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Practical lesson #3: How to be post-human

In the first case of genetic engineering for a complete embryo, Chinese scientist He Jianki has successfully edited the genes of twin girls, so they cannot contract HIV.

 

Steve Latham

 

Although a breakthrough, the incident has also been criticised for violating ethical norms. Despite this, Harvard University Professor George Daley has also advocated gene editing.

Nevertheless, once technology had developed, it was surely a matter of time before it happened. As cultural theorist, Paul Virilio, pointed out, technological change is unstoppable once initiated.

Virilio here follows Jacques Ellul’s critique of ‘technics’. He predicted that if the means exists to do something, then it will eventually be done: ‘can’ becomes ‘will’ and finally ‘should’.

Jianki’s actions are illegal, even in China. But wherever individual consumer choice is prioritised, all moral constraints are irrelevant.

And within totalitarian China, surely, there are actually few legal-moral limits, because under Communism the Party’s diktat is elevated above purely formal political rights.

However, whether Capitalist or Communist, every regime must follow the inevitable logic of technological progress.

This is determining the development of our posthuman future, or, not-the-future, since it is already present.

The dissolution of the human body, and therefore the human identity, since identity has been linked to physicality, is progressing apace.

For instance, body augmentation involves the use of prosthetics, to supplement human abilities, often through the insertion of computer chips into the body. This differs from the use of prosthetics to put right something damaged, because it changes or adds to what is an otherwise healthy body, in order to ‘improve’ it.

This dissolution of the physical extends the boundaries of the self, and creates a malleable, plastic, techno-organic interface.

The new membrane not only reconstructs the self, but now forms a permeable barrier, which (dis)connects people in relationships as well.

The marketing of sex-dolls, usually aimed at male consumers, and the rise of online sex, displaces the body, and physical intimacy, with robo-mediation through distanciation and disconnection.

The ‘natural’ and ‘un-natural’ here combine in an uneasy alliance of collective psychasthenic body dysmorphia.

For example, I recently bought some bread from a store, where the owner stressed the use of ‘natural’ ingredients.

This person was also, clearly, in the process of transition from male to female. Not ‘natural’ at all, but enabled, and to be sustained, through continuous intensive techno-medical intervention.

Without supporting or opposing the trans agenda, and without knowing the details of this person’s story, there is here a divorce in our discourse on ‘nature’.

The technological means to choose one’s identity trumps the biologically given. But this only one example of a wider societal trend.

Will there be a reaction? A friend, for instance, has abandoned Face Book, because he wants to spend time with friends: real ‘facetime’ with real faces!

In addition, the USA’s hi-tech war-making has signally failed to defeat the very physical tactics of Islamic guerrillas: pre-modern beats hyper-modern.

As in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave new world”, is the so-called ‘savage’ actually superior to our sophisticated, secularised, post-human techno-future?

(Photos: Pixabay)

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