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Transhumanism and Libertarianism Are Entirely Compatible

People seeking to flourish should have the freedom to enhance their bodies and minds

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Luis Manuel Tapia Bolivar/Dreamstime

A fight over whether or not transhumanism can be libertarian broke out over at The American Conservative. The contretemps began with an article by Zoltan Istvan, author of The Transhumanist Wager. Istvan is also seeking to become the Libertarian Party candidate for governor of California.

In "The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism," Istvan optimistically asserts that "freedom from the government will allow radical science to go on undisturbed."

Zoltan defines transhumanism as "the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and human experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic world." Due to rapid technological progress "the world is shifting under our feet—and libertarian transhumanism is a sure way to navigate the chaos to make sure we arrive at the best future possible."

Kai Weiss, a researcher at the Austrian Economics Center and Hayek Institute in Vienna, Austria, swiftly denounced the piece. "Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution," he wrote.

Clearly there is some disagreement.

Weiss is correct that Istvan doesn't expend much intellectual effort linking transhumanism with libertarian thinking. Istvan largely assumes that people seeking to flourish should have the freedom to enhance their bodies and minds and those of their children without much government interference. So what abominable transhumanist technologies does Weiss denounce?

Weiss includes defeating death, robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, telepathy via mind-reading headsets, brain implants, ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, and gene editing tech. "At no point [does Istvan] wonder if we should even strive for these technologies," Weiss thunders.

While Istvan may not wonder, Weiss fails to make a single argument against these technological developments: It is apparently self-evident to him that they are evil.

As with all new technologies, unintended consequences are inevitable and people can and will surely misuse them. Libertarians know all too well that vigilance against government abuse of modern technologies is vital. These worries do not, however, constitute preemptive arguments for preventing people from voluntarily seeking to use the fruits of innovation to work out how to live the best lives that they can.

Oddly, as a riposte against libertarian transhumanism, Weiss cites Christian conservative Rod Dreher's assertion that "choice matters more than what is chosen. The Technological Man is not concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires." This is a non-sequitur. Of course, libertarians (and one hopes most other folks) are concerned about what it is that we should desire. The central question is who, if anyone, has the right to stop us from pursuing our private and non-aggressive desires once we've applied our intellects and moral imaginations to figuring out what it is that we want?

Progressives and conservatives believe government has extensive authority to tell citizens how to live their lives. Libertarians do not. On that count, Weiss is entirely correct to call out Istvan for succumbing to authoritarianism when he advocates for licensing reproduction as a way to prevent overpopulation.

As someone who evidently thinks he is committed to enlarging human liberty, Weiss would do well to ponder this observation from economics Nobelist Friedrich Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty:

Nowhere is freedom more important than where our ignorance is greatest—at the boundaries of knowledge, in other words, where nobody can predict what lies a step ahead….the ultimate aim of freedom is the enlargement of those capacities in which man surpasses his ancestors and to which each generation must endeavor to add its share—its share in the growth of knowledge and the gradual advance of moral and aesthetic beliefs, where no superior must be allowed to enforce one set of views of what is right or good and where only further experience can decide what should prevail. It is wherever man reaches beyond his present self, where the new emerges and assessment lies in the future, that liberty ultimately shows its value.

Hayek's point is that human beings are terrible at foresight. Engaging in a robust process of trial, error, and correction is how nearly all moral and technological progress has ever been made.

As I have earlier argued:

The highest expression of human nature and dignity is to strive to overcome the limitations imposed on us by our genes, our evolution and our environment. Future generations will look back at the beginning of the 21st century and be astonished that some well-meaning and intelligent people actually wanted to stop bio-nano-infotech research and deployment just to protect their cramped and limited vision of human nature. If transhumanism is allowed to progress, I predict that our descendants will look back and thank us for making their world of longer, healthier and abler lives possible.

While Weiss asserts "it is time for libertarians to argue against the notion of extreme transhumanism," he ultimately concedes "the state shouldn't prohibit it." So long as he leaves government power out it, Weiss is, of course, free to argue as much as he likes that transhumanism is an abomination contrary to libertarian thinking. But I suspect that few people, especially folks committed to liberty and the development of technologies that enable them and their progeny to have better chances to lead flourishing lives, will heed his Luddite counsel.

For those interested in libertarian arguments in favor of transhumanism, you may be interested in my essay, "The Case for Enhancing People" and my book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution.

Disclosure: I was on a panel with Istvan at FreedomFest in Las Vegas a month ago discussing the much dreaded prospect of designer babies. I am generally in favor of allowing parents to use modern biotechnologies with the goal of improving the prospects that their children will enjoy flourishing lives.

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  1. A fight over whether or not transhumanism can be libertarian broke out over at The American Conservative.

    My reaction.

    1. Followed by 25 Great Booger Quotes. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

      Transhumanism, uber alles.

    2. How the times have changed. Nerds are cool now.

      1. Misconception. True nerds are still revolting and trust me, no hot babes are sitting with them at their HS lunch tables.

        1. Perhaps the definition of the word has changed. There is such a thing as a cool nerd now. But I agree that not all nerds are cool.

          1. Certain byproducts of Nerd culture have been appropriated by the rest of society; but the soul of the nerd remains unchanged and virginal.

  2. defeating death: the greatest human goal of all, with obvious benefits

    robotic hearts: improve human health, go for it

    virtual reality sex: to each his own

    telepathy via mind-reading headsets: neato, if voluntary

    brain implants: as long as you only try it on your own brain

    ectogenesis: seems like a health advance, Keeping up with the Kryptonians

    artificial intelligence: mostly good, but can be dangerous

    exoskeleton suits: duh, make people stronger and more durable. We wear shoes and gloves don’t we?

    designer babies: uh-oh, here you’re experimenting on an independent human life, with potential to really mess it up if you make a mistake

    gene editing tech: sure, make people healthier

    1. defeating death: Wouldn’t be fair to all the people that died in the past.
      robotic hearts: Think of the moral hazard when people can eat whatever they want and not exercise!
      virtual reality sex: Infinitely increasing the number of exploited women!
      telepathy via mind-reading headsets: Big Brother approves
      brain implants: But what about all the older people who studied hard for their smarts?
      ectogenesis: Population bomb incoming!
      artificial intelligence: Inevitable Skynet. duh
      exoskeleton suits: And people say modern war is hell…
      designer babies: Consent!
      gene editing tech: See, robotic heart.

      Clearly most of these technologies are not fair and subjectively increase moral hazard in our society. Ban them all. Except exoskeletons. Those sound cool.

    2. Excellent and awesome point by point commentary – thank you!

  3. The thing is, to me, this statement here:


    “the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and human experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic world.”

    What about that says ‘Libertarian’ when they are specifically talking about a utopian dream of what mankind could become? Like the critics, I don’t necessarily think those things should be illegal but if your goal is utopia through any means you’re talking about using force to usher it in virtually by definition.

    And, for what it’s worth, fundamentally changing humanity through technology to usher in some utopia is indistinguishable from the Progressive ideology. If we’re saying we’re leaving it up to each individual whether or not to use these fundamentally human-changing technologies how do we end up with a utopia, exactly?

    Let us not pretend that the technologies described aren’t an authoritarians wish-list for how to mold mankind into the perfect collectivist swarm. While they aren’t inherently anti-libertarian, they are expressly anti-human.

    1. How can improving the human condition be anti-human?

      I imagine libertarians see a future technological utopia for those who can afford it, and a means for the intellectual elite to further increase their separation from the masses, with people free to be left behind if they don’t want to keep up. Progressives just want everyone equal and forced to think alike, as long as they are in charge of everyone else.


      1. How can improving the human condition be anti-human?

        It’s in the method, which is specifically said to be an effort to change the fundamental nature of mankind ergo it is anti-human and potentially pro-new soviet man. You can re-label the concept of the New Soviet Man but that doesn’t change the idea. The fact they specifically include a section regarding a utopian dream is the tell.

        Again, though, I’m not necessarily against the technologies themselves but their statements regarding their reasons are suspect as utopian dreams are most closely associated with force and authoritarianism throughout history.

        I would love to hear more on their opinions about the specific natures of man they want to ‘improve’ upon as that would probably be more illustrative than a single sentence that sounds like a fluff mission statement, but on it’s own I simply don’t trust anyone who claims that they can ‘improve’ on human nature.

        1. Eugenics was another method of improving human outcomes. It was used extensively and not just by NAZI Germany The U.S. also practiced Eugenics on orphans and criminals

          1. One could simply point to the fact that our current human nature is informing the proposed changes to improve upon mankind which is a flawed concept at it’s very bedrock. Since we are imperfect beings, the likelihood that we can design a perfect alternative is foolhardy at best. And, yes, ‘Utopian’ implies perfect.

            1. B: Utopia: a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions.

              So wouldn’t a “utopian” libertarian society be one in which the laws, government and social conditions enable folks to freely use technology non-aggressively to improve their lives?

              1. Arguments founded upon an ideal set of circumstances that can not and never has existed is to frame the argument in unrealistic parameters. What would Stalin or dare I say Hitler do with such technology? Or are we using these technologies to prevent those personalities all-together, and can one do that without force?

                Sometimes the potential harms of something outweigh it’s benefits, and obviously while I don’t think those types of technologies should necessarily be illegal the question does need to be asked what our current human nature would do with technologies to drastically alter that nature.

                Science fiction is littered with the potential results of transhumanist thought and utopian desires, and frankly I consider the end-results to be dangerous enough to drastically limit the scope of such research precisely because I don’t trust us with that level of control over individuals. Especially since the creators of those technologies are specifically saying they want to improve upon our nature and not our outcomes.

                Certainly they try to concentrate on the outcomes improvement as a sales technique, but underlying those arguments is the desire to change mankind’s nature. It must, as a matter of course, because our nature dictates that these technologies would indeed to be used for ‘evil’ purposes with grand effect.

                Transhumanism assumes those conditions would be the first to be ‘edited’ out of humanity, which must be by force.

                1. If we relied on Science fiction as a guide the world should have been destroyed a long time ago, we tried anyway. Science fiction can be used as a warning but not as limiter to what we endeavor to accomplish even when we fear the results. this has been proven since before columbus sailed to the Americas

                2. B: You write: “Sometimes the potential harms of something outweigh it’s benefits,…” And how do we find out? By banning technologies in advance? Or the process of trial, error and correction that I referenced?

                  May I suggest that you read the chapter in my book The End of Doom on the stupidity of the precautionary principle? Succinct summary of the principle is “never do anything for the first time.”

                  BTW, science fiction is not prediction. It is about cautionary tales – at its best it warns us about how things can go wrong, so that we can avoid those outcomes.

                  “Underlying those arguments is the desire to allow people to change mankind’s their nature” FIFY

                  1. Where did I endorse the idea they should be banned in advance? I simply mean to indicate that these types of technologies are inherently very dangerous and should be approached with the same level of care as nuclear weapons technology. Why? Because they could conceivably destroy all life on Earth just as easily as they could cure cancer. Focusing purely on the optimistic side of things was the same literal god damn thing men like Einstein were duped into believing.

                  2. Face it, Bailey – you’re going to die someday, just like the rest of us.

                    The sooner you accept that the better. Or don’t. I actually don’t care.

                  3. The philosophy behind much of science fiction is Naturalism. It can be boiled down to “Shit happens”. Though not science fiction, every Stephen King book and short story ever can be boiled down to “Shit Happens”. And “there are some things Man was never meant to go beyond”.

                    1. Actually Shit Happens applies to the theme of most of Tolstoy’s novels as well.

                3. > I consider the end-results to be dangerous enough to drastically limit the scope of such research precisely because I don’t trust us with that level of control over individuals.

                  You mean the FICTIONAL end-results.

        2. Immantenize the eschaton one should not.

        3. Meh, all these objections are really rooted in religion.

      2. The difference, as always, between libertarian and communist dreams for utopia is voluntarism. So a libertarian desire to change humanity is fundamentally distinguishable from the Progressive desire.

        The issue isn’t the technologies themselves. The issue is the way you use them. A robotic heart is no more against humanity than a symphony.

        1. Agreed, but in such a world where these choices are available they cease to become a choice at all in my view because the assumed ‘choice’ is rarely given in reality. The world in which we live, should these technologies become reality, would not offer us the choice. It would be dictated, as it always has been before, and the designers will be the choosers.

          That’s just my opinion, obviously, and thankfully most of this stuff is pure science fiction that won’t become a reality (if ever) until long, long after we’re all dead.

          In either case, never trust someone who wishes to improve humanity as opposed to someone who wants to improve human outcomes. There is a difference, and as far as I can tell Transhumanism endorses the former, not the latter.

          1. B: You are correct when you say “never trust someone who wishes to improve humanity …,” but that is not an inherent goal of transhumanism. For what I hope is a robust argument for libertarian transhumanism see my essay, “The Case for Enhancing People” to which I link in the article.

          2. Hopefully the future is not as bleak as the one you seem to envision. I’d say I’m more optimistic because today I see transformative technologies being used with full consent of the recipients.

            A Christian Scientist couple can take their preemie baby out of the neonatal ward and let it die as God intended.

            A military veteran can refuse a variety of technology to replace lost limbs and physical functionality.

            Stephen Hawking is not forced to use his chair and talky-computer.

            We’re already offering choices and – in instances where choice is denied – it is government doing the denying… not the designers.

            1. “A Christian Scientist couple can take their preemie baby out of the neonatal ward and let it die as God intended.”

              not always true


            2. Hopefully the future is not as bleak as the one you seem to envision. I’d say I’m more optimistic because today I see transformative technologies being used with full consent of the recipients.

              I doubt it will be either the bleak future I envision of the utopia envisioned by the technocrats, but rather something in the middle. It is wise to fear the unknown, but foolish to leave the unknown a mystery.

        2. Progressives think that Free Will is a delusion. Experts have to be in charge so that people become better. It’s for their own good.

    2. Transhumanism is fine by choice, do we not fix amputees, however once it becomes a requirement to have any job then we’ve reached scary collectivism. Do robots dream? will people still dreams when they are mentally enhanced to update their implants at night?

    3. Bailey is a progressive. He thinks “You loser peons out there are all going to from manmade global warming, but I and my elite chosen friends will be laughing at you all while we live forever.”

      He actually truly believes this shit. Stark, raving fucking insane is the most accurate way to describe this sort of thinking. He thinks he and his friends are a step removed from being gods.

      1. DD: I see that you have not read my book, Liberation Biology.

        1. Silly Ron, Mikey here can’t read.

          1. Books are for faggots.

            1. The preferred nomenclature is “cuckaschmuck gay boys.”

      2. I don’t at all think Ron is a progressive, he’s a technocrat of some stripe and I get where he’s coming from. I agree with him that all of these things are ‘very cool’ but when applied in certain ways, that I find to be very likely outcomes, it goes from ‘very cool’ to ‘nightmare’ at the drop of a hat.

        To pretend that no one would use these technologies for their own technocratic collectivist ideals is to be absolutely blind and deaf to all of human history. That’s probably the very thing these people want to change, which is so fucking ironic that it boggles the mind.

        1. B: “To pretend that no one would use these technologies for their own technocratic collectivist ideals” – just where do I make any such pretensions? What I did say:

          As with all new technologies, unintended consequences are inevitable and people can and will surely misuse them. Libertarians know all too well that vigilance against government abuse of modern technologies is vital. These worries do not, however, constitute preemptive arguments for preventing people from voluntarily seeking to use the fruits of innovation to work out how to live the best lives that they can.

          1. You don’t make that argument, but considering that foreseeable consequences are not unintended consequences the assumption must be made that authoritarians and statists will gain access to those technologies to reshape mankind itself. Consider the incredibly inhumane and monstrous things we have done as a species without these technologies.

            I’m utterly convinced that disease will ultimately be our undoing, and genetically engineered diseases are the next step towards that goal. Perhaps once some nation or ethos designs a plague that targets a specific ethnicity we’ll become more concerned.

            What controls should be in place on technologies that are quite literal doomsday devices? That’s the question. It’s akin to saying everyone should be allowed to have a nuclear device, because no one would be crazy enough to use it. If we’re truly saying that, then I’ll have no part of it because I know that someone will be crazy enough to use it.

      3. DD: “Stark, raving fucking insane is the most accurate way to describe this sort of thinking.”

        You can’t spell Luddite without double-d.

      4. Can you cite where RB ever said we were all going to die from global warming? Obvious troll is obvious.

      5. loser peons are all going to…what?

    4. Also, as I’ve said before, have you ever noticed that you never, ever hear women talking this way? It’s ALWAYS men, without exception.

      Maybe lots of women out there are actually thinking this sort of garbage as well, but if so they’re too smart to actually say it loud. Probably because they don’t everyone else realizing that they’re completely insane.

      1. Argle, bargle… Womyn, Men… argle… insane garbage…derka derka jihad..insane x 2… argle bargle.

        1. Give it up. He’s beyond the point where mockery could prove corrective. Obvious troll is obvious.

        2. Pretty much

      2. DD: Well, I actually know lots of transhumanists who are women. Take, for example, Eve Herold who wrote the excellent book Beyond Human. Maybe you need to get out more.

        1. At what point does one stop being human and becomes a transhuman?

          1. Chelsea Manning?

        2. I am a woman. I have no desire to become anything else. But we women are the first to embrace botox, implants, stem cell treatment, liposuction and anything that makes us more youthful and attractive.

        3. SO many of these objections assume that once this technology is available, everybody is going to do it. It’s kind of like the arguments against polygamy. What woman wants to be in a polygamous relationship if they can help it? Just because it’s legal to grow fangs or claws doesn’t mean most people are going to want to do it.

  4. “Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution,” he wrote.

    Well, that’s dumb.

  5. Engaging in a robust process of trial, error, and correction is how nearly all moral and technological progress has ever been made.

    But to conservatives moral progress is impossible, since what is moral is already known. Changes only erode traditional morality. Plus Frankenstein.

  6. Weiss’s argument comes down mostly to guilt by association. Because both transhumanists and communists envisioned a bright future for people, they’re both bad.

    Plus, the human/nature dialectic inherent in the “abomination of human evolution” idea is rather Puritanical.

    I look forward to my new robotic prehensile tail.

    1. “Tail” is not what my mind went to…

      1. I assume something similar to this is where your mind went.

        1. Yes, but prehensile. It would be ever so helpful with my weekend projects, third hand and all.

    2. I wouldn’t even call it an argument. More like a knee-jerk emotional luddite reaction.

      -jcr

  7. ______ and libertarianism are entirely compatible.

    You can fill in the blank with just about anything that doesn’t involve the initiation of force. Pretty sure transhumanism fits that description.

  8. “”Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution,” he wrote.”

    Human didn’t evolve wings, so libertarianism is also incompatible with flight.
    And so on.

    1. the day they can put wings on people everyone will be accepting of Transhumanism. I want my wings

      1. Fuck that. A guy with wings is probably gay anyway.

  9. “At no point [does Istvan] wonder if we should even strive for these technologies,”
    To which the only libertarian response possible is “what’s this ‘we’ shit, slaver?”

    Collective decision making is a contradiction in terms.

  10. At the risk of getting banned again – I think the point of libertarianism is to guarantee the freedom of dance. And anything that stands in the way of that is an ABOMINATI

    1. “guarantee the freedom of dance”

      Dance like no one is watching,
      sing like no one is listening,
      love like you’ve never been hurt,
      and fuck like a goddamn retard.

  11. “At no point [does Istvan] wonder if we should even strive for these technologies,”

    Maybe the answer is self evident and only a retard would wonder if humans really should play with fire.

    1. Its never self-evident. ‘Should we’ is always a valid question – nothing is free, its all about managing trade-offs and we shouldn’t shy away from exploring what these new trade-offs might cost us versus what they might provide.

      Playing with fire brought a lot of prosperity. Its also set a lot of people on fire.

      Unfortunately ‘should we’ is used too often by the neo-Luddite tendencies as a shorthand for ‘you shouldn’t be allowed’.

      1. ” ‘Should we’ is always a valid question”

        Respectfully, 1st person plural triggers me.

      2. The cost is listed right up front: You pay in your humanity. That’s what transhumanism is, the desire to shed our base human nature.

        1. I think this is the same argument writ small that the 2 authors are having.

          None of which has necessarily anything to do with libertarianism.

          “We shouldn’t go around shagging everybody we meet who wants to have a go.”

          “We should be free to go around shagging everyone who is willing to have a go.”

          These 2 statements are not mutually exclusive.

          1. Cue Crusty in 3, 2, 1, …

          2. I agree in the sense that it doesn’t really have much, if anything, to do with libertarianism. It’s a completely different moral and philosophical argument in my view, but it’s not a new conversation at all.

            Can mankind be made perfect? That is the discussion, and the answer is an emphatic ‘no’.

            1. You’ve never met me.

            2. “Can mankind be made perfect? That is the discussion, and the answer is an emphatic ‘no’ ”

              And? perfection is impossible so quit trying to improve while the quitting is good?

              “Mankind” also can’t know everything. So stop trying to learn new shit?

            3. what is perfection and when will we know that we’ve achieved perfection. perfection is the path for at the end of the path lies perfection. Then what shall we do?

              1. what is perfection and when will we know that we’ve achieved perfection.

                Wasn’t that the purpose of the Human Instrumentality Project?

            4. B: No one said that libertarianism and transhumanism are the same thing – the headline is “Transhumanism and Libertarianism Are Entirely Compatible.” What could be any clearer?

            5. Making mankind perfect has nothing to do with transhumanism either.

              Its about adding/enhancing capabilities.

              1. Adding and enhancing capabilities to what goal?


                Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and creating widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

                So, to alter our minds and bodies towards…(insert whatever utopian ethos you ascribe to).

                A Nazi would just make a plague to wipe out the Jews. A hardliner Muslim would perhaps only alter women to have no discernible thought. A socialist/communist might simply make a version of man who doesn’t think of themselves as individuals.

                To me, the more important question over what a ‘good’ person would do with those kinds of technology is what a ‘bad’ person would do with those kinds of technology. Sure, it may never happen, but if it doesn’t happen it will be because someone saw fit to make sure they never get that technology in the first place or, if they do, that it has an ‘off’ switch.

                1. To whatever goal the enhancee has.

            6. Nothing’s perfect but we can strive to be more perfect.

              1. Ironically, now you sound like a Christian SKR. ^_-

                1. He sounds like me too and I’m an atheist.

                  1. That’s because atheism is a religion, assuming of course you’re the sort of atheist who is certain there is no god.

                    1. I just said atheist to take God out of it.
                      I am apatheist.
                      I can’t be bothered to contemplate it.

                    2. So someone is part of a religion whenever they have a strongly-held belief that can’t necessarily be backed up by logic or evidence? That definition of religion is so broad as to be useless. In fact, most people on Earth could therefore be said to be in several hundred religions at once, since there are a variety of stupid beliefs that people nonetheless believe strongly. Where are the churches, the holy texts (and please no stupid examples like The God Delusion), submission to a higher authority, etc.?

                      I don’t think it’s logical to say that you know absolutely that god does not exist (for one thing, there are too many definitions of “god” for such a statement to be justifiable), but to call that a religion is just silly.

            7. Who defines “perfect”?

        2. Haven’t we already shed our base human nature? No one in the first world lives anything like how humans lived 10,000 years ago. We don’t even think or communicate in the same way. So called transhumanism is just another step along the continuum of improving how we live. It’s not even going to be all that drastic of a step because it’s still going to take generations to fully realize all the things listed above. 10 generations from now I wouldn’t be surprised if people still look back at the internet as the single biggest driver of changing the way we live. I don’t think brain implants or even immortality can compete with having immediate access to a significant portion of all knowledge. (Obviously I could be wrong, but I don’t think so)

          1. …you think we’ve shed our base human nature? That is adorable. Also you seem to think that a different tool means the person using the tool is different, which so far I see no evidence of.

            That said certain technologies do have the potential to drastically alter human nature itself, such as immortality. Without the fear of death, what is man?

            1. You don’t think we’ve changed the way we think and act since pre-history? We’re less superstitious and more individualistic.

              Having a tool doesn’t make you different but using a tool generation after generation does change the nurture aspect of humanity significantly.

              Without death, what is a man? A perpetual grad student.

              1. How would you know, regarding pre-history, since there was no history to reference?

                On a 10,000 year scale, sure I imagine you’re right in some regards. We’re certainly better at justifying our impulses.

                That said, we’re definitely still acting much the same as we have since historical records began, so lets say 5,000 years give or take?

                1. Oh, and less superstitious? Go and tell another one.

            2. “Without the fear of death, what is man?” Still a man as far as I can tell.

        3. To start with – you’re assuming that that is a cost and not simply a short description of a series of linked trade-offs.

          Being ‘human’ has advantages and disadvantages. Being Transhuman has a different set. Being Posthuman has a different set.

          1. To define human nature is such a way is to show yourself as the exact sort of utilitarian that would be the undoing of mankind, in my opinion. Obviously you should be allowed to experiment with those various sorts of transhuman states so that I don’t have to.

            By all means though, I would appreciate a warning when you remove your empathy.

            1. Barf.

      3. >Playing with fire brought a lot of prosperity. Its also set a lot of people on fire.

        I consider that a twofer

        1. Playing with fire brought a lot of prosperity. Its also set a lot of people on fire.

          You could *literally* call them “flaming idiots” then.

  12. Hmm,

    Guy #1 says you should have the freedom to choose to pursue *or not pursue* a set of technologies.

    Guy #2 says you should not be allowed to pursue that set of technologies.

    I wonder which one isn’t a libertarian.

  13. I predict that our descendants will look back and thank us for making their world of longer, healthier and abler lives possible.

    Yeah, they’re going to live being able to live 1,000 years in a world destroyed by climate change,

    1. In a 1000 years we will realize the myth of global warming and laugh that we thought we were the governors of earth and not the forces of Universal expansion

      1. 1000 years from now I will change my batteries and begin phase 2.

        After I help BYODB clean the shit stains out of his pantaloons.

        1. Yes, because I’m shitting my pants when I say the technologies listed shouldn’t be illegal but they should be approached with utmost caution.

          Hyperbole is just your natural state of being, I take it? I’m sure we can edit that out of you.

          1. “Hyperbole is just your natural state of being, I take it?”

            There is nothing more hyperbolic than a turd in your shorts.

        2. you won’t be sustainably solar powered?

          1. 1000 years from now, solar will still be struggling.

    2. Right because people that live for 1000 years won’t be able to plan long term or have the technological capability to reverse climate change.

      1. I dunno, a thousand years seems too long to live mentally. You keep having to deal with the same people, the same issues and memories and it seems meaningless after awhile. I’m Buddhist, so I believe in death as a period of rest and maybe even clearing your mind of prejudices before you are reborn into your next life. So 90 to 100 years seems like ideal to me if they can be fairly free from pain and suffering that most old people go through. Why live for a thousand years with the same bullshit over and over with the same people? Being reborn seems a better deal.

  14. This argument seems to be non-sequiturs all the way down.

    Does libertarianism mean that everyone should embrace transhumanism? Of course not.

    Does libertarianism mean that no one should embrace transhumanism? Of course not.

    Libertarianism simply means that the government should force these changes on anyone, nor prevent consenting adults from engaging in them.

    Throwing the word “libertarian” into this argument is like saying “Transhumanism is purple!”

    One can be a libertarian and not want to see designer children. One can be a libertarian and want to have wings.

    1. BO: Yes! That’s my point. Headline: “Transhumanism and Libertarianism Are Entirely Compatible.”

    2. This the beauty of libertarianism. If you don’t fuck with it, it won’t fuck with you.

  15. Oh, and “virtual reality sex”?

    Is there a sign-up sheet for human test subjects? Asking for a friend.

    1. It’s already a thing, since Bethesda has ported most if not all of their titles into VR systems and Skyrim has mostly become a sex game from what I understand.

      1. Skyrim has mostly become a sex game from what I understand.

        More like Skyrim-job, am I right?

      2. I, for one, support the growing move by game developers to facilitate fan mods.

    2. Is the written word not a virtual reality as well, something that has been done for eons

      1. I think not.
        The written word is a symbolic abstraction, or something, that can stimulate the imagination.
        Is a person’s imagination considered a virtual reality?
        Even if so, it is once removed from the written word itself.
        But VR directly activates the same sense perceptions a person uses in “reality”.

        1. VR of any level be it the written word or a video construct still requires the mind to accept and believe what it is processing. the mind is after all the ultimate sex organ

          1. Again, I think not.

            VR presents to the mind perceptions that are identical (or close enough) to perceptions a human has when experiencing “reality”.

            For example, during common VR, the human gets direct visual and auditory inputs (passively) that are identical to a similar “real” experience.
            That is very different from reading a book.
            In fact, reading a book provides no perception inputs that are related to the “experience” unless there is a picture involved, but earlier you mention “the written word” so I don’t think you are talking about a picture book.

            If you are reading a book about fighting a dragon, none of your five senses are receiving stimuli related to the action in the book.

            For these reasons, I would say “the written word” does not fall under the definition of “virtual reality”.

    3. It’s called porn.

  16. Weiss asserts “it is time for libertarians to argue against the notion of extreme transhumanism,”

    No. It is time for libertarians to actually nominate multiple candidates for office – and preferably some of them some flavor of ‘normal’. Because as long as they stay aloof and arrogant about the details of (read winning) elections, then every batshit dingbat with bad ideas will flock to them because libertarians have built the ‘field of dreams’ (gotten on the ballot) but ain’t interested in fielding an actual team.

  17. Do any of you know that one of the Libertarian’s mottos is ” Utopia is not an option”. And that part of Libertarianism is the rejection if the idea of utopia. That using the term Libertarian utopia is an oxymoron.

    1. I would think a libertarian society is a utopia, so, stupid motto.

      1. I actually agree with this, since there has never been a ‘libertarian society’ that I’m aware of.

        1. Finally we agree. Seems a good finishing note.

    2. Yes.

      Which is *why* we like to call it ‘libertopia’. But just because libertopia is unattainable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to get as close as we can.

  18. “Weiss fails to make a single argument against these technological developments: It is apparently self-evident to him that they are evil.

    As with all new technologies, unintended consequences are inevitable and people can and will surely misuse them.”

    I’m generally partial to the suggestion that technology by itself is neither good nor evil. It just depends on how it’s used. Social media can be used to coordinate mass protest like never before, or social media can be used by the government to track dissidents and identify the formerly anonymous people with whom they communicate like never before.

    In that sense, the people who think technology by itself is evil would seem to be just as far off as those who think it’s good. Ultimately, we’re talking about qualitative preferences, here. Is it better to live in a society where instant communication is possible–even if that instant communication makes it possible for the government to abuse our Fourth Amendment rights like never before? That depends on each individual’s qualitative preferences. We can’t make those qualitative judgements on behalf of other people. Respecting the right of individuals to make their own judgments on these things is what being a libertarian is all about.

  19. Lately, however, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. There seem to be an inordinate number of people in our society who, for whatever reason, do not have a qualitative preference for freedom and tolerating the rights of stupid people–and there is no technological substitute for people who value freedom. Technological advances in the hands of those who imagine their own qualitative preferences are so superior to those of rednecks, Christians, high school drops outs, anti-vaxers, and luddites–that they don’t have any qualms about imposing their own personal preferences on others–are not likely to apply technology in mostly good ways.

    In fact, techno optimists seem to be dismissive of the rights of stupid people, sometimes even seeming to imagine that getting past the right of stupid people to make choices for themselves is the whole objective of techno optimism.

    That sort of thing does not inspire confidence in their commitment to libertarian principles.

    1. This is more or less what I was getting at above, in that I find it more likely than not that the technologies that are being discussed will be used for the purposes of authoritarians and their ilk to alter humanity in such a way that there is simply no longer such a thing as a libertarian in the first place. The very concept will be confusing to that New Man, who believes only in the collective and the Imperial Will of the State.

    2. “There seem to be an inordinate number of people in our society who, for whatever reason, do not have a qualitative preference for freedom and tolerating the rights of stupid people […]”
      Replace “stupid” with “people that don’t think like me” and you just described all of human history.

      1. “Replace “stupid” with “people that don’t think like me” and you just described all of human history.”

        No question that people who conform to prevailing views tend to think those that don’t are “stupid”.

        No doubt, socialist progressives think I’m a free market capitalist because I’m stupid.

    3. You know that rednecks, Christians, high school drop outs, anti-vaxers and Luddites are going to resent being labeled as stupid, even though they are.

  20. Maybe think of it this way:

    How many techno-optimists think that anti-vaxers should be free to choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children?

    Science has a hard time with qualitative preferences. Science can’t answer questions about whether polar bears are more important than coal minders. All it can do is tell us what the coal miners are doing to the polar bears. If anti-vaxers are the coal miners in that scenario, science can’t answer questions about the qualitative benefits of letting individuals make choices for themselves about whether to be vaccinated either. Science can only tell us how many people will die.

    1. How many techno-optimists think that anti-vaxers should be free to choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children?

      Well, me, for one.

  21. How many techno-optimists believe that a society of self-driving cars is likely to tolerate me choosing to drive myself around?

    The formulation that we should all be free to do anything so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else is dangerous because it comes so close to the truth. If science has taught us anything in the 21st century, it’s that everything we do is harmful to someone else in some way. The correct formulation is that we should be free to do anything so long as we don’t violate someone’s rights. Self-driving cars is a technology meant to take everyone’s choices away in order to promote safety.

    You can talk about how such a technology will benefit various individuals, but forcing people to eat broccoli might be good for the most individuals, too. That doesn’t make forcing people to eat broccoli libertarian.

    To whatever extent your transhumanists insist on protecting the rights of stupid people to make choices for themselves, they are libertarian. It would be ironic to find that tolerance among large groups of transhumanists–like going to a strip club hoping to find a prayer group or bible study.

    1. The problem won’t be the cars. If a self-driving car can’t tolerate a human-driven car on the road, then that sells-driving car isn’t road-safe to start with.

      Your problem will be people. Convincing other folks that your freedom to drive is worth the risk that you’ll cause an accident. Similar to the debate over drunk-driving, really.

      Either way, America has too many rural areas for manual-cars to ever completely disappear. More likely there will just be some roadways that are restricted to autonomous cars.

      1. “Your problem will be people. Convincing other folks that your freedom to drive is worth the risk that you’ll cause an accident. Similar to the debate over drunk-driving, really.”

        Exactly.

        Like I wrote above, “There is no technological substitute for people who value freedom”.

        If someone invents the warp drive tomorrow, and we libertarians go off to colonize our own planet, our society will only be as free as the people with us want it to be. There is no technological substitute for people who value freedom.

      2. EscherEnigma I like that idea. There are people who enjoy driving, but aren’t particularly safe drivers. And they seem to be the people who believe THEY can drive better than the robot cars. Which they can’t. So go drive in the rural areas and leave other people alone. The right to be left alone is fundamental to human beings and therefore libertarian.

    2. How many techno-optimists believe that a society of self-driving cars is likely to tolerate me choosing to drive myself around?

      Well, me, for one.

  22. Ultimately, the problems created by transhumanism are ones of class mobility.

    If after two generations you can’t get a good job without being an “enhanced human”, and you can’t afford to become enhanced without having enhanced parents, then you have a class mobility problem.

    If after two generations either (A) enhanced or not doesn’t determine ability to have a good job, or (B) anyone that wants to be enhanced can reasonably be enhanced, then it’s not adding to class mobility problems.

    This extends to nations too. If enhanced Americans are way more productive and industrious then baseline Europeans, that leads to more wealth-concentration in America, leading to unequal negotiating power and so-on that strains international relations. It’s likely that if current “developing nations” don’t catch up before transhumanism becomes common that they never will.

    Either way though, the problems of transhumanism are not particular to libertarianism. Also, it’s too early to figure out which way things after going to go.

    1. Someone’s seen Gattica, I see.

      1. No, actually. Read plenty of other science fiction that plays with similar themes, but I didn’t really like sci-fi movies in the nineties.

        That said, are you actually refuting anything I said, or just being snarky?

        1. Neither, I was referring to a bit of pop culture that is an exact model of the thing you describe.

          1. Except that the Gattica scenario was specifically built to prevent social mobility by restricting enhancement to genetic engineering in vitro. Which is only one of several paths to enhancement and not even the most desirable one (as its the most restrictive – all enhancements have to be chosen prior to conception and by a third party).

    2. Not really – you have a *choice* problem.

      You do not choose to enhance yourself, you’ve chosen to be less competitive. You’re free to make that choice but there are consequences to it.

      Its like college today – practically anyone can get it but some people choose not to. And those people have made themselves less competitive so they can’t get that good job. But it was a choice of their own.

    3. If, for instance, a physician is “genetically enhanced” to be more intelligent and perceptive, how does that hurt me as a patient? Better than seeing a dolt who misdiagnoses me.

  23. I just don’t get the “transhumanism” stuff. We invented eyeglasses, we invented telescopes and microscopes, we invented miniaturization, what’s the big deal in putting it all together and inventing an implant that allows you to switch from normal vision to microscopic vision to telescopic vision to thermal imaging? (X-ray vision is going to be problematic, women aren’t going to want to wear lead dresses all the time to prevent the inevitable breast and ass cancer.) But if you’ve got eyeballs and a pair of binoculars, you’re already halfway to bionic eyes.

    Same with a lot of the stuff – I already own a set of primitive bionic legs, it’s called a Ford Taurus. A cell phone isn’t quite the same as telepathy, but it’s communication at a distance. Robotic attachments? I’ve got power tools.

    1. Is transhumanism going to change the world any more than the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution, more than Henry Ford or Thomas Edison or Philo Farnsworth? I doubt it, but you gotta pretty damn wealthy – too wealthy, I’d say – to afford the luxury of discussing whether or not electricity and the automobile and mass production and a stable food source are a net positive for human beings. And you’ve got to be pretty arrogant to think somehow the development of hybrid human beings is something you’re going to sit down and plan out rather than the same spontaneous order emerging as it did when we adapted to all the previous revolutions.

      1. Just for starters, the automobile led to suburban living – you don’t have to live next door to the factory and merchants don’t have to have their stores next door either. You can commute to work and goods can easily be distributed over long distances. Did anybody plan that or even think about the changes the automobile brought about?

        What’s the impact of transhumanism going to be on wilderness areas? With increasingly indestructible bodies, more people are going to want to engage in alpine skiing, whitewater rafting, surfing, parasailing, mountain climbing – all kinds of stuff there’s now a limited amount of space for. You got a plan for that? You think you *can* plan for that?

        1. The thing is, what you describe isn’t actually transhumanism since none of those things actually drastically altered the human being as a state of being, whereas transhumanism seeks to make mankind into a totally new creature all together.

          In other words, you’re arguing against something no one is actually talking about.

          In the broadest possible way what you’re referring to could be considered transhumanist in the sense it allows mankind to transcend their physical limitations but in no way have those things actually made a fundamental change to humanity itself, but rather it’s the accumulation of knowledge through the centuries that allows us to create tools to extend the abilities we already have.

          Some of those, like the example below that I rather liked of Lasik, is an application of those tools to make morphological changes to ourselves and some of them like certain drugs are used to alter our perceptions in new ways (LSD?) but do you think those fall within the following definition:


          the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and human experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic world.

          I think much of the arguments on this article boil down to how ‘far out’ of a transhumanist you are. Under your definition I think there is no reason to panic, but under other people’s definition it can run from stuff we’re already doing to the impossible.

    2. J-kids.

      You make many good points.
      It made me remember (I haven’t thought about it in years) that I had “lasik” (or something like it) years ago and I’m already transhuman.
      Pretty cool.

      I also wanted to laugh at you for driving a Ford Taurus, but that would be disrespectful, so I won’t mention it.

    3. Nothing about transhumanism precludes using modular/detachable (ie, power tools) augmentations. They’re just one thing on a spectrum.

      But what if you want to live in space? The human form is pretty suboptimal there. So you start with modifications that prevent bone and muscle loss, proceed to replacing your now useless legs with another set of arms (with hands), and eventually shove a fusion torch up your bumhole and become a starship.

      1. Why would you even need a body?

        1. I like having a body.

    4. I assume it is the fear of transhumans loosing their humanity. Kind of like a sci-fiction story where somebody gains God-like powers and sees the rest of humanity as something to be enslaved or eradicated.

  24. The day we can forcefully implant coprocessors and wikipedia chips into everyone’s brains will be the day the libertarian era finally begins…

  25. Transhumanism is the flying car of today.

    1. More like the less-terrible cousin of the Eugenics of yesteryear. I think self-driving cars are the flying cars of today.

  26. For those who would like to read a novel in which a genetically enhanced human does her thing, like Alice in Resident Evil, see my new novel at

    New Amazon Kindle book by Jon Roland (now in paperback)
    Wayward World: A new kind of hero must set history on a different course to save Earth from destruction a thousand years in the future.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/ B01MPW3Y10
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/ 1520346573?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

    See Chapter 27 where the enhancements are laid out.

    — Jon

  27. Alter your body all you want, as long as I’m not paying for either the changes made or the aftermath if something goes horribly wrong.

  28. Zoltan’s views beyond human augmentation is where the two ideas start to diverge. He believes in single payer health care, and abolishing privacy rights of individuals.

  29. Transhumanism is something that society is going to have to deal with very soon. The western world is leaving God for tech and science. Granted a majority still hang onto the idea of heaven, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Why wouldn’t an atheist want to upload their consciousness to a data platform? SAS – Soul-As-Software is my hopeful evolutionary goal. Then we wouldn’t need food and land, bullets or medical care.

  30. You always were and still are, the best writer on this site, Ron. Excellent article once again.

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