The Techno-Corporate State and Posthumanity
“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
In case anyone might think my earlier posting on “The End of the Human Race” is exaggeration and hyperbole, here’s a piece from The Observer, reprinted in today’s Guardian, that you might find sobering. In fact, if you Google up the words “end of the human race”, you will find quite a bit on the matter-at-hand. Ironically, even Mr. Fukuyama followed up his “End of History” tale with a book he entitled Our Posthuman Future, which he then followed upon with America at the Crossroads, both of which seemingly contradict the thesis that we have arrived at The End of History.
The end of the human race is practically a foregone conclusion. The problem is to interpret it properly. It would seem that the directions of that future possibility are already being charted for us whether we will have it or no. Recent events have pretty much revealed that democracy is dead — a zombie form — and that it has been replaced by the Techno-Corporate State as earlier “alarmists” like Bertram Gross, Jacques Ellul, and Arthur Selwyn Miller, amongst others, had foreseen, and that the exercise of political choice is impotent to change the juggernaut’s course. The emergence of the Techno-Corporate State and “cyborgism” are parallel developments which reflect each other and ultimately belong to a singular tendency. The situation reminds me of the words of the Psalmist pronounced against the idol worshipers (for “idolatry” is only another word for narcissism)
But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will become like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
Humanity recreating itself in the image of its machines (because men worship power) is certainly for me the ultimate in human narcissism, which may well end as an abortive development. But I recall Seth’s words about the present possibilities for the human that I cited to introduce the post “The End of the Human Race”,
“You are now poised, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways….”
Well, perhaps it will go all of those ways, actualising every probability. Is it possible you may see organic, inorganic, or radically genetically modified forms of the formerly human each following its own line of development (or its own doom, being “de-selected” for fitness), with little marginalised pockets and outposts of the former biological “humanity” living in exile on the peripheries of various “civilisations”? One strand may well pursue the possibilities of enhancing (or perhaps overspecialising in) the mechano-materialistic aspects of the body towards physical automatism, while another strand will focus on enhancing the possibilities of awareness. You already see this principal bifurcation in, on the one hand, the so-called “New Age” movement or, on the other, the Cyborgian tendency promoted by Kurzweil and others under the names “Posthumanism”, “Humanity+”, or “Transhumanism”.
Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson is correct. Humanity will perish from “civilisation”. Instead of machines becoming extensions of human faculties, humans will become the extensions of the machine through the process I have been calling “ironic reversal”.
Just as the Psalmist sees.