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Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now | TED Talk

What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

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What is Transhumanism?

Posthuman – Wikipedia

Posthuman or post-human is a concept originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy that literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human.[1] The concept addresses questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. Posthumanism is not to be confused with transhumanism (the nanobiotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality.[2] The notion of the posthuman comes up both in posthumanism as well as transhumanism, but it has a special meaning in each tradition. In 2017, Penn State University Press in cooperation with Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and James Hughes (sociologist) established the “Journal of Posthuman Studies” in which all aspects of the concept “posthuman” can be analysed.[3]

In critical theory, the posthuman is a speculative being that represents or seeks to re-conceive the human. It is the object of posthumanist criticism, which critically questions humanism, a branch of humanist philosophy which claims that human nature is a universal state from which the human being emerges; human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will, and unified in itself as the apex of existence. Thus, the posthuman position recognizes imperfectability and disunity within him or herself, and understands the world through heterogeneous perspectives while seeking to maintain intellectual rigour and a dedication to objective observations. Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities. The posthuman, for critical theorists of the subject, has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.[4]

Critical discourses surrounding posthumanism are not homogeneous, but in fact present a series of often contradictory ideas, and the term itself is contested, with one of the foremost authors associated with posthumanism, Manuel de Landa, decrying the term as “very silly.”[5] Covering the ideas of, for example, Robert Pepperell’s The Posthuman Condition, and Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman under a single term is distinctly problematic due to these contradictions.

The posthuman is roughly synonymous with the “cyborg” of A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway.[6] Haraway’s conception of the cyborg is an ironic take on traditional conceptions of the cyborg that inverts the traditional trope of the cyborg whose presence questions the salient line between humans and robots. Haraway’s cyborg is in many ways the “beta” version of the posthuman, as her cyborg theory prompted the issue to be taken up in critical theory.[7] Following Haraway, Hayles, whose work grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanismwhich separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a “shell” or vehicle for the mindbecomes increasingly complicated in the late 20th and 21st centuries because information technology puts the human body in question. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technology advancements while understanding information as “disembodied,” that is, something which cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices.[8]

The idea of post-posthumanism (post-cyborgism) has recently been introduced.[9][10][11][12][13] This body of work outlines the after-effects of long-term adaptation to cyborg technologies and their subsequent removal, e.g., what happens after 20 years of constantly wearing computer-mediating eyeglass technologies and subsequently removing them, and of long-term adaptation to virtual worlds followed by return to “reality.”[14][15] and the associated post-cyborg ethics (e.g. the ethics of forced removal of cyborg technologies by authorities, etc.).[16]

Posthuman political and natural rights have been framed on a spectrum with animal rights and human rights.[17] Posthumanism broadens the scope of what it means to be a valued life form and to be treated as such (in contrast to certain life forms being seen as less-than and being taken advantage of or killed off); it calls for a more inclusive definition of life, and a greater moral-ethical response, and responsibility, to non-human life forms in the age of species blurring and species mixing. [I]t interrogates the hierarchic ordering and subsequently exploitation and even eradication of life forms. [18]

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.”[19] Posthumans primarily focus on cybernetics, the posthuman consequent and the relationship to digital technology. The emphasis is on systems. Transhumanism does not focus on either of these. Instead, transhumanism focuses on the modification of the human species via any kind of emerging science, including genetic engineering, digital technology, and bioengineering.[20]

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.[19]

As used in this article, “posthuman” does not necessarily refer to a conjectured future where humans are extinct or otherwise absent from the Earth. As with other species who speciate from one another, both humans and posthumans could continue to exist. However, the apocalyptic scenario appears to be a viewpoint shared among a minority of transhumanists such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] and Hans Moravec, who could be considered misanthropes, at least in regard to humanity in its current state. Alternatively, others such as Kevin Warwick argue for the likelihood that both humans and posthumans will continue to exist but the latter will predominate in society over the former because of their abilities.[21] Recently, scholars have begun to speculate that posthumanism provides an alternative analysis of apocalyptic cinema and fiction, often casting vampires, werewolves and even zombies as potential evolutions of the human form and being.[22]

Many science fiction authors, such as Greg Egan, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Bruce Sterling, Frederik Pohl, Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Neal Asher, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton and authors of the Orion’s Arm Universe,[23] have written works set in posthuman futures.

A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of a “posthuman god”; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of human nature, might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by present-day human standards.[19] This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some science fiction that a sufficiently advanced species may “ascend” to a higher plane of existencerather, it merely means that some posthuman beings may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that their behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination.[24]

Originally posted here:

Posthuman – Wikipedia

Ecocriticism – Literary and Critical Theory – Oxford …

This section looks at some of the pioneering work in ecocriticism, as well as some of the most read work introducing the subject. Meeker 1972, presenting comedy and tragedy as ecological concepts, connects literary and environmental studies as a cohesive field of study. As an ethnologist and comparative literature scholar, Meeker helped to pioneer the critical discussion of ecocriticism in what he called literary ecologies. Following Meeker, Rueckert 1996 (first published 1978) actually coined the term ecocriticism, arguing for a way to find the grounds upon which the two communitiesthe human, the naturalcan coexist, cooperate, and flourish in the biosphere (p. 107). Love 1996 builds on the work of Meeker and Rueckert by essentially anticipating the explosion of and need for ecocriticism in just a few years. Ecocriticism as a literary and cultural theory significantly expanded in the 1990sparalleling other forms of literary and cultural theory, such as postcolonialism and critical race studieslargely due to the publication of Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 (cited under Collections of Essays), the first edited collection of essays and anthology to introduce a comprehensive critical outline of ecocriticism. Buell 1995, another critically dense and timely study, outlines the trajectory of American ecocriticism by way of Henry David Thoreau as a central figure. Kerridge and Sammells 1998 (cited under Collections of Essays), which expanded studies in race and class, as well as ecocritical history, followed both Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 and Buell 1995. Phillips 2003 offers a skeptical and refreshing critique of ecocriticism amid otherwise quite praiseworthybordering on mysticalcelebrations of nature in the scholarship of the 1990s. Garrard 2012 (first published 2004), along with Coupe 2000 (under Anthologies) and Armbruster and Wallace 2001 (under Nature Writing), serves as a political and theoretical turn in ecocriticism because it addresses more of the second wave concerns about animals, globality, and apocalypse. Clark 2011 is a contemporary overview that integrates a unified critical history of the waves, including nature writing, literary periods, theory, and activism, while it also provides sample readings that deploy specific ecocritical methods to literary texts. Garrard 2014 is the most recent overview volume, with many noteworthy ecocritical scholars; it serves as a somewhat updated version of Glotfelty and Fromm 1996. (See also Anthologies and Collections of Essays for some other notable overviews.)

Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

E-mail Citation

Looks back at the history of American nature writing through literary analysiswith Thoreaus Walden as a reference pointto establish a history of environmental perception and imagination. It examines how humanistic thought, particularly through literary nonfiction, can imagine a more ecocentric or green way of living. (See also Nature Writing.)

Clark, Timothy. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

E-mail Citation

Provides updated introductory material to previous studies. It offers an excellent range of topics, and despite serving as an introduction, it employs incisive analysis of previously overlooked issues in introductory books on ecocriticism, such as posthumanism, violence, and animal studies. It is one of the best contemporary overviews.

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2012.

E-mail Citation

Examines a wide range of literary and cultural works. Two notable strengths: (1) it acknowledges the political dimension of ecocriticism; and (2) it explores a range of issues, from animal studies and definitions of wilderness and nature, to postapocalyptic narratives. It is available as an inexpensive paperback. Originally published in 2004.

Garrard, Greg, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

E-mail Citation

One of the most ambitious collections to date, with thirty-four chapters, this book is aimed at both general readers and students, but it also revisits the previous twenty years of ecocriticism to offer contemporary readings from the most prominent names in the field. It is an essential work for ecocritics.

Love, Glen. Revaluating Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism. In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 225240. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

E-mail Citation

Argues that literary studies must engage with the environmental crisis rather than remaining unresponsive. This essay advocates for revaluing a nature-focused literature away from an ego-consciousness to an eco-consciousness (p. 232). Originally published in 1990. See also Loves Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003).

Meeker, Joseph. The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Scribners, 1972.

E-mail Citation

One of the founding works of ecocriticism. It spans many centurieslooking at Dante, Shakespeare, and Petrarch, as well as E.O. Wilsonand analyzes comedy and tragedy as two literary forms that reflect forces greater than that of humans. The comedy of survival is at its core an ecological concept.

Phillips, Dana. The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195137699.001.0001E-mail Citation

One of the more prominent critiques of ecocritical theory, this book challenges neo-Romantic themes explored by ecocritics, many of which Phillips argues support the use of mimesis as a standard way to read environments, instead of looking at more pragmatic approaches.

Rueckert, William. Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism. In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 105123. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

E-mail Citation

Notable primarily because it was the first publication to use the term ecocriticism as an environmentally minded literary analysis that discovers something about the ecology of literature (p. 71). Originally published in 1978.

The rest is here:

Ecocriticism – Literary and Critical Theory – Oxford …

ETHConference2018

WITH JOLLE PROUST, BERNARD STIEGLER, PAUL JORION, STEFAN LORENZ SORGNER, ANDERS SANDBERG…

ENGLISH/FRENCH SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

For a few years now, transhumanism has been a movement of thought whose influence can no longer be denied, both internationally within the media and in the academic, political, and economic worlds. However, recognising the emergence of a phenomenon is not the same as knowing it. Many questions remain unanswered about the very nature of transhumanism(s).

The purpose of ETHConference2018 is to analyze the current state of the art on these questions, exploring transhumanisms and their narratives. More broadly, the conference welcomes all abstract, panel and participatory workshop proposals related to transhumanism, posthumanism, hyperhumanism and their many related topics. Proposals from a wide range of disciplines are warmly welcomed.

TheConference is organised in such way that it will enable different audiences (scholars, professionals, citizens, politicians,…) to intermingle, combining the ambition and usual components of a high-level academic event (talks, panels, round tables,…)and a thought-provoking off-conference range of artistic,pedagogicaland cultural activities (audience-focused scientific workshops, participatory forums, predictive justice debating, theatre performance,public discussion of a cult film, a transhumanism-themed escape game, and others).

Read more from the original source:

ETHConference2018

What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

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What is Transhumanism?

Posthuman – Wikipedia

Posthuman or post-human is a concept originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy that literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human.[1] The concept addresses questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. Posthumanism is not to be confused with transhumanism (the nanobiotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality.[2] The notion of the posthuman comes up both in posthumanism as well as transhumanism, but it has a special meaning in each tradition. In 2017, Penn State University Press in cooperation with Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and James Hughes (sociologist) established the “Journal of Posthuman Studies” in which all aspects of the concept “posthuman” can be analysed.[3]

In critical theory, the posthuman is a speculative being that represents or seeks to re-conceive the human. It is the object of posthumanist criticism, which critically questions humanism, a branch of humanist philosophy which claims that human nature is a universal state from which the human being emerges; human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will, and unified in itself as the apex of existence. Thus, the posthuman position recognizes imperfectability and disunity within him or herself, and understands the world through heterogeneous perspectives while seeking to maintain intellectual rigour and a dedication to objective observations. Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities. The posthuman, for critical theorists of the subject, has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.[4]

Critical discourses surrounding posthumanism are not homogeneous, but in fact present a series of often contradictory ideas, and the term itself is contested, with one of the foremost authors associated with posthumanism, Manuel de Landa, decrying the term as “very silly.”[5] Covering the ideas of, for example, Robert Pepperell’s The Posthuman Condition, and Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman under a single term is distinctly problematic due to these contradictions.

The posthuman is roughly synonymous with the “cyborg” of A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway.[6] Haraway’s conception of the cyborg is an ironic take on traditional conceptions of the cyborg that inverts the traditional trope of the cyborg whose presence questions the salient line between humans and robots. Haraway’s cyborg is in many ways the “beta” version of the posthuman, as her cyborg theory prompted the issue to be taken up in critical theory.[7] Following Haraway, Hayles, whose work grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanismwhich separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a “shell” or vehicle for the mindbecomes increasingly complicated in the late 20th and 21st centuries because information technology puts the human body in question. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technology advancements while understanding information as “disembodied,” that is, something which cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices.[8]

The idea of post-posthumanism (post-cyborgism) has recently been introduced.[9][10][11][12][13] This body of work outlines the after-effects of long-term adaptation to cyborg technologies and their subsequent removal, e.g., what happens after 20 years of constantly wearing computer-mediating eyeglass technologies and subsequently removing them, and of long-term adaptation to virtual worlds followed by return to “reality.”[14][15] and the associated post-cyborg ethics (e.g. the ethics of forced removal of cyborg technologies by authorities, etc.).[16]

Posthuman political and natural rights have been framed on a spectrum with animal rights and human rights.[17] Posthumanism broadens the scope of what it means to be a valued life form and to be treated as such (in contrast to certain life forms being seen as less-than and being taken advantage of or killed off); it calls for a more inclusive definition of life, and a greater moral-ethical response, and responsibility, to non-human life forms in the age of species blurring and species mixing. [I]t interrogates the hierarchic ordering and subsequently exploitation and even eradication of life forms. [18]

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.”[19] Posthumans primarily focus on cybernetics, the posthuman consequent and the relationship to digital technology. The emphasis is on systems. Transhumanism does not focus on either of these. Instead, transhumanism focuses on the modification of the human species via any kind of emerging science, including genetic engineering, digital technology, and bioengineering.[20]

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.[19]

As used in this article, “posthuman” does not necessarily refer to a conjectured future where humans are extinct or otherwise absent from the Earth. As with other species who speciate from one another, both humans and posthumans could continue to exist. However, the apocalyptic scenario appears to be a viewpoint shared among a minority of transhumanists such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] and Hans Moravec, who could be considered misanthropes, at least in regard to humanity in its current state. Alternatively, others such as Kevin Warwick argue for the likelihood that both humans and posthumans will continue to exist but the latter will predominate in society over the former because of their abilities.[21] Recently, scholars have begun to speculate that posthumanism provides an alternative analysis of apocalyptic cinema and fiction, often casting vampires, werewolves and even zombies as potential evolutions of the human form and being.[22]

Many science fiction authors, such as Greg Egan, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Bruce Sterling, Frederik Pohl, Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Neal Asher, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton and authors of the Orion’s Arm Universe,[23] have written works set in posthuman futures.

A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of a “posthuman god”; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of human nature, might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by present-day human standards.[19] This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some science fiction that a sufficiently advanced species may “ascend” to a higher plane of existencerather, it merely means that some posthuman beings may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that their behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination.[24]

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Posthuman – Wikipedia

Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now | TED Talk

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Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now | TED Talk

ETHConference2018

WITH JOLLE PROUST, BERNARD STIEGLER, PAUL JORION, STEFAN LORENZ SORGNER, ANDERS SANDBERG…

ENGLISH/FRENCH SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

For a few years now, transhumanism has been a movement of thought whose influence can no longer be denied, both internationally within the media and in the academic, political, and economic worlds. However, recognising the emergence of a phenomenon is not the same as knowing it. Many questions remain unanswered about the very nature of transhumanism(s).

The purpose of ETHConference2018 is to analyze the current state of the art on these questions, exploring transhumanisms and their narratives. More broadly, the conference welcomes all abstract, panel and participatory workshop proposals related to transhumanism, posthumanism, hyperhumanism and their many related topics. Proposals from a wide range of disciplines are warmly welcomed.

TheConference is organised in such way that it will enable different audiences (scholars, professionals, citizens, politicians,…) to intermingle, combining the ambition and usual components of a high-level academic event (talks, panels, round tables,…)and a thought-provoking off-conference range of artistic,pedagogicaland cultural activities (audience-focused scientific workshops, participatory forums, predictive justice debating, theatre performance,public discussion of a cult film, a transhumanism-themed escape game, and others).

More here:

ETHConference2018

Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now | TED Talk

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See the original post:

Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now | TED Talk

Posthuman – Wikipedia

Posthuman or post-human is a concept originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy that literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human.[1] The concept addresses questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. Posthumanism is not to be confused with transhumanism (the nanobiotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality.[2] The notion of the posthuman comes up both in posthumanism as well as transhumanism, but it has a special meaning in each tradition. In 2017, Penn State University Press in cooperation with Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and James Hughes (sociologist) established the “Journal of Posthuman Studies” in which all aspects of the concept “posthuman” can be analysed.[3]

In critical theory, the posthuman is a speculative being that represents or seeks to re-conceive the human. It is the object of posthumanist criticism, which critically questions humanism, a branch of humanist philosophy which claims that human nature is a universal state from which the human being emerges; human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will, and unified in itself as the apex of existence. Thus, the posthuman position recognizes imperfectability and disunity within him or herself, and understands the world through heterogeneous perspectives while seeking to maintain intellectual rigour and a dedication to objective observations. Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities. The posthuman, for critical theorists of the subject, has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.[4]

Critical discourses surrounding posthumanism are not homogeneous, but in fact present a series of often contradictory ideas, and the term itself is contested, with one of the foremost authors associated with posthumanism, Manuel de Landa, decrying the term as “very silly.”[5] Covering the ideas of, for example, Robert Pepperell’s The Posthuman Condition, and Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman under a single term is distinctly problematic due to these contradictions.

The posthuman is roughly synonymous with the “cyborg” of A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway.[6] Haraway’s conception of the cyborg is an ironic take on traditional conceptions of the cyborg that inverts the traditional trope of the cyborg whose presence questions the salient line between humans and robots. Haraway’s cyborg is in many ways the “beta” version of the posthuman, as her cyborg theory prompted the issue to be taken up in critical theory.[7] Following Haraway, Hayles, whose work grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanismwhich separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a “shell” or vehicle for the mindbecomes increasingly complicated in the late 20th and 21st centuries because information technology puts the human body in question. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technology advancements while understanding information as “disembodied,” that is, something which cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices.[8]

The idea of post-posthumanism (post-cyborgism) has recently been introduced.[9][10][11][12][13] This body of work outlines the after-effects of long-term adaptation to cyborg technologies and their subsequent removal, e.g., what happens after 20 years of constantly wearing computer-mediating eyeglass technologies and subsequently removing them, and of long-term adaptation to virtual worlds followed by return to “reality.”[14][15] and the associated post-cyborg ethics (e.g. the ethics of forced removal of cyborg technologies by authorities, etc.).[16]

Posthuman political and natural rights have been framed on a spectrum with animal rights and human rights.[17] Posthumanism broadens the scope of what it means to be a valued life form and to be treated as such (in contrast to certain life forms being seen as less-than and being taken advantage of or killed off); it calls for a more inclusive definition of life, and a greater moral-ethical response, and responsibility, to non-human life forms in the age of species blurring and species mixing. [I]t interrogates the hierarchic ordering and subsequently exploitation and even eradication of life forms. [18]

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.”[19] Posthumans primarily focus on cybernetics, the posthuman consequent and the relationship to digital technology. The emphasis is on systems. Transhumanism does not focus on either of these. Instead, transhumanism focuses on the modification of the human species via any kind of emerging science, including genetic engineering, digital technology, and bioengineering.[20]

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.[19]

As used in this article, “posthuman” does not necessarily refer to a conjectured future where humans are extinct or otherwise absent from the Earth. As with other species who speciate from one another, both humans and posthumans could continue to exist. However, the apocalyptic scenario appears to be a viewpoint shared among a minority of transhumanists such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] and Hans Moravec, who could be considered misanthropes, at least in regard to humanity in its current state. Alternatively, others such as Kevin Warwick argue for the likelihood that both humans and posthumans will continue to exist but the latter will predominate in society over the former because of their abilities.[21] Recently, scholars have begun to speculate that posthumanism provides an alternative analysis of apocalyptic cinema and fiction, often casting vampires, werewolves and even zombies as potential evolutions of the human form and being.[22]

Many science fiction authors, such as Greg Egan, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Bruce Sterling, Frederik Pohl, Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Neal Asher, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton and authors of the Orion’s Arm Universe,[23] have written works set in posthuman futures.

A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of a “posthuman god”; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of human nature, might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by present-day human standards.[19] This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some science fiction that a sufficiently advanced species may “ascend” to a higher plane of existencerather, it merely means that some posthuman beings may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that their behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination.[24]

Read more from the original source:

Posthuman – Wikipedia

What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

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What is Transhumanism?

ETHConference2018

WITH JOLLE PROUST, BERNARD STIEGLER, PAUL JORION, STEFAN LORENZ SORGNER, ANDERS SANDBERG…

ENGLISH/FRENCH SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

For a few years now, transhumanism has been a movement of thought whose influence can no longer be denied, both internationally within the media and in the academic, political, and economic worlds. However, recognising the emergence of a phenomenon is not the same as knowing it. Many questions remain unanswered about the very nature of transhumanism(s).

The purpose of ETHConference2018 is to analyze the current state of the art on these questions, exploring transhumanisms and their narratives. More broadly, the conference welcomes all abstract, panel and participatory workshop proposals related to transhumanism, posthumanism, hyperhumanism and their many related topics. Proposals from a wide range of disciplines are warmly welcomed.

TheConference is organised in such way that it will enable different audiences (scholars, professionals, citizens, politicians,…) to intermingle, combining the ambition and usual components of a high-level academic event (talks, panels, round tables,…)and a thought-provoking off-conference range of artistic,pedagogicaland cultural activities (audience-focused scientific workshops, participatory forums, predictive justice debating, theatre performance,public discussion of a cult film, a transhumanism-themed escape game, and others).

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ETHConference2018

Ecocriticism – Literary and Critical Theory – Oxford …

Introduction

Ecocriticism is a broad way for literary and cultural scholars to investigate the global ecological crisis through the intersection of literature, culture, and the physical environment. Ecocriticism originated as an idea called literary ecology (Meeker 1972, cited under General Overviews) and was later coined as an -ism (Rueckert 1996, cited under General Overviews). Ecocriticism expanded as a widely used literary and cultural theory by the early 1990s with the formation of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) at the Western Literary Association (1992), followed by the launch of the flagship journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (cited under Journals) in 1993, and then later the publication of The Ecocriticism Reader (Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, cited under Collections of Essays). Ecocriticism is often used as a catchall term for any aspect of the humanities (e.g., media, film, philosophy, and history) addressing ecological issues, but it primarily functions as a literary and cultural theory. This is not to say that ecocriticism is confined to literature and culture; scholarship often incorporates science, ethics, politics, philosophy, economics, and aesthetics across institutional and national boundaries (Clark 2011, p. 8, cited under General Overviews). Ecocriticism remains difficult to define. Originally, scholars wanted to employ a literary analysis rooted in a culture of ecological thinking, which would also contain moral and social commitments to activism. As Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 (cited under Collections of Essays) famously states, ecocriticism takes an earth-centred approach to literary studies, rather than an anthropomorphic or human-centered approach (p. xviii). Many refer to ecocriticism synonymously as the study of literature and the environment (rooted in literary studies) or environmental criticism (interdisciplinary and cultural). Ecocriticism has been divided into waves to historicize the movement in a clear trajectory (Buell 2005, cited under Ecocritical Futures). The first wave of ecocriticism tended to take a dehistoricized approach to nature, often overlooking more political and theoretical dimensions and tending toward a celebratory approach of wilderness and nature writing. Ecocriticism expanded into a second wave, offering new ways of approaching literary analysis by, for example, theorizing and deconstructing human-centered scholarship in ecostudies; imperialism and ecological degradation; agency for animals and plants; gender and race as ecological concepts; and problems of scale. The third wave advocates for a global understanding of ecocritical practice through issues like global warming; it combines elements from the first and second waves but aims to move beyond Anglo-American prominence. There are currently hundreds of books and thousands of articles and chapters written about ecocriticism.

This section looks at some of the pioneering work in ecocriticism, as well as some of the most read work introducing the subject. Meeker 1972, presenting comedy and tragedy as ecological concepts, connects literary and environmental studies as a cohesive field of study. As an ethnologist and comparative literature scholar, Meeker helped to pioneer the critical discussion of ecocriticism in what he called literary ecologies. Following Meeker, Rueckert 1996 (first published 1978) actually coined the term ecocriticism, arguing for a way to find the grounds upon which the two communitiesthe human, the naturalcan coexist, cooperate, and flourish in the biosphere (p. 107). Love 1996 builds on the work of Meeker and Rueckert by essentially anticipating the explosion of and need for ecocriticism in just a few years. Ecocriticism as a literary and cultural theory significantly expanded in the 1990sparalleling other forms of literary and cultural theory, such as postcolonialism and critical race studieslargely due to the publication of Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 (cited under Collections of Essays), the first edited collection of essays and anthology to introduce a comprehensive critical outline of ecocriticism. Buell 1995, another critically dense and timely study, outlines the trajectory of American ecocriticism by way of Henry David Thoreau as a central figure. Kerridge and Sammells 1998 (cited under Collections of Essays), which expanded studies in race and class, as well as ecocritical history, followed both Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 and Buell 1995. Phillips 2003 offers a skeptical and refreshing critique of ecocriticism amid otherwise quite praiseworthybordering on mysticalcelebrations of nature in the scholarship of the 1990s. Garrard 2012 (first published 2004), along with Coupe 2000 (under Anthologies) and Armbruster and Wallace 2001 (under Nature Writing), serves as a political and theoretical turn in ecocriticism because it addresses more of the second wave concerns about animals, globality, and apocalypse. Clark 2011 is a contemporary overview that integrates a unified critical history of the waves, including nature writing, literary periods, theory, and activism, while it also provides sample readings that deploy specific ecocritical methods to literary texts. Garrard 2014 is the most recent overview volume, with many noteworthy ecocritical scholars; it serves as a somewhat updated version of Glotfelty and Fromm 1996. (See also Anthologies and Collections of Essays for some other notable overviews.)

Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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Looks back at the history of American nature writing through literary analysiswith Thoreaus Walden as a reference pointto establish a history of environmental perception and imagination. It examines how humanistic thought, particularly through literary nonfiction, can imagine a more ecocentric or green way of living. (See also Nature Writing.)

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Clark, Timothy. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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Provides updated introductory material to previous studies. It offers an excellent range of topics, and despite serving as an introduction, it employs incisive analysis of previously overlooked issues in introductory books on ecocriticism, such as posthumanism, violence, and animal studies. It is one of the best contemporary overviews.

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Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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Examines a wide range of literary and cultural works. Two notable strengths: (1) it acknowledges the political dimension of ecocriticism; and (2) it explores a range of issues, from animal studies and definitions of wilderness and nature, to postapocalyptic narratives. It is available as an inexpensive paperback. Originally published in 2004.

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Garrard, Greg, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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One of the most ambitious collections to date, with thirty-four chapters, this book is aimed at both general readers and students, but it also revisits the previous twenty years of ecocriticism to offer contemporary readings from the most prominent names in the field. It is an essential work for ecocritics.

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Love, Glen. Revaluating Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism. In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 225240. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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Argues that literary studies must engage with the environmental crisis rather than remaining unresponsive. This essay advocates for revaluing a nature-focused literature away from an ego-consciousness to an eco-consciousness (p. 232). Originally published in 1990. See also Loves Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003).

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Meeker, Joseph. The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Scribners, 1972.

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One of the founding works of ecocriticism. It spans many centurieslooking at Dante, Shakespeare, and Petrarch, as well as E.O. Wilsonand analyzes comedy and tragedy as two literary forms that reflect forces greater than that of humans. The comedy of survival is at its core an ecological concept.

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Phillips, Dana. The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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One of the more prominent critiques of ecocritical theory, this book challenges neo-Romantic themes explored by ecocritics, many of which Phillips argues support the use of mimesis as a standard way to read environments, instead of looking at more pragmatic approaches.

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Rueckert, William. Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism. In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 105123. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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Notable primarily because it was the first publication to use the term ecocriticism as an environmentally minded literary analysis that discovers something about the ecology of literature (p. 71). Originally published in 1978.

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Ecocritical scholarship owes a great debt to environmental philosophers, historians, sociologists, and biologists who have helped to conceptualize the relationship among humans, nonhumans, nature, and culture. Although a complete list of possible influential writings would be enormous, the following provides a brief outline of some instrumental works. Leopold 1949, from a conservationist perspective, is a monumental work that challenges anthropocentric thinking with the now famous concept of Thinking like a Mountain as part of The Land Ethic. Carson 2002 (first published 1962) challenged the industrial-chemical complex by arguing that the use pesticides are, contrary to popular science at the time, both socially and environmentally harmful. Whereas Carson pioneered the activist strain in ecocriticism, Marx 2000 (first published 1964) did so through literary and historical criticism by questioning the American pastoral imagination as an environmental threat. White 1996 (first published 1967) located the root cause of the historical ecological crisis in Judeo-Christian values. White, along with many other later ecological writings, condemned Judeo-Christian theology for neglecting to care for the present physical world in anticipation of the eternal one hereafter. Rooted in cultural and Marxist theory, Williams 1973 adroitly analyzed the urban-rural dialectic between the city and country. This work partly influenced ecocritical scholarship to challenge the Eurocentric divide between nature and culture. Nash 1989 brought the ethical and social ecological dimension into contemporary debates by promoting the rights of nonhuman organisms. Williams 1992 is a multi-genre personal account of the ecological crisis; it has become a widely read work in classrooms as well as cited in ecocritical scholarship.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

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Considered by many to have initiated the contemporary environmental and ecological movements. It addresses the systemic problem of environmental degradation brought on by corporate industry and advocates for protection through public awareness and resistance. Originally published in 1962.

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Leopold, Aldo. Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1949.

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Calls for a revolutionary Land Ethic as an environmental philosophy that every human should follow: A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise (p. 189). Reprinted in 2001.

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Marx, Leo. The Machine and the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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Largely a book about pastoralism in 19th- and 20th-century America, it traces the history of technology in society and culture. It argues that pastoralisma utopian theme of expansive landscapes for settlement and utilityhas and continues to define the environmental consciousness of America. Originally published in 1964.

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Nash, Roderick Frazier. The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

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Demonstrates the influence of environmentalism in various intellectual fields. It catalogues the green wave in society and politics, and questions the rights of other nonhuman organisms. As a piece of social ecology and environmental philosophy, it was a major influence on ecocriticism.

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White, Lynn, Jr. The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis. In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 314. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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This famous essay reconsiders how cultural influence and social conditioningthrough beliefs and valuescan affect environmental consciousness. Specifically, the essay criticizes Judeo-Christianity for supporting anthropocentric superiority. Giving humans a licence to dominate the natural world has led to the contemporary environmental crisis. Originally published in 1967.

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Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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Contextualizes the dialectic between rural and urban thinking that has divided culture from environments for centuries. Often framed as a pastoral critique from a Marxist perspective, this book anticipates holistic discussions about the integration of built and nonbuilt environments in contemporary ecocritical discourses.

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Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge. New York: Vintage, 1992.

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Part memoir, part naturalist writing, part tragedy, this book explores Williamss experience watching her mothers death from breast cancer while also watching the destruction of a bird sanctuary through flooding. It remains one of the most influential narrative books of ecocritical studies (e.g., see Narrative Ecocriticism).

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There have been massive amounts of collections of essays about ecocriticism, offering a diverse range of writings on interdisciplinary topics, which is what ecocriticism accomplishes as a literary and cultural theory. This list offers some of the noteworthy publications across many subjects, beginning with Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, which serves as both an anthology of previous publications (e.g., Meeker 1972, Rueckert 1996, and Love 1996, cited under General Overviews, Silko 1996, cited under Critical Race Studies), as well as many new essays at the time of its publication. Bennett and Teague 1999 is particularly significant for including urban or built environments as a central part of the ecocritical discussion; it helped to challenge the idea that ecocriticism focuses on tradition notions of nature. Slovic and Branch 2003 bridges the gap between the first and second waves of ecocritical studies, where scholars took a decidedly more theoretical turn in scholarship. Goodbody and Rigby 2011 largely differs from others in this list because it assemble an original collection focused on European ecocritical theory (see also Global Perspectives). Turning to pedagogy, Garrard 2012 is one of several collections on teaching ecocriticism in the classroom, a trend that began with Waages Teaching Environmental Literature: Materials, Methods, Resources (1985). Lynch, et al. 2012 also contains a section on pedagogy, but it is couched in the larger analysis of bioregional thinking (local community and sustainable culture). Westling 2013 is a collection on contemporary literary and cultural environmental concerns in the widely read Cambridge Companion series.

Bennett, Michael, and David W. Teague, eds. The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999.

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The essays in this volume invite readers to think about the environment as a larger and more holistic concept, moving away from the separation of nonbuilt (nature) and built (cities) environments. It remains one of the few works about urban ecocriticism.

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Garrard, Greg, ed. Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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Emphasizes the roots of ecocriticism as a teaching-activist-scholarly pursuit through a range of collected essays. This book stands out as one of the few collections or monographs to focus entirely on the pedagogy and practice of a green literary and cultural study.

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Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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This landmark publication in the field is both collection and anthology; it provides previously published essays (e.g., Lynne White Jr., William Rueckert, Paula Gunn Allen, Leslie Marmon Silko), along with many original essays. It introduces the critical concept of ecocriticism as a response to the global environmental crisis.

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Goodbody, Axel, and Kate Rigby, eds. Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.

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Noteworthy for representing a distinctively European ecocriticism, providing a break from the dominant North American voice. This collection theorizies ecocriticism, while keeping the practice and activist element intact, through European philosophy, theorists, and environmental thinkers.

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Kerridge, Richard, and Neil Sammells, eds. Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature. London: Zed Books, 1998.

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Serves as one of the early collections in the field and provides samples of what ecocritics do (p. 8). This collection contains essays on race and environmental justice, childrens environmental literature, pop culture, and body politics.

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Lynch, Tom, Cheryll Glotfelty, and Karla Armbruster, eds. The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

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Aims to explain the idea in literary criticism of bioregionalisma sustainable sense of place on a day-to-day scale that we can inhabit beyond national or political boundaries. This collection is skilfully arranged in four sections: Reinhabiting, Rereading, Reimaging, and Renewal (forming a bioregional pedagogy).

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Slovic, Scott, and Michael Branch, eds. The ISLE Reader: Ecocriticism, 19932003. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2003.

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Based upon early essays published in the flagship ecocritical journal ISLE, this collection charts a thorough trajectory of the essays that defined the ecocritical movement in the 1990s. It provides an excellent overview of earlier prominent ecocritical scholarship in essay form.

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Westling, Louise, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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Offers a range of introductory writings on ecocriticism, as other collections in this list do, but provides a more contemporary approach. Despite the title, it also includes essays about cinema and ecotheory as well.

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This section includes some of the more widely used anthologies that reproduce excerpts of previously published works by writers, essayists, travelers, and poets in environmental literature and culture. Lyon 1989 is as an early anthology used in environmental writing courses in the early to mid-1990s, during the early expansion of ecocriticism as a field. Another batch of anthologies emerged on the market in the late 1990s. Halpern and Frank 1998 diversifies the range of nature and environmental writers and even includes some international figures. Anderson, et al. 2013 is a comprehensive textbook and reader that differs from many of the readers in this list, which mainly reproduce experts of previously published material. Many of the earlier volumesLyon 1989, Halpern and Frank 1998, and even Branch 2004, the latter of which focuses on the origins of nature writingresemble each other in content and approach. The later volumes, starting with Coupe 2000, begin to address a wider range of second wave concerns. Coupe provides an extensive overview of literary periods in ecocriticism, beginning with the Romantics. Fisher-Wirth and Street 2013 is a volume devoted entirely to American environmental poetry. Hiltner 2014 is the most recent and comprehensive reader in this list, except for perhaps Coupe 2000, although it does not offer the pedagogical elements that Anderson, et al. 2013 does. A significant gap at the moment in ecocritical anthologies remains the lack of a complete anthology of environmental writers from around the globe.

Anderson, Lorraine, Scott P. Slovic, and John P. OGrady, eds. Literature and the Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture. New York: Pearson Longman, 2013.

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Ecocriticism – Literary and Critical Theory – Oxford …

Posthuman – Wikipedia

Posthuman or post-human is a concept originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy that literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human.[1] The concept addresses questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. Posthumanism is not to be confused with transhumanism (the nanobiotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality.[2] The notion of the posthuman comes up both in posthumanism as well as transhumanism, but it has a special meaning in each tradition. In 2017, Penn State University Press in cooperation with Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and James Hughes (sociologist) established the “Journal of Posthuman Studies” in which all aspects of the concept “posthuman” can be analysed.[3]

In critical theory, the posthuman is a speculative being that represents or seeks to re-conceive the human. It is the object of posthumanist criticism, which critically questions humanism, a branch of humanist philosophy which claims that human nature is a universal state from which the human being emerges; human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will, and unified in itself as the apex of existence. Thus, the posthuman position recognizes imperfectability and disunity within him or herself, and understands the world through heterogeneous perspectives while seeking to maintain intellectual rigour and a dedication to objective observations. Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities. The posthuman, for critical theorists of the subject, has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.[4]

Critical discourses surrounding posthumanism are not homogeneous, but in fact present a series of often contradictory ideas, and the term itself is contested, with one of the foremost authors associated with posthumanism, Manuel de Landa, decrying the term as “very silly.”[5] Covering the ideas of, for example, Robert Pepperell’s The Posthuman Condition, and Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman under a single term is distinctly problematic due to these contradictions.

The posthuman is roughly synonymous with the “cyborg” of A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway.[6] Haraway’s conception of the cyborg is an ironic take on traditional conceptions of the cyborg that inverts the traditional trope of the cyborg whose presence questions the salient line between humans and robots. Haraway’s cyborg is in many ways the “beta” version of the posthuman, as her cyborg theory prompted the issue to be taken up in critical theory.[7] Following Haraway, Hayles, whose work grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanismwhich separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a “shell” or vehicle for the mindbecomes increasingly complicated in the late 20th and 21st centuries because information technology puts the human body in question. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technology advancements while understanding information as “disembodied,” that is, something which cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices.[8]

The idea of post-posthumanism (post-cyborgism) has recently been introduced.[9][10][11][12][13] This body of work outlines the after-effects of long-term adaptation to cyborg technologies and their subsequent removal, e.g., what happens after 20 years of constantly wearing computer-mediating eyeglass technologies and subsequently removing them, and of long-term adaptation to virtual worlds followed by return to “reality.”[14][15] and the associated post-cyborg ethics (e.g. the ethics of forced removal of cyborg technologies by authorities, etc.).[16]

Posthuman political and natural rights have been framed on a spectrum with animal rights and human rights.[17] Posthumanism broadens the scope of what it means to be a valued life form and to be treated as such (in contrast to certain life forms being seen as less-than and being taken advantage of or killed off); it calls for a more inclusive definition of life, and a greater moral-ethical response, and responsibility, to non-human life forms in the age of species blurring and species mixing. [I]t interrogates the hierarchic ordering and subsequently exploitation and even eradication of life forms. [18]

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.”[19] Posthumans primarily focus on cybernetics, the posthuman consequent and the relationship to digital technology. The emphasis is on systems. Transhumanism does not focus on either of these. Instead, transhumanism focuses on the modification of the human species via any kind of emerging science, including genetic engineering, digital technology, and bioengineering.[20]

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.[19]

As used in this article, “posthuman” does not necessarily refer to a conjectured future where humans are extinct or otherwise absent from the Earth. As with other species who speciate from one another, both humans and posthumans could continue to exist. However, the apocalyptic scenario appears to be a viewpoint shared among a minority of transhumanists such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] and Hans Moravec, who could be considered misanthropes, at least in regard to humanity in its current state. Alternatively, others such as Kevin Warwick argue for the likelihood that both humans and posthumans will continue to exist but the latter will predominate in society over the former because of their abilities.[21] Recently, scholars have begun to speculate that posthumanism provides an alternative analysis of apocalyptic cinema and fiction, often casting vampires, werewolves and even zombies as potential evolutions of the human form and being.[22]

Many science fiction authors, such as Greg Egan, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Bruce Sterling, Frederik Pohl, Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Neal Asher, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton and authors of the Orion’s Arm Universe,[23] have written works set in posthuman futures.

A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of a “posthuman god”; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of human nature, might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by present-day human standards.[19] This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some science fiction that a sufficiently advanced species may “ascend” to a higher plane of existencerather, it merely means that some posthuman beings may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that their behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination.[24]

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Posthuman – Wikipedia

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What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

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What is Transhumanism?

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Posthuman – Wikipedia

Posthuman or post-human is a concept originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy that literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human.[1] The concept addresses questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. Posthumanism is not to be confused with transhumanism (the nanobiotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality.[2] The notion of the posthuman comes up both in posthumanism as well as transhumanism, but it has a special meaning in each tradition. In 2017, Penn State University Press in cooperation with Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and James Hughes (sociologist) established the “Journal of Posthuman Studies” in which all aspects of the concept “posthuman” can be analysed.[3]

In critical theory, the posthuman is a speculative being that represents or seeks to re-conceive the human. It is the object of posthumanist criticism, which critically questions humanism, a branch of humanist philosophy which claims that human nature is a universal state from which the human being emerges; human nature is autonomous, rational, capable of free will, and unified in itself as the apex of existence. Thus, the posthuman position recognizes imperfectability and disunity within him or herself, and understands the world through heterogeneous perspectives while seeking to maintain intellectual rigour and a dedication to objective observations. Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities. The posthuman, for critical theorists of the subject, has an emergent ontology rather than a stable one; in other words, the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can “become” or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.[4]

Critical discourses surrounding posthumanism are not homogeneous, but in fact present a series of often contradictory ideas, and the term itself is contested, with one of the foremost authors associated with posthumanism, Manuel de Landa, decrying the term as “very silly.”[5] Covering the ideas of, for example, Robert Pepperell’s The Posthuman Condition, and Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman under a single term is distinctly problematic due to these contradictions.

The posthuman is roughly synonymous with the “cyborg” of A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway.[6] Haraway’s conception of the cyborg is an ironic take on traditional conceptions of the cyborg that inverts the traditional trope of the cyborg whose presence questions the salient line between humans and robots. Haraway’s cyborg is in many ways the “beta” version of the posthuman, as her cyborg theory prompted the issue to be taken up in critical theory.[7] Following Haraway, Hayles, whose work grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanismwhich separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a “shell” or vehicle for the mindbecomes increasingly complicated in the late 20th and 21st centuries because information technology puts the human body in question. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technology advancements while understanding information as “disembodied,” that is, something which cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices.[8]

The idea of post-posthumanism (post-cyborgism) has recently been introduced.[9][10][11][12][13] This body of work outlines the after-effects of long-term adaptation to cyborg technologies and their subsequent removal, e.g., what happens after 20 years of constantly wearing computer-mediating eyeglass technologies and subsequently removing them, and of long-term adaptation to virtual worlds followed by return to “reality.”[14][15] and the associated post-cyborg ethics (e.g. the ethics of forced removal of cyborg technologies by authorities, etc.).[16]

Posthuman political and natural rights have been framed on a spectrum with animal rights and human rights.[17]

According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being “whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards.”[18] Posthumans primarily focus on cybernetics, the posthuman consequent and the relationship to digital technology. The emphasis is on systems. Transhumanism does not focus on either of these. Instead, transhumanism focuses on the modification of the human species via any kind of emerging science, including genetic engineering, digital technology, and bioengineering.[19]

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg. Some examples of the latter are redesigning the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, life extension therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable or implanted computers, and cognitive techniques.[18]

As used in this article, “posthuman” does not necessarily refer to a conjectured future where humans are extinct or otherwise absent from the Earth. As with other species who speciate from one another, both humans and posthumans could continue to exist. However, the apocalyptic scenario appears to be a viewpoint shared among a minority of transhumanists such as Marvin Minsky[citation needed] and Hans Moravec, who could be considered misanthropes, at least in regard to humanity in its current state. Alternatively, others such as Kevin Warwick argue for the likelihood that both humans and posthumans will continue to exist but the latter will predominate in society over the former because of their abilities.[20] Recently, scholars have begun to speculate that posthumanism provides an alternative analysis of apocalyptic cinema and fiction, often casting vampires, werewolves and even zombies as potential evolutions of the human form and being.[21]

Many science fiction authors, such as Greg Egan, H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Bruce Sterling, Frederik Pohl, Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Neal Asher, Ken MacLeod, Peter F. Hamilton and authors of the Orion’s Arm Universe,[22] have written works set in posthuman futures.

A variation on the posthuman theme is the notion of a “posthuman god”; the idea that posthumans, being no longer confined to the parameters of human nature, might grow physically and mentally so powerful as to appear possibly god-like by present-day human standards.[18] This notion should not be interpreted as being related to the idea portrayed in some science fiction that a sufficiently advanced species may “ascend” to a higher plane of existencerather, it merely means that some posthuman beings may become so exceedingly intelligent and technologically sophisticated that their behaviour would not possibly be comprehensible to modern humans, purely by reason of their limited intelligence and imagination.[23]

View original post here:

Posthuman – Wikipedia

What is Transhumanism?

The human desire to acquire posthuman attributes is as ancient as the human species itself. Humans have always sought to expand the boundaries of their existence, be it ecologically, geographically, or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to try to find a way around every limitation and obstacle.

Ceremonial burial and preserved fragments of religious writings show that prehistoric humans were deeply disturbed by the death of their loved ones and sought to reduce the cognitive dissonance by postulating an afterlife. Yet, despite the idea of an afterlife, people still endeavored to extend life. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (approx. 2000 B.C.), a king embarks on a quest to find an herb that can make him immortal. Its worth noting that it was assumed both that mortality was not inescapable in principle, and that there existed (at least mythological) means of overcoming it. That people really strove to live longer and richer lives can also be seen in the development of systems of magic and alchemy; lacking scientific means of producing an elixir of life, one resorted to magical means. This strategy was adopted, for example, by the various schools of esoteric Taoism in China, which sought physical immortality and control over or harmony with the forces of nature.

The Greeks were ambivalent about humans transgressing our natural confines. On the one hand, they were fascinated by the idea. We see it in the myth of Prometheus, who stole the fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans, thereby permanently improving the human condition. And in the myth of Daedalus, the gods are repeatedly challenged, quite successfully, by a clever engineer and artist, who uses non-magical means to extend human capabilities. On the other hand, there is also the concept of hubris: that some ambitions are off-limit and would backfire if pursued. In the end, Daedalus enterprise ends in disaster (not, however, because it was punished by the gods but owing entirely to natural causes).

Greek philosophers made the first, stumbling attempts to create systems of thought that were based not purely on faith but on logical reasoning. Socrates and the sophists extended the application of critical thinking from metaphysics and cosmology to include the study of ethics and questions about human society and human psychology. Out of this inquiry arose cultural humanism, a very important current throughout the history of Western science, political theory, ethics, and law.

In the Renaissance, human thinking was awoken from medieval otherworldliness and the scholastic modes of reasoning that had predominated for a millennium, and the human being and the natural world again became legitimate objects of study. Renaissance humanism encouraged people to rely on their own observations and their own judgment rather than to defer in every matter to religious authorities. Renaissance humanism also created the ideal of the well-rounded personality, one that is highly developed scientifically, morally, culturally, and spiritually. A milestone is Giovanni Pico della Mirandolas Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), which states that man does not have a ready form but that it is mans task to form himself. And crucially, modern science began to take form then, through the works of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo.

The Age of Enlightenment can be said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacons Novum Organum, the new tool (1620), in which he proposes a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon advocates the project of effecting all things possible, by which he meant the achievement of mastery over nature in order to improve the condition of human beings. The heritage from the Renaissance combines with the influences of Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Marquis de Condorcet, and others to form the basis for rational humanism, which emphasizes science and critical reasoning rather than revelation and religious authority as ways of learning about the natural world and the destiny and nature of man and of providing a grounding for morality. Transhumanism traces its roots to this rational humanism.

In the 18th and 19th centuries we begin to see glimpses of the idea that even humans themselves can be developed through the appliance of science. Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire speculated about extending human life span through medical science. Especially after Darwins theory of evolution, atheism or agnosticism came to be seen as increasingly attractive alternatives. However, the optimism of the late 19th century often degenerated into narrow-minded positivism and the belief that progress was automatic. When this view collided with reality, some people reacted by turning to irrationalism, concluding that since reason was not sufficient, it was worthless. This resulted in the anti-technological, anti-intellectual sentiments whose sequelae we can still witness today in some postmodernist writers, in the New Age movement, and among the neo-Luddite wing of the anti-globalization agitators.

A significant stimulus in the formation of transhumanism was the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future (1923) by the British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane, in which he discusses how scientific and technological findings may come to affect society and improve the human condition. This essay set off a chain reaction of future-oriented discussions, including The World, the Flesh and the Devil by J. D. Bernal (1929), which speculates about space colonization and bionic implants as well as mental improvements through advanced social science and psychology; the works of Olaf Stapledon; and the essay Icarus: the Future of Science (1924) by Bertrand Russell, who took a more pessimistic view, arguing that without more kindliness in the world, technological power will mainly serve to increase mens ability to inflict harm on one another. Science fiction authors such as H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon also got many people thinking about the future evolution of the human race. One frequently cited work is Aldous Huxleys Brave New World (1932), a dystopia where psychological conditioning, promiscuous sexuality, biotechnology, and opiate drugs are used to keep the population placid and contented in a static, totalitarian society ruled by an elite consisting of ten world controllers. Huxleys novel warns of the dehumanizing potential of technology being used to arrest growth and to diminish the scope of human nature rather than enhance it.

The Second World War changed the direction of some of those currents that result in todays transhumanism. The eugenics movement, which had previously found advocates not only among racists on the extreme right but also among socialists and progressivist social democrats, was thoroughly discredited. The goal of creating a new and better world through a centrally imposed vision became taboo and pass; and the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union again underscored the dangers of such an approach. Mindful of these historical lessons, transhumanists are often deeply suspicious of collectively orchestrated change, arguing instead for the right of individuals to redesign themselves and their own descendants.

In the postwar era, optimistic futurists tended to direct their attention more toward technological progress, such as space travel, medicine, and computers. Science began to catch up with speculation. Transhumanist ideas during this period were discussed and analyzed chiefly in the literary genre of science fiction. Authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Stanislaw Lem, and later Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, and Vernor Vinge have explored various aspects of transhumanism in their writings and contributed to its proliferation.

Robert Ettinger played an important role in giving transhumanism its modern form. The publication of his book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964 led to the creation of the cryonics movement. Ettinger argued that since medical technology seems to be constantly progressing, and since chemical activity comes to a complete halt at low temperatures, it should be possible to freeze a person today and preserve the body until such a time when technology is advanced enough to repair the freezing damage and reverse the original cause of deanimation. In a later work, Man into Superman (1972), he discussed a number of conceivable improvements to the human being, continuing the tradition started by Haldane and Bernal.

Another influential early transhumanist was F. M. Esfandiary, who later changed his name to FM-2030. One of the first professors of future studies, FM taught at the New School for Social Research in New York in the 1960s and formed a school of optimistic futurists known as the UpWingers. In his book Are you a transhuman? (1989), he described what he saw as the signs of the emergence of the transhuman person, in his terminology indicating an evolutionary link towards posthumanity. (A terminological aside: an early use of the word transhuman was in the 1972-book of Ettinger, who doesnt now remember where he first encountered the term. The word transhumanism may have been coined by Julian Huxley in New Bottles for New Wine (1957); the sense in which he used it, however, was not quite the contemporary one.) Further, its use is evidenced in T.S. Elliots writing around the same time. And it is known that Dante Alighieri referred to the notion of the transhuman in historical writings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several organizations sprung up for life extension, cryonics, space colonization, science fiction, media arts, and futurism. They were often isolated from one another, and while they shared similar views and values, they did not yet amount to any unified coherent worldview. One prominent voice from a standpoint with strong transhumanist elements during this era came from Marvin Minsky, an eminent artificial intelligence researcher.

In 1986, Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation, the first book-length exposition of molecular manufacturing. (The possibility of nanotechnology had been anticipated by Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman in a now-famous after-dinner address in 1959 entitled There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom.) In this groundbreaking work, Drexler not only argued for the feasibility of assembler-based nanotechnology but also explored its consequences and began charting the strategic challenges posed by its development. Drexlers later writings supplied more technical analyses that confirmed his initial conclusions. To prepare the world for nanotechnology and work towards it safe implementation, he founded the Foresight Institute together with his then wife Christine Peterson in 1986.

Ed Regiss Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition (1990) took a humorous look at transhumanisms hubristic scientists and philosophers. Another couple of influential books were roboticist Hans Moravecs seminal Mind Children (1988) about the future development of machine intelligence, and more recently Ray Kurzweils bestselling Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), which presented ideas similar to Moravecs. Frank Tiplers Physics of Immortality (1994), inspired by the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian who saw an evolutionary telos in the development of an encompassing noosphere, a global consciousness) argued that advanced civilizations might come to have a shaping influence on the future evolution of the cosmos, although some were put off by Tiplers attempt to blend science with religion. Many science advocates, such as Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and Douglas Hofstadter, have also helped pave the way for public understanding of transhumanist ideas.

In 1988, the first issue of the Extropy Magazine was published by Max More and Tom Morrow, and in 1992 they founded the Extropy Institute (the term extropy being coined as an informal opposite of entropy). The magazine and the institute served as catalysts, bringing together disparate groups of people with futuristic ideas. More wrote the first definition of transhumanism in its modern sense, and created his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, which emphasized individualism, dynamic optimism, and the market mechanism in addition to technology. The transhumanist arts genre became more self-aware through the works of the artist Natasha Vita-More. During this time, an intense exploration of ideas also took place on various Internet mailing lists. Influential early contributors included Anders Sandberg (then a neuroscience doctoral student) and Robin Hanson (an economist and polymath) among many others.

The World Transhumanist Association was founded in 1998 by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce to act as a coordinating international nonprofit organization for all transhumanist-related groups and interests, across the political spectrum. The WTA focused on supporting transhumanism as a serious academic discipline and on promoting public awareness of transhumanist thinking. The WTA began publishing the Journal of Evolution and Technology, the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal for transhumanist studies in 1999 (which is also the year when the first version of this FAQ was published). In 2001, the WTA adopted its current constitution and is now governed by an executive board that is democratically elected by its full membership. James Hughes especially (a former WTA Secretary) among others helped lift the WTA to its current more mature stage, and a strong team of volunteers has been building up the organization to what it is today.

Humanity+ developed after to rebrand transhumanism informing Humanity+ as a cooperative organization, seeking to pull together the leaders of transhumanism: from the early 1990s: Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Anders Sandberg; the late 1990s: Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, James Hughes; the 2000s: James Clement, Ben Goertzel, Giulio Prisco and many others. In short, it is based on the early work of Extropy Institute and WTA.

In the past couple of years, the transhumanist movement has been growing fast and furiously. Local groups are mushrooming in all parts of the world. Awareness of transhumanist ideas is spreading. Transhumanism is undergoing the transition from being the preoccupation of a fringe group of intellectual pioneers to becoming a mainstream approach to understanding the prospects for technological transformation of the human condition. That technological advances will help us overcome many of our current human limitations is no longer an insight confined to a few handfuls of techno-savvy visionaries. Yet understanding the consequences of these anticipated possibilities and the ethical choices we will face is a momentous challenge that humanity will be grappling with over the coming decades. The transhumanist tradition has produced a (still evolving) body of thinking to illuminate these complex issues that is unparalleled in its scope and depth of foresight.

The rest is here:

What is Transhumanism?


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