20 September 2005

To be better or just to be, that is the question

After posting my earlier blogments on Radical Evolution, I came across this interesting article (titled The Age of Batshit Crazy Machines) questioning the mad rush towards the technological ubermensch (the transhumanist directive). I've quoted a few lines below. Ran Prieur, discussing those who would want to quickly step beyond man to a greater technologically-enhanced overman, chides them, claiming that . . .

. . . they imagine that it is somehow built into history, or even metaphysics . . . . A question they never answer is: why? They seem to believe it's self-justifying, that density/speed of information processing is valuable as density/speed of information processing.

A great point. As the existentialists pointed out so well, "why" is always the difficult question, a question whose answer can never come from an equation or a syllogism but has to come from the gut.

They always claim to represent "evolution," or a "new evolutionary level." But evolution doesn't have levels. Video games have levels.

What does it mean to evolve? Will homo supersapiens look back at us as some silly missing link having all the value of a deformed cockroach. Ran questions the very notion of "progress."

"Progress" has not only been bad for the biosphere -- it's been bad for the human condition . . . We declare our lives better than theirs in terms of our own cultural values. If medieval people could visit us, I think they would be impressed by our advances in alcohol, pornography, and sweet foods, and appalled at our biophobia, our fences, the lifelessness of our physical spaces, the meaninglessness and stress of our existence, our lack of practical skills, and the extent to which we let our lords regulate our every activity.

So what does it mean to progress and evolve? Is it possible to kickstart human evolution, to somehow use our current state as a bridge to something better--and not just better in terms of memory bytes or some arbitrary quantitative measure but better in a deeper spiritual sense?

4 comments:

Brian Enjoord said...

Humans are nothing but a virus eating away at this planet. Let the machines have it.

Anonymous said...

I hope you won't mind if I respond, as I don't know you and can't recall how I surfed to your blog.

Anyhow....



""""""Progress" has not only been bad for the biosphere -- it's been bad for the human condition . . . We declare our lives better than theirs in terms of our own cultural values. If medieval people could visit us, I think they would be impressed by our advances in alcohol, pornography, and sweet foods, and appalled at our biophobia, our fences, the lifelessness of our physical spaces, the meaninglessness and stress of our existence, our lack of practical skills, and the extent to which we let our lords regulate our every activity."""""

So what does it mean to progress and evolve? Is it possible to kickstart human evolution, to somehow use our current state as a bridge to something better--and not just better in terms of memory bytes or some arbitrary quantitative measure but better in a deeper spiritual sense?


I like these two statements side by side.

The first statement seems to miss the underlying point of the various attempts at post-human discourses: that while on a biological level it might seem that our world is sterile, as soon as we get past our understanding of the world on purely human terms our physical spaces are no longer "lifeless," a description that is held in place not by the architecture of technology that surrounds us, but by the insitance that meaning is only created by humans.

The second seems more hopeful, perhaps (though I am not certain) it holds out the hope that there is something that will be redemptive about technology.

I submit that post-human understandings (which don't change the world, as through onto/biologically real understandings of evolution might depict; which only change our categorization of the world) offer us a point at which we can desplay whatever is actually "human" about humans.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah; my name is John Reeve.

Karlo said...

Thanks for the comments John. I put this up not because I fully agree with it but because I think it provides a good anti-humanist argument. To understand where future evolution might take us, it may make sense to look at humans and animals. While at the fundamental reality of conscious awareness, both animals and human beings may be said to share the same common existential ground, humans do seem to gain something qualitative from their ability to reflect. Since any improvement in a spiritual direction would almost by definition preclude our getting a glimpse of it in our current state, we should perhaps take Wittgenstein's advice and remain silent about which we cannot know. This being the case, it's hard to argue that we're really in the driver's seat when it comes to the direction of technology. We merely see it as a way to fulfill current desires. There's also a point to be made about the nature of intelligence itself. It if is in a sense vast and far beyond the limited scope of the puny conscious mind (e.g., if it's in nature or is somehow manifesting itself through the universe itself outside of our bodies), then our attempts to abandon a natural model (the Tao?) and establish a completely artificial evolutionary cycle driven by technology may be an act of tragic hubris.