Prometheus

If you haven’t read it already, you need to read John Campbell’s “The Moral Imperative of Our Future Evolution.”  Nick Land ends his magnum opus with Campbell. I consider it a foundational text for techno-commercialist neoreactionary thought. I’m curious what ethno-nationalists and Christian traditionalists think about Campbell’s vision, regardless of whether or not they think the technology upon which the vision relies will ever be developed.

Just a taste:

We probably will begin our interventions into brain and embryonic development with drugs and hormones and subsequently engineer the desirable intrusions into the genome. Then, after a further generation of accumulating biological information about individual gene function, developmental pathways, and the neural substrate of brain function, evolutionists probably will write novel genes for these traits from scratch using a DNA synthesizer.

The costs will be enormous, far beyond what most people could afford. This has kept our democratic society from appreciating that these possibilities will be used and will be important. However, their feasibility cannot be judged from what the average person will be willing to pay to procreate. What matters are the resources that the most successful generative lines will be able to apply to their goals. A million dollars per conception seems a great underestimate to me for the beings who hold evolution’s frontier.

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15 responses

  1. jamesd127

    No one knows, or is likely to know, how to tune up brains to make them smarter. However, the converse problem, genetic load, genes for stupidity, is fixable. We know how to make humans with near zero genetic load, or rather we know what the dna should be, we don’t however know how to synthesize chromosomes that large with low error rates.

    May 9, 2013 at 5:06 am

    • I agree with your first sentence, at least for the short term. Campell, like Kurzweil, is way too optimistic. We knowthat HBD exists, but we don’t know much about its mechanisms, and there’s a lot of tinkering (on human guinea pigs) that will need to be done before we have any idea how to advance our own evolution. I like this essay simply for its balls-out, fuck-the-masses elitism, which, while I don’t necessarily agree with it (I’m the masses, after all), I know is a necessary spirit for at least SOME people to have if we don’t want humanity to stagnate, rot, and die.

      May 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm

  2. I remember reading that when (or nearer when) it came out… and I read and read and read and kept saying, yeah and yeah and yeah… and then it came to the last part… and I know Nick Land is a smart guy… I follow him… and all but it Just. Didn’t. Compute: The bionic horizon? I say this as a religious traditionalist in hi-tech industry with strong capitalist leanings… it seemed like a non sequitur. Bionic horizon? Umm… well maybe… but how’s about we just, as Jim implies, fix the opposite problems, i.e., stop rewarding social pathology (dysgenics), and see where we stand? Should still be pretty good for business, right?

    I think the traditionalist sees social problems as largely already solved by conserving traditional (high functioning) culture. Of course we want to ever be higher functioning, but we must at the same time be careful not to explode what we’ve already gotm because it took somewhere between 4,004 and 1 million years to get this far.

    From a techno-commercialist standpoint, which I feel like I have at least a toe in, we can rephrase the sentiment more as the idea that the evolution of culture is itself a cybernetic process: the whole being greater than the sum of its parts wherein individual (more or less) intelligent people work together, in a meta-intelligent manner, to solve problems that don’t have closed form solutions (i.e., they are not directly “invertible”) and which have as you trace along the solution space have unpredictable infinities (e.g., Khmer Rouge).

    May 9, 2013 at 6:15 am

    • Do you really think there isn’t a bionic horizon, at all? I totally get how you could think we’re still a long way short of it, but what really doesn’t compute for me is the idea that human genetics lies — in principle — beyond the scope of technoscientific envelopment.

      May 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      • He can’t deny that it does lie within those bounds, at least theoretically. The questions are:

        1. How soon do we reach the horizon? Within our lifetimes? Or Are Kurzweil and Campbell far too optimistic? (I tend to think they are.)

        2. If genetics lies–in principle, as you say–within the scope of technoscientific development, is there enough anti-Cathedral willpower to start the work in earnest? As I said in another reply, some tinkering and failing needs to happen. Does the West have the stomach for it? (Or will people like Cambell just build mad scientist labs in South Asia? That works, too.)

        May 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      • I guess I would say I am very skeptical of what genetics buys us. I mean… sure… it buys us… US… after about a billion years of trying. So that tells me we’re already really, really, REALLY optimized for our environments, and sure some nips & tucks here and there will improve things, but I think we’re almost as good as can possibly be… I just want good government and to be left alone in my non-criminal, productive life. (I can imagine how strange that must sound coming from a self-professed reactionary… picky picky I know.)

        Also being skeptical about what genetics could buy us enlists a skepticism about “us”. Who is “us”? People that look more or less like me, who probably consider self-evident the same sorts of things I consider to be self-evident, who will react in a more or less similar way as me to mental or emotional stimuli… throw in my my grand-children, their grandchildren… for a few more repeats out in concentric circles of care…. But 1 or 10 million years in the future? Geez, that’s a different planet, and I have a really hard time working up a whole lotta caring for that world… I mean I sorta care about the DRC today… but there’s not a whole lot I can do about the shit-hole they live in… and aside from reenlisting King Leopold to overrun the place again, I’m not convinced that leaving them very much alone is not the most charitable thing we can do…

        What has genetics bought dogs? They’re still dogs… and by and large a lot less adaptively fit to their natural environments than they would be if humans had just left them alone. And if we let dogs go au naturale… they would return in what? 10 generations to mostly being what they were… Good bye English bulldogs and teacup poodles. Good riddance.

        So you’ve got the “problem” of regression to the mean. Although that’s only a problem if you’re trying to get away from the mean… and how can we be so sure that trying to do that increases adaptive fitness? For the individual? For the society at large? How much smarter than Einstein do you need (someone) to be? And however smart Einstein was, isn’t a horde of cooperating, near-Einsteins collectively smarter?

        [This stream of consciousness presented by Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey (Old No. 7®)]

        May 9, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      • and how can we be so sure that trying to do that increases adaptive fitness? For the individual? For the society at large? How much smarter than Einstein do you need (someone) to be? And however smart Einstein was, isn’t a horde of cooperating, near-Einsteins collectively smarter?

        I think your arguments would stand if you were countering a program of state-backed, universal eugenics, but we’re talking about private experiments on a small scale at this point. To answer the questions you’re bringing up, we’d need real data on the possibilities of the whole thing. We can’t get that data if we just give up on genetic engineering before we even try it.

        May 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      • To answer the questions you’re bringing up, we’d need real data on the possibilities of the whole thing. We can’t get that data if we just give up on genetic engineering before we even try it.

        Okay, but if by “we”, we just mean some dudes who aren’t affecting me, then really it’s none of my business, and probably none of the gov’t’s business either, but I don’t really see it as a central plank in reaction. There are as many ways to be reactionary as there are particularities to conserve. This is just another one of them… not one we usually think of when we say “reactionary”, but a particularism all the same.

        Now I might consider some experiments to be unethical based on a priori metaphysical commitments. (I dunno what they are… just sayin’) And I can imagine wishing a just sovereign would attempt to stop unethical experimentation (for large enough values of “unethical”). But for that we have federalism as a central plank in the consensus. We don’t need consensus of every square micrometer of ethics to proceed with sane(r), secure(r), and effective(r) government. Just keep your damn human-cyborg-cockroach-martian hybrids off my lawn.

        May 9, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      • Just keep your damn human-cyborg-cockroach-martian hybrids off my lawn.

        Ha! Lovely.

        but I don’t really see it as a central plank in reaction.

        Well, it’s not a central plank in and of itself. The central plank we’re talking about here is HBD. Genetic engineering, transhumanism, whatever, are simply attempts to apply and experiment with HBD ideas. In China, perhaps, one needn’t be a reactionary to pursue such application. The Cathedral, however, rejects HBD, so anyone who wants to apply its concepts is by default a reactionary (of the most dangerous sort, in fact).

        Of course, you would be a valuable ally to any such reactionary researcher because your social vision would leave room for such research to go forward in a controlled way, so that if it succeeds, it slowly succeeds outward, and if it fails, it doesn’t destroy anything but itself.

        May 9, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      • Ah… an off button (Sadly, I cannot permalink to exact comments at xenosystems <grrrr>) . Religious trads like off buttons.

        May 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    • Bionic horizon? Umm… well maybe… but how’s about we just, as Jim implies, fix the opposite problems, i.e., stop rewarding social pathology (dysgenics), and see where we stand? Should still be pretty good for business, right?

      Yes, and we don’t need to wait for horizons, bionic or otherwise, to stop dysgenic trends. We just need to dis-incentivize the Morons’ breeding and incentivize the high-IQ SWPLs and Asians to breed a whole lot more. Easier said than done, of course. And anyway, as I just said to Jim up there, this essay is valuable to me for its tone and ethos more than for its particular policy, which may be a long way off yet.

      May 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      • But as you say, stopping dysgenics is a form of altruistic social engineering, whilst Campbell’s peel-off-and-escape approach is arguably a far more realistic strategy (because it doesn’t pre-suppose a position of social dominance for its implementation). It’s the difference beween flinty monetarism and Bitcoin. Do you try to save the dollar, or do you get the hell out. (Do you try to save the human race, or do you …)

        May 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      • I guess I would be squarely on the side of saving the human race… starting with my own nearest genetic kin and then in concentric circles out from there. Humans have been supremely well fitted to live and thrive in communities up to about 200. Those 200 are the ones I’d probably die for, assuming that by dying I’d actually improve their chances and that I was brave enough. Large societies are a more recent artifact of civilization, and mankind has been surprisingly well adapted (some kinds more some kinds less) for that; and all humanity has benefit from that development. So I’d very much like to see civilization, and ergo large cities, and nations of people, and modern states survive. I think that is an essential principle in the consensus. That’s what we’re working on. Civilization is what makes us men and not mere animals. (Even if we are merely animals, we’re really REALLY remarkable animals…) To rebuild it would be extremely hard work. Lotta sunk cost…

        It’s always going to be possible, I think, to find 200 people worth living around. So I’m not sure I need an eject button. But if one were available I might consider it attractive…. at the right price.

        May 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm

  3. Pingback: This Week in Reaction… | The Reactivity Place

  4. johnvmarsch

    I’m curious what ethno-nationalists and Christian traditionalists think about Campbell’s vision

    I rather suspect things will be taken out the Catholics’ hands as the sci-fi technocrats and ethnopagans turn on them after first merging and becoming indistinguishable.

    The Catholic counter-revolutionary tradition has always recognised that modernity’s dysgenic assault on hierarchy was only a means to an end. The revolution was necessary to destroy the remnants of the old Christian order, clearing the ground for the new order and neutralising any opposition to it.

    Liberal democracy was not that new order, although its adherents might have supposed it was. ‘The Cathedral’, inherently dysfunctional, could only ever be a transitional phase in the process, the brief historic interregnum between rejection of the Church and submission to a new hierarchy that promises deliverance from the disorder of the Cathedral.

    May 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm

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