Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Future Against Futurity: Some Questions for the Transhumanists

Am I still myself if my self is a project of transcendence? Do my prosthetic practices make me more myself or less myself? Is "transcendence" the transcendence of all limits or only some? If all, what remains of a thing without limits? If only some, which, when, for whom, for what?

When we say of a “trans” that it bespeaks transition from one state to another, are we sure we know enough to know where we are, where we are going, what we want? Are we sure of the “we” that presumably shares these wants and this direction? Does movement always engender Movements?

When we say of a “trans” that it bespeaks transcension, how do we distinguish this from the other priestly promises of knowledge and safety in exchange for obedience that such language has always otherwise brought in tow? What does it mean when conservatives would take up the language of the future, and with such stubborn noise? What does this tell us about the future and about its difference from futurity?

When we say of a “trans” that it bespeaks transformation we have to wonder, don't we, what kind of security or stability can be built on a foundation of rainwater? Is the meaning of technology the end at which it “aims,” and which we could never know until that superlative end arrives, or is it the practices we weave in taking up technologies here and now?

“Trans” derives from the Latin across -- it can denote passage, change, meander, variety... Prosthetic practices empower and disempower, they promise and they threaten, they shake up the familiar and then they become the customary against which we next measure the unfamiliar. We know less about where we are going than any of us care to admit, just as we know less about our own desires than we can admit to.

Prosthetic practices have been an interminable conversation among persons, and it is hard to for me to find many edicts or certainties in this lovely, promising, threatening mess. What happens when we domesticate the pleasures and dangers of futurity in the naturalizing reassurance of the discourse of "the future"?

Futurity is ineradicably a roll of the dice and a project for collaborators (in every sense of that word). The future? Always, I'm beginning to think, only another mirror.

1 comment:

Brandon Reinhart said...

Cool questions! I don't know if you meant to ask them rhetorically, but I spent the night answering them anyway. I posted my responses in my fledging extropy blog: http://www.extropica.com/