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Rene Daalder
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Jan 18, 2007
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    Virtual Bodies, Virtual Souls
    Project: , Polytopia
    In 1996 former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and internet pioneer, John Perry Barlow, addressed the governments of the material world with the following message about the online community:
    “Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter and there is no matter here. Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion”

    From there he went on to describe the enlightened governance that was emerging on the Internet.

    The discrepancy between the physical nature of the “real” world and the non-physicality of virtual reality has been a constantly recurring motif in movies, from actual people getting caught in games, starting with the movie Tron (1982) or in TV shows as in, for example, Pleasantville (1998). In 1999 The Matrix took this theme one step further by giving its characters the illusion of a full-fledged sensory existence in the virtual world, loosely inspired by traditional philosophical concepts which suggest that the world exists merely as a function of our perception.

    In the future world of Star Trek human bodies can be beamed into space after being broken down into molecular components which can be reconstituted elsewhere.
    Scientists like Robotics expert Hans Moravec, have been announcing for quite some time now that we will soon be able to discard the body altogether by downloading our brains into the computer, providing us with a form of digital immortality that should come in handy, since at present our lives are still firmly rooted in and limited by the mortality of our human flesh.

    For more than half a century scientists have promised us physical immortality or at the very minimum serious life extension, through the reprogramming of our DNA or through the physical intervention of molecular-sized nanobots injected into our bloodstream. But with all the promises of rapid advances in medical science our physical existence remains our greatest liability. Even more so since in Western society our bodies tend to be held in rather low esteem and are constantly targeted by a large scale dietary and environmental assault.

    Judging by the popularity of porno on the Internet it would seem that even our copious sexual urges are often better catered to in the non-physical realm than in the flesh.

    However to call the virtual world non-physical is essentially a misnomer.

    In virtual communities like Second Life, countless romantic opportunities are being pursued which are only on occasion carried over into the physical world. Still, surrogate erotic interactions between the virtual visitors may be triggered across the network through tele-dildonics. Immersive game playing also causes all sorts of bodily sensations and the simple verbal alert of being poked by someone on the social networking site Facebook stirs near-physical excitement in its members. As a recent demonstration showed, neural activity can now move things around on our computer screens without intervention of a mouse or other devices, giving us a glimpse of our increasingly intimate relationship with technology which will become fluent to the point where mind, body and machine will be the holy trinity of the future.

    So if you look at your body as a Pavlovian physical mass, equipped with a capacity for feeling pain, a disposition for gluttony and the experience of pleasure by virtue of a few scattered erogenous zones, you are clearly selling yourself short. The human body is a highly complex transmitter and receiver of a wide variety of impulses and the amplitude of certain signals may be more easily experienced through direct neural input, reducing the interference of the material world with the help of the machine. But these virtual stimuli will continue to be complemented by the raw visceral desires that have been serving us so well since we emerged from the primordial ooze.

    Which is to say that the typical sci-fi interpretation that technology is out to annihilate the flesh is just another paranoid expression of Western culture’s obsessive preoccupation with the mind-body split. What we really seem to be after is the opening up of additional channels for a heightened sensory perception that will allow us to explore the full bandwidth of our evolutionary potential.

    Wed, Jan 24, 2007  Permanent link

    Sent to project: , Polytopia
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    Apollo     Sun, Jan 9, 2011  Permanent link
    "What we really seem to be after is the opening up of additional channels for a heightened sensory perception that will allow us to explore the full bandwidth of our evolutionary potential."

    Interesting that we assume that the vehicle for accessing this heightened perception lies in further technological development. I am as enamored with technology as I imagine most members of this site are, but my experience also tells me that the shortest road to heightened sensory perception is simple mindfulness. Interestingly, this traditionally 'Eastern' concept has begun to gain traction in the Western world. The Mental Health Foundation (UK) has recently begun a public-awareness campaign promoting basic meditative practices as highly-effective vehicles for stress-management and personal well-being. Funny to see the West catching up to this stuff after all these years.
    Wildcat     Mon, Jan 10, 2011  Permanent link
    Hi Apollo,

    As I see it, there is no contradiction between the two, a highly enhanced human mind, brain and body practicing diverse methods of mindfullness may very well be the epitome of what a limited mind-brain-body may attain.
    this of course before we become posthuman and eventually post physical.
     
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