This is part 2 of a multi-part series on the Humanity+ 2012 conference.
Previous post here.
After David Orban, David Brin gave a presentation via Skype, which is a terrible way to present at a conference. It took several minutes of futzing around to get the connection working properly and Brin still complained that he couldn’t see the audience. Brin is primarily concerned that transhumanists will be burned at the stake. He referenced Giordano Bruno, who was supposedly burned at the stake for having relatively more accurate cosmological views than those approved by the church. I am highly skeptical of Brin’s vision. First of all, the vast majority of people may never understand what a transhumanist even is. Secondly, those few people that do oppose tranhumanism will be hopelessly disadvantaged by their lack of augmentation. Thirdly, I mean, what the hell? Burning at the stake? What century are we living in?
He went on to admonish us to build bridges with our Christian neighbors to forestall the inevitable mob-of-peasants-with-torches-and-pitchforks scenes that lay ahead. He illustrated some parallels between transhumanism and Christianity that I won’t bother repeating here. My main argument with him is that I don’t happen to know any damn Christians. This is the Bay Area. None of my neighbors are Christians. They are all liberals and lesbians and swing dancers and whatnot. For that matter, I doubt that many transhumanists elsewhere know any Christians either. It’s a self-segregation thing. Why would a futurist hang out anywhere near any Christian? (In terms of social distance.)
Brin went on to invoke Toynbee’s “creative minority.” Ignoramus that I am, I had to look this up briefly, but it seems that Toynbee asserts that societal decay stems from the breakdown of the “creative minority.” The creative minority fails when they stop finding solutions to problems and fall back to a worship of their former selves. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Peter Thiel was a fan of Toynbee. I see parallels in his stagnation of innovation hypothesis.
However, I wonder how coherent the idea of a cultural creative minority is becoming in this inter-connected 21st century. Many members of the creative minority in Silicon Valley are actually from overseas. Which culture can lay claims to the innovation of Google or SpaceX? But then all roads led to Rome at one time, so maybe these distinctions never existed in the first place. Which is to say, maybe it was inaccurate to refer to the creative minority of Rome as “Roman” given that it’s members probably hailed from all over the ancient world as well. It may be that as a culture decays it seems less cool and ceases to be a nexus or attractor of talent. I am not sure, I will ask around.
So yeah, Brin wants us to go back to being a more pragmatic and problem solving society. No problem, I will get right on that. Let’s see, we need to rescue eugenics from the Nazi’s. Ok, I guess Rachel Haywire was tapping into a zeitgeist when she mentioned that. What else, oh yes, we need to get off our foreign oil dependency and stop sending cash to these pernicious wahhabis. I guess we are already on track for that, thanks to fracking. Over all, I found a lot to disagree with in Brin’s talk, but I guess I will check out his book Existence and see if it’s any good.
More to come.