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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. 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.[1] 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. [2]

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.[3]

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.”[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

Following Haraway, Hayles, whose work grounds much of the critical posthuman discourse, asserts that liberal humanism – which separates the mind from the body and thus portrays the body as a “shell” or vehicle for the mind – becomes 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.[7]

The idea of post-posthumanism (post-cyborgism) has recently been introduced.[8][9][10][11][12] 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.”[13][14] and the associated post-cyborg ethics (e.g. the ethics of forced removal of cyborg technologies by authorities, etc.).[15]

Posthuman political and natural rights have been framed on a spectrum with animal rights and human rights.[16]

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.”[17]

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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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 and authors of the Orion’s Arm Universe,[20] 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.[17] 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.[21]

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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?

Hall Center for the Humanities events to explore the posthuman condition – KU Today

LAWRENCE The Hall Center for the Humanities Fall Faculty Colloquium is designed to enliven the intellectual atmosphere of the University of Kansas and contribute to the interdisciplinary training of faculty. This fall, four KU faculty members and four graduate students will convene under the leadership of directors Allan Hanson, professor emeritus of anthropology, and John Symons, professor of philosophy, to explore the topic of The Posthuman?

The faculty participants in the colloquium are Jennifer Foster, lecturer inSpanish & Portuguese; James Gunn, professor emeritus of English; Christopher Ramey, assistant professor of psychology, and Paul Scott, associate professor of French. The graduate student participants are Ramon Alvarado, philosophy; Anthony Boynton, English; Aaron Long, English, and Christina Lord, French & Italian.

The group will explore the question of whether we are morphing into something beyond the human. Today’s bewildering onslaught of technology supplements and often replaces what were once defining features of humanity. Or is the whole idea of the posthuman misguided? Artificial intelligence may be fundamentally different from human intelligence, a supplement rather than a competitor. All current technological developments may signal nothing other than an unfolding actualization of what it is to be human.In a word, this colloquium raises the question of whether a posthuman condition exists. If not, why not? If so, what is it (or will it be) like?

The colloquium directors determine the theme, provide intellectual leadership and guidance, act as coordinators and facilitate feedback to participants on their presentations. The participants each present a paper and contribute to the discussion. Past colloquia have covered topics on global citizenship, colonizing knowledge, imagining the modern and future city, and consciousness.

Although the colloquium participants will guide the readings and responses, faculty and staff interested in the topic are invited to attend meetings. Starting Aug. 25, the Posthuman colloquium will meet at 10 a.m. most Fridays in the Hall Center Seminar Room. A detailed schedule of each meeting is available on the Hall Center website calendar and in the weekly e-bulletins.

In addition to the regular meetings, the colloquium will host guest speaker Katherine Hayles, James B. Duke Professor of Literature at Duke University. She teaches and writes on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. She will present a public lecture at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 in the Adams Alumni Center. Her talk is titled A New Mode of Orientation: Planetary Cognitive Ecologies. The next day, Nov. 14, she will meet with a special session of the colloquium.

For more information about the Fall Faculty Colloquium, please contact the Hall Center at hallcenter@ku.edu or call (785) 864-4798.

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Hall Center for the Humanities events to explore the posthuman condition – KU Today

9th Beyond Humanism Conference Wrap Up – Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Here you find a video summary of the 9th Beyond Humanism Conference which took place at John Cabot University in Rome (http://www.johncabot.edu/) in July 2017 and during which the launch of the Journal of Posthuman Studies was celebrated: http://beyondhumanism.org/blog/2017/08/05/video-9th-beyond-humanism-conference-rome-2017/

The newly launched Journal of Posthuman Studies is being edited by IEET Fellow Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, and the Executive Director of the IEET James Hughes. Please consider submitting your most treasured reflections to this ground breaking journal: http://www.psupress.org/Journals/jnls_JPHS.html Here you find the contents of issues 1: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/jpoststud.1.1.issue-1

The launch address of the journal was given by IEET Fellow Martine Rothblatt. Further IEET Fellows, Affiliated Scholars and Advisory Board members participated in the event, e.g. Riccardo Campa, Marc Roux, Didier Coeurnelle. Other leading scholars participated, too, e.g. Anders Sandberg, Mark Coeckelbergh, Sangkyu Shin, Thomas DeFrantz, Francesca Ferrando.

The world-famous contemporary composer Sven Helbig gave the keynote address and played a concert, and the ground-braking Spanish media artist Jaime del Val gave a performance. All contributions dealt with and analysed what it is to be human in an age of rapid technological, scientific, cultural and social evolution. The closing address of the conference was given by the Chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Bibop G. Gresta. It was an inspiring meeting of entrepreneurs, thinkers, artists, visionaries and intellectuals. Here you find the entire conference programme: https://lineupr.com/posthuman/posthuman-conference

The 10th Beyond Humanism Conference will take place from the 18th until the 21st of July 2018 in Wroclaw, Poland (Faculty of Social Sciences and Journalism, University of Lower Silesia). Next years topic will be Cultures of the Posthuman. Here you can download the brochure with a detailed CFPs and some additional information: http://paas.org.pl/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/bhc10-cfp.pdf Additional information will be made available here: http://beyondhumanism.org/

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9th Beyond Humanism Conference Wrap Up – Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Posthuman age – DAWN.com

The writer is a journalist.

WHAT if you could edit your genetic code as easily as you can edit a sentence you write on Microsoft Word would you do it? And if so, how far would you go? In the near future, that will not be a hypothetical question as the first major step towards successful gene editing has already taken place.

Scientists in the US have now revealed that they have for the first time edited out a dangerous genetic mutation that causes heart disease from a human embryo using a revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR. Last year, China became the first country to use this technique to attempt to cure lung cancer in a human; previously CRISPR has been used to develop TB-resistant cows.

Due to US regulations, which strictly bar allowing edited embryos to develop into babies, none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days. However, the test has paved the way for a future in which we may not only see genetic disease eliminated, but also the ethically questionable creation of designer babies and, eventually, superhumans.

Wonders and terrors are promised in equal measure.

Welcome to the posthuman age that promises wonders and terrors in equal measure. Take cyborgs. It now seems inevitable that some kind of integration of man and machine will increasingly be the norm; in many ways its already happening. Pacemakers have been used for decades, as have cochlear implants.

Britains National Health Service has also okayed the implantations of the Argus II bionic eye which can restore sight in some cases of blindness, and more recently people with severe spinal injuries resulting in paralysis have been able to regain the partial use of their limbs thanks to computer chips implanted in their brains.

In another experiment, a man paralysed from the waist down was able to control a robotic arm thanks to electrodes implanted in the brain, and actually feel what the robotic arms was grasping. Taken further, brain implants aimed at repairing or enhancing memory can also help patients suffering from Alzheimers and work in this field is advancing at a rapid clip.

There are more mundane applications as well, of course, and identification chips are already in use: Verichip is one example, and is being implanted into Alzheimers patients and contains information about their identity and medical condition, meant to be accessed by doctors or in case the patient gets lost.

Naturally, corporations are getting into the game as well, and one company in Wisconsin has implanted rice-sized microchips in its employees hands which perform the functions of office entry cards and computer logins. Employees can also receive payments via the chip. While this would certainly ease many routine office activities, the question does arise as to how much data the company may potentially be able to extract and how secure those chips would be to outside interference.

However, once Elon Musks Neuralink project is complete, such chips will seem mundane: Musk intends to inject a mesh into our brains allowing humans to directly interact with, and even control, machines and eventually even communicate mind to mind. If thats not enough, note that steps are also being taken to create a human hive mind by linking the brains of individuals to create a superbrain with enhanced cognitive abilities.

Scientists have already successfully linked the brains of three monkeys, and in a separate experiment, joined the brains of four rats, allowing them to solve a problem that individual rats struggled to complete. Human trials are only then a matter of time, and will eventually define the meaning of brain trust.

Meanwhile, one field worth keeping a close eye on is nanotechnology the engineering of materials and devices on a molecular scale. Technologists anticipate a future in which swarms of tiny robots will be injected into human beings, working to fight diseases like cancer, actively repairing cells and clearing clogged arteries and even enhancing human abilities by providing us with enhanced lifespans, vision and strength, even allowing us to survive in otherwise inhospitable environments.

Just last month, another major threshold was crossed as scientists came a step closer to being able to grow replacement organs for humans by using stem cells implanted in host animals, and now there is research being conducted on enabling humans to re-grow limbs and organs in the way that some reptiles are capable of doing.

Ultimately, how much of this research makes it to the public at large depends less on scientific advancement as it does on ethically driven regulations and laws, which will likely fall by the wayside as nations race to achieve leadership in the biomedical field. What is certain now is that we are entering an era where we will be able to, at least partially, dictate the course of our own evolution.

The writer is a journalist.

Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2017

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Posthuman age – DAWN.com

July 31, 2017 – Nam June Paik Art Center – Our Bright Future-Cybernetic Fantasy – E-Flux

Our Bright Future-Cybernetic Fantasy July 19November 5, 2017

Technology/Media Workshop: : Every Saturdays in August, 2pm, diana band, Insook Bae, Protoroom, Unmake Lab Artist talk: July 22, 15pm, Taeyeun Kim, pela Petri; in conjunction with the 2017 International Symposium Coevolution: Cybernetics to Posthuman

Nam June Paik Art Center 10 Paiknamjune-ro, Giheung-gu Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do 17068 Korea Hours: TuesdaySunday 10am6pm

press@njpartcenter.kr

njpac-en.ggcf.kr Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Artists: Taeyeun Kim, Jinah Roh, diana band, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, Insook Bae, Nam June Paik, Jongjun Son, pela Petri, Yang Zhenzhong, Unknown Fields, Unmake Lab, Zach Blas & Jemima Wyman, PROTOROOM, Joosun Hwang

Curated by Jeonghwa Goo, Sooyoung Lee (Nam June Paik Art Center) Co-Curated by Unmake Lab Hosted and Organized by Nam June Paik Art Center, Gyeonggi Foundation Cooperation Changseng Gonggan Supported by Perrier, Snapple

The Nam June Paik Art Center presents a special exhibition Our Bright Future-Cybernetic Fantasy from July 20 to November 5, 2017. This exhibition explores modern technology and art from the perspective of the “Cybernetics”of Nam June Paik who not only gave relationship between the technological environment and the human being but also presented a futuristic vision to it. Under the themes of robots, combination, post-human, the 15 participating teams warn against the end of the geological era which has been led by humans and requires the birth of the new human. The participating artist Taeyeun Kim and pela Petri will give an artist talk on July 22 in conjunction with 2017 International Symposium of Nam June Paik Art Center, and four participating teams (diana band, Insook Bae, PROTOROOM, Unmake Lab) will lead a Technology/Media Workshop on every Saturdays in August. Also the celebration for the 1st floor renewal opening will be on July 20, accompanied by special performances by SUDDEN THEATER, Hyunjoon Chang and Kim Oki / Park Jiha / John Bell / Rmi Klemensiewicz.

Cybernetics,a scientific study established by Norbert Wiener, was widely accepted in the field of scientific technology around the 1940s. The theory which aimed to equally control both living organisms and machines has dominated the trends of technological development, that is, the “Humanization of the Machine”and the “Mechanization of the Human.”The belief that technological development will open a new world to the human race is paralleled with the fear that the very technology will take not only jobs but also the human identity from us. Although we are on the brink of the advent of the strongest Artificial Intelligence, we are living on the earth which is devastated more than ever. So, is there a future for us? Are the two options of sustainability and apocalypse the only frame of our future?Or, is there another option available to us were missing?

The exhibition is composed of Robot, Interface, and Posthuman. Each of themes is intended to create various questions. The Robotsection features Nam June Paiks Robot/People and Robot K-567, Yang Zhenzhongs Disguise, Jinah Rohs An Evolving GAIA, Jongjun Sons Defensive Measure, and Zach Blas & Jemima Wymans im here to learn so :)))))). They not only successfully catch the conflict and oscillation caused by the coexistence between men and machines, but also accuse the man-machine cooperation system of being cracked. The Interfacesection goes deeper into the crack of the man-machine cooperation system to try to make a new seam. PROTOROOMs Feedback of MetaPixels-Language for Digital Atoms, Unmake Labs Rumor in the City and the City, and Joosun Hwangs Mind!=Mind take down the black box of machines which isolate humans, and relocate the position of humans in the midst of machines. Besides, recent works such as Insook Baes The Sum and diana bands Phone in Hand: Choir Practice are also presented, suggesting the solidarity of humans through machines. The Posthumansection shows that the time has come when the boundary between the human and the non-human, having been destroyed by cybernetics, must be re-established in a network of horizontal relationships. Taeyeun Kims Island of A-life cultivates the artists DNA injected into a plant; pela Petris Miserable Machine converts mussels muscle contraction to the human labor system; Unknown Fields Rare Earthenware shows the process of collecting the raw material used for smart technologies, telling us that humans have been the geological power who has power over all creatures on the earth.

In his Cybernated Art in Manifestos (1965), Nam June Paik wrote that some specific frustrations caused by cybernated life, require only through accordingly cybernated shock and catharsis. So his argument is that the healing of the suffering in this cybernated life, or smart life of today, is possible only through smart technologies. The truly smart life is not the objectification of each other in which robots replace humans or in which humans control robots, but connecting deeply inside the technological environment and thereby making new interfaces between the human and nonhuman. The participating artists in the exhibition Our Bright Future- Cybernetic Fantasy encourage the birth of a new human by making cracks in the cybernated system and actively inquiring about our technological environment. In this way, the participating artists warn against the end of the geological era which has been led by humans, and requires the birth of the new human, by creating a new relationship between the human and the nonhuman.

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July 31, 2017 – Nam June Paik Art Center – Our Bright Future-Cybernetic Fantasy – E-Flux

Inevitably Posthuman? – The Weekly Standard

There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of futurology, the utopian and the apocalyptic. In Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari, like the Book of Revelation, offers a bit of both. And why not? The function of imaginary futures is to deliver us from banality. The present, like the past, may be a disappointing muddle, but the future had better be very good or very bad, or it wont sell.

Harari, an Oxford-educated Israeli historian who teaches in Jerusalem, is the author of Sapiens (2015), a provocative, panoramic view of human evolution and history upward from apedom. It became an international bestseller, recommended by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama. Hararis style is breezy and accessible, sprinkled with allusions to pop culture and everyday life, but his perspective is coolly detached and almost Machiavellian in its unflinching realism about power, the role of elites, and the absence of justice in history. He is an unapologetic oracle of Darwin and data. And he is clearly a religious skeptic, but he practices a form of Buddhist meditation, and among the best things in his new book, like his previous one, are his observations on the varieties of religious experience.

Harari begins by assuring us that humanity is on a winning streak. Famine and plague, two historical scourges, are disappearing, and a third, war, is no longer routine statecraft. For the first time in history, more people die of eating too much than eating too little. More people succumb to ailments related to old age than to infectious diseases. Victims of all kinds of violence are, as percentages of the population, at historical lows in most places. The next stop, presumably, is Utopia.

But if its the best of times, its also the worst of timesat least for other species. In the present era, which Harari follows other writers in calling the Anthropocene epoch, a dominant, overbreeding humanity is playing the role of the dinosaur-dooming asteroid 65 million years ago. Were transforming the planet. Many species of larger wild animals are reaching the vanishing point, while the now far more numerous domesticated animals raised for food have been bred into miserable, bloated, immobilized travesties of their wild ancestors. We live in an age of mass extinctions. The question Harari raises is whether we are going to be the next victims of our own success.

In a few decades, we might have a new caste society that, in Hararis account, looks something like the Egypt of the pharaohs. Most of humanity, made redundant by artificial intelligence and robots, will be ushered into subservience or virtual-reality obliviousness. But there will be a rich elite whose technical mastery will bring them something approaching omniscience. They will periodically arrange complete biochemical makeovers, giving themselves perpetual youth, and they will have assorted injections and brain prosthetics to bestow unflagging confidence and intelligence and bliss. They will be beings apart, experiencing mental states unknown to all previous merely human beings. It will make them, in effect, a new species, Homo deusjust as the cognitive revolution 70,000 years ago gave rise to our own human species, Homo sapiens, with unheard-of powers of abstraction and imagination, thereby turning an insignificant African ape into the ruler of the world.

On the other hand, this god-incubating project might just be a mad-scientist experiment that blows up in our genetically enhanced faces. Harari concedes that revamping the human mind is an extremely complex and dangerous undertaking since we dont really understand the mind. He would seem to agree with critics who think that any such transhumanist or posthumanist enterprise should proceed with caution and be carefully considered and debated in advance. His book is only meant, he says, to enable us to think in far more imaginative ways about the future, and it is a historical prediction, not a political manifesto. But he isnt optimistic about halting the project of redesigning humanity and merging it with machines, even if it turns out to be a big mistake. After all, history is full of big mistakes. Given our past record and our current values, we are likely to reach out for bliss, divinity and immortalityeven if it kills us.

As for the other, more conventionally apocalyptic ways of killing us, Hararis book is remarkable for tiptoeing past the usual suspects, like climate catastrophe and nuclear war. He does bring up something he calls the logic bombembedded malicious software that could be activated during a geopolitical crisis, producing power blackouts, plane and train crashes, and the obliteration of financial records (in other words, all the money you thought you had squirreled away in a safe place).

Harari has nothing to say about how todays technology seems to be aiding and abetting our descent into an increasingly crude, inarticulate, and barbaric societyonline bullying and abuse, livestreamed suicides and rapes and murders, terrorist recruitment and incitement, and so onand thus fails to project those trends into the future. In fact, he downplays terrorism as a desperate measure adopted by historys losers.

So much for the good news. Harari describes several other current technological fads and intellectual trends that might remake the world. The Quantified Self movement involves monitoring and measuring human activities; for many people, using a Fitbit can bring about improvements in physical health. But what Harari describes is more like an obsession or an ideology, reducing the self to nothing but mathematical patterns. Then there is Dataism, which he rightly calls a current scientific dogma. It holds that all life is basically just hardware and software: Organisms are algorithms and giraffes, tomatoes and human beings are just different methods for processing data. Harari seems to suggest that if these ideas prevail, humanity may drown in a biblical-caliber flood of numbers, with no ark of autonomy in sight.

In 1888, Edward Bellamy, an American socialist, published his immensely popular novel Looking Backward, which envisioned a happy future in the year 2000: We would have no wars, no banks, no money to put in them, no poverty, no wealth, no prisons, no politicians to put in them, no advertisements, no professional sports, no bad manners, and (now comes the good part) no lawyersjust a rather genteel Industrial Army receiving equal rations of modest middle-class amenities. No mention of computers and the Internet, nor even radios, but there would be telephone connections in every home to a symphony orchestra playing live music.

In the quarter-century after Bellamy, more than 200 futurist tracts and novels appeared in English, almost all optimistic, though a few grim futures began raining on the utopian paradethe first drops of the later dystopian deluge that included Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Some were memorable; all were wrong.

Except for a few remarks about Marxist mistakes, Harari doesnt deal with the picturesque ruins of the bright futures of the past. And he confesses, reassuringly, that he does not know what the future will be like. Nobody does. He is, he claims, only sketching a few indistinct possibilities and not endorsing any of them. But like Bellamy and other past futurologists, he is extrapolating current technological and social tendencies and cutting and pasting them onto the blank slate of the future, and his chances of being right are not any greater than theirs were. What makes his book readablehis sweeping, high-altitude style of analysisalso makes it somewhat facile.

Harari does acknowledge a few cracks in his own tentative utopian faade. Weve managed to achieve unprecedented levels of prosperity, comfort, safety, and choice, but these things do not always translate into true happiness or full human flourishing. Indeed, we find ourselves living distracted, disconnected lives. We have more choice than ever before, Harari writes, but we have lost the ability to really pay attention to whatever we choose. Rates of depression, drug use, and suicide are, Harari notes, higher in some affluent, high-tech societies than in some indigent but tradition-rich places.

Modernity, he says, came to us as a deal in which humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power. Until recently, most cultures believed that humans play a part in some great cosmic plan that gave meaning and purpose to their lives but also limited their power, since ultimate power always resided with the gods or the natural order. Human hubris of the Tower of Babel or Greek tragedy varieties earned quick retribution. But modern humanity has developed powers of its own that match the awe-inspiring powers once attributed to the godsmiracle-working medicines, instant global communication, nuclear bombs, and so forth. Power, however, tends not only to corrupt, it makes the absence of meaning more glaring. On the practical level, Harari writes, modern life consists of a constant pursuit of power within a universe devoid of meaning.

Its not that modernity completely gave up on meaning. It just withdrew it from the cosmos and reinvested it in humanity, creating humanism, which is, Harari says, the real religion of the modern world. Liberal humanism, allied with democracy and consumerist capitalism, has prevailed over its totalitarian rivals by anchoring meaning to the autonomous individual self. Since Rousseau, weve been looking inward and consulting our feelings to find meaning and purpose in life. Life thus becomes, as far as possible, a series of freely chosen, emotionally gratifying, significant experiences; whole industries, like the travel industry, have sprung up to provide them.

Trying to build a humanist church on the shifting sands of feeling has had some unintended consequencesa sentimental, subjective morality; politics in a feel-good or touchy, outrage-driven key; and a self-absorbed therapeutic culture in which everyone is healing and no one is well. Harari gives almost no attention to these. But he demonstrates throughout the book that history has always been a record of unintended consequences, and he offers no reasons for thinking that will change.

The one thing we can be reasonably sure of about the future is that the best-laid plans of mice and men and computerized societies will, as is the custom, go awry. Amid his Homo deus conjectures, Harari remarks that by achieving immunity to disease and aging, the new technocratic elite will be potentially immortal, but they would still be vulnerable to death by accident (or assassination, I would add). In other words, the supergeeks of tomorrow may have godlike aspirations, but they will be extremely nervous little gods. They may never get out of the house.

In Dostoyevskys Notes from Underground, his ranting antihero predicts that people will sabotage the precisely calculated, number-ruled technological utopias of the future by doing self-destructive things and committing random acts of violence just to assert their freedom. You might argue that this is already happening.

Maybe computers will take over the world. But, as Harari admits, scientists have so far failed to come up with an explanation for human consciousness and subjectivity, let alone replicate them in computers. Computers lack not only consciousness but the self-doubt, inner ambivalence and conflict, and sheer self-loathing that are its faithful companions and the source of all our trouble and creativity. Harari says that they may not need consciousness, doubt, and creativity to replace us. But I suppose if they begin saying, like St. Paul, I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate, or, like Montaigne, what we believe we do not believe, and we cannot disengage ourselves from what we condemn, we should start to worry.

Subverting the prospective techno-apotheosis Harari describes may not require drastic Dostoyevskian measuresmaybe just imagination, which, for Harari, echoing a famous remark by Napoleon, is what rules human life. Lives of artificial bliss handed to us on a platter of biochemical and neuroelectronic manipulation may well turn out to be stifling, unchallenging lives, and the human imagination, if it is not stunted and stupefied by virtual reality and other illusions, is likely to find unpredictable ways to subvert them. We will have found out that gods are never happy.

Lawrence Klepp is a writer in New York.

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Inevitably Posthuman? – The Weekly Standard

Pulitzer Prize Winner Jorie Graham’s Collection of Poetry, ‘Fast’, Will Haunt You, Beautifully – PopMatters

Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard poet Jorie Graham opens her new collection, Fast with an epigraph by Robert Browning: Then the good minute goes./ Already how am I so far/ Out of that minute? The quotation is fitting: Fast concerns itself with many things but most prominent among them is the fleeting nature of our existence in time and the manner in which that good minute continually slips our grasp and recedes into an inaccessible but vaunted past. Quite in opposition to Goethes Faust, we do not find ourselves bereft of moments we would bid Stay! but rather discover that we are immersed in them. And as they withdraw farther from us, we feel their absence all the more acutely. We are haunted by the ghosts of experiences we barely registered while they were occurring and haunted even more by those we always recognized were important.

In Fast Graham explores and articulates experiences that are both harrowingly personal (the deaths of her parents, her cancer treatments) and ostensibly impersonal (deep sea trawling, interacting with conversation bots, the vicissitudes of plankton and algae blooms). The sleight of hand that she manages in the best of these poems is to suggest that what appears to be impersonal and simply the state of our seemingly posthuman existence surges through the landscape of our emotional lives while those moments that we so desperately need to be utterly personal, to be ours alone, have within them an uncanny objectivity and recede so rapidly from the present that we fail, despite our desperation, to maintain their affective presence.

Even the orthography employed in these poems involves a thinking through and confrontation with time. Graham employs a striking mark throughout the collection: the Times New Roman arrow. This is essentially an em-dash with an arrow head to the right, thus pointing to the following word or phrase. Now, of course, in most English-language writing (except perhaps in the most concrete of concrete poetry) we move from left to right. The em-dash by itself (and the em-dash is still used in these poems, as well) does not thwart or inhibit forward motion exactly but it does imply a sense of equipoise, a sense that the preceding and the following are on somewhat equal footing (even if one progresses toward the other). Indeed, a very typical use of the em-dash is to denote appositionthe grammatically parallel, side-by-side balance of two or more clauses. Another typical usage is to designate the clause within the em-dashes as subordinate to the surrounding clausesthat is, the clause set out by the em-dashes is understood as a parenthetical remark or exempli gratia.

The arrow negates any such sense of apposition or subordination. The arrow demands forward motion; it does not merely assume it or take it for granted. The arrow impels the reader forward. In these passages, one feels swept up in the onrush of the poetic undercurrent, rushed out into the depths of a tumultuous thought, an image that crests and crashes down upon the reader inexorably, ineluctably. And yet, part of me as a reader resists this onrush of motion. In its efforts to push me forward, the arrows sometimes inspire my readerly resistance to pull back, to question the relentless impulsion of time, to endeavor (as these poems often seem to endeavor) to hold on to the fleeting moment, to cry out in Faustian despair, Stay, though art so beautiful!

The pastness of our lives inflects our present, which stands both as an accumulation of past experience and a negation (a registered loss) of that experience. In We, Graham suggests: we are way/ past/ intimation friendthe pastness ofyou can only think about itit wont/ be there for youyou can talk about itthey are gone who came before. The past is something we discuss and think about but can no longer hold in our grip. Our intimate moments are always in the past and thus we are sorrowfully, longingly past them.

Bound up with our being in time is our being involved with a body: being a body, losing our bodily presence in death, the proximity and distance of bodies in relation, networks of bodies in families and forests, the seeming dematerialization of the body in our interactions on the internet, the occlusive nature of the ailing body as it blocks our (what our without the body?) progress in life. Our bodies experience the ravages of time, are dependent upon time for their meaning, and register times passage by displaying its inscriptions as carved into our wrinkles, our frailties, our inevitable decline.

Perhaps my favorite device that Graham employs with respect to the body is her particular care with the preposition in and verbs such as to enter. The body in these poems wants to be inside, with loved ones, connected to a community (whether the nuclear family, a sea of algae, decaying flora, or the subterranean matrix of roots and fungi that sustains the life of a forest amidst individual death). And yet the body continually breaks down, betrays and is betrayed, fails (even at the height of its power, which is all too rare in these poems of extremity and sorrow). The body loses itself in the midst of its yearning to return; it continually slips toward the outside, away from the circumference of companionate comfort, away from the bittersweet familiarity of home.

Graham divides her book into four large sections; each section is rather loosely organized around a theme: 1. an examination lifes enmeshment with death writ largethe manner in which death serves to nurture new life, the possibility of global death, our lifelike interactions with nonliving things such as bots on the internet; 2. ruminations on the death of the poets fatherthe loving interaction of the still-living with the recently dead; 3. thoughts on the human bodythe sick body, the underappreciated body, the body engaged with the machine; and 4. another foray into the deaths of loved onesthe father again but now also the mother.

Despite this overall division, however, the poems are not laid out in a schematic fashion. The various themes interpenetrate, and each poem, at times bordering on free association, encompasses a plethora of referents and allusions, unforeseen connections, and abrupt shifts in register and voice. But throughout, the collection is pervaded by images of time as it relates to and conditions life, death, and the body.

The brief opening poem, Ashes, provides a fine example of the vertiginous manner in which Graham spins out her ideas and images and indeed presents in a brilliantly telescoped manner the concerns and devices explored in the collection as a whole. The narrating voice seeks some kind of ontological foundation, some solidity of being. She asks the plants to give me my small identity. No, the planets. Notice the swift turn from the terrestrial to the heavenly, from the biology of decay (the loam waits to make of us what it can) to the Platonic conception of the microcosms relation to the macrocosm of the celestial spheres (Grahams disenchanted postmodern Platonism reducing the planetary motions to a groove traversed where a god dies).

The dizzying alternation between the small and the large impacts the understanding of time here as well. The narrators lifetime gives way to a wish to become glass and then assonantly shifts toward the glacial; the human lifespan echoes with the prehistoric frozen mothers caress. Maturation and senescence are not merely human attributes. Our growth and death are accompanied by an untold wealth of beings that come and go, all encompassed by a system (the universe) that itself came into existence and is fading out of it. Hence the dialectic of micro/macrocosm plays out on the temporal stage; considering the vicissitudes of human birth and death leads to the realization (hardly profound and yet shattering all the same) that a universe can die.

In the midst of all of this are bodies: bodies of plants that in their fecundity transmute absorbed death into incipient life; bodies of fish and insects and birds that are victims of the life cycle; the Platonic, emergent body dragged down through shaft into being; and, most immediately, the living human body that anticipates, fears, and attempts to justify death, the body trammeled with entry and thinning but almost still here in spirit. This is the body that wastes away and experiences that decline as the meaning-granting essence of that bodys existence, that knows death but does not understand it.

These poems are not all on an equal footing. Graham is at her best in free verse pushed forth by free association. Her gift for connection is what typically prevents her sometimes (often?) banal observations from crossing the threshold into being trite. There is nothing particularly revealing about the connection between our personal death and its contribution to the moldering richness of the soil giving rise to new life. What makes this image work in a poem like Ashes is the agility with which that biological image vaunts over into the Platonic, the cosmological, the ecological, the theological, and the corporeal. Some poems, like Dementia, appear less sure-footed in their peregrinations through concepts and categories of thought.

Others, such as from The Enmeshments, clearly the weakest poem in the collection, attempt to infuse the free verse with some allusions to meter through rhyme but only manage to create a stilted rhythmic effect (But what if I only want to subtract. Its too abstract. I have no contract. Cannot enact impact/ interact) that detracts from the rigor and charm of her usual poetic design, devolving into the clumsy and the mundane.

Certain of these poems, however, will and should assimilate themselves to your consciousness, insinuate themselves into your way of thinking. Poems such as Fast, Reading to my Father, and The Post Human are replete with thoughts and images that haunt me, that shake the tendrils of my nervous system, and appear to me in unbidden moments. The Post Human, in particular is enchanting and horrifying at once. The narrative I finds herself in the room of her just-deceased father, standing next to his body, which is no longer his, no longer someones body but just a body, a bit of detritus, but beloved detritus. She is holding his hand as it stiffens with rigor mortis: The aluminum shines on your bedrail where the sun hits. It touches it./ The sun and the bedraildo they touch each other more than you and I now./ Now. Is that a place now. Do you have a now.

Time, the body, life, and deathall hold together in a beguiling, evocative tension. Sunlight, a bringer of life and vitality, shines upon the deathbed, touches it, drawing a connection between the innerving, immaterial warmth of light and the cold, steely indifference of the aluminum. The daughter holds the hand of her departed father, but, of course, he is no longer holding her hand, cannot do so. There is no one there to do so. The father has vacated the Now and no longer is while the daughter continues to reach out, to attempt to touch that which has fled into pastness. And yet, this is not an image of futility, some quixotic endeavor to overcome the unsurpassable finality of death. She manages, in some small but crucial way, to touch her father and he touches herbeyond a place, beyond a now, beyond the materiality of bodies and the irrevocable isolation of the present. The bodies that we are will always seek and somehow impossibly find a way back in.

Chadwick lives in New York City and teaches Music History and Theory at The City College of New York. He earned his doctorate in Musicology at Columbia University. He has given papers on topics ranging from 12th Century lament to Duke Ellington and early radio to the use of Wagner’s music in Bugs Bunny cartoons. He has published in scholarly journals on the music of John Cage, Richard Strauss, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He has taught courses on music history, the history of rock, and the history of jazz at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Columbia University

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Pulitzer Prize Winner Jorie Graham’s Collection of Poetry, ‘Fast’, Will Haunt You, Beautifully – PopMatters

9th Beyond Humanism Conference "Posthuman Studies …

The 9th Beyond Humanism Conference will take place at John Cabot University in Rome from the 19th of July until the 22nd of July 2017.

Posthuman Studies Humanities, Metahumanities, Posthumanities http://www.beyondhumansim.org

Organising Committee: Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (John Cabot University, Rome), Sangkyu Shin (Ewha Womans University, Seoul), Evi Sampanikou (University of the Aegean, Greece), Francesca Ferrando (NYU, New York), Jaime del Val (Reverso-Metabody, Madrid).

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9th Beyond Humanism Conference "Posthuman Studies …

An Interview With Rick Rosner on Women and the Future (Part 4) – The Good Men Project (blog)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Ethics exists beyond issues of the sexes. Issues of global concern. Ongoing problems needing comprehensive solutions such as differing ethnic, ideological, linguistic, national, and religious groups converging on common goals for viable and long-term human relations in a globalized world scarce in resources without any land-based frontiers for further expansionand exploitation, UNinternational diplomatic resolutions for common initiatives such as humanitarian initiatives through General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), United Childrens Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Develop Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Human Populations Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT), Interagency Standing Committee (IASC), and issues of UN humanitarian thematic import such as demining, early warning and disaster detection, the merger of theories of the grandest magnitude (e.g., general and special relativity) and the most minute (e.g., quantum mechanics), medical issues such as Malaria, Cancer, and new outbreaks of Ebola, nuclear wasteand fossil fuel emissions, severe practices of infibulation, clitoridectomy, or excision among the varied, creative means of female and male genital mutilation based in socio-cultural and religious practices,stabilization of human population growthprior to exceeding the planets present and future supportive capacity for humans, reduction of religious and national extremism, continuous efforts of conservation of cultural and biological diversity, energy production, distribution, and sustainability, economic sustainability, provision of basic necessities of clean water, food, and shelter,IAEAand other organizations work for reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear armaments, culture wars over certainty in ethics on no evidence (faith-based ethics)and lack of certainty in morality because of too much data while lacking a coherent framework for action (aforementioned bland multiculturalism transformed into prescription of cultural/ethical relativism), acidification of the oceans, problems of corruption, continued annexation of land, issues of international justice handled by such organs as the International Court of Justice, introduction of rapid acceleration of technological capabilities while adapting to the upheavals following in its wake, issues of drug and human trafficking, other serious problems of children and armed conflict including child soldiers, terrorist activity, education of new generations linked to new technological and informational access, smooth integration of national economies into a global economy for increased trade and prosperity, and the list appears endless and growing.

If collated, they form one question:How best to solve problems in civil society?

Main issue, all subordinate queries and comprehensive, coherent solutions require sacrifice. You might ask, Cui bono?(Who benefits?) Answer: all in sum. Problem: few feel the need to sacrifice past the superficial. Some Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram protestations to represent themselves as just people while not behaving in the real world as just people. Hashtags and celebrity speeches help in outreach and advertisement, but we need long-term, pragmatic solutions to coincide with them more. Nothing hyperbolic to disturb healthy human societies, but reasonable and relatively rapid transitions into sustainable solutions.You have stated positive trajectories by thinking about the future. You talked of some, but not all. What about these collection of problems and the growing list?

Rick Rosner: I believe the best instrument of change is information. Informed people more readily disbelieve stupid shit. Widespread ignorance and distrust of well-substantiated facts are usually signs of somebody getting away with something.

We know society is trending in an egalitarian direction. Trends towards equality are in a race with technology remaking society. For me, the question becomes, How many lives and generations will be spent in misery before social and tech trends make things better and/or weird?

The happy possible eventual situation is that tech creates a utopia in which all people get what they want. The unhappy possible eventuality is that tech debunks the importance or centrality of humanity, and humans are afterthoughts the stepchildren of the future being taken care of but not really having their concerns addressed because their level of existence isnt taken seriously by posthumans. (And of course theres the possibility that AI gets out of hand, eats everything and craps out robots. Lets try to avoid that.)

Tech will solve some huge problems. One of the biggest is the steadily growing population. People who have a shot at technical, earthly immortality (50 to 80 years from now) will reproduce less. When transferrable consciousness becomes commonplace (120 to 150 years from now), posthuman people may not reproduce at all (though traditional human enclaves will still spit out a steady stream of kids). The uncoupling of individual consciousness from the body it was born into solves a bunch of, perhaps most, current problems and anticipated problems crowding, food, pollution, global warming by allowing people to live in ways that leave less of a footprint. (Not that their choices will be made for purely ecological concerns. People will always follow their own interests, and posthuman people will choose a variety of non-fleshy containers (200 years from now) because virtual or semi-robotic containers will be cheaper, more convenient, more versatile and exciting.)

But our current problems will be largely replaced by fantastically weird problems. Virtual people will be subject to virtual attacks and virtual disease. Agglomerations of consciousness may become bad actors. People may sic nanotech swarms on each other. You can find all this stuff in good near-future science fiction. William Gibsons new novel,The Peripheral, which takes place about 20 years and 90 years from now, can serve as a good, fun intro to the future. In it, some impossible stuff happens, but its the possible stuff thats interesting and scary. There are websites devoted to the future in a very non-la-de-dah way. Look athttp://io9.com/andhttp://boingboing.net/ theyre entertaining and informative.

Link:

An Interview With Rick Rosner on Women and the Future (Part 4) – The Good Men Project (blog)

Nam June Paik Art Center – E-Flux

International Symposium Gift of Nam June Paik 9 Coevolution: Cybernetics to Posthuman Saturdays, July 8, 15, 22, 29, 2017, 15pm

Nam June Paik Art Center 10 Paiknamjune-ro, Giheung-gu Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do 17068 Korea Hours: TuesdaySunday 10am6pm

press@njpartcenter.kr

njpac-en.ggcf.kr Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Hosted and organized by Nam June Paik Art Center, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation

Nam June Paik defined cybernetics as various relationships between humans and machines, art and machines, art and technologies, humans and art and even among diverse arts (artists). He understood that it would generate varying combinations out of these relationships. Nam June Paik put his ideas about cybernetics into artistic practices: he performed Robot Opera with robots he himself had made and manipulated, expressing simply and playfully the complicated relationship between humans and machines.

Cybernetics as a discipline was first introduced by Norbert Wiener, as he attempted to explain the regulative relationship between humans and machines. When a number of scholars gathered and discussed on the theme at Macy Conference, however, cybernetics dynamically developed into a emerging epistemological concept. Nam June Paiks theoretical ideas and artistic practices correspond to (or lead ahead) the few steps of the radical development of cybernetics achieved throughout history: the first wave cybernetics, which was at the level of mechanic feedback, and the second wave cybernetics, which characterizes as reflexity and self-generation and the third wave cybernetics, at the center of which is emergence, are all relevant. These steps express a posthuman evolutional point of view on how the boundary between humans and machines is deconstructed.

Our symposium looks into a contemporary approach to the phased developmental history of “cybernetics”and at the same time analyzes Nam June Paiks works on machines and art. We expect it will develop into a dynamic and contemporary discursive space where presenters from diverse background freely discuss in small spaces. We hope that each participant exists as a subjective observer and there will be sensitive and exciting reactions within that space.

Program

July 8 12:30pm “Sudden Unintended Accelerationas a Psychosis of Machine” Youngjun Lee(Machine Critic, Professor ofKaywon Universityof Art & Design)

2:304pm “Cybernetics and Later,The History of the Integration and Simulation for Processing Human Elements in Circuits” Kyuheun Ko(Adjunct Professorof Sung Kyun Kwan University)

45pm Discussion

July 15 12:30pm “Cybernetics and Cyborg: Some Philosophical Questions” Jinkyoung Lee(Professor of Seoul National University of Science and Technology)

2:304pm “Cognitive Ecological Outline of the Strategy for Social Solidarity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” Kwanghyun Sim(Professor of School of Visual Arts,Korea National University of Art)

45pm Discussion

July 22 12:30pm “Cybernetic Lyricism: Gregory Bateson,Nam June Paik, and the Mind as Conjunctive” Seongeun Kim(DPhil, Leeum,Samsung Museum of Art)

2:304pm Artist Talk: Taeyeun Kim,pela Petri

45pm Discussion

July 29 12:30pm “Transductive Ensemble of Nature, Human, and Technical Objects: The TechnoAesthetics ofNam June Paik and Posthuman” Jaehee Kim (Professor of the Ewha Institute for the Humanities (EIH),Ewha Womans University)

2:304pm “Inside Out, Outside In: Technical Media as Exteriorizations of Cognition and the Art Installationsof Nam June Paik” N. Katherine Hayles(Professor of Literature at Duke University)

45pm Discussion

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Nam June Paik Art Center – E-Flux

Inaugural Issues of the Journal of Posthuman Studies Now Available! – Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Now, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2017 of the newly established Journal of Posthuman Studies (Penn State University Press) is available via jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/jpoststud.1.1.issue-1 It is a ground-breaking issue with amazing contributors! It is already possible to submit your work for consideration for future issues by accessing this link: http://www.psupress.org/Journals/jnls_JPHS.html The new journal is being edited by IEET Fellow Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and the Executive Director of the IEET James J. Hughes. The Editorial Board includes further members of the IEET as well as many other distinguished thinkers and artists: http://www.psupress.org/Journals/jnls_JPHS.html

The launch of this new journal as well as this new area of studies will officially be celebrated during the 9th Beyond Humanism Conference (Topic: Posthuman Studies) which will take place at John Cabot University in Rome from the 19th until the 22nd of July 2017: http://beyondhumanism.org/ The tentative conference program is already available: http://beyondhumanism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Preliminary-schedule-5.pdf It will be a massive event with more than 100 speakers and participants and many thought leaders from a great variety of traditions and disciplines!!!!

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Inaugural Issues of the Journal of Posthuman Studies Now Available! – Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Why We’re Probably Living in a Computer Simulation – Inverse

Philosopher Nick Bostrom published a rather convincing argument in 2003 that insisted that were probably living in a computer simulation. Read it and youll understand why Elon Musk says the odds that were living in base reality is one in billions.

In short the argument goes like this:

A lot of people think were on the brink of creating super-powerful computers and A.I.

If we are, then well soon have the ability to create vast simulations of reality, populated with simulated people who are conscious yet dont know they are simulated.

If we can create real-world simulations, we probably will.

Scientists might run simulations of history with different variations to see how things play out. Gamers might do the same. Wealthy people might create fantasy worlds for themselves. If its cheap enough, many people might do it. Who knows; conscious machines might do it to distract the humans whose bodies they are using to generate power. Whoever creates these simulations, its fair to assume they might create very many.

Given that one base reality (the reality that developed this technology) would lead to countless simulated realities (populated, again, with conscious beings), then odds would be that we currently live one of the simulated realities.

There are some ways around this conclusion, but they range from unnerving to unsatisfying.

On one hand, we might be overestimating the likelihood of mankind reaching that super-computer-powered posthuman state.

If we are probably not on the brink of a computing breakthrough either because the technology is unexpectedly complicated or because weve underestimated the existential risks facing mankind then the odds shift back in favor of us living in base reality. A naive, overoptimistic, and possibly doomed base reality.

Another argument against us living in a simulation is that, even if a posthuman state is likely, posthumans wont have much interest in simulating reality.

Futurist and Age of Em author Robin Hanson made this case in a recent exchange with Inverse. We are not actually very eager to simulate our past, except for the few parts of the past that have the most cultural resonance to us, Hanson wrote. Pick a person in the past, and we do almost nothing like simulating their world. Not in novels, in plays, in video games, nothing.

But, uh, count us among the people who would eagerly create simulated realities to play around with and if there are many people like us, and this technology is realistic, then yeah, were back to probably living in a video game.

So what if we do live in a simulation? It might actually be a moot point, Bostrom argues. After all, the reality we live in appears to follow predictable rules, and our way of living and understanding of the universe is built around those rules.

Properly understood, therefore, the truth should have no tendency to make us go crazy or to prevent us from going about our business and making plans and predictions for tomorrow, Bostrom writes.

Dont Miss: Experts Predict When A.I. Will Beat Humans in Everything

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Why We’re Probably Living in a Computer Simulation – Inverse

Our Posthuman Future – Wikipedia

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution is a 2002 book by Francis Fukuyama. In it, he discusses the potential threat to liberal democracy that use of new and emerging biotechnologies for transhumanist ends poses.

From the back cover of the paperback edition:

A decade after his now-famous pronouncement of “the end of history”, Francis Fukuyama argues that as a result of biomedical advances, we are facing the possibility of a future in which our humanity itself will be altered beyond recognition. Fukuyama sketches a brief history of man’s changing understanding of human nature: from Plato and Aristotle’s belief that humans had “natural ends” to the ideals of utopians and dictators of the modern age who sought to remake mankind for ideological ends. Fukuyama argues that the ability to manipulate the DNA of all of one person’s descendants will have profound, and potentially terrible, consequences for our political order, even if undertaken with the best of intentions.

Publication history

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Our Posthuman Future – Wikipedia

Milano Arch Week – E-Flux

Milano Arch Week The week dedicated to architecture June 1218, 2017

Triennale di Milano Viale Alemagna, 6 20121 Milan Italy

http://www.milanoarchweek.eu Facebook

Click here to download the full program

Milano Arch Week, sevendays in which Milano will host events dedicated to the future of architecture and of cities, with Stefano Boeri as curator and promoted by the City of Milan, the Politecnico di Milano and the Triennale.

The events start on Monday,June 12 with a pre-opening party at Fondazione Catella. From that moment on the Milano Arch Week will be hosted at the Patio of the Architecture School of the Politecnico di Milano on Tuesday, June13with the attendance of Chancellor Ferruccio Resta and the Triennales Vicepresident Clarice Pecori Girardiand from Wednesday, June14to Saturday, June 17will occupy both the garden and the internal spaces of the Triennale di Milano located in viale Alemagna.

Milano Arch Week will be characterized by the participation of many leading actors in the international architectural scene, such as the Catalan RCR, Pritzker Award winners of 2017, and the North American Master Peter Eisenman. The list of attendees continues with Elizabeth Diller, designer of the renowned New York City High Line and Francis Kr, the Burkina Faso architect designer of the future Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London. The events will host also many other well-known international architects like Winy Maas (MVRDV), Giancarlo Mazzanti, Philippe Rahm, Sam Jacob, Martin Videgrd, Petra Blaisse (designer of Milans new Porta Nuova Park), and the Chinese urbanist Lee Xianing.

Many worldwide known Italian architects will be involved in the initiative as well: Alessandro Mendini, Cino Zucchi, Michele De Lucchi, Benedetta Tagliabue, Italo Rota, Carlo Ratti, Patricia Urquiola, Mario Bellini, as well as Archea, TAM associati, AouMM, Baukuh, Piuarch, 5+1 aa, OBR, Metrogramma, Startt, LAN, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli from OMA and many more.

A section of Milano Arch Week is dedicated to emerging Italian architecture groups, including Parasite 2.0, Raumplan, Small, Fosbury Architecture and Waiting Posthuman Studio, that will take place inside the Triennale garden.

The week will be characterized also by times of reflection dedicated to great Masters of Italian architecture and culture, such as Aldo Rossi (commemorating 20 years from his passing with a reading session of Giovanni Testori texts) and Ettore Sottsass (as an anticipation to the planned autumn exhibition at the Triennale). An exhibition will be dedicated to the Florentine architect Vittorio Giorgini, precursor of zoomorphic architecture, curated by Emilia Giorgi, will be exhibited at the Quadreria.

On Friday, June 16, at 6:30pm, the Triennales Salone dOnore will house a great party, a tribute to Gillo Dorfles, 107 years old, and attended by Milanos mayor Giuseppe Sala.

Milano Arch Week will then end on Sunday morning with a preview visit to the new swimming pools building within the bounds of Franco Parentis Theatre. Many additional events related to architecture will be held in other city locations for the entire week, such as walks, VespArch scooter excursions, guided visits to Milans architecture by architects, open studios, and more.

Particular attention will be given to the relationship between architecture and other arts, such as cinema, through the contributions of Amos Gitai, Paolo Vari and Davide Rapp with Giorgio Zangrandi; ohotography, with the participation of Oliviero Toscani, Paolo Rosselli and Antonio Ottomanelli; art, through the involvement of artists such as Adrian Paci; and theatre, with a special event dedicated to Luca Ronconi, at Teatro dellArte, directed by Margherita Palli and Giovanni Agosti, and an unique show schedule directed by Umberto Angelini.

Many themes will be discussed and examined during Milano Arch Week, such as the periphery of contemporary cities, social differences, urban transformations and the great challenge of the Central Italian reconstruction (attended by, among others, Commissioner Vasco Errani). Other themes that will be analyzed and include international conflicts (through the participation of the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman) and the relationship between Architecture and Geopolitics in the development of African cities.

In the evenings the Triennales garden will light up and house reflective moments interlaced with shows and entertainment.

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Milano Arch Week – E-Flux

The Posthuman Project (2014) – IMDb

Edit Storyline

Denny Burke is finally about to graduate high school. Senior year has been one bad thing after another: a broken leg, a broken heart, and – worst of all – a broken home. With four of his closest friends, Denny goes on one last rock-climbing trip to prove he’s ready to start his adult life… On their trip the five teens receive a genetic boost beyond anything they’d ever imagined. Denny’s soon faced with the first big decision of his adult life: does he give up these powers and stay a normal teenager, or does he keep them… and graduate from the human race? Written by Anonymous

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The Posthuman Project (2014) – IMDb

CFP for Beyond Humanism Conference – Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Via the following link you can access the CFPs of the 9th Beyond Humanism Conference which will take place from the 19th until the 22nd of July 2017 at John Cabot University in Rome. It is a meeting of scholars from all parts of the world who are interested in and excited about dealing with the challenges related to emerging technologies. This years event will be dedicated to the topic Posthuman Studies. During the conference, the newly established Journal of Posthuman Studies will be launched. It is being edited by IEET Fellow Stefan Lorenz Sorgner and the director of IEET James Hughes: http://beyondhumanism.org/

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CFP for Beyond Humanism Conference – Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Why We Are Not In A Computer Simulation Run By Posthumans – NPR – NPR

Last week, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker published a satirical essay, in which he wondered whether the strange reality we live in could be some kind of computer game played by an advanced intelligence (us in the future or alien).

His point was that if it is, the “programmers” are messing up, given the absurdity of current events: the incredible faux-pas at the Oscars, where the wrong best picture was announced; Donald Trump, the most outsider president ever elected in U.S. history; the strange comeback by the New England Patriots at the Super Bowl. These events, claims Gopnik, are not just weird; they point to a glitch in the “Matrix,” the program that runs us all.

For most people trying to make a living, pay bills or fighting an illness, to spend time considering that our reality is not the “real thing” but actually a highly-sophisticated simulation sounds ridiculous. Someone close to me said, “I wish smart people would focus on real world problems and not on this nonsense.” I confess that despite being a scientist that uses simulations in my research, I tend to sympathize with this. To blame the current mess on powers beyond us sounds like a major cop out. It’s like the older brother framing the younger one for the broken window. “He threw the ball!” Not our fault, not our responsibility, “they” are doing this to us.

Of course, philosophers consider such questions because they are interesting and raise points about the nature of reality and our perception of it. The Are We Living in a Simulation? question comes from a 2003 paper by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who reasoned, compellingly, that given our own proficiency with computers and virtual reality, one of the following propositions must be true:

In other words, either we disappear, or our successors do or don’t run simulations, including the one we are part of today. Bostrom’s point is that if our species moves on to a new, posthuman phase, our “new us” will have unimaginable computation powers, and running realistic simulations will be a given. If this is the case, we would be like characters in a super-advanced Sims game, believing we have autonomy when, in fact, we are puppets in the hands of the game-players.

This sounds like a very Calvinist kind of situation, with God substituted by super-advanced game players. Or maybe we can call them Super Advanced Gaming Entities (S.A.G.E.)? Our fates are in the hands of “posthuman” entities with powers beyond our control. The key difference between God and a simulation (at least in this narrow context) is that God is presumably infallible, while simulations have glitches, or can have glitches.

The one glitch in the simulation argument is that there is nothing to stop the simulation at one super-advanced posthuman (alien) species. It could very well be that our simulators are, for their part, simulated by even more advanced simulators, and those by even more advanced ones, ad infinitum. Who is the first simulator? This reminds me of the “turtles all the way down” concept of Anavastha in Indian philosophy, where the world rests on an elephant that rests on a turtle that rests on a turtle that… In the West, it may be interpreted as infinite regression or the problem of the First Cause. (For a history of the “turtles all the way down” concept and its many occurrences and variations see here.)

This offers at least some sort of comfort, given that we all seem to be enslaved in an endless nested web of simulators. Only the first simulator is truly free. Familiar?

For Bostrom’s argument to work, the key assumption is that advanced intelligences will have an interest in simulating their ancestors (in this case, us). Why would they, exactly? Would they expect to gain some new information about their reality by looking at their evolutionary past?

It seems to me that being so advanced they would have collected enough knowledge about their past to have little interest in this kind of simulation. Forward-looking may be much more interesting to them. They may have virtual-reality museums, where they could go and experience the lives and tribulations of their ancestors. But a full-fledged, resource-consuming simulation of an entire universe? Sounds like a colossal waste of time.

The simulation argument messes with our self-esteem, since it assumes that we have no free will, that we are just deluded puppets thinking we are free to make choices. To believe this is to give up our sense of autonomy: after all, if it’s all a big game that we can’t control, why bother? This is the danger with this kind of philosophical argument, to actually make us into what it’s claiming we are, so that we end up abdicating our right to fight for what we believe in.

Let us make sure that we don’t confuse philosophical arguments with our very real socio-political reality, especially not now. We need all the autonomy that we can muster to protect our freedom of choice.

Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and writer and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is currently teaching a Massive Online Open Course titled Question Reality! that goes much deeper into these questions. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

Link:

Why We Are Not In A Computer Simulation Run By Posthumans – NPR – NPR

Why Reality Is Not A Video Game And Why It Matters – New Hampshire Public Radio

Last week, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker published a satirical essay, in which he wondered whether the strange reality we live in could be some kind of computer game played by an advanced intelligence (us in the future or alien).

His point was that if it is, the “programmers” are messing up, given the absurdity of current events: the incredible faux-pas at the Oscars, where the wrong best picture was announced; Donald Trump, the most outsider president ever elected in U.S. history; the strange comeback by the New England Patriots at the Super Bowl. These events, claims Gopnik, are not just weird; they point to a glitch in the “Matrix,” the program that runs us all.

For most people trying to make a living, pay bills or fighting an illness, to spend time considering that our reality is not the “real thing” but actually a highly-sophisticated simulation sounds ridiculous. Someone close to me said, “I wish smart people would focus on real world problems and not on this nonsense.” I confess that despite being a scientist that uses simulations in my research, I tend to sympathize with this. To blame the current mess on powers beyond us sounds like a major cop out. It’s like the older brother framing the younger one for the broken window. “He threw the ball!” Not our fault, not our responsibility, “they” are doing this to us.

Of course, philosophers consider such questions because they are interesting and raise points about the nature of reality and our perception of it. The Are We Living in a Simulation? question comes from a 2003 paper by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who reasoned, compellingly, that given our own proficiency with computers and virtual reality, one of the following propositions must be true:

In other words, either we disappear, or our successors do or don’t run simulations, including the one we are part of today. Bostrom’s point is that if our species moves on to a new, posthuman phase, our “new us” will have unimaginable computation powers, and running realistic simulations will be a given. If this is the case, we would be like characters in a super-advanced Sims game, believing we have autonomy when, in fact, we are puppets in the hands of the game-players.

This sounds like a very Calvinist kind of situation, with God substituted by super-advanced game players. Or maybe we can call them Super Advanced Gaming Entities (S.A.G.E.)? Our fates are in the hands of “posthuman” entities with powers beyond our control. The key difference between God and a simulation (at least in this narrow context) is that God is presumably infallible, while simulations have glitches, or can have glitches.

The one glitch in the simulation argument is that there is nothing to stop the simulation at one super-advanced posthuman (alien) species. It could very well be that our simulators are, for their part, simulated by even more advanced simulators, and those by even more advanced ones, ad infinitum. Who is the first simulator? This reminds me of the “turtles all the way down” concept of Anavastha in Indian philosophy, where the world rests on an elephant that rests on a turtle that rests on a turtle that… In the West, it may be interpreted as infinite regression or the problem of the First Cause. (For a history of the “turtles all the way down” concept and its many occurrences and variations see here.)

This offers at least some sort of comfort, given that we all seem to be enslaved in an endless nested web of simulators. Only the first simulator is truly free. Familiar?

For Bostrom’s argument to work, the key assumption is that advanced intelligences will have an interest in simulating their ancestors (in this case, us). Why would they, exactly? Would they expect to gain some new information about their reality by looking at their evolutionary past?

It seems to me that being so advanced they would have collected enough knowledge about their past to have little interest in this kind of simulation. Forward-looking may be much more interesting to them. They may have virtual-reality museums, where they could go and experience the lives and tribulations of their ancestors. But a full-fledged, resource-consuming simulation of an entire universe? Sounds like a colossal waste of time.

The simulation argument messes with our self-esteem, since it assumes that we have no free will, that we are just deluded puppets thinking we are free to make choices. To believe this is to give up our sense of autonomy: after all, if it’s all a big game that we can’t control, why bother? This is the danger with this kind of philosophical argument, to actually make us into what it’s claiming we are, so that we end up abdicating our right to fight for what we believe in.

Let us make sure that we don’t confuse philosophical arguments with our very real socio-political reality, especially not now. We need all the autonomy that we can muster to protect our freedom of choice.

Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and writer and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is currently teaching a Massive Online Open Course titled Question Reality! that goes much deeper into these questions. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

More:

Why Reality Is Not A Video Game And Why It Matters – New Hampshire Public Radio


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