poly: Governments and The Transhuman Transition

From: Perry E. Metzger <perry@piermont.com>
Date: Mon Feb 09 1998 - 08:50:37 PST

d.brin writes:
> If group selection were more powerful, democracy might have come to
> dominate by now.

Careful, Mr. Brin. Not all of us here are big believers in
democracy. I'll agree that as governments go, democracies aren't as
bad as most alternatives, but not all of us believe in governments.

I will agree that most of the people here do believe in at least some
liberties, like freedom of speech.

> Tim May, you listening out there? Ingratitude is like cancer. Like AIDS.
> It could kill this wondrous experiment in liberty. If so, it may be
> another 2,000 years before the Periclean experiment is tried again.

I doubt that is going to happen, if only because it isn't likely that
any culture is going to survive more than the next few decades. The
technological changes we've wrought thus far are puny compared to the
ones coming. I mean, the computer on my desk has a mere 550,000,000
transistors in it (give or take a hundred million.) In a decade,
though, that's going to seem almost freakishly underpowered. What will
society be like when the things that are obvious now take hold, let
alone the techologies we haven't even dreamed of?

I hate to invoke the "singularity" -- Tim May and others are correct
that it is silly to plan for the next decade or two based on the
notion that it is just around the corner. Basing your one, two and
five year plans on developments thirty or fifty or one hundred years
off is utterly silly. However, it is equally silly to continue
speaking of mankind as though it is likely to remain recognisable for

This does, of course, bring up the intriguing question of what the
future of our social structures might be like. The honest speculator
would probably say "unknowable!" but that rarely stops a good
discussion, and why should it now?

As humans take flight and cease to even be recognizably human, what
will happen to the structure of our social organization? I'm
reasonably (although not completely) sure that at least some sort of
social organization will persist. However, I have a great deal of
difficulty envisioning posthumans lobbying each other for votes and
gathering in marble halls to conduct representative assemblies.

Some of us, certainly, are going to use our new found power to gain
ourselves freedom from all such constraints, and it may not be
possible, without a shattering war, to stop us. Others may not care
and may simply accept whatever strictures are placed upon them, and,
much as they always have, will simply go along with what they are
told. Still others may not make the posthuman transition at all --
merely because some of us transform doesn't mean that many humans
won't simply remain human and go on living much as they always have,
at least for a little while, and may maintain traditional social
structures as a result.

In any case, though, I'm very skeptical of the notion that the
"Periclean Experiment" has much longer to run, no matter what Tim May
and others like him think or say.

BTW, Mr. Brin, I find the name "Periclean Experiment" to be ill
chosen, given that Pericles wasn't the founder of Athenian democracy
and was in fact a demagogue, and hardly the sort one would want to
hold up as a shining example of the democratically elected leader...

Received on Mon Feb 9 16:59:33 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:29 PST