December 3, 2010

Patrick Hopkins: "On the Variety of Future Bodies" [CFI conference on biomedical enhancement]

Patrick Hopkins is now discussing the variety of future bodies.

There are as of yet no posthumans. But these ideas are not new, nor are they exclusive to the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. We have long imagined ourselves transformed. Our visions and variations of a transformed humanity are voluminous and often informed by the environmental, social and physical conditions we find ourselves in. Thus, there will be differing and conflicting visions of what the human future can and should look like.

Hopkins presents four different visions of humanity's future: Transformations of the body:

  • Barbie bodies: Cosmetic and aesthetic enhancements; attaining a sexual idea; often risky procedures; not to escape limitations of the body, but to create an ideal of the body; a superficial ideal of the transformed body; surface level, "about looks"; body seen as an object that one uses and whipped into shape to conform to the mind's ideal so that the person can feel a certain way about themselves; a shallow human approach; but they may also feel that they may succeed more given a certain type of physicality.
  • (Francis) Bacon bodies: These transformations are about functionality; to do more human things more often and for a longer time; extends functionality of the body; mimicking what time and nature already do; function cleanly, clearly and effectively -- but not about appearance; a healthy and long-lived body. 
  • Nietzsche bodies: A "super body" endowed with characteristics that "normal" humans do not have; man is something that needs to be surpassed; the body is transformed but not the mind; power to impose one's will on the world? Motivated by human emotions. The "super" human approach. 
  • Plato bodies: Separation of 'soul' from the body; body seen as the source of all the trouble, something that chains our minds to the body; we want the mind to be free; we would live in a more noble condition if freed from the constraints and influence of the body; transhuman application is uploading or virtual reality; total disembodiment may not be possible, but something very close may be obtained; maybe a "transhuman" approach. 
Idea of transformation is not a unitary thing. 


  1. Interesting that he's describing future bodies as merely selective outgrowths of the human. I'm sure the postfurries would be peeved.

    I say this as a transhumanist myself: The reluctance among transhumanists to encounter the full phase-space of potential bodies, possibly because it's squicky, or possibly out of a desire to appear more professional, ultimately serves as a discrediting force in the eyes of the bodmod enthusiasts, the furries, and the various other body-queer communities. But, I do recognize that some level of diplomacy is required when dealing with vanilla people who consider quite many things to be unbearably weird. I merely hope that this choice for diplomacy is calculated, instead of being an unthinking default.

    Hopefully, the closer extreme bodmods come to being reality, the easier it will be to be taken seriously while talking about very radical modifications; including those whose primary function is novelty or art.

  2. Remember that it's not just bodmod enthusiasts and furries that transhumanists have to deal with. The majority of people associate tattoos, piercings, and scarification/branding with gangs and many employers will just throw out a resume handed in by someone with as much as blue hair (anti-discrimination laws are practically unenforceable in such cases).

    Cosmetic surgery is still expensive and almost always used for the first category in this article. People who make themselves look unusual like Stalking Cat are nearly always rich eccentrics.


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