>H and pop culture: Who cares?

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Date: Sat Feb 24 2001 - 13:12:08 MST

Obviously the previous post was not appropriate for SL4, and I've already
spoken to the poster about that. However, I should also like to note that
I am, in general, bored with "Hey, maybe yada-dada is a transhumanist!"
posts - here, and on the Extropians list, and everywhere else in the Solar
System. I do not care whether the Beatles, Einstein, or Christopher
Columbus were transhumanists or Singularitarians or whatever. Claiming
that [insert historical figure] was "really" a member of [insert speaker's
Cause] is symptomatic of a total lack of self-confidence. It is a meme
trying to promote itself by claiming credit for someone else's work.
Transhumanism and Singularitarianism will stand or fall on their own damn
merits, and if you want to see famous transhumanists, I suggest you become
a transhumanist and then make yourself famous.

Expressing heart-warmingly vague sentiments about growth and change is a
human thing, not a transhumanist thing, and has undoubtedly been done by
every historical goodguy from Socrates to Gandhi. It's expected, it's
natural, and it doesn't mean one damn thing. Transhumanism in its
reified, explicit, non-heartwarmingly-vague form is a very recent
innovation, and I do not expect to find that Columbus was a closet
transhumanist any more than I expect to find that Socrates was a closet
Yankees fan.

If Loreena McKennitt announces tomorrow that she's joined the Extropy
Institute, it'll be a newsworthy item; go ahead and post it. Until then,
I don't give a flying damn *what* she thinks. The reason I'm confident in
my ideas is that a very smart person agrees with them - *me*. If someone
else also agrees with me, good for *them*. I'm quite sure that everyone
on this list who was smart enough to grow up an outsider in grade school
understands exactly what I mean. You don't have to be the smartest person
in the world to be smarter than 90% of the thoughts you come into contact
with over your lifetime, and if that's how you grow up, then caring what
Christopher Columbus thinks just isn't part of your personality. You may
have one or two childhood heroes who you wouldn't want to hear calling you
an idiot, and you may understand the PR necessity of getting people to
agree with you, and you may even buy into the scientific peer-review
process in the abstract - but at the end of the day, the reason you
believe in your ideas is that *you* decided they were right. You don't
really give a damn what anyone else in the solar system thinks, though you
may think you ought to.

Smart Person's Iconoclasm Syndrome is one of the SL2 basics. I expect
everyone smart enough to post on SL4 to be familiar with the ways of
iconoclasm, regardless of whether they personally consider themselves to
be proudly defiant iconoclasts, or consider iconoclasm to be an immature
juvenile stupidity that they outgrew. I can understand a smart person who
never had Smart Person's Iconoclasm Syndrome even as a twelve-year-old,
but not a smart person who doesn't know what Smart Person's Iconoclasm
Syndrome *is*. I myself have no great emotional investment in iconoclasm
- I don't try to monitor or control my level of iconoclasm - but an
internal scan clearly shows that, no, I still don't give a damn what other
people think.

I shouldn't even have to post this. I'm an iconoclast and I know it, but
it's been... oh, around three years, I think... since I've had to fire any
of the "defiant iconoclasm" neurons. But, for the record - *yes*, Smart
Person's Iconoclasm Syndrome is one of the basics, and you are expected to
know how it works, whether or not you agree with it.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky http://intelligence.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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