (if biological immortality is unattainable), along with donation of tissues to science and medicine, cremation/recycling of the useless stuff, and/or cryonic neuropreservation if I could get it.

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Yeah, that might happen.


I think it's one of the better outcomes, personally.

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But we do still bury people. Anyway, what I was talking about there is changes when compared against a future without transhumanism. I doubt it will be very different (except perhaps moving a wee bit faster), since society won't be transformed just because some individuals can type faster or whatever.


Sure, if there are recognisably human beings then some kind of death-related ritual would doubtless be around, but otherwise? Modern society would be confusing and unrecognisable to an ancient Egyptian.



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Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society - Karl Marx
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