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Category Archives: Transhumanism
Posted: April 11, 2020 at 7:09 pm
Author Mark OConnell talks about his uncannily topical new book, Notes from an Apocalypse
The ironies are so uncomfortable we can hardly bear to acknowledge them. Mark OConnell and I meet to talk about his second book, Notes From An Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, the day after the Government has issued a directive to shut down all public gatherings of more than 100 people in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Its mid-March, a Friday the 13th in Dublin city centre, but Grafton Street already looks like a Sunday in 1990.
OConnell is that rare breed of Irish writer, a committed essayist and nonfiction adherent who circumnavigated all domestic routes to make a name for himself as a contributor to the New York Times magazine, The Millions and the Guardian. His preoccupations tend toward classic late Gen X: technology, future shock, pop culture riffs, a quirky sense of the domestic.
Born in Kilkenny and now 41, he is by anybodys barometer something of a local literary star, but youd never know it: many people are shocked to find hes a Dublin resident. OConnells first book, To Be A Machine, a journey into the strange new worlds of AI and transhumanist evangelists, further segregated him from the pack in terms of subject matter and scope. As well as scoring a blurb from Margaret Atwood, it won him the Rooney Prize and the Wellcome Prize and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize.
The author has just concluded a meeting with his editor about how to reframe the press angle on the new book. Notes from an Apocalypse is a book about survivalists and end-times obsessives, a global tour of doomsday hotspots and hideouts, from the Black Hills of South Dakota and the pasturelands of New Zealand to the wind-blown desolation of the Scottish Highlands and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
OConnell is, understandably, queasy about making capital out of a scary situation. We live in a time when speculative and dystopian fictions are overtaken by news reports in the lag between draft and publication. Since Brexit and Trump, since Black Mirror and Hypernormalisation, since the inception of non-linear warfare and the corrosion of the notion of objective truth, the future has become not just too dark, but too real to mention. Even as we speak, were still adjusting to the protocol of what will soon be termed social distancing, the eschewing of the handshake for the nod or salute, the polite but measured distance we keep between us as we chat.
But and its a big but despite the new books eschatological obsessions, despite its cast of would-be Martian land-grabbers and bunker monkeys, its a very personal work as well as a very timely one.
I could stand for it to be slightly less topical, to be honest, OConnell admits with a near-grimace. Id take 50 per cent less. Or 100 per cent, actually. Obviously its coming out at an interesting time, but I dont even know that Id want to read a book about apocalyptic anxiety right now. I was talking to my neighbour across the street, cause Id given him a copy of the book, and he was like, I cant read your book, I cant even look at the cover, Ive turned it over on the table. But people are different: some want to read into a situation and some people want to read out of it.
I put it to the author that its actually a book about the anxiety of new fatherhood masquerading as a tract about end-times preppers.
Thats exactly it, he replies. I mean, its not that its masquerading, but the apocalypse cannot be the subject for a book, because its not a thing, its an idea. This book is kind of a way for me to organise my obsessions, a sense of the fragility of everything, and a questioning as to how youre supposed to live with a sense of meaning and purpose at a time when everything seems so uncertain, and the climate that weve brought these children into, were murdering it. Thats a hard thing to face when youve already had kids.
So yeah, I was already thinking about these things, and I wanted to write about these anxieties, but I didnt have an organising principle. Then I started to read about people preparing for the end of the world, preppers and super-rich people buying land in New Zealand. Both my books are about capitalism, and that was a way for me to mediate those themes, through this central idea the Freudian thing of sublimating your terrors or anxieties or desires into a work.
I dont know that I would have gone headlong into it if I wasnt a writer, he continues. My unhealthy obsessions are the same thing as my work. There was a long period, before I knew I was writing a book about this, where I was spending a lot of time watching YouTube videos about preppers, I must have watched Children of Men I dont know how many times, I think it is the most prophetic film, it puts its finger on so many things that were already visible back then, but have become so current.
Not that it was like a therapeutic exercise, just this sense that Im already obsessed with this stuff, and its not healthy, but Im stuck with this particular source of anxiety. People are talking about the apocalypse now a lot, but what does the apocalypse mean? It just means our way of life, in our fairly privileged case, is under threat.
And apokalypsos, translated from the Greek, also means to uncover or reveal. Where theres catastrophic change theres also accelerated growth.
Whats happening at the moment is like a blacklight or something that reveals stuff that is not ordinarily visible, it absolutely shows up the fault lines in our society, but it shows up some of the good things as well. Like, people are talking more, because everyone is going through the same thing. The thing I find really extraordinary about what is happening right now is that everyone in the world is experiencing this thing in different ways, everyones life is falling apart to some greater or lesser degree.
Notes from an Apocalypse is a swift and accessible read, but despite OConnells inherent gift for the comedy of the incongruous, it is often angry. Reading about people such as Peter Thiel or Elon Musk, obscenely rich men sinking bunkers in Auckland, or making plans to colonise Mars, one thinks of privileged slobs who have trashed their own homes and now want to move, leaving the serfs to clean up their mess. The kind of men who would rather face unimaginably hostile alien territory than invest in saving their own polluted planet.
Among other things, Notes From An Apocalypse highlights the infantile aspects of the American frontier mindset, the Last Man survivalist pose. Several times while reading I was reminded of Martin Amiss 1987 essay Thinkability from Einsteins Monsters, the fear he experienced as a new parent in the midst of Cold War nuclear paranoia. Would OConnell characterise the anxiety that fuelled his new book as a sort of male equivalent of post-natal depression?
Hmm. Yes, but I dont know if its explicitly male. One question that is unresolved for me is, how much of this anxiety would I have experienced if I wasnt writing a book about the topic? Theres an emotional trajectory to the book, where at the end theres a sense of, not stoic acceptance, but tentative optimism. And thats true, thats real, I did go through that to some extent.
It was such a hard book to write, and so many of the interludes of, I wont say depression, because its not a clinical thing, but just feeling shit about things that went on for a long time. The writing of it was difficult because the topic was so heavy, but I did come through it, that note of optimism at the end was real, it wasnt something that I had to force.
The key line in the book for me is towards the end: my son is looking at the sunset and he says, Its interesting. Thats the first time I heard him say that. Its not what the book is about, but it is what drove me in a way, because as anxious as I was about the stuff that was happening, its interesting. Its very cold and arguably psychopathic to think in that way, but the fundamental human connection is there. I think if youre a writer you cant stop finding things interesting. The whole psychological dynamic of the book was wanting to be reassured or to have some belief, because when youre parenting really young kids, the big thing is to inculcate the sense in them that the world is beautiful, a good place, and its an interesting place, its not a dark and threatening place. And to hear him say that was really powerful.
As with To Be A Machine, theres a wry humour at the heart of the new book. The tone is somewhere between Louis Theroux or Jon Ronson and Dr Strangelove. This is largely because OConnell is not afraid of looking like an idiot if it means asking the reader-proxy questions.
I dont know how long I spent as a journalist for want of a better term being afraid of coming across as stupid, he says, and I learned eventually that the most valuable thing you can do as a reporter is ask a stupid question. The one thing that youre afraid of asking, because it makes you seem like a f***ing moron, thats the most important question you can ask.
Definitely with To Be A Machine, when I started writing it, I was so fascinated by the topic, I knew I had a good thing, I knew I had this milieu that was fascinating and full of crazy ideas and really eccentric people dealing with things that were of philosophical importance or whatever, but I went through a long period of feeling inadequate to the task, and I did spend time trying to get to grips with the complexity of these ideas, and reading serious books that were in various ways beyond my grasp. And I eventually realised that the stupid ignoramus position not in a comic playing-it-for-laughs way, but a person who knows nothing is actually a better point from which to grasp whats important about a topic, and a better point from which to communicate with people. As a reader I value experts in a broader sense, in the political sense or whatever, but I wouldnt want to read a book about transhumanism by a person who is an expert.
But talking about humour, certainly in my books, I hope theyre funny, but its very unknowable to me what is funny in what I write and what isnt, because for me humour in writing is just like being... accurate. A lot of situations are inherently humorous, so its just about faithfully describing things a lot of the time. I actually think if a writer isnt funny at times, doesnt use humour, or evoke it, I kind of feel like theyre not fully serious. Theres something un-serious about someone whos not funny.
Notes From An Apocalypse is published by Granta
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Posted: March 26, 2020 at 5:47 am
Cryogenic pods. Computer illustration of people in cryogenic pods. Their bodies are being preserved... [+] by storing them at very low temperatures. They will remain frozen until a time when the technology might exist to resurrect the dead, a technique known as cryonics. Alternatively a new body may be cloned from their tissue. Some companies offer to store dead peoples bodies.
Transhumanism (also abbreviated as H+) is a philosophical movement which advocates for technology not only enhancing human life, but to take over human life by merging human and machine. The idea is that in one future day, humans will be vastly more intelligent, healthy, and physically powerful. In fact, much of this movement is based upon the notion that death is not an option with a focus to improve the somatic body and make humans immortal.
Certainly, there are those in the movement who espouse the most extreme virtues of transhumanism such as replacing perfectly healthy body parts with artificial limbs. But medical ethicists raise this and other issues as the reason why transhumanism is so dangerous to humans when what is considered acceptable life-enhancement has virtually no checks and balances over who gets a say when we go too far. For instance, Kevin Warwick of Coventry University, a cybernetics expert, asked the Guardian, What is wrong with replacing imperfect bits of your body with artificial parts that will allow you to perform better or which might allow you to live longer? while another doctor stated that he would have no part in such surgeries. There is, after all, a difference between placing a pacemaker or performing laser eye surgery on the body to prolong human life and lend a greater degree of quality to human life, and that of treating the human body as a tabula rasa upon which to rewrite what is, effectively, the natural course of human life.
A largely intellectual movement whose aim is to transform humanity through the development of a panoply of technologies which ostensibly enhance human intellect, physiology, and the very legal status of what being human means, transhumanism is a social project whose inspiration can be dated back to 19th century continental European philosophy and later through the writings of J. B. S. Haldane, a British scientist and Marxist, who in 1923 delivered a speech at the Heretics Society, an intellectual club at Cambridge University, entitled Daedalus or, Science and the Future which foretold the future of the end of ofcoalfor power generation in Britain while proposing a network of windmills which would be used for the electrolytic decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen (they would generate hydrogen). According to many transhumanists, this is one of the founding projects of the movement. To read this one might think this was a precursor to the contemporary ecological movement.
The philosophical tenets, academic theories, and institutional practices of transhumanism are well-known.Max More, a British philosopher and leader of the extropian movement claims that transhumanism is the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values. This very definition, however, is a paradox since the ethos of this movement is to promote life through that which is not life, even by removing pieces of life, to create something billed as meta-life. Indeed, it is clear that transhumanism banks on its own contradiction: that life is deficient as is, yet can be bettered by prolonging life even to the detriment of life.
Stefan Lorenz Sorgneris a German philosopher and bioethicist who has written widely on the ethical implications of transhumanism to include writings on cryonics and longevity of human life, all of which which go against most ecological principles given the amount of resources needed to keep a body in suspended animation post-death. At the heart of Sorgners writings, like those of Kyle Munkittrick, invoke an almost nave rejection of death, noting that death is neither natural nor a part of human evolution. In fact, much of the writings on transhumanism take a radical approach to technology: anyone who dare question that cutting off healthy limbs to make make way for a super-Olympian sportsperson would be called a Luddite, anti-technology. But that is a false dichotomy since most critics of transhumanism are not against all technology, but question the ethics of any technology that interferes with the human rights of humans.
Take for instance the recent push by many on the ostensible Left who favor surrogacy as a step on the transhumanist ladder, with many publications on this subject, none so far which address the human rights of women who are not only part of this equation, but whose bodies are being used in the this faux-futurist vision of life without the mention of female bodies. Versos publication of a troubling piece by Sophie Lewis earlier this year, aptly titled Gestators of All Genders Unite speaks to the lack of ethics in a field that seems to be grasping at straws in removing the very mention of the bodies which reproduce and give birth to human life: females. In eliminating the specificity of the female body, Lewis attempts to stitch together a utopian future where genders are having children, even though the reality of reproduction across the Mammalia class demonstrates that sex, not gender, determines where life is gestated and birthed. What Lewis attempts in fictionalizing a world of dreamy hopefulness actually resembles more an episode of The Handmaids Tale where this writer has lost sense of any irony. Of course pregnancy is not about gender. It is uniquely about sex and the class of gestators are females under erasure by this dystopian movement anxious to pursue a vision of a world without women.
While many transhumanist ideals remain purely theoretical in scope, what is clear is that females are the class of humans who are being theorised out of social and political discourse. Indeed, much of the social philosophy surrounding transhumanist projects sets out to eliminate genderin the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology andassisted reproductive technologies, ultimately inspired by Shulamith Firestone'sThe Dialectic of Sex and much of Donna Haraways writing on cyborgs. From parthenogenesisto the creation ofartificial wombs, this movement seeks to remove the specificity of not gender, but sex, through the elision of medical terminology and procedures which portend to advance a technological human-cyborg built on the ideals of a post-sex model.
The problem, however, is that women are quite aware that sex-based inequality has zilch to do with anything other than their somatic sex. And nothing transhumanist theories can propose will wash away the reality of the sexed human body upon which social stereotypes are plied.
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Posted: March 5, 2020 at 5:49 pm
Art director Gem Fletcher attended a few meetings in London called the futurists meetup, where people discuss what the future holds for humanity. Fascinated by the subject, she involved photographer David Vintiner, and they started to investigate people who decide on their own evolution.
David Vintiner, from the series Futurists
Transhumanists are a group of individuals harnessing the power of tech to transcend our human biology, photographer David Vintiner and art director Gem Fletcher introduce their project, Futurists. Their 5-year long research covers a broad range of such engineering, from people designing news senses such as an implant that allows its color-blind receiver to hear colors, to those who are on a quest to extending life expectancy.
We should not be afraid of becoming something else, says Moon Ribas, who has developed a sensor which is implanted in her elbow and vibrates whenever there is an earthquake, allowing her to feel global seismic activity in real time. Her portrait by Vintiner is extremely expressive contortioned on the floor, she seems to prolong Earths movements despite the concrete screed that separates them.
David Vintiner, from the series Futurists
What is true for this portrait applies to all of them. Vintiner isnt announcing the end of the world nor making the apology of unlimited bio-science. He simply doesnt judge. We are just trying to explore and explain the movement to other people, he confirms. It took me about a year to get an understanding of what transhumanism is. These people seem really eccentric at first but the more I learned, the less crazy and wacky they seemed. They are just purely thinking about the technology and ignore fuzzy ideas such as what is the soul.
His approach translates into a neutral aesthetics. In most cases, his portraits are shot in mundane locations - a teenagers bedroom, an empty garage, an office, a classroom or a living room featuring basic technology such as a TV or a music player. This is happening now, it's not the future; they're all real people. As much as possible, we photographed them in their homes or in all the places where they do their experiments, he explains. No cold light either.
David Vintiner, from the series Futurists
Some devices might remind of super-heroes, but Vintiner doesnt amplify that aspect. Transhumanists may seem to transcend the barriers of both senses and ethics, but in most cases, they just happen to be thinking in a very pragmatic, scientific way. I dont really feel like I have transcended the barriers of traditional sense, I just feel like I am an asshole who is missing an eye and got an eye camera, one of his subject says.
Yet, a portrait of Nick Bostrom, the Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University, raises a question, if not a warning. The co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association, Bostrom also warns about the dangers of artificial intelligence being unregulated. He further reasoned that the creation of a superintelligent being represents a possible means to the extinction of mankind. Even though transhumanism is based on science, it has that religious idea of immortality to it, of playing God with biology, Vintiner concludes. Till where?
David Vintiner is a British photographer based in London focusing mainly on portraiture. You can support his first book's I Want To Believe kickstarter campaign here.
Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb.
This article is part of our feature series Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.
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Posted: March 2, 2020 at 6:45 am
london-based photographers david vintner and gem fletcher document individuals who form part of the transhumanism culture throughout europe, russia and the united states in their latest collaborative photo series, I want to believe an exploration of transhumanism. the five-year-long project explores the core idea behind transhumanism the belief that human beings are destined to transcend their mortal flesh through technology.
neil harbisson hears color neil harbisson was born with achromatism, a rare disease that renders him colourblind. rather than overcome achromatism, harbisson created a new sense to go beyond the human visual spectrumin 2004 he had an antenna implanted into his skull. the antenna allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours as audible vibrations, including infrareds and ultraviolets.
the photo series by vintner and fletcher illustrates three gradual stages of transhumanism from testing ground, patient zero to humanity 2.0. at the lowest tier, testing ground looks into individuals who have created wearable technology to expand their human abilities, improving everything from concentration to mental health.patient zero studies those who have taken permanent action to become half human and half robot. in the final chapter, humanity 2.0, the transhumanist subjects focus on life extension and immortality.
the work of the individuals in this book demonstrates how optimizing our brains and bodies could revolutionize and redefine humanity. as human architects, we are only limited by our imagination, explains vintner and fletcher.
kevin warrick widely considered as one of the first cyborgs.kevin warrick is a pioneering professor in cybernetics and considered by many as the worlds first cyborg. kevin instigated a series of experiments involving the neuro-surgical implantation of a device into the nerves of his left arm in order to link his nervous system directly to a computer. this enabled him to have a symbiotic connection with a robotic hand. he could control the hand using his own brain signals from anywhere in the world, as well as sense what the robot hand was feeling.
humans are now gods. we are now able to create and design humans, but do humans have the foresight to do it in the right way? questions the photographers.
for many transhumanists, life extension and immortality is the goal. transhumanism started as early as 1923 and has developed over recent years through the rise of sci-fi themed books, movies and the democratization of technology. as studies on experimental genetic engineering, tissue regeneration and stem cell treatments are also becoming more apparent in todays world, transhumanists hope to extend the life of the human body anywhere from twenty to 500 years longer than the average lifespan.
vintner and fletcher are working together on releasing the photo series as a book, which can be funded on crowd-funding platform kickstarter, here.
moon ribas sensing earthquakesmoon ribas is connected to online seismographs allowing her to perceive the seismic activity of the planet through vibrations in her body. the vibration she feels depends on the intensity of the earthquake. if she is standing in newcastle, she can sense earthquakes happening everywhere from japan to greece. she describes the sensation as having two heartbeats, her biological heartbeat and the earthbeat, which has its own rhythm inside her body.
dr natasha vita-more a leading expert on human enhancement and emerging technologies
dr. aubrey de grey biomedical gerontologist and the chief science 0fficer of SENS research foundation
liz parrish founder of bioviva
dr max more president and CEO of the alcor life extension foundation
patient zero - james young after an accident that left him a double amputee, james young turned to bionics to redesign his body. obsessed with the metal gear solid, he worked with gaming giant konami and prosthetic sculptor sophie de oliveira barata to develop an advanced bionic arm inspired by the computer game.
carbon fibre bionic limb
patient zero - rob spence known as the eyeborg, rob spence lost an eye as a child while playing with his grandfather's shotgun. inspired by a love of the bionic man and his interest in documentary filmmaking, spence created an eye with a wireless video camera inside. the camera is not connected to his optic nerve but sends footage to a remote receiver. over the years, he has created several different aesthetics for the eye, from a realistic 'hidden camera' version to a terminator inspired glowing red version.
patient zero - neil harbisson neil harbisson was born with achromatism, a rare disease that renders him colourblind. rather than overcome achromatism, harbisson created a new sense to go beyond the human visual spectrumin 2004 he had an antenna implanted into his skull. the antenna allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours as audible vibrations, including infrareds and ultraviolets.
image out of rob spence's eyes
new ways of seeing - EYEsect the experimental device aims to recreate the experience of seeing the world like a chameleon, with two single steerable eyes. in changing the way we perceive the world around us, eyesect alters our version of reality enabling new ways to sense and experience our environment.
new ways of seeing - north sense created by liviu babitz and scott cohen, north sense is a small matchbox-sized artificial sense organ that delivers a short vibration every time the user faces north, similar to the biological abilities of migratory birds, extending the human perception of orientation.
new ways of seeing - aisen caro chacin / echolocation the echolocation headphones are a pair of goggles that aid human echolocation. it is designed to substitute the users vision augmenting our spatial awareness with sound, similar to the abilities of bats and whales. the device has both the potential to aid the visually impaired and provide sighted individuals with a new sense.
title:I want to believe an exploration of transhumanism
artistic director: gem fletcher
photographer: david vintiner
kick starter page: I want to believe
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Posted: at 6:45 am
Jason Silva, speaking as though he is hosting a sance, channeling the likes of Sartre, Whitman, Kant. Spitting poetic diction through a lens of existential angst over the absurdity that is mortal beauty, the impermanence of all we hold dear. His phone, the Mediums parlor. We, his guests. This summarizes the Jason Silva experience.
His video series aptly named Shots of Awe is a collage of inspiration-induced euphoria, taking viewers deeper into common existential concepts than their everyday language would otherwise permit. His concepts have evolved over the years, but the longing to unveil the existential condition of humankind remains the driving force behind his impressive exuberance. Having admitted a deep-seated fear of death, that fear has paradoxically created a passion for life that seems to spill out of him even in moments of mundanity. A true artists artist. And an artist of the people. While he is commonly referred to as a modern philosopher and storyteller, there may not yet be an appropriate term to describe what he does. Spoken-word therapist comes to mind, for he soothes his viewers existential angst or at the very least, validates it.
While he is well known for hosting National Geographics Brain Games, the bulk of his fan base know him from his social media musings where he can often be found sharing cinematic epiphanies on topics that range from the value of presence to hallucinogenic therapies and transhumanism, and while his philosophy degree lends him a vocabulary that is somewhat unrelatable, his passion to put words to the ontological dilemmas that plague humanity creates an incredible connection between himself and his following. And connection seems to be the perpetual end-goal of Silvas philosophical musings namely connection with self via authentic expression of his own inner dialogue, which in turn opens a safe space for his viewership to tap into their own existential vulnerabilities. What sets Silvas content apart from that of other influencers is his unique ability to craft language, something that is not only one of his natural skills but also a conceptual passion of his.
My creative work, which is pretty much my life, is concerned with ineffability; those experiences of such aesthetic impact, such existential agitation, that we can hardly find the words to describe them. We lose ourselves in these moments. They silence the chatter in our heads and hurl us into the holy. In positive psychology, researchers call these moments of flow and awe, states of rapture and surrender. From these moments sprout music, poetry, mythopoetic rhapsody people think words dont do justice to these moments, but I disagree all of human creative expression mirrors these states of being. So thats what compels me to put lightning in a bottle. To find the words. To bring the infinite down to size.
Complex language is what sets humans apart in the animal kingdom, the proverbial red flower that can decode sensory intake and imbue it with meaning. When Silva seems exasperated it is only because he is trying to find the right words to decode what he is experiencing. When he finds those words they are nothing short of incantations, the weaving of semantic sorcery that leaves his audience entranced, something we call awe being filled with a wonder that surpasses what language can encapsulate and for Silva it is not enough to merely experience those moments sensorially, he must decode them. So he searches for the words and his impressive ability to find them, mostly unscripted and in real-time no less, transfixes his audience.
Empirical language is limited because it lives in the literal grid, but poetic language is more elastic, more flexible. I can weave worlds into being with poetic language. Thats why I call my work art before anything else. Im not a journalist. I wrap myself in the blanket of poetic license.
To Silva, poetic language is an almost religious expression his chosen refuge from the despair of mortality. To take it from the horses mouth, it is the root of human spirituality, a literal expression of the human spirit and one of the most fundamental means of alchemizing the sacred or holy. And as phenomenological experience is the master that Silva bows to, he takes neutral theistic ground. For him, a noumenal approach to divinity would be akin to blasphemy a counterintuitive self-betrayal, if you will.
Spirituality is an emergent quality of aliveness, a particular form of subjectivity characterized by heightened, qualitative intensity. Deeper presence. A sense of entering an archetypal and mythopoetic realm. One enters into spirituality and while it certainly FEELS like a glimpse of eternity and freedom from mortality, I havent been fully convinced that we can know for sure that it is anything beyond neuro-modulated ecstasy. At the same time, these realms are restorative and infuse our lives with deeper felt meaning so that alone gives them existential weight.
Silvas spiritual beliefs seem to rest somewhere between agnosticism and a yet-undefined existential consciousness theory. In watching his videos, there is always a bit of reluctance to translate moments of euphoria as anything other than a neuro-sensory experience. And this is perhaps the greatest point of resonance for viewers. His reverence for the unknowable a refreshing humility in not needing to make those moments concrete by some defined godhood. A pureness in bowing to the experience even if it ends with an ellipsis rather than a safe and familiar period because most things in life are implied rather than explicit and Silva refuses to pretend otherwise. His worship is awe-filled presence, his hymnal made up of all the resulting poetic musings, musings that are his existential war-cries his refusal to go gently into that good night prayers on the lips of a mortal who seeks immortality through robust reflection rather than religious resignation, for he knows that obsessing over the source of human consciousness while forgetting to simply revel in the miracle of it is the most primal of sins.
In an era that increasingly recognizes the benefits of going inward and being present (the self-help industry is worth a whopping 10 billion dollars), Silvas exuberance may appear contradictory to the Zen-like composure many seek to attain. But in the context of decoding awe as a means to better understanding Self, he may be the freshest expression of the new-age movement, bottling the ineffable and serving it like holy water to those who thirst. He is afoot with wonder. A walking Walt Whitman poem. Ginsbergs Howl. Restless for the same cause a cause that lit a fire beneath Socrates feet and the same cause that induces vows of silence amongst monks. He is a seeker and his distinct form of expression lands for many in ways that the Deepak Chopras of the world cannot.
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Posted: January 20, 2020 at 5:48 am
Well, 2020 officially kickstarted a new decade and with it, speculations on what the future promises. It has only been a couple of weeks, and yet we find ourselves witnessing changes on a global scale. Video games, much like real life, convey the same level of change, mostly depicting our reality in a darker and bleaker fashion. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one title that comes across as a pure model, more than most games on the market today. After revisiting this game recently in my spare time, Ive come to realize that a lot of elements mimic that of our inevitable future. So how does this cyberpunk action RPG foretell the direction in which humanity is going? Well, were here to take a look and make our analysis.
The most noticeable first pick would be the increasing rise of augmentations and prosthetics. By recent analysis, 7.00% of the global population is categorized as being born with a defect. One of the most common is that of congenital amputation, a birth defect of lacking a limb or two. As with the growth of this percentage, prosthetics are more and more massively produced. However, while this is nothing unheard of, science is continuing to innovate with prosthetics much more than before. Innovations in the field of robotics opened up new frontiers.
The possibility of commanding enhanced prosthetics with a mere thought was something unheard of. Companies like Open Bionic, Cyberdyne, and DEKA are some of the most well known, that continue to experiment and research the possibilities of prosthetics. Much like the protagonist of Deus Ex, these sorts of bionics are set to evolve with the coming tide. A chance for all to live a regular life, despite of their defect.
Deus Exs most recurring theme is that of Transhumanism. If by any chance, you havent come to terms with this movement, we will indulge you. The simplest explanation on the matter is that basically, Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that supports human enhancements. In Human Revolution, players are introduced to a variety of companies, which deal in research and manufacturing of augmentations.
Sarif Industries is one such company that mimics that of Japans Cyberdyne. While they, unlike their video game counterpart, do not openly support this movement, they strive for the same goals. A better, faster, stronger future for all. Then they are companies like BiChip in Denmark, which are promoting their chip implants. Now with the idea of reading medical records, identification, and even connecting to wifi. Their most recent update was a built-in cryptocurrency reader, allowing payment via microchip.
The BBC made a lengthy article on this topic in late 2019, discussing how everyday items, such as car keys, are now portable via this method. Who knows, maybe in time, these things will become mandatory. And with more users each year, who knows, perhaps we will all be soon connected by a much similar AI algorithm. However, with each significant change, humanity rebels, and the case is the same in the game.
One of the biggest things that marked 2019, in terms of global trends, was civil unrest. The Arab protests, France, Catalonia, Latin America, and most notably, Hong Kong. These protests were mostly to show dislike of the current regimes in these countries. Yet, if people are more open about protesting then ever before, who says that it cant happen when it comes to Transhumanism. As shown in Deus Ex, people are afraid of rapid change, especially at its climax.
In the game, the epilogue focuses on the corruption of augmentation chips. Augmented humans become hostile and openly attack non-augmented ones. In the wake of such a disaster, how could humanity not step up and present their concerns? Governments are known to manipulate their countries into unspeakable acts, and humankind, on countless occasions, fights back. In the wake of significant evolution, especially one that is rapid and forced upon, people also tend to revolt. Much like in the game, it will inevitably lead to that. The only question is, will it resolve more peacefully, or turn into all-out urban chaos?
We are going slightly back to the topic of robotics, specifically Artificial Intelligence. By now, everybody knows that it all started with Alan Turing. A man who left a legacy behind that shaped the future generations and is still continuing to evolve to this day. From primitive computers to elaborate algorithms that think on their own, AI will play a prominent role in the future, that much is certain. When it comes to global media, AI has now evolved to a point where it has access to all information. In the game, a certain anchorwoman shows our protagonist the power of the news industry and how she feeds off different data.
Eliza Cassan is the primary example of how AI would work in the future. As an artificial intelligence, she displays uncanny skills of gathering news to peak precision. She is more than just a simple machine, demonstrating compassion and feelings, just like any individual. And like any human being, can lie, which she does on occasion to the protagonist. News media also relies on this a lot, and this card tends to be played, now more than ever.
The final piece of proof comes not in what one can see, but what one can feel. The primary focus in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is powerplay, be that of the Illuminati, or major corporations. Casting a shadow and rising, way above their respective governments, one cannot help but feel that there is a larger scheme here. While it is no secret agent villain scheming, its most definitely sinister. Call it superstition, or a conspiracy. But one thing is clear. Monopolies of large industries tower over government positions.
And while seats of power rise and fall over a single night, major players with vast industries standstill. You need not look far from Sarif Industry, Darrow Industries, Tai Yong Medical, and VersaLife. Examples of in-game organizations that pull all the string in the Human Revolution. And yet, there always seems like there is a third hand guiding and ushering new ideas and power seats. While there are other games that represent what humanity could be like, Human Revolution manages that way too realistic. A possibility, or near-perfect example of what the world could look like?
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Posted: December 18, 2019 at 9:31 pm
Transgender ideology wasnt invented in the 2010s, but this was the decade when it gripped our culture in its venomous maw and refused to let go. Heres how trans grew from fringe oddity to a massive force affecting schools, parenting, prisons, policy, academia, sports, law enforcement, language and the arts.
In 2009, Susie Green, who will become Chair of UK gender clinic Mermaids, takes her son to Thailand for vaginoplasty. Jackie Green becomes the youngest person in the world to undergo a sex change operation, at age 16. Meanwhile, trans woman and trans humanist Martine Rothblatt foresees the end of our species as we know it, andclaimsthat transhumanism builds on transgenderism, broadening the driving mindset from a gender ideal to a human development ideal.
Trans began the decadeas an outlier. It became something tolerated out of compassion. It has become a medical-legal monster, with activists claiming to redefine woman as a feeling, with self-identification trumping the basic facts of biological sex.And if you disagree, youre transphobic. Welcome to the 2020s!
At 10 years old,Jazz Jenningsis already out as trans.
Children become the subject ofmedical experimentation. Britains National Health Service approves medical experiments which will chemically castrate gay children in attempt to correct gender-nonconformity.
We now being told that affirmation of trans individuals is all about compassion. We need to knowwhat trans gender meansand how important surgery is.New York magazinesays that it takes a powerful act of imagination to understand what a transgender child, in his perfect little body on the changing table, might be feeling, or why he might become terrified as adolescence approaches.
The American Psychiatric Associationupdates its manual, to replace gender identity disorder with gender dysphoria.
Now 13 years old and wearing dental braces as well as female dress, Jazz Jennings isparadedon ABC News.
In Britain, the gender clinic at theTavistock Clinic gives 12 year-olds hormone blockers to prepare for transition. The treatment halts the onset of puberty preventing children from developing the sexual characteristics of the gender they were born.
Trans woman Parker Molloy writes amissive:I am a woman, but on such a frequent basis, Im told this is not true. Im told that Im genetically or biologically male. Im told that Im not a real woman. I have to ask: What constitutes a real woman? How am I not one? Is it because of my chromosomes? I dont think thats fair
The splendidly surnamed trans actress Laverne Cox, the first trans person to grace the cover ofTIMEmagazine, explains that most of us are insecure about our gender.
IntheNew Yorker, Michelle Goldberg sits on the fence: Trans women say that they are women because they feel femalethey have womens brains in mens bodies. Radical feministsbelieve that if women think and act differently from men its because society forces them to.
Facebook offers56 gender optionsfor users to choose from.
Susie Greens trans daughter Jackie is now 21, and Green speaks out against those who call her parentingabusive. She claims that even before she could speak my daughter had made her preferences clear.
Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlyn, and graces the cover ofVanity Fair. Trans MMA fighterFallon Foxdefeated her opponent, Tamikka Brents, by TKO at 2:17 of the first round of their match. Brents eye injury resulted in a damaged orbital bone that required seven staples. Now thats equality.
Michelle Goldberg is back. InSlate, she reminds us that, Most progressives now take it for granted that gender is a matter of identity, not biology, and that refusing to recognize a persons gender identity is an outrageous offense.
In the UK, theParliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Reportremoves sex-based protections.My Transgender Kidappears on the BBC. Itsreported that the Tavistock and Portman gender clinic has seen referrals increase by 50 percent every year since 2009.
Rachel Dolezal claims to betransracial.Trans abledturns out to be a thing.
Teen girls protest trans girls use of girlslocker room.
The year of the bathroom. A North Carolina law ispasseddisallowing trans people from using the bathroom of their choice. The State issuedby Obamas Department of Justice, whichtellsevery public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
The director of the ACLU in Georgialeaves her postrather than fight for trans bathroom rights.
Male bodied trans studentscompeteagainst girls in high school sports. Female bodied transpregnant personsare lauded as the first male mothers.
The National Institute of Healthlaunchesthe largest-ever study of transgender youth, but also only the second to track the psychological effects of delaying puberty. Its notable that theres no control group.
Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy speaks out against the lack of debate. Because representation matters, a call goes outnot to castcis women as trans.
Jill SollowaysTransparentcomes underfirefor not being woke enough.
A male to female detransitionerspeaks. TheNew York Timesadmitsthat scientists have no conclusive explanation for what causes some people to feel dissonance between their gender identity and aspects of their anatomy.
Philosopher Slavoj iek gets called out for his claimthat the vision of social relations that sustains transgenderism is the so-called postgenderism: a social, political and cultural movement whose adherents advocate a voluntary abolition of gender, rendered possible by recent scientific progress in biotechnology and reproductive technologies.
The Womens March takes to the streets in Washington, DC, wearingtransphobic, pink pussy hats. Bill Maher and Milo Yiannopoulos misgender Jenner and are slammedby Dan Savage.Neuterbecomes a thing, so does drilling down into biology to determine that sex is not binary in otherspecies. Which it is, really.
Stonewall UKs Rachel Steinconfirmsthat being trans is about an innate sense of self. To imply anything other than this is reductive and hurtful to many trans people who are only trying to live life as their authentic selves.
Trans advocatessuggestthatprevious restrictions on transing kids be eased so that children under 16 years old can begin hormone therapy in order to physically transform their bodies.
Teachers socially trans kidswithout parents consent. Jazz Jenningss book I Am Jazzis acontroversialpick for kindergarten story time.
Radical feministsspeak outagainst transing kids. One lady istrans species.And trans affirmation is noweveryones job.Topshopopensfitting rooms to trans women. Theres money in them there trans.
The Department of Justice reverses the Obama era directives andsaysthat sex means only biologically male or female.
Katie Herzogwritesabout detransitioners, and gets intense heat for it. Debra Sohsaysthat the entire gender conversation has brain science wrong.
We will change our bodies however we want, theTrans Health Manifestoinsists. We will have universally accessible and freely available hormones & blockers, surgical procedures, and any other relevant treatments and therapies.
The real question is: how does a female bodied gay mannavigate Grindr?
Who could have guessed, even a decade ago, that in 2018 the word woman would be treated as an expletive? asks Joanna Williams in Britains PC-bible theNew Statesman.
The Gender Recognition Act allows for self-ID in the UK. The NHSmust offerfertility services to those looking to remove their genitals.Britain;s Labour party alienates gender-critical feminists by stating that self-ID is all thats required to be on Laboursshort listof women candidates. Women try to meet and talk about this mess, but their events arecanceleddue to trans protests.
UK Schools policy comes underfirefor insisting that all kids have a gender identity. Girl Guides inclusion policycalled outas anti-girl. Amother of fouris interrogated by the police for referring to male to female trans surgery as castration on Twitter. The mere concept ofdebating trans becomes transphobic.
Jess Bradley, the first elected Trans Officer in the UK National Union of Student, says I self-identify as a non-binary woman, I dont believe there is such a thing as a real woman. Male bodied trans person Rachel McKinnonwinsa womens cycling race.
Bill B-16 isadoptedin Canada. This effectively redefines what it means to be a woman from something biological to something defined by external appearance. A Toronto womens shelter admits a male bodied trans person, and an abused womansues.
In academia, Camille Paglia says sex change is impossible. Jordan Peterson is almost fired from the University of Toronto for refusing to go along with compelled speech for pronouns. There are callsfor colleges to let trans athletes play on their chosen gender.
Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moores bookTransgender Children and Young People: Born In Your Own Bodyisrejectedby trans activists. Oxfordbansgender critical voices. Lisa Littmans academic paper on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is pulled from Plos One for being transphobic. Jesse Singal writes about gender confused youth inthe Atlantic, and takes masses of abuse for it. Reports emerge on the danger in the drugs used tocastratechildren, and concerns thattransing is homophobia.
TheParis Reviewadvocates for atrans literary canon. No one buys theParis Review.
Trans surgeries dont always have an amazingresult.YettheAmerican Academy of Pediatriciansasserts thattransgender kids know their genderas clearly and consistently as their developmentally equivalent peers and that theres no need for watchful waiting.Trans toyscome to market.
TheNew York Timessayssex doesnt have anything to do with reproductive organs. Researchclaimsthat gender dysphoric kids show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender.
US prisonsopposetrans inmates in womens prisons. Canadian prisonsallowprisoners to be housed according to gender identity.
How much longer must transgender people continue to participate in public conversations about whether or not we know our own souls? Jennifer Finney Boylanasksin theNew York Times equating gender to a religious belief. Quillettemakes a splash by publishing opposition to the trans agenda, even fromtrans persons.
The question of how tofuck trans lesbiansis a thing. So isgirldick,how to eat out a non-op trans woman, andrewriting gay historyto be trans. Andrea Long Chu says shewont be happywith her new coochie, but she should get one anyway. Andtrans lesbiansreally have trouble dating.
Cis women areasked to do more for trans women, becauseit costs you zero dollars to be nice. Cis peoplewont date trans people, and lesbians decide to get the L outof LGBT.
Twitterprohibitsmisgendering and deadnaming to curtail anti-trans abuse. Meghan Murphy isbanned from Twitter for misgendering Jessica Yaniv, a male-bodied trans woman a transvestite, in traditional terms who wants to force immigrant women to wax her balls.
Trans English arrives, withtonsof new words for gender.Trans kidsknowwho they are, and its eitheraffirmationor death if you disagree.
Self-IDcomes to New Hampshire. Trans model Munroe Bergdorf ischosento speak by the London chapter of the globalWomens March. New York goesall-inon bathrooms and the abolition of women only spaces. South Dakotasayslet trans kids compete in sports
The Vancouver Rape Relief and Womens Shelterloses municipal funding after refusing to accept trans women. Morgane Oger wins a Human Rights Tribunal againstChristian activist Bill Whatcott after he distributedflyers disparaging herfor being a trans woman. A woman isarrestedfor referring to a transgender woman as a man online.
Liberal womenspeak on trans issues atthe Heritage Foundation, because they have beenabandonedby the left.
Butfacial recognitiondoesnt get trans. Neither dostraight men. Tennis legend Marina Navratilovaopposesmen in womens sports.
Even though thequick transingof kids is obviously a terrible idea, itsnot OKto talk about detransitioning. But girls start pushingbackon the locker room thing. So dograndmothers.
Students in the English town of Brighton are issued with stickers on which they write their preferredpronouns. Transtoolkitsarrive. Experts say that there has been aglobal surgein young people presenting to gender clinics. This mirrors the huge rise in referrals to the Gids, up from 94 to 2,519 since 2010.
Cosmopublishes a detailed account ofbottom surgery.
Trans advocatesdecrymental health screening prior to accessing cross-sex hormones. Trans offendersseek rightto remove crimes committed under previous gender. Hayden Patterson, held in womens prison in Canada, doesnt think she should have toact femaleto stay.Womb transplantsso men can bear children might be a thing. Elizabeth Warrenstatesher pronouns.
The firsttrans prison unitopens in the UK. In the US, a trans sex offender ismovedto womens prison. The World Health Organizationreclassestrans as not actually a mental health condition. Jessica Yaniv brings acasein Human Rights Tribunal against independent aestheticians who wouldnt wax her balls. She loses.
The winners of womens high school track and fieldcompetitionsin Connecticut are male bodied. In Australia, newguidelines encourage sporting organizationsto permit transgender and non-binary athletes to compete against members of the opposite sex. Laurel Hubbard wins gold in womens weightlifting in the Pacific Games, to the dismayof the president of Samoa.
The International Olympic Commissionconsidersrule changes to allow men to compete as women, but hits asnag. Womens rugby is toodangerousfor women once men get involved. A male runner is the female NCAAathlete of the week. But girlsspeak out: Female athletes around the globe feel that womens sports is no longersustainable.
Trans employment case goes to theSupreme Court. Trans guides come out for kids inQuebecandNew York City, as well as thegender unicorn. As domedical riskson chest binding, and thepushbackagainst that. Parental rights are chucked byAustralia, and courts in the US fromArizonatoTexastoVermont.
Puberty blockers arenota panacea. But kids are still beingfast trackedin the UK. Gender cliniciansrevealthey have tried to raise the alarm. Detransitioners start to make somenoise. Parents areaskedto resist the doctors.
It turns out the rhetoric about the trans murder epidemic isnot exactly true. Trans is apony tail. Not onlywomenget periods. Theresno such thingas biological sex. And not dating trans people isdiscriminatory.
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Posted: at 9:31 pm
Information is now easily and rapidly accessible. It is possible to say that being indifferent to new information is actually a success. However, knowing how we can actually use the information, well, that is the challenging part. Jason Silva, who gained millions of followers with his "Shots of Awe" video series seven years ago, when there was no "influencer" concept on social media, has managed to do this very well today, especially as a familiar "face of screens and internet influencer" widely known by young people.
As the world transforms with technology, Silva is turning everyone's heads with his unique, characteristic and literary expression style. Describing the relationship between technology and philosophy, Silva transforms himself in the meantime. As the star of National Geographic's Brain Games series, Silva takes his curiosity, which is his greatest motivation, everywhere he travels, adding depth to his "journey" that he started in 2012 as a storyteller on social media. Silva is now a futurist speaker answering the question "how?"
We talked to Silva in Qatar at the 2019 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), which was held in November under the theme "Unlearn, Relearn: What it means to be human." Silva focuses on "futurism and disruptive innovation, the physical and psychological effects of awe on the human body, and leaving the mind to the flow." What Silva wants to arrive at is to discover ways to maintain mental and physical health and to find out how the issues he contemplates stimulate creativity to tell people "how."
Silva has been invested in consciousness and staying in the flow lately. When asked if there was a particular reason, he said one of things he is passionate about is people's capacity to overcome limitations.
Silva said sometimes these limitations can come down to technical or practical reasons, but they can sometimes also just be our own minds. Pointing out that the number of suicide-related deaths nowadays is higher than the number of deaths due to natural disasters or conflict, he said the issue of mental health is a pressing matter.
Staying in the flow
When asked how he protects his sanity and looks after his mental health, Silva said: "I take care of myself. I rest and sleep very well. Sleep and exercise have a great place in my life."
"Besides that, I am actively meditating. Staying in the flow is an active type of meditation. So is going for a walk, swimming, traveling, making art, reading and watching movies," he added.
"If you have watched my videos, I describe them as a 'free flow of consciousness without written text.' I get into a flow while making videos. When you are in the flow, your brain tries to guess what you are going to say, while being completely insecure on the other hand," he said, adding that the beauty of this state of mind is that it silences your inner critic.
He said brain scans of free-flowing rappers and jazz musicians have revealed that parts of their brains shut down when they are really "in the flow."
He stressed that people often have the misconception that to get into a flow is to let it go, but it actually has a lot to do with planning and discipline.
"You have to surrender after you have worked on it," he added.
Advising everyone to find their own flow path, he said: "Flow brings focus. You need to find out what hinders your focus, what distracts you and what draws you in. This may be sports or music for some. For me, it is making videos and being on stage."
Are we living in a simulated universe?
The idea that the world around us is not real and that we are trapped inside some video game or computer like The Sims or The Matrix has become the subject of serious academic debate. SpaceX chief Elon Musk has been one of the many high-profile proponents of the "simulation hypothesis" a theory that proposes the Earth and the universe, and all reality is actually an artificial simulation and he recently explained his thoughts on the subject in a podcast.
Silva said he agreed with Musk to a degree, but in a different way.
"I think we live in an environment where everything is virtual. It is like you are in a perception field. What you think and your identity stand in virtual reality. None of this is physical or unchangeable. If you look at our planet from space, you do not see lines separating countries. These lines are our virtual reality," he said.
"(Yuval Noah) Harari, in his book Sapiens, says that society cannot exist without useful stories. A dream that only one person has is a dream, but a dream that everyone has becomes a reality. So, in a simulation where everyone moves together, these dreams are practically real," he added.
On the topic of transhumanism, Silva called it "an extension of natural life."
"We can extend and expand our capacity in natural life, just like tools. We came from Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago, and we used the tools to reach something physically. If we could not reach fruit, we got sticks, for example. Thanks to sticks, we were able to extend our arm. This process of extension was the extension of our intentions and our brains. From this point of view, I believe that being human is trans-human."
With the rapid development of technology, a lot of people fear the new and unknown. Silva said he believed people weren't exactly afraid of technology but rather afraid of change and resistant to it.
"It's because change brings uncertainty, which in turn spurs this biological effect of the uncertainty (our ancestors felt) thousands of years ago when we thought a lion would come out and eat us," he said.
He said this feeling of uncertainty should be embraced as it "allows us to dream and build the life we want."
According to Silva, this is very much in line with Wise's theme, which suggests that we are in an era, a process of "unlearning what we already know and relearning it."
What we want to do in the future and what we want to reveal is to inspire people to think bigger than ever.
Tips to overcome anxiety
Silva said he likes to think of himself as a software program with "bad coding." "Sometimes I have a lot of anxiety. I know what triggers this situation and I find where my bad programming is," he said.
"Sometimes I stop while reacting to something, I watch my reaction and try to figure out how I feel. Then, I decide how I want to move forward. When I react to something, there is always an element I take into account."
How our screen stories of the future went from flying cars to a darker version of now – The Conversation AU
Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:50 pm
Fans of Ridley Scotts 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner returned to cinemas last month for an unusual milestone: history catching up with science fiction.
Blade Runner opens in Los Angeles, in November 2019. Furnaces burst flames into the perennial night and endless rain. Flying cars zoom by. The antihero film-noir detective, Deckard (Harrison Ford) has seen too much, drinks too much, and misses his mother between retiring replicants.
As in Back to the Future day, (October 21, 2015), which marked Marty McFlys journey into the future in the 1989 film, the Blade Runner screenings came with a flurry of discussion about what the filmmakers got right and wrong. Environmental collapse, yes. But where are our flying cars?
So: what now that the future is here?
Our current versions of near future stories - namely the television series Black Mirror (now on Netflix) and SBSs Years and Years - explore more extreme versions of the present.
Charlie Brookers Black Mirror is an anthology of standalone episodes, produced between 2011 and 2019, each set in a slightly different, undated, near future.
Years and Years, written by Russell T. Davies, bravely spans 2019 to 2034 with each episode leaping forward a few years through striking montages of fictional news events: the collapse of the European Union, the US leaving the United Nations, catastrophic flooding, mass migration, widespread homelessness.
We are in a very familiar world. The near is depicted in a realistic way through identifiable locations, documentary-style visuals, news footage, and lifelike dialogue.
Back in the real world, the future in the 21st century is unfolding in the palm of our hands. Elections are won and lost on social media, Sydney is covered in smoke. The rate at which technology is altering our lives is rivalled only by the rate were transforming our planet.
These shows explore these rates of change. In a 2016 episode of Black Mirror, Nosedive, every interpersonal interaction becomes a transaction: an extreme version of Uber Ratings with Chinas Social Credit System.
Read more: Chinas Social Credit System puts its people under pressure to be model citizens
Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is an ambitious young professional excited by the opportunities higher ratings open up, such as discounts on luxury apartments, but being pleasant to her barista and workmates only gets her so far. So begins a perilous spiral of trying too hard to be liked, echoing the personality-as-product phenomenon of social media influencers around the world.
The standalone episode format of Black Mirror means it can be challenging to develop empathy for characters, consequently the interest often rests on the single concept or final twist. The episode Striking Vipers explores the possibility of extra-marital love between best mates in Virtual Reality; Hang the DJ envisions dating apps as an authoritarian apparatus.
Most episodes are neatly wrapped up for viewers to escape to for pure entertainment but also to escape from each dystopian possibility.
In Years and Years, we follow one Mancunian family over 19 years. The series opens with Trump re-elected for a second term. In the UK, the unconventional populist Four Star Party, led by straight-speaking Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson), rides to success on the back of social instability.
Sci-fi concepts are introduced early on so we can explore their evolution and implications. In the first episode, teenager Bethany declares herself trans. As progressive parents, Stephen and Celeste immediately comfort their child, who they presume is transsexual.
Bethany shrugs, Im not transsexual Im transhuman. A concept not lost on Blade Runner fans who may be aware of transhumanist gatherings in Los Angeles in the 1980s, transhumanism is premised on the idea that humans have breached evolutionary constraints through science and technology. Biology is a restriction to the possibility of eternal life.
Read more: Super-intelligence and eternal life: transhumanism's faithful follow it blindly into a future for the elite
Disgust and dismay ensue from parents unable to comprehend why their child wants to rid her flesh and live forever as data. Through the course of the series we see how Bethanys transhuman ambitions influence her personal relationships, health, career trajectory, and political activism.
It even starts to feel normal.
Years and Years delicately resists portraying a dystopia, allowing room for technology to demonstrate a positive influence on society. Seor, the ubiquitous virtual assistant, connects the Lyons family whenever they wish. Like Alexa or Siri, Seor is always at hand to answer questions but more importantly, facilitates an intimacy that could easily be lost to technological isolation.
In 2029, grandmother Muriel digs up the dusty digital assistant Seor because she misses its company. By now, virtual assistants are embedded into the walls and omnipresent digital cloud but the Luddite grandmother resists.
I like having something to look at, Im not talking to the walls like Shirley Valentine, she says.
Its moments like these that remind us of our agency over technology and hint at its revolutionary potential to connect us all.
While classics like Blade Runner looked to the future to ignite our technological desires, near-future fiction reveals how new technologies are injected into our lives with little choice as to whether we should adopt them and little thought to their long-term appropriateness and sustainability.
These shows ask us to be critical of what might seem like minor developments in technology and politics. In an age of rapidly changing political landscapes and the climate catastrophe, it can feel like we are approaching the final frontier. In creating stories set in the near, instead of the far, future, science fiction provides valuable lessons for the present.
In other words: the choices we fail to stand up for in the near-future may prevent us from having a distant future at all.
Posted: at 11:50 pm
Exclusive: Ted Atherton Explains the Pathology of Beauty in RABID
To my fellow entertainment journalists and bloggers, take this advice: Dont let the ink dry on your Best Horror Movies of 2019 lists until youve seenRabid, the remake of David Cronenbergs seminal body horror classic remade by Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka The Twisted Twins). Its not only the first (and so far only) remake of a Cronenberg movie, its a gruesome and engaging romp that will leave moviegoers rapt and devastated.
Rabidarrives in US theaters and VOD this Friday, December 13th. Give the trailer a spin at the top of the article and peep the synopsis below.
Synopsis:Horribly disfigured after a freak accident, doctors perform a radical medical procedure on an aspiring young fashion designer. But when the bandages come off, the side effects soon cause her to develop an insatiable appetite for human blood.
Related Article: EXCLUSIVE: TRISTAN RISK PROMISES HER CHARACTER IN RABID WILL CAUSE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
Yesterday, we shared an interview with the incomparable, multi-talented Tristan Risk, who explained what makes Rabid truly Canadian, and promising one of her three roles will lead to sleepless nights for many! Today, we continue our Week of Rabid with an interview with Ted Atherton. Atherton plays Dr. William Burroughs (a nod to the American Beat Poet of the same nameand Cronenbergs adaptation of Naked Lunch). Give it a read below.
Dread Central: Lets talk about the preparations you made for playing this character, Dr. William Burroughs, in Rabid. Did you look into the current state of human cloning and transhumanism in science?
Ted Atherton: Yeah, the Soskas sent a number of research bits regarding that, that were really wild about that particular sort of rabbit hole, and then I pulled it down on the internet a little bit. Although, what I really found kind of interesting about the movie, like all good horror movies, its about some deep, dark truth about the human psyche and Rabid has it. And I also watched the original Cronenberg movie and in this re-imagining, as conceived by the Soska sisters, this cultural obsession with a certain standard of beauty leads to a kind of pathologization of anything that falls short of that standard, do you know what I mean? As if to not be beautiful or fit means youre in need of a cure. And I found that particularly interesting from the character I was playing, Dr. William Burroughs, (with that nod to Cronenbergs obsession with William Burroughs of Naked Lunch fame).
The fact that Laura Vanderboots character Rose works for a fashion designer (really played beautifully in a darkly comic way by my friend Mackenzie Gray, whose new line is called Schadenfreude, the German word for the dark pleasure we take in anothers misfortune) really dramatizes the moral sickness at the heart of this obsession with physical beauty, particularly physical beauty thats competitive. And Rose is not a model but shes not ugly; shes average looking, or as average looking that hair and makeup can make you when youre starting with Laura Vanderboot! But average isnt good enough and it actually holds Rose back in events in her career. When this horrific traffic accident that drives Laura Vanderboots character into the hands of Dr. William Burroughs, its seen as a kind of good fortune because it provides the occasion for a complete physical transformationa cure for the sickness of her mediocre looks and the cost, of course. becomes a growing and unknowing hunger, a special diet.
She gets transformed from a human being, a member of society, with all the connections of human society, into this solitary predator. Thats what I found most interesting. Dr. Burroughs, he comes across as very kind, sort of paternalistic, that was a kind of a father figure. And Rose is ultimately his creation, his child in a way. But what hes transforming her into this child thats going to have no connection with anything else in the world, because anyone that gets anywhere near her, who comes close enough to care about her, shes going to destroy and turn into that same kind of lone predator.
Related Article:INTERVIEW: JEN AND SYLVIA SOSKA TALK RABID, DAVID CRONENBERG, AND TRANSHUMANISM
DC: Youve done a lot of sci-fi and drama but is it safe to say that Rabid is the most gruesome, brutal movie youve been in?
TA: Oh my god, absolutely. Ive seen all of those prosthetics and practical effects close up and I have to tell you, were absolutely disgusting.
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