Discussion in 'Space Battles' started by Atlantean Relic, Aug 17, 2012.
Ah, my mistake; I thought that Enterprise had a similar episode, so I must have confused the two.
I think this goes back to Unhappy Anchovy's point that ideologically, Star Trek isn't about transcending being human; it's about being the best humans we can be. If you accept- as Picard and others have described- that this is basically the fundamental, pervasive social theme of human thought in Star Trek, the entire idea of transhumanism would be utterly repugnant. Transhumanism is a repudiation of their core ideals.
I'm not sure that it's oppressive at all, any more than, say, it would be oppressive to apply human rules of murder to a hive mind entity (I'm bringing to mind Enders' Game here.)
Not sure this really implies transhumanism. There's a good argument to be made that people are getting smarter as our lifestyles are healthier and our education system becomes more effective. Note also that calculus being taught so late is basically an artifact of how we've designed our educational system; it's not required. I started teaching my sister pre-calculus when she was 11-12 or so, and she didn't have any problem with it. A lot of the first couple of grades of our educational system are wasted time when, if we wanted, we could be teaching algebra.
PICARD: "No. I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony I say with conviction. "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty. In form, in moving, how express and admirable. In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a god...""
Q: "Surely you don't see your species like that do you?!"
PICARD: "I see us one day becoming that, Q. Is that what concerns you?"
The beating heart of Star Trek is an optimistic Enlightenment humanism. Humans are wonderful. Humans are creative. Humans are rational. Humans are moral. Given the ultimate canvas - space - ordinary people can and will rise to the potential within them and show their very best qualities. The show is not a critique of humanity, but a celebration of humanity.
And any genuine transhumanism can only be founded, I would strongly argue, on a radical critique of humanity. Any such critique would undermine the show. This is that whole 'Roddenberry's vision' thing fanatical Trekkies like to get hung up about.
One thing to note here is that Star Trek doesn't really need to be a science fiction show. At all. The spaceships and stars and alien races and so on are window dressing. The essential spirit of the show does not depend on these things, as we realised years back when we contemplated Star Trek as a fantasy world.
Yes, I agree with this entirely.
Now you can debate the reasons why.
From an outside perspective, Shrike is probably accurate in saying that Star Trek isn't a response to transhumanism because ultimately it happened before transhumanism was a thing; eugenics was the province of Nazis and fascists, and things like brain uploads or whatnot were generally described as a 'better than nothing' thing for people who couldn't live normal human lives. (One of my favorite representations of this is in The Ship Who Sang, published in 1969.)
From an in-universe perspective, it's probably a combination of factors. Equality, the eugenics wars, generally bad experiences with attempts at transhumanism, a pervasive social opposition to the desecration of what it means to be human. Look at how LaForge responded in Insurrection when faced with the prospect of being given back his original eyes, despite having cybernetic eyes that appeared in every way totally superior.
The problem wasn't changing everyone. The problem was the assumption that changing just the genes of a person would make them better people. The body improves, but not the Human.
I really don't think you get what the core of Transhumanism is. It's not about radical critique of humanity as such, but rather Humanism without the exceptions and limitations. It strongly critiques Humanism for its baseline assumptions that violate its creeds, but only in the sense that it's a generalization of the principles at the core of Humanism.
To liberally steal from Yudkowsky, is it moral to pull an unconscious six-year-old off the train tracks? What about a 90-year-old? If a forty year old man is dying from a curable illness, is it moral to save him? What about that 90 year old man? What about a man who has lived to the ripe old age of 600? Transhumanism answers yes to all of them, yet Humanists (and quite a few other groups besides) try to find exceptions. Why is it any less moral to save the 600 year-old as it is the 6 year-old?
The typical counterargument (the one generally espoused by Star Trek, no less) is that humans shouldn't "tamper with the natural order of things." The problem is that it's in our fundamental nature to do exactly that. After all, what do you think agriculture, buildings, and medicine are? Why should we suddenly stop tampering with nature when you're talking about bringing back the dead or extending life indefinitely?
In short, Transhumanism is Humanism simplified.
This may sound silly, but isn't the endgoal of humans in trek to become energy beings?
Isn't THAT transhumanism?
That's so much garbage: "humanism without exceptions and limitations" is not humanism at all. For a practical example of this, suggest that we somehow manage to replace the DNA of a human being with that of a cockroach, so that the person is now a cockroach. This person is not 'human without exceptions and limitations', they're a cockroach.
Star Trek has no problem with all of those things. They have remarkably advanced medical technology, which belies this rubbish assertion. It's the classical transhumanist strawman: that everyone who opposes transhumanism opposes things like 'modern medicine'.
Ultimately, your argument slides straight by Unhappy Anchovy's without so much as a how do you do and descends immediately into a weird kind of strawman. Of course transhumanism is a radical critique of what it means to be human; if it wasn't, it wouldn't seek to change what we are. Now, you could make a strong and cogent argument that what we are should be changed, but you can't on the one hand argue that transhumanism values everything human and at the same time seeks to change it to something else.
Similarly, the classical transhumanist argument that transhumanism is nothing but an acceleration or adaption of things we already do- tampering with our universe- belies the fact there is a substantial qualitative difference between making better tools that we can use and turning ourselves into tools. Now, you might argue that that distinction is without merit, in the sense that it doesn't matter; but the distinction absolutely exists. There is a stark difference between making better eyeglasses and removing one's eyes and replacing them with robotic ones.
I think the greater issue is that there is no natural order as Star Trek seems to understand it. If you want to be religious, go ahead, but considering that Star Fleet in general seems not to be I think it's safe to assume that they are all acting under a very flawed idea of what nature and science are. How many times have we heard 'this is the pinnacle of human evolution' or heard that someone cannot violate the Prime Directive because it might go against natural events*. If you have a non-religious objection to something like genetic alteration or artificial intelligence or widespread prosthetics, then really the only two things to base that on are medical** and fear of social change. The first is clear enough and the second isn't inherently wrong. It's when you turn the second into an absolute or continue to invoke the first long after it is no longer an issue that you are practically being scientifically repressive.
As far as I can tell, just as there is no objective argument against transhumanism without resorting to religion, there is also no objective argument for it without resorting to religion. All the arguments about improving life and the like are subjective. I agree with them, but in a subjective way the same way I agree with people who want to legalize homosexual marriage.
*Ironically enough Riker actually seems to view the Prime Directive in near-religious terms.
**And then only if there is a clear possibility of the person/fetus being altered could suffer serious harm as a result.
This is utter trash. You should probably not accuse other people of strawmanning when you do it quite so blatantly. PROTIP: strawman arguments need to resemble the original argument on the face of it.
And yet they oppose medical treatments for entirely non-medical or ethical reasons. Did you forget about Bashir being born a retard and his parents being forced to turn to illegal procedures to treat their son? Where's that strawman again?
Let me simplify my argument: transhumanists want to enhance the human condition. They want to create humans+, not replace us or alter the very fundamental tenets of humanism. The very basis of transhumanism in the long view is that we'll still be us a half million years from now when humans today would mistake their counterparts for physical gods, just as we're still the Cro Magnons who decided that dating Neanderthals wouldn't send them to caveman hell.
I seem to recall an episode where he was considering a similar treatment. He did say "On the other hand I'd be giving up a lot." I never understood why they couldn't just give him a visor or later cyber eyes that let him see the visual spectrum the way normal people do, even as an option. But it shouldn't be hard to imagine why he might want normal eyes, to be able to see the world the way everyone around him does, and thus relate to them better. Plus, he'd be better able to tell when a woman is hot or not.
Nope. They just believe that the singularity must be energy based.
See: Q, Prophets, etc.. You become advanced enough, you become an energy being.
They're only anti physical transhumanism.
This. So very much this.
What's the difference between using your computer with its manual controls and large screen to browse the internet (or control a starship) and using a well designed neural interface ("well designed" meaning it's impossible to do Hollywood mind control with it) where the controls can be operated at a thought and the display is entirely in your head to do the same thing? Functionally, not much except the neural interface is much faster for a practiced user because you don't have to move your arms and fingers to push buttons. VISUALLY though, such an interface would be completely invisible to the TV viewing audience, especially if the interface is a wireless implant and as such the average viewer wouldn't be able to tell if the characters were actually DOING anything?
Why are the Borg such a threat? Is it because they use cybernetics and implants? Or is it because they induct new members against their will? Certainly they use the former to do the latter. Then again, they're hardly the first or last race to go on a conquest spree or to abuse mind control technologies, and most such races don't use cybernetics like the Borg do.
And of course, the Federation isn't even wholly against implants. Geordie Laforge is the best example out there; he was born blind and given replacement eyes that were far better than any natural eyes could be. But he's hardly alone. A couple TNG episodes featured the use of subcutaneous communicators, which apparently had performance equal to their badge communicators and could be implanted and removed with little more trouble than a hypo-injection. So why use a badge communicator that could be stolen or lost? And of course Picard himself has a pacemaker every bit as good as a natural one.
Really, what's the moral difference between an external screen display and a contact lens display that makes images every bit as sharp and readable? Or between a control panel with tiny buttons used to control a starship, and a headband/hat/earring/whatever that reads brainwaves to control the same starship? Nothing really, but only as long as the people using them aren't forced to use them. Job requires that you use an implant and you have moral objections to being implanted? Fine, then someone else will be given the job who doesn't have that objection. No one's forcing you to do take the job. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to give an accounting job to someone who works with computers instead of someone who's computer illiterate? Is it wrong to not give a combat command to an avowed pacifist? Of course not!
And now I think I'm wandering off topic, so I'll stop here.
ST is obviously anti-transhumanist; it's also anti-tech to some degree. They (at least in TNG, where it's far more apparent) have various techs-of-the-week that would solve all manner of problems but don't get used more than once. They have a cure for aging, and don't use it (remember the episode in which a number of the crew were turned into children and then made back into adults?). They have computers easily capable of supporting an AI but AIs re an anomaly. (Moriarty didn't use anything like all the ship computer's power, after all, and of course we have Data as an example as well). They have nanotech and don't use it. And...
Of course, the real explanation is that Trek (all variants) is a TV show and TV shows, particularly in America (the refusal to use anti-aging tech is almost certainly a sop to the religious Right) have to cater to an audience. A TV show realistically depicting the human world of 2350 would probably be impossible for a start - and would have a potential audience of a few thousand diehard technology groupies for another.
I've tried reading Greg Egan's Diaspora and fallen at the first or second fence. (It's a really hard SF, post-singularity novel, for those who don't know.) I'm going to try again, but the point is that I AM a diehard tech groupie and a transhumanist fan, and I find it hard work - would the beer-and-pretzels crowd even try?
How do you define "Singularity"?
Actually, I think the lack of anti-aging tech is a sop to the fact that the ACTORS age, and will visibly do so when they are playing the same roles for 10 years or more. Heck, half the reason I think they killed Data off was because Brent Spiner was visibly aging when the character he played wasn't supposed to.
And on the flip side, if Trek did have anti-aging tech, then the entire cast for a given show would be made up of 20 somethings which aging actors aside, would have the unintended effect of people not taking the series seriously. Not to mention being unable to use any number of older actors except as primitives of one stripe or another.
Is Trek anti-transhumanism? It sure comes off that way, but I think that's more because of out of universe production issues that had to be given in-universe rationalizations coupled with being such a long running franchise. And because its setting as originally conceived has become a bit dated as the real world moved on; what was advanced, gee-whiz sci fi back then is everyday tech now or even worse obsolete tech now. Trek has basically become the victim of its own success.
I would also point out 7 of 9 for the MOST transhumaninistic person in the show. Once removed from the collective, her Cybernetics gave her quite substantial beneifts over a 'normal' human in terms of vastly more expansive and near database level memories, superior strength and hand/eye coordination / visual acuity, limited sensor capibilities and of course at times, Borg shielding and other technology.
The crew didn't really have a problem with these abilities, so much as the fact the Borg gave it to her.
I don't think that Star Trek is at all anti-trans human as that it had been around a long time before the whole Transhuman fad became a big thing as so they were quite locked into it.
In universe, you have the Binars as an example of a race who have embraced technology to an extreme level and while clearly 'alien' in a sense, they are neither looked down upon nor treated any different because of who they are, outside of the fact that everyone was rather miffed they stole the Enterprise.
But as for HUMANS who are to a large extent the core of the Federation, clearly its just not 'a thing'. I don't think there is a prejudice against Cybernetics so much as they are just not a 'thing' for humans by and by. Partially because of splashback against Khan and the later Augments being such spectacular trouble early on. Then Khan comes back, and near causes utter chaos when he got his hands on Genesis when things might start to be thought of. And then when again things start to be considered, BANG, there are the Borg, the Singularity high octane nightmare fuel worst case sceanrio on one hand, and the Founders Great Link on the other.
None of it is really showing one way or the other humanities attitude, but its perhaps explaining why the whole idea gains little traction.
It was implied that it made people suffer social/cognitive disabilities because they were the future version of back ally abortions. And that if it were legal and properly done they would not suffer these disabilities.
Just so. Bashier comments that he was lucky that his parents found a good team to work on him. These other guys got very shonky 'upgrades', because they had to go either outside the Federation, or to illegal 'back ally' locations to have the work done that were absoloutly off the books.
Star Trek isn't against transhumanism or artificial life. If it was then Bashir, Data, the Doctor, Seven, and Geordi would all be inherently evil. Instead they're mere examples of what people could potentially look like when enhanced.
The genetic augments in Star Trek are evil because they're an example of 'going too far too fast'. Bashir is of course a counter-point to that. An example of a stable augment. In one of the Enterprise episode they talk about this somewhat, and it's revealed that Denobulans (an inherently good species) has been genetically manipulating their population for 200 years with good results. Same episode trilogy it's also established that the augments have defects in them, and that their violent natures are due to this, but that it can be fixed. Earth doesn't want to try though, because last time it resulted in millions dead. They're pulling the better safe then sorry card, which is quite understandable given their history.
And yeah, there's also the issue of themes. As Squishy and Shrike said, Star Trek is a show that ultimately shows us how we, regular people, could look like if we really tried. How there is inherently good qualities to us. What we potentially could become in the future. Other sci-fi shows might delve deeper into the topic of transhumanism and anti-singularity, but in Star Trek they are more accidentally touched upon in individual episodes and via mini-arcs of certain characters, then any reoccurring background theme.
It is transhumanism taken to its logical extreme. Could human consciousness, once we are able to separate it from the human body, transferred into a wholly artificial new body, one that will never get sick, never tire, perhaps never even die, and be capable of far more than a biological human body, still be considered "human"? What does it have in common with me, other than that our consciousness shared similar origins?
It's pretty arguable that to define "humanity" would be to include its limitations.
The real question is, what's so great about the Singularity, anyway?
Transhumanism seems to be the idea that you can artificially 'perfect' humans. But the problem with this, is that the closer to perfect you get, the less diversity you get. And the further along you go, the less individuality you get, until pretty much everyone is exactly the same.
Think of it. If you make the 'perfect' body, then of course everyone will want, or be required to have that same, perfect body. If everyone downloads their minds into computers, people are going to have even less distinction, and if you get the hive mind going, then they'll have even less individuality.
Does becoming a giant pool of goo, like the changlings, really seem more appealing than just being yourself?
I think I'd prefer the Star Trek future, really
Transhumanism is about making human better artificially; perfection is impossible. Furthermore many, many transhumanists support the idea of morphological freedom under which people can go any direction they want with their bodies; following their own definitions of better.
I think transhumanism is more likely to make humanity splinter. Some people who value intelligence may upload themselves into computers. Some people who like the sea may give themselves gills. Some people who think it would be awesome might make themselves into space whales that live on the sun.
That's likely because you've never really come up against the limitations of the human condition.
And you have? Has anyone that's actually touting Transhumanism on this forum like it's the end all and be all, actually come up agains the absolute limitations of humanity?
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