How Timothy Leary Led The Way To Transhumanism With SMI2LE


Via KurzweilAI R.U. Sirius reveals Leary’s proto-transhumanist SMI2LE manifesto :

Leary may have been the first to signal a memeplex for the transhuman future — SMI2LE (Space Migration Intelligence Increase and Life Extension) — back in the mid-1970s. My new book, Timothy Leary’s Trip Thru Time, explores Leary’s life and philosophies, including his transhuman explorations.

Leary emerged from prison in 1976 as one of the advocates for advances in the human condition that would soon be called transhumanism. Leading transhumanists rarely acknowledge that Leary defined the movement with precision 38 years ago.

In fact, going back to 1974, about a year after Leary expressed, in his Starseed Transmission, his wild prison fantasy of taking 5,000 advanced mutants out to galaxy central, Gerard K. O’Neill, a physicist and professor at Princeton University released a paper claiming that human settlements could be built in space at Lagrange points — locations where a habitat could theoretically remain stable.

One of these stable points was called “L5” and it soon became the focus of a movement to colonize space. Besides Leary, a number of major figures in 1970s culture became part of the movement for space colonization, including Carl Sagan, Freeman Dyson, Stewart Brand, NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and California Governor Jerry Brown.

Timothy Leary’s arguments for Space Migration were tied in with his advocacy for Intelligence Increase and Life Extension (SMI2LE). Always one for sloganeering, Leary came up with “No Rejuvenation without Space Migration,” believing that issues around overpopulation, limited resources and the potential for exhausting personal and cultural novelty on this limited planet could be answered by spreading out and finding new adventures in the stars. (He would later believe he’d found an answer to at least the latter problem in Virtual Reality.)

In other words, SMI2LE. Leading transhumanists rarely acknowledge that Leary defined the movement with precision 38 years ago.

11 Comments on "How Timothy Leary Led The Way To Transhumanism With SMI2LE"

  1. advancedatheist | Sep 16, 2013 at 10:07 am |

    You mean the Timothy Leary who told Robert Anton Wilson back in the 1970’s that he expected to become “immortal” in a science-fictional sense, and survive to see the death of our sun in a few billion years? How has that plan worked out for Leary lately? Refer to my book review essay:

    Sheesh, no wonder people consider “transhumanism” a joke.

    • The “smarter” part of the technologies Leary and RAW are coming along just fine. Do you think that Google Glass is the final development of this kind of tech? The 2nd gen stuff is in progress (Meta). Brain-computer interface technology research making progress.

      The deeper understanding of human biology and physiology and genetics required for life extension is probably farther ahead than either would have expected for this part of the 21st C. People are already starting to put serious money into it. Noticed where Kurzweil is working these days?

      What did Leary/RAW get wrong? Political / social / economic factors which indicate that when the really expensive stuff which will make longer and smarter lives possible, a declining percentage of people will be able to afford them in a world the transnational elites are turning to shit. Longer life is problematic in a biosphere is becoming increasingly hostile to human life.

      Also see Rachel Haywire’s interview with RU Sirius here: where “pie in the sky when you don’t die” is discussed. Also probably Rachel’s best work in journalism.

      • advancedatheist | Sep 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm |

        Noticed where Kurzweil is working these days?

        I looked up the actuarial tables and used a spreadsheet to calculate how long an American man Ray’s current age (65) could live. Turns out Ray has odds of 22 out of 100 of dying in the next 10 years. Think of it as playing Russian Roulette with a 5-chambered revolver, and pulling the trigger once. I wonder what Ray’s fans will say when he dies on schedule, again like Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson and FM-2030.

        Transhumanists just don’t understand the underlying logical problem of saying that we’ll “become immortal” by arbitrary dates, especially in this century. You can determine if a longevity breakthrough has happened only retrospectively, after a whole lot of people have lived well past 120 years in good physical and cognitive shape. And that rules out having any such knowledge in this century because every year between now and 2100 falls within current life expectancies.

        By contrast, we can make a lot of progress with brain preservation techniques using current science and technology, but without having to invoke science-fictional nonsense like the singularity, with the goal of turning death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state. Look up the website of the Brain Preservation Foundation. Michael Shermer, the critic of pseudoscience and editor of Skeptic magazine, serves as one of this foundation’s advisers, so he apparently considers it goals scientifically defensible.

        • While I appreciate Kurzweil’s work, it’s because of his solid accomplishments outside of promoting Futurism. Would you know what any of them are without Wikipedia or Google? He knows what he’s talking about with respect to technology.

          One reason I expect major advances in life extension tech soon is that the people who control most of Si Valley money are Boomers who understand “you can’t take it with you” and will soon be throwing lots of money at the problems. You can tell them that this is impossible as much as you want.

          In the specific case of Kurzweil, what does his medical coverage look like. Better than yours? Better than the average person actuarial tables are built around? I wouldn’t take your plans for his future any more than I take you seriously.

          I believe that the technocapitalists who are the money behind Transhumanism and Singularity will probably achieve their non-political goals of human augmentation/life extension. Which I believe to be extended lifespans and more powerful intellects for all who can afford them. Got $100M in the bank?

  2. Ethan Celery | Sep 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

    This article brings two separate (and equally interesting) thoughts to mind:
    In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell mentions a stable limit for individual ‘tribes’ of people, 150, with a few successful examples cited.

    William Gibson describes interstellar migration successfully accomplished in Mona Lisa Overdrive as a trans-physical phenomenon: ‘uploading’ consciousness and beaming it through an interstellar internet, for lack of a better term.

    I feel like rereading both of those books.

    Thank You, Disinfo.

  3. No surprise to anyone who’s seen my writing about transhumanism here and in other places. IMO, modern Transhumanism/Singulararism is the dumbed down version of what RAW and Leary were talking about in late 20th C.

    Message stripped down and repurposed to support technocapitalism with the subtext ‘if we avoid political action to ensure the wealthy contribute what it takes to pay for infrastructure and social stability, these technologies will benefit us all’ with the important part (all who can pay for it) somehow left out. If you want to see the real priorities driving the primary funder of the Singularity movement, look up Peter Theil on . Or some of the $ funding Transhumanism-related events.

    The most important part of RAW’s message that got stripped out was the part about “finding out what the hell is really going on”. RAW talked about in books and lectured about what was going on behind the scenes of government that the mass media did not report. That was why he was also called a “Conspiracy Theorist” – all of us here should know what that really means.

    However, the problematic part of RAW’s message that it’s all about primate mammalian politics and we should all somehow ‘rise above it’ should have been left out … and didn’t. That also plays into “DON’T TAX THE RICH” just fine.

    Not surprised RAW didn’t see it coming, the most important Futurist writing of the 20th C didn’t come from him or from Leary, the 1971 “Powell Memo” which told corporate CEOs and the superwealthy that they needed to buy complete control of the political dialogue wasn’t public knowledge even among the well-informed. That goal was met in the early 1990s, people like Koch and Theil have been buying up the major fringes, i.e. Libertarianism and Futurism.

    As I recall, RAW recommended avoiding capital-letter ideologies on the basis that they turn off thinking. That people should have listened to.

    • advancedatheist | Sep 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm |

      IMO, modern Transhumanism/Singulararism is the dumbed down version of what RAW and Leary were talking about in late 20th C.

      Leary and RAW sound like the dumbasses now. I’d like to see anyone defend Leary’s pseudo-neuroscience about 8 mysterious “brain circuits” which no one can point out to me in neuro-anatomy textbooks. And why would these alleged “circuits” Leary numbered V though VIII just happen to prepare us for living off-planet, when just about everything else about the outer space environment can at least damage human health, if it doesn’t kill you outright, even with life support?

      And if RAW allegedly had so much insight into deeper mysteries, explain to me why he got the life extension part so disastrously wrong.

      • The sum of human knowledge progresses. Some of what looked possible in the 1980s looks impossible now. Some of what looked impossible in the 1980s looks certain.

        I think it’s probably time for us to look back on Leary’s and RAW’s writings in retrospect for an intelligent critique. Won’t be looking to you for it for obvious reasons. Which of your sacred cows did he slaughter?

      • hagbard23 | Sep 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

        I mean… you know Bob clearly says the eight circuit model is just a, y’know, model, right? A useful reality tunnel?

      • The Well Dressed Man | Sep 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm |

        what kind of saving throw bonus does an advanced atheist have against say a high-level paladin’s conversion attack?

    • Ted Heistman | Sep 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm |

      I am reading through “prometheus rising” again. Good stuff!

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