Giulio Prisco the Contradictory Transhumanist

4 months ago
66 in transhumanism

GIULIO PRISCO THE CONTRADICTORY TRANSHUMANIST

My friend and fellow transhumanist, Giulio Prisco, might seem like something of a contradictory character. This is because he has beliefs which, to some, may seem incompatible. For example, many transhumanists would call themselves atheists and assert that one cannot possibly believe in transhumanism, which they consider to be a purely rational, scientific discipline, while also having religious beliefs, which they consider to be irrational, superstitious and therefore entirely incompatible with transhumanism. But not Giulio. He is a firm believer that transhumanism and religion can make good bedfellows, and has established such organisations as the 'Turing-Church' to promote this idea that there can be a happy marriage between religiosity and transhumanism.

I am not, however, interested in examining his work in bringing about a unification of transhumanist and religious beliefs, at least not in this essay. Instead, I want to focus on something else about Giulio which might well strike some as even more contradictory. That something else is this: Giulio Prisco is a smoker.

I think that bares repeating: Giulio Prisco is a transhumanist, and he is a smoker.

Doesn't that strike you as odd? As two entirely incompatible lifestyles?


(Image from Giulio Prisco)
Think about it: If transhumanism is known for anything in the popular imagination, it is known as the movement which has set for itself the task of abolishing death through the application of science. News reports on the movement will talk mostly about these 'immortalists' who enthusiastically embrace any technology no matter how controversial or absurd it may seem to outsiders, if it holds even the faintest hope of granting life everlasting. These are people who swallow hundreds of pills and adopt punishing dietary regimes, who sign up to have their heads cryonically preserved, and much more besides, all in the hope of remaining alive for as long as possible. Zoltan Istvan, who ran a US presidential campaign in 2016 promoting transhuman agendas, rode around the country in an 'immortality bus'. This is the group of people which Giulio counts himself a member, and yet he is a smoker, which by now is universally agreed to be very bad for one's health. I mean, it is not like anyone can claim not to realise these 'cancer sticks' are hazardous to one's longevity. The damn things are sold in packets with pictures of tar-filled disease-ridden lungs and "SMOKING CAUSES DEATH!" in unmistakably clear lettering. So why is this transhumanist- this 'immortalist'- indulging in an activity which is going to cut his life short?


(The Immortality Bus. Image from immortalitybus)
One possible explanation was put forward by Max More, who once said:

"I see a distressing number of superlongevity advocates who apparently do not exercise or eat healthily, instead firmly hoping that medical technology will cure aging before they die".

In the same interview, More expressed concerns that the Singularity was a concept liable to be hijacked by religious "belief systems that promise some form of salvation, heaven, paradise or nirvana". As I briefly touched upon at the start of this essay, Giulio is very much committed to a unification of religious and transhuman beliefs, so maybe he has a firm belief that technology will save him? It might, right? Maybe someday somebody will figure out how to make ciggies that provide all the pleasures of smoking with none of its negativities? Maybe one day, tiny microscopic robots will be able to slip into our bodies, repairing all damage, clearing up all toxic waste, and leaving us supremely fit and healthy no matter how much we abuse our bodies?

Actually, I do not think that is the case with Giulio. Instead, I think it is a mistake to think of transhumanism as being primarily concerned with immortality. No, what transhumanism is mostly concerned with is choice or rather the lack of it. Our bodies, our minds, our cultures, impose all kinds of restraints on us, limiting our ability to choose for ourselves what kind of people we want to be. The main purpose of transhumanism is to challenge the idea that any limit, any constraint, is permanent and unbreakable. That is not to say it is a belief system which proclaims 'anything goes'. To be a serious transhumanist, one must believe in the rights of others to seek and adopt their own idealised self, lifestyle and community. Thus, transhumanism is as far removed from the eugenics movement (which is about a small group of people imposing their notions of what a person should be on everybody else) as any belief system can get.

Since the fundamental drive of transhumanism is to increase personal choice wherever theoretically possible, I think we can put forward a simple explanation for why Giulio Prisco is a smoker. Because he chooses to be. He knows the risks, he knows the positive aspects (and goodness knows there must be something really good about smoking, or else it would not be such a popular product despite such horrifying warnings) and he has decided that he wants to smoke. You see, there is more to life than just extending it indefinitely. Life should be enjoyed, tailored to suit one's own unique sense of what is most fulfilling, and for Giulio that evidently includes a puff on a cigarette every now and then. As a committed transhumanist, provided Giulio respects the rights of non-smokers not to breathe in his polluting fug (go outside if you wanna light up) I say 'it's your life, your choice'.

And as a Singularitarian, I pray to the techno-gods that the ability to save his poor body from his filthy habit appears in time to keep dear Giulio with us, forever:)

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69
  ·  4 months ago


Judgemental...much?
I thought that transhuman meant
transcending the biology of the human body.
Augmentation perhaps or total replacement.
As well as possible mental modifications.
I wouldn't think it necessarily had any philosophical constraints.
Break new Ground!
Back when Max More was co-author of the paper pamplet that was mailed out a few times they inferred that Extropian (Transhuman?) ethics, philosophy and morality could be summed up in one word.

Coyote.
C all O ff Y our O ld T ired E thics.
.
That was my interpretation.
I was a member of the Extropian mail list for a long time.
That interpretation was reinforced.
Transhumanism brings MORE choices...not less.
or it could.
Unless the thought Police have hijacked the movement.

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66
  ·  4 months ago

Hiya. It might seem like transhumanism is all to do with transcending the biological human body. After all, that is what seem to be implied by transhuman. But if you think about it, the concept really means more than this. A transhuman may be someone who, for example, wants to see robots become recognised as sentient beings in their own right. They have no human body to transcend, but they do have prejudices that have to be overcome if they are to develop their full potential. So, really, my definition of transhumanism as 'seeking to remove barriers to an idealised self/lifestyle' is more encompassing of what transhumanists strive to achieve.

And I hope my post was not too judgemental:)

25
  ·  4 months ago

Nice article.

But i have to say that the tobacco smoking (you Extie may well be aware of the fact that there are plenty of transhumanists who also smoke, just not tobacco) is a suitable hook for the story to hang on, but nothing more. We all make deals or compromises paying as much as we think what we get in return is worth: be it eating the stuff supermarkets sell as food, burning fossils for transportation, heating or cooling, drinking alcohol or smoking crack, making babies despite the resulting environmental pressure etc.

Instead the crucial point she makes is this: "what transhumanism is mostly concerned with is choice or rather the lack of it" - i completely concur which is why i call myself a thelemic (thelema = greek for "will") transhumanist, where the transhumanist part indicates merely the recognition that life in general, and human life in particular, is in flux, subject to history, constantly evolving, and consequentially the resolution to take control of the process and steer it toward achieving desired results. What these are is subject to the remaining discussions within the "transhumanist movement", and in my case, and apparently in Extie's and Giulio's as well, to my personal preferences which may or may not be shared by others.

Of course there are limits to what i would accept as "valid" transhumanist concerns which i can summarise this way: my transhumanism is based on humanism, which means it includes the values embraced in the last few centuries under the term enlightenment. So no, nazis would not be included. And, sorry but i have to say it again, religion (at least exoteric religion, which is the common variety) is not either, as it is not based on reason but on faith. This does not mean that i deny the attraction of transcendence; i am not a materialist, but i believe the "metaphysical" realm needs to be subject to scientific, empirical investigation, or else it is open to charlatanry and likely to be used, as history up to the present shows, in the service of domination and exploitation.

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25
  ·  4 months ago

Good points René. I completely agree that "what transhumanism is mostly concerned with is choice" - the choice to pursue "personal preferences which may or may not be shared by others."

Nazis would not be included because their choice is to violently force their personal preferences onto others and violently preventing others from making their own free choices. That can't be part of transhumanism.

As usual, we disagree on religion, but as you put it, that the "metaphysical" realm "needs to be subject to scientific, empirical investigation," I almost agree! In fact, my work is focused on a fusion of science, metaphysics and theology. I say almost, because there is one caveat (that we discussed elsewhere): Current science is not advanced enough to really understand these things, and vague poetic insights are often the best we can do.

By the way, this is Giulio. I don't remember why I chose to go by Heisenberg here (either quantum physics or Breaking Bad I guess), and I don't see how to change that. Also, how do I set my avatar?

So is Steemit the next Facebook? Should we move here?

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54
  ·  4 months ago

Welcome Giulio! I will follow you, and I hope you and extie and renemilan will help me grow the futurism-trail, the curation-trail(part of steemtrail) that will help support articles about futurism and futurology in a broad sense.

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54
  ·  4 months ago

Very interesting comment.You are hereby followed, and I'm looking forward to posts from you. I'm curating the emergent futurism-trail, (the account is not up yet) so I will be submitting articles on transhumanism, green technology, nanotechnology,etc.

25
  ·  4 months ago

This is Giulio. Good article Extie!

I don't remember why I chose to go by Heisenberg here (either quantum physics or Breaking Bad I guess), and I don't see how to change that. Also, how do I set my avatar?

25
  ·  4 months ago

As long as I don't have to read another post by Giulio on being added to a Facebook group without his permission, smoking be kewl. {Smile}

25
  ·  4 months ago

Posted to Facebook with this intro:
Extropia DaSilvo : "I think it is a mistake to think of transhumanism as being primarily concerned with immortality. No, what transhumanism is mostly concerned with is choice or rather the lack of it. Our bodies, our minds, our cultures, impose all kinds of restraints on us, limiting our ability to choose for ourselves what kind of people we want to be. The main purpose of transhumanism is to challenge the idea that any limit, any constraint, is permanent and unbreakable. That is not to say it is a belief system which proclaims 'anything goes'. To be a serious transhumanist, one must believe in the rights of others to seek and adopt their own idealised self, lifestyle and community. Thus, transhumanism is as far removed from the eugenics movement (which is about a small group of people imposing their notions of what a person should be on everybody else) as any belief system can get."