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    Whilst it may be possible to soon grow your own clothes with synthetic bacteria, or indeed harnessing fog to eliminate the water problems of the world, what is exciting about design within technology and the transhumanist perspective of it, is primarily the idea that design can be simultaneously innovative, a game changer, aesthetically pleasing and ethically sound.

    Such is the mission of the coming conference “TRANSHUMANISM MEETS DESIGN” at Parsons school of design where Humanity+ and Parsons will Explore the Role of Design in Transcending and Transforming Human Potential.



    With a fascinating list of futurists speakers including Howard Bloom, author of Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, and Vivian Rosenthal, cofounder of New York-based Tronic Studio. Artificial intelligence researcher Ben Goertzel, chair of Humanity+; strategic philosopher Max More, CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation; and neuroscientist Anders Sandberg, a James Martin Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University the conference promises to be an event at a critical junction in our evolution.

    In my conversations with Natasha Vita-More, who co-chairs the conference with Ed Keller, the idea to present a designed form of presentation, interview like, for our audience here at SC came up, we have as a result created a schema of interweaving ideas, involving design, transhumanism, ethics and aesthetics.



    I - Narratives

    1.The Narrative of Aesthetics

    Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.

    Alfred North Whitehead (Mathematical Logician and Philosopher)

    Natasha: One way in which we can understand design and aesthetics is to refresh our imaginations about what personal identity means. If, for example, our personhood is a series of neuronal connections, then it forms a pattern. All aspects of our brain’s cognition, including memory, perception, experiences, analysis, and imagination, are patterns of connections. By this, one could say we are art.

    2. The Narrative of Design

    Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated.

    Paul Rand (Icon Graphic Designer)


    Natasha: Biology is a design of nature’s elements and evolution’s processes. If design, in its most basic sense, is the act of finding a solution to a problem, then design is a quintessential method for developing humanity’s future existence as biological, semi-biological and post-biological people. Science and technology are the tools, but design is the necessary, essential methodology.

    3. The Narrative of Culture

    Be culturally literate, because if you don't have any understanding of the world you live in and the culture you live in, you're not going to express anything to anybody else.

    Paula Scher (Dame of Grande Design)

    Natasha: When time speeds up and the complexity of life causes cultures to clash, it is ever more sensible to promote diversity and understanding amongst consensual and disparate beliefs. Society’s need for knowledge is truncated by easy, quick-fix information that lacks accuracy and historical context. Repeatedly, I am seeing misinformation, lousy referencing, borrowed ideas, and a type of tweet culture that doesn’t take the time to accurately quote or identify where the information was obtained.

    4. The Narrative of Transhumanism

    Leonardo Da Vinci combined art and science and aesthetics and engineering, that kind of unity is needed once again.

    Ben Shneiderman (Computer Scientist)

    Natasha: Transhumanism evokes the sciences and technologies that might best solve the problems of bodily deterioration, cognitive degeneration, and overall lack of well-being. Enhancement means to expand upon—to make better. It parallels the role of design. Enhancement is not just augmenting the body with technology. As a design process, it aims to produce a reliable, efficient, smart model for personhood. It is the ultimate unity of aesthetics and engineering.


    II - The Application of Transhuman Perception

    1. The application of Transhumanism to Ethics

    Natasha: At the finest intersection of transhumanism and ethics lies the issue of life and death, who we are, our purpose, our relationship to our self, to others and to society. Transhumanism values personhood, the right to live, and the right to enhance intellectual capacity, bodily performance, sensory modalities, physiological attributes, and to increase one’s lifespan. Transhumanism disavows any political, religious or other system that uses coercion in interfering with a person’s efforts to maintain his or her personhood and efforts to sustain life and wellbeing.

    2. The application of Transhumanism to Aesthetics

    Natasha: Aesthetics of an enhanced existence is best conveyed through new media’s virtual, immersive role in constituting experience design. This offers one an opportunity to partially experience what a transhuman, posthuman or upload might be like. For example, to experience multiple selves and distributed cognition. Ultimately the artistic finessing of radical life extension is the goal.

    3. The application of Aesthetics to Design

    Natasha: Surveying transdisciplinary practice-based works generating around the theme of transhumanism, it seems that designing new types of human platforms is at the top of the design excitement. When I designed “Primo Posthuman” in 1997, it was a novel prototype, never done before and I received international recognition for this concept and model. Since then, there have been many designers and artists who have added to this concept and there are some marvelous outcomes. Nevertheless, none of them have actually furthered my original concept or introduced a different or more meaningful examination of a future human prototype. Why? I think the reason is that the technological methodology that I envisioned for the future humans and its aesthetics is still not available.

    4.The correlativity of Ethics, Aesthetics, Design and Transhumanism

    Natasha: If we look at human enhancement as a design issue, then ethics and aesthetics are the primary tools. If the aim of transhumanism is to regenerate existence and personhood, in biological matter and other substrates, then the correlation between one’s values and one’s right to morphology are just two variables of the gestalt. What we will look like, how we functions, and the relationship between persons depends on the structure and substrate of the person and the architecture of the environment.


    The health of one’s body and brain is essential to the core of transhumanism.

    III - The body- The next frontier of evolution:

    1.1 The Body extends in time via technology producing longevity

    Natasha: Extending the body is the role of transformative human enhancement. Adding to the number of years we are alive, developing new environments within which to exist, designing new types of persons are crucial aspects of extending the body through technology. But it must be understood that the body, is inclusive of the person and the body is not tethered to biology or a three-dimensional structure. The idea of regenerating human life is not new. It is an age-old issue. What is new are the methods through which we can realize this proposition. Transhumanism has been challenging the human lifespan and the finality of death for 20 years.

    1.2 The Body cybernetically extended as itself via tech , changing the human condition

    Natasha: Cybernetics looks at the observer as part of the system, rather than outside the system. Building on this theory, it makes sense that the observer would also be a co-creator with the development of the system. After all, it is his/her life we are talking about! To extend and elevate the human condition related to extending the “observer” beyond biology and unto alternative platforms. One such platform, which relates to cybernetics, is a digital and computational platform, for example. But the issue of uploading consciousness is a very hard problem for cognitive scientists and neuro scientists to explore. The rest of us can imagine the possibilities and what the aesthetics implied might be.



    1.3 Body extended as enhanced brain –The metabrain, Brain Machine Interface

    Natasha: The metabrain is the term I use for the enhanced brain. It features a dashboard of options, including adaptive AGI that assists psychological behaviors and decision-making. Also neural macrosensing, conceived by nanotechnology expert Robert A. Freitas Jr., relates to medical in vivo nanorobotics for the detection of somatic states as well as extrasomatic states, such as sensory data originating outside the body.

    -
    IV - Transhuman thought is ethically consistent and aesthetically pleasing



    Natasha: The reasons why I think design is a crucial element of transhumanism is because design, by its very nature, is about problem solving. While we are primarily focused on life extension, there is great interest in and concern about every day problems that people face. Technological innovation permeates all aspects of society—from tiny water purification packets and portable LifeStraw filters, to GPS tracking devices, wearable Timex iPods and Gel-Kinsei high-tech running shoes. Because technology and society evolve together, it has become increasingly important to develop a greater understanding of how technology is shaping the course of our lives. We are faced with a need to continuously become more innovative in harnessing and controlling technology’s acceleration. Nevertheless, innovation develops in stages. When it speeds up, we are faced with an urge to become ever more resourceful. When it slows down there is an impending impatience to compete with the exuberance of China. There is no doubt that even the most conservative thinkers agree that we have stepped into an era of a massive change. The good news is that our human diversity continues to spawn inventiveness and novelty. Through artistic and innovative applications of design, transhumanist technologies can synthesize ethics and aesthetics.

    -
    I have asked Natasha to comment on some actual examples of designed technology already changing our lives and their correlation to Transhuman perception of design:

    4.1 Smart Wheel chairs



    Natasha: Mobility is second nature to us, and without easy access to movement we can feel imprisoned in our bodies. A wheelchair is a type of prosthetics and prosthetics is a major area for transhumanist design. Not only do we want to live much longer, we want to be able to replace worn out body parts with newer versions. What happens if we don’t have bodies that function? My design “Primo Posthuman” is a whole body prosthetic based on emerging technologies such as regenerative biotechnology, molecular nanotechnology, neuroinformatics, and artificial general intelligence.

    The everyday products that help to protect our lives touch on the core of transhumanism. How can we expect nascent technologies to fix many of the biological problems that we face today if we do not ourselves protect our lives? Anyone who has had cancer knows what a difficult situation they are faced with. Our bodies are now a synthesis of prosthetic and biology.




    4.2 People who have lost their larynx to cancer could speak again, thanks to a device that can interpret facial movements when the wearer mouths a word




    Natasha: Having had cancer twice, I know how it feels to have to face the disease. I remember when I was 11 years old and had a tumor growing in my jaw and had to have it removed. In my Chicago-based surgeon’s waiting room, I saw people who had lost large portions of their faces. Many wore scarves to cover up what their tumors had devoured. It makes me happy to know that the field of design is helping people who have lost body parts or need new body parts.



    For a full list of confirmed speakers and additional information about the conference, please visit the conference website: Humanity+@Parsons NYC

    I think that many of us here at Space Collective will find much interest in this conference and maybe will also be able to contribute some additional insights.
    Though I am sorry to say I personally will not be able to attend, if any of you does, a Polytopian perspective added here will be much appreciated.





    Thu, May 5, 2011  Permanent link
    Categories: design, Ethics, transhumanism, Aesthetics, Humanity+, Parsons
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    There exists certain kind of people about whom I do not think as people per se, but more as an event. Such is the case with Natasha Vita More, to my mind she is an event unto itself, an elegant forward thinking person that carries enough ambitions and interests, intelligence and visions to cater for a battalion of futurists.
    Though we have never met in person (this interview was conducted via email) I have a great sense of personal acquaintance with Natasha. An acquaintance based on similarities of thought and projections, ideas proximity and embedded realizations.
    I have a sense that here is a person whose straightforwardness may at times mask the truly audacious and adventurous nature of her life event, a life she intends to extend indefinitely.
    We need such humans as Natasha, minds that are at present free from the absolutism of their own views, free in such a manner as to allow themselves the divergent and the emergent, the convergent and the openness to work simultaneously towards the aesthetics of the future.
    The aesthetics of our common cyber emergent future is what I perceive in the work of Natasha and that is why I have asked to write about her and with her, this therefore is part essay, part interview, in short an event, just as Natasha is.



    W: "Natasha, you have been hailed as the first transhumanist female and such cultural icons as Dr. Timothy Leary said that: "You are a catalyst—a cultural agent in the virtual salon of ideas." ( Dr. Timothy Leary, Icon ) and FM-2030 said that :” "Natasha is a visionary whose 21st Century aesthetics crystallized early on." ( FM-2030, author, Are You A Transhuman?)
    Moreover the Atlantic wrote that you are a "A superhuman object of desire combining Madonna, Schwarzenegger and Marcel Duchamp." Atlantic Unbound ), these are only some of the adjectives that have been appended to you, could you give a more informal introduction to your life and the way you are presented in the media?"


    Natasha: “I am fortunate to have had many years of interest in my work by the media/press and I am thankful and appreciative of this. There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, which is often equated with being the "first." I have been called the first female transhumanist, both as an artist and a theorist/philosopher and I feel no loss by admitting that I am probably not the first, but the first within a timeframe where the media turned its cameras on and the presses started rolling.

    As a little background, I spent considerable time thinking about, and exploring geographical locations where I could enjoy unique landscapes. Simultaneously I was deeply involved with film, video and performance. Creating a home base in the ski resort Telluride, I was positioned in one of the world's most intriguing artistic communities, which provided enormous freedom. I believe it was my relationship with Telluride and the social status I gained there that intrigued the media. This was an opposite direction from what I had taken for many years as a performance artist, where my works were produced inside volcanoes, in the middle of oceans, on Indian reservations, and so forth, with, frankly, no time or interest in media attention or exposure. In hindsight, it was a pragmatic decision on my part to engage in because suddenly I had something thoroughly important to say to the world, and what made it very intriguing for me was that it was not about me or my work; it was about the human nature and technological change—what we might become and how we might experience the world in the coming decades.

    I try to look beyond the narrow focus, which is often restricted to a predisposed view of what is normal and normalcy for humans. Many people have freedoms that are often taken for granted. One is freedom of choice. It would be less than dignified for me to complain about being misquoted and misunderstood by the press when I have shared equal time in the media as being accurately quoted and highly understood. It is on the latter that I would like to focus.”



    W: In a paper that you presented in 1996 entitled: AGELESS THINKING Creating Positive Transhuman Attitude (link) you write in the introduction: “Ageless means to be free of the characteristics associated with age. Thinking means to bring thought to mind by exercising the power of reason. Ageless thinking means to practice the exercise of thinking about maintaining a youthful state, both physically and mentally. How and what we think about age depends on our individual goals.” Could you elaborate on this aspect of your thought?


    Natasha:” You ask about my term “ageless”. To explain, it fascinates me that chronological age is still used to define a person. Similar to relying on an IQ test to measure one's cognitive skills, relying on chronological age presupposes that all life is neatly defined by a linear calendar. This method of linearity for determining a person’s fitness is outdated and scientifically inaccurate. Aging is based in genetics and is affected by how we live our lives and choices of physiological intervention. A healthy, vital 50 year old can equal an inactive, sun-dried 30 years old. From a metaphorical perspective, being ageless is simply a way to begin anew each day. I don’t know what to say about the paper I wrote (“Ageless Thinking”) other than how we think about our lives and ourselves affects how we live our lives. The content of the essay considers how society predetermines who we are and what we should do based on our age, for the most part, rather than our capabilities. But that paper was written some time ago and in light of accelerating change and the novelty of technologies, which are breaking down generational gaps, it may not have the fervor it had when I wrote it.

    W: About your connection with Timothy Leary

    Natasha: “I enjoyed the short time I had in getting to know him. He had a marvelous sense of humor. I am not truly knowledgeable about his views on mind alteration, other than the use of d-lysergic acid diethylamide to alter perception and what I have read. We did not discuss it. He was someone it was simply fun to be “in the moment.” I did make a short video with him months before he passed away (he was ill and frail I remember he adored his black and white checked jacket and how he wanted to wear it on camera).

    W: About Mind enhancement?

    Natasha:"Human enhancement is the field I am most interested in primarily because it has a history in cybernetics, electronic/technological media arts and biological arts. Secondarily, it is a broad field and can be approached in a transdisciplinary manner—which gives me a lot of freedom to explore all sorts of relationships, which affect and are affected by design.

    Mind enhancement is one aspect of the boarder field of human enhancement. The areas of mind enhancement where I am mostly focused are related to cognitive augmentation, which includes memory, perception and communication. For the mind, I am interested in alternative personas, or multiple selves of person’s existence. I think this is a sub-field of human enhancement that will grow exponentially on its own as humans spend more time in virtual and synthetic landscapes and assume more than one, singular identity (which is just as outdated as basing one’s sense of worth on his/her chronological age :-))."




    W: How did you become a transhumanist? Could you recount your connection to the emergence of the extropy institute and your relations with philosopher Max More?

    Natasha:” I moved to Los Angeles to develop my film and video projects. I produced several events for the ‘Filmex’ International Film Festival and At Sunset on Sunset Strip, and was a stringer writer for the Hollywood Reporter. I met with a number of notables in the areas of global issues such as Buckminster Fuller, new technologies of creative artistic practices such as Francis Ford Coppola, and the future of social changes such as FM Esfandiary (FM-2030). I produced a few short high 8 films about social dogma and after learning about human-computer interfaces and the biotechnologies which could change human physiology and issues concerning human modification; I authored the Transhuman Statement (1982), a manifesto for human futures. I produced a number of video projects, which thematically addressed individual and global issues, and I created the educational cable TV show “Transcentury Update” which focused on transdisciplinary influencers of the future.

    I was making Transhuman works of art, but I did not know of transhumanism, per se. It was not until 1990 that I learned about the transhumanist philosophy. In fact, transhumanism as a philosophical outlook and a social movement is the direct result of Max More, who authored the philosophy, and the efforts of the Extropy Institute. Later, Max was a guest on my TV cable show (“Transcentury Update”). I was delighted to meet such a remarkable intellect who had carefully put together the ideas of transhumanism into a succinct manner and to have later also written the Principles of Extropy. While I came from a different transhumanist background than Max, we shared similar values and my deep regard and enthusiasm for Extropy Institute propelled me to join and later become involved in its magazine and conferences, and eventually lead to my becoming its president for three years prior to its closing. During that time, the board and I put together the first online Transhumanist event called the Vital Progress Summit, which goal was to unravel a protocol for identifying the pros and cons of accelerating change. We decided to counter the well-known Precautionary Principle with our own principle, the Proactionary Principle . Some keynotes included, Max More, Raymond Kurzweil, Marvin Minsky, Rob Freitas, Aubrey de Grey, and myself. My reason for putting on this summit was that we have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our children, and our loved ones in determining what choices to make about the future of our health.

    In short: I did not create or help to create Extropy Institute. I was a Transhuman before I learned of the philosophy of transhumanism. I met Max More in 1992 and later became a member of Extropy Institute because it was the most intelligent, advanced and high-profile international group of people who were thinking about the future and far out ideas such as nanotechnology, human-brain interface, multiple selves, uploading, radical life extension, ethics of emerging technologies, etc.
    Extropy had one of the very first email lists on the Web for discussions about the future and technological change, etc. After I joined Extropy Institute I became a Board member and later I was president for 4 years, during which time I chaired the VP Summit. The institute closed down, but the email list is still very, very active to this day!!”




    W: " I am aware that you have certain very specific ideas concerning the aesthetics and the future of art, how do you understand post humanist art and aesthetics?
    How do you see the changing paradigm of beauty and aesthetics? And if you can, describe the relation between your work, specifically the primo concept of the future human, the changes you advocate and the future of gender."


    Natasha:” My theory of the posthuman and posthumanism is that we currently do not know what a posthuman will be, but we have an idea of how it might come about. Posthumanism is directly related to and intertwined with transhumanism; the latter being a means to become the former. I think that our future will be one of distributed existence in multiple forms and will not necessarily relinquish the physiological body. The posthuman could have one body or many bodies comprised of biological, biosynthetic, or other types of substrates. In short, it is not a neither/or situation.

    Humans are far too inventive to limit ourselves with one future. Currently, posthumanism is too tethered to postmodernism and needs a good shaking up. It needs to separate itself from postmodernism and find its own future. Lastly, my view on transhumanism is that it is pioneering, intelligently formed, and a vital part of preparing for our posthuman future. Transhumanism embraces not only accelerating change, but also the socio-political issues that must be addressed, and the ethical issues, which must be engaged.

    I suppose that posthumanism and transhumanism had better think about where the aesthetics of human is headed. The cyborg imparts several interpretations, such as a self-regulating organism, science fiction’s man-machine terminator, or an ironic political myth.
    Alternatively, the Transhuman as an organism or entity is a technologically enhanced human, which conveys an emotional and intellectual desire to improve the human condition. Unlike the cyborg, the Transhuman is based in philosophy and its socio-political factors include ethics and human rights, although its process, like Manfred Clynes’ cyborg, is to self-regulate and evolve. As such, the Transhuman behavior suggests transitional stages of development (rather than a permanent state like a cyborg), depending on available sciences and technologies, along with the intellection and wherewithal to think about social and political issues, which could support or confront its progress.



    W:” Some other pioneers in the arts and aesthetics have made interesting headways into the PosthumanTranshuman conception of the body and its aesthetic evolution , could you relate your work to the works of Stelarc and Orlan emphasizing the differences and similarities and the way our conceptual understanding of our bodies are changing, especially as relating to beauty- acceptance-rejection..

    Natasha:” You ask how I differ from Orlan and Stelarc. We are all performance artists who use our bodies and identities as our art medium or form. We each embrace and employ various technologies to manipulate our biological bodies. We each display our bodies as exhibition objects or objects d'art. Yet, theoretically we differ, as we differ in our philosophical views. The most obvious difference between my work and Stelarc and Orlan is that my work is focused on human enhancement in regards to being different than what is considered the norm for a human and the process of evolutionary change brought about through enhancement. More specifically is the fact that my work concerns radical life extension, a concept that neither Stelarc nor Orlan, to my knowledge, embrace.

    Recently, I was asked to write a short essay for a French book series titled, 100 000 Ans de Beauté (2009, Gallimard pub- in French) in which I wrote, "Because beauty is a process of self-transformation, uniquely based on our individual values and experience of reality, one relevant question to ask is: What might beauty become in a world of Transhuman and Posthuman futures?” To answer this question, I bring into the discussion the Wired magazine cover story:


    “Wired magazine, at the launch of the 21st Century, declared ""Don't Die, Stay Pretty." , which featured an image of Jeanne Calment and myself as examples of longevity. [Ms. Calment passed away at 122 years, and I hope to live well beyond her reverent age]. The transhumanist view is that radical life extension means that humans can live longer, but not as exclusively biological beings. The human would have to redesign its internal biological system in order to overcome disease, injury, aging and death—a pattern of gradual senescence, which switches off reproduction and turns on the steady decline of physical and mental functions. The human would also have to examine its external environment, its relationship to all other species and the earth, and its use of emerging and converging sciences and technologies. Lastly, the human would have to critically investigate possible non-biological platforms to co-exist within. This is the new, mid-21st Century notion of beauty." (Vita-More)

    Regardless of whether bodies are bio or digital, sensorial pleasures are transferable. The telematic, immersive, and extended experiences of an enhanced existence lean toward a highly developed range of pleasures.

    Umberto Eco asked,” is beauty something ontologically self-subsistent, which gives pleasure when it is apprehended? Or is it rather the case that a thing appears beautiful only when someone apprehends it in such a way as to experience a certain type of pleasure?" Beauty can be one, the other, or both ways—taking it into a state of multiplicity. The idea that historically a person had to be located in one field, one ideology, one body, changes to the proactive prospect that it is not an eitheror scenario, but an array of possibilities.

    Artworks that shape our future continue to engage our enhanced existence through the virtual, telematic, nano-bio-info-cogno media. Artworks continue to engage our sense of style. They may also be invaluable in informing this new sense of self by pulling together all the distributed experiences that fluctuate in diverse spaces and time. The aesthetic of a radically enhanced existence may clarify the nature of human experience and the essential moments in the perceptions of experience.



    My practice-based work, “Primo Posthuman”, suggests mind enhancement, but I am working on the next version, which will address mind enhancement. One issue I am looking at is the symbiotic relationship of artificial general intelligence (AGI) and nano-macro sensing in the brain. I delivered a paper on this in the UK three years ago.
    The paper is online at Ieet.org: Wisdom through Neural Macrosensing

    Human enhancement aesthetics can be viewed as an outgrowth of philosophical aesthetics and the science of human enhancement. Prior to its development, aesthetics within the analytic tradition is mostly concerned with the philosophy of art. Human enhancement aesthetics originates as contingent to this emphasis with a focus on aesthetic appreciation of human futures, including the cyborg, transhuman, posthuman, and whole brain emulation upload.

    Aesthetics of enhanced existence, is basically design engineering which scope includes synthetic and natural environments, suggests bio-nano bodily design with enhanced cognitive processing power. The idea of human equivalent processing power (HEPP), brought about by the person(s) rather than institutionalized authority, may give new contextual meaning to the notion of biopower. Further, the activity of ‘giving style’ to one’s existence (Nietzsche 1974), through an explicit transformation, turns autonomous style into an open and enhanced network of styles. Thus, the Nietzschean self-hood as mortal, changing, and embodied (1989) gives way to the immortal, evolving, and distributed body.



    The basic concepts of aesthetics of enhanced existence could be imagined by introducing new media’s immersive, interactive role in constituting experience (Dewey 1980). This offers an opportunity to partially, if not naively, experience the sentiment of what enhanced existence might be like. In media aesthetics, logical description cannot replace personal participation (Schirmacher 1991). Nonetheless, there still remains a tension between the act of experiencing the world and a need that the experience depicts a world worth living (as a precondition) (Nozick 1990).

    Enhanced existence evokes dramatic narratives, which generate uncertainty. Taking it from one posthumanist perspective, embodiment will give way to its reconfigurement by the machine (Hayles 1999); from another it would upload (Kurzweil 2006). Taking it from a transhumanist perspective, identity will give way to distributed selves. The scenarios, if approached like events, forgo the experiential exploration into aesthetics of enhanced existence. Life simply is not a blatant shift in materiality; it includes sensory and emotional experiences along the way. (Vita-More “Design Aesthetics of the Radically Enhanced Human” 2009- pdf)



    “Primo Posthuman” as a work of art and a philosophical outlook suggests that the following will come about:

    • Experience transfer technology for “shared experience” will map out one person’s thoughts onto synthetic platforms, which will be available for downloading into another person’s mind.
    • Macro-sensing nanorobots will enhance human senses.
    • Human life-like avatars will function in more than one environment at the same time.
    • Death will become an option and reversible.
    • Molecular manufacturing will become as commonplace as plastics, the leading mainstay in society today.
    • 100% biological bodies are a thing of the past.
    • Exo-body AI supercomputing intelligence will function as silicon partners to assist human-level intelligence.
    • An internal network of nano-computers will continually detect cell disease and report status to the brain.
    • The Earth undergoes technological augmentation and enhancement.
    • Global Human Rights takes a new turn in encouraging Morphological Freedom as the right for a person to enhance and the right for a person not to be coerced to enhance.

    Primo Posthuman at KurzweilAi.net



    W:”First I would like to thank Natasha, on behalf of the Polytopia project, for the patient and gracious manner by which she approached this interview, moreover I would like to use this opportunity and congratulate her as recently she was chosen to be on the H+ board.

    Irrespective to her substantial attainments and creative work I think that Natasha offers something larger than the obvious.
    Natasha has a knack for presenting a view that is sorely lacking in many discourses of our futures. To my eyes she represents a combination of meliorism and aesthetics, in a packaged pragmatic and philosophical aesthetic realism. In a manner of speaking I think that the views presented by Vita-More are aligned to the current flow of events in the world of thought, especially as regards the need to re invigorate the distinction between posthumanism and postmodernism. As indeed Natasha mentions above, posthumanism is still tethered to postmodernism, as if it is a philosophy that needs a parent to recognize its own identity. Postmodernism, if it can be called a philosophy at all (and about that there are as many views as there are thinkers) is not in and of itself a view of progress as such, but a critique of the manner by which thought and art, philosophy and society operated before their time.
    Posthumanism and transhumanism on the other hand walk straight headed into the future carrying a progressive agenda of hope in the future of the human. There is a certain very clear assessment of current technologies and their offspring, possible consequences and potential risks are taken into consideration in a manner that though not anthropomorphist exalts the creative aspect of the human in re-inventing its mind, its body, its social system, and possibly its very nature. Having said that, I think that what worldviews like the one Natasha espouses, increase our capability and intelligence in developing new modes of seeing ourselves, as aesthetically self-enhancing beings, as ever evolving minds guided by our innate desire to upgrade the natural.

    I am a great believer in the art of collaboration a collaboration that extends across domains, using technology and science, philosophy and art to express and manifest in as many ways as possible the interdependence and interconnectivity of all life. (And that may very well be one of the possible definitions of posthumanism).
    The beauty arising under such conditions of exploration is the audacious beauty of our future.



    About Natasha:

    Natasha Vita-More is a Ph.D. candidate, University of Plymouth. Her research concerns the transformative human and radical life extension. Her academic lectures on human futures include Coeur des Sciences, Québec; Pecci Museum, Milan; University of Applied Design, Austria; Laboral Centro de Industrial Creatión, Spain; Servico Social do Comercio, Brazil; Cumulus International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, Estonia Academy of Arts. Her writings have been published in Artifact, 2008 Volume 3, Nanotechnology Perceptions, Vol. 2, Technoetic Arts, Vol. 5.3, Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology, Death And Anti-Death Vol. 2, Cryonics, Vol. 22.1, and Extropy, Vol. 17. Her bi-monthly column on transhumanism is published in “Nanotechnology Now”.

    Her theoretical and practice-based works are featured at "Evolution Haute Couture: Art and Science in the Post-Biological Age", XXX Moscow International Film Festival and Moscow Museum, National Centre for Contemporary Design, Brooks Memorial Museum, Women In Video, Telluride Film Festival, U.S. Film Festival.

    Natasha is currently an advisor for non-profit organizations including Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Adaptive A.I., and Lifeboat Foundation, and a Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.


    Endnote:

    This is the first in a series of interviews under the heading of a new project I am embarking upon.
    The project is temporarily entitled :
    Free Radicals- interviews with possibilities

    Free radicals are extraordinary humans that promote the emergent paradigm shift of post humanity.
    There is no claim of objectivity here but an unabashed bias towards a techno-optimistic, aesthetically pleasing future evolution of humanity.
    The humans I have chosen to interview reflect different perspectives of multidimentionality and multiversality as regards the change and transformation of human nature.


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    Exploring Posthuman Aesthetics

    “Thus a simple physical feeling is one feeling which feels another feeling.
    But the feeling felt has a subject diverse from the subject of the feeling which feels it.”

    Alfred North Whitehead (Process and Reality, p.362)





    To begin with, I need say that to my eyes any philosophy necessitates a double disclaimer: the first, that it is never final and forever a work in progress, and the second that by implication the fluidity of the state of affairs of the world does not allow for absolutes.
    How much more so, when the work in question deals with the future, particularly with the aesthetics of the future human, the posthuman.
    The following if so is both a work in progress and an amalgam of my thought process until now concerning the concepts of beauty, pleasure, intelligence and the manner in which these interrelate in what I take to be a cohesive and consistent manner.

    Step 1.
    Beauty is not the subject matter of aesthetics:

    I realize that for many, it is almost a given that aesthetics is the science of beauty, yet I beg to differ on this point especially with regard to the concept beauty as it is conceived at present.
    Just as I do not conceive of intelligence as a capability of the human mind but an inter-subjective property of complex interactions, so is my take on beauty. Beauty I understand to be not a property of objects, nor a natural essentiality, in fact beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder and neither is beauty a substantive reality.
    What if so is beauty?
    Beauty I understand to be a fluid and emergent sense oriented perceptive realization occurring in the mind as a form of knowledge.
    As a form of knowledge beauty is transformative by nature and has the propensity to bypass our reasoning mechanism without initially implying judgments. In this respect beauty is a terminology that is infinitely useful especially when the goal is not the status quo of our historical heritage but the expansion of our minds into new horizons.
    Beauty allows our minds an expansion of the proprioception mechanism (by which we represent ourselves to ourselves) into an extended territory of comprehension.
    Hence its fundamental and critical importance.


    “When you go to a higher level, the lower level may be irrelevant.”
    Gregory Chaitin (Conversations with a Mathematician, 2002)





    “The purpose of art, surely, is not merely to depict
    or represent reality — for that can be accomplished very easily with a camera — but to enhance, transcend, or indeed even to distort reality”


    V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein
    The Science of Art
    A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience (PDF)






    image: GFP in steel, Julian Voss-Andreae, 2004
    Why would an artist choose to shift proteins into the world of Art?

    Beauty in short, is an extremely large concept, accommodating within its realm of comprehension the continuity of all forms of knowledge directly enhancing our representation of reality. The result of beauty perception is an immediate transcendence of our previous knowledge and in that sense beauty implies intelligence amplification. Same intelligence amplification can be seen as a process by which the mind of the individual extends its modules of understanding and comprehension to encompass new realities. In short, by grasping and experiencing beauty we move levels, and progress across dimensions.
    Hence, the immense importance of beauty for our minds and by consequence culture and evolution, thus in our evolutionary ascension as a species, beauty is that which gives knowledge its pleasure.

    Step 2
    What is Aesthetics?
    If, as I hold, beauty is that which gives knowledge its pleasure, the subject matter of aesthetics then is the pleasure of knowledge (as intelligence amplification) resulting when beauty is acknowledged, grasped and experienced.
    “The word ‘aesthetic’ is a derivative of the Greek word: 'Aesthesis' ,In its classical use the semantic range of the word covers the English equivalents of sensation,perception,appearance, mind, and knowledge.(Liddell and Scott).”

    Following the previous paragraph concerning beauty then, we may now understand aesthetics as requiring an unsettling of knowledge, a dynamic, and transformative quality of engagement with the world.
    In this sense, Aesthetics can be said to be the foundation of our understanding the inter-subjective relational experience we have with the world. Aesthetics I see as that which disturbs the obvious, disconcerts the known, unsettles the clear and provides a way ahead in our realization of ourselves both as individuals as a culture and as a species,.
    Paraphrasing a famous statement by Theodor Adorno “It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident..”
    I shall say:” It is self-evident that nothing concerning beauty and by consequence aesthetics is self-evident”

    This is important in more ways than one, for it is my understanding and realization that for our future to be different than our past we need a new posthuman definition of that which is aesthetically pleasing and that which we consider beautiful.

    Step 3
    Beauty is a restless entity

    “..it may not be a coincidence that the ability of the artist to abstract the
    `essential features' of an image and discard redundant information is essentially iden-
    tical to what the visual areas themselves have evolved to do”

    V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein
    The Science of Art
    A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience (pdf)

    The future that is coming upon us all promises to be more exciting and indeed more extravagant that we can imagine, especially when considering the tremendous advances of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and the immense advances in neuroscience.
    It is obvious that our old conceptions of what is beautiful and the aesthetics of intelligence amplification are the hallmarks of the arising posthuman.
    Witness the astonishing work of: Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg/The Synthetic Kingdom/A Natural History of the Synthetic Future in which she asks:
    How will we classify what is natural or unnatural when life is built from scratch? (RCA)


    The Synthetic Kingdom from Daisy Ginsberg on Vimeo.


    Or the absolutely fascinating work of Revital Cohen in which she envisions animals transformed into medical devices.
    ““Assistance animals - from guide dogs to psychiatric service cats - unlike computerised machines, can establish a natural symbiosis with the patients who rely on them. Could animals be transformed into medical devices? This project proposes using animals bred commercially for consumption or entertainment as companions and providers of external organ replacement. The use of transgenic farm animals, or retired working dogs, as life support ‘devices’ for renal and respiratory patients offers an alternative to inhumane medical therapies. Could a transgenic animal function as a whole mechanism and not simply supply the parts? Could humans become parasites and live off another organism’s bodily functions?” (Dezeen)

    Revital Cohen's Pecha Kucha at Design Indaba 2009 from Design Indaba on Vimeo.


    What these projects (and many others which I will cover in the next essay) have in common is a new form of engagement with the world. A fundamental shift from the old manner by which we understood what aesthetics means and what beauty represents.
    As some of my readers know I see the future of humanity as a multi-objective evolutionary engagement, an intelligent engagement that does not settle on any particular perspective. We are much too young a specie in the universe to conclude with any certainty what we are and far be it from our conscious awareness to restrict what we may yet become.
    A conscious aware intelligent entity such as the human need take into account the trivial yet salient point that at this juncture in our evolution our main task is to explore the future of intelligence, the beauty of the knowledge and the immense pleasure derived from our restless imagination.
    As humans we are conscious aware intelligent entities able to entertain multiple hypotheses with regard to our nature.
    Art is such an hypothesis, a complex manifestation of human nature, exploring the phase space of potentialities our minds release; for all practical purposes, it may be the case that at present the intelligent engagement with the world that art and design represent is our main gateway into the implementation of a larger vision, that of the aesthetics of posthumanism.

    Beauty is a restless entity and as such will never release its hold on our imagination or indeed on our capacity to evolve our inherent embodied hedonistic awareness.


    a note:

    This essay is the first in a series that was prompted by a very interesting, clear minded and fully re-presentational post by Natasha Vita-More: “Interpretive Dance of the Transhumanist Future” at Sentient Developments as a response to an article by Athena Andreadis’, "If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution!"
    As a result ,I wrote a few comments (that you can find on G.Dvorsky’s excellent blog) ,given the importance of the subject matter and the book I am currently reading “ Human Enhancement” (edited by Julian Savulescu , and Nick Bostrom ) and the above posts I decided to re-elucidate my views and stance with regard to the post human evolutionary aesthetics and the on-going debate concerning our posthuman conceptions of beauty and their implications upon the culture we are living in and evolving into.








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