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Milan/Tokyo, IT
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    The great enhancement debate
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    Two realms
    Project: The great enhancement debate
    Two realms of self-enhancement

    In three parts:
    The concrete realm
    The informational realm

    The three human 'species' imagined in the project description are as follows:

    • Genetically modified people
    • Bionically enhanced people
    • Un-enhanced people

    And we might want to add the combination of those first two:

    • Genetically and bionically enhanced people

    This little series is about the bionically enhanced.

    There is a sense, much discussed already, in which we are all bionically enhanced to some extent. Al wrote as much in January, mentioning our phone-projected voices, iPod-jingled eardrums, and car-extended mobility. This kind of bionic enhancement is indeed prevalent already. It is the magnification, extension and expansion of ourselves, sometimes by displacement, as in the case of the telephoner's voice or the rescue worker's roving robot. It is our corporeal growth into other parts of the world, or our functional enhancement in dealing with the physical world. It is the enhancement of our bodies: it is growth in the concrete realm.

    However, the spreading and displacement in the concrete realm should be distinguished from our bionically enabled growth into the informational realm - the unplacement of aspects of ourselves. Examples of growth into the informational realm are some types of computer-enhanced memory (which al mentioned), internet-presented personality (like here, e.g.), and electoral roll-recorded existence. These elaborations are easier to detach from our 'basic' selves, since they are augmentations of our non-corporeal selves. However, the informational dimensions of our beings are becoming more and more important to our identities.

    For example, you might think you are a student at a university because you go to that university and you study there: those two things are quite essential. However, the university will tell you that you are a student there if and only if their database records such a fact. So, in their terms, you may be a student and never even go to campus or open a book. You may produce excellent work using their facilities and under the guidance of their professors, but still not be a student, excellent or otherwise. This kind of record of someone's status is part of their presence in the informational realm. Importantly, it is this presence that affords certain statuses and privileges in the 'real' world, away from the records and databases. Your CV is boosted by having been recorded as a student more than by actually having been one, so you are more employable with that record than with the wit but no paper to show it.

    The increase in the importance of our informational selves might be because those informational facets of persons are (not entirely, but largely) dependent on large-scale and intricate social interactions of our modern era, and the persistent, shared informational spaces that enable those interactions. (That is, rapidly manipulable, parallel accessible, recorded information.)

    The Great Enhancement Debate's project description predicts that unenhanced "naturals" may be taking a radical stance. It has already been suggested elsewhere that the "natural" stance can't really be taken because we can't form a meaningful notion of the natural. I think that view is right when we look at enhancement in the concrete realm, but less so when we consider it in the informational realm. It is impossible to frame a clear and absolute notion of the corporeally unnatural or supernatural. However, whilst it may be that there are no informationally natural humans in today's society (or at least in a near future's society), we can see what one would be (and what they have been).

    Continue to The concrete realm

    Mon, Apr 28, 2008  Permanent link

    Sent to project: The great enhancement debate
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