The 5 Stages of Posthuman Grief – “Acceptance” Makes Progress Possible

The 5 Stages of Grief Model isn’t perfect – but it also seems to overlap well with the experiences of grieving people. The psychological model itself needn’t be perfect – the core point of this article stands: 

Responding to uncomfortable truths with anything other than Acceptance robs us of the ability to think critically and act decisively – which are our only chance to create a better future.

The opportunities are great for accepting and acting on crucial trends and uncomfortable realities:

  • Japan’s Miraculous Modernization: Japan was isolated from Western powers for nearly three centuries until Commodore Perry from the US Navy rolled up to its shores in 1853, when the nation’s leadership immediately decided to modernize in order to ensure it’s safety by being strong [Acceptance]. By the 1980’s – even after being decimated in WW2 – Japan was thought to be capable of overtaking the US economy in its overall GDP.
  • Facebook’s Mobile Dominance: In 2012 Zuckerberg knew that smartphones were going to be the most important device for driving user acquisition and engagement [Acceptance] – and he pivoted hard to make Facebook a mobile-first company. 2012 also saw the year where Zuckerberg bought Instagram for a cool ten figures – shocking even his own leadership. From 2012 to 2023, the firm’s revenues have risen from $4.27 billion to $134 billion.

The costs are high for not accepting crucial trends and uncomfortable realities:

  • China’s 100 Years of Humiliation: With the 15th century Edict of Haijin, Emperor Xuando cut off China from foreign trade and ideas, believing that the other nations of the world were so relatively weak that China would always remain their superior [Denial]. By the time the British trade mission reached Beijing in 1793, the new Emperor replied with distain [Anger], telling the Westerners that their new-fangled innovations were of no use to China [Denial]. China was summarily dominated militarily and economically by nations who were by far China’s inferiors just a few centuries prior.
  • Kodak’s Demise: Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 but was then put out of business the same technology because they continued to double down on their bread-and-butter of antiquated film photography [Denial].

Leaders in China, Japan, Facebook, and Kodak didn’t have the option to freeze time and deny reality.

Yet when it comes to AGI and posthuman intelligence, we try to pretend that freezing time is possible.

Much of the current AGI discourse – even among people who identify as transhumans – is anchored in naive attempts to hide from [Denial] or rail against [Anger] impending trends around AI and the future of the human condition.

This manifests in dangerously childish head-in-the-sand perspectives on viable or realistic human futures, including the following:

  • AGI will treat humanity well and/or leave humanity alone to do continue to “be human”.
  • The posthuman transition (immersive virtual experience, brain-computer interfaces, etc) is optional or unlikely. Many people 100 years from now will live lives very much like we do (maybe just with self-driving cars, and great AI assistants).

This is, unfortunately, pure grade-A cope.

This leads the discourse to continuously land on the silly notion of the Eternal Hominid Kingdom – a series of far futures that imagine humans (as they are now), living on mars / the moon – living in a world where disease, food, and education are solved for everyone. 

This might be an interesting vision for the next very short handful of years – but it isn’t realistic and sets us up for disaster and danger in the years of change that face us.

2 Things We Must Accept

Uncomfortable as it is, we must Accept* the following:

1 – Posthuman Intelligence is Inevitable – soon-ish we will build and/or become said intelligence. Reasons:

  • People adopt technology that reliably satisfies their reward circuits (for entertainment, for productive output, for sexual gratification, etc) most efficiently – such technology adoption is hardly a choice, but a compulsion (Read: Closing the Human Reward Circuit, GenAI and Human Motivation).
  • You live like a monster or a god compared to your great grandparents in 1920. Your discomfort doesn’t mean the future won’t be as disturbing to you as your current life would be to people in 1920. (Read: Your “Dystopia” is Myopia)
  • Demographic trends and the increasing prevalence of virtual satisfaction are likely to drive us towards tech immersion and integration (Read: Japan is the Canary in the Coal Mine)

2 – Posthuman Intelligence is Likely to End Humanity – even if it is we who evolve or merge with said intelligence. Reasons: 

5 Stages of Posthuman Grief

It’s relatively easy to determine where someone sits on the “Stages of Posthuman Grief” model:

Reading my “2 Things We Must Accept” section – where do you think you sit on the Stages of Posthuman Grief?

Do you write it all off flippantly as sci-fi (Denial)? 

Are you upset that I’m pointing these trends out, and has that discomfort lead you interpret malice and evil as my motive (Anger)?

I’m not saying Acceptance is easy.

I have mourned. As I mention in my longer essay on inevitable posthumanism: 

Source: You Don’t Want What You Think You Want –

But Accept we must.

Maybe we can push these radical change (like the augmentation of human minds, and the arrival of AGI) to future generations, when our generation is long gone. But I suspect that only relatively minor slow-downs are possible, and that for the most part we must work hard to form an embankment against oncoming river of the future. We can influence it’s path, but we can’t very much stop it’s flow – or how gravity effects water.

We cannot prevent the future outright with a head-in-the-sand strategy.

Kodak and 15th century China already tried that strategy, remember?

Without Acceptance – we cannot think critically or act decisively, which are the only things that give us a fighting chance for a better future. The eternal hominid future is cope and nothing more.

Accepting Inevitable Posthumanism – Policy Considerations

From a governance perspective, are left with The Two Questions:

  1. What is a beneficial transition beyond humanity? 
  2. How do we get there from here without destroying ourselves?

I’m not smart enough to answer these questions myself (no one person it) – but I feel confidently that:

  • We need global governance in order to the destructive arms race we’re now locked into (My complete thoughts: Altman is Everyman)
  • Global governance needs to flesh out preferable and non-preferable AGI / posthuman futures, and determine what we might do to respectively move towards or avoid them (My complete thoughts: Unite for Fight).

But I’m willing to wiggle on any of own particular ideas as trends play out, and as I understand new things. This is what Acceptance demands.

NOTE: You don’t need to accept anything you don’t want to. And I don’t pretend to see the future. I think we’re all morons and neurons. I’m here to merely explain my reasoning (with references and links to by own writing, and that of other thinkers who I respect. Zuckerberg’s idea of a mobile-first social media might have been wrong – and my notions of AGI risk and posthumanism may also be wrong. I think the trends make a strong case, but you can decide for yourself.

If you disagree with my reasoning – convince yourself that you’re not in Denial (“Daniel’s ideas are never gunna happen”), or Anger (“Daniel is a terrible person because by laying out these trends it means he wants the end of humanity!”). Instead, dive into the specifics of my reasoning (linked under “2 Things We Must Accept”) and let me know where my errors lie. My ideas have changed over time, and I suspect I may have something to learn from you as well. Find me on Twitter and ping me.