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The Transhumanist Reader, edited by Max and Natasha, to be published in April

The Transhumanist Reader (April 2013) is the first authoritative and comprehensive survey of the origins and current state of transhumanist thinking, with an emphasis on the fresh, solar, energetic, irreverent and optimistic spirit of early transhumanism.

The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future, edited by Max More and Natasha Vita-More, will be published April 29, 2013.

It is the first authoritative and comprehensive survey of the origins and current state of transhumanist thinking, according to the editors, and the anthology includes a roster of leaders in transhumanist thought. The rapid pace of emerging technologies is playing an increasingly important role in overcoming fundamental human limitations, say Max and Natasha.

“We are in the process of upgrading the human species, so we might as well do it with deliberation and foresight. A good first step is this book, which collects the smartest thinking available concerning the inevitable conflicts, challenges and opportunities arising as we re-invent ourselves. It’s a core text for anyone making the future,” says Kevin Kelly.

I am honored that an article of mine, a revised and edited version of my essay “Transcendent Engineering” first published on the Terasem Journal of Personal Cyberconsciousness, is in the book.

Max and Natasha gave a book presentation at the Borderlands Bookstore in San Francisco (please watch the video below, it is a great presentation).

I especially appreciated Max and Natasha’s affirmation of the bold, daring, visionary and politically incorrect spirit of early transhumanism. Current transhumanism, Max says at about minute 27 in the video, “is overly concerned with risks. And now it’s all existential risks and ‘Oh, we might cause the end of the world!’. Bill Joy has won, basically, a large part of Transhumanism is focused on that.” I totally agree, recently we see a very unhealthy obsession with caution and “existential risks,” whatever that means, which indicates a dangerous ossification. Let’s stop sounding like old people afraid of their own shadow, and let’s embrace again the fresh, solar, energetic, irreverent and optimistic spirit of early transhumanism.

In the same spirit, I resigned from the Board of Humanity+ (then WTA) in 2008 in protest against a trend toward “de-transhumanization”. Here is an excerpt from a letter that I sent to the Board in 2008: “Too much maturity, too much sobriety, too much ethics, too much responsibility, not enough vision, not enough experimentation, and last but not least not enough fun. Let’s not sound like advocates of the precautionary principle or, like Albert Einstein said, young whores who become old bigots. This interpretation of transhumanism is about as exciting as a 1000 page book of tax regulations. I have no doubts that it will permit attracting many more fat assed bureaucrats, nanny state advocates and persons afraid of their own shadow, but are those really the people we want to attract?”

After 2008 Humanity+, under the new leadership of Max, Natasha, Ben Goertzel and others, went back to real, visionary transhumanism. The Transhumanist Reader will provide an authoritative introduction to newcomers, and a reminder of real transhumanism to old-timers. Onward, to the stars and beyond!

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  • Hi Giulio. You mention that it is a “comprehensive survey of the … current state of transhumanist thinking”. Does the reader address religious Transhumanism?

    • Max More

      Hi Lincoln. Apart from Giulio’s essay, my introductory essay touches on the relationship between transhumanism and religions.
      –Max

      • Giulio Prisco

        Good to see you here Max, and kudos for the excellent work to put together this book.

        Lincoln, in his introduction Max mentions Mormon transhumanists as an example of peaceful co-existence between transhumanism and religion, “perhaps because [Mormon] religion allows for humans to ascend to a higher, more godlike level, rather than sharply dividing God from man.”

        I wish to comment on Max’ concluding remarks on religion: “Those with strong religious belief tended to regard transhumanism as competing with their religion [Bainbridge 2005].”

        I wonder how big and inclusive was the sample in Bill Bainbridge’s survey. Contrary to the published results, I think for most Mormon transhumanists, as well as others who share a similar outlook, transhumanism and religion may support each other.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi Lincoln, my essay is about religious transhumanism. I don’t see other essays explicitly focused on religious transhumanism, but Moravec’s influential essay “Pigs in Cyberspace” is included. Moravec’s essay provides a foundation for much of our thinking about scientific resurrection.

    Also, all essays deal with enhancing humanity via advanced technologies and becoming (much) more than humans, so all essays are religious even when the author is an atheist!

  • Thanks, Giulio. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • Alan Brooks

    It is true many sound like old people afraid of their shadows. But it is also true the young are frequently reckless, whereas the elderly tend to be over-cautious; a factor to be reckoned with– such isn’t a sweeping generalisation.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Alan, I think the young/reckless and old/cautious personalities co-exist in each of us. As we become older, most of us tend to shift from the former to the latter.

    In society, these roles are played by different persons and groups, and all are instrumental to the development of society, which needs both.

    But I feel that in our nanny-state Western society the old/cautious is over-represented, which is no good. Also, we transhumanists are _by definition_ the young and reckless. Why should we ape the old and cautious? There are more than enough old/cautious voices already, transhumanists should bring some youthful recklessness to the debate.

  • Alan Brooks

    We’re in full agreement, Giulio.
    BTW, here’s an anecdote some will find boring; some might find amusing:
    the first time I went on the Web, in ’98, asked a librarin to show how to proceed. She enthusiastically did so until after asking what site to go to; I replied “Extropy” because at the time it was the only H+ site I knew of.
    “Extropy Art” popped on the screen with a photo of Natasha. The librarian had long black hair like Natasha, and the librarian was also nonplussed at the title “Extropy Art”.

    Finally she frowned and went off in a huff, exclaiming,

    “okay, Tonto, you got what you wanted!”

  • Natasha

    Black hair? You must be thinking of someone else. I have never had black hair.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Hi Natasha! I think he means “long hair like Natasha, and black”

    I just saw on the Extropy mailing list that the Kindle version of the book is available now!
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Transhumanist-Reader-Contemporary-ebook/dp/B00BQZK6MU/

    This is great news, I found it surreal that one of the most important books about the future was not available in ebook format.

  • Alan Brooks

    “Black hair? You must be thinking of someone else. I have never had black hair.”

    It was 15 yrs ago; am not even sure the computer screen wasn’t black and white with no color. Only remember it because it was the first time I ever used a computer for anything but word processing and geometric art in self-published magazines that no one outside of family ever read.
    Oh well: an audience of six is better than an audience of zero!

  • a couple questions —

    1) What role(s) if any, do psychotechnologies such as hypnosis, psychedelics, meditation, etc. play in transhumanism?

    2) With spirituality and meaningfulness provided by psychedelics under the right procedures (Griffiths et al 2006, 2008), do transhuamanists incorporate these results in their thinking? (These studies are available at http://www.csp.org/psilocybin).

  • Alan Brooks

    “What role(s) if any, do psychotechnologies such as hypnosis, psychedelics, meditation, etc. play in transhumanism?”

    Small roles, IMO. However meditation may prove to be of higher importance than today.