The Speculist: FastForward Radio


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FastForward Radio

michael.anissimov.jpgSunday night Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon visited live with Michael Anissimov. Michael Anissimov writes and speaks on futurist issues, especially the relationships between accelerating change, nanotechnology, existential risk, transhumanism, and the Singularity. His popular blog Accelerating Future discusses these issues regularly. Michael is a member of the Board of Directors of the World Transhumanist Association and is the North American fundraising director for the Lifeboat Foundation.

They visited with Michael about the philosophy of transhumanism and what the Singularity could look like.

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Listen to FastForward Radio... on Blog Talk Radio

"Tales of the Paranormal:"

  • Here's the news story about the creepy gnome. Video at the link.

  • Jemima Packington describes herself as the only "asparamancer" in the UK...

"Transhumanism as Simplified Humanism"

– Eliezer Yudkowsky

Stephen mentioned the (very) short story he wrote about Leon Kass. It is titled "The Treatment."

"One of the biggest flaws in the common conception of the future is that the future is something that happens to us, not something we create."

- Michael Anissimov

This quote was first published here at The Speculist and was reprinted in Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near.

Michael Anissimov pointed us to both the A.I. Panic! blog and to the Lifeboat Foundation.

Our front bumper is a sample of Marginal Prophets' "The Difficult Song."

Our exit music this week is from Lea Marie. The song is "World of Wonders."

You can subscribe to FastForward Radio for free with any podcast receiver software. Just copy and paste the following URL into your software's subscribe window:

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We love audience participation. If you'd like to call in to the show, or get in on the FastForward Radio text chat, listen live! FastForward Radio goes live again next Sunday night:

10:00 Eastern/9:00 Central/8:00 Mountain/7:00 Pacific.

Get all the details at Blog Talk Radio. While there, check out the past shows in the archive.

Email your comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, praise, or criticism:


I have been unable to fall asleep lately due to the Speculist and Fast Forward Radio. I just lay there, having to make urgent adjustments to my metaphysics. This week was my first live radio show, and I'll be back next week. I'm telling my friends. Some of them act like science big shots at the parties; now I want to see if they are brave enough to call you people. My only regret about this last night's show, is that Mike A. played it safe, like a politician, when MD gave him my question about the likely sequence of events after the Singularity. MD wasn't shy; he gave me a link pronto! "It depends" he said. I would have liked to have heard what that big imagination was really hiding. I guess when you are on a board of directors of some kind, you have to play it safe. Well, keep up the good work, all of this information is upsetting my stomach. Maybe, I'll lose some weight. Thanks again, and I'll hear from you next week.


Thanks for the great question (and the contribution of the tale of the paranormal - that was you, right?).

Hope you'll catch us live next week

I think there may be some confusion because there were two MDs participating in the text chat (myself and Michael Darling). He was the one who called in and passed along your question. I'm the one who gave you a link. I was reading along and I don't remember seeing Mr. Darling post one. The piece I linked you to was meant to be humorous. I think Mr. Anissimov's response to your question was reasonable because any specific scenario that he could give you would almost certainly be wrong (the same is true for any answer that I or anyone else could give). Imagine playing a chess game against a master player. You could not predict the next move that they would make unless you had an equal or greater level of chess skil than your opponent. However, you could confidently predict that they would win. For serious responses to this question you may want to see Ray Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near" of John Smart's website, but in my view the caveat I gave you still applies.

The link was funny, I wonder if any of it is likely? At the emergence of the Singularity, I imagined, at first, it (he she)would have slightly greater than human intelligence, growing by the minute. So, I didn't think the first few developments would be beyond our comprehension. Actually, I thought some of them might resemble those listed in the humorous link. In any case, suppose we were getting whipped bad at the chess game, being a chess game, we would be able to, at least, describe the moves of the pieces.

The show cites Dale Carrico, argues that transhumanism offers little new in terms of the value of the life, since the value of life is almost universally held. But our heroes play Dale as an opponent.

Then you cite Yudkowsky, who argues that Transhumanism is "just Humanism", as it engages with prospective emerging technologies. Yudkowsky is played as an ally, and so is agreed with.

Isn't this, though, roughly the same argument? Isn't the universal value of human life a Humanist value?

I'm having difficulty finding substantive differences, despite the fact that Dale and Transhumanists/Singularitarians treat end up treating each other as opponents because he likes to point and laugh.

The value of consent - the anti-eugenic idea that people be allowed to refuse modifications as well as take them on - is somewhat obvious and agreeable, both in Humanism and Transhumanism.

But what Dale adds, and that I hope can be acknowledged further, is that this commitment, in detail, should mean more than a lack of coercion. In labor markets, what often qualifies as "consensual" is pretty weak. Take by way of example California's recent law prohibiting employers from requiring their employees to take RFID implants. If jobs are scarce, and competition among workers necessitates taking on modifications in order to compete effectively, then a form of distributed //duress// (Dale's term) accomplishes an effective circumvention of self-determination even where direct coercion may not.

So our commitment to morphological liberty, if it is to be practical, demands a bit more than simply enjoining direct forms of coercion, but also the creation and maintenance of societies where relinquishment of technological interventions is not only permitted, but actually practicable; not only allowed, but accommodated.

The show cites Dale Carrico, argues that transhumanism offers little new in terms of the value of the life, since the value of life is almost universally held. But our heroes play Dale as an opponent.

I argue that transhumanism is a natural extension of humanism. That's not exactly the same as saying that it adds little. Anyway, I think you've got it backwards as to who is playing whom as an opponent. Read this. Dale is a bright guy with many interesting things to say, but he gets a little ideologically and rhetorically heavy-handed at times.

Dale's concerns on the issue of socioeconomic coercion are well taken. It is important to bear in mind that our innate tendency to divide ourselves into opposing groups can exaggerate differences in point of view when we communicate. Harvey, if you would like to discuss this with me further, feel free to get in touch with me at

Well, I was looking for a definition of humanism. It seems like it is an abstract idea, from what I can find. How would we get that abstraction into a robot? How could we be sure how an augmented human would interpret it?

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