transhuman - photo by jeremy clarke
(Note: The book pictured is Citizen Cyborg by James Hughes, a thoughtful and compelling nonfiction analysis of the effects technological progress is likely to have on human life and culture, and the political ramifications that have to be considered in light of them. It definitely has some transhumanist bias to it, presenting most nascent technologies as ultimately liberating, but it also focuses on the importance of democratically insuring that the technologies are universally available and regulated for safety, so that the doomsday predictions of the neo-luddites won’t have to come to pass. It’s accessible, eye-opening and exciting all at once.)

4 Replies to “transhuman”

  1. okay, well just to be clear, the liberation is that of us from our limitations. Whether it’s the limitation of only communicating with those close enough to see or hear, or the limitation of having to live with the body nature randomly chose for us instead of one we actively chose for ourselves.

    As to potential alienation, this really only reflects one aspect of technology, information communication technology (i.e. internet, telephones etc.), ignoring the various other uses of technology (medical, psychological, transportation, educational). Also, of course, ICT’s, though potentially destructive of interpersonal interaction, foster other kinds of communication, creating a more diverse communicative environment on the whole. If we are careful and conscious of what we are doing, we can keep our old ways and add to them new ways, giving us more ways overall, especially for those for whom the old ways aren’t very effective (think the handicapped who’s dissabilities are irrelevant online, or the distant loved-ones who can communicate far more clearly with long-distance telephone service and webcams than with weeks-long snail mail message delivery services).

    It’s obvious that services like MSN are potentially problematic because they can lead to more confusion and distance than understanding and connection, but ultimately the trend is towards more and more personal and life-integrative uses of any given technology. Think of the rise in popularity of Instant Messaging services compared with chat rooms, the IM’s are more personal and more likely to lead to meaningful relationships. When telegraphs were invented it would have been insulting to have a personal conversation through their wires, such deep thoughts wouldn’t have transmitted properly, but the technology evolved and we learned to make the most effective uses of it possible.

    The internet and other networks (cellphones, phones, industrial), with their moves from “home pages” to “blogs” and from bulletin boards to communities, show similar progress. From here it seems that soon the mess that is the internet now will look like a party-line run by a confused operator compared to the sleek and powerful cellular network that will be the internet of the future.

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