Feb. 27th, 2017

avevale_intelligencer: (bitmoji)
I've just read an article, which I can't now find, by Gabrielle Bellot about this subject and a new book by Mark O'Connell called To Be A Machine. It was on a site called Literary Hub. I hope that will give you enough clues to find it if you're interested.

The article made a lot of good points about transhumanism, and had some interesting information in it, but one thing was borne in upon me with smashing force as I read; how deeply, pitifully pathetic it is.

Transhumanism is for people who can't hack being human.

They can't cope with physical weakness, so they want to be stronger. They can't cope with being slow so they want to be faster. They can't cope with having to remember stuff, so they want a computer terminal in their heads that can access Google in nanoseconds so they don't need to remember anything at all, even where they put their phone. All these enhancements, all this tech, is just training wheels and water wings and crib sheets for being human. Which, up to now, we've had to manage on our own, without any of that.

And--as is manifestly clear to anyone who looks around--we haven't come close to getting it right yet. Some individuals, yes. The species, no. We all know this. We haven't mastered living on a planet, or getting off a planet, or living with each other or living without each other, or anything. Banging the rocks together is still about our speed.

So it's hardly surprising that some people, seeing this complete and abject failure becoming more and more likely to be our last, think: let's move the goalposts, then. Let's make it easier by cutting out the need to be human in the first place. Robot bodies don't need an ecosystem, get on better without it. Computer minds don't need emotions, we know this from Star Trek, get on better without them. Let's cut out all this human weakness and become something better.

Something weaker. Something that never has to make an effort, because it depends on mechanisms which make effort unnecessary. Something increasingly flabby and etiolated, encased in gleaming metal, safe from the world.

Some people will tell you that there's no difference between having a cyborg body and using a shovel, or having a computer beaming information directly into your head and having a smartphone, or a television. But of course there is. Using a shovel, using a smartphone, switching on the telly, requires effort, requires will power, requires choice. Shutting off the damn smartphone, turning off the telly, requires even more effort and will power. How much nicer to have that option permanently removed, to have cyberspace screaming constantly straight into your head. You'd get used to it. After a while you probably wouldn't even notice it. Like leaving the telly on when visitors come round, so you don't miss anything important.

Your freedom to swing your fist, they say, ends just where my nose begins. Our freedom to remain human ends just where our skin begins. Of course it's all a matter of choice. Plastic hips, pacemakers, these don't make us any less human. They keep us able to function at the level that other humans do. But when we admit that we can't even manage that, and cry out for machines to take all the drudgery and pain of being human away from us...we've lost the point. It's not evolution. It's abdication.

We can make ourselves better than human...by making ourselves better at being human, at being better humans. There ain't no other way.

(The article ends with Mr O'Connell saying "the meaning of life is to live, to imbue your life with meaning." If anyone can tell me whether or not this word salad actually means anything, I shall be very surprised. It also occurs to me that Jack the Ripper probably imbued his life with a great deal of meaning for a while there. I think I'd want something with a bit more of a moral dimension.)


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