One of our crew here at The New Atlantis celebrated a birthday this week, and we were discussing the question of whether transhumanists — especially of the Eliezer Yudkowsky, hyper-rationalist variety — should celebrate birthdays. On the one hand, from a philosophical perspective, they are a barbaric concession to arcane rituals of pre-rational cultures. They are based, moreover, upon a system of non-universal measurement — the arbitrary length of time it just happens to take the planet on which we just happen to be located to rotate around the stellar mass around which it just happens to rotate. What’s so special about occupying the same region of the solar system you did when you crossed through the maternal threshhold? And what about beings who don’t live on planets? What would a universal sentience say?
On the other hand, birthdays suggest the primacy of the individual, who is after all at the center of the transhumanist ethos. However, this suggestion comes by way of noting our icky, evolutionarily inefficient, and arguably tyrannical biological natality — not to mention our mortality. Yikes! It’s all quite dizzying.