What is Posthumanism?
“If the name of the game is processing information, it is only a matter of time until intelligent machines replace us as our evolutionary heirs. Whether we decide to fight them or join them by becoming computers ourselves, the days of the human race are numbered” (Katherine N. Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999, 243).
|Find out more . . .||
N. Katherine Hayles traces the emergence of posthuman theory to the beginnings of cybernetic theory. If she is right in her analysis, it seems likely that the introduction of computers is the line demarcating the transition from envisioning the superman to focusing on producing the posthuman. Whereas current technology of the "wireless" (radio) stimulated the imaginations of the futurists in the first half of the 20th century, leading them to believe that telepathic communication would produce a group mind, the new technology of computing stimulated the imaginations of futurists in the second half of the 20th century, leading them to predict that human evolution under our own control will combine the technologies of genetic engineering, nano technology, and robotics/artificial intelligence to replace the biological body, including the brain, with artificial bodies (if we have bodies at all) and electronic minds (Kurzweil).
Posthumanism envisions a completed transmigration of the human from the biological to the cybernetic; transhumanism, a term often used as a synonym, envisions modifications of the human body through prosthetics and other enhancements. The transhuman might be thought of as the intervening stage between the human and posthuman. So, we might construct a spectrum of transhuman prosthetics enhancements that stretches from the first uses of magnification to enhance the human eye to virtual experiences (Weibel).
Below: the movie trailer for Tron, 1982, depicting a virtual experience.
Below: the movie trailer for The Matrix, another virtual experience.
Along this transhuman spectrum, we can locate walking canes, wheel chairs, early PCs, ocular implants, and other technologies that either correct human disabilities or extend human capacities. Efforts to enhance prosthetic interactions include attempts like the following.
Prosthetics and Cyborgs
Below: Monkey uses prosthetic arm.
The transhuman world is populated with science fiction accounts of robots, androids, and cyborgs.
Below: the movie trailer for Terminator.
Below: the movie trailer for Robocop.
Below: Trailer for Blade Runner
Eventually, according to the science fiction spawned by transhumanism, progress in these technologies will produce a hybrid between virtual experiences and embodied experiences as in the following.
Below: Trailer for Gamer
Below: Trailer for Surrogates
The video below is the first part of "The Girl Who Was Plugged In." It is an adaptation of James Tiptee Jr's story, produced in Australia as part of a series, Welcome to Paradox.
Below: The Girl Who Was Plugged In, part 2
Below: The Girl Who Was Plugged In, part 3
Below: the movie trailer for Avatar.
Ultimately, transhumanism gives way to posthumanism, a time when computing technologies will have developed sufficiently to move human consciousness to the machine. For more on these dreams see works in "Further Reading" by Kurzweil and Moravec. Below are a few videos on the topic.
Futurists' Predictions of Transmigration
Below: The Transhumanist´s Wet Dreams - Posthuman 2/18 (includes clip of Moravec at end)
Below: The Transhumanist´s Wet Dreams - Posthuman 3/18 (includes clip of Kurzweil)
Below: The Transhumanist´s Wet Dreams - Posthuman 4/18
Below: Ray Kurzweil Explains the Coming Singularity
Below: Kurzweil: The Six Epochs
It should be clear from this brief introduction that Posthumanism shares many of the elements of the Superman myth.
Ultimately, Posthumanism appears to be a modern rendition not only of the Superman myth but also of the ancient worldview known as Gnosticism, an outgrowth of Platonic thought in which there is a great divorce between the nonmaterial and material worlds, with the nonmaterial being more pure and more important than the material.