Tuesday, September 20, 2022

#264 / Eisenstein On Transhumanism

Charles Eisenstein calls himself a "writer and a speaker." You can click that link for a self-description that he has made available on his personal website. Wikipedia describes Eisenstein this way: 

Charles Eisenstein (born 1967) is an American public speaker and author. His work covers a wide range of topics, including the history of human civilization, economics, spirituality, and the ecology movement. Key themes explored include anti-consumerism, interdependence, and how myth and narrative influence culture. According to Eisenstein, global culture is immersed in a destructive "story of separation", and one of the main goals of his work is to present an alternative "story of interbeing". Much of his work draws on ideas from Eastern philosophy and the spiritual teachings of various indigenous peoples. Eisenstein has been involved in the Occupy, New Economy, and permaculture movements.
I subscribe to Eisenstein's blog, which you can do, too, if you are interested. Just click that link to connect. Here is what he looks like:

In a blog posting dated June 16, 2022, Eisenstein addresses "Transhumanism and the Metaverse." For those not completely clear on the term, Wikipedia defines "Transhumanism" this way: 

Transhumanism is a philosophical and intellectual movement which advocates for the enhancement of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies that can greatly enhance longevity and cognition. It also predicts the inevitability of such technologies in the future.

Eisenstein's blog posting on transhumanism is very long (he says it's more than 8,000 words), but if you aren't thinking much about transhumanisim (which is what I suspect is the truth), reading what Eisenstein has to say should get you oriented. I think he makes some very worthwhile observations: 

  • Since transhumanism represents progress, it is no wonder that progressives tend to support it. A key tenet of progressivism is to bring the benefits of progress to all, to distribute them more fairly and universally. Progressivism does not question its own foundations. Development is its religion. That is why the Gates Foundation devotes so much of its resources to bringing industrial agriculture, vaccines, and computers to the Third World. That’s progress. It is also progress to move life online (work, meetings, entertainment, education, dating, etc.) Perhaps that’s why Covid lockdown policies met so little resistance from progressives. By the same token, ready acceptance of vaccines makes sense if they too represent progress: the integration of technology into the body, the engineering of the immune system to improve upon nature. What leftists seem not to notice is that these versions of progress also enable the encroachment of capitalism into more and more intimate territories. Do you think the immersive AR/VR experience of the Metaverse will be free of advertising, perhaps so subtly targeted as to be invisible? The closer our integration with technology in all aspects of life, the more life can become a consumer product.
  • Years ago I took my son Philip with his friend to see a movie. We put on 3D glasses and were treated to all kinds of objects seemingly bursting out of the screen. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if the real world were 3D, just like the movies?” I jokingly asked.The boys thought I was serious. “Yeah!” they said. I was unable to explain my irony. On-screen reality was so vivid, stimulating, and intense that it made the real world seem boring by comparison. The idea, of course, is that the artificial reality we create will be better than the original: more interesting, less limited, yet also safer. But can the simulation of reality ever match the original? That ambition rests on the further assumption that we can convert all experience into data. It draws on the computational model of the brain. It assumes everything is quantifiable—that quality is an illusion, that anything real can be measured.
  • The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair slogan may as well be the motto of the modern age: “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.” The doctrine of inevitability has long been a main thread in the narrative of technological progress. Science and technology will keep progressing, and it is up to us to adapt to it. But are we really so helpless? Are we but tools of technology? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? History offers signal examples, scant though they may be, of conscious rejection of technological progress: the early 19th-century Luddites and the contemporary Amish come to mind. Hold on a second, I have to change my typewriter ribbon. OK. To say brain-computer interfaces, wearable computing, genetically-engineered humans, the Metaverse, or the internet-of-things are inevitable basically declares that you have no choice in the matter, that the public has no choice. Well, who says? Those who are withholding the possibility of choice, that’s who. The logic is circular, when an unelected elite organization like the WEF declares that certain futures are inevitable. Maybe they wouldn’t be, in a fully informed, sovereign democratic society. Let’s be suspicious of centralized institutions proclaiming the inevitability of technologies that enhance the power of centralized institutions.
Without any reference to my own "Two Worlds Hypothesis," Eisenstein is pointing out that human beings have a tendency to think that the world that they create is better than the World of Nature into which they were born - a world they most definitely did not create

My thought? That's a big mistake.

Eisenstein would seem to agree!
Image Credits:
(1) - https://charleseisenstein.substack.com/p/transhumanism-and-the-metaverse?s=r
(2) - https://cocaprevolution.net/speakers/charles-eisenstein/
(3) - https://charleseisenstein.org/

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