For my paper, I’m doing choice A and examining Ray Kurzweil’s view of the transhuman and The Singularity. First, I will attempt to establish exactly what the Singularity is through its origins and different incarnations, culminating with Kurzweil’s theory. I intend to utilize several articles from academic journals whose authors (such as Katherine Hayles, Ben Goertzel, and Brooks Lahdon) examine Kurzweil and the idea of The Singularity with varying results and opinions. The well-known and respected Hayles seems generally dismissive of the idea and worries about individuals being “left behind” (a concern voiced earlier in the semester by Fukuymama). Continue reading
I found Adam’s presentation to be really interesting and quite enlightening. I’ve always thought of the posthuman in a strictly human embodiment way. After watching Battlestar Galactica, that began to seem like the normal thought of the posthuman. Even Hayles and Graham seem to talk about the future of technology terms of the human body.
I thought that Smith’s presentation on Cindy Jackson and her many encounters with plastic surgery brought up many questions about humanity and the posthuman. When plastic surgery is taken to such extremes, as in Jackson’s case, the results are shocking. She looks completely unrecognizable as compared to her “former” self, and the class generally agreed that knowing that she’s undergone all of these surgeries is disturbing in itself and perhaps doesn’t allow us to look at her as we would a “normal” person. Continue reading
I’m not quite sure what it is about the medieval texts we’ve been reading, but I, personally, find them so much easier to understand, which makes me in turn enjoy them a lot more.
After having just reviewed all of the course’s modern-day material for the midterm, I found it very interesting to note the parallels between the texts we began reading this week from the Middle Ages and the aforementioned modern ones we looked at in the first half of the semester. Whether these texts are examining mortality, ontology, religion or just what it means to be human, it becomes clear that many of the same questions have plagued humanity for years and years (like 800 years to be exact). For as much as we like to think we have advanced over time, the question now arises: are we really any “better” now then we were then? Continue reading
As we discussed the uncertainties that Hayles grappled with when discussing the posthuman, I felt myself experiencing these same uncertainties. I found it difficult to grasp the concept of the posthuman in a neat and tidy way. I agreed with Hayles that there are two sides to the viewing of this concept and I feel ambivalent to it as well.
In Hayles’ article “After shocks: Posthuman ambivalence,” I really associated with her mixed and unresolved feelings about posthumanism. As I personally often feel uneasy or unsure of what I think about posthumanism, or even how I define posthumanism myself. Continue reading
In the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks responds to the claims by Jonathan Franzen, Julian Barnes, Andrew Miller and others that literary texts are being damaged by becoming ebooks. Parks’ argument shares features with Hayles’ and is also in conflict with Hayles’ views, a situation I, at least, found pretty intriguing.
Five or Six weeks into the course, Hayles’ opening comment that first-wave cybernetics conveys that “boundaries of the human subject are constructed rather than given” (84). In Never Let Me Go the characters had completely conformed to the strangling society that they couldn’t escape from; in The Stone Gods the boundaries that Billie saw as defining what a human was were constantly being questioned by the reader as simple constructions that were prevalent in society; and in Oryx and Crake, Snowman seems bound to the humanity that has been built around him. Continue reading
I find it so interesting that the “father of cybernetics” struggled with the same issues about the posthuman that we have been discussing and unpacking in our class. On one hand Weiner envisioned “powerful new ways to equate humans and machines,” yet he “also struggled to envision the cybernetic machine in the image of a humanistic self.” I often feel similarly conflicted when we are discussing the boundaries between human and machine and what “human” rights they would be entitled to if a superhuman was intergrated into our society. Hayles lays out the standard values of liberal humanism to be “a coherent, rational self, the right of that self to autonomy and freedom, and a sense of agency linked with a belief in enlightened interest,” yet many of the authors and scientists she discusses question those same rights in relation to the cyborg. Continue reading