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 The lower class, struggling to provide for their loved ones, will fall off first as an outdated life form, unable to compete with the advances made by their wealthier contemporaries.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.
Figure 1: Evening Reboot
*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work