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The Joy of Being Alive November 21, 2010

Posted by Metabiological in Transhumanism.
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Coffee or caffeine pills?  This is probably not a question most of ask on daily basis.  I know that up until I read Kyle Munkittrick’s new article at IEET the thought had never entered my mind.  This despite the fact that I am a daily consumer of the world’s most popular beverage next to water (that would be tea for those of you who don’t know.)  I have no problem admitting to being a caffeine addict.  I am in graduate school after all and the added boost given by a cup or four of hot Earl Grey has gotten me through many a paper or article.  So why have I not only not  given caffeine pills a try but up until this moment never considered the possibility?

It’s certainly not a question of their availability.  You can find them in any drug store as easily as you would any other mildly addicting legal narcotic (with the exception of cigarettes, which are easier.)  It’s certainly not for fears of safety.   Though caffeine in high enough doses can cause serious health problems, like any drug, the amount found in pills is rarely even close to that level.  If anything they’re probably safer in many ways than drinking a cup of tea or coffee.  The amount of caffeine in a cup will naturally vary not only between the stores or brands you get it from but also between one cup and the next.  In pills the amount is measured out exactly.  You always know what you’re going to get.  It’s certainly not convenience.  Popping a pill before I run out the door in the morning sure as hell beats boiling the water, pouring a cup, waiting for it to cool down to a tolerable temperature and so on.

So what is it that stops me from making the jump to the pill.  Part of it may be the added benefits of drinking tea.  I’m sure I don’t have to remind most of my readers that both tea and coffee are high in various antioxidants and phytochemicals that have been implicated in a number of positive effects on health and aging.  Certainly part of the reason I moved to tea from cola and the like was because of  its healthy nature (that and a kidney stone) but while that certainly plays a role it can’t explain the whole story.  Nowadays, multivitamins and antioxidant supplements can be found in any supermarket in the country and have the added benefits of consistency I noted for caffeine above.

No I think the biggest reason for my continued devotion is something far less tangible: aesthetics.  To put it bluntly, I love tea.  I love the aroma of the leaves as I scoop them into the pot.  I love the warm feeling of the cup against the palm of my hand.  I love the different varieties from the bergamot notes of Earl Grey to the coriander aromas of Masala Chai.  I love pouring a steaming hot cup and watching the heat slowly escape off the surface in delicate little whisps.  I love the ritual of sitting down at the end of the day and relaxing with a full pot at my side.  Can those feelings be equaled by a 100g pill?  I doubt it.

Too often in the transhumanist community  I think our focus on the bright and shiny technologies we all dream of causes us to neglect the non-technical side of the movement.  To put it another way, we forget the humanist part in transhumanist.  Life is not merely about living long enough to see the Singularity or the rise of SI or whatever.  Life is to be enjoyed, to be savored.  Our time should be spent wisely by all means, with our perspectives and priorities in their corrects places, but never at the expense of the aesthetic and the sensual.

There are voices within transhumanism that remind of us the importance of these traits, Natasha Vita-Moore comes to mind, but it certainly seems to be a minority of the community.  This may have to do with demographics, look around your next conference and you’ll see a lot of males and computer science types.  In a way this is odd since the early transhumanists like Vita-Moore were often accused of being too focused on the body and the sensual.    Perhaps we’ve simply swung too far in the opposite direction.

Whatever the reason the current trend is a shame.  Coming technologies not only offer us longer life and greater intelligence but the ability to create and appreciate beauty on levels we can only dream of.  We are uniquely positioned for these changes.   Lets enjoy them.

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