Natasha Vita-More spoke at the MetaNexus Institute conference July 18-21, 2009.
The emergent course of our human bio-technological transition is leading toward a species transformation. In light of this, approaches to transhumanism are varied and some are without clear conceptual apparatus; people want to extol its far-out promise or decry its fearful premise. How can the forecasts of converging sciences and technologies be better understood? Discussions need to include how we might experience an enhanced existence. I suggest aesthetics as a means by which we can gaze onto the topography of human enhancement and into the core of transhumanist experience.
Human enhancement aesthetics pursues a perceptual grasp of human futures, including the cyborg, transhuman, posthuman, and possible whole-brain emulation upload. The qualities of each of these transitional stages must be gauged by the uniqueness of each stage. The elements of aesthetics that cultivate perception are brought about by new experiences. The aesthetics of human enhancement suggests that the link toward understanding enhanced existence is located in the “experience”, not in a proviso for human preconditions as critical reflections on the current state of existence. That would be like a shamanistic Bushman preconsidering a human life by his standards and needs, without any awareness of a thing called the Internet. Therefore, if we are to discuss transhumanism, we must engage in transhumanist experiences in order to perceive what the transhuman or posthuman might value.
The basic concepts of aesthetics of enhanced existence could be imagined by introducing new media’s immersive, interactiverole in constituting experience (Dewey). This offers an opportunity to partially, if not naively, experience the sentiment of what enhanced existence might be like.In media aesthetics, logical description cannot replace personal participation (Schirmacher).Yet, there still remains a tension between the act of experiencing the world and a need that it depict a world worth living (as a precondition) (Nozick).
Enhanced existence evokes dramatic narratives, which generate uncertainty. Taking it from one posthumanist perspective, embodiment will give way to its reconfigurement by the machine (Hayles); from another it would upload (Kurzweil). Taking it from alate-transhumanist perspective, identity will give way to multiple selves or distributed selves (Vita-More). The scenarios, if approached like events, forgo the experiential exploration into aesthetics of enhanced existence. Life simply is not a blatant shift in materiality; it includes sensory and emotional experiences along the way.
Nevertheless, the issue remains: How can we thoughtfully assess an enhanced human existence if we cannot identify and gauge the existence through our current sensory-emotional apparatus? My task is to address this question.
Ever have the experience that you seriously think you’re trying to achieve one thing, but then in hindsight, years later, you look back and feel like your past self was actually trying to achieve something else entirely?
Last week I made a presentation at a conference on disability rights held at Union College in Schenectady, New York. I was invited by my former student, Joe Stramondo, who is now teaching philosophy in Michigan. The topic that our panel addressed was the impact of enhancement technologies on the understanding of disability.
Citing a new study in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, The Globe and Mailreports that Canada experienced a significant drop (36.9 per cent) in teenage births and abortions between 1996 and 2006. This is attributed to better access to contraception, better sex education, and changing social norms, but not to a decline in actual sex among teenagers. Rather, Canadian teenagers are now more likely to use condoms and/or the contraceptive pill than was the case in the mid-1990s.
(co-authored with J. Simone Riccardi) There can be no doubt that the explosion of Internet technology started in the 90s has had a huge impact on our culture. For the first time in history, geographically distributed large groups of people have been able to interact in near-real time. Usenet groups and mailing lists, and then the Web, message boards, blogs, social networks, IP voice and video conferencing, have enabled and empowered global communities held together by common interests and world-views instead of geographical proximity.
The H+ Summit June 12-13, 2010 at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts will explore how humanity will be radically changed by technology in the near future. Visionary speakers - including the IEET’s James Hughes, George Dvorsky, Aubrey de Grey, Ben Goertzel, Natasha Vita-More, Patrick Lin and Ramez Naam - will be speaking. What will it mean to be a human in this next phase of technological development? How can we prepare now for coming changes?
We foresee the feasibility of redesigning the human condition and overcoming such constraints as the inevitability of aging, limitations on human and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, lack of resources, and our confinement to the planet earth. The possibilities are broad and exciting. The H+ Summit will provide a venue to discuss these future scenarios and to hear exciting presentations by the leaders of the ongoing H+ (r)evolution.
Last week’s announcement from the J. Craig Venter Institute that scientists had created the first-ever synthetic cell was a profoundly significant point in human history, and marked a turning point in our quest to control the natural world. But the ability to use this emerging technology wisely is already being dogged by fears that we have embarked down a dangerous and morally dubious path.
Warring Futures: How Biotech and Robotics are Transforming Today's Military
George Poste, Chief Scientist, Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative, Arizona State University gives the keynote address to a May 24th, 2010 meeting on “Warring Futures: How Biotech and Robotics are Transforming Today’s Military—and How That Will Change the Rest of Us.” Dr. Poste’s talk was titled “Bugs, Bits and Engineering Bioforms: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” The meeting was sponsored by Arizona State University, New America Foudnation, and Slate magazine.
In its first season, Caprica has done an excellent job of exploring the ethical issues relating to V-World (the virtual world created by the ultra-rich Daniel Graystone), looking at the dangers of becoming overly immersed in V-World, and whether an avatar constitutes a real person. Also in the past year, we’ve seen Gamer and Surrogates, two movies that explore some common themes with interesting parallels to those in Caprica.
The IEET’s Journal of Evolution and Technology has received an “A” ranking in Australia’s official government process for ranking peer-reviewed journals, which means that publication in JET will now carry significant kudos and funding for Australian academics in federally-funded institutions.
Last week, researchers announced that they had achieved a long-anticipated breakthrough: the creation of the first synthetic organism. So, is this a huge step forward? The biggest thing ever? Does it herald exciting possibilities—or maybe ominous dangers? Is it much ado about nothing? That all depends on who you ask.
This experimental robot, created by researchers at the University of Southern California, is completely autonomous and trained by machine learning algorithms. The video is real-time, i.e., not sped up.
Research Fellow Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy Professor Massimo Pigliucci of the City University of New York debate the meaning of intelligence and the possible limits of AI.
The Singularity and the outer limits of physical possibility (08:38)
Do human brains run software? (09:58)
Consciousness, intelligence, and computation (03:14)
What could minds be made of? (13:08)
Is mind-uploading a dualist dream? (19:18)
Would the Singularity be a Vonnegut-style catastrophe? (10:56)
What seemed to be an intractable puzzle, with significant religious overtones, has been solved. J Craig Venter, Ham Smith, Clyde Hutchinson, Daniel Gibson and a team of scientists at the Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., have made a new living bacterium from a set of genes they decoded, artificially combined and then stuck into the cored out remains of the bacterium of another species. In other words, they created a living thing from man-made parts. Or, in more important words, they created a novel lifeform from man-made parts.
As the historian Robert Nisbet writes, “No single idea has been more important than, perhaps as important as, the idea of progress in Western civilization for nearly three thousand years.” But let’s understand what we mean by progress.