The improved animal

About the lecture by Max More

Max More’s presentation on identity transformation is based on a chapter from a book he has just completed for Hardwired Publishers. It has the working title The Augmented Animal.

Gradually we are realizing that it is not only the mentally ill who need to change their emotional personhood. To become truly posthuman, we all have to come to grips with how we react to different situations.

Max More

The ideal role model that comes to his mind is Spock, the Vulcan from the Star Trek series, a model of unflinching restraint. In order to achieve it, the extropian philosopher thinks, we humans need software and hardware. Alongside the current possibilities – hormone treatments, smart drugs, mind machines – will come radically new high-tech methods of emotional control. Max More’s vision, basically a business idea: a personal assistant worthy of its name because it cares about our personhood – a mood agent, who observes our moods and suggests corrections.

"Such an inconspicuous, because implanted electronic companion could, for example, detect through biosensors when we are under stress or about to lose our nerve. And then warn us." "Like a spouse", comments a heckler.

"Well, like the kick under the table", Max grins and gives Natasha Vita More a brief amorous glance. "Only that our partners cannot always warn us as unobtrusively as such PDAs, which were inner voices. Moreover, we will be able to buy ready-made software for PDAs with desired behavioral models. What would be especially important if we wanted to adapt our emotions quickly and effectively to completely new, posthuman circumstances for which our present self does not yet know any models. Long space journeys for example."

The motto is: create a self. Or better yet: select a self, the selection of desired character traits from a wide range of behaviors.

"We will choose our identity as freely as clothes. We will stand in the morning in front of the masks of our personhood and ask: Who do I want to be today??" Max More laughs. "We will upload our basic self, the pure, thinking I, our stored identity center, into different shells for practical purposes at a time. Into prere-proof containers for space travel or exploration of the seabed, and into other, softer shells for social gatherings or sexual pleasure. Whereby this can also happen at the same time, so that we have synchronously different experiences and have to integrate the slightly changed identities afterwards again into our basic self. Just as today one can automatically compile different catches of a manuscript."

"I will", shouts a programmer from the audience, "declare my personhood then an open standard."

From protein-based life to protean existence? One asks what, under such conditions, talk of identity can still mean. To what extent, in the face of radical changes in personhood, an individual remains himself? Also in legal terms: whether a mind morph The person can be held accountable for his previous existence, for his crimes, his debts, the contracts he once made as someone else?

My new self, is Max’s answer, remains connected to my old one as long as the changes are gradual, as long as the continuity is preserved that also characterizes the quite radical changes of the self within a normal bourgeois educational process. What is important is a psychological continuity, the gradual integration of the new character traits into the old personhood. Even if at the end of the mind morphing another human being stands, who has hardly anything in common with the original person, but this one – in contrast to the victims of brainwashing – has the experience of growth and the consciousness of sovereign change.

And if such high-tech self-improvement would nevertheless be punished by the vast majority of mankind, it would not be a problem?

"Then we become extropians", laughs Max More, "just maintain underground psycho software factories."

Back to Gundolf S. Freyermuth’s report on the Extro 3 conference

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