The Ever-present Transhumanist Cause

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Some people won’t like what I have to say today, but I’ve been building in Second Life long enough to find one aspect of the culture utterly unpalatable. Transhumanism. It’s an okay concept brought about in science fiction, as both the catalytic theme of works like Ghost in the Shell and the evil agenda of nutjobs from Cowboy Bebop to World of Warcraft. The notion of ‘posthuman’ progression, i.e. releasing consciousness from the body into a digital format or enhancing the body somehow, is a fantastical one. But come on – there is no place for such fiction in arenas of serious discussion.

I’ve lived and worked in my ‘homeland’ of Extropia for long enough to see many conversations diverted by transhumanist fundamentalists, keen to put their agenda to any given topic. In salons with guest sci-fi authors or futurists, then of course one expects such dialogue. With futurists it’s often the case that ‘brain uploading’ and such are swiftly critiqued too, much to my personal glee. But I am sick and tired of seeing such agendas crop up in even the most practical of talks, such as last night’s Copper Robot discussion on designing environments inside Second Life.

It is literally the case that, while those in the know theorise as to the future of 3D design in corporate and entertainment venues, only one transhumanist need say “oh, it doesn’t matter – soon we’ll be uploading our every sense and consciousness to the web”. At that point, we see a time-tested pattern: I and others of my persuasion grind our teeth and bury our faces; most, including the speakers, ignore the derailment and continue talking about what can be done in reality; and a small pocket of transhuman fundamentalists carry on sharing ideas lifted right from science fiction as though they were genuine suggestions for new platforms. It’s distracting, rude, and moreover pretty pitiful when conducted in otherwise intellectual arenas.

I implore these people to wake up. Grow up. I’ve had enough. I am ashamed to think of myself as being interested in transhumanist ideas, when all I want is to enjoy the likes of Ghost in the Shell from the confines of my DVD player. I do not want to have these fantasies sullied by the knowledge that some people actually believe in it. Nor do I want my work and my passions associated with cult religious ideas, or worse, to see them used as a platform.

I think my friend Kas put it best: “disembodied transhumanism for the lose”.