One of the reliable bright lights in the gloom of my January is the annual Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky show, a.k.a. their State of the World conflab at The Well. All sorts of chewy futurism and near-field hindsight going on, as always, but sometimes it’s a minor aside that snags my mind, like this little zap at transhumanism:
“… you’re never going to put some magic cyberdevice inside your human body that has no human political and economic interests within its hardware and software. All human artifacts, below the skin or above them, are frozen social relationships. If you’re somehow burningly keen to consume a thing like that, you’d better, as William Burroughs liked to put it, have a look at the end of the fork.”
The great joy of my first semester of my PhD has been being formally introduced to the basics of sociological theory, and thus discovering that a lot of the woolly notions I’d come to independently have been thought far more thoroughly and comprehensively before, by smart people who gave those ideas proper names. Through this lens it’s even more apparent than before that the echoing lacuna at the heart of Movement Transhumanism — the canonical ‘philosophy’ expounded by Dr Max Biggerbetterfastermore and friends, rather than the more personal morphological meddlings of the grinders and back-alley self-modders — is the notion of any system of social relations beyond the mechanisms of soi-disant anarchocapitalist “free market” economics.
If nothing else, it goes some way to explaining the overlap between MT and the Neoreactionaries: both seem to assume that inconvenient truths might be moved aside by merit of resetting the sociopolitical clock to a time before anyone had formulated them. Not just a river in Egypt, eh?
Commandante Sterling, commenting on the launch of new R U Sirius-edited pop-transhumanism magazine h+:
(((I’ve never been a big hippiefied ’60s nostalgist, but after all we’ve been through lately, to have the *1990s* back… would that rock, or what?)))
OMG, yes it would.
Anyone who knows me offline will confirm that I’ve been longing for it for about the last seven years – musically, politically and culturally, we need to drag ourselves out of this cocaine-crazed blind-rat rerun of the eighties before it chokes us all with faux-ironic polkadot day-glo and its utter lack of introspection, morals and restraint.
Plus, my haircut will briefly be fashionable again. w00t!
[ 1 – Or, more accurately, lack thereof. ]
Thanks to a number of people for dropping me a line about this – I’d have caught it in the daily news-trawl anyway, but it’s flattering to know that you care about my coverage!
So, yes; Earth-like exoplanet spotted. Lot’s of poor journalism about though, which I’ll not bother linking to. For the more detailed facts of the matter, I refer you on to the ever-reliable Centauri Dreams, which discusses what is known for certain (and what is mere conjecture) about the planet and the solar syastem it is situated in, and then looks at the potential of the planet as an environment habitable to humans.
Of course, not everyone is particularly impressed by this – transhumanist philosopher Michael Anissimov believes (with some justification) that we should use our time and effort more effectively, and stop getting excited about other planets until we’ve properly addressed the issues and potentials of the one we find ourselves on already.
That difference in attitudes throws an interesting light on the post I just made about modern (and post-modern) science fiction themes, come to think of it. While I’m overjoyed that we’re exploring space (albeit only by telescope at the moment), I’d dearly like to see a lot more focus on issues closer to home – though not at the expense of the gosh-wow space stuff, if at all possible. Yes, I’ll have my slice of hypocrisy cake and eat it, thanks. 😉
[This post adapted and expanded from an original at Futurismic, because I don’t have the time to write things out twice if I can possibly avoid it. Shout-outs for news alerts to Jetse and Ariel – thanks, guys.]
Science fiction blogosphere habitues have probably already my SF Site interview with Ken MacLeod regarding his forthcoming novel The Execution Channel. I am pleased to tell you that there was lots of peripheral material left over, and that I have just published that material here on VCTB.
Ken’s a fascinating interviewee with lots of interests, and we covered a lot of ground. He discusses his friendship with fellow Scots science fiction legend, Iain M. Banks; their differing routes to publication; his reading and writing habits; transhumanism; the singularity; the future of publishing … and, of course, a little bit of politics! Here’s a little teaser for you, but as it’s stored on a static page, you’ll need to click through on the excerpt to read the whole thing:
You’ve mentioned before that you think life extension is a realistic possibility within the next handful of decades; how far would you go to extend your own life-span? And how much sympathy do you have with the transhumanist movement?
“So far, the only proven life-span extension method is calorie restriction, which I understand works in rats, and I haven’t gone for that. In matters of speculative medicine I have no intention of being an early adopter. It’s like the old joke: how many extropians does it take to change a light-bulb? None, they sit in the dark and wait for the technology to improve.”