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Trans-human : Trans-nonsense?

→ by Danieru
The Singularity, The Transhuman. Words murmured from the lips of the geek elite? An entire generation of techno-babble is set to evolve from this imagined-movement's self perpetuating beliefs. Are we on the brink of a big shift in human - even planetary - consciousness?

I tend to think not. Every intellectual generation has resonated with the notion that the end of history was upon them. Mankind needs its imminent utopian horizon to focus on - a not so distant infinity of purpose, stretching off your line of sight in every direction. But however close you get to horizons they just keep on moving, indeed the horizon itself is a mere conceptual illusion - and so are all utopias.

Just as the religious devotee has God with which to maintain their future-purpose, the utopianist has the future with which to manifest their God. And in the singularity movement it is mankind itself which will become the God - a God of a theological nature not yet realised, but theological nontheless. The cult of science, of technology, of the power of the digital. Nietzsche never saw this coming...

I'm going to end here with a couple of authors I quote perhaps too often on The Huge Entity, but whom both bring rich insight into the conundrum of the human future from opposite perspectives. Tell me what you think...

On our 'virtual' futures:

"There is a positive fascination today with the virtual and all its technologies. If it genuinely is a mode of disappearance, this would be an - obscure, but deliberate - choice on the part of the species itself: the decision to clone itself, lock, stock and barrel, in another universe; to disappear as the human race, properly speaking, in order to perpetuate itself in an artificial species that would have much more efficient, much more operational attributes...

...beyond the virtual, I see nothing but what Freud called 'nirvana', an exchange of molecular substance and nothing more. All that would remain would be a perfect wave system, which would join up with the system of particles in a purely physical universe that no longer had anything human, moral, or - obviously - metaphysical about it. In this way, we would have returned to a material stage, with a senseless circulation of the elements..."

taken from Passwords by Jean Baudrillard
On our biological origins:

"Most people today think they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith, not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be masters of their destinies. Why then humans?

We do not need Darwin to see that we belong with other animals. A little observation of our lives soon leads to the same conclusion. Still, since science has today an authority that common experience cannot rival, let us note that Darwin teaches that species are only assemblies of genes, interacting at random with each other and their shifting environments. Species cannot control their fates. Species do not exist. This applies equally to humans. Yet it is forgotten whenever people talk of 'the progress of mankind'..."

taken from Straw Dogs by John Gray
I also posted a similar question over at Metafilter. There is a lot more to peruse on this concept there, but remember to come back and share your ideas!!

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Blogger Danieru said...

Here are some more opposed angles on the singularity (or lack of it):

Optimistic - at Event Horizon


Realistic - The Right Coast

Dig in!

December 14, 2005 7:25 AM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say that the shift is subtle and we don't notice it (cars, planes, trains, pcs). We steadily appropriate technology into our bodies in the form of drugs, prostheses, clothing. Networked technology seeps in (like now) where we chat over long distances. Slowly and steadily the keyboards and phones disappear. Given enough time, could the interface streamline to thoughts? Or the reverse. Watch TV through your eyes. At what point do we acknowledge singularity? Never. Because we are always used to it. Is there a need to know how a phone works (in detail)? Microwaves? Radio? Where waste goes each day? No one has their finger on the button anymore. It's a system. And it runs itself with each of us contributing our ant's share. Sounds like a path towards singularity.

December 14, 2005 1:33 PM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Transhumanist impulses are old. Language gives us the ability to extend our consciousness, the boundary of our physical existence widens the more communication becomes central to our perception -- and the more communication becomes less print-distributed the faster our language-space, perception base, becomes. We're on goddamn Mars. We're landing on asteroids.
Whether the sword is an extension of man, or man the sword -- or whether the keyboard is an extension of the man, or the man the keyboard ;)

December 18, 2005 11:59 PM    

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