An Unholy Racket No 002: Goodbye, Humanism

As of today, I am no longer a humanist.

Of course this does not mean that I abandon my beliefs in the desirability of human rights, civil liberties, liberty and justice for all and such. And naturally I am still the epitome of secular. It is just that I no longer feel like I can define myself in terms of species, for several reasons.

Firstly, of course, the entire concept of species is fraught with problems. Chronospecies or reproductively isolated populations? Species do not really exist; they are convenient fictions to help us in our taxonomical/classifying/descriptive behaviours, and have no use beyond that. Every individual is unique, and while I may be a member of H. sapiens sapiens, I am Jorg above and beyond that.

Of course the aforementioned Jorg may choose freely not to belong to humanity any more. At this point of time such a decision would be no more than a ridiculous stand in the face of adversity, but we are rapidly approaching the time when intelligent entities will be able to—and many will choose to—change their genetic makeup and phenotype, making themselves distinct from the "base" human beings. Are some of their "innate" human rights going to be lost because of such a change? I don't think so.

Also, we are on the verge of creating self-aware machine intelligences. What about them? They certainly will not be human, and—despite anthropomorphizing attempts of movies such as Matrix—will not have human emotions. Our emotions are the result of a long evolutionary history and are inseparable from our phenotype. AI's will not feel love or jealousy, but they will be self-aware. Does any self-aware entity possess the innate rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? I say, of course!

Lastly, and looking in the opposite direction, what about millions of species with which we share our planet? (And others, unknown, somewhere else in this huge Universe). Do they have any rights? It seems to me that while perhaps not quite having access to a full complement of rights available to a self-aware entity, they deserve some, at least. And claiming the uniqueness of humanity tends to obscure the uniqueness of every other species and every other individual within those species (well, with the possible exception of some clones....)

In any case, I am perfectly okay with the label of transhumanist nowadays...an extremely secular one.

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