poly: Re:Are enhancements really at risk?

From: d.brin <brin@cts.com>
Date: Sun Mar 01 1998 - 23:48:55 PST

Greg B. said the following>> Of course scientific humanism has had an
impact on the world out of all
proportion to the numbers of people who have really grasped the scientific
revolution and have internalized its values, but the I FEEL that the
possibility is very real that all we have achieved in the last 500 years
stands threatened to be inundated by the ocean of irrational superstition and
primitive values governing the minds of the billions of humans who make up the
vast majority of the human race.

Alas Greg, this seems a little contemptuous. The glass may not be half
full, but it's more full than we had any right to expect, given human
history. Today literally millions of alphas... and a whole lotta betas, and
even many gammas, think for themselves and seek their own areas of splendid
personal expertise, cherishing not only their own independence but others'
as well..

The so-called 'ban' on cloning... a symbolic and largely impotent policy
move... will be seen as a mere blip, just like the ban on recombinant
research that Jeremy Rifkind engineered more than a decade ago. Scientists
declared the sky had fallen when the ban went into effect. Then august
committees went to work, established prudent protocols, and gradually
concluded that the controls could be relaxed without much danger to the
public. Within five years the remaining protocols were having negligible
deleterious effects on genetic researchers, who simply absorbed the safety
checks into their normal scientific practices. Likewise, both sides
decried their horrible opponents when Cold Fusion was the rage and then was
fiercely attacked -- but science itself came out of that episode smelling
like a rose... and the media didn't do too badly, all-considered.

Greg>>But the very realization of the truly fundamental change that lies
just ahead
that has given birth to a uniquely transhuman or extropian world-view will
eventually dawn in the minds of the majority. When it does, we shouldn't
expect a grudging accommodation. Get too close to the core and you provoke
coercion and violence. People with too deep a stake in the old order react
very badly indeed to unavoidable challenges to that order: They bomb abortion
clinics (in contemporary America) and pass laws against the free formation of
capital (in late feudal Europe); they invoke the mandate of god against
contraception (in Latin America today) and send writers of seditious
literature to the gulag (in Soviet Russia); and they do ban the use of
threatening technologies (the Ming prohibition on construction of deep-water
vessels; the Japanese cultural prohibition on firearms technology following
the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate). Occasionally, they launch wars
of annihilation against their memetic adversaries (jihads and crusades).

The second half of this (above) para is right on. It shows how bloody
awful most human cultures have been vs eccentricity and unconventional
thought. But the first half is less credible. It underrates how this
particular society has re-tuned itself to reward -- and base much of its
economy on -- the rambunctiousness of individual creativity and
entertaining outrageousness. Elsewhere I talk about a coming 'century of
amateurs' that may come about if this goes on. This is not pollyanna
extropianism, but just a mild extrapolation of current social trends.

Where is the sense of proportion? A few bombs go off at a couple of
abortion clinics, and that means a majority of our peers are religious
fanatics? On a massive continent with 300 million people, in which every
bizarre event gets swarmed over by hand-wringing reporters, this impression
ain't surprising. But it is wrong. Despite having trained 100,000 men a
year in high explosives, selling all the materials for nitrate truck bombs
openly, and propagandizing every young mind in America with relentless
indignant suspicion-of-authority messages for generations, Tim McVeigh has
only happened once so far.

I agree with much you said, Greg, and the panic you describe may happen,
especially if history is a guids. Yet, may I suggest you consider the
possibility that people are smarter and better than you think?
Received on Mon Mar 2 07:42:14 1998

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