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Transhumanism: The future of Revolutionary Flags and Movement Symbols
Kris Notaro   Jun 26, 2015   Ethical Technology  

A few years ago after voting I went back to my local elementary school where I was taught about liberty, and the “American way of life.” The same old stories, same old lies. I went there to ask them to take down the massive confederate out-of-date flag of Georgia that was still flying since I went to school there.

As a futurist and transhumanist I look at the world from a point of view of the here-and-now and how it will change during my lifetime(∞?) and beyond. For example we know a lot about cave paintings, Egyptian Hieroglyphic symbols, Ancient Greek money, and we also have linguists studying the epistemology of language.

I do not want to talk about money or the theory of other possible world semantics to get more insight to our understanding of language. Rather I want to discuss how emotions and actions may play roles in the future of symbols, especially that of flags.

Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation. On some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. Those acting primarily on emotion may seem as if they are not thinking, but mental processes are still essential, particularly in the interpretation of events. For example, the realization of danger and subsequent arousal of the nervous system (e.g. rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweating, muscle tension) is integral to the experience of fear. Other theories, however, claim that emotion is separate from and can precede cognition. Emotions are complex. According to some theories, they are a state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence our behavior. - Wikipedia

When I look at the rainbow flag of the LGBTQI movement and the anarchist-transhumanist flag I get a sense of "this feels right, this is what I want to be a part of, I support most, if not all the concepts being pushed by these groups agendas." Are my emotions legit? Are my emotions based on factual premises? How can a symbol or flag invoke such emotions? When one flies a flag lke the white supremacy nazi swastika or the white supremacy confederate flag I get a sense of nausea, distaste and anger.

As some of you may know I and many others have been working on an “Anarchist Transhumaninist Manifesto”. We clearly state that flags themselves cause emotions, which, when acted out, may cause violence as well. At the top of the Manifesto it reads:

Although this is a flag, its more about an idea, a concept, a way to live. It has nothing to do with nationalism, nor patriotism.

“Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds & then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” - Arundhati Roy

The point of being anti-flag within the manifesto runs deep at the heart of anarchist thought. The flags are used as weak symbols to verify certain schools of political theory, but the black flag and misuse of flags cited by Roy and many others are also part of the manifesto's goal – that is, the destruction of all flags. On this day, however, in which the supreme court of the U.S. declared LGBTQI marriage legal, it is hard to find the right words to express why rallying around a flag like the rainbow flag can be detrimental to movement building. Perhaps as movements come and go so do their symbolic artifacts.

While many humans want to fly a flag symbolizing their ideas, there are flags which carry with them the capacity to engrave ideas into one's mind, here I am referring to the Confederate Flag.

A young person's mind exposed to such obscene nonsense in 2015 is totally unacceptable. Take this quote from Rolling Stone "The (Confederate Flag) was picked up by some veterans' groups after the war, and then used by the Ku Klux Klan." and this one from the Atlantic “While defenders of the Confederate flag exalt it as an emblem of regional “heritage,” it was designed as the ensign of a slaveholders’ republic, revived a century later as the symbol of massive resistance to civil rights, and became an iconic code for the Republicans’ Southern strategy.” For young people flags can have a deep impact on their thought processes, especially if they feel the ideas behind the flag represent them specifically, but we know (through educational privilege) ultimately they are based on social constructs.

Like the recent 3 continent attack by “ISIS” which left over 40 people dead, the flag they carry has the same power behind it as the confederate flag which influenced Dylann Roof who killed 9 people of color in Charleston South Carolina. Roof's personality, disposition, and motivation can partly be blamed on the societal acceptance of a the symbolism associated with the confederate flag based on photos him prior to the shooting. 

The future of movement symbolizing is extremely important, and how we do it as transhumanists may make all the difference in many people's lives. Consciousness cannot go on if we divide ourselves with flags and symbols that represent any kind of irrational intolerance. It is important to remember that many people still associate transhumanism with eugenics. This association with eugenics I have to admit sounds quite easy to make given that selective breeding and sterilization for the "enhancement" of human kind is not too far away from the 1% seeking to develop genetic therapy, etc for enhancement purposes. If the wealthy upperclass embraces images like the cyborg arm touching gods hand, and the extra strength/speed of neural and physical enhancement we may see a radical divide between rich and poor, expressed through sci-fi, art, and radical symbols of power and greed.

While a one kind of language may be the future as we exchange qualia at rapid speeds, it does not mean the individual or collective will want to agree on certain technological revolutionary symbols. I would argue however that a one kind of language might be nice as self's become cyborgs and still have a sense of individuality.

This brings up two important topics: individuality and the here-and-now of transhumanist thought. The image below is a google search of “transhumanism”.  

We can already see where this is going: transhumanism means becoming Gods. Half the images show us manipulating our DNA, becoming cyborgs, and a few happen to show anarchism mixed with transhumanism (Hey, I made that logo!).

The problem I see with the aesthetics of ape--->human--->cyborg--->god are a couple of things. The person who thinks the symbols of transhumanism in the here-and-now represent either a threat or a goal to reach presents us with inklings of hate attacks like we saw in Charleston or a wealthy guru aiming to live forever before everyone else. Singularitarianism, before any other kind of transhumanism promotes the abstract idea of an AI sci-fi like god. The idea of god being created by a corporation or government will hopefully backfire on them, for the tech-singularity may just reject the current corporatocracy system all together. As we get our bumper stickers and tattoos of transhumanist symbolism, we may just be giving into group think and helping corporations make profits off of new-generation sweatshop made products which are copy righted, and protected leaving the 99% without owning The Means of Production

Flag and Symbol Fetishism

A fetish (derived from the French fétiche; which comes from the Portuguese feitiço; and this in turn from Latin facticius, "artificial" and facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism is the emic attribution of inherent value or powers to an object. - Wikipedia

Austin Cline of atheism.about.com/ writes:

Americans’ obsession with the American flag isn’t just an example of patriotism or nationalism — it’s an example of fetishism. Some Americans, at least, have developed a cult around their flag in which that flag is treated almost as it if had supernatural powers, and certainly as if it were more than merely a symbol of America. The flag is treated as if it were America itself — as if it were a substitute for America, such that how you treat it were how you treat America... Some Americans’ fetishism for their flag is demonstrated by a near-obsessive, ritualistic manner in which they insist it be treated. Their behavior is more consistent with how people treat religious icons: obsessions about proper folding, never letting it touch the ground, not allowing it to fly after sunset, and so forth. When people treat common objects like this, we say that they suffer from a mental imbalance — obsessive-compulsive disorder, to be exact. When they treat religious objects like this, we simply say they are devout.

The problem with fetishizing transhumanist symbols and flags as far as I can tell may have three important unfortunate outcomes.

  1. Groupthink
  2. Alienating others who want to live in a diverse world and/or creating a movement that causes violent reactionary actions from outside groups. If one does get a H+ tattoo/t-shirt/bumper sticker/flag they should use it to help educate others about the emerging world as to diminish unabomber type of senerios.
  3.  As we venture into emerging scientific paradigms, fetishizing over potentially dangerous technology like that of corporate owned gene therapy and non-free, non-open source AI along with the fetishizing of new military inventions by governments and the wealthy 1% may lead us all as simply “cheerleaders” for a movement which may only make the wealthy wealthier, and the poor poorer. There is also the chance of nationalistic faux wars becoming existential risks brought to you by the 1%.

Revolutionary flags such as the confederate flag may in the next decade bring about transhumanist cults and elites, with everyone wanting the same thing, but the unfortunate reality that there may be no post-scarcity economy, instead we will see the results of the wealthy and poor divide grow larger and larger.

The Anarchist Transhumanist Manifesto, by using a mix of anarchist flags, may be falling into the same trap as other movements have. Although the anarchist-transhumanist flag is representing human improvement and anarchism, we might want to destroy it as paradigms come and go and as consciousness revolutionizes it's own evolution.

We cannot allow revolutionary symbols and movement building flags separate us, from fellow transhumanists or from skeptical people. We also do not want to turn transhumanism into some kind of religion, where people's emotions turn into nationalistic and/or group-think actions because of technological fetishism.

Transhumanism and posthumanism is inevitable but as I have stated in previous articles there are many ways in which the future of consciousness could indeed share similarities (which already exist today but for many reasons are not reconized) to make the connections for peace building instead of dividing us.  

Burn all flags... what do you think?

Kris Notaro, a former IEET intern, served as the IEET's Managing Director from 2012 through 2015. He is currently an IEET Program Director. He earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.



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