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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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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

    “ 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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