Transhumanism is not exactly a popular field. Viewed as an adolescent sci-fi fantasy or robot cult of Kurzweil worshipping lunatics, (thank you Dale Carrico) the Transhumanist community has fought long and hard to be taken seriously for speculating on the new evolution of our species. In an effort to receive positive mainstream attention there has been a recent attempt to package the Singularity for the masses. We have seen an increase of festivals like the Extreme Futurist Festival and Being Human which seek to give the field of Transhumanism an accessible vibe.
When does “accessible” become a dirty word?
Earlier today I came across one of the worst articles I have seen in quite some time. The Singularity as the Ultimate Culture Jam has a provocative title that appeals to a certain revolutionary urge inside of us. Unfortunately this article makes a great case for keeping the Singularity inside an ivory tower.
Jake Anderson states the following:
Occupy the Singularity. By creating an entirely new lexicon of ideas, memes, and modalities, the Singularity will be the ultimate culture jam, or, as the 60s Situationists group may have called it, an epic détournement. Everything will be turned around, rearranged, spliced and re-coded.
Now maybe it is just me, but if I am interested in reading this kind of thing I am going to leave Transhumanism out of it. Douglas Rushkoff does a fine job of advocating for a remix culture and occupying everything without degenerating into this vapid pro-everything-propaganda that seeks only to please the reader for the sake of increasing Whuffie. Not to mention that Occupy sloganeering is like so last week. (weak?)
Marshall McLuhan called and he wants his soul back.
The 60s Situationists and people like R.U. Sirius were genuine in that they advocated for a counterculture based on intellect and high weirdness without the stench of marketing to the lowest common denominator. Robert Anton Wilson provided a fresh spin on conscious evolution that spawned an entire generation of (r)evolutionary thinkers. Tool and Nine Inch Nails were gateway drugs toward higher modes of artistic expression. Accessible does not always mean herdlike.
“Accessible” only becomes a dirty word when the wrong people are given access to a topic they do not understand. From the description of the Singularity in Jake Anderson’s article, it is clear that he has not read anything about Transhumanism outside of a Gawker media site. While some people find this type of enthusiasm endearing, I am left with the concern that it will take the meaning away from the Singularity. In my own pro-everything article DIY Transhumanism I asked the following:
What would happen if a bunch of kids ran around calling themselves Transhumanists simply because it was the “cool” thing to do? What if Transhumanism developed Steampunk Syndrome and anything/everything was suddenly considered Transhumanist? What if the question: “What is Transhumanism?” was answered in cliches like “whatever we make it” or “this moment”? Would we lose our desire to evolve as human beings and would substance be replaced with style? Would we become industrialized? Would evolution simply be another festival in the desert?
I did not expect these questions to be answered so quickly, but what do you know? As a cultural critic, I am always asking the sorts of questions that get me into trouble. What happens when the Singularity is packaged for the masses? Our species stops evolving. We no longer want to upload our minds and the argument of clones being inferior rings true for the entire (trans)human race. Observe the wisdom of Jake Anderson:
But will life without sarcasm, drugs, sex and stress really be life? It’s hard to imagine that world. In that way, the coming of the Singularity could become a classic example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Will the technological rapture be derailed by reactionary human ignorance? Life without sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll? Hell no!
I invite you to read the above paragraph one more time. What exactly does this say about the mutant subculture? It looks like we have gotten stuck in a warhole. People are starting to go to Church of the SubGenius like it is an actual church. Social media coaches should not have the right to blog. If you need to talk about “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” in order to sell something you probably don’t know very much about the topic.
If it wasn’t already a musical genre I would call this type of thing “futurepop” yet in our current cultural climate I might as well just reappropriate the term. We should work on removing futurepop from Transhumanism because this type of accessibility is toxic. The Singularity is more than a poorly directed YouTube video and at this rate we will not even realize it is happening because of all the futurepop surrounding us.
Anderson ends his article with this statement:
Failing that, we’ll always have the dream of sexy robots.
At this point it is clear that we are not learning anything about Transhumanism or culture jamming. We are subjected to pro-everything-propaganda lacking any meaning or substance. Packaging the Singularity for the masses does a disservice to a field that is based on enhancing the human species. If we continue down this road we may never leave the Idiocracy no matter how powerful those sexy robots become.
Rachel Haywire is a writer, model, and cultural futurist. She is the founder of the Extreme Futurist Festival which is a 2 day entertainment and tech convention focusing on radical performers and voices of the new evolution. She is the editor of h+ Magazine.