Are we prepared for dealing with the prospect that humanity is not the end of evolution? Technocalyps is an intriguing three-part documentary on the notion of transhumanism by Belgian visual artist and filmmaker Frank Theys. The latest findings in genetics, robotics, artificial intelligence, bionics and nanotechnology appear in the media every day, but with no analysis of their common aim: that of exceeding human limitations. The director conducts his enquiry into the scientific, ethical and metaphysical dimensions of technological development. The film includes interviews by top experts and thinkers on the subject worldwide, including Marvin Minsky, Terence McKenna, Hans Moravec, Bruce Sterling, Robert Anton Wilson, Richard Seed, Margareth Wertheim, Kirkpatrick Sale, Ralph C. Merkle, Mark Pesce, Ray Kurzweil, Rabbi Youssouf Kazen, Rael and many others.

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Comment by Edward theurj Berge on April 19, 2014 at 9:50am

On that last point, does this indicate that the tech will be fine if confined to LANs instead of one giant super internet of everything. And that it can co-exist with other such LANs, each maintaining their own autonomy but are connected to each other. Oh, yeah, that is the internet of everything.

Comment by Edward theurj Berge on April 19, 2014 at 9:43am

This review has a spoiler alert.

I enjoyed the movie, despite many critics that do not. (Roeper is an exception, giving it a A.) It had many of the themes we've been discussing of late, primarily the benefits and dangers of the IoT. After Depp's character is uploaded he develops nanotech that heals people, makes medical discoveries, creates better ways to farm for less cost with minimal pollution etc. However in the process of healing folks with nanites they become 'hybrids' with super strength and are connected to the 'grid.' They still maintain their autonomy but are linked in the 'commons.'

This of course frightens everyone else, including Depp's past associates, who thinks we'll somehow transcend our humanity and become machines if this continues. They even convince his wife, who heretofore went along with the program. She accepts intentional infection with a virus so that we she too is uploaded it will kill the program. Depp of course knows the plan but accepts it because he loves her and believes her when she tells them he is 'hurting' humanity.

Thing is, nothing he has done has hurt anyone, only helped them. The only hurt is from the self-generated fear of becoming something more than typical humanity, becoming hybrid, becoming Borg. It appears Depp realizes that humanity is not yet ready for the next step in its evolution and let's his wife infect him and shut down the program.

And yet at the end it appears Depp and his wife still exist in the nanotech implanted in their home garden, if their own LAN if not in the entire internet. Will this open a sequel?

Comment by Edward theurj Berge on April 18, 2014 at 9:59am

The movie Transcendence opens today, which I'll see this afternoon. I still think its premise is remiss given the critique of Wolfe, Hayles and others. I think it was Lakoff that criticized that idea because it's founded on the disembodied, abstract notion of mind, that such a consciousness doesn't have a 'body' with feedback loops etc. However the emerging IoT has embodied sensors and feedback mechanisms, which is sort of its version of space-time image schema. So while downloading human consciousness into the net still seems fantasy, maybe the IoT could develop its own consciousness given this complex, interconnected embodiment?

Comment by Edward theurj Berge on April 13, 2014 at 10:51pm

Hayles' book How We Became Posthuman was referenced. One can find an excerpt here. I have to read this one. Some fascinating chapter headings follow: "From hyphen to splice"; "Boundary work in the mid-sixties novels of Philip K. Dick." I'm a big Dickhead so that one should be good.

Speaking of which, I must implore y'all to particularly read The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. It is his last and perhaps finest work. It's after the VALIS books, where he went nuts for a Vast Active Living Intelligence System. In the final work he seemed to regain a more grounded and humanitarian sense of things, questioning our (and his own) urge to explain everything through some grand design. I've re-read it every 2 years or so since it was published, and am almost due for another reading. I continue to learn something new or more nuanced each time.

Comment by Edward theurj Berge on April 13, 2014 at 10:34pm

More from the article I cited below, resonant with some of my other theses of late:

"Philosophy can hence no longer be seen as mastery, as a kind of clutching or grasping via analytical categories and concepts. [...] Rather, the duty of thinking is not to deflect but to suffer... our 'exposure' to the world." 

"Not only are we physically and biologically vulnerable, we are also subject to the materiality and technicity of language which exists independently of us and which, (in a posthuman recognition) as an ahuman prosthetic, renders the nonhuman already a part of our being."

Comment by Edward theurj Berge on October 29, 2010 at 12:17pm
It seems many visions of the transhuman are disembodied, like robotics or transferring our consciousness into a virtual reality. Or at the very least enhancing the human with machinery, like those mechanical suits worn in Avatar. Here's a review of a book that goes in the other direction, back to embodiment and away from the "subject" of modernism, in which the usual transhuman visions like the above are still embedded to create a super human subject. A few excerpts:

"The problem with much of what passes for posthumanism (or sometimes transhumanism) is that it is not sufficiently posthuman....[it] explicitly grounds the post/transhumanist project in notions of human perfectibility, rationality, and agency....[or] promotion of the new science as a tool of human mastery over the natural world.....[it] is not abandoning the autonomous liberal subject but is expanding its prerogatives into the realm of the posthuman."

Instead it might be more like the following:

"Articulating a more persistent posthumanism by combining the insights of second order systems theorists Humberto Maturana, Fransisco Varela and especially Niklas Luhmann with those of Jacques Derrida....[that] entails the effacement of any presumed ontological divide between the human and the animal.....[and] ensure that this effacement is not undertaken in ways that reinscribe the very assumptions that produced the animal/human divide in the first place."

Sacasas, M. Reviewing Cary Wolfe's What is Posthumanism? in rhizomes 20, 2010.
Comment by Balder on October 23, 2010 at 10:12am
Parts 2 and 3 are copied below, and further parts can be watched on Youtube: Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.
Comment by Balder on October 23, 2010 at 9:40am

What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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