The Transtopian Principles [V. 3.8.4]

Personal empowerment taken to its logical conclusion; common sense codified.

General goal: infinite existence under the best possible conditions
Primary means: reason, science, and technology
Motivation: enlightened self-interest


Transtopianism is a memetic complex, a collection of mutually supporting (and partially overlapping) concepts, lifestyles, worldviews, and philosophies. Though none of its separate components, grouped together in 12 Principles, are particularly new or unique, the combination is. Transtopianism is a typical example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; its rational enlightenment "spontaneously" emerges from a collection of useful but individually limited memes, just like human consciousness "spontaneously" emerges from a collection of sophisticated yet individually limited brain cells.

Central to Transtopianism is the view that we should seek to void all limits on our freedom, including those imposed by the "laws" of nature -- a concept known as "arch-anarchy" [T.O. Morrow, 1990]. This state of absolute personal freedom is to be achieved by rational means like science and technology, not by wishful thinking or superstition. Transtopianism may include some "speculative", or even what one might call "religious" or "spiritual" elements, but these are all placed within a solid framework of common sense, where they belong. Transtopianism is designed to be the ultimate rational "rebellion" against anything and everything that stands in the way of personal growth and empowerment. Unlike most supposedly similarly-oriented philosophies (LaVeyan Satanism, Objectivism and Nihilism, for example), it recognizes that in order to realize this ideal we must leave the flesh and most of its evolved habits behind. We must evolve beyond them by literally becoming one with our technologies, guided by our rational desire to become like our finest imaginary gods: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent. That is the true significance of gods; they are the embodiment of man's deepest aspirations and desires, which, until recently, were doomed to remain just that. Fortunately, the times they are a-changing...

These Principles represent an (ever evolving) ideal towards which those seeking to pursue their enlightened self-interest should strive; it can't realistically be expected that any unaugmented mortal could actually live up to them completely. We all have our inevitable mental and physical weaknesses, and only (advanced) technology can truly set us free. Transtopianism doesn't promise instant "Absolute Perfection"; this is something which, presumably, lies somewhere beyond the Spike in the realm of SIs and Powers. It can, however, highlight certain memetic and physical tools that can make the journey towards the event horizon swifter, more exciting & comfortable, and ultimate success more likely. Transtopianism is equally about improving life in the here-and-now as it is about harnessing the awesome power of the imminent technological Singularity and ascending to a state of "virtual" godhood.

Transtopianism is closely related to its parent philosophy Transhumanism, but there are also some notable differences. These are, among others:

  1. A much stronger focus on the Singularity, though not as narrow and absolute as that of "pure" (Yudkowskian) Singularitarianism.
  2. The explicit inclusion of specific technologies / procedures, most notably cryonics, and
  3. "Politically charged" memes. Transtopianism does neither pretend nor desire to be "politically neutral", let alone "politically correct", even though politics play just a relatively minor role in the Principles as a whole.
  4. A more individualistic, pragmatic, and "realistic" approach to morality and ethics.
  5. Auxiliary (optional) "lifestyle" elements, including, but not limited to: childfreeness, nootropic, entheogenic, and hedonistic drug use, dance music, (techno)gothic memes and paraphernalia, fiscal and financial freedom, food supplementation and "alternative" medicine, advanced self-defense techniques, and cyberpunk-style computer wizardry.

This sprawling memetic complex is currently still in its early evolutionary phases, but already it is a distinct Transhumanist subspecies with, if nothing else, a lot of potential (which is more than can be said for most of its "competitors"). The proverbial diamond in the rough; in time it could become the brilliant crown jewel of rational philosophy. The Ultimate.

So, Transtopianism is basically a greatly expanded yet at the same time more tightly focused and codified, darker, bolder, neocyberian, technogothic, Singularitarian version of Transhumanism. A bit like early Extropianism, before it was gradually transformed into something blander and (supposedly) more "respectable". Unlike Transhumanism, which is above all a descriptive and open philosophy, Transtopianism aims to become a real (underground) movement; a practical lifestyle that leads directly towards an eternal, infinite virtual paradise of pure power, knowledge, and bliss -- Transtopia.

Now, the latter is of course by no means guaranteed. The years or decades ahead are not only the most promising, but also the most perilous in all of human history. Traditional weapons of mass destruction will continue to be a serious threat up to the very end, though their power will soon pale next to the destructive potential of "Transhuman" technologies like advanced genetic engineering, neural interfaces and augmentations, nanotech, and AI; the harbingers of the Singularity...or horsemen of the Technocalypse.

That's the way it is -- no guarantees, merely infinite positive and negative potential. Technology can be both a creator and a destroyer, and those who control it hold the keys to both Heaven and Hell. Sugar-coating reality only makes sense if you've already (subconsciously) decided that you're not, and never will be, a "player". It's the attitude of a passive victim, a wishful thinker. We can be players, though. Not as lone, isolated individuals, but as "united individualists" pursuing a common goal: a good time here on Earth followed by an eternity in Upload Heaven. United we stand, and all that. We already have the vision, and together we might find ways to turn our combined talents into hard cash, cash into cutting-edge technology, and technology into godhood. The Singularity...could be us, if we put some effort into it.

We were born to be princes of the universe
No man could understand
My power is in my own hand

-- Queen; Princes of the Universe

Do you have an unusually strong taboo-smashing rational instinct that allows you to see further than the flock o' sheeple, and the intelligence, courage, and resolve to use it to full effect? Are you ready to shed your limited, fleshy mortal coil and become a true technogod? Are you hardcore -- are you a Transtopian? Well, if you agree with the Principles, the answer is "yes". More or less by definition. Whether you like it or not. But let's not dwell on introductions, Enlightenment awaits!


Click on the links to view the complete & unabridged version of each Principle, or scroll down and use the navigation links at the bottom of the page if you want to proceed sequentially.

I. Rationalism

Reason (rational thinking) is good because it leads to practical, useful results. If applied systematically, it can significantly improve the quality of one's life. Irrationality is (potentially) dangerous and inefficient, and should therefore be avoided as much as possible.

II. Memetic Evolution

Transtopianism is a continuously evolving philosophy, a logical consequence of the search for perfection which lies at its core. We need to avoid stale, impractical dogmas, while at the same time preserving those values that are clearly reasonable and helpful in improving our condition, or at least aren't detrimental to this goal.

III. Intelligent Hedonism

Pleasure and happiness are the highest (known) good, the most logical "meaning of life", and (therefore) the interim Supergoal of Transtopianism. Positive emotions and sensations are inherently valuable; their profound, unconditional "goodness" becomes immediately apparent to all who experience them, and in their absence life is -by definition- at best bland and meaningless, at worst unbearable to the point of suicide. In order to be able to experience true eternal bliss as gods in virtual Eden (which, thanks to exponential scientific and technological progress, will soon be a very real possibility -- see also "Transhumanism" and "Singularitarianism") we must curb our more dangerous and impractical hedonistic impulses, and focus on becoming part of the financial and technological elite. At the same time we should also try to seize the day as often as possible, for there may be no tomorrow; this balancing act is the essence of Intelligent Hedonism.


Cryonic suspension is an experimental procedure whereby patients who no longer can be kept alive with today's medical abilities are preserved at extremely low temperature for treatment in the future. To have one's brain or whole body frozen or otherwise preserved upon death is the rational, civilized, and aesthetic thing to do.

V. Transhumanism

Transhumanism (>H) is the belief that we can, and should, try to overcome our biological limitations by means of reason, science, and technology. Transhumanists seek things like intelligence augmentation, increased strength and beauty, extreme life extension, sustainable mood enhancement, and the capability to leave the planet and explore the universe. These goals are to be achieved with the aid of contemporary and future technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, cryonics, AI, and mind uploading. In other words, (hardcore) Transhumanists seek to become posthuman (demi-)gods; "persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity. Self-programming, self-constituting, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals."

VI. Singularitarianism

The technological Singularity is the postulated point or short period in our future when our self-guided evolutionary development accelerates enormously (powered by nanotech, neuroscience, AI, and perhaps uploading) so that nothing beyond that time can reliably be conceived. It is the birth of superhuman intelligence and the end of life as we know it, perhaps of life period. Barring massive, global man-made or natural disasters, the Singularity will probably take place sometime during the first half of this century. Instead of passively awaiting, unconditionally supporting, or mindlessly opposing this event which, without a doubt, is both the greatest threat and the greatest opportunity mankind has ever faced, Transtopians want to harness the Singularity's awesome power through the directed, systematic, and careful application of "transhumanizing" technologies -- they want to become the Singularity. From a survivalist point of view, this is the most rational strategy.

VII. Atheism

Religion, in the traditional superstitious and dogmatic sense, is at best harmless folly, but more often than not it is a force that is diametrically opposed to one's freedom, well-being, and even very survival. Religion enslaves and atrophies the mind, stimulates violently (self-)destructive behavior, and hampers (life-saving) progress. It is fundamentally incompatible with true rationalism and the scientific method, and needs to be rejected utterly for both practical and "moral" reasons. It's time to stop worshipping gods, and aim at becoming gods.

VIII. Egoism

Most "traditional" (Judeo-Christian etc.) morals and ethics should be rejected as they, instead of being useful tools for personal growth and empowerment, only make life more difficult than it already is. From a rational Egoist's perspective, that which serves his enlightened self-interest (infinite existence under the best possible conditions) is "good", that which is neutral towards it is "acceptable", and that which works against it is "bad". Potentially harmful or even lethal "altruistic" impulses, guilt, shame, and other such evolutionary garbage should be suppressed or, better yet, eliminated altogether.

IX .Tough Liberalism

An eye for an eye (proportional retribution) and the Golden Rule (anything goes, as long as "innocents" aren't harmed against their will) are fair and logical principles, and should be the main pillars of (private, contract group) law.

X. Mental, Physical & Financial Empowerment

To be prepared for a future that may be full of difficult changes, and survive in an entropic world, one should take personal responsibility for one's security. Self-defense encourages one's sense of autonomy and personal power, so it is advisable to learn the proper use of devices and techniques that can protect you from harm. Reject fear, meekness, pacifism, and all other self-castrating mental patterns. Experiment with things like food supplements, diets, and exercise techniques in order to become stronger and healthier. Get as rich as possible, for money is the key to health, happiness, and -ultimately- godhood itself.

XI. Non-Procreation

Transtopians don't breed because, assuming that one wants to be a good parent, children are a serious drain in terms of time and resources, are likely to increase stress, ruin relationships, and will severely limit one's freedom. It is a very empowering decision not to have children, especially for women, who, due to tradition and biology, must sacrifice (much) more. It means that one doesn't bow to nature's and society's pressures to conform; by saying "no" to procreation, you reject being just another link in life's mindless chain of births and deaths, just another runner in an endless relay race. In the spirit of Egoism, you confirm that you are an end in itself, not just a walking incubator or sperm donor. Other elements of the procreational complex such as phenylethylamine (etc.)-induced highs (love), ritualized bonding (marriage), and copulation (sex) also tend to cause (a lot) more trouble than they're worth, and should consequently be avoided as well -- or at least approached with due caution and skepticism.

XII. Dynamic Pessimism

Though Transtopians have no doubts about man's enormous potential to overcome his biological and social limits, they are generally less optimistic than "regular" Transhumanists and Singularitarians about the future. Annihilation is a very real possibility; in fact, it is much more likely than a positive outcome. Nonetheless, Transtopians are by no means technophobes or defeatists because they recognize that the very technologies that threaten our future can, when used properly, improve life far beyond our wildest dreams and save us from other (socio-political, economic, and natural) disasters that loom ever larger on the horizon. Indeed, without technology and progress we would remain at the mercy of an uncaring, entropic universe, and would soon fall prey to degeneration, misadventure, and disease. Death is programmed into our very genes. The status quo is literally a dead-end, and therefore not an acceptable option.

Complete & Unabridged Version

I. Rationalism

Rational thinking is practical; it is the most reliable way to find solutions to problems. Because we are such frail, imperfect creatures, we need science and technology, the fruits of reason, to conquer death, disease, and other biological shortcomings, and thus achieve the most rational of goals: a pleasant, eternal existence.

Now, of course it's true that this "rational" goal, like all others, is ultimately driven by evolved emotional instincts. Without them we would be dead in the water, not even motivated to take care of our basic necessities. Life would be literally meaningless. Without reason, on the other hand, we might have the desire, but wouldn't be able to effectively pursue our goals. Reason is needed to a) build and maintain a goal structure that is internally consistent and represents what we really want, the true essence of our desires (which is the same for all people: to feel good, see Intelligent Hedonism), and b) to translate abstract goals into concrete, effective actions; to select the "best tool(s) for the job".

So, though rationalism is essentially a means to an end and not really an end in itself, it certainly is one of the highest-ranking subgoals. To the rationalist, ends (goals), especially top-level goals like survival and happiness, do indeed "justify the means" (or at least many means); he is an enlightened pragmatist who, not bound by innate and/or society-imposed anti-individualistic ethics, will do "whatever it takes" to succeed. The alternative --meek and more or less arbitrary surrender to (certain) harmful, possibly even lethal biological and social pressures-- simply isn't acceptable. If there is no rational justification for a goal, belief, or action, it should almost by definition be rejected and avoided. In Transtopianism, reason and enlightened self-interest cannot contradict each other; they're one and the same.

II. Memetic Evolution

Transtopianism is a continuously evolving philosophy, a logical consequence of the search for perfection which lies at its core. We need to avoid stale, impractical dogmas, while at the same time preserving those values that are clearly reasonable and helpful in improving our condition, or at least aren't detrimental to this goal. Unlike, for example, the Judeo-Christian "10 Commandments", these Principles aren't meant to be instantly perfect and immutable. Growth and change are inherent to the Transtopian ideoplex, which, like a memetic (and rather more "user-friendly") version of Star Trek's Borg, continuously improves itself by seeking out and assimilating other interesting/useful memes and adding (parts of) their ideological distinctiveness to its own, sometimes discarding earlier, now redundant adaptations in the process. The core values, however, will probably never change; one could well imagine that a billion years from now, highly evolved sentient beings -hopefully "us"- will still indefatigably pursue their enlightened self-interest, infinite existence under the best possible conditions.

III. Intelligent Hedonism

Finding "true happiness" and "fulfillment" may not be as difficult as many seem to think; it's all in the chemicals and electrical impulses. Not so surprising, really; we are "merely" biological machines, after all. According to the Good Drug Guide:

"There's clearly a strong causal link between the raw neurobiological capacity to experience happiness and the extent to which one's life is felt to be worthwhile. High-minded philosophy treatises should complicate but not confuse the primacy of the pleasure-pain axis. So one very practical method of life-enrichment consists in chemically engineering happier brains for all in the here-and-now."

Of course, when we leave our biological bodies behind and move into the realm of mind uploading, this will open up powerful new ways to pleasure ourselves. When done right, the future could truly be Heaven on Earth (and needless to say, the same technologies could also create Hell on Earth; an infinity of the most horrible tortures).

"The possibility does exist that the conscious experience of pleasure is in fact the True Ultimate External Meaning of Life. I mean, conscious experiences are weird, and they seem to be really real, as real as quarks (and a lot more complex), so maybe the conscious experiences of goals are actual goals, purpose made flesh. If I had to point to the thing most likely to be meaningful, in all the world, I would pick the conscious experience of pleasure."

-- The Meaning of Life FAQ, part 3

Though it may, at least theoretically, be possible that we (in a Posthuman form) will one day find something better than "pleasure" and "happiness", they are currently Transtopianism's Highest Good, the interim meaning of life. Feeling good is the Supergoal; all others are auxiliaries or subgoals in one way or another. Actually, by making pleasure & happiness the "official" Supergoal, we're more or less "short-circuiting" the system. Emotions exist because (apparently) they offer some kind of evolutionary advantage, make one better at survival. They make us better replicating vehicles for "selfish" genes. This replication (and not our pleasure) is more or less the ultimate "goal" of evolution -- from an evolutionary point of view, our emotional well-being is trivial as long as we keep multiplying. Not that evolution or genes have actual goals, of course; like everything else in this universe, they just "happen" because they can.

<... Interlude ...>

For good measure: in all probability there is no deeper "meaning" or "reason" for our existence; there's just this mindless, "forces of nature-driven" universal cascade of events, of one thing automatically leading to infinitum. Reality can be seen as an endless field of domino blocks (events), spiralling out in all directions from the point where, eons ago, everything was set in motion (by the Big Bang or a similar event). Strictly speaking, "free will" does not exist, and everything is/was more or less predestined to happen the way it (will) happen(ed) from the very beginning. Even if there is some fundamental "randomizing" factor in the cascade of reality (on the quantum level, for example), this probably isn't very useful or significant from our (current) perspective. We can't prevent being swept along by the relentless torrent of history like so many pieces of driftwood in a raging river; all we can do is enjoy the ride and hope for the best. Incidentally, it might also be interesting to note that our whole sense of "self" is based on an illusion of continuity and unity of consciousness, and that all our worries about long-term self-preservation, the endless Transhumanist arguments about life extension, cryonics, the Singularity, and the merits & disadvantages of various forms or mind uploading are really quite silly considering the fact that we "die" every time we lose consciousness. The current "you" will die when you go to sleep tonight, and a roughly identical copy will be activated -rebooted- in the morning (and of course there will also be some "distorted yous" during your dream state, or if you take drugs etc.).

But perhaps it's better not to worry too much about such matters (if predestination allows, obviously), as these are the kinds of "truths" that can't be fully grasped anyway (at least not by a remotely "normal" human mind), have little practical value, and only tend to confuse the audience. This info has merely been included to show that a deeper level of awareness underlies these Principles. The nihilistic abyss of existence has been stared into, but it hasn't been allowed to return the favor. Just like you don't win a Rebel Without a Cause-esque chicken race by going over the cliff, but rather by bailing out as close to the edge as possible, the real trick of rational Enlightenment is not systematically deconstructing reality until there is nothing left, but knowing when to stop. The Buddhists' Nirvana -effectively a state of nonexistence- is a classic example of taking a certain in itself perfectly reasonable concept (self-liberation) too far. Death may technically be the highest form of "self-liberation", but it isn't a particularly useful form of self-liberation. It doesn't help to further anything; it's just a senseless loss of (possibly infinite) potential. Instead of being the pinnacle of self-liberation, it is in fact the pinnacle of self-oppression, and permanently blocks the path to further development and higher forms of enlightenment. In other words, death sucks -- more on this later.

Our subjective reality may very well be based on mere "illusions", but (at least some) illusions matter. We matter, simply because we say so. So what if pleasure, happiness, and meaning itself are just illusions in our brains; if they feel "real", they are "real", and therefore valuable from a personal, subjective point of view. By deciding this, and believing it to be true, you've effectively come full circle and rebuilt "meaning" from scratch, only this time on a more solid, higher shock level base. You've gazed into the abyss, marvelled at its dark, bottomless depths, and then went on your merry way, wiser, but not fundamentally shaken. A separate essay -or perhaps even a new Principle- specifically devoted to such basic existentialist issues will be added in due time. For now, let's continue with the regularly scheduled program...

We humans represent a new breed of gene replicator. We have reached a sufficient level of self-awareness to be able to override our standard programming to a certain extent; we can set our "own" goals and make new goal hierarchies. Still, pleasure remains our motivator; we are hard-wired for pleasure-seeking and discomfort-avoidance. When we call something "good", it's because it makes us feel "good", and when we call something "bad", it's because it makes us feel "bad", emotionally and/or physically. Even masochism and altruism, which may at first seem to contradict this rule, are really about seeking pleasure & happiness, and avoiding discomfort. To the masochist, pain & humiliation = pleasure, while the altruist either expects to be somehow rewarded for his actions, is afraid to be somehow punished for his "egoism", or is simply trying to avoid that unpleasant "guilty" feeling.

"The human relationship with suffering is very similar to the relationship between hostages and hostage-takers in Stockholm Syndrome."

-- Michael Raimondi

There is literally nothing better known to man than "feeling good". Without pleasure and happiness, life would -by definition- at best be bland and meaningless, at worst be unbearable to the point of suicide. Only an idiot would claim to prefer such an existence. One may "like" this evolved pleasure-based mechanism or not, but as long as we can't think of anything "better", we'll just have to work with it. The system can certainly be refined, though, with drugs, food supplements, mental training, and eventually genetic engineering, neural implants, and full mind uploading. These corrections and enhancements will ultimately enable us to achieve full emotional control, i.e. emotional autonomy. Instead of having to fall in love, take drugs, enhance his social status, or do "stuff" in general to make him feel good, the emotionally autonomous individual will be able to "rewire" himself so that he can be happy -or ecstatic- for as long as he wants, but without losing or even diminishing his rational faculties. All superfluous and potentially harmful evolutionary baggage will be tracked down and removed. Fear, shame, guilt, sadness, despair, and all other unpleasant, weak human emotions will just melt away, and only strength, reason, and joy will remain -- the mentality of a true god.

Obviously, manipulating one's emotions and mental structure on such a fundamental level is not without risks; like those (in)famous "wired" lab rats, you could get stuck in a pleasure-loop, and ultimately even die of exhaustion, neglect, or because you become a sitting duck for all kinds of outside threats.

This brings us to the "intelligent" part of Intelligent Hedonism. If we want to survive long enough to reach a state where we can experience true eternal bliss (as immortal, near?-omnipotent Powers), we shouldn't mess with our brains and bodies too much before we'll really know what we're doing. For example, though hedonistic (recreational), nootropic (mind-boosting), and entheogenic (experimental, mind-expanding) drug use is definitely (an optional) part of the Transtopian lifestyle, it should always be practiced with due caution and moderation. The same goes for all other fun or useful activities that have a significant element of danger to them. These pitiful fleshbodies are incredibly vulnerable, so let's treat them carefully and leave the really rough play to our uploaded future selves. It would be quite a shame to kick the bucket at infinity's threshold, after all.

"It seems immodest for me to discuss my career or to claim any accomplishments. If you think surviving 67 years on a brutal, backward and superstitious planet ranks as an accomplishment, I've done that."

-- Robert Anton Wilson

The immortalist's motto should always be: safety (survival) first! The survival drive is something that will (should) never go out of style, as survival is the basic prerequisite for everything else. Pure hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) must clearly be balanced with foresight in order to avoid unpleasant experiences or even death. Permanent death is the greatest enemy of hedonism, perhaps even more so than suffering. The latter means that at least you're alive and may, at least theoretically, improve your situation and experience pleasure at some point in the future. True death, on the other hand, prevents you from ever feeling pleasure again, and thus cheats you out of an "infinite" amount of "pleasure points". Death is the ultimate oppressor. Strictly speaking, there are very few situations imaginable that are so fundamentally hopeless that they justify permanent self-termination. The prospect of being tortured forever by some god(s) may in fact be the only scenario where perpetual nothingness would be preferable to any kind of conscious existence, but given the fact that these "gods" could also keep you alive indefinitely if they felt like it, this is really a moot point. Strictly speaking, because in reality the flesh is weak, and may not be able to cope with intense internal (chronic depression, schizophrenia, other forms of mental illness) or external (loss of loved ones, status, and/or means of financial support etc.) stress factors. It doesn't take very much to mess up the delicate electro-chemical balance in one's brain, and when this happens you are in effect "no longer yourself", and might act in ways that are utterly alien or even outright repulsive to your current incarnation. So yes, strictly speaking it is insane and weak to kill yourself, but sometimes this is simply beyond your control. The flesh is weak, and so is the mind that dwells within it. This aside, one can safely state that as a general rule, one should always try to survive. Directly if possible, indirectly via cryopreservation or comparable means if necessary. While it's certainly true that a suicide that's carefully planned and executed, non-destructive, and immediately followed by some form of brain preservation isn't nearly as bad as the traditional deathist variant, it's still a lot worse than active survival; if only due to the absolute loss of control.

In order to survive and prosper one sometimes, perhaps even often depending on one's personal preferences, has to postpone or sacrifice enjoyment in order to reap greater benefits later (Note: this "sacrifice" can be limited; even with today's relatively crude mood-altering drugs, mind-altering hardware, and health-boosting food supplements you could presumably maintain a reasonable level of comfort without losing your edge or seriously damaging your health). Certainly when playing for the greatest prize of all, godhood (= eternal bliss, among other things), one should not be too squeamish about suffering some "tactical" discomfort every now and then, though at the same time it also makes sense to "seize the day" and live like there's "no tomorrow", for this may more or less be the case if we don't succeed. Death or glory! Intelligent Hedonism means putting some effort into getting -and staying- as rich, healthy, powerful & tech-savvy as possible, while (also) enjoying the very best that this primitive world has to offer. In other words, have as much fun as you can without getting yourself killed or into serious trouble. Carp that diem while keeping an eye on the future; it's the closest thing there is to a "meaning of life" -- at least for now

IV. Cryonics (a.k.a. Applied Immortalism)

Cryonic suspension is an experimental procedure whereby patients who no longer can be kept alive with today's medical abilities are preserved at low temperature for treatment in the future. A "typical" cryonics procedure goes, or rather should go, as follows: after de-animation (clinical death), the patient is immediately cooled with ice and ice-water, treated with various medications (that are circulated by external chest compressions as with CPR) to stabilize his condition (to reduce ischemic brain damage and blood clotting) and moved to a suitable location, like a mortuary for example, where his blood is replaced by an organ-preserving solution. The patient is then packed in ice and shipped to the cryonic storage facility where cryoprotectants, chemicals which reduce the formation of ice crystals during the freezing process, are carefully pumped into his body. When this process is completed, the body (or just the head, if the patient has opted for neuropreservation ) is gradually cooled to -196*C and placed in an insulated container -a dewar or cryostat- filled with liquid nitrogen (LN2), in which it will be stored until further notice.

Make me immortal yeah yeah
Once more around the sun
über religion yeah yeah
Ultra-evolution... liquid cool
He who lives these words
Shall not taste death
Becoming nothing yeah yeah
Forever liquid cool

-- Apollo 440; Liquid Cool

Though cryonics is still in its infancy, and thus far from perfect, there's good reason to believe that future advances in fields like in nanotech, neuroscience, genetics and computing will be able to repair much, if not all, of the damage caused by accidents, disease, aging, and the freezing process itself. See The Molecular Repair of the Brain by Ralph C. Merkle for an example of how this (theoretically) could be done. Certainly now that vitrification --a form of "cryonics" which uses advanced cryoprotectants (developed by 21st Century Medicine) and ultra-rapid cooling techniques to convert biological tissue into a kind of low-temperature glass rather than just freezing it-- has arrived on the scene, things are looking better than ever. It may not yet be "fully reversible biostasis", but this is nonetheless a major breakthrough in the field of cryonics, one which once more underlines the logic and vision of the whole idea. This new procedure will presumably cause much less (freezing) damage than standard cryonics, which means that patients could be revived sooner, and that information loss (in the brain) will be significantly reduced. Right now the vitrification protocol is only used (by Alcor) for neurosuspensions, but the vitrification of whole human bodies is only a matter of time. Once this becomes feasible, reversible biostasis may not be far behind.

Cryonics vs the Singularity

Once upon a time, before the rise of Singularitarianism and the more radical forms of Transhumanism, things were relatively simple: the general concensus was that cryonics patients would remain frozen for at least a century, possibly several (or even millennia, which, in retrospect, is rather silly), and would then be repaired and revived by a technologically advanced but still very much human society. A world not unlike that of Star Trek, perhaps (minus the aliens and logical inconsistencies). Sure, there might be some future shock and adjustment issues, but nothing really unsurmountable. Nowadays, the more progressive cryonicists realize that such visions are somewhat unrealistic, to put it mildly; the technologies -nanotech, AI, advanced scanning techniques- that will enable the revival of (early, contemporary) cryonauts will (almost) inevitably trigger a revolution that will change the world, and quite possibly the whole universe, forever. The humble acorn of humanity will grow into the mighty oak tree of trans & posthumanity practically overnight. Indeed, the Singularity may come before even a single cryonics patient is revived.

So, what does this mean for cryonics? Well, on one hand an early Singularity could be seen as something positive, for it means that most of us will probably never have to be frozen, and that those who already are in suspension won't have to be maintained for very long by the cryonics organizations (patient maintenance, or, more specifically, the long-term survival of cryo orgs has always been regarded as one of the weakest links in the cryonics venture). On the other hand, there is the very real chance that this planet and everything on it will be obliterated in an all-devouring technocalypse, and even if (a part of) humanity "survives" the transition period, the alien gods that they'll evolve into simply might not bother to revive a bunch of frozen fossils. On yet another hand, one could argue that the Posthumans, being god-like and all that, will eventually be able to reconstruct and resurrect everyone who ever lived (Tipler's Omega Point theory immediately comes to mind, but given its many wild assumptions and apparently inherent flaws it seems rather unlikely that this is how it will be done). If they're anthropocentrically "benevolent", they'll do just that. In each of the above scenarios the obvious conclusion seems to be that cryonics is essentially pointless or superfluous; either you're rescued by future gods, survive until the Singularity and become a god yourself, or get wiped out along with everyone else (frozen or not).

Ergo, cryonics is pointless? Obiously, the answer has to be "no"; otherwise, it wouldn't have been so explicitly included in these Principles. While the above hypothetical scenarios are all sound and reasonable in themselves, they're also just that -- hypothetical scenarios. Ultimately, we don't and indeed can't know what (exactly) the future will bring, and a future where cryonics turns out to be literally "live-saving" is by no means an impossibility. In the face of uncertainty, the conservative and rational approach is to make the proper arrangements for post-mortem identity preservation, i.e. cryonic suspension or one of the cheaper "emergency" alternatives. As a general rule, one should always try to preserve as much as one can (afford). This is a logical extension of the Hippocratic Oath ("First, do no harm"). It is what civilized people do. This really cannot be repeated too often: CRYOGENICALLY OR OTHERWISE PRESERVING THE DECEASED IS THE MORAL, CIVILIZED, AESTHETIC, AND RATIONAL THING TO DO, REGARDLESS OF THE FINAL OUTCOME. To bury or burn people that could potentially be repaired and revived at some future date is just as barbaric as refusing to apply CPR to someone who has just suffered cardiac arrest. All "arguments" against cryonics and related forms of preservation are bullshit. By definition. You can take that to the bank!

Furthermore, we can actively pursue transition scenarios which maximize the likehood of revival for cryo patients; we can and should integrate the resurrection of frozen comrades into the group ethic. Synchronized uploading no doubt can, and, again, should include the suspended (in fact, it might even be easier to scan & upload a "static" brain, as opposed to a "live" one). It's a simple matter of enlightened self-interest; we can't know in advance who will be frozen and who won't. Ideally, no member of the Transtopian contract group will die before the Singularity, but considering that we're fragile creatures living in a dangerous, entropic world -- a world where various social, political, and above all technological threats are bound to increase exponentially as the end(game) draws near -- it is only realistic to expect some casualties. The ultimate Darwinian struggle is at hand, and this is no time to be squeamish about such things. Also, pragmatism aside, making cryonics arrangements is -again- simply the civilized thing to do. What better way to set yourself apart from the deathist barbarians?

So many adventures couldn't happen today,
So many songs we forgot to play,
So many dreams swinging out of the blue,
We'll let them come true.

-- Alphaville; Forever Young

In an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, i.e. to attract people with a real commitment to immortality and rational self-interest in general (as opposed to lazy, niggardly poseurs), it is required of "serious" Transtopians --and of Singularity Club, "inner party" members in particular-- that they are either already signed up with a cryonics organization, are in the process of signing up, or at least are planning to do this asap. For a rational person, a really bad financial situation and/or overwhelming opposition from "authority figures" (this includes parents and legal guardians in the case of a minor) are the only valid (temporary) excuses for not being signed up. Note: cryonic suspensions, though relatively (hey, we are talking potential immortality here!) expensive (approx. $30,000 and up) can be funded by means of life insurance, which should make them affordable to most people reading this. On an annual basis it's actually (much) cheaper to have full cryonics arrangements than it is to be, say, a medium/heavy smoker.

It works It doesn't work
Sign up Live Die, lose life insurance
Do nothing Die Die

Cryonics according to Ralph C. Merkle, the short version.

Bottom line: do sign up for cryonics (hopefully this and/or some cheaper means of preservation like plastination or freeze drying will one day be part of a convenient membership package deal, but for the time being this remains your own responsibility). Accidents, violence, and diseases can claim anyone, at any time, and imperfect and uncertain as it may be, cryonics is still your best and perhaps only chance to "survive your own death". Considering how there's so much to gain, and so little to lose, signing up should really be a no-brainer (not literally, of course...)

By making cryonics arrangements you:

1) Do the rational thing; it's the only realistic chance you have should you die before powerful life extension technologies like mind uploading become available.

2) Help to support the cryonics movement, which means better infrastructure, freezing techniques and other useful things which will benefit you in case of (premature) death. As the movement is still very small, every new member really counts. A wait-and-see attitude doesn't help anyone.

3) Show commitment to Transhumanism in general and Transtopianism in particular. It is one of the best "seriousness indicators" currently available. Putting one's money where one's mouth is and all that.

4) Buy a certain peace of mind (without having to compromise your rationality as with religion).

5) Do the civilized thing. Burial, cremation and other such incredibly primitive, barbaric practices should have no place in the 21st century. Think about it: we have put people on the moon, split the atom and are now on the brink of creating superhuman intelligence, yet we still stuff our dead into the ground together with some dying flowers just like the Neanderthals did millennia ago. What is wrong with this picture? Obviously, choosing cryonic suspension is a sign of Enlightenment and good taste, if nothing else.

6) May one day actually become the coolest dude/chick on the block!


Transhumanism is the belief that we can, and should, try to overcome our biological limits by means of reason, science, and technology. Transhumanists seek things like intelligence augmentation, increased strength and beauty, extreme life extension, sustainable mood enhancement, and the capability to get offplanet and explore the universe. These goals are to be achieved with the aid of contemporary and future technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, cryonics, megascale and space-time engineering, AI, and mind uploading. In other words, (hardcore) Transhumanists seek to become Posthuman (demi-)gods -- "persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual and psychological capacity; self-programming, self-constituting, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals."

"When it comes to political memes, Transhumanism in its purest form doesn't have any fixed niche. Instead each host or group of hosts link it to their previous political views."

-- Anders Sandberg, 1994

Transhumanism as subset of the Transtopian ideoplex is of the "pure", technical kind. The basic meme has been assimilated without (most of) the "humanist" or "liberal-democratic" bolt-on ideology of organizations like the WTA. Though some (or even many, perhaps) Transhumanists would like to believe and make it appear that a certain more or less "politically correct" memetic package is an integral part of the doctrine, the reality is that such socio-political memes, reasonable or not, have nothing to do with Transhumanism (the desire to become more than human) per se. The Transtopian position is that if you're seeking to (significantly) transcend the human condition you're a "Transhumanist", no matter what your other beliefs are. Hence, Transtopians do not support the below WTA statements, or similar "discriminatory" sentiments:

WTA STATEMENT ON RACIALISM (adopted 02/25/2002)

Any and all doctrines of racial or ethnic supremacy / inferiority are incompatible with the fundamental tolerance and humanist roots of Transhumanism. Organizations advocating such doctrines or beliefs are not Transhumanist, and are unwelcome as affiliates of the WTA.


Neo-Nazi eugenic views; the individual "Marcus Eugenicus" and his associated group; UFO cults; the Raelian group; shall be designated as 'not Transhumanist / unacceptable to the Transhumanist community'.

[source: Resolutions of the World Transhumanist Association]

The term "Transhumanism", like "Atheism" or "Humanism", belongs in the public domain; no one (alive) "owns" it or has some special "right" (other than the eternal right of force, obviously) to deny its use to others. Those with particularly strong socio-political views ("democratic", "fascist", or otherwise) should preferably found separate factions with "unique", distinctive names like the Extropians and Prometheans have done instead of (just) using the "Transhumanist" umbrella label. This would be more honest, accurate, and would help to avoid unnecessary confusion.

VI. Singularitarianism

Mathematician and SF author Vernor Vinge defined the technological Singularity (aka Spike, Technocalypse, Techno-Rapture, Transition Point, Event Horizon, Asymptote...) in 1986 as

"...the postulated point or short period in our future when our self-guided evolutionary development accelerates enormously (powered by nanotech, neuroscience, AI, and perhaps uploading) so that nothing beyond that time can reliably be conceived."

In other words, its the moment when superintelligence is born; when we or our artificial creations make the transition to Posthumanity; the dawn of the age of gods. Current ETA: 2010 - 2040.

Singularitarian: originally defined by Mark Plus ('91) to mean "one who believes the concept of a Singularity", this term has since been redefined to mean "Singularity activist" or "friend of the Singularity"; that is, one who acts so as to bring about a Singularity.

[Mark Plus, 1991; Singularitarian Principles, Eliezer Yudkowsky, 2000. Source: Lextropicon]

This new definition is still somewhat controversial, though, and many Transhumanists are still Singularitarians in the original sense, i.e. "believers in the Singularity concept" rather than "activists" or "friends". While a few have, for whatever personal reasons, deliberately chosen the role of more or less impartial and relatively passive observers, most simply fail to grasp the full implications of this theory, or simply don't care (enough). To them it's simply another neat mailing list topic instead of a real event that can and will impact their lives profoundly in the not-too-distant future. Apart from Transtopia, the only other currently known (actively) Singularity-centered organization is the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which, it must be noted, sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is; for the time being at least SingInst is likely to remain a tiny, underfunded fringe group of hardcore Yudkowsky supporters. Still, Yudkowsky is clearly some kind of genius, and his "visionary" ideas may gain him the appreciation and (financial) support of one or several socio-economic movers & shakers at some future date. Assuming that his AI design-related theories are sound, this could have major consequences (see below). Fact is that in just a few years Yudkowsky has become a major player in the emerging Singularitarian movement, and his AI-centered, hyper-"altruistic" version of Singularitarianism is generally seen as the standard against which all other efforts & ideas are measured. Transtopianism represents a rather different flavor of Singularitarianism, which can best be explained via a point-by-point comparison with SingInst's ideology.

"The gateway is open and you are all coming with me!"

-- Dr. Weir in Event Horizon

The SingInst's brand of Singularitarianism is described in the aforementioned Singularitarian Principles, which, though in many ways un-Transtopian, are nonetheless an informative, insightful, and well-written document (the same goes for most of Yudkowsky's work, by the way), and can therefore be considered recommended reading for all serious Singularitarians, if only from a "know your enemy" perspective. The main differences between Transtopian Singularitarianism (T-Sing) and Yudkowskian Singularitarianism (Y-Sing) have been summarized below. A more detailed critique of the S-Principles may be included in a separate future essay. In this 6th Principle we'll only take a look at the general outlines of T-Sing. It is important to keep in mind that this part of the Principles, perhaps more so than any other, can and will be subject to (sudden) change. T-Sing will need to be constantly adjusted as new technologies are developed in order to remain relevant; a sudden, maybe even totally unexpected breakthrough in some specific field of research or engineering might change everything practically overnight. Also, philosophical developments and ideological shifts within the Transhumanist and Singularitarian communities will have to be taken into account. It is in this flexibility that, perhaps, lies T-Sing's greatest strength.

Note: Because Transtopian Singularitarianism doesn't include the Globalism meme, it should strictly speaking be called "Posthumanism" rather than "Singularitarianism" according to the Singularitarian Principles. However, the same Principles duly point out in Independence that "It should go without saying that neither I [Eliezer Yudkowsky], nor Vernor Vinge, nor the Singularity Institute, nor any other human institution, should be believed to have any "authority" over other Singularitarians - except that voluntarily granted by other Singularitarians, of course. That much is implicit in our transhumanist heritage." Hence, we choose to exercise our evolution-given autonomy and keep referring to ourselves as (Transtopian) Singularitarians (which we are, in the original, pre-Yudkowskian sense of the word), not as "posthumanists".

Y-Sing vs T-Sing

The former is about creating a god, while the latter is about becoming a god. Y-Sings want to build -program- a "Friendly" seed AI (read all about it at their website), which then is supposed to evolve into a -still Friendly- Sysop SI. As the name suggests, this entity would be humanity's guardian, a kind of Big Brother on steroids, or simply GOD: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, permeating and controlling the whole of existence. Ideally, so the Y-Sings argue, the Sysop would create the best possible conditions for all, probably in some kind of upload heaven, but even they, albeit somewhat grudgingly, have to acknowledge that ultimately no one can predict SI behavior; at the end of the day the Singularity remains a gaping black hole, a gateway into the unknown, and unknowable. The implicit assumption that greater intelligence equals greater "benevolence", which underlies most Y-Sing arguments, seems to be based more on wishful humanist thinking than on any actual evidence. Destroyer or savior -- the SI(s) could be either, and that's a fact. Another fact is that even in the best-case scenario we would all be forever at the mercy of this entity, which is hardly a comforting thought.

"[Eliezer Yudkowsky, aka the Man Who Defined Friendliness, or 'MWDF'] has built up an almost irrefutable rhetoric fortress around his AI laboratory. Even if you succeed in climbing up those slippery walls made of words and have a critical peep into his work he will twist around the words in your mouth just for the fun of always being right.

And even if you have worked through his undoubtedly eloquently written theoretical work and argue with his own phraseology, it is child's play for him to say, 'You did not fully understand AI' and distract from your special objection by taking you on a tour de force on topics and subjects that only have secondary importance to the whole dilemma, just for the fun of showing you how brilliantly informed he is.

I would not want to have my fate in the hands of such a MWDF, no matter how apparently human friendly his original intentions might have been. As Eugen Leitl has elaborated the other day, Eliezer's Guardian Angel Sysop - sorry for the religious phraseology, but right here it seems to fit perfectly - has the power of turning into an Armageddon Machine just the same; maybe just because it is bored with TV soaps about AIs whose power is limited by democratic decision-making and wishes to see what total destruction really looks like. I could even sympathize with the grandiosity of such a final decision, if I try to put myself in its place."

-- Hubert Mania on the WTA-Talk list, November 2002 (msg #4039).

Now, as the above quote illustrates, there does exist some opposition against the Sysop idea within Transhumanist and Singularitarian circles, but the primary suggested alternatives, namely some kind of global vote on the issue, democratic human control over the AI's decision-making process, or state-imposed "regulation" / relinquishment can hardly be taken seriously. The provisional T-Sing alternative is what one might call "synchronized ascension". Very simply put this means that once it has been determined through trial and error (i.e. by "neurohacking" and then observing animals of increasing complexity, and ultimately some human subjects as well -- all strictly monitored and with full safety precautions in place, of course) that a particular intelligence-enhancing procedure is safe and effective, all members of the Transtopian contract group adopt this modification simultaneously. This process of gradual "cyborgization" will ultimately culminate in full mind uploading. Alternatively, a procedure might be developed which largely bypasses the somewhat cumbersome process of gradual enhancement, and directly transfers one's thought patterns into an artificial medium. In this case the members of the contract group all get hooked up to a non-sentient, "genie" AI-controlled transition apparatus, and are "digitized" simultaneously (again, after extensive testing on animals and humans). The computer supervises the whole process up to a certain point, after which it either automatically shuts down, is shut down by the uploads themselves, or is simply abandoned/recycled. What happens afterwards is anyone's guess, but it seems reasonable to assume that these superior, highly intelligent life forms won't start fragging each other like a bunch of knuckle-dragging cave men. Instead, they'll probably work out some kind of sophisticated arrangement regarding the distribution of local and non-local resources, or merge into a single god-like entity.

The traditional Y-Sing arguments against this approach are that 1) strong (sentient) AI will arrive well before uploading anyway, no need to bother with the latter, and 2) that sentient AI is in fact a prerequisite for uploading, both for social and technical reasons; only a full-blown SI can be a reliable transition guide. Though usually presented as supposedly self-evident facts, these arguments are really just biased speculation. It could very well be that the raw computing power that's needed for the seed Sysop AI can also be used by human scientists to crack the uploading problem, perhaps using some clever trick or shortcut. In fact, given enough time, human researchers aided by advanced but "mindless" computers and nanotechnology could probably solve just about any problem (and this even ignores the huge intelligence-boosting potential of near-future augmentation by means of genetic engineering, advanced designer drugs, neural implants / prostheses / interfaces etc.!). If one looks at the millions upon millions of amazing machines and procedures that mankind has developed so far, the amazing amount of knowledge it has gathered, the ever increasing rate of scientific and technological progress, how could one possibly claim that mind uploading is "out of our league" and "will require SIs"? That's a gross and completely unfounded underestimation of human potential. Uploading may be one of our greatest engineering challenges yet, but it's very much a finite problem, and from the looks of it well within the realm of human possibilities.

In other words, we can safely ignore the second Y-Sing argument, and focus on the first one: is sentient AI really destined to win the race? Let's take a look at the facts: both technologies are for the time being purely hypothetical, and aren't expected to become truly viable until the advent of nanotech (which may or may not be a prerequisite, but which will certainly make things a lot easier). There currently aren't any (known) uploading projects worth mentioning [but neurohacking, a precursor to full mind uploading, is going strong!], while there is plenty of AI research. There is, however, only one sentient Sysop / FAI project (SingInst's) which currently is still very much in its initial stages of development, and in effect completely depends on a single individual (Yudkowsky). There are some other (public) sentient AI projects as well, most notably Dr. Hugo de Garis' Brain Building venture, but all seem to suffer from a serious lack of funding, and generally can be classified as "fringe science". The bulk of the AI R&D (as done by, for example, IBM), appears to be aimed at "simply" creating better tools, not god-like sentient entities. They're neutral in the sense that they could be used to hasten the advent of both FAI and uploading. Also, if the race can't be won "fairly", one can always try to slow down the opposition's progress. With literally everything at stake, there's no room for self-castrating PC protocols. He who isn't prepared to go "all the way" in the Endgame might as well go home and wait for Armageddon with he other sheep. The fact that Y-Sings are bound by their self-imposed "Friendliness" dogma and T-Sings aren't is the former's weakness and the latter's strength. Sentient AI doesn't have to be held back forever, just long enough for uploading or similar human-enhancing technologies to be developed. Once we ourselves have become artificial gods, the AIs will no longer pose a threat to us. Instead, they will be powerful and reliable tools under our control, the way it should be.

Y-Sings see the Singularity (almost) as a goal in itself, while T-Sings see it more as a means to an end (personal ascension), but also as a potential threat that has to be approached with due caution. From the Transtopian point of view the Singularity is neither inherently good nor bad (few things are); it's simply a fact of life --a presumably inevitable side-effect of technological progress in general, and self-enhancing intelligence in particular-- that we'll have to deal with in the (relatively) near future. Rather than seeking to implement "a technological Singularity" more or less for its own sake, Transtopianism is about pursuing one's enlightened self-interest to its logical "conclusion": infinite existence under the best possible conditions. The Singularity is "merely" the portal, perhaps the first of many, through which we'll have to pass in order to get to Transtopia, an infinitely higher plane of existence where we can be like the gods. It's a gateway to the superunknown. No more, and no less.

Y-Sings think that nanotech is a more dangerous technology than AI, and T-Sings vice versa. To quote from the Singularitarian Principles: "Sooner or later, someone will create either a superweapon or a superintelligence. We cannot avoid the issue. We can only choose which will come first - and at least intelligence can have conscience; we can rely on it not being blindly destructive. That's the survivalist reason to be a Singularitarian." Actually, from a survivalist perspective the superweapon would be preferable. Weapons, even very powerful ones, are ultimately still tools. They're only as "smart" as their (presumably still humanoid/esque) operators. They can, at least theoretically, be destroyed, evaded, captured, etc. For example, in case of a nanowar it would be possible to escape into space, and work on uploading in some relatively safe, secluded corner of the Solar System (just getting offplanet might in fact already suffice). Alternatively, you could start building nukes and nanite armies from asteroids or entire planets, and use them to overwhelm & crush the opposition, or find a way to infiltrate and reprogram their nanites. Etc. It's not very difficult to think of various potentially effective strategies against "sub-transhuman" enemies armed with nanoweapons. Ditto with gray goo "accidents" -- assuming that something like gray goo, an all-devouring sludge of autonomous, self-replicating nanites, is even technically feasible in the foreseeable future. A full-blown superintelligence, on the other hand, would be practically undefeatable from the human perspective. If your opponent is a god, resistance is futile. You can't run, you can't hide...if the SI wants to harm you, you're fucked, plain and simple. Transtopians would rather take their chances with the superweapons than having to rely on the anthropocentric(!) benevolence of alien gods, and this alone sets them firmly apart from the Y-Sing crowd. There is, however, another major difference...

Y-Sing ethics are "altruism"-based (saving mankind, or at least sharing its fate is a really Big Deal to them, see Globalism), while T-Sing ethics are based on rational self-interest. Personal survival -continuation of one's consciousness- is the basic prerequisite for all one's actions and experiences, and should therefore always come first. Saving mankind is optional; a neutral matter of personal preference, not intrinsically more important than, say, populating the universe with pink unicorns. This basic principle of "self-interest first, everything else is by definition of secondary importance" is no trivial matter; it represents elemental pragmatism, and could ultimately mean the difference between success and failure, godhood and annihilation. This is what separates the naive, ignorant, and misguided from the Enlightened. Also, what SIs will do with humans is unknowable anyway, so it's pointless to worry/argue about it, or to make empty feelgood promises. T-Sings think that Y-Sings' collectivist, "all-or-nothing" ethics are sanctimonious, cartoonesque, and potentially suicidal. Needless to say, Y-Sings tend to think that T-Sing ethics are "simplistic", "egoistic" and/or "evil" (they actually still use silly, pseudo-religious terms like "good" and "evil" -- a lot). Well, whatever...We prefer to call them "honest" and "realistic". Let's keep in mind that, if actually built, there's a nontrivial chance that the Yudkowskian Sysop AI would eventually kill us all. In the end it's not the good intentions that count (the road to Hell is paved with them, after all), but the results [of one's actions].

Finally, then, there is T-Sing's superior flexibility and "open-mindedness". Though lip service is occasionally paid to other approaches (neurohacking, mind uploading), Y-Sing is in effect completely focused on sentient AI. There's no real back-up plan, and apparently no real desire to make one, either. Basically, the SingInst's message is: FAI or certain death, end of argument. T-Sing, on the other hand, is about using any means available and/or necessary in the pursuit of personal ascension, and infinite existence under the best possible conditions. Mind uploading is definitely preferred for reasons that have been explained earlier, but it's not a dogma. T-Sings might even decide to actively support the Y-Sing program at some point (some already do), though only as a back-up.

Altruism & (human) life have inherent value Altruism & (human) life don't have inherent value
Synchronized ascension Ascend, save humans/other life forms Ascend, do whatever you want with lower life forms
Sysop SAI Everyone lives happily ever after Everyone becomes SI fodder

The benefits of Synchronized ascension / mind uploading vs Sysop AI construction from the rational self-interest perspective. The above setup assumes that there are no serious technical errors or other disruptions (these could occur more or less equally in both cases, and therefore pretty much cancel each other out).

So, to recap & wrap things up: Transtopians acknowledge that mind uploading may be more difficult than creating a self-enhancing artificial intelligence, and that SingInst (and possibly some unknown others) have something of a head start. However, as has been pointed out before, personal enhancement which ultimately is to result in full mind uploading is the only (known) way in which we can realistically hope to acquire true freedom, and the safety that comes with being at the top of the "food chain". Darwin's survival of the fittest is too fundamental a principle to be ignored; those who believe that superintelligence effectively guarantees "super Friendliness" are trippin' in La-La Land. "Friendliness" is just one of a myriad of possibilities, and certainly not the most likely one ("indifference" towards lower life forms & their well-being is a much more realistic candidate for the #1 position). It would be profoundly ironic if the antiauthoritarian, fiercely atheistic and individualistic Transhumanists (and specifically Extropians) would, in the end, choose to ignore their one shot at supreme self-liberation and throw themselves (and the rest of the world) at the mercy of an artificial god instead, like a bunch of religious sheep. As Markoff Chaney said, "It's time to stop worshipping gods, and aim at becoming gods" -- not creating them! Just because the latter may(?) be easier doesn't automatically make it right. Often "doing the right thing" requires extra effort, and it's no different in this case. It's not really a choice; it's a rational imperative. The Sysop AI should be regarded as an emergency backup, only to be used if everything else is about to fail, not as a "first choice"; the risks that are inherent to (massive) power discrepancies are much too great for that. Even if -and this is a big "if"- all would go as planned (by Yudkowsky et al), our freedom would be lost forever. Yes, that's FOREVER, for all eternity. No Matrix-esque heroics, no "breaking out of the system"; resistance is futile. You'd be reduced to the powerless figment of some mindless automaton's politically correct imagination. Take a moment to think about it, for it's no small matter.

"Even after multiple doses of future shock, and all the other fun things that being a Singularitarian has enabled me to do to my personality, I still like to think of myself as being on track to heal this planet - solving, quite literally, all the problems of the world. That's how I got into this in the first place. Every day, 150,000 humans die, and most of the survivors live lives of quiet desperation. We're told not to think about it; we're told that if we acknowledge it our minds will be crushed. I, at least, can accept the reality of child abuse, cruelty, death, despair, illiteracy, injustice, old age, pain, poverty, stupidity, terror, torture, tyranny and any other ugliness you care to name, because I'm working to stop it. All of it. Permanently."

-- Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, Singularitarian Principles

If we want to become immortal, autonomous Superintelligences, we must be the first to pass through the Singularity, thereby in effect becoming the Singularity. To achieve this objective, interested parties should cooperate to gather wealth and watch, implement, and sponsor research of human-enhancing technologies, especially those that may lead to mind uploading. Only by becoming financial, technological, and (to a certain degree) political "Players" can we hope to realize our full Transhuman potential. Transtopianism may still be far from perfect, but it's currently the only serious Transhuman alternative to the Singinst's SAI approach.

VII. Atheism

Transtopianism rejects religious dogma and belief in the supernatural. The rational approach to these things is that they are mere figments of the imagination until proven otherwise. Or, as Occam's Razor puts it: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. There are plenty of excellent scientific and psychological explanations for religious beliefs (fear of death, conformism, an adapted survival instinct from our childhood, an effort to shield oneself from the harshness of existence, madness etc.) and most "supernatural" experiences (people's minds playing tricks on them, natural phenomena, or simply fraud), so there's really nothing "mystical" about them. As the great Franco-German philosopher Paul Henri Thiry noted in 1770:

"If we go back to the beginning of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture, and deception embellished or distorted them; and that tyranny favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men."

In those (few) cases where science hasn't yet provided a satisfactory answer, it will almost certainly do so in due time. In any case there is no valid reason to ever abandon the scientific method in favor of random explanations based on superstition.

It is sometimes said that religion is necessary because science, though it can certainly help us to understand and manipulate the world around us, doesn't provide a "meaning of life" or "moral guidance". Now, the latter part of this statement is more or less true; science in itself has little to do with meaning or morality. It's a tool, just like a spade or a gun are tools, and can be used for all sorts of things. To say, however, that this somehow justifies placing this tool, and indeed our very behavior, under the control of random superstitions is profoundly illogical. Though science itself isn't a moral or "meaning-giving" entity, the supremely practical and effective scientific method can and should be used to determine the most rational meaning of life, and a matching system of ethics. Surely, the fundament of one's worldview must be constructed with the very best tools and materials available, and they don't come any better than reason, science, and technology.

As has already been explained in the "Intelligent Hedonism" section, pleasure and happiness are the most logical "meaning of life". It thus follows that if pleasure and happiness are the highest good, one's "moral" or "ethical" system should be such that it maximizes these emotions; it should enable one to feel as good as possible, for as long as possible.

The core of the Transtopian system of ethics is therefore as follows: infinite existence under the best possible conditions (= enlightened self-interest) is the supergoal. That which furthers the supergoal is "good", that which is neutral towards it is "acceptable", and that which works against it is "bad".

That's it; no metaphysical nonsense, no sanctimoniousness, no contradictions; just pure logic. Not that this -or any other logical argument, for that matter- is likely to convince any theist of the absurdity of his position, for religion is ultimately about finding a quick and easy emotional "fix" against existential angst, not about seeking the truth and self-liberation.

"There is something feeble and a little contemptable about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious when they are disputed."

-- Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

How very true...Apart from rejecting religion and superstition on scientific grounds, Transtopians also dislike the very idea of some omnipotent entity controlling and/or judging our lives, or that there are "supernatural" forces which are fundamentally beyond our control, for, if such forces actually existed, we could never be truly free. To quote Robert G. Ingersoll:

"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself...I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds."

[From: Why I Am an Agnostic, The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Dresden Memorial Edition (IV, 5-67)]

Instead of worshipping gods, we want to become "god-like" ourselves. The existence of powerful (super)natural, sentient forces -be they gods, ghosts, highly advanced aliens, or AIs- would clearly be an enormous, if not outright unsurmountable, obstacle on the way to ascension, eternal happiness, and true autonomy. We should be damn glad that a being like the Judeo-Christian God probably doesn't exist, for if he/it did we'd be utterly and eternally at the mercy of this sick bastard. Omnipotence, benevolence, and misery --sadness, pain, fear, despair, aging, disease, accidents, death, organisms having to kill each other for food etc.-- just don't mix, period. Half-assed arguments claiming that "evil" is necessary to make "free will" (there ain't no such thing) and "true goodness" possible just don't wash. At all. To first torture creatures which you have designed and programmed yourself and whose actions you can predict 100% (that's what omnipotence and omniscience are all about) on a semi-hell planet, only to throw them into an even worse hell afterwards for the "sin" of doing whatever you programmed them to do, is sadism of the most blatant kind. Also, it is rather infantile -- doesn't a god have anything better to do than play with meat puppets all day? Now, what does this say about the people who worship this infantile bastard? That's right, they're either a) infantile bastards themselves, b) crazy, c) completely ignorant, or d) a combination of these deplorable characteristics. Religion in the usual -superstitious and irrational- sense is (dangerous) bullshit, plain and simple. It should have no place in a modern, supposedly "civilized" society.

"There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages."

-- Ruth H. Green

Because of their strong "moral" and scientific rejection of religion, Transtopians call themselves Atheists and not Agnostics, as the latter philosophy, though being essentially correct about the unknowability of the existence god(s), is often associated with a "soft" or "neutral" attitude towards religion.

VIII. Egoism

The two primary forms of Egoism are: 1) Psychological Egoism, which is descriptive and claims that everyone acts in their own self-interest, i.e. everyone is an egoist at heart, and 2) Ethical Egoism, which is normative and claims that everyone ought to act in their own self-interest.

EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

There are all sorts of excellent arguments both for and against the psychological form, but the best model is probably that of man as an essentially self-serving ("egoistic") creature that is hampered by short-sighted, potentially harmful / lethal hedonistic and altruistic urges, caused by a combination of nature and nurture, i.e. genes and environment. Obviously, there are rather significant variations amongst individuals, but the basic model is presumably the same for all "normal" human beings and (the more complex) animal species.

Regardless of the accuracy of the above psychological model, there is little room for doubt regarding the validity of ethical Egoism within the Transtopian philosophy; self-interest is the highest good, because pleasure and happiness are the least arbitrary "meaning of life" (see Intelligent Hedonism). Even if one doesn't believe this to be the case, one must at the very least be alive to seek the "true" meaning of life. Needless to say, this could very well be an open-ended search. In order to survive indefinitely, one must overcome hard-wired or learned (seriously) harmful behavior, especially altruism, idealism, and guilt. Let's start with the latter:

According to Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of the book Your Erroneous Zones, "guilt is the most useless of all erroneous zone emotions[....] Guilt is not merely concerned with the past; it is a present moment immobilization about a past event [....] If you are simply learning from your past, and vowing to avoid the repetition of some specific behavior, this is not guilt [....] Learning from your mistakes is healthy and a necessary part of growth. Guilt is unhealthy because you are ineffectively using up your energy in the present feeling hurt, upset and depressed about a historical happening. And it’s futile as well as unhealthy. No amount of guilt can ever undo anything [....] You’re throwing away the present moment."

Though guilt no doubt has/had some "useful" function from an evolutionary perspective, it is nothing but a handicap for the individual. Guilt is a parasite that weakens its host's mental defences, so that he becomes easy prey for unscrupulous opportunists. Guilt is directly responsible for such aberrations like Christianity and runaway "Political Correctness". Guilt is weakness; it represents blind, self-destructive emotional instinct, and is the very opposite of rational, level-headed individualism and self-interest. Feeling guilty about, and asking forgiveness for, your own "crimes" is silly and pointless enough (unless you fake compunction for personal gain, that is), but doing the same regarding real or imagined "crimes" of your ancestors or fellow countrymen (Holocaust, colonialism, slavery, crusades, original sin etc. etc.) is utterly absurd and pathetic.

Now let's take a look at the second member of this insidious triad: altruism. In its more extreme (and unfortunately quite common) form this can be a dangerous meme indeed. In his essay Reason, Egoism, Freedom, Raymie Stata notes:

According to Ayn Rand, "the basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value." Rand distinguished between altruism and helping others. Helping others is not altruism per se: altruism is the belief that you have a duty to help others, that you owe others. [...] Altruism holds that one person's need is a blank check against the lives of others, that self-sacrifice is the good and that self-interest is evil.
[...] She goes on to tie altruism to mysticism: "It is only mysticism that can permit moralists to get away with it. It was mysticism, the unearthly, the supernatural, the irrational that has always been called upon to justify it-or, to be exact, to escape the necessity of justification."

[Note: though altruism can certainly be scientifically "explained", this doesn't somehow automatically justify it from a rationally-egoistic moral perspective; these are two entirely different issues]

And while we're in a Libertarian mood: "Socialists often claim that capitalism is based on humanity’s worst impulses, greed and selfishness, despite the fact that people who live in societies that participate in markets tend to be more generous and cooperative than those who don't. Oswald and Zizzo’s research suggests that socialists who believe that their ideology appeals to humanity's better instincts have it backwards. Envy is behind the leveling spirit of socialism. A truly generous and rational soul would wish others well, especially if they have done no one any harm.
Only an open society in which people clearly see that they have an opportunity to rise seems capable of containing and channeling humanity's envy instinct. The task for champions of freedom is to encourage people to want more cows for everybody."
[From Burn the Rich -- A recent study suggests that envy comes naturally Reason Magazine, June 19, 2002]

There's nothing wrong with helping others (out of enlightened self-interest), but the idea that it would be the highest good, a "sacred duty" even, has no rational basis whatsoever. Like religion, to which (guilt-based) altruism is often linked, it is, among other things, a tool that society's leaders use to make the masses "behave themselves". To be more obedient and willing to sacrifice themselves for the "common good" (which often happens to be the ruling elite's good). Of course, the widespread occurrence of (extreme) altruism across ages and cultures indicates a strong genetic support for this social phenomenon. We have evolved from, and still are, highly "social" animals. We function best in groups, and apparently altruistic behavior aides the group's and thus the species' survival. As long as not too many of the group's members get killed while being selfless, everything's ok. In the mindless rat-race of evolution, the life and well-being of an individual creature are of little importance; only survival of the species, the genes, "counts".

"The destiny of the human race is to widen the gap separating it from the lower races of animals. Any code of morality which retains its permanence and authority after the conditions of existence which gave rise to it have changed, works against this upward progress of man."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

A rational individual, however, understands that blindly accepting this randomly evolved default situation does not further one's enlightened self-interest, i.e. it's stupid. Of course, it is equally stupid to "consciously" sacrifice oneself for some specific "ideal", be it political, religious, or otherwise. Idealism in the sense of "valuing a certain goal more than one's survival and well-being" (as opposed to trying to realize some "grand" goal or vision which either benefits you directly, or at least doesn't significantly harm or endanger you) is basically a specialized form of extreme altruism, and must be rejected for the same reasons. All those millions of people who have, throughout the ages, willingly sacrificed themselves for their god(s), tribe, fatherland, or some other "lofty" ideal weren't "heroes". They were poor, misguided fools. Slaves to their genes and social pressures. It may be true that we and many others have benefited from their sacrifice, but that is really besides the point. Also, let's not forget that most wars and other conflicts were -and still are- actually caused, or at least made possible, by naive, blind idealism which can easily lead to runaway nationalism, religious fanaticism, and other forms of mass hysteria.

"The itch to be a world saver should not be scratched; it rarely does any good and can drastically shorten your life."

-- Lazarus Long in Heinlein's Time Enough for Love (1973)

A simple but profound truth: the single most important thing any person has is his own life; his own conscious existence. When it ends, the universe might as well end along with it; it would make no difference from one's personal perspective, which is the only one that counts. We are and will always remain subjective creatures; true objectivity is a chimaera, even for Posthuman Powers. Presumably. But that aside. It is each person's rational "duty" to make survival and his general well-being his highest priorities. Everything else, including one's friends, family and wider social group is of secondary importance. This doesn't mean that there can be no room for some "altruistic" behavior, though, only that it shouldn't fundamentally interfere with these prime directives. Life is already difficult enough as it is; it would be silly to add yet another major handicap in the form of irrational, self-destructive ethics.

"If your self is truly confined to your skull, then the only rational values are based on the effects of decisions on the future contents of your skull. You want to maximize future feel-good, after figuring out what that means and how you measure it and predict it."

-- Robert Ettinger (father of the cryonics movement)

Transtopianism is a philosophy that has evolved beyond the archaic, pseudo-religious notions of "good" and "evil", and the guilt trips, blind conformism, and sanctimoniousness on which they rely. Transtopian ethics are based on rational self-interest, and firmly reject all this harmful, superstitious nonsense. Personal empowerment is the principal measure of the Transtopian moral universe. Consequently, "good" and "bad" are defined in terms of either positive or negative impact on one's personal condition, not [on] that of some external entity (individual human & nonhuman life forms / the family / tribe / nation / business...) or abstract concept ("the greater good", "God's will", "the natural order"...).

"Inherent" rights are brought back to their true proportions as well: there is exactly one "natural" or "inherent" right: the right of force. All other so-called "rights" are in fact more or less arbitrary privileges which can be granted by "superior", "dominant" entities to weaker entities. The greater the difference in power, the more comfortable the stronger entity's position becomes, and the more precarious the weaker one's.

The most extreme example, and indeed the very embodiment of "might makes right" is of course the Judeo-Christian god, who can do literally anything and get away with it. When people worship God they really worship "power incarnate". A power so overwhelmingly absolute that everything else crumbles before it. A power whose massive gravitational pull is already starting to be felt from beyond the event horizon of the technological Singularity. Repent, for the Day of Judgement is almost upon ye! Anyway...

"Rights" (privileges) without the means to enforce them -if necessary- are empty and meaningless. They're fragile bubbles which can burst at any moment. "And what about inherent 'value'?", one might ask; "Isn't [X] intrinsically valuable?" Well, only if "X" is the pleasure-happiness complex or one of its direct auxiliaries, perhaps. The hierarchy of "inherent" value would then be (roughly) as follows:

Positive emotions and sensations are the most logical (interim) "meaning of life", and therefore, arguably, "intrinsically" valuable. Everyone seeks them in one way or another, and their inherent, unconditional goodness seems to become immediately apparent to all who are exposed to them, though some will deny this afterwards due to religious and other hangups. For humans & most (higher) animals at least, feeling good is a Major Issue. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that this pleasure-based value mechanism is ultimately arbitrary, a product of blind chance like everything else in this presumably natural universe. Rather than being a non-arbitrary choice, pleasure and happiness are simply the least arbitrary choice when it comes to selecting a Supergoal. Combined with ethical Egoism, they allow one to create a worldview that is internally consistent, in touch with human nature (and therefore user-friendly), but which at the same time leaves the door open for alternative, possibly "superior" future (Posthuman) Supergoals and value hierarchies. It's the best of all worlds.

The almost certain absence of inherent rights & values in the usual (feelgood, politically correct) sense should be a warning to starry-eyed transhuman AI advocates, and naive technophiles in general. If mankind hardly takes its own dogmas regarding the "inherent sanctity and dignity of human life" etc. seriously, then why should they be so important to SIs? Because of this selfish gene-driven tribal instinct called "altruism" (of course, altruism alone might not suffice; it would have to be anthropocentrically-biased altruism), which would either be preserved all through their ascension or "spontaneously" generated at some point? Don't count on it. One should never (have to) rely on the "benevolence of strangers" for one's survival and well-being. The Singularity may make a lot of things redundant, but common sense ain't one of them!

"Veritas odium parit: Truth purchaseth hatred."

-- Thomas Wilson, Discourse Upon Usury

The rationally-Egoistic individual is essentially an enlightened opportunist; he will incessantly but also cautiously pursue his long-term self-interest, infinite existence under the best possible conditions, and systematically (try to) suppress those evolved instincts, such as extreme altruism, which do not further his cause. Certain misguided individuals might regard such an attitude (and indeed these Principles as a whole) as "evil" or "immoral". Well, one could simply point out that ethics and morals are just subjective, evolution-imposed memetic patterns and leave it at that, but that wouldn't really do this philosophy justice; it is in fact "good" and beneficial by rather "general" standards (often including those of its critics, even though they apparently don't realize it) because it helps to empower the individual. Any individual. Yes, that includes you, dear reader, whoever you may be. Forget "the good of society"; societies are just groups of individuals. It is up to every one of these individuals to choose whether he wants to be a powerless victim or his own master, maybe one day even a god. If you prefer the latter, then Transtopianism (which includes advanced Egoism) is the philosophy of choice.

IX. Tough Liberalism (a.k.a. Social Individualism)

Anything goes as long as it doesn't (seriously) harm the others within one's contract group (= a group or memetic tribe which people voluntarily join or form to achieve common goals, like surviving the Singularity, for example). This is more or less the essence of the Golden Rule. Well, obviously, should there be a "conflict of interest", the enlightened self-interest of individual group members always outranks the interests of the group, but as long as cooperation is required, one should stick to the Golden Rule for practical purposes.

"If only everybody would agree to be a dove, every single individual would benefit. By simple group selection, any group in which all individuals mutually agree to be doves would be far more successful than a rival group sitting at the ESS (Evolutionary Stable Strategy) ratio....Group selection theory would therefore predict a tendency to evolve towards an all-dove conspiracy...But the trouble with conspiracies, even those that are to everybody's advantage in the long run, is that they are open to abuse. It is true that everybody does better in an all-dove group than he would in an ESS group. But unfortunately, in conspiracies of doves, a single hawk does so extremely well that nothing could stop the evolution of hawks. The conspiracy is therefore bound to be broken by treachery from within. An ESS is stable, not because it is particularly good for the individuals participating in it, but simply because it is immune to treachery from within."

-- Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, Second Edition

Defection can be the most rational choice under certain circumstances, especially for Singularitarians, and should thus be anticipated by everyone involved, i.e. trust no one. This healthy level of rational suspicion should not lead to an openly hostile and paranoid atmosphere, however; this would only generate unnecessary conflicts and might even endanger the common goals. Also, life is depressing enough as it is, no need to make it even worse by treating each other like shit. It's better to be happy & gay, indulge in profound silliness every now and then and appreciate the other members of your group for their good characteristics. Apart from being "fun" in itself, a positive attitude can be quite beneficial for group productivity & general effectiveness. It's simply more practical to be "nice".

When harm* is done, measures should be taken (preferably) after a proper "trial" and according to the enlightened principle of proportional retribution, aka "an eye for an eye". This is almost certainly one of the, perhaps even the least arbitrary form of justice. It's the golden path between bleeding-heart leftist softness and right wing / conservative harshness. It's neither inherently harsh nor soft; it's simply...fair. Of course, specific circumstances may favor different solutions; reasonable as it may be, the rule of proportional retribution should never become a blind dogma. Rules & regulations are merely means to an end, memes which are presumably necessary for maintaining group stability and coherence until the Singularity is reached (what happens afterwards is anyone's guess). They're certainly not ends in themselves; not for Transtopians, in any case.

Maximal individual freedom can only work properly in a group when it is linked to responsibility (accountability) for one's actions. Otherwise, the group is likely to slip deeper and deeper into a state of anarchy until it completely disintegrates. When this happens, all members will suffer the consequences, which could be rather severe. As you already may have guessed, the proportional retribution rule only applies to members of the contract group. The only logical rule with regard to dealing with (potentially) harmful "outsiders" is that one should not harm [the interests of] the group with one's actions. Other than this, it's essentially a matter of personal preference. Needless to say, the same basic principle applies to dealing with non-Transtopian laws & ethics. Violate them at will (and god knows that many of them deserve to be violated!), but mind the personal / collective interests. In other words: if you're going to break the law, make sure that you don't get caught, and if you do get caught, keep your mouth shut (until help arrives, if applicable). Simple as that.

* Note: "Harming others" includes such acts as murder, rape, theft, fraud, damage to persons and property or in some way intentionally or recklessly jeopardizing a group member's security & well-being.

Though usually not interested in direct political activism (why waste precious time and resources on most likely futile attempts to reform a system that has no future anyway), Transtopians oppose the "war on drugs" and the persecution of victimless crimes (like gambling, prostitution, euthanasia, abortion, and the keeping and bearing of arms) in general on "moral" and practical grounds. If it doesn't harm any "innocents", it should be legal, period.

Another important "liberal" issue is the (total!) rejection of taboos, or freedom of speech. It should be possible to discuss everything, including emotionally charged topics like eugenics, capital punishment, and religion in a calm, rational manner (amongst equals). Transtopians are more interested in the facts than in the "political correctness" of the day. By denying or stigmatizing a problem it will likely only get worse; taboos stem critical thinking and breed frustration, hypocrisy, corruption, and extremism. In a group or society with excessively restrictive rules and irrational double standards, ultimately everybody is a loser. Also, being uptight about all sorts of "controversial" issues is very uncool. Being "disturbed", "shocked", "appalled" "horrified" (etc. etc.) by, say, racism, genocide, or kiddy porn is for sissies (and outrage-faking sanctimonious assholes). A true Illuminatus is way too cynical, laid-back, and yes, hardcore to be shocked by anything. He is truly unshockable. He knows that life is a sick joke, and that one might as well laugh at the many profound ironies of the human condition.

X. Mental, Physical & Financial Empowerment

To quote from Romana Machado's classic transhumanist essay Five Things You Can Do To Fight Entropy Now:

"To be prepared for a future that may be full of difficult changes, and survive in an entropic world, take personal responsibility for your security. If you are good at self-defense, you need not regard yourself as a powerless victim. Self-defense encourages your sense of autonomy and personal power. Following a course of study in martial arts may help you to develop the proper attitude towards the use of force in self-defense. Learn the proper use of devices and techniques that can protect you from harm."

Needless to say, a pacifistic or "meek" attitude is definitely not compatible with the transtopian spirit. Might makes right and the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest are most likely eternal truths, so we might as well accept them and play by their rules. Resistance is futile! It is not the meek who shall inherit the earth (and the rest of the universe), but the assertive, dominant, and powerful.

"Weakness corrupts, and absolute weakness corrupts absolutely."

-- Stewart Emery

Another practical way to empower yourself mentally and physically by caring for your health. Take and experiment with various (combinations of) orthomolecular food supplements, homeopathic / phytotherapeutic medications (yes, at least some of them do work), and smart drugs, try to eat reasonably healthy, and do some fitness and/or light body building. Apart from obvious benefits like more strength, endurance, better looks etc., successfully enhancing one's physique also generates a sense of pride and self-confidence, which, like having mastered fighting skills, will have a beneficial influence on all aspects of life.

"I must say I hate money, but it's the lack of it that I hate most."

-- Katherine Mansfield

Last, but certainly not least, get as rich as possible. Money is the great lubricant in human society, and when used with some competence it can buy a person just about anything, including health, happiness, and long life. Furthermore, wealth is absolutely essential if you want to be one of the first to acquire the technologies which ultimately will allow people to merge with machines and transcend the -miserable and ultimately fatal- human condition. However, one should also never forget that money is just a tool; a means to an end, not an end in itself. People who make money for the sake of making money, and don't use it for hedonistic purposes and to become more "transhuman", are just as irrational as those who reject material wealth altogether. Of course, "making money" doesn't, and indeed shouldn't, have to equal "having a job". Jobs are a degrading (wage slavery) and inefficient way to make a living; save for a handful of top business positions (the ones that tend to cause burnout and heart attacks), you'll never acquire enough wealth this way to get safely through the transition period, and in either case you won't even have much time to enjoy the here-and-now.

"Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five."

-- W. Somerset Maugham

No, the future of intelligent money-making almost certainly lies in the virtual realm of the Internet, where all sorts of potentially lucrative business and investment schemes can be run in a highly automated and discreet fashion. The former means more time for leisurely pursuits, while the latter, certainly when combined with multiple citizenships, living on and/or doing business from a ship which is registered under a flag of convenience, offshore banking, and other such legal sleights of hand helps to ensure that one isn't robbed of (a disproportionately large share of) one's hard- or otherwise-earned income by the Powers that Be -- after all, as Robert Heinlein once pointed out, "taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed." We need money just like we need oxygen, and smart money-making is indeed very much like breathing; it's something that happens automatically while we do other things, or even sleep.

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward."

-- Spanish proverb

Incidentally, society as a whole could virtually rid itself of the grinding yoke of wage slavery by making optimal use of automation. Even in this still relatively primitive day & age there are very few jobs that couldn't be done by robots and/or computers, and practically none that couldn't be done more efficiently with increased tech support. Automation may be somewhat costly in the beginning, but due to the mechanism of economies of scale and the superior efficiency and productivity of machines (they work better, faster, 24/7, they never complain, don't steal, never go on strike etc.) and the elimination of wages, pensions, and other costs that are associated with human workers (machines don't need any "social benefits"; they're the perfect "slaves") it would not only be possible to recover these investments relatively quickly, but it would also allow the government to put increasingly large segments of the population on a new kind of "super welfare", i.e. provide them with all kinds of high-quality free or almost free services like healthcare, cryopreservation, life extension treatments, public transportation, housing, schooling (primarily aimed at optimally developing one's rational faculties), entertainment, nourishment etc. The new society would in fact be something of a high-tech version of ancient Rome: free "bread and circuses" (and ultimately Matrix-esque VR pods) for the people, made possible by a massive "slave labor force" (machines). Of course, the people responsible for maintaining and expanding the system -the technicians, planners, scientists etc.- would be extremely well-paid and would enjoy many other privileges in compensation for their sacrifice. With the advent of advanced nanotech and truly "intelligent" (but preferably not "sentient") AI they too would eventually be phased out, and could join the rest of society in technological Eden where the restrictions are few and the possibilities near-infinite. Well, until, inevitably, the Singularity would occur and change everything beyond recognition, anyway.

There is a lot more to say about the Transtopian "work-free paradise" (as opposed to the socialists' "workers' paradise"), but as it (currently) isn't one of the movement's objectives to found such a state (mainly because of the presumably imminent Singularity), there is no need to further expand on this in the Principles. The above is primarily meant to illustrate Transtopianism's fundamental contempt for, and rejection of the work/job-obsessed status quo, and the slave mentality/general lack of vision that unnecessarily perpetuates this deplorable state of affairs. The topic of the (hypothetical) automated, workless, antesingularian Transtopian society certainly deserves further attention from a philosophical point of view, though, and will -in due time- be treated in a separate essay.


Transtopians don't breed because, assuming that one wants to be a good parent, children are a serious drain in terms of time and resources, are likely to increase stress, ruin relationships, and will severely limit one's freedom. "Settling down" and starting a family is more often than not the start of a steady descent into the dull greyness of a bourgeois existence. When people become parents, they implicitly (and duly) accept that their "fun days" are over, and that it's time to "get responsible". Well, screw that! Only a fool would give up his life like that. Better to stay young at heart and unbound forever. The only real value of offspring in modern ("Western") societies is "enjoyment" (hedonistic motive), but due to the significant drawbacks of parenthood it can't be considered intelligent hedonism, and should thus be avoided.

Don't say lucky
When you envy me my life
Say birth control

-- Unknown

Once you've decided that you don't want children, the next logical step is to reject marriage as well. True, it isn't as big (and "irreversible") a mistake as having children, and it can work for some people, but for many it simply doesn't [work]. Only too often, marriage is a major source of frustration due to loss of personal freedom, disillusionment, financial problems etc. What often follows is divorce, which is almost by definition a most unpleasant experience, one that can haunt you in various ways for the rest of your (human) life. Bad as it may be, it's usually still preferable to the common alternative: remaining stuck in a "dead" relationship that's based on cowardice or convenience rather than affection. Well, of course there are some other ways [besides divorce] to "terminate" an unsatisfactory marriage, but these have their own inherent risks and drawbacks, and certainly aren't for everyone.

The "ideal" female (or male, with some minor changes) partner:

1. Good looks and a seductive attitude
2. Superior intelligence
3. No children or close family ties
4. Total dedication to you
5. A totally vicious nature towards "outsiders"
6. No conscience
7. The mental and physical capability of defending herself and pulling her own weight.

[From: Hit Man On-Line -- A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, Chapter Eight]

Why bother with this conformistic, (pseudo-)religious practice anyway? If you like someone you can keep seeing each other, or even live together for as long as it's mutually beneficial, and then both go your separate ways with a minimum of fuss. No legal (financial) obligations and no kids to argue about - thus you avoid the two primary reasons why separations can get so ugly.

Oh oh catch that buzz
Love is the drug I'm thinking of
Oh oh can't you see
Love is the drug for me

-- Roxy Music

Better yet, don't get emotionally/sexually involved at all. Being in love is, at the very least, a state of diminished rationality, if not outright insanity. It is truly amazing what "love" (the mating call) can do to a normally sane, balanced individual -- anything from total self-humiliation to murder & suicide. Indeed, according to Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies human sexuality at Rutgers University, "about 25 percent of American murders are committed by jealous lovers, jilted lovers or former spouses." [Presumably it's a similar percentage in most other countries] Just like pregnant women, Cupid's victims get drugged silly by their own bodies. Sure, it no doubt feels great, but being so utterly dependent on someone else for your happiness hardly serves your enlightened self-interest. When in love, you're essentially no better off than some heroin-shootin', crack-smokin' junkie; you'll do just about anything to get your fix (a mix of phenylethylamine and a bunch of other chemicals), thereby often neglecting your usual goals and activities, and if the "supply" is suddenly cut off at some point (as it usually is), you're bound to come down hard -- sometimes with fatal consequences for you and/or others. The emotional roller-coaster of love is a far cry from the Transtopian ideal of stable emotional autonomy. Difficult as it may be, one should try to listen to the voice of reason, and ignore the siren call of one's "selfish" genes, which speak through our hormones.

"Love is a dog from Hell."

-- Charles Bukowski

Apart from the emotional disruption which is often caused by (sexual) relationships, there's also the "small" matter of infectious diseases. Not just the usual STDs like AIDS, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Genital Herpes, or Chlamydial Infection, but also Hepatitis, Periodontal Disease, and Mononucleosis; during sexual intercourse (or even just kissing) two worlds full of their own specific germ populations collide, so obviously "invasions" may occur. People tend to forget this simple fact because they're blinded by lust and love, but the person they're being intimate with is often a relative (or total) stranger, who quite possibly has done the same thing with who knows how many (and what kind of) other "germ colonies" (aka humans), one or several of which may have "enriched" their sexual partner's biosphere.

"I imagine bugs and girls have a dim perception that nature played a cruel trick on them, but they lack the intelligence to really comprehend the magnitude of it."

-- Calvin and Hobbes

And then, of course, there are the gender-specific matters of pregnancy and childbirth, both of which are significant health risks (not to mention major nuisances). Physically and mentally, the females of the human species have definitely been given a raw deal; they're generally smaller, weaker, more vulnerable, less dominant, more "altruistic" (at least in a domestic setting), and have to do all the hard work in procreation (not just incubating the kids, but raising them as well), while men just run around and squirt their seed. Well, a man's life isn't really that easy, obviously --often he's under considerable social pressure to be "macho" and "successful", and when there's a war it's always the men who get sent off to be shot to pieces for the Fatherland-- but on the whole men seem to have been slightly "favored" by the blind watchmaker, if only because they can't get pregnant. Now, the good news is that, thanks to technological & scientific progress -yes, another fine example of technology "setting you free"- and our reasonably liberal Western socio-political climate, there now are various tools and techniques available for the prevention or termination of accidental pregnancies. The bad news is that most of these are still rather crude, cumbersome, and sometimes outright dangerous or ineffective. Sad but true: the only fool-proof (save for the odd immaculate conception) way to avoid pregnancies (as well as STDs & mating-related emotional/financial upheavals) remains, for the time being, chastity.

So, there may be something to celibacy after all. However, this doesn't mean that the sex drive should be suppressed completely. While it presumably could be done with, say, drugs, and/or advanced biofeedback-based training techniques, these should only be used when sex-related thoughts or actions seriously start to inhibit one's normal functioning. Indeed, one could argue that eliminating this source of (potentially) great joy, pleasure, motivation, and inspiration would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so it should by no means be taken lightly. Also, suppressing one's sexuality incorrectly might in fact have the opposite effect to that intended; sex could become a (borderline) psychotic obsession, as many a devout theist has found out to his cost. No, the golden path between unchecked debauchery and total abstinence is called "auto-eroticism" (aka "spanking ye olde monkey", "flipping the bean" etc.). This is by far the most rational way to deal with our "basic instinct"; it's convenient, safe, fun, and very individualistic. You'll probably save quite some money, too! It's completely in vibe with Intelligent Hedonism and Egoism, as it should be.

Of course, if you'd somehow manage to assemble a group of emotionally stable, preferably sterilized people who have been thoroughly screened for the more serious infectious diseases, you could go right ahead and have casual orgies or whatever. Alternatively, and perhaps more realistically, you could just wait until science has a firmer grip on disease, reproduction, and psyche, or until VR grows up and you can have "cybersex" that's at least as good as the real thing (or you could try to become adept at lucid dreaming, and use the evolution-given VR hardware in your skull to create a world where the only limitation is your imagination).

But that's for the future -- in the meantime, the flesh remains (often annoyingly) weak. Few will be able to resist temptation in a "promising" situation, even if it is, in fact, far from perfect or even potentially dangerous. If you're one of those who can't resist nature's call and are going to play the mating game, you might as well do it properly; use, for example, some mild (mind altering) stimulants, advanced techniques, appropriate safety precautions, and be creative. Few things are worse than half-hearted, unimaginative sex! "Good" sex, on the other hand, can be very hedonistically pleasing indeed, and, duly considering that pleasure and happiness are the interim meaning of life, it is just a relatively minor Transtopian "sin" -- nowhere as bad as having children, or -reason forbid!- "selflessly"* devoting your life to raising them.

* Actually, breeders are often considerably more "selfish" than non-breeders; see part 2 of the excellent FAQ.

Zardoz: The gun is good.

Exterminators: The gun is good.

Zardoz: The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life, and poisons the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death, and purifies the earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth and kill!

-- Zardoz (1974)

Practical considerations aside, many Transtopians will simply lack the primal urge to procreate, a fairly common phenomenon among "thinking" individuals, and indeed in the civilized world as a whole; the more prosperous, socially and technologically advanced a civilization becomes, the fewer children there are born. Up to the point of negative population growth, in fact, which in itself isn't such a bad thing as this planet is definitely getting somewhat overcrowded (the good spots are, in any case -- 6 billion people is more than enough). It is no coincidence that in the West the native populations are generally in decline, while many 3rd World countries stubbornly continue to churn out legions of future-less newborns each year. Though this will undoubtedly keep causing some discomfort to the 1st World due to (illegal) immigration and its unpleasant companions (crime, poverty, disease), overpopulation is really not a major issue in the grand scheme of things. Global birthrates are generally expected to decline and/or stabilize in the coming decades, and in any case there's of course the practically inevitable Technocalypse, which will "take care of things" soon enough. No need to worry about long-term human problems, for the human era is coming to an end, and the Age of Gods is almost upon us. In other words, overpopulation is (explicitly) not one of the reasons why Transtopians don't have children. It has merely been included "for good measure"; because it's an oft-heard argument against procreation in childfree circles. The irony is, of course, that those who rationally reject procreation would -generally speaking- be more likely to produce "better" (more intelligent, civilized, productive, etc.) offspring than all those eager breeders. Their offspring's positive (mental) qualities would probably far outweigh their negative contribution to "overpopulation".

"Men are generally more careful of the breed of their dogs and horses than of their children."

-- William Penn, Fruits of Solitude

Also ironic is the fact that just as we're starting to develop the means to finally do procreation "right" (via artificial wombs and genetic screening & engineering), the whole issue is rapidly becoming something of a moot point due to the imminent Singularity, which will make the flesh and most of its habits utterly passe. Still, Transtopianism supports (voluntary) eugenics, both high & low-tech, mostly for moral reasons. Incidentally, donating genetic material (most commonly sperm) to "eugenic" projects or to regular seed banks is perfectly compatible with the general spirit of this Principle. As long as there are no strings attached to the donation (i.e. guaranteed anonimity for those who want it, and no further obligations), it's hard to see how this would harm one's interests. If you're a man, that is; for women it's a rather more complicated matter. Egg donation is relatively cumbersome and not without health risks (and therefore not recommended), and becoming a breeder is of course totally unacceptable. What remains is donation of genetic material (blood) for cloning or genetic engineering / research purposes, and/or financial support, both great ways of contributing to the (now somewhat redundant) cause of voluntary neo-eugenics.

"When I look at men, I see giant worms. When I look at children, I see snakes."

-- John Calvin

As has been mentioned before, the rationally enlightened don't have this annoying urge to procreate. Well, most of the time, anyway; even the strongest, ideologically purest individuals can have their moments of weakness. It's always possible that the infamous "baby-craving" will rear its ugly head after all at some point (especially women can get it bad sometimes, evolutionary pressures in action). Should this indeed happen, it can be helpful to think of all the drawbacks of parenting, and to get in touch with kindred spirits for emotional support and practical advice. In more severe cases, it may be necessary to take food supplements and medications which can positively influence one's hormone levels. We are pretty much ruled by our hormones, but we can also use this knowledge to beat nature at its own game. If you're feeling weak and vulnerable, you may need to pump up those testosterone levels, for example. Needless to say, serious hormone engineering shouldn't generally be attempted without expert advice & assistance.

"There's all this stupid bullshit we have to listen to all the time about children. It's all you hear in this country: children, help the children, what about the children, save the children. You know what I say? Fuck the children!"

-- George Carlin

Last but certainly not least, there's a strong "moral" element to the whole issue of non-procreation. It is a very empowering decision not to have children, especially for women, who, due to tradition and biology, must sacrifice (much) more. It means that one doesn't bow to nature's and society's pressures to conform; by saying "no" to procreation, you reject being just another link in life's mindless chain of births and deaths, just another runner in an endless relay race. In the spirit of Egoism, you confirm that you are an end in itself, not just a walking incubator or sperm donor. To hell with gene replication for its own sake; only our consciousness matters! Only when it's freed from its fleshy prison can the consciousness realize its full potential, and fulfill its true destiny among the stars.

Becoming one of the first Powers requires a Herculean effort that's comparable to, say, running a marathon followed by a 100 meter dash. To win you must plan well, be strong, independent, and flexible. Fortuna fortibus favet! What you most definitely don't need on your run to infinity is "excess baggage" (i.e. kids, marital hassles, STDs etc.) that distracts you from your primary goal(s), hampers your movements, and saps your strength.

XII. Dynamic Pessimism (a.k.a. Cynical Optimism)

Though Transtopians have no doubts about man's enormous potential to overcome his biological and social limits, they are generally less optimistic than "regular" Transhumanists and Singularitarians about the future. The chances that our advanced technologies will accidentally or intentionally cause unparalleled destruction are, given mankind's violent and reckless nature, much too great to ignore. The enormous, literally unimaginable, nuke-dwarfing power of especially nanotech and AI practically guarantees an "extreme" future -- extremely good, or extremely bad. Death or glory, godhood or oblivion. Or, if things go really wrong: eternal, unimaginable torture, insanity, or boredom in some kind of SI-controlled simulation (those who have seen the movie Event Horizon might appreciate its potent, albeit no doubt unintentional technocalyptic-Singularitarian symbolism. The EH's intrepid explorers try to harness the power of the singularity -in this case an actual black hole- so that mankind may "reach the stars", but end up in "another dimension, a dimension of pure chaos, of pure evil". They boldly go where no one has gone Hell).

"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say: 'Come and see!' And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

-- Rev. 6:7-8

Also, disasters and conflicts involving supertechnologies (and personal misfortune, like being shot in the head during a mugging, getting pulped in a plane crash or car accident, or simply dying at home and not being found for days, any of which could make "effective" cryopreservation extremely difficult, if not outright impossible) aside, the antesingularium could still "surprise" us with all kinds of local and global nastiness. Some examples: relatively "open" democracies turning into oppressive surveillance states (due to power-hungry, opportunistic demagogues, lobbies, and shadow organizations using "terrorism", the "War on (Some) Drugs", "cybercrime", "hate crime", international conflicts etc. as a cheap excuse to increasingly infringe on hard-won civil liberties -- only too often with broad public support), the rise of religious fanaticism (foreign and/or domestic), Luddite-esque backlashes against science and technology, economic depression, major (immigration-related) religious & ethnic conflicts ("wars") within the Western world itself, accidents, wars, and terrorist attacks involving genetically engineered viruses or bacteria, ditto with nuclear weapons, or even full-blown WW3, the latter possibly resulting in (long-term, terminal) word-wide social, environmental, and economic collapse and mass-extinction. In fact, it can be considered a small miracle that nothing really serious has happened so far.

Tout est chaos
À côté
Tous mes idéaux: des mots
Je cherche une âme, qui
Pourra m'aider
Je suis d'une génération désenchantée

-- Mylène Farmer / Kate Ryan; Désenchantée

Nonetheless, Transtopians are by no means technophobes or defeatists because they recognize that the very technologies that threaten our future can, when used properly, improve life far beyond our wildest dreams and save us from other disasters (see above) that loom ever larger on the horizon. Indeed, without scientific and technological progress we would remain at the mercy of an uncaring, entropic universe, and would soon fall prey to degeneration, misadventure, and disease. Death is programmed into our very genes. The status quo is literally a dead-end, and therefore not an acceptable option.

Either we (auto-) evolve, or we die; at this point in history we can't yet afford the luxury of slowing down, let alone stopping, technological progress (though temporarily curbing the development of specific high-risk technologies, especially sentient AI, certainly should be feasible, and may one day even be necessary). That we may destroy ourselves in the process of becoming Posthuman is a risk we'll have to take. We should face the future with caution, determination, and the realization that we haven't much to lose anyway; death and suffering are still the default, after all.

Never known sickness, no sickness, nobody has to die
Everything's answered, what didn't then, we'll never have to wonder why
Won't nobody rush you, no pressure, be what you wanna be
Can't you guess what this place is,
Your future - make it a reality
All you have to do is follow me

-- Insane Clown Posse; Let's Go All The Way

After all this doom & gloom, let us end these Principles on a somewhat more upbeat note. During the struggle that lies ahead one should always keep in mind that those who make it past the Singularity shall be "gods", with all the related privileges, many of which are probably even beyond our comprehension. Pleasure, knowledge, and power too sophisticated and overwhelming for human senses and faculties. If one could somehow amplify one's most glorious moment a million times, it would still no doubt be just a pale reflection of a god's rapture. We could actually become the "masters of the universe", maybe even become the universe. Know everything, feel everything, be everything that ever was and will be -- the Alpha and the Omega, like God himself. That we, evolved goo from an insignificant little solar system somewhere in the vastness of interstellar space are now perhaps only years away from reaching the highest plane of existence is truly mind-boggling. To live in these times is a unique and amazing privilege indeed, so let us make optimal use of it! True godhood...if that isn't a good motivation for putting some effort into becoming Posthuman, then what is?