META: List allowables & cults (was DirkJOIN)

From: Jeff Medina (
Date: Tue Mar 07 2006 - 11:40:14 MST

On 3/7/06, Philip Goetz <> wrote:
> My impression is that "meta" subjects are sniped. If "how to do X" is
> an allowed discussion subject, "why should we do X?" is not.
> Likewise, if X, Y, and Z are allowed topics of discussion, and are all
> instances of category C, category C in the abstract may not be an
> allowed topic.

I find it depends more on how rigorously or technically or formally
the topic can be, or is, pursued. Much philosophy gets sniped for this
reason; everyone thinks they're qualified to comment on
'philosophical' topics, leading to a number of low-quality posts and a
thread-sniping. Unfortunately, the "why should we" and other
foundational questions are often at a less rigorous stage, so
foundations or meta-level material goes the way of politics and

> Transhumanism shares some qualities of a cult.

Some transhumanists, I'd say. But then, the qualities of a cult that
you list occur also in football social groups ("Did that $@#! just
question Manchester?!?"), work environments ("But this is approach
will make the project fail!" => fired for making the Grand High
Project Lead / CEO / whoever look like an idiot), and most other
gatherings of humans exhibiting a shared end-goal I can think of.

> Some, like the belief that IQ is the highest value in
> life, are common among technophiles.

General intelligence is a derivative value, gaining its import from
the straightforward fact that greater general intelligence is a
subgoal that increases the likelihood of success for nearly every
other possible goal.

It seems to me that most transhumanists recognize this, so your
characterization is off here. I don't think this bit being false
affects your general comment about cultishness overmuch, but it is an
important strawman to recognize. Transhumanists are explicitly for
technology in service to humanity, not the other way around, and as
such are readily separable from the crude technophilia you mentioned.

Jeff Medina
Community Director
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Relationships & Community Fellow
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies
School of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

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