When we speak of posthumanism we refer to the expansion of the “natural” faculties of the human being, and more concretely to the fusion between meat and digital technology …
According to Wikipedia a cyborg is an “organism that has restored function or enhanced abilities due to the integration of some artificial component or technology that relies on some sort of feedback”. For the essential author Donna Haraway “the cyborg is a figure born from the interface between the automaton and autonomy”. As blogger and author Plácida Ye-Yé explains for Haraway “the cyborg is at the same time what we are -carnality- and what we can be -future cyborg, emancipatory possibilities- ” therefore “if our future depends on thinking differently, the cyborg offers us a transitory ontology for the present, an imagery that recognizes the process of constant redefinition that is going to suppose take on the new era”. Evidently this theories affect a large number of topics: technology, epistemology, politics, science, art, or feminism.
In reference to this hybridation between humans and communication machiens catalonian philosopher and UOC teacher Pau Alsina explains in his text “Humanism 2.0: Art, science, technology and society” that “the image of the body and the body itself are found in the impacts caused by the information and communication technologies, seeing themselves in this way propelled to the understanding of the new experiences that come to us”. This point of view includes -from the perspective of Derrick de Kerckhove– the creation of new types of human typologies identities, and sensorial experiences like: teleception, expansion, multiple personality or proprioception.
A relevant concept in this field is Artificial Intelligence (AI) a term that John McCarthy coined in 1956 and which is defined as: “science and engineering capable of giving intelligence to machines”. If we consider the evolution of this field together with Moore’s law, as defended by futurist Hans Moravec, it is estimated that by 2040 microchips will be able to process a quantity of data comparable to human intelligence. In this sense the so-called Singularity (that future event in which transhumanist philosophers predict that technological progress and social change will accelerate in unprecedent ways) promises us a totally unattainable experience of life to understand today. From this point of view the use of new sciences and technologies (technoscience) is used to improve human capabilities with the conviction of being able to overcome the limitations of the human condition such as ageing, illness or mortality. Some argue that “mind downloading” techniques for creating digital copies of human brains will attain real viability for 2040; a moment which embodies dreams and nightmares until now purely literary, converted very soon (end of the 21st century?) in “everyday” practices to increase our capabilities… And maybe this way humankind will attain immortality and become godlike creatures to conquer other galaxies.
The philosopher Mary Midgley, in her book from “Science as Salvation” (1992), identified the origin of the notion of achieving immortality through the transcendence of the human body (collected in the transhumanist proposal of “mind-downloading” or mental transfer) in a group of scientific thinkers from the early twentieth century like J.B.S. Haldane. The thinker’s argument focuses on what she considers pseudoscientific speculations, irrational fantasies conducted for the fear of death, and the remoteness of their points of view.
Anyway, from what epistemological position can we promote or retract these events in human evolution? Maybe the answer is to continue imagining new but imperfect futures that from the hybridizations and the always uncontrollable instability help us build a better life and world. New non-anthropocentric realities can help us build innovative positions from which we can embrace nature and adapt to a new ecosystem governed by a “deep ecology” full of broad (bio)technological possibilities and liberating opportunities of a post-life in any imaginable body format… A kind of transformative reincarnation that unites different options and hybridizations, a coveted change of existential paradigm in nightmare or fantasy form once again.
Because, who does not fear death and reach the end of the tunnel that is life? Is it morally condemnable to overcome this fear inserted in our interior from the more tender childhood? And after reading Ray Kurzweil´s books is it a sin to imagine these hypothetical futures closer to what common sense dictates? Today human beings can be more intelligent thanks to computers (or more stupid everything is a matter of predisposition). For example, we constantly upload our multimedia memories and knowledge to the internet cloud creating a virtual place full of cultural heritage and inexhaustible content. This without mentioning our digital omnipresence thanks to the social networks of the web 2.0. All this leads us to the words of artist Sandy Stone who says that: “The desire to transcend the human condition overcoming the physical and biological is a consensual hallucination” symbolic and metaphoric of cyberspace.
And this virtual space is a network full of life. The internet therefore has to be designed as a sustainable habitat and we have to find the proper ecological niche for this invention within the planet Earth. According to the Gaia Hypothesis -formulated by James Lovelock in 1969- our planet is understood as a unique and independent living system. The microbiologist Lynn Margulis argues in her paper “Gaia and the evolution of machines” that this holistic living-system extends in a “horizontal” way with respect to others organisms and “vertically” through human history. The homo-sapiens, and therefore our civilization, is today an uniquely technological creature and as such it can not survive any longer without our artificial creations.
Transhumanism can thus be considered alongside “deep ecology” – which understands the humanity as part of its environment – an explosive formula for future changes in the cultural, political, social and economic spheres. Maybe this way we will be able to achieve a harmonious coexistence between the homo sapiens and the rest of living beings in the “Mother Nature“.
Warning: This text was written in 2012 while studying at the Open University of Catalonia, and is published here only for cultural reasons. My scientific view has changed since then.
*(Picture: Willyam Bradberry, Nasa & Galina_Kalina).