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Botox Parties, Michael Jackson, and the Disillusioned Transhumanist

Michael JacksonH+: Michael Jackson seems to reflect various trans-mutant themes.

DEWDNEY: For me, Michael Jackson represents a sort of pioneer of self-transformation. Aside from whatever questionable personal motives are impelling him, he is using cosmetic surgery to achieve a look that is definitely transhuman. He has taken us by proxy to the frontier of what is currently possible with cosmetic surgery and he has even escaped the constraints of race by lightening his skin color. This last aspect is perhaps the most controversial and disconcerting, but the freedom to choose all your “inherited” features, both familial and racial, will probably become an intrinsic part of the transhuman era.

H+: He reflects, although perhaps not fully consciously, a pursuit of otherness, alienation, and mutation that runs through many contrasting subcultures from psychedelicists to goths to UFO nuts, to early transhumanists, SF fanatics, ad infinitum. And now middle-aged, middle-class ladies have parties to shoot up Botox. Does the mainstream culture show signs of understanding itself as evolving into a mutant breed and do those who need to be different or avant garde have any new avenues opening up to keep them ahead of the hoi polloi?

DEWDNEY: The corollary to the Botox craze is the predicament of disillusionment, nay, misanthropism, that I have found myself immersed in the last couple of years. Perhaps the real ground of my disillusionment is my hard-lost benevolence. I’m an optimist; I like people. Yet when I asked a lot of “average” people — people who weren’t part of my circle — what they would do with the kind of self-transformative power that may perhaps be ours to wield, I was increasingly appalled. The jocks I talked to wanted to be bigger and stronger so they could beat the shit out of everybody else; the women wanted to morph into their ideal role models. I began to realize that what most people wanted was conformity; their “ideals” would turn us into a world of underachieving Nicole Kidmans and eight-foot Brad Pitts, identical cut-outs with no individualism.

My previous rather naive notion that biotechnology would free us from the tyranny of “normalcy,” that we could become anything we wanted, morph ourselves into elongated, blue-skinned, orange-haired, sixteen-fingered geniuses or perhaps flying ribbons of sensual bliss that performed acrobatic choreographies above the sunset, was a very utopian and, as it turns out, unpopular dream. Individuality or creative improvisation is the last thing most people want. So Botox is really a dreadful symptom of a new, radical mundanity enabled by biotechnology. And that’s disillusioning.

Originally published in Fall 2008 Edition of h+



  1. i would hesitate to say that H+ technology would produce an entire world of conformists, if mostly because that desire for perfection in conformity does seem to be the current state of mind. polling for research ideas (apart from your own) in any lay transhumanist community will result in a majority of those dreams – the perfect body, a genius mind, superpowers. people already think this way, and it’s true that if given the opportunity right now the vast majority of us probably would transform ourselves into a species of near-identical showpieces.

    i see it as current transhumanists’ role not only to bring our ideas and technological advances to the forefront of concrete research, but also to widen the public’s idea of what can be done with those advances. it is all very well for a garage-developing slum-dweller such as myself to help its peers get their first RFID chips and subdermal magnetic arrays, but imagine what could be done on the scale of a considerable section of the population.

    let’s move past our disillusionment and into the real. let’s show others what can be done with today’s technology, and in doing so, open minds to tomorrow’s.


  2. Asking average people about what they think they will want in the future now, is not going to be accurate. If people started to look alike, and got bored with it, style would change. Future styles will evolve as they ever have.

  3. All these “normal” values are in favour now because anyone cannot yet become a desired model. As they become able, values will turn 180 degrees toward “otherness”. Simple psychology – most people want what few can. Today “normal body” costs much, and it is desired. Tomorrow it will mean something like a standard ivory PC tower or “modern” blocks of flars of 20th century (these were once desired!), i.e. lack of creativity. Today it’s yet behind the corner.

  4. I absolutely agree. We cant let our impatience make us despair. One step at a time. Those of us that spend our time thinking about technology and where it will go tend to forget there are lots of people who don’t. They just wait for technology to come to them, then they think about it.

  5. just for the record, M.J, is dead now. Maybe if he did care for his health more than his aspect, he would be alive.

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