June 11, 2009

Interpretive Dance of the Transhumanist Future

The following article was written by Natasha Vita-More in response to Athena Andreadis’ article, "If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution!"

“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?” (Nietzsche)

It is a breezy summer evening, as I sip a glass of wine after tending to the garden, romping in play with my dog, meditation, exercise, and finally engaging in the lusciousness of flirting with my husband, I am alone at last in my study.

How ironic it is that Athena Andreadis views transhumanism as “… deeply anhedonic, hostile to physicality and the pleasures of the body, from enjoying wine to playing in an orchestra …” in her article “If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution!” posted on on the Sentient Developments blog.

This response to Andreadis’ article is a well-intended and heart-felt defense of transhumanism in its appreciation and concern for human body and its activism toward human enhancement.

In that we are human with a biology, it makes sense to be biologically healthy, largely because transhumanism is, and always has been, closely linked to the field of life extension. With this said, it is true that transhumanism is more widely known for its vision of a posthuman future—the technological singularity, superintelligences, uploading, distributed existence, etc. Transhumanism is also known for its critical thinking about the future—including human rights, the Proactionary Principle, overcoming bias, environmental and ecological issues, techno-democracy, friendly AI, etc. Nonetheless, I wonder why there is less public attention directed toward the vitality and intelligence behind transhumanists’ emphasis on health and well-being. If one were to scan the most recent publications, topics on health and fitness seem to be missing. It was not always this way.


(Yacov Sharir)

Transhumanism Health & Body

“Flex the mind, flex the body” at one time (probably around 1997) was one of many transhumanist mottos. We were devoted to regenerative medicine and thought that if a person were physically fit, intellectually disciplined, and spiritually alert; we would be practicing a type of “Zen in the art of superlongevity.” Like Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), we tried to encapsulate a perception of the world that embraces the rationale and the dream. As an underlying tenet of transhumanism—health and well-being as logical and as an ideal are indispensable. How could it be otherwise?

Two well-known computer scientists, Ben Goertzel and Peter Voss, agreed. In 1996, Voss writes: “It [extropy/transhumanism] comprises long term physical and emotional health, fulfillment, and happiness; not wasting our lives on irrelevant or unpleasant tasks.” Over ten years later in 2008, Goertzel states: “… the Extropian Ubermensch ‘will exude benevolence, emanating its excess of health and self-confidence.’

Unlike Andreadis’ view that transhumanists harbor disdain for the human body, in the mid-1990s transhumanists were criticized for being too body conscious—too focused on health—too physical, too sexy: Let me gently poke a little fun at ourselves by quoting some journalistic comments:

“… even as a youth, More sought longevity, starting a vitamin regimen at age 11; at 15, he started meditating and lifting weights …”(Icon Magazine 1998)

“Certainly Max looks fit … he has just been through an extensive program of physiological testing at the Kronos Clinic …. Both are muscular and voluptuous, Natasha’s body certainly makes an impressive advertisement for longevity.” (LA Weekly 2001)

“So journalists played up the looniness of their ideas … Max and Natasha’s body building, supplements, antiaging routines.” (Rapture 2003)

“Vita More bodybuilding guru …”(Wired 1997)

“Natasha’s case age seems to have become blurred, confused, to some extent even vanquished.” (LA Weekly 2001)

“... superhuman object of desire …” (The Atlantic 1998)

We did not ask to be reflected with admiration, exaggeration, or disdain. We, like many transhumanists, simply enjoy working out. Of course we also want to enhance our minds and bodies to extend our lives.

What could be more valuable for superlongevity than knowing about what our bodies need to be healthy? Nothing, at least for the time being, later we will have other issues to contend with—in a posthuman world. We can hypothesize about it all we want, but the game is all about staying alive. It always has been about survival.

In 2000 I presented a paper at Longevity Bootcamp, sponsored by the Maximum Life Foundation, a transhumanist organization. The paper revealed The American Council on Exercise (ACE) report from the Surgeon General’s office, which stated that: 60% of American adults exercise only once in a while; 25% never exercise; six out of ten resort to medications to feel better; one-third are overweight; 14% suffer from depression; and two out of five will die of heart disease. In a call for awareness, my paper set out to suggest that by 2050 there will be one million people over 100 years old, a notable increase from the 40,000 centurions alive in 1998. This longevity is even more striking when compared to the normal life expectancy at the turn of the last century (1900s)—which was just 49. Further the paper presented a forecast that of those who are 65 then: 75% will reach 80; 60% will reach 85; 41% will reach 90; 3% will reach 100 and 2% will reach 105.

Transhumanism, in its socio-political understanding of the baby boomer generation approaching an old age and the health needs for such a growing segment of the world’s population, actually was and continues to be realistic about the need for public awareness of health and fitness.

At the inception of the modern philosophy transhuman members of Extropy Institute, and later some members of WTA, were highly proactive about health and fitness.

Roy Walford’s books Maximum Life Span and Beyond the 120 Year Diet were required reading for many transhumanists. But it was not just Dr. Walford’s books that were inspiring, Roy, until he could no longer exercise, worked out at World Gym in Venice, was a unique combination of scientist and artist—his home exhibited images of bodies engaged in dance, yoga and sex alongside scientific research. Chris Heward, formerly Chief Scientist at Kronos Lab in Scottsdale Arizona, was a long-time health enthusiast as well, especially the Gracie style of Jiu-Jitsu.

There are a number of transhumanist writings on pro-body exercise, fitness and sexual freedom. Martine Rothblatt’s The Apartheid of Sex not only discusses the freedom of gender, she also provides a source of knowledge about our sexuality. Ray Kurzweil’s Fantastic Voyage provides a health consciousness and valuable source of information nutrition and supplements. One on One Fitness, which I co-wrote with Leigh Christian, my collage as a personal trainer and sports nutritionist, is a personalized exercise and nutrition routine.

Yet, it almost frightens me that I would have to resort to naming those who are athletic, but I feel I need in stressing the reality of transhumanism and enjoyment of exercise, sports, and dance.


Speaking of dance, and in reflection for a moment—it was so many years ago that I did dance with the Birmingham Dance ensemble in the Opera Tannhäuser. I was not really very disciplined and favored an interpretive movement—like dancing to the sunrise at the rim of Haleakala, dancing in harmony with the waves in the South Atlantic Ocean or to the desert-blown sands of Monument valley. I have never stopped dancing, it simply has taken on different rhythms and steps. And we need to dance with our ideas, words and pen—which transhumanists do take seriously.


Cyborg vs. Transhuman

Perhaps here is a point in my thinking that needs to be acknowledge—the different rhythms and steps of human evolution and bodily enhancement. We might discuss the issue of the transhuman vs. the cyborg. Even though most authors and academics have not carefully addressed the distinctions between the two, there is a clear distinction between the “cyborg” and the “transhuman”. Simply put, the cyborg is a cybernetic machine-man. The transhuman is a transitional stage of transformation of human enhancement. Cyborg = a fixed semi-mental cybernetic being with no destination; transhuman = an unfixed semi-bio enhanced being actively extending life and evolving. But perhaps I am incorrect here. James Hughes’ Citizen Cyborg and his writings on the notion of a “cyborg Buddha” may contradict me. Nonetheless, I believe we are in sync of the transhumanist vision of neurological enhancement, be it cyborg or transhuman.


Addressing Athena

For over twenty years, my practice and theory, while transdisciplinary in scope, have been located precisely and resolutely within the field of transhumanism. I have tried my best to listen to and understand the different flavors of transhumanism and to identity the rhizome growth of interconnected interests and beliefs, which push and pull transhumanism in varied directions. Nonetheless, rooted firmly in the philosophy of transhumanism, the idea of well-being in body and mind is, and continues to be, essential to the core of transhumanism. Whether or not specific individuals who call themselves transhuman or transhumanist represent this understanding is their choice. Yet, if not, they are not responsive to the fullness of the philosophy.

The fact that journalists often select images for their publications which are more cyborg-terminator in scope than transhuman, and therefore often lacking in sensuality, warmth, wellness, and well—lovely, ought to be taken seriously. Even if asked to, why would a journalist generally represent a transhumanism as happy, loving, and nurturing? Journalists and their editors will do as they please to sell their publication, and that visual is often dystopic and fearful. One bad image equals a thousand copies of that same bad image. The same circumstance applies to quotes taken out of context in interviews, articles and essays, and even academic papers.

Alas, I agree with Andreadis in that I do not want to go into the future without being able to move to the music. I would like to address specific claims that Andreadis makes:

Andreadis writes: “Their words contain little color or sound, few scents, hardly any plants or animals. Food and sex come as pills, electric stimuli or IV drips; almost all arts and any sciences not related to individual enhancement have atrophied, along with most human activities that don’t involve VR.”

Rather than taking this claim apart statement by statement, which I could do, I would rather focus in on one particular issue—that “almost all arts and any sciences not related to individual enhancement has atrophied …”

Looking into transhumanist arts and sciences, I can easily identify numerous examples of vibrant color and evoking sounds. The Exemplar collection of visuals, notably “DNA Breakout”, is a prime example of rich colors depicting a transhumanist future. The piece “Walkabout”, which takes place in a rose garden and microscopically it draws parallels between molecular infestation of microbes, but the visuals of the entire project is encompassed soft pinks and brilliant orange colors, and “The Aesthetics of Memetic Evolution”, graphical narrative animation, etc.


Walkabout

While some of these examples do pertain to human enhancement in one form or another, transhumanism is not so limited in its visual scope. Media arts involve the mediums of visual art of sculpture, graphic arts, filmmaking, videography, and interactive gaming, installations, immersive design, dance and theatre, for example. The storylines are not exclusive to science fiction, but even if there were—they revolved around all our human emotions, no matter the biology or synthetic form.

Andreadis further claims, “If a body is tolerated at all, the ideal is a mixture of metal and ceramic ….” Fair enough. Many images do depict a modern, streamlined figure. However some do not. The dvd “Bone Density” shows a transhumanist form which is covered with hair follicles and there is no sign of metal or ceramic particles.


Aesthetics of an Enhanced Existence

It is not that the times have changed for transhsumanism, it is that now the medicine, science and technology that we dared to dream about many years ago are actualizing. The idea of human enhancement is here.

The acronym NBIC has become fairly mainstream. Does that mean that we will be cyborgized terminators of a Noosphere’s conglomerate mindthink? No. It does not. It means that we will continue expanding our human, biological senses to further explore and interact with the universe around us. Whatever shape or form emerges will be more than a machine with wires—it will be the creation of the new interpretations of the visions of Leonardo, Matisse, Chanel, Versace, and whose media will emerge from the nano-bio-info-cogno and become more—an evolving NBIC+. Critics ought not to be so stern in nature and attitude to assume that the artists, designers and engineers of our future selves will be limited by the 20th century sketches of a cyborg future. We must have a little respect for the creative multi-media and transdisciplinary fields that will emerge as the medicine, science and technologies advance.

No matter the bodily or substrate style, sensorial pleasures are aesthetic characteristics relative to a posthuman future. Aesthetics of radically enhanced existence seeks to elucidate both the nature of experience itself, and the essential moments of our multi-selves’ perceptions of experience.

Umberto Eco asked,“is beauty something ontologically self-subsistent, which gives pleasure when it is apprehended? Or is it rather the case that a thing appears beautiful only when someone apprehends it in such a way as to experience a certain type of pleasure?” Beauty can be one, the other, or both ways—taking it into state of multiplicity. The idea that historically theories had to be located in one field, one argument, one result changes to the proactive prospect that it is not an either or scenario, but an array of possibilities that removes the tension of contradictions.

Works of art which will help determine our future also affect our perceptions and how we build forms, environments within which to exist. No doubt this will affect our values which govern our own sense of life, dignity and social circumstances. They also invite art works which will engage the enhanced existence media for semi/non-bio bodies, and further sustain our sense of style.


Transhumanist Intelligence

Andreadis further claims that “It’s a transhumanist article of faith that intelligence can and must be augmented – but there are many kinds of intelligences.” Here I pause. First, it is true that transhumanist support the idea of augmenting intelligence, as a fact, not an article of faith. Second, transhumanists are fully aware of the different types of intelligence. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ has been on the transhumanist reading lists since for over a decade, along with Flow Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. My own paper “Ageless Thinking” presented at the Resources for Independent Thinking in 1996 discusses intelligence, the body and sexuality, and which proposes a very different view of transhumanist body and attitudes than what Andreadis suggests in her article.

Like Andreadis, I too believe that our bodies can be improved. Where we obviously differ is Andreadis’ belief that the carbon body is essential to be empathic and loving. My thinking is that we do not have to be sequestered to one body, be it carbon/biological or otherwise. Why limit our choices? It is true that today many humans do not exist in one bodily form. Many co-reside in virtual habitats in avatars. While this venue is currently anything but seamless, the odds that the alternatives for co-existing in multiple bodies in multiple environments is more than high.

I thank Athena Andreadis for her honest appraisal and provoking article, which represents what many others assume to be a characterization of transhumanism. Nonetheless, it has never been my own, nor the vision of those I know and have worked with for decades and with whom I pioneered the cultural/social movement of transhumanism. The dance of improvisation: requires skill, diversity, flexibility and stamina—much like life itself.

“Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery.” (Martha Graham)

“The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people
is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.” (Emma Goldman)



(Elif Ayiter)


Natasha Vita-More is a fellow of the IEET, a media designer and futurist.

26 comments:

kurt9 said...

I also have noticed the change in the media's perception of transhumanism. In the 90's, we were criticized for being too much into our bodies and health. Now, we are criticized for wanting to leave our bodies and upload or what not. We seem to catch a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" attitude from the media.
My response to ignore people with this attitude. There is no pleasing of some people.

There are many flavors of transhumanism. Athena has apparently bought into the same flaw of transhumanism being exclusively about uploading as the media has. I would include those who are interested in biotechnological life extension as transhumanist. Obviously Athena does not. Presumably Athena is at least interested in SENS-like life extension, as I cannot imagine why she would not.

As of yet, I remain unconvinced, technically, that uploading is possible. This may be possible in the more distant future, but I do not see it happening in this century or even the next.

What I do expect is replacement of natural biological systems with those based on synthetic biology or bionanotech. However, I do believe we will remain physical for a long time to come. Thomas Donaldson had a lot of relevant things to say about this before he went into the dewer a few years ago. Some of his comments are available on the cryonet archives. I recommend people read them as he was one of the few people with chemistry background in our milieu.

With regards to physicality, I'm with Athena on this. I enjoy my physicality and I have no desire to give it up, no matter what kind of uploading options become available. This is why I am into biotechnological life extension.

Natasha Vita-More said...

Kurt, thank you for your insights.

Because it is not an either or scenario, we do not have to be sequestered to one type of body for personal existence. Observably I love my physicality, as expressed in this article. Nevertheless, I also am developing a relationship with virtuality — exploring Second Life and other online venues which will develop more deeply as the interfaces become more seamless.

All in all, why limit our choices of bio-body vs. upload? I think it is highly implausible that a future human will exist in only one medium, but rather enjoy the variety of multiple media, hopefully with backup systems.

Wildcat said...

Natasha’s article is clear and to the point and represents an array of possible interpretations to the question of body and its evolution which most H+ writings do not contain, hence my support and applause.
It appears that many H+ adherents miss the larger implications of the posthuman philosophy, especially when dealing with issues of aesthetics and its Rhizomatic implications on culture.
Our bodies are an ensemble allowing an extended experience but an experience is not a ‘something’ that needs be digested but a set of relations that needs be assimilated into the greater phase space of a coherent mind.
Such a coherent mind might be embodied and then again it might not, embodiment is a complicated issue best tackled on its own ground of experimentation.
However from a philosophical point of view I see the posthuman future as an exemplification of ‘Deleuze’ de-territorialization, a reality in which the choice of multiple embodiments for whatever purpose is unlimited and unconstrained.
We are many, many facets, many aspects, many modalities of being; our consciousness is multiple and will evolve into a larger multiplicity.
I have written elsewhere (http://spacecollective.org/Wildcat/4123/Uncontrolled-hubris-Unrestrained-future) about the subject of an all inclusive betterment process but for now let me state with clarity, I love dancing, and our self-guided evolutionary posthuman future is nothing if not dancing to the full glory of a multidimensional existence.

“It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. ~Marcel Proust”

Natasha Vita-More said...

Thank you for your observations Wildcat. Well said. I think that posthumanism of academics misses out on a great deal by ignoring transhumanism. And, likewise, transhumanism could do with a good gulp of the posthuman articulations about aesthetics and culture.

It seems that transhumanism has the great minds of science and technology and the posthumanism has Foucault, Latour, Hayles (and is also tethered to postmodernism/Hassan). Transhumanism has its well-known philosophers (Max More, Nick Bostrom). Can you tell me who are the philosophers of the posthuman philosophy, outside the above-mentioned theorists (and yourself)?

Best -

Natasha Vita-More said...

P.S. I am enjoying reading your blog!

kurt9 said...

Its not an either or scenario because I think the uploading option is not going to become available for another century or two. I see being stored inactively in computer memory being possible in few decades. However, being able to emulate someone actively as pure software is simply not in the cards and Moore's Law is not relevant here. You see, Moore's Law of accelerating improvement applies only to hardware, the reduction in physical size of semiconductor device dimensions. This will reach a limit when it gets to the molecular level, probably in 10-15 years.

There is no Moore's Law with respect to software. Software design is as archaic as it was 30 years ago in that software is still based on hand-coding. I do not see any substantial improvements in software development technology.

Odin Xenobuilder said...

I think that as we move forward, transhumanism will mean different things to different people. Some will dance, some will not. Some will neglect their bodies and others will find balance. Lets approach with caution and excitement :-)

Wildcat said...

Hi Natasha,

Thanks for the reply, as concerning the subject of the post human philosophers I believe that at present very few have tackled the subject directly. (In fact the very definition of what post-humanism constitutes, as a coherent philosophy is very vague and ambiguous to say the least).
It is my view that Transhumanism and Post Humanism should not be bundled together (same goes for postmodernism), if only for the purpose of allowing some breathing space for the conceptualization of post human Aesthetics.
To my mind the main philosopher that stands as a corner stone for the development of a coherent post-human philosophy of aesthetics is Deleuze. More particularly the manner in which Deleuze uses (in fact metamorphoses) the concept of the rhizome.
Deleuze (and Guattari) view the rhizome as: “..unlike tracings, the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entranceways and exits and its own lines of flight.
(see ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 21)

I take this stance primarily because of the immense amount of confusion arising when trying to project futures that are at core based on our pasts, following a linear conception of time and an arboreal conception of evolution.
Post humanist philosophy is only now being elucidated step by (slow and small) step and has many hurdles to overcome before it matures into a cogent and coherent body that hopefully will be able to stand firm in front of an unknown future.
The conceptual constructions that are the hallmark of the transhumanist motion (to my mind) lack a depth of aesthetic comprehension that no amount of technological/scientific expertise can bring. A post humanist philosophical container that embraces the artfulness of being in its full glory is both necessary and unfortunately lacking at present.
We are working on it.. ☺

btw. I find it fascinating that so many transhumanist take their cues from Buddhism, a beautiful philosophical perspective, no doubt (and one which I have studied extensively) however, same critique applies here, it comes from a known past and assumes a coherent continuation with such.

Ps. Question to G.Dvorsky, I have noticed that the discussion continues at IEET, should I post there as well? Or do the comments cohere?

George said...

@Wildcat -- I'm afraid not -- I merely grant the IEET permission to re-post my material. I tend not to follow the comment threads over there -- I have a difficult time as it is following (and responding to) the ones here :-P

Natasha Vita-More said...

I agree that transhumanism and posthumanism are unique and ought not to be bundled. My suggestion that academics in the latter camp (and again I agree here that postmodernism and posthumanism not be bundled) do no service to philosophy and the future by ignoring transhumanism. I say this mostly because the philosophy of transhumanism covers a posthuman future, and I think articulately at that. And also because there seems to be a type of dismissive undertone as if transhumanism lacks highly sophisticated and scholarly thinkers. It was a philosopher who wrote the philosophy of transhumanism and another philosopher who built upon that writing to further it within academia. (Both affiliated with Oxford).

Natasha Vita-More said...

I'd like to correct myself: post humanism is not the same as posthumanism.

My question is where do the concepts of posthumanism and transhumanism differ?

Wildcat said...

@George thank you for the prompt response, as I am quite busy at present I think I will remain here with my comments.

Wildcat said...

Natasha, thank you for the thought you invest in appreciating the subtleties of the variety of possible interpretations of Post-humanism and Posthumanism. I think the distinction is critically important, indeed Post-humanism and Posthumanism are not the same (will expand in a coming paper).
I am aware (and appreciate much) of the thoughts and writings of both N.Bostrom and M.More, I do believe they are thinkers of an under-appreciated magnitude.

As to the difference between posthumanism and transhumanism, I shall make here only a brief comment and will write a larger essay on the subject on my blog at Space Collective.

My short (really only a sketch) comment is as follows:
I think that the main difference lies in emphasis and semantics, for whilst the technological enhancements of the transhumanist approach are both desirable and of far reaching consequences, the radical transformation implied is not often tackled on the ground of the larger picture entailed by a coherent philosophy of mind. That is where I see posthumanism coming into the picture though at present Posthumanism is really more of an approach than a full fledged philosophy. That is where aesthetics and posthumanism converge, for as I see it, it is the added value of the inherent need of expression of the artistic approach that may allow our specie to move into its next step of evolution.

When I mentioned above that the difference is one of emphasis and semantics, I meant to provide a background for a deeper understanding of motives, for change and self-guided evolution. Meanings are platforms of engagement and in no fashion do I take them lightly. The interrelation of technology and advancement of the specie is a complex subject to which I do not think that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is suitable.
It is my understanding that a multiplicity of possibilities, based on an aesthetic experience allows for a wide range of spaces of manifestation. I think that both approaches will be served well, by a high dose of both salt and gentleness, beauty appreciation and critical thought.

I appreciate much this discussion and though busy at the moment I shall dedicate the time and resources to write a more comprehensible and wide ranging essay on the topic.

Marc_Geddes said...

Good article Natasha,

Unfortunately, whilst you and other sensible transhumanists may realize that there's multiple components to 'intelligence, the 'Singularitarians' seem to have a singular obsession with IQ ( 'IQ is the most powerful force in the universe') is their mantra. I'm not making this up.

I think Singularitarians are grossly overestimating the importance of IQ.

Most high-IQers are spouting a load of crap. 999 out of 1000 high-IQers have zero interest in transhumanist issues, and believe all sorts of irrational nonsense. Chris Langan, tested to have the highest IQ in America (200) belives in intelligent design, Penrose (IQ 180) believes consciousness is caused by quantum gravity, Chalmers (another super high-IQer) believes the most bizarre nonsense ('property dualism') about consciousness, the list goes on and on.

Reflection (the ability the introspect) is far more important than IQ in my opinion. Someone with an IQ of 200 and no reflective capabilities could not introspect and would have no desire to self-improve. On the other hand, a joe average with strong reflective capabilities would at least be trying and eventually come up with the right hacks.

In short: Reflection trumps IQ because without reflective capabilities you're really screwed, no matter what your IQ is.

Natasha Vita-More said...

Well said Marc. We need more transhumanist voices proclaiming a healthful state of being.

It is true that one can identify a transhumanist who values IQ test results over sports and arts, but that characteristic can be found in many types (programmers and scientists have often been judged and characterized by a type of non-physical existence, while musicians, filmmakers and other artists are often judged and characterized by indulging in too much physicality). I don't give IQ all that much attention, even though it is still the standard. I want to see how a person applies the intelligence and handles conflicts.

The transhumanist view about an upload, were it to come about, would consider intelligence as far more than IQ. I do not know about all those who are proactive about the technological singularity (Singularatarians), but I am aware that many value all areas of intelligence and ones not currently recognized as being essential to an upload.

(as an aside)"Our emotional intelligence is the cutting edge of human intelligence. Being funny or convincingly expressing an emotional sentiment is a very complex and intelligent behavior. This is the area we need to work the most on to pass the Turing test." (Kurzweil, 6/14/2009)


Anyway, the choices we make in how far to augment and enhance with NBIC+ will lead to, hopefully, a more open and mindful sense of diversity and acceptance amongst us all. (Cup 1/2 full.)

During a time when we have become more receptive to each other's beliefs, skills, knowledge, and we engage within transdisciplinary fields and diversified backgrounds, I wonder why we (including myself) still generalize/characterize.

Marc_Geddes said...

Yes Natasha,

You know I think a lot of people are capable of much more than they think if they just put their minds to it and play to their particular strengths, the mind is multi-faceted so there’s plenty of different niches in there.

I like the reference to dance in the Natasha piece; there’s a really catchy song by the Killers called ‘Human’; some lyrics:

Human Lyrics
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6r4KT8-VX0


I did my best to notice
When the call came down the line
Up to the platform of surrender
I was brought but I was kind
And sometimes I get nervous
When I see an open door
Close your eyes
Clear your heart...
Cut the cord

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
My sign is vital
My hands are cold
And I'm on my knees
Looking for the answer
Are we human?
Or are we dancer?

Pay my respects to grace and virtue
Send my condolences to good
Give my regards to soul and romance,
They always did the best they could
And so long to devotion
You taught me everything I know
Wave goodbye
Wish me well..
You've gotta let me go

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
My sign is vital
My hands are cold
And I'm on my knees
Looking for the answer
Are we human?
Or are we dancer?

Will your system be alright
When you dream of home tonight?
There is no message we're receiving
Let me know is your heart still beating

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
My sign is vital
My hands are cold
And I'm on my knees
Looking for the answer

You've gotta let me know

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
My sign is vital
My hands are cold
And I'm on my knees
Looking for the answer
Are we human
Or are we dancer?

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?

Are we human
Or are we dancer?

Athena Andreadis said...

Yeats said it far more eloquently and succinctly:

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Athena Andreadis said...

Or, for that matter, Kathleen Raine (section V of The Northumbrian Sequence, The Dreamer under the Rowan -- a more animistic stance) or Rainer Maria Rilke (Spanish Dancer, a complete fusion in imagery and language).

Natasha Vita-More said...

Wildcat, thank you for your excellent comments. I'd like to adddress a few points that have developed for me from your response. Since aesthetics is my prime area of experience, we seem to have much in common.

Wildcat wrote: "I think that the main difference [between transhumanism and posthumanism] lies in emphasis and semantics, for whilst the technological enhancements of the transhumanist approach are both desirable and of far reaching consequences, the radical transformation implied is not often tackled on the ground of the larger picture entailed by a coherent philosophy of mind."

Transhumanism as a philosophy and a cultural movement has indeed tackled the larger picture. Much of the discussions, papers, etc. are neither promoted nor referenced in academia. (Especially the arts - including, but not limited to bioart, which now wants to include human enhancement and life extension).**[see below] Hayles admittedly ignored transhumanism for reasons she has explained at Metanexus (she hoped it would go away but she sees that it is here to stay).

Wildcat says: "That is where I see posthumanism coming into the picture though at present Posthumanism is really more of an approach than a full fledged philosophy. That is where aesthetics and posthumanism converge,"

It seems that what you call posthumanism is dipping into the visionary well of transhumanism for ideas about human enhancement and converging technologies.

Wildcat says: "for as I see it, it is the added value of the inherent need of expression of the artistic approach that may allow our specie to move into its next step of evolution."

That is indeed a transhumanist approach of human enhancement and evolution.

I am now looking more deeply into the new approach to posthumanism. You say they should remain separate, but I’m wondering what the particular separation is? I understand that some posthumanist theorists think that transhumanism lacks what posthumanism offers in depth of thinking, etc. I would like to see this discussed/debated, as I am sure many transhumanist scholars would as well.

**I wrote a paper about this issue in "Brave Board 2: shedding the bio, amassing the nano, and cultivating posthuman life" and it (2007) Intellect @
http://www.atypon-link.com/INT/doi/abs/10.1386/tear.5.3.171_1

Natasha Vita-More said...

Oops. Correction: "Brave BioArt 2: shedding the bio, amassing the nano, and cultivating posthuman life" (I wasn't focusing, as my fingers were dancing freely to Marc and Athena's words.)

Marc_Geddes said...

I want to prove right here and now to all readers of this blog Natasha's point that there are actually many different facets to cognition and that IQ is not the most powerful force in the universe.

I recently tripped over my own boot-laces, bent over to retie the damn laces, had the following quick rough ideas for a paper based purely on my own reflections:

Abstrast
'Cognitive Reflectivity'
Marc Geddes
Melbourne, Australia
18th June, 2009


Abstract


"A change in the goal-system of an agent is equivalent to a change in
the way in which knowledge is represented by the agent. It follows that it is equivalent to a change in the complexity of the program representing the agent. Thus we require a method of comparing the complexity of strings in order to ensure that relevant program structure is preserved with state transitions over time. Standard probability theory cannot be used because; (1) Consistent probability calculations require implicit universal generalizations, but a
universal measure of the complexity of finite strings is a logical impossibility (fromGodel, Lob theorems); and (2) Standard measures of complexity (e.g Kolmogorov complexity) from information theory deal
only with one aspect of information (i.e. Shannon information), and fail to consider semantic content. The solution must resolve both these problems.


Regarding (2) the solution is as follows:, information theory is
generalized to deal with the actual meaning of information (i.e . the semantics of Shannon information) .The generalized definition of the complexity of a finite string is based on the conceptual clustering of
semantic categories specifying the knowledge a string represents. The generation of hierarchical category structures representing the knowledge in a string is also associated with a generalization of Occam’s razor. The justification for Occam’s razor and the problem of priors in induction is resolved by defining ‘utility’ in terms of
‘aesthetic goodness’, which is the degree of integration of different
concept hierarchies. This considers the process through which a theory is generated; it is a form of process-oriented evaluation.


Regarding (1); The Godel limitation is bypassed by using relative complexity measures of pairs of strings . This requires generalizing standard Bayesian induction ; in fact induction is merely a special case of a new form of case-based reasoning (analogical reasoning) .
Analogical reasoning can be formalized by utilizing concepts from category theory to implement prototype theory, where mathematical categories are regarded as semantic categories. Semantic concepts representing the knowledge encoded in strings can be considered to reside in multi-dimensional feature space, and this enables mappings between concepts; such mappings are defined by functors representing
conceptual distance; this gives a formal definition of an analogy.
The reason this overcomes the Godel limitation and is more general than induction is because it always enables relative comparisons of the complexity of pairs of strings. This is because case-based reasoning depends only on the specific details on the strings being compared, whereas induction makes implicit universal generalizations, and thus fails."


See? All of us are capable of the odd small insight.

Cheers

Wildcat said...

@Natasha,

where or how can this article be accessed?

"You have no access to this article" :-(
Brave BioArt 2: shedding the bio, amassing the nano, and cultivating posthuman life

Wildcat said...

Hello again Natasha,

Thank you for your comments.

Before I enter the deep savannah of the aesthetic perspective allow me to say that to my eyes, perspectivism (a la’ Nietzsche) is both overrated and underestimated. Overrated in that contexts or perspectives do not offer ‘truths’ but indeed as the word implies → ‘perspectives’ and underappreciated in that perspectives are a fundamental of the human mind operation.
We thrive as a species primarily because of the multiplicity of perspectives; we diminish as a specie primarily when we hold a stance of claiming a truth that is at core unassailable. (not to mention the obvious that not all perspectives are equally valid, useful or indeed perspectives at all). In that respect it may very well be that posthumanism offers a diversity of views and sensibilities that transhumanism to the best of my knowledge, does not.

It is highly probable that our minds are ‘probability’ machines (pun intended) and in that respect our internal adhocracy translating into something akin to Feyerabend’ Epistemological anarchism, is more or less the sanest perspective we could take when tackling the future unknowns.

Such is the case in fact that for all practical purposes a transhumanist perspective (from which a posthumanist philosophy takes abundantly as you pointed out) need be adjusted to fit the language topology of our extended present.
As I see it, the transhumanist perspective as for example presented under the title of the ‘transhumanist manifesto’ lacks a certain plasticity of beauty appreciation that our minds require in order to accept ideas that might seem at first alien or utterly disruptive.
We need embed a fresh mode of hybrid fascination into technology and body. Hybrid in the sense that a posthuman philosophy of beauty needs extend its tentacles into the enhancement debate.

These are just a few notes from a larger piece I am writing on this subject implied by the need for a meta-aestheticism.

“Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.”
Friedrich Schiller

Natasha Vita-More said...

I agree that aesthetics as a philosophical investigation of beauty and perception has not been significantly identified in discourse on transhumanism. But then it was not written by a philosopher of aesthetics. However it has been the area of research, contemplation, and discussion in regards to “perceptions” of enhanced humans. Sasha Chislenko was a key contributor in the 90s. In fact, out of transhumanism’s dicussions came ideas about “enhanced reality” (Chislenko) and other trends in ideas of simulation. The aesthetics in regards to science fiction narratives has been highly relevant.

The Hybrider Conference in Trondheim, Norway this year was fascinating. http://matchmaking.no/wp/2008/?p=315

I'm sorry you could not download the paper without paying for it. I can send you a copy if you send me your email address.

Wildcat said...

Following our conversation here I wrote a first essay (which hopefully will have a follow up) concerning the Aesthetics of posthumanism.
The post : "Beauty is a restless entity" appears on my blog at space collective.
http://spacecollective.org/Wildcat/5017/Beauty-Is-A-Restless-Entity

SingularPlural said...

Transhumanism is secularized Christian theology. With transhumanism we can note that Karl Lowith (in 'Meaning and History') was right in saying all modern forms of thought are an extension of Christian eschatology.