Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] ethnic cyborg

Quoting Joseph Ingoldsby <landscapemosaics@verizon.net>:

> In the discussions to this point mention has been made of the cyborg as an
> extension of human beings, compensating for their weakness, and magnifying
> their strength- for good or bad. They are used for scientific exploration,
> industrialization, and for war. They are physically formed with a human
> face and there has been attempts to imbue them with human attributes to be
> both servant and master. The machine is an extension of the human being. We
> are also of the earth in a web of interconnected life. Our technology allows
> us to destroy life and ourselves. The development of our inner life and
> consciousness have not kept pace with our technological advancement. Those
> cultures who lived in cyclical harmony with all organisms have been killed,
> conquered and marginalized. We are a seriously flawed species, who will self
> destruct in time. Our technology may not be able to save us from ourselves.

Thank you for a stimulating post.

I have mentioned this before, but it does not seem to draw interest or
response. But I think it might be helpful to look outside the cyborg
domain for what is occurring in other areas which are taking leaps and
bounds in the area of human enhancement.

The field of human enhancement has been the central focus for decades
- far longer than postmodernism or the brilliant work of Haraway with
her cyborg theory. This field of human enhancement stems from the
works and writings of philosophy, cybernetic theory, and the
scientific and technological advances in nano-bio-info-cogno/neuro.
Assessing a future human which stems from our unfixed biology and
which merges with technology is the fully developed perspective is
transhumanism. Now I know that many of you do not favor transhumanism
because of some bad press several years ago ? that you associate it
with capitalism, consumerism and America, but that is simply
inaccurate and insufficient reasoning in not investigating what it is
and how it can be useful in these types of discussions.

If a human merges with technology for the purposes of augmentation,
modification and enhancement that human is improving his/her
physiological condition. This improvement is firstly semi-biological
but ultimately a technical modification for enhancement. Deeply
augmenting the senses, modifying the restricted lifespan of 122
maximum and enhancing cognition through nanotechnology and artificial
general intelligence means that the human is evolving beyond what the
Homo sapiens sapiens wholly biological condition.

Once we started changing the genetics and producing offspring outside
the body, and further extending our cognition beyond the neocortex
structure within the body, we were approaching something other than
biological dependency. This technological enhancement is leading
toward a species transformation. Whether or not one favors or
disfavors the term "transhuman" it has been the term which
characterizes the human?s transitional transformations brought about
by the merging of biology with the sciences and technologies (usually
nano-bio-info-cogno/neuro). That transformation does not have to have
a full stop at the posthuman or leave behind the human, as no one
truly knows what we will become in the next hundred/thousand years.

> And what is human that is worth saving? Empathy? Memory? Love? Intelligence?

I just gave a talk on Human Enhancement Aesthetics at the Metanexus
Institute Conference in Tempe, AZ last weekend ("Cosmos, Nature,
Culture A Tran disciplinary Conference).

It is our "humaneness" that is worth sustaining. It is our sense of
love, joy, compassion, kindness, curiosity, creativity, intelligence,
etc. that we must protect and explore more deeply.

> There is an artist who speaks a poetic visual language of our self
> immolation. He is Robert ParkeHarrison, who knits together the tattered
> remains of a destroyed planet. Robert ParkeHarrison becomes the last human
> alive on a smoldering planet. His work stages futile attempts to mend the
> earth, reconnect the technologies, to communicate, to restore the damage to
> an earth despoiled. The works are a series of elegies to humankind, to the
> Industrial land, to the Promised land and Earth Elegies that speak with a
> poetic voice a shattering scream that echoes against the barren landscape.
> To be human, to be alone, with the façade of technology stripped away to
> face an uncertain future. His work embraces the human consciousness as one
> reconstructs memory after a tragic, cataclysmic event
> http://www.parkeharrison.com/slides-architechsbrother/index.html
> http://www.parkeharrison.com/slides-graydawn/index.html

Beautiful work. But my question is why do we not envision an
aesthetics of the future which suggests a future worth living in?
This was the crux of my talk. Too often the future is perceived
through the media of SF literature and filmmaking, which are either
highly utopian or enormously dystopian. Most of the current future
aesthetics is dark, dismal and saturated with how rotten the world has
become. I am a big Buckminster Fuller fan, and I have to say that I
continue to return time and time again to his particular logic. What
can we do to bring about a vision for the future which will prompt
solutions finding.

I think Bruce Mao did a marvelous job with this in his Massive Change
project (although it was not about human enhancement). And I think
many of my colleagues at the Planetary Collegium are producing
meaningful projects to bring about a glimpse of vision - hope - and
experience, be it virtuality, immersive design, or theory.

Anyway, if we want to develop a larger discussion on human
enhancement, it might be beneficial to get beyond the cyborg symbol
and investigate what is being done *right now* in art, science,
philosophy, technology which are specifically located in *the field of
human enhancement*.


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