h+ Magazine

Fall 2009...

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64 Fall 2009 patterns of thoughts (bemes), rather than as bodies per se, and consequently accepting of a 'one mind, many instantiations' society." "People don't need to be in one place, or one machine," she explained. "People can exist in many places and float. People were originally disturbed by telephones, because an individual's voice could be where they are speaking and where they were heard — and now we take that for granted. A singularity of embodiment would be an obsolete concept. Just because our whole cultural matrix has been one body/one mind does not mean that this has to be where we are going. And, of course, sooner or later, different versions of the uploaded personality will have experiences different enough to make them different, though closely related, persons." Martine developed an interest in transhumanism in 2002 when she read Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines. "I had never really thought about the numbers or the practicality, and he took me through the numbers. I felt like I wanted to be a transhumanist — it all spoke to me as a transgendered person." A little later, she discovered the website of the World Transhumanist Association. At first she felt unwelcome, but maintains that trans people are a core part of that community, because we embrace growth and change as part of our spirituality. There is another thing that trans people bring to transhumanism, which is an acute awareness of the importance of rights. Rothblatt sees a direct historical line between the acceptance of a person's right to alter their gender and the freedom to be transhuman and transbeman. "Gender reassignment in the 1950s and 1960s was based on the notion that changing a body to fit a mindset was ethical and therapeutic. Transhumanism builds on transgenderism, broadening the driving mindset from a gender ideal to a human development ideal. Transbemanism builds on transhumanism by saying it is all about the mindset, and hence bodies are tools of which we may ethically have as many (real or virtual) as we want." Some in transhumanist circles have suggested that the future is post- gender. Should the future be discussed in terms of transgender or postgender or both? Rothblatt responds: "I think the future should be discussed in terms of transgender, not post gender, because we are not abandoning gender. Indeed, gender is one of the coolest avenues for human expression. Transgendered people have too much gender for the sexual dimorphic paradigm of male or female. In the future, everyone will explore the countless gender possibilities along the male-female continuum." Before we start uploading ourselves, people need to possess intellectual property in themselves. The uploaded need legal personhood. Martine has taken from English Bioethicist John Harris the idea that that which values itself should be so valued, whether it be an ape or an artificial intelligence. She thinks this is a more useful guide than Jeremy Bentham's derivation of rights from the ability to suffer. Without rights, so many crimes against the uploaded would be possible. It is easy to brainwash the embodied, and the uploaded would likely be even more vulnerable. We have to establish an ethic of the absolute impermissibility of harming a persons' autonomy by harming their own value to themselves. It is an assault. Rothblatt: "Minds are fragile — and to hit someone in the face is almost better than to put a fist through the fragile web of a personality." In a sense it is a choice of a spirituality that is entirely secular and material, so one can predict that establishing the right to upload as a life choice will provoke a big fight with religious authority. After all, you are offering a version of the beatific vision, of the communion of souls and that's religion's unique selling point. Martine comments that the churches have had to accept reality in the past — and they are not forever. Atheism has grown in the US because science and technology can address problems where religion fails. Technology, especially information technology, has continued to empower individuals, and ideologies that don't meet our needs get junked. While transbemanism can satisfy our spiritual longings, what does it have to say about pleasure? "Pleasure is the bedrock of transbemanism. The purpose of exalting our minds above our bodies is to lengthen and multiply the magnitude of pleasure that each individual can enjoy." Finally, we talked about music and the way that, when we listen to music, we feel the presence of the long dead in our souls: Chopin, or Haydn, or Miles Davis. Music is one of the kinds of information which artists have encoded themselves into in the pursuit of lasting fame and communication with others. "My core belief," Martine says, "is that information wants to be free. People are information. Technology is a way of communicating. Douglas Hofstadter talks of how humans, through music and science and art and mathematics, transcend space and time, how as individuals we are a concatenation of all the souls who have touched us. In the flesh or uploaded, we are a colony of souls." Books by Roz Kaveney include Reading The Vampire Slayer and From Alien to the Matrix. She is a regular contributor to The Times Literary Supplement. ResouRces martine Rothblatt's Terasem movement http://www.terasemcentral.org/ Transexuals pave the way for Transhumanism http://www.slideshare.net/martine/transexuals-pave-the-way-for- transhumanists "People don't need to be in one place, or one machine," she explained. "People can exist in many places and float.

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