Transhuman militancy appeals to the wired reptilian brain, and, like anger or fear, it may feel good in the short term to indulge the temptation to go prickly. But the long game has no place for weaponized rich fops, no matter how cyborgian.
Any people who can afford to have a conversation about posthuman realities is generally in an extremely enviable position economically, politically, and in terms of human rights. H+ Magazine (and others) have even offered a platform for those appealing to politicize and militarize transhumanism (see Rachel Haywire‘s, Alex McKeown‘s, and my own previous pieces here). Could Chinese geeks get away with making statements about the obviation or trumping of the PRC through techno-shamanism? Could Uzbekistani geeks spare the time or coin to maintain a place to publish such ideas? You think a diesel mechanic on Cochiti Pueblo’s got time to transhumanize? It is incredibly revealing that we can afford to take for granted such an audacious statement as:
“We want a nation. We want sovereignty… transhuman sovereignty. Time has revealed we cannot co-exist within a society based on conscious submission — we must move on. We must rise above the weeds and take back our breaths, so we suffocate no more. The interests of conscious submission are not our interests. The interests of conscious submission lie in Humanity. We are not Humanity. We are not Human.” (Haywire’s recent.)
Of course transhumanists are generally a cheeky bunch, and this could be a joke. But taking it at face value (and reading the boisterous comments following the story), I reckon now might be a moment to pipe up in favor of transhumanism not spawning separatist cults. Hale-Bopp type suicides should be discouraged, not stoked up with talk of “sovereignty” and nationhood.
I’ll leave the Haywire argument alone for now, except to say that the assumptions therein are pretty specious. Transhumanists in fact are human, and wishful thinking doesn’t chaos-magick us into a whole new species. Freedom? We’ve got it. You can’t get much more free than being free enough to write about secession without fear of your government censoring or “disappearing” you.
But this all brings up a bigger issue in transhumanism, and it’s one that I don’t see talked about nearly enough. If there comes to be a discrete group of posthumans, what will their relationship to “regular old” humans be? What do posthumans owe to humanity, if anything? Will the same rights apply to one group as to another?
On this last, imagine the First Amendment right to free speech in posthuman terms: telepathic spam squelched out to a million minds at once. A sort of Bene Gesserit voice commanding every follower of your Twitter personomy to click on this QR groupon for kitty litter at Target.
No, as transhumanism moves into the realm of the possible, we must take a moment to firm-wire some humility into the movement. After all, we really only like the superhumans who recognize the responsibility built in to the wielding of their powers. Spiderman learned it on his first night out; his hubris cost him his uncle.
People don’t like arrogant, perfect beings. Angels without humility are demons. If transhumanism is preparing us for a world where posthumans will lead and lord over regular folks (which I hope is not the case, incidentally, as it only represents another kind of saltless oligarchy of wannabes riding their daddy’s paychecks into power-fantasy psycho-dramas on a large and dangerous scale… whew…), then transhumanism needs to work on its own humility, and it needs to start right now.
Of humility and awesomeness (or humility/awesomeness, or maybe “humility through awesomeness and awesomeness through humility”) the band Sleighbells says:
Good leaders know how to eat with the troops. Henry V, Jesus, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi… David Brent — all examples of people who knew how to (or were forced to, in Brent’s case [http://funny-videos.co.uk/videodavidbrentdance.html]) “set crowns on the ground” and gain high ground by first taking the low. And in today’s media cycle, we see Julian Assange Christmassing at Ellingham Hall, strolling and fishing in the Waveney Valley, waiting to be rendered to Quanitco by XE; what’ll he do with his crown? His actions today set a precedent for future techno-social activism.
Maybe I was wrong about the coming of “Posthuman Politics” to the USA. Maybe the aim shouldn’t be to gain any worldly power at all. If Wikileaks is any example, the future is in opening up whatever power there is at the moment to shine a light in and let the people see. If that will be in any way aligned with the broader goals of transhumanism (which it must be inasmuch as transhumanism depends on open sharing of scientific advances, at least, for the maximum good of all people), then the posthuman future is very much a future of humility.
Sovereignty? Nationhood? No.
We set our crown on the ground and get busy for the good of the folks on Cochiti, in Tashkent, and in Mize, Mississippi.