It is downright idiotic of me to try and fight change and, to be honest, I really don’t see the point in it. When I was younger, I was always a fan of change – the idea of evolution sounded incredible to me, like it gave us, as a species, some real purpose, even if I didn’t really understand what a species was. The idea of growing, developing, moving on from one thing to another; the idea of getting better. It was irresistibly appealing; in a way, it still is.
Despite that, over the last few years I’ve found myself growing more and more resistant to the idea of the Post-Human; now, we may not have moved on to the Homo Superior as of yet, but every day we are getting closer and closer to the Homo Digitalis – personally, I prefer the term Homo Lentus. I think that title suggests everything that I’m opposed to about the way we’re heading, however; about what technology is turning us into.
Still, logically, if biology has driven us to the point where we can effectively choose our own evolution, why wouldn’t we? Is that really a bad thing?
What Is The Human?
Firstly, in order to understand what the Post-Human is or could be, we really need to identify what the human itself is/was. Unfortunately, that has been a problem which has driven philosophers and psychologists insane for thousands of years, and every time a definitive definition is arrived upon, it is met with a dozen differing theories, interpretations, arguments or just plain disagreements.
Personally, I tend to think of the human as an independent creative who exists in and of themselves, though they still require something else to identify themselves against. For example, for there to be a ‘self’ there must be an ‘other’, and this is one of the obvious truths that most people agree on.
There are dozens of different characteristics which have been said to make people human, from emotions to desires and morals, to more physical and base needs such as hunger, thirst, exhaustion, et cetera. This is a strong theme in many sci-fi franchises, where the indomitable human spirit stands triumphant over advanced technology or supernatural abilities.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic.
There are dozens of different definitions available, but most of them seem designed to fit into easy, witty remarks; ideal for those who desire to appear intelligent and sophisticated over the dinner table, even when the topics of human definition comes up.
One off phrases like “A human is an animal that laughs” and “Humans are conscious mortals” are all too easy to pass off and sound intelligent, but that’s the way things are. Personally, I lean towards the idea that definitions like these are perfect for the form of humanity that we are ever closer to becoming.
If I had to create a working definition of what I consider a human to be, even though I am aware that this will be a gross, gross oversimplification of the point, I would probably say that humanity is a condition created by an overly-developed brain, with the ability to reason in practical circumstances and apply considerations as to personal morality. With regards to society, I would more lean towards the power of this personality morality, and register those who break with my code of conduct, as it were, to be inhuman.
Of course, this then leads to all manner of problematic definitions, which might eventually lead to racism, sexism, cultural misunderstandings and many, many more issues which all began as a result of misguided morality. Anyway, we don’t really have a working definition of what it means to be human, but that’s what we’re going with for now.
So that I can definitely move this on before I get caught up in pointing out all the flaws in this pretty weak, patronising definition, I’d also point out that we’d also have to accept physical limitations of the solitary human. The pure biology of it, the lack of technology or additional accessories inherent within the living, breathing, moving human. The human has no inherent interconnectivity with the internet but has, instead, remained biologically similar since the days of Alfred the Great.
What Is The Post Human?
Obviously, the post human is the next stage of evolution for the species; the thing that comes after the idea of the human as we know it. It is unlikely that natural evolution will reach the post-human state; at least, not for some time. Evolution is such a slow thing that no generation will really be able to say that it is the first, definitive, post-human state, but one day, people will turn around and laugh at the idea of living without technology of the standards they currently have.
How Will Technology Create The Post Human?
For me, the post human requires technology as a tool for information gathering but, most importantly, as a method of communication. Social media has had a lot to do with this, of course, and all the old arguments about self-realisation and existentialism come crawling out of the wood work. Technology will make everything easier, and you only need to look at some of the latest TED talks to truly see what’s going it be possible in the few years. Already, wearable tech is revolutionising what it means to be human, and the advertising associated is designed to make you feel less human, and increasingly ostracised, if you fail to take advantage of this new technology.
Thanks to the ides of things like Google Glass, we’ll be able to access any information, anywhere with an internet connection. We’ll be able to communicate with anyone, share anything with anyone; the individual human will, essentially, cease to be in favour of this constantly connected creature that is always sharing, communicating and growing.
Of course, I find this repulsive, but I’m really trying not to. I don’t want to be someone who stands in the way of change, or evolution, but what do I do when my entire body is screaming out against these advances in technology? What do I do, as a human, when I am threatened by optional evolution, driven by my own species?
Are We Already At The Post Human State?
Saying that, is there anyone who can imagine living without the technology we already have? Could you live without an iPad, a laptop, a mobile phone – are we already so connected to our technology that we are so different, mentally, from the first people that we would recognise as humans? I probably could, but how far back does technology threatening a definition of humanity go? The mobile phone? The printing press? The wheel?
If technology and tools are so integral to our definition of human, technology that is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, then what is the technology of the future but more of the same? More technology that gives us more options and opportunities in life, that allows us to communicate more effectively or from further distances, more toys to entertain us or tools to make our lives easier? Perhaps human, then, is so hard to define because it is entirely fluid; because it changes with every moment, because it is an ideal that constantly drives us into the arms of new technology which may, or may not, prove beneficial.
Suffice to say, we are constantly looking for ways to make our lives easier (or, rather, much smarter people are making these steps for us) and if that is human, then we should all embrace technology of all kinds with open palms – and by denying myself access to the latest technologies, I am effectively relinquishing part of my humanity; something which I happen to pride myself on.
Anyway, I’ll continue this soon; see, the Post Human is an idea that I’m really interested in, even if I’m currently trying to wrap my head around all the possible arguments and decide which side, if any, I’m actually on. I’ve recently started reading Rosi Braidotti’s, The Post Human, which has offered me a few insights, but I’ve yet to find the time to sit down and really get to grips with it. If you’ve got any ideas on the Post Human, or even if you’ve got a personal definition of humanity, then I’d love to hear it!