Category Archives: ethics

Introductory thoughts on Posthumanism and Beauty or Posthuman Beauty

The first time I heard the term Posthuman was Natasha Vita More’s Primo Posthuman. Her figure fascinated me and I thought I understood what the image meant. This was back in 2007. It is now three years later and here I am writing this blog about my own understanding of posthumanism and beauty. To start, the person who has had a profound impact on my understanding has been Donna Haraway. I read Primate Visions and Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature with fervor, along with about 12 other books from a variety of disciplines. After I read these books I was not sure what knowledge I had acquired. At that point I needed to walk away and just let it stew, as my advisor says. What in the world did these books have to do with what I wanted to know? They fit, but how did they fit for my perspective.

Over time, I realized what the key was to my own understanding. On page, 196 and 334 of Primate Visions, there is reference to the tools of early primate females, the baby-sling and the containers for carrying things that these female primates invented to make their lives easier, and these inventions were right alongside male created weaponry tools. These baby-slings and modern cosmetic surgery or other technology adaptations for women were a revelation. I was a converted cyborg feminist or, now I’m thinking, posthuman feminist. I love the liminal space and the intersections.

Now, I sometimes get snide looks or wrinkled faces when I bring up Haraway and I do not care. The understandings of feminism I had held up until my introduction to Haraway left me distant to wanting to identify myself in that way. Now, I embrace it, because what it means to me is a feminine understanding of humans, culture and technology, the key being the inclusion of technology to our understanding of humans and culture. This is posthumanism to me. It is an academic approach that includes technology in various forms as viable variables to understanding society and culture.

My understanding of cosmetic surgery has been opened. Now I see it clearer as a technological choice that we have. The importance in understanding the adoption is the cultural effects. This is important too, not just the ethics, but the ramifications. Cosmetic surgery is nothing new to our society by any means; however are we studying the effects thoroughly? These effects benefit those who choose to undergo the surgery and the surgeons who are willing to offer their expertise.

This is not limited to cosmetic procedures. We have the power to take control of our bodies and we are doing this from the banal to the extreme. I had a great conversation with a dear friend the other day about how we are both really redheads on the inside. Neither of us are natural redheads and we prefer different shades, but on the inside, we are redheads. This color on our heads expresses that person inside us we know is there. Another dear friend loves heels like mad. It could be snowing or raining or she has to walk 10 miles, but she is always in heels. This is an augmentation of her natural structure. She is a taller person and these “foot extensions” are a beautiful, they are an adorable selections of heels, extension of who she is. Look at The Apprentice. On the show, virtually every female is in heels. We all know or are these women, and I do not mean to leave any other human representation out, but I am still beginning this deep understanding and I am starting with what I am, a woman. I will venture out and apply outward from there with due time. To apply a theory it has to be tested and perfected over time, which I will need to do in pieces.

Therefore, this is where I am: the study of posthuman beauty. The wondrous interplay of (wo)man, technology and culture (particularly film and advertising) has me in a flurry to unravel the narrative of what this has to tell us about ourselves and any other sentience we may later introduce.

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Filed under beauty, body parts, cosmetic plastic surgery, ethics, future, human enhancement, posthuman, rights, robot, self, technology, Uncategorized

Women and Posthumanity: The future looks large and sexy

The body has a lot of change to go through on the path to post-humanity. There is a lot of room for improvement and enhancement. Even with all of these cool improvements and enhancements though, my cynical side emerges. While these would be great, are we giving ourselves too much credit that the choices we will make on the route to post-humanity will be practical? Isn’t society a little more vain that that? Seriously? The desire for youth and beauty is by no means a new phenomenon. However, I was caught off guard, just a bit when I was forwarded a video of an interview with Tom Ford, the fashion designer and director of the film A Single Man.  In the video  Tom talks about women being posthuman and makes some good points in the interview all of which tied in to a paper I wrote on cosmetic surgery awhile back.

He mentions that breasts today do not bear any resemblance to what actual breasts look like. He is right, they try to look natural, but the key word is “try”. Several points that his statement make me think of is, if they are unnatural looking why do we want them to look natural? As a woman who has a genetic predisposition on the higher end of the size curve, I do not understand. The unnatural version of natural looks nothing like my own natural ones, even if we are the same cup size. I have friends who fall in to the same category that I do and talked to them about it and they agree. There is a level of insecurity, but it is not insecurity about size, but about gravity. The posthuman breasts go against the body’s natural inclination to succumb to gravitational pull, if you will. My friends and I however cannot pay to fight gravity; we are left to lesser forms of posthuman enhancements such as the push-up bra. This leads to my second point about Tom’s statement: actual breasts. Is the desirable path one where breasts do not bear any resemblance to natural breasts? Form over function. Breasts work, but do we still need them to work in the same way?

We have formula now, that while it can in no way match breast milk, it does work and many women use it. It is an alternative. Before you send me any hate comments, I breastfed all three of my children, not for a year, but I did. I did eventually switch over to formula. Regardless, if we want surreally attractive breasts, does the functionality need to remain the same or will sex and sexual appeal transition to be the exclusive function.

As adults, we can talk and think about these types of questions and issues, but what about the young girls. Tom Ford makes another point in the video that girls are seeing the adults with their unnatural breasts and think that they need to get their breasts done. He goes on to mention that we have lost touch with what a real breast actually looks like. Again, as adults that is one thing, as a young girl it’s another. In the adoption of the posthuman form are we taking critical examination of what images and ideas we are passing on to the next generation. Further examination though should include the messages conveyed and the impact of these messages on young girls. When thinking about the posthuman woman, the girls of today, how will their lives change by the choices made today. They could very possibly choose to go against the grain of the constructions of beautiful breasts and choose the au natural route. Insecurity about breast size is a facet of growing up that girls deal with. Plastic surgery enables them to address these insecurities, but what do they gain and what does it solve? Large unnatural breasts are not something a mother can pass on to her daughters naturally, it will require, at this point in time, a monetary investment of perpetuation within culture.

Tom points out that we are becoming our own art by manipulating our bodies and creating them the way we want them to look. He also says that it desexualizes, comparing these beautiful bodies to cars. Since they are so glossy, polished and an idealized form of perfection, they are too scary and not human. I would love to hear the answers to the questions he poses about after these surgeries of breast enhancement does it help ones sex life? Or is it intimidating? A body in its artistic form is admirable at a distance without touching. Not like a ball of clay where you want to get your hands dirty and really play with it intensely

Last night, as I was thinking about what I was going to say in the piece I turned on VH1, yes, I think it is a valuable source for pop culture insight. It did not fail me. The show that I turned on was “VH1News Presents: Plastic Surgery Obsession”. It fit in perfectly with what I was thinking and wanted to say, without the reference to post-humanism. The show is about the rise in popularity of plastic surgery, in and now out of Hollywood. The show supports both the new ideals of women’s bodies and that the younger generation is picking up these ideals. The fact that VH1 aired the show, despite a voyeuristic appeal that shows like this have, says something about what we want to see on TV. Finally, at the end of the episode the show touched on males and cosmetic surgery. Tom Ford did not talk about the men being posthuman in his interview, or at least the clip I heard, but VH1 talked about how tricky it was for men to undergo plastic surgery and come out of it looking “natural”. Does this mean that with women getting around 98% of the plastic surgeries they are more willing to transition to a posthuman form or is it just easier for them? What does this mean and how does this reflect on men? Are men going to, can they follow the same path as women? These are interesting questions to think about in addition to the critical examinations of the decisions of women. I look forward to hearing and thoughts.

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Filed under cosmetic plastic surgery, daughter, ethics, future, human enhancement, kids, marriage, relationship, responsibility, self, technology, Uncategorized

Examining Free Reign over Vacant Eyes

Based on the amount of interest in my previous article and conversations I’ve had or seen in the interim I thought it was necessary to go back to sex, robots and ethics. In writing about sex robots, seeing the release of Roxxxy by True Companion, LLC

Roxxxy Doll Image from True Companion's Gallery
Roxxxy Doll Image from True Companion’s Gallery

and having several discussions with friends made me think more about the intrigue in AI sex robots. What is it about them that are so fascinating and keeps drawing me back in? What does this have to do with the ethical examination of the use of sex technology? Well, it has to do with how we treat these “tools” as I’ve read some refer to them as, what are the trends and what this says about our societal preferences? I realize that this topic seems cheap to discuss, people have problems with it and compared to global warming and the like it can be considered a trash throwaway topic compared to what my peers are addressing. However, the fact that it is on a carnal desire that, unless we completely move away from our sexuality see Ben Goertzel’sSexuality and Beyond, it is something that needs people to examine seriously.

However, they are intriguing and they seem to be elevated above the level of just your average toy. I can see where that discussion might not fit in here, but the release of a life-size doll, is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. After milling over it, it seems that the sticking point is in the face. There is something about the face that seems to completely change the game. We have created this doll in our image to satisfy our desires of sex and companionship. There is a lot in a face. This doll creates an ethical dilemma it seems that surrounds how to treat it and incorporate it in to the bedroom. I go back to the film AI: Artificial Intelligence and Jude Law’s character as a jigalo. Sure, we aren’t to the point where these sex robots can get up and walk out of our house, that is another issue. But we are now to the point where we can keep these types of robots in our homes if you’re willing to pay for them. Yet, it doesn’t seem that you would want to put them up on a shelf in your closet when they are not in use like your other sex toys does it? In my previous post there was a comment made of enslavement. That struck a chord with me.

They are created for our needs just like a vacuum cleaner, but they are more intimate than a vacuum cleaner. They look like us, sexier, but they look like us. They have no rights, but to please us and sit in our closet or on a chair. People are free to treat them as they like in the privacy of their own homes. But I ask, just because they are vacant behind their eyes, is that ok to just treat them as you like, as sex slaves? What are we teaching western society in accepting a robot in to their home that is not their equal and calling it nothing more than a tool? I know, I know! It has no feeling, no emotion, it is not a person. But we are creating it in our image and treating it like a soulless sex slave. So it has all the qualities of a woman we want to have sex with, besides the actual personhood. This just seems a bit, wrong in my opinion. Maybe this all stems from a childhood where I watched The Brave Little ToasterThe Christmas ToyToy Story and the like. I can get over the fact that my toaster doesn’t come to life at night and desire adventures to find me with my vacuum cleaner and desk lamp. There is no face to these objects, no way to see myself in their place. I can put on a lamp shade, but it doesn’t make me feel like a lamp. However, I can identify with this sex doll, she looks like someone, she acts like someone, she just isn’t someone. I think that going forward the use of robotics in the home that emulate us is going to bring up a lot of ethical issues that I look forward to discussing. It’s not cheap to talk about the sex dolls or irrelevant, they just happen to be the industry that got attention in the western world first. The porn industry gave us a choice on VCR over beta, now they gave us this. What are we going to do with it and how are we going to set the stage for the next better version of Blu-Ray sex dolls if you will? Just a thought.

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Filed under AI, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Ben Goetzel, ethics, future, relationship, responsibility, robot, self, technology

Big Hairy Hobbit feet are OK by me

I always like watching movies I haven’t seen in awhile again. Life changes you and your perspectives, so when you watch a movie again later you bring something new to the viewing experience. Potentially a perspective you didn’t think about the first time you went. This is what happened recently when I saw Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King while obsessively cleaning out my cabinets. (I might note too that it’s good to not look for the cues, but inadvertently discover them.) Anyhow, I was watching the movie and the interactions between the Hobbits, Humans, Dwarves, Elves, etc. I watched their world, which is technologically simple. They fight with bows & arrows, elephants, fire, quite medieval. I couldn’t stop watching the Hobbits. I love Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merriadoc. They are proud of whom they are and that pride was something I couldn’t quite shake.

It made me think of the topic of conversation surrounding genetics and the altering of genomes. While I am admittedly not an expert in genetics, one of the discussions that surround this topic is on whether or not we should alter genes. The obvious fallback movie is GATTACA, but there are other ways and film lenses in which to view this discussion. One of the aspects that interest me is who decides what is normal and what is decided by science vs. society to be changed. I recognize that the word “normal” is not necessarily the ideal term to use since normalcy is more an opinion than a fact. Normalcy can be contested depending on which side of normalcy you fall on. When I think of altering genetic feature I think of it as having great pros and cons. One of the cons is the perception that there is desire to “fix” what is not a socially acceptable “normal” feature.

As I was watching Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King, I thought about what it would be like if this technology, and therefore discussion was overlaid on to Middle Earth, after the battle and they all went home. The Hobbits have a proud culture, one where they live together as a community, everything is their size, they are as happy as anyone can be. They co-exist with those that are dramatically different from them, even if they might not all interact with these other cultures and species on a daily basis. Ok, but now look at it again with this situational overlay. What if the Humans decided that the Hobbits feet should be smaller, less hairy, and they should be taller, more like the humans? Or even, what if the Elves, who live in an Aubrey de Grey type life where they don’t age, but could, still get hit by a bus and die, decided that everyone should have rounded ears. Because there is a founded clear superiority for beings to have pointed ears and therefore the inferior rounded ears should be addressed. The feet, ears, hair, height, they are all hindrances to optimal living. Not to pick on the Hobbits, this argument can start from any of the points of view, but the Hobbits seem more relatable in this argument than even the humans to make my argument.

After watching the movie, I started thinking about how I don’t want to change the Hobbits. At least, not unless their feat, ears, height result in them having some illness or disability that is life-threatening and as a community there is agreement that these features needs to be fixed so that future generations of Hobbits don’t suffer or die from them. I think the Hobbits are quite great, just the way they are without intervention. What I’m trying to say then is that we are exploring new fantastic ways to understand, change, and enhance ourselves that it’s not a forward movement to be taken lightly or made rash. If dividing lines of opinion are to be drawn both sides need to be heard for their core arguments of pros and cons. Let’s just make sure that when with forward movements that alters ourselves that we don’t make cookie-cutter versions and those who don’t want to participate are respected too. How boring of a life that would be for everyone to be the same. There is something to be said for the differences that we have that make us unique. If they aren’t killing us off then let them be, unless it’s for aesthetics and vanity, which is another discussion I’ve already ventured in to you can check out and weigh in on. I mainly say this for those of you out there that are also concerned that society is going to be stripped of uniqueness. This is for both sides of the aisle on change. The Hobbits are wonderful, so are the Dwarves, Elves and Man (the undead army….well…if they can stop killing people and acting crazy that would help their cause). This is my take. What do you think?

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Filed under ethics, future, human enhancement, responsibility, self, technology

How do the kids know and what do we say

I’m curious to hear how the knowledge you gain from this site or others regarding emerging technologies translates to your kids. If you don’t have them have you thought about them in relation to the larger topics? As adults we talk about emerging technologies, but I wonder how much we factor in kids and their futures in our discussions. I’m not talking about designer babies. I’m talking about things like life-casting, global catastrophic risks and human enhancement to name just three that popped in to my mind.

With life-casting, I’ve looked at the articles, very interesting stuff. I’ve been wrestling with my opinions about it and whether or not I think I could do it or not. Then tonight, it hit me. If this takes off and people in society at large do adopt it, when exactly do we want those memories we are recording to start? I could have missed this discussion and if I did, please send it to me, but how would it be to have kids life-casting? What are the ethics involved in this? Not to mention what was life like as a child that I would want to see again. Nostalgically it would be great to have documented my life and be able to go back and see my mother young and illness free. HOWEVER, there is that whole awkward grade school & high school phase. My last name was Winternheimer, so there was a bit of name calling.

Aside from the awkward childhood moments, how young would we, as a society, be willing to go? Would there be a legal age and if so when? What about implanting a recording device in utero? It would be very cool to see that experience and then on up through life wouldn’t it? But just because we can, should we? I don’t have the answers yet myself.
So let’s move to global catastrophic risks, a topic that is something that deals, in my opinion with some educational issues. Are we talking about these types of scenarios and plans with the next generations? Or, better phrased, are we talking about science, math and applying critical thought to future scenarios? So that they can weigh in the options of what just might come about and how we can help out our fellow man. I read recently the idea of we need more cool scientists, something the kids want to be when they grow up. I know some of you, and damn it, you’re cool! You have a passion for what you do, and kids need to see that passion and feel that passion. (Read the intro to The Canon by Natalie Angier)

Finally, human enhancement which is a topic that kids probably have heard more about even if they don’t directly know they have. So, what do they know? Is it worth a discussion with them? I think so. I think that there is value in talking with them about grandma’s heart that is a machine and not the one she was born with. I go back again to the wonder of science. For example, when the time came when my mom was ill, I talked with my son about science and technology. We talked about what helped keep her alive and with us much longer than she should have. When Obama talked about science & technology in regards to medicine, my son knew what that meant for people out there. Is it using the terminology of enhancement that makes people step back? There are many different types of enhancement where are we in society when it comes to the discussions with kids?

The point I’m trying to make is that there are lot of questions to be asked and it seems that the discussion is an important one to have. It would be nice to see abundance in the next generation that is able to understand the technologies that are discussed, but to also be critics and skeptics as necessary.

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Filed under ethics, future, global catastrophic risks, human enhancement, kids, life-casting, technology

Part II: Jon and Kate Plus Truman

It’s been four months since I mentioned there would be a Part Two of Jon and Kate Plus Plastic Surgery. Since then I have learned never again to make a promise to a sequel article. The sequel has haunted me and set expectations of what to write I didn’t want to live up to. So here it is. I hope the stream of consciousness works for you the way it works in my head.

To start off, I must address what I promised in Jon and Kate, for this second part I wanted to move to the kids. When I think about the kids I can’t help remember watching The Truman Show. When The Truman Show came out it was stunning to me. The film was illustrative, to me, of what happens when we get a great technology, don’t think about the technology, and decide to use it however we see fit. In the film, it shows how, in the beginning of the show there was the in utero camera to watch Truman. From there it goes on to show, how with each recording technology that was invented, the producers where able to watch more and more of Truman’s life. With the growth and adaptations of the technology the viewers or voyeurs were able to become a part of Truman’s life and his journey’s right along with him. A huge building was resurrected to contain Truman and until the very end the audience watched with anticipation. In the movie, there was only the one voice of reason that continued to point out that the situation was wrong, Truman’s love.

No what in the world does this have to do with ethics and emerging technologies you might ask? Well, while it is not super cool nanotech or dealing with global catastrophic risks it has to do with the technology and society of the present. Because even though people saw The Truman Show, felt for Truman in his captivity and was upset with the voyeurism of the audience. Even though as a movie audience we might have walked away thinking, well, that was just wrong of them to do when they had the technology and vision to do it. We did not heed the movie’s point about doing it. Now, I realize you readers might not be fans of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. An audience, admittedly me included up until the last year, we watched these children. We didn’t stop and make an action to the fact that maybe we shouldn’t be so involved in these children’s lives. We watched every week waiting, like the Truman fans, for what the Gosselins did this week. Truman got out before things went too far. The Gosselin 8 are not out of it yet, and we still watch and they are still in the news.

So my concern is with the general public and us and the decisions we make went it comes to emerging technologies. When a new technological tool comes to us, are we going to think, or are we just going to use it. Are we thinking about the people involved? How shameless of me to say think of the children, but in this instance what of them? Were they really thought of over the dollars, over the ability to do something? Once the wheels of the show, for example, were set in motion it’s not very easy to stop. These children, unlike Truman, can’t walk away when they figure out what is going on in a larger context. The importances of discussions by the IEET are to explore and discuss ideas of emerging technologies, global catastrophic risks, etc. before they become an everyday reality. The societal aspects of interaction with the technologies and use of the technologies seems important too. I don’t want to be stuck in the sphere with Truman and the Gosselins.

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Filed under ethics, Jon and Kate plus 8, responsibility, technology, The Truman Show