Future Human Evolution


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Glossary

This page contains the terms with which our readers might not be familiar. Links are embedded in the pages where ever these unfamiliar terms or phrases appear.

Cornucopian

Deep Ecology

European Union

ISO 3166

Malthusian

ngo

Taoism

Teleology

World Trade Org



TERM

DESCRIPTION

Cornucopian

Cornucopian is a term that describes an individual or an ideology that is based upon an optimistic belief in human progress, technology, and limitless expansion of achievement. Though many Cornucopians focus on a specific subject of study and improvement, Cornucopian traits can be seen in all issues. For example, environmental Cornucopianism would state that humans will not be hindered in the long run by environmental constraints through technological innovation. Support for this idea would be provided that throughout human history, our species have constantly sought new ways to adapt to problems that arise, and that all future issues will also be conquered through human ingenuity.

The word Cornucopian is derived from "Cornucopia," the goat horn in Ancient Greek myths that provided anything the holder wanted. This image has since been adopted throughout the ages, and can be seen from Greek and Roman murals, to the cone of plenty that Thanksgiving imagery often portrays.

Cornucopian thought directly contrasts with Malthusian beliefs.


Deep Ecology

---Description-

Deep ecology is a collection of environmentalist philosophical principles that represent both the unification of several philosophical trends, as well as the rejection of much of conventional philosophy.

Deep ecology traces its roots to the beginnings of the modern ecological movement; the announcement of the rejection of the modern industrialized state and culture in the latter half of the twentieth century was probably key to its beginnings. Deep ecology incorporates elements at various levels from scientific ecology, Eastern metaphysical and spiritual traditions, and grassroots developments.

At its foundation, deep ecology holds that nature and the environment are greater than conventional, anthropocentric philosophy of considering, and that deep ecology represents a "deeper" understanding of nature and the environment than traditional, empirical approaches. However, deep ecology is not a unified movement by many means. Some deep ecologists subscribe to Malthusian arguments, stating that humans, like all other biological beings, are subject to natural constraints. These individuals believe that modern progress disregards these limits, and that humanity is therefore doomed. Other deep ecologists are concerned more with spiritual aspects of nature, and advocate the understanding of nature with a sense of awe and wonder.

---Transhumanist Analysis-

While deep ecologists raise many valid concerns, it is unlikely that Transhumanism and deep ecology can unify to any large extent. Both represent different approaches towards assessing and contributing to human progress. Transhumanism is based upon the empirical understanding of reality and a tolerance and appreciation of metaphysical insights. However, deep ecology seems to perceive the two approaches in a converse manner, in that spirituality and metaphysics are more important and "deeper" aspects than the products of rational and empirical thought. Policies advocated by the two groups are likely to be radically different as well; whereas deep ecologists may shy away from technological solutions to problems that have technological origins, Transhumanists may instead see an engineered answer as the only feasible fashion of approaching an issue.


European Union (EU)

Official Website

---Introduction-

The European Union is a transnational governmental organization that encompasses much of the European continent. While not a state itself, member nations have acceded their sovereignty over many issues to the organization, thus fulfilling the EU motto of "Unity in Diversity."

---History-

Attempts to unify Europe have historically been made difficult due to the large number of diverse cultures and societies that inhabited the continent. Most attempts have traditionally been through military force, with the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleonic Europe, and the Nazi Third Reich being the most famous. In the wake of World War Two, however, concrete attempts to peaceably negotiate European solidarity were finally commenced.

The first concrete measures were economic treaties that established the European Coal and Steel Community, and later the European Economic Community in the 1950s.

The EU itself was finally established by the Maastricht Treaty, also known as the Treaty on European Union, in 1992. The original intentions of the Maastricht Treaty was to create a political and economic union among European states, and has since expanded in accordance with historical trends to include military and social integration in addition to economic and political cooperation. A recent round of voting amongst member states to adopt a European Constitution, however, have been defeated; many believe that this is a sign that dreams of realizing a truly federated Europe is still a long ways away.

The Union has also expanded its borders to beyond its founding members as well. While original membership only included nations from Western Europe, former Soviet bloc countries have since joined, including the Baltic States, Poland, and others in Eastern Europe. Nations slated to join the EU in the future include Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

---Description-

The European Union has many governmental functions, but it can generally be considered a strong confederation of European states.

Citizens in EU nations are able to travel and trade freely across national boundaries of member states, and the creation of a common European market has allowed for more efficient competition. Furthermore, a standard economic policy of sustainable economic development has been adopted by the EU, and is applied to all members to ensure the stability of member nations. This is further empowered through the usage of a common EU currency, the euro. However, not all EU members use the euro, and such provisions are symbolic of the reluctance to give up national sovereignty for additional Union privileges and benefits.

EU power has since reached beyond simple economics; the EU also represents a political and military alliance among member states, though such power is often to a lesser scope in comparison with the ability of the EU to formulate economic policy.

The EU is structured as a representative democracy, with a European Parliament representing the national interests of members, a European Commission that manages EU operations independent of individual national interests, and an European Council that is primarily concerned with formulating a common foreign and social policy. The European Central Bank and other economic departments of the EU manage fiscal policy. There is also a European court system that ensures compliance with EU regulations that members have domestically ratified.

---Transhumanist Analysis-

The EU, though nominally a relative newcomer to world affairs, has significant influence in global affairs today due to the historical legacies of its member states. Though a highly developed and wealthy supra-national confederation, many EU policies are also reactionary towards high technology. For example, the EU has viewed many biotechnologies, such as transgenic crops and human cloning, as well as other technologies, such as nuclear power, with extreme skepticism.

The future seems exciting, with the euro replacing the US dollar in many markets as the currency of choice. Along with its unified and growing economic power, and its policies that are formulated increasingly independent of US influence, the EU represents a challenge in the long run to US hegemony as the sole superpower.

While Transhumanists may welcome this latest step in globalization and achieving peaceful global unity, such welcome is not without reservations due to the negative policies towards the aforementioned controversial technologies that the EU has so far implemented.


ISO 3166 Country Codes

Official Website
IOC 3-letter codes

---Introduction-

The International Organization for Standardization is an NGO dedicated to creating international standards of quality, in order to facilitate better understanding and trade between nations. Country codes are two- and three-letter abbreviations of the names of nations allow for instant understanding once a reader becomes familiarized with them. These codes are especially useful in cases of areas or nations that may have confusing or contested names (such as Congo, China, Guinea, etc).

A list of codes in descending alphabetical order of the codes that have been used is as follows:

AUS: Australia
CHE: Switzerland
CHN: China (PRC)
GBR: United Kingdom
JPN: Japan
KEN: Kenya
NZL: New Zealand
QAT: Qatar
RUS: Russia
SAU: Saudi Arabia
TWN: Taiwan (ROC)
USA: United States
ZAF: South Africa


Malthusian

Malthusian is a term derived from the name of the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, a nineteenth century thinker who wrote upon the dangers of a population explosion and subsequent mass starvation due to industrialization. Malthus originally argued that there will be no adequate way to feed a population once it grows beyond a certain threshold; however, technological and other advancements prevented the original Malthusian Catastrophe from occurring.

Today, Malthusian is used to label any strain of thought that sees the plight of humanity through pessimistic lenses. Malthusian thought is the direct contrast to Cornucopian thought. While Malthusian advocates can have the same basic aims of raising awareness that Cornucopians are concerned about, the means employed usually involve some sort of dire warning or prediction to achieve a shock effect.

An example of Malthusian thought is the Club of Rome, a group of scientists who raised considerable awareness through their premier publication, Limits to Growth, which stated in short that infinite growth could not be sustained indefinitely. These Malthusian advocates believe that dwindling oil (Peak Oil) and other resource supplies will eventually stop economic growth and development.


Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)

---Introduction-

A non-governmental organization can be broadly defined as any organization that is not officially part of a national government. Because of this independence, they are often able to pursue focused objectives, and are able to transcend national boundaries. Though a transnational, for-profit corporation can be called an NGO, the term usually describes only advocacy groups who are not directly engaged in profit making.

---Description-

NGOs are formed for a variety of missions, such as religious, environmental, technical, aid, and cultural organizations. Respective examples of these are the Catholic Church, the World Wildlife Fund, the International Organization for Standardization, the Red Cross, and the European Students' Forum (AEGEE).

A rough separation that is popularly used can be made to distinguish operational from advocacy NGOs in their expenses. Whereas operational NGOs may primarily focus on physical projects, such as emergency medical aid by the Red Cross, advocacy groups tend to fund programs to raise awareness. Thus, a religious advocacy group like the Jehova's Witnesses is most visible in their door-to-door proselytizing. However, this can be heavily blurred. Missionary groups may often embark on extensive projects to improve physical infrastructure, while an operational NGO may combine ideological elements into their work.

NGOs may have significant indirect influence upon world or regional affairs. Such influence, however, often fluctuates according to the amount of importance governments and populations are attaching to to the issues that an NGO are involved in. For example, Amnesty International may have had significant exposure during the Iraqi detainee scandal, but may otherwise fade from the spotlight at other times. Both advocacy and operational NGOs can also perform services that governments may not be able to accomplish; for example, Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit dual-function (both advocacy and operational) NGO in the United States, provides sexual health information and services that the government may be limited in doing.

---Transhumanist Analysis-

NGOs are a significant aspect of modern global affairs. Whereas religious organizations (such as the Catholic Church) have traditionally been among the first NGOs to achieve significant international influence, NGOs for and against a myriad of issues are active at all levels, from agricultural development projects in local villages, to international dialogue between different cultures, to monitoring a voting process to ensure accuracy and fairness. NGOs are heavily ingrained in international policy today that they may well be considered a strong influence upon policy and governance despite their nominal non-governmental status.

Transhumanism itself will eventually develop several NGOs as well; some may involve advocacy for Transhumanist values and ideals. Other Transhumanist NGOs may be operational in nature, conducting research and development of Transhumanist technologies.


Taoism

---Introduction-

Taoism is a collection of spiritual beliefs indigenous to China. Though there is what is considered to be a summarizing central text, the Dao De Jing, this work is sufficiently ambiguous and flexible to allow for personal growth and interpretation. Originating from ancient Chinese shamanistic beliefs, central terms include the observation of cycles, flow and balance of spiritual energy (also known as "chi"), and insights inspired by natural processes.

---Description-

Taoism arguably evolved hand in hand with Chinese civilization. Its heritage can be traced back to the I Ching, the oldest surviving literary work in Chinese history. Because the origins of the I Ching have been shrouded in mystical legend, an exact date of composition cannot be pinpointed.

In any case, the I Ching is important to the eventual development of Taoism because of its focus on dichotomous change and interaction of different abstract elements. Composed of 64 hexagrams, or runes with 6 lines made of an upper and a lower element of 3 lines each (each line is either a bar "|" or a broken bar ":"), it represents the interaction of various spiritual concepts. For example, if the upper element is flame (represented as "|:|"), and the lower element is swamp (represented as "||:"), the resultant combination ("|:|||:") means "skinning." Fire and swamp also represent philosophical concepts; fire symbolizes radiance, and swamp symbolizes openness. A western scholar, Wilhelm, has made interpretations of each of the 64 hexagrams; in the case of "|:|||:," he believed the combination of fire and swamp, of radiant openness (or open radiance) to represent revolution.

Lao Zi, a semi-mythical historical individual who was credited with formalizing Taoism as a philosophical school, studied the I Ching extensively. He was especially attracted viewing the world as a series of cycles and interacting, dualistic variables. Light and shadow, winter and summer, heaven and earth, mountains and chasms, and fire and water were all natural principles that Lao Zi believed to reflect reality. He also believed that humans can gain insight by quietly meditating upon nature, and that enlightenment can be attained through isolation. Legend has it that before Lao Zi departed to the wilderness after becoming disgusted with the corruption and artificiality of human society, he wrote the Dao De Jing as a guide for future students.

Because of the esoteric vagueness of the Dao De Jing, it was both a great boon to the popularity of Taoism, as well as a handicap to its mass proselytization. Its popularity with students of Taoism resides in the spirit of its passages; where as other spiritual texts, such as the Bible, are strict and obvious, the Dao De Jing has lines such as "We cannot know the Tao itself. Neither can we see it directly. We can only experience its manifestations." Thus, whereas other movements are defined by their teleologies, Taoism at best has a vague notion of enlightenment and transcendence. This has led to its immense popularity among individuals, but also lends to immense difficulties in teaching "authentic" Taoism, since the text can only be taught through personal experience.

Because of its nature, Taoism today has generated into a variety of practices. Some have turned it into a religion, complete with gods, temples, and rituals. Others consider it a personal spirituality, its lessons relative and experiential. Varieties also exist between these two extremes, and outside of self-described Taoists, its principles have been borrowed extensively, especially in modern day spiritual movements that go by other names.

---Transhumanist Analysis-

So what does the Transhumanist have to gain by studying Taoist principles? Nothing and everything. Taoism does not address technological philosophy directly; rather, it is aimed much more at personal growth and development, and in turn the development of the greater society. Thus, it is impossible to line up a bulleted list of reasons to read the Dao De Jing or how it could directly benefit the Transhumanist movement. The most one Transhumanist may say to another is that Taoism, by encouraging personal reflection and honesty, can help build a stronger, more aware, and more compassionate individual character.


Teleology

A teleology is a philosophical term generally defined as the intended end or goal of an event or thing in transformation and action. It can also be defined as the "purpose" of the existence of something. The classical case of an acorn having the teleological purpose of becoming an oak tree is widely accepted. However, discussion of the teleology of human existence can be much more complex for obvious reasons.


World Trade Organization (WTO)

Official Website

---Introduction-

The World Trade Organization, or WTO for short, is an international trade forum created in 1995. Its state missions and its de facto influence on global trends include the promotion of stable economic globalization, economic growth, and free trade.

---History-

The WTO grew directly out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an international treaty on trade that began 1947, two years after the conclusion of World War 2. The purpose of the GATT was to foster free and fair trade, and reduce or even eliminate import tariffs. This mission has been progressively achieved through negotiation conferences, or "rounds." An official international trade negotiations organization has long been in the plans of GATT participants, and was in theory to be formed as the International Trade Organization (ITO) in 1948. However, with the successful resistance of the United States Senate, no such organized body was formed.

In 1994, the final round of the GATT, the Uruguay Round, saw the participation of 123 nations, and the transformation of the GATT into the WTO. The WTO came into official existence on January 1, 1995, with the principles of the GATT were adopted and updated, and an organizational framework built to create a systematic attempt at addressing world trade issues. The WTO also expands the GATT to beyond trade in physical goods; in anticipation of the Information Age, trade agreements on intellectual property and services have been covered as well.

As of February, 2005, there are 148 member states in the WTO. Cambodia is the latest nation to join, with membership being granted on October 13, 2004. Notably absent as full members and significantly influential nations include most Soviet Union successor states (Russian Federation, Ukraine, etc.), Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Having adopted the negotiating form of the GATT, the latest round is the Doha Round, which was launched in 2001. Some significant issues in the Doha round include disputes on agricultural exports and subsidies, intellectual property rights, and accusations of dumping (malicious saturation of a market through massive, undervalued importation).

---Description-

The WTO has a dualistic function.

--As a forum-

First, the WTO is a global trade liberalization forum.

Trade liberalization implies the erosion of trade barriers, including tariffs and protective subsidies from governments. Their elimination allows for freer competition throughout the globe. Economic theory dictates that through competition, less efficient and capable producers are weeded out, and the most efficient producers that the market desires remain in business and in position to best supply consumers. This can be achieved both from the liberalization of import and export controls that nations set in place.

This is so that the most efficient producers are able to import their products into a nation, and that the most efficient producers of that same nation can have the same access to markets in all other nations. Furthermore, the WTO argues that free trade will stimulate economic development, as nations and corporations strive to compete in a rational manner.

Also, by providing a system for negotiation, the WTO believes that it encourages world peace and economic stability when an otherwise intractable situation develops between contentious parties.

WTO member nations grant all other members the status of "most favored nation" (MFN) status. Though not a specific term, the recognition by one nation of another as a "most favored nation" (MFN) generally implies securing the lowest tariffs and trade barriers between the two parties. Hence, the WTO allows for a systematic and globalized approach to trade liberalization by allowing for mass negotiation.

Through the WTO, member nations engage in dialogue in hopes of securing trade terms favorable to themselves first. However, negotiations are multilateral, and so compromises are often necessary in order to create agreements acceptable enough to all nations involved.

One practical example of the WTO as a forum in action is the negotiations of the export and import of cotton. Poor nations, such as the "African Group" that is composed of several cotton exporting African nations, argue for a lessening of tariffs from wealthier nations that they export to. These proposals are aimed at the demand side of the importers; they aim at bringing down barriers that the wealthier nations have set up for their domestic market demand. Another point that the African Group raises focuses upon the subsidies wealthier nations provide for their domestic cotton producers. The believe that this is unfair, since the accused governments are in fact providing aid to their own producers that may otherwise become uncompetitive without the additional help. The objections of the African Group are then recorded, presented for moderation and discussion, and ultimately addressed in the next round of negotiations.

Interestingly, the WTO operates not on a numerical vote system to determine policy, but rather upon consensus. This much more fluid setup for making policy allows for the cultivation of personalized relationships between nations; conversely, it drops an impersonal mechanical vote system in favor of nations working solutions out amongst themselves under the WTO framework, and allows for a large degree of flexibility in negotiations that might otherwise be stifled under a voting system.

However, the consensus system also creates an unequal negotiations field: economically powerful nations and groups, such as the United States and the European Union, have much more sway and bargaining capabilities than nations that may oppose certain practices of theirs. The less powerful nations may band together for common objectives, however, in order to counteract powerful negotiators; the African Group is one example of such an occurrence.

Hence, the WTO allows for a much more streamlined, transparent, and flexible system for trade negotiations and the promotion of global understanding.

--As a moderator and enforcer-

The WTO also functions as an enforcing body for its trade rules and guidelines that have been adopted by consensus.

It is important to note, first, that the WTO does not supplant government rule over individual nations. Rather, it has similar functions to a court or panel for trade issues.

Member states that argue against one or more practices of another nation or group of nations may bring the issue to the floor for debate. The WTO then forms an expert panel to advise the general members (known as the Dispute Settlement Body in this function) on their findings and conclusions of the issue. The WTO can then formulate, again through consensus, measures to address the situation in question. This results in a tightly focused function that addresses the situation at hand. The nations involved can then appeal this decision, and ultimately, through further negotiations and consideration, the WTO formulates more rulings. Affected members can then choose to create policy that satisfies the requirements of the rulings. A failure to comply, however, can result in trade restrictions enacted against an offending member.

---Transhumanist Analysis-

Entry into the WTO can bring enormous prestige to a nation, and allow the country to join the body of nations that are already trading under much more liberal terms. However, compliance requirements and a system of consensus can restrict nonconforming trade practices that could have been of benefit to deviating states. Furthermore, it would appear that as the majority of world nations joins the WTO and submits to its trade guidelines, the MFN status has in fact become the de facto trade stance of the world as all WTO members become "most favored."

However, the WTO is not a perfect system by any means. Common general criticisms have been based around several themes. One such theme states that the WTO, being a transnational trade organization that promotes globalization, often support policies that are detrimental to minority groups whose voices may not be represented in the organization. Another criticism is that because transnational corporations conduct the majority of trade, their interests are favored above those of domestic or native groups. Moreover, because the WTO does not operate on a vote system, powerful members are often able to push their agendas much further than those of less powerful states; vice versa, powerful members may not be as affected by WTO regulations as others, since their economic clout compensates for their non-compliance.

A variety of other points can be made both for and against the WTO. However, it can be generally considered a positive force in the world for promoting free trade and competition. In theory, economic cooperation and achieving dialogue through mutual understanding can help foster international peace and prosperity for all nations. In practice, these noble aims are often hindered by a variety of details, from the clout of wealthy nations resisting their own regulation, to the necessity of extremely long and complex negotiations for reaching a consensus, to resistance from the citizens of respective member states. However, it seems that the principles of the WTO have a very strong chance of eventually becoming accepted worldwide, as global economic integration and understanding becomes common throughout the world. The Transhumanist, therefore, considers it beneficial force in effecting economic liberalization and achieving the resultant effects of mass communication and adoptions of technological standards through competition.



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