Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

Posted by Patrick Millard | Sat Sep 20th 2008 10:45 a.m.

Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

‘And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.’ —William Gibson, Count Zero

It is inevitable that the post-human technologies of the future and elements of the cyborg culture, such as bio-engineering, life-prolongment, and neural upgrades will be sought after and dominated by the extremely wealthy from their inception. The availability of such human evolutionary extensions will be of extreme value and in high demand when they first hit the market. The cost for better memory, replacement organs, neural implants, and eternal life will be like that of any other new technology that comes along: prohibitive. Our economic structure will be unable to sidestep the fact that the low-income human being will not have access to the same biotechnological enhancements as the wealthy.

What this potentially means for the poor is that they will be on the trailing end of the herd as they scramble for survival. With limited money available for body-tech upgrades, parents will be unable to fund their own or their children's future stability in a culture inundated by such requirements. The upper classes will more likely be able to afford to supply themselves with the technologies they need to live an educated, connected, and involved life. In the future, they will obtain those virtues as well as a superior biological system, advanced neural computational abilities, and ability to be serviced medically in ways that the lower classes will not. The lower class, struggling to provide for their loved ones, will fall off first as an outdated life form, unable to compete with the advances made by their wealthier contemporaries. Ramez Naam talks about the possibility of these social class differences in response to genetic therapy and manipulation in his book, More Than Human:

Inequality in access to enhancement technologies brings the risk of stratification to the rich from the rest of the population. Some enhancements, like learning ability or memory, will increase earning ability. If the rich are able to buy these enhancements and the poor cannot, then the rich will be increasingly advantaged and the poor will fall ever farther behind. For the rich, this would be a virtuous cycle of gains begetting more gains. For the poor, it would be a vicious cycle, as lack of access to enhancements prevented access to the best jobs, thus robbing them of the money they need to buy enhancements.

Possibilities always exist for a way of survival, even when financially and socially limited. Lower classes may learn to re-work the broken or obsolete technologies that have been discarded by the rich, but reaching the upper tier of progression will be unlikely. In the work of Formatting Gaia, the subjects are depicted as being powered by and interacting with configurations made of discarded materials. This is unlike the forms often portrayed in sci-fi visions of techno-culture. The work encompasses a subtlety of timelessness that offers both a sense of the future and the recent past that sets up a fantastical or mythical world.

The image Evening Reboot (fig. 1), for instance, presents to us the image of a body that has been wired up to a module of what appears to be a regurgitation of electronic circuitry. This image portrays an individual who has been forced to work with what they were given in life—in this instance, less than satisfactory equipment—in order to technologically orient her body away from the less efficient biological artifact it was born as. Becoming a more efficient individual is a constant point of measuring success and providing reason for these body changes, so they are always to be viewed as a necessity to merely keep up with the evolving form of homo sapiens.

Formatting Gaia depicts human beings who have confronted technology head on and made not only the accommodations for co-existence within the realm of human society but suggest a full integration. External operators such as modern robotics are a thing of the past by the time this world has evolved. Existence is now experienced through the embodiment of technologies that provide a world surpassing the notion of life today, with highly heightened senses and virtual worlds that go beyond those of our current understanding. These changes will not just re-configure our day-to-day experience, but will also open up philosophical debate about the same old questions, only with a newly ordered rendition of the world. These narratives become crucial to allowing the viewer to fully comprehend the suggested possibilities and scenarios.

image
Figure 1: Evening Reboot

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work


http://www.patrickmillard.com/
  • r | Mon Sep 22nd 2008 9:08 p.m.
    larouche said something about halo players being microsoft's cyborg army trainees?? don't know about that but i do know i'd be boned without my hearing aids
  • Patrick Millard | Mon Sep 22nd 2008 11:14 p.m.
    For some time now there has been talk about video games being used to train the younger generations so that they are fit for thinking like a soldier. A large percentage of the market is the shoot 'em up style of game, so it appears the willingness to participate in such a program is overwhelming.

    The Army also began to use virtual reality / video game technology as a promotional tool aimed at young kids beginning early this century. Those promotional games became so popular and so accurate that they eventually became a tool used for training soldiers in the US Army:

    With more than 8 million registered users, the Army-developed video game "America's Army" is an interactive, first-person shooting game that gives civilians a taste of the soldier's life.
    Advertisement

    However, what debuted in 2002 as a promotional tool for the Army has evolved into a practical training tool for soldiers.

    At Picatinny Arsenal, the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center has used the game to develop training simulators to help familiarize soldiers with the robots used to detonate improvised explosive devices.

    Though they had been doing simulation for a long time, when Picatinny simulation engineers saw the game they wanted to put that level of detail into their graphics simulation, said Brad Drake, computer engineer and team leader for America's Army -- Picatinny.


    -Picatinny video game helps train soldiers [http://www.dailyrecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080829/COMMUNITIES/808290339]

    I suppose the biggest downfall here is that wars themselves can not be fought virtually as well.

    -Patrick Millard
    • p | Tue Sep 23rd 2008 6:33 p.m.
      marios a cool game and sometimes i talk like mario in italiano style. sometimes its a direct quote sometimes not but i could say it influenced me in that respect but maybe its more of a homage than an influence im not jumpin around on people and stuff lol

      ___________________
      "so it goes" - che guevara
    • Vijay Pattisapu | Wed Sep 24th 2008 4:17 p.m.
      The argument that video games are martializing our innocent youth may fail to take into account how combative so many kinds of predigital games are: football, hockey, etc. I once saw a fighting camp in St. Paul for grade school hockey players -- yeah, they just teach the kids (how) to fight on the ice.

      Maybe this is natural. If you’ve watched dogs, birds, etc. play, you might have had trouble figuring out when they were fighting and when they were playing, squealing in delight even as they draw blood. Biologists tell us that the phenomenon of play may have evolved as training for fighting, necessary for survival.

      Vijay
      • Patrick Millard | Wed Sep 24th 2008 4:47 p.m.
        I don't think that leaving out the nature of violence in humans was my point. The fact that they are using technology / video games to target young people does lead one to believe that they are using the games played as a tool for developing violent nature and honing soldier dexterity.

        The last thing I was trying to allude to was that video games are a detriment to younger generations. We should all know the ins and outs of this cyclical argument and for that reason feel comfortable steering our conversation away from it. Unless, that is, someone feels strongly about the matter and a need to voice their thoughts on it.

        My intention, rather, was to bring to the table a notion of control [through monetary influence or technological triumph] that needs to be made intolerable as we progress into the 21st century. Though there have been many wonderful accomplishments, making killers [weather human or robotic] is not one of DARPA's finer ones.

        -Patrick Millard
        • Vijay Pattisapu | Thu Sep 25th 2008 3:59 a.m.
          Yeah, weren't we talking about control? Go to a high school in rural America. Who are the Army recruiters hustling first? The football team.

          The song every football team scrimmages to:
          The song in the background at every LAN party:
          The song that soldiers deploy in Iraq to:

          ..lol another great product of Dallas, Texas
          (The song was in fact commissioned by the Marines.)

          Proverbs for Paranoids # 2: The innocence of the creatures is inversely proportional to the immorality of the Master.

          Vijay
          image
          • Patrick Millard | Thu Sep 25th 2008 10:16 a.m.
            Yeah, weren't we talking about control? Go to a high school in rural America. Who are the Army recruiters hustling first? The football team. -Vijay Pattisapu

            Indeed we were talking about control, from a certain angle. Primarily I was just highlighting that the Army is openly using video games to train. They are distributing the games [ie: America's Army] to be used as training mechanisms.

            I think your point about violence being present in other forms of play [ie: football, hockey, wrestling] is completely valid. Human nature perhaps compels us to fight, compete, argue, challenge, etc. but those actions are delivered with an intention of brotherhood that ends in a respect for one another in the competition [as so many competitors give voice to] opposed to death and carnage. So I believe there must be an acknowledgment made that these two similar, yet very different, acts of human nature can not be compared so closely due to their different reasons for initiation and their culmination. Wars end in death, games end in a hand shake.

            -Patrick Millard
          • Patrick Millard | Fri Oct 24th 2008 12:25 p.m.
            I was reading through Simon Young's Designer Evolution, a transhumanist manifesto recently and came upon a paragraph that reminded me of our discussion here:

            Certainly, the "sublimation" of "basic instincts" does occur. Cheering on our team or nation in sport is a safe and exciting method of releasing an evolved instinct for tribal aggression. Sport is war without tears. But to regard all cultural behavior as nothing but a diversion of basic instinct is to imply that a crowd cheering on a boxer as he beats his opponent into a pulp is no different than Shakespeare writing a sonnet, Back composing a fugue, or Einstein devising the theory of relativity. In other words, utter nonsense. Human beings clearly have far greater motivational drives that those dictated to them by their genetic programming. We are more than naked apes acting on primitive instincts! To restrict one's view of human motivation to those of a goat is not only absurd, but serves to debase the value of humanity, with dangerous implications for society.

            This is Young's Transhumanist Philosophical response to Freudian and Nietzschean notions of Sublimation. Freud's model proposes 'the entire products of human culture are effectively dismissed as an unconscious channeling of the energy required for survival and reproduction into socially acceptable pursuits. Nietzsche proposed that sublimation was used 'to deflate the idea that the products of human culture were anything more than a mask of self-deception, disguising a universal drive for primacy he called "the Will to Power."

            This is all expanded upon much further in the chapter Neuroemotive Psychology in Young's book. It has been an excellent read thus far and I would recommend it to those interested in a thoughtful analysis of modern methods/misinterpretations of understanding human nature.

            -Patrick Millard
  • Natasha Vita-More | Tue Sep 23rd 2008 7:37 p.m.
    This article opens up with the following statement: "It is inevitable that the post-human technologies of the future and elements of the cyborg culture, such as bio-engineering, life- prolongment, and neural upgrades will be sought after and dominated by the extremely wealthy from their inception." It is this sentence that I take issue with.

    The future is not inevitable, as there are many possible futures. However, accepting that the future could bring about technologies which might irrevocably alter the human condition, let's start with human evolution. It is implausible that the human will all of a sudden become a post-human, without incremental stages in-between biology and cybernetics. These stages are transitions and each augment and enhancement along the way will alter human biology producing a living being which is far more profound and complicated than a metal cyborg. A cyborg is not a human and it does not contain the long history of the human animal. A cyborg is an approximate 1/2 man + 1/2 machine. A cyborg is a man/human putting on or augmenting him/herself with machines, no matter how much Haraway so beautifully anthromorphized it. Mixing the cyborg with the posthuman is like mixing apples and oranges - the linage between the two is not a logical progression.

    The technologies of bio-engineering are designed to work with biological properties and life-prolongment is not an element of the cyborgization of culture. Rather, radical life extension refers to the human biology which has a pre-programmed, limited lifespan due to the free radical absorption of oxygen of mitochondria and a decrease of telomerase. This has nothing to do with cyborg and everything to do with humans and transhumans.

    Neural upgrades is a concept which has been in cultural literature for eons and dating as far back as Alchemy. Again, the cyborg is not the cultural recipient of such vision in biology because the cyborg is not a human. The apt recipient of neurological enhancement is the transhuman or transitional human whose biology would already be even less dominant than his/her historical species linage - that of the homo sapiens sapiens. While the homo sapiens sapiens, or human, currently maintains approximately 1,000 species in its wet body and a heck of a lot of DNA from other organisms in its wet body which reduce the human DNA percentage to less than 20%, it, nonetheless, will most plausibly be the transhuman, not the cyborg, whose biology will be enhanced through neurological
    nanomechatronics nanosystem, which include the chemistry of pharmacology.

    Lastly, the notion of the haves and the have-nots and only a few select elitists having the benefits of new technologies, with which to enhance, is old-world and ought to be put to rest. No where is anyone saying that only a select few ought to have benefits of NBIC technologies. This is an old wife’s tale of mythic lore which has been espoused by people Bill McKibben and Bill Joy and hundreds of yellow-dog journalists ought to make a few dollars by hyping information and scaring the public.

    We Artists must be more insistent that we are conscious beings who are responsible for our futures and care about the world, the earth, and the continued existence of the human species as a purebred or a hybrid. We must demand reliable information and promise to instill reliable information. It is our delight and joy to create narratives, visions and poetic license, but let's make sure we have the facts first and in light of the seriousness of our human futures, we must be diligent to respect the animal in us and all our senses and consider it an honor and a privilge to be artists at a time when we could very well live beyond a very vital 122 years.

    Natasha Vita-More
    • David G. | Tue Sep 23rd 2008 10:59 p.m.
      This article opens up with the following statement: "It is inevitable that the post-human technologies of the future and elements of the cyborg culture, such as bio-engineering, life- prolongment, and neural upgrades will be sought after and dominated by the extremely wealthy from their inception." It is this sentence that I take issue with.

      The future is not inevitable, as there are many possible futures.

      This article opens up with the following statement: "It is inevitable that the post-human technologies of the future and elements of the cyborg culture, such as bio-engineering, life- prolongment, and neural upgrades will be sought after and dominated by the extremely wealthy from their inception." It is this sentence that I take issue with.

      The future is not inevitable, as there are many possible futures.

      Lastly, the notion of the haves and the have-nots and only a few select elitists having the benefits of new technologies, with which to enhance, is old-world and ought to be put to rest. No where is anyone saying that only a select few ought to have benefits of NBIC technologies.


      McKibben's point, which I agree with, is that our world is radically unequal today, especially at an economic level; that the newest new technologies are often (not *always*) very expensive; that unless the radical inequality of our world is undone, technological changes will reflect it.

      Nobody responsible I know of says that "only a select few ought to have the benefits of NBIC technologies"... they say that unless we make a concerted effort to change economic inequality, techno-elitism is an inevitable consequence. I do not see any argument in your post to counter this. I do see something McKibben and I both worry about a lot: that the seductiveness of new technology makes it easy to overlook the real political problems we are shunting aside very effectively today--and a misreading of the basic point obliterates the vital argument being made. You say "the future is not inevitable," but your counter to that is to talk about technology, not about how we undo the basic economic inequality that is the cause of the problem.

      Or am I wrong and poor people throughout the US are the majority adopters of iPhones, quad-processor AlienWare gaming machines, the latest in medical treatments, experimental cancer treatments, and hyper-early-warning medical testing technology? If you think so you must be reading very different statistics and news stories from the ones I read.
      • Natasha Vita-More | Wed Sep 24th 2008 1:50 p.m.
        The world has always been radically unequal. But that is not the point. The point is we ought to know better and make it a priority not to be radically unequal. The economic imbalance is, frankly, disgusting and shameful. But let's move on ... McGibbon, as well as many other informed individuals recognize this. The difference between McGibbon and other individual who are highly informed is the vision to see opportunities for change and the resolve to dare to change them.

        You are right, the future is not inevitable and I did suggest possible futures. This is not a contradiction. The only way we can envision and resolve issues concerning our current status and the future is by carefully investigating futures and possible options. Technology is one means.

        Allow me to quote you here: "Or am I wrong and poor people throughout the US are the majority adopters of iPhones, quad-processor AlienWare gaming machines, the latest in medical treatments, experimental cancer treatments, and hyper-early-warning medical testing technology? If you think so you must be reading very different statistics and news stories from the ones I read."

        I'm not sure of your sources, but the stats do reveal that the spending of dollars outweights the saving of dollars among those with the lowest income. Foreclosures are more rampant in the lower income than the high incomes. This is quite a disaster - especially with companies like Countrywide lenders/mortgage companies who pretty much trick first time house buyers into making purchases beyond their means.

        Another can of worms. The point is that I currently live in a poor neighborhood. My neighbors have TV's larger than mine. Even though 10 people live in one house and I live with my husband, a dog and 2 cats, I'd rather spend what little I have on my education. This is only a matter of priorities.

        But back to the central issue. There is a black-market that sells tech toys very, very cheap. Most of the toys are stolen and some are rip-offs. I'm not saying that the person on the street with a sign that says, "God loves you! Give me a dollar. God thanks you." have iPods, etc. But the average low income household - I mean very low, does want things too and is quite inventive in finding ways to get them.

        Thanks for your insights.
    • Rob Myers | Wed Sep 24th 2008 5:51 a.m.
      the notion of the haves and the have-nots and only a few select elitists having the benefits of new technologies, with which to enhance, is old-world

      If this means it's mediaeval then I agree. If this means it's European-not-American I'd disagree. Government schemes to enable access to computers and networks are common in the EU.

      Neural jacks on the NHS?

      No where is anyone saying that only a select few ought to have benefits of NBIC technologies. ... We Artists...

      Artists are useful for gaining access to technology by those outside the socioeconomic elite. Artists produce work for that elite that is desired by and valued by it but that is not regarded as vital for its objectives. Any access to technology by artists is both a means of opening access to technology and an indicator that more open access to technology is possible.

      I look forward to MTAA's first 122 year performance video...
  • Patrick Millard | Tue Sep 23rd 2008 9:15 p.m.
    Natasha,

    There is a lot in your response to my post that I agree with and see as an important aspect of these technologies. I feel your perturbation is simply one of a semantic nature. The main concern being my use of the word cyborg. I use the term to a less segregating degree than you do so that it does not exclude the human from its definition:

    cyborg: a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.

    I take the definition to include modifications that we already use (the transitions to our biological make-up which you too have alluded to) such as contact lenses, pace makers, or neural implants (already being used in the case of certain patience with Parkinson's disease).

    That stated, it is my hope that, weather we want to dictate the changes going on to the human body as those of a cyborg, transhuman, or posthuman sort, the same acknowledgment is being made of the enormous impact being had on our evolutionary course.

    Your notion that putting to rest hegemony is possible sounds brilliant. As for a practical solution to the reality of these old-world notions I, and I trust most of us here, would be fervently listening. It's not that people are saying only a select few should have access to the best things in the world, rather that it's just a human condition - the way things really are. There are the haves and the have-nots. It is my hope that through a broad use of technological change that these gaps could decrease in time as well.

    -Patrick Millard
  • Natasha Vita-More | Tue Sep 23rd 2008 9:54 p.m.
    Well said. Thank you. This topic is very much on my mind today. I just completed my most recent nanotechnology column - http://www.nanotech-now.com/columns/ Forgive me for posting it at your party, but I thought you might be interested.

    Keep up the great work!

    Natasha

  • Eric Dymond | Wed Sep 24th 2008 1:05 a.m.
    Lastly, the notion of the haves and the have-nots and only a few select elitists having the benefits of new technologies, with which to enhance, is old-world and ought to be put to rest."
    But Natasha you are wealthy. Your perceptions will always be flawed by your entitlement.
    We can't deny the benefits of the new technologies simply because they aren't affordable.
    This plays right in to the political discourse in the present Presidential campaign regarding Health Care.
    Will tech innovations be universal just as the concept that health care optioms ought to be universall?
    Not to kill innovation but the class differences don't disappear simply because we declare it.
    A better question would be, 'Can we ensure that all members of our society will benefit from these innovations?' That they are coming is a given fact. These changes will occur without plebicite. The social issues are far more difficult than the utopian dialogue. Anyone can declare the benefits of a new technology, but can it be delivered to all those participants in the social fabric?
    This is still a very old world according to the 2 presidential candidates. How do you make it am even playing field?
    Or do you, through Neitzchian selection, bestow this tecnological promise on the financially worthy.

  • Natasha Vita-More | Wed Sep 24th 2008 1:28 p.m.
    It is true that I am wealthy, but not in the ways you assume. I am wealthy in my physiology because I have survived cancer twice, I am wealthy in my mind because I aspire to continue learning, and I am wealthy in spirit because I seek a more refined consciousness. But most importantly, I have great wealth socially because I think about the future and I think about the pros and the cons of technological advancements equally.

    You are correct that class differences cannot disappear simply because they are willed to disappear. Class structures fade due to many variables, only one of which is human activism. The others entail economic, technological, political, and environmental influencers. And this brings up a solid talking point.

    Your question, "Can we ensure that all members of our society will benefit from these innovations" is inspiring but implausible because there are no absolutes outside the carbon trail of humanity and the chemical reactions of the universe. And even there, we can only recognize what we can see with the aid of technology and human imagination and conjecture.

    The key issue about "delivery" to all participants, and I will add “equality in availability”, in the social fabric has been and continues to be one of the only constants and even here there are varying degrees. Buckminster Fuller tried to drill this into society's consciousness and it didn't stick. We do have the potential, the mechanics, the sensibility and the innovations to help all society. That is not the problem. The problem is distribution. What causes the problem of distribution? For the most part political systems. What makes up a political system? Beliefs - people and their beliefs. So what does this mean? Okay, back to square #1.

    Taking square #1 to task is crucial. How can we do this? One option is to investigate the potential of nanoassemblers and desktop nanopublishing. The benefits of nanotechnology, especially assembler nanosystems, cannot be totally sequestered to the hands of the monetarily wealthy. It simply does not work that way.

    Natasha Vita-More

    Once the town crier was the only source of providing the wealth of communication. Eventually the cell phone appeared and more Hispanic illegal aliens in downtown Los Angeles had cell phones than blue or white collar executives and information was free. The only cost was curiosity, a yearning for knowledge and an ability to make connections between neurons.

  • Michael Szpakowski | Thu Sep 25th 2008 7:24 p.m.
    <Wars end in death, games end in a hand shake. >

    http://www.tophooligan.com/football-hooligan-firms.htm
  • Andy Z | Tue Sep 30th 2008 1:21 a.m.
    It is my hope that the evolution of human compassion will accelerate at an analogous pace with our technological advancement. As an example, there many social injustices being debated today that would have been utterly dismissed half a century ago. At a time when computing was in it's infancy. Perhaps some of our intrinsic human flaws, such as greed and selfishness, will be diluted when mixed with the pure logic of the microchip. However, will compassion and love also be diluted. And if so, is that good or bad??
    • Patrick Millard | Fri Oct 3rd 2008 1:37 p.m.
      Andy,

      I think it will be confirmed that with the advancement of designing our bodies and traits there will be a place to take hold of the things in our brain that control, or at least shepherd, emotions. If we want to be well-mannered, courteous, caring, peaceful, etc. we can flip those traits on. Alternatively, we will be able to flip off those undesirable characteristics many are born with [i.e. fear, jealousy, hate, envy, insecurity, anxiety].

      -Patrick Millard
  • Patrick Millard | Tue Dec 9th 2008 11:18 p.m.
    ...I tell him a future as a CD-ROM seems unutterably bleak. Lemler tells me attachment to the body is a sentimental one.

    "They're just transitory and rather poorly formed for safety's sake. Vehicles for our mind, which is the essence of the person," he says.

    But what about new experiences?

    A function of programs uploaded for our delectation.

    How are our children born?

    "They're not. It's the end of population as we know it today. There won't be any need to do mental work," he says with the ebullience of the better-living-through-insert-techno-pipe-dream-here romantic.

    Maybe not here in Scottsdale. But Lemler is speaking of something supposedly only twenty-five years hence. There are still vast regions of the globe whose technology even now barely extends as far as portable water. What about the majority of people in the underdeveloped world for whom life remains nasty, brutish, and short? How is all this supposed to reach them? It is not. By design, I remind Lemler that at the conference, the Singularity was also referred to as a "technorapture." He understands what I'm getting at. A rapture by definition is a division of souls where some are called and some are left behind to perish in the Lake of Fire. "We're going to have that whether Alcor is here or not, whether cryonics is here or not. A good portion of the population is going to die off, there's no question about that, much as mankind has done for however millions of years.


    David Rakoff writing about his talk with Alcor president Jerry Lemler in his book Don't Get Too Comfortable.
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