Ben Goertzel talks about overcoming sex and sexuality at IEET:
As is now common knowledge, the power sex has over us is rooted in the power our DNA has over us. We are evolved to obsess over reproducing, over extending our DNA to future generations. Even though most humans in First World countries now use birth control for nearly all their sexual encounters, and many humans choose not to reproduce at all, we are still strikingly controlled by the mind-patterns ensuing from our DNA’s urge to persist itself.
But evolution has tangled sex up with all manner of other aspects of our psyches. As Freud, Reich and others pointed out so thoroughly, human motivation is deeply tied with our inner sexual energy. Eunuchs seem to generally lack aggressive, enthusiastic motivation even for things outside the realm of sex. But when my anti-sex futurist friend speaks of blotting out sexuality from his mind, he doesn’t want to blot out his passion and energy generically—he wants to focus it on things other than simulations or enactions of the reproductive act.
This mode of thinking remains one of the most infuriating and frustrating aspects of transhumanist thought: the atomization and compartmentalization of human behavior. Goertzel fallaciously uses eunuchs to equivocate biological sexual drive with general passion. Worse, he uses the sociobiological cliche, “all human innovation is a form of courtship display.” Paraphrasing his friend uncritically, Goertzel says:
When you really think about it, how much of modern human society is structured around sexuality. Marriage, kids, dating … buying nice clothes and making oneself up to impress the opposite sex … buying cars or houses or the latest cellphone to impress the opposite sex with one’s success … etc.
Ah yes. Thanks for that old trope. Goertzel’s portrayal of sex and sexuality is something along the lines of, “sex is fun, but it’s a distraction, and sexuality is necessary for passion, so we need to separate the passion from the distraction.” He couldn’t be more wrong.
My frustration here is not the categorization of sexuality as messy and imperfect (it is), but the reduction of it to mere biology. I have no doubt that Goertzel’s friend and his wife would take offense to my assumption that they got married because they viewed each other as the best reproductive option. Human bonds are complicated and sexuality is a small but important part of those bonds. Sex isn’t a distraction, it’s a form of human enjoyment and bonding. Goertzel describes sex, at its best, as equivalent to “self-melting and reality-changing as meditation or psychedelics or any other extreme of human experience.” But somehow psychedelics aren’t a distraction we need to eliminate to seek the Singularity? What about all the other distractions? Should we eliminate them too?
If sex is messy and imperfect, we need to improve it, not get rid of it. If sexual drive is a distraction, we need to be able to (better) control it, not nullify it. Technology can make sexuality even better while minimizing the problems associated, many of which are the result of social conventions, cultural taboos, and the biological variety among humans.
Furthermore, how dare Goertzel or his friend somehow assert that the goal of transhumanism or the Singularity are so worth while that we give up things that are fundamentally valuable. I don’t care what decision calculus one uses, that sort of assertion borders on religious zealotry. The hypocrisy of Goertzel’s friend (advocating asceticism while not practicing it) smacks of the worst priests and prophets of the past. Goertzel’s “asexual alien” experiment is just an externalization of his value system in a fictitious proxy, used to justify his view point, not a legitimate thought experiment.
Sex is a biological behavior that, through the hugely complex process of evolution (both biological and cultural) has become a way for humans to bond, experience pleasure, and to alter their consciousness independent of the need to procreate. To elaborate on Emma Goldman: If I can’t have sex, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.
Bioethics is controversial.
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