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A disturbing proposal

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg.rhiemeier@...>
Date:Wednesday, February 7, 2001, 22:30
Having read Brian Phillips's statements and the replies of other to my
comment on Brian's plan, I must admit that I understood it wrongly.  I
had the impression that he was going to raise his children in isolation
(probably on a secluded farm deep in Montana or Wyoming, with a BIG
stockpile of firearms and ammo to keep "da Gummint" out), especially
because he made a point about his constructed language been spoken by
no-one else; now I know that he doesn't intend that.

I hereby apologize for my admittedly rude statement.  The plan is
apparently not as unethical and monstrous as I believed it to be;
nevertheless I am still very sceptical about it, regarding both its
chances of success and its effect on the children which might be
detrimental (though perhaps not as disastrous as I envisioned it) rather
than benefitiary to the children.

What he writes in his apologies, though, portraits him as a member of a
stream of mind I know all too well from the Internet and that seems
somewhat deranged to me. What I mean is transhumanists.  Transhumanists
believe they could bring fourth the evolution of a "better humankind" or
whatever to call it by technology and highly controversal psychological
techniques, happily employing everything from cloning to bizarre
"super-learning" techniques and constructed languages (pray that Whorf
was dead wrong!) in order to build the Übermensch (sorry about this ugly
word, but is the only way I see to put it).  In this, they tend to be
highly distrustful, sometimes approaching the bounds of paranoia or even
exceeding them, about the society around them, usually with a radically
libertarian, anti-civilizational outlook.  They tend to believe
themselves to be genius, with the rest of the world thinking they are
madmen.  They tend to be arrogant and condescending towards those less
fortunate in life, be it out of their own fault or not.  (I have seen
more than one transhumanist proposal to end programmes to the benefit of
the handicapped in favour of research on eugenics and even euthanasia.)

I find all this *very* worrying.  I doubt that it could be carried out
without undermining the foundations of a civilized society.  In creating
a new race of superhumans, those who do not belong to the new superhuman
race are cast into the role of subhumans in comparison.  It would
produce new incentives for racism if some populations are significantly
smarter than others, or if some people are immortal while others are
not.  And the technologies they want to develop in order to create
super-humans carry the potential of abuse to create sub-humans or even
more horrible things.

I do not insinuate that it is the intention of the transhumanists to
produce such adverse effects.  They have not proposed enslaving or
exterminating the unmodified humans yet.  But the potential of such
abuse is there.  No, transhumanists are no Nazis or anything like that,
but the parallels are disturbing.

This guy may be far less disturbing and dangerous than I first
considered him to be, but I can't help having the impression that he is
crazed.  Not a forensic psychriatry inmate candidate, but quite
unenjoyable to my taste.

But to go back on topic, my personal view of conlanging is that it
should be done best as a form of art.  There is nothing wrong with IALs
such as Esperanto, other that such efforts haven't achieved much and
most auxlang proposals I have seen look rather unconvincing.  Most seem
like unaesthetic, lifeless wicker men to me.  The fun of inventing
languages, and the best use of it, lies in creating languages as part of
fictional worlds, to explore linguistic possibilities, or just for the
aesthetic values of the language.  (These three goals more often than
not interlock with each other, and many if not most of the artlangs
discussed in this list cater to all three.)  I disapprove, however, of
engineering languages to guide the way people think to a particular
direction.  I am sceptical about this being possible; I do not subscribe
to Whorf's hypothesis or "General Semantics", and I sincerly hope that
it is all wrong.  But don't want to see something like Newspeak become