January 26, 2006

Mikko Rauhala is unarmed, dangerous and transhumanist

Six Degrees, a Finnish magazine that publishes in the English language, has interviewed activist Mikko Rauhala, a Finnish transhumanist, vegan, and most recently, anti-copyright law agitator.

Rauhala is a systems administrator at the University of Helsinki and is a founding member of Electronic Frontier Finland. In 2003 he co-founded the Finnish Transhumanist Association and is currently a member of the Information Society Working Group of the Green Party.

In the Six Degrees interview, Rauhala primarily discusses his work to combat what he sees as unfair practices in copyright law in Finland. He rightfully criticizes the stifling nature of copyright laws, which threatens to significantly constrain how end users can enjoy and use various forms of media. “[I]n this century,” he says, “we have seen both the absurd lengthening of the period of copyright at the behest of large corporations but also the runaway strengthening of the powers it gives to its wielders, who are in quite a real way monopolising our culture.”

Rauhala, like many transhumanists, holds libertarian-like values. In regards to state control, he argues that “[s]ome like to sell the idea that freedom is inherent in our Western capitalist society, but totalitarianism is not fundamentally a matter of left or right politics. There is a strong trend in Western societies today to reduce freedom and civil rights. We’re sliding towards more state control and more privileges for large corporations, who wield considerable political power.”

On this point I can't help but agree with Rauhala; today's corporatist world shares many of the totalitarian tendencies seen on the extreme left and right, particularly as it pertains to overwhelming political influence, media, culture, memetic dominance, and the perpetuation of the idea of citizen as consumer.

In regards to his transhumanist views, Rauhala encapsulates the movement quite well:
“The core of transhumanism lies basically in secular humanism, but with emphasis on the self-directed improvement of humanity. The common notion of some things being ‘natural’ and others ‘unnatural’ is cast aside. Transhumanism doesn’t apply any arbitrary limits to the methods that can be used to improve the human condition, or to the extent of the improvement. It’s basically that simple.

For example, if you ask whether people should be able to live longer productive lives, the answer would probably be yes. But if you talk about living to be, say, a thousand years old, many people hesitate and consider it unnatural. In transhumanist circles talking about living to be a thousand is almost conservative. Of course, life extension is just an example. Transhumanism advocates that people should generally be able to become more the people they want to be. Increased intelligence is often seen as central in this respect. The world has its share of difficult problems, and we need all the smart brains that we can get.”
For those interested in transhumanism and its ties to Finland, be sure to check out TransVision06 which will be held at the University of Helsinki from August 17-19, 2006.

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