Category Archives: human enhancement

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.



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

Body parts get options: which one will you choose?

Research on making off-the-shelf body parts a reality came out this week in an article at, “Banks of off-the-shelf body parts could be created for transplants: researcher

“Scientists are perfecting ways of creating bare ‘scaffold’ building blocks of body parts which can then be used as a frame for a patient’s own cells to grow around.”

This brings up an interesting discussion to have. If off-the-shelf body parts become a viable option, does that also mean the option for what type of body part we want is an option? With this option, will there be a divide between those who prefer replacement limbs metal and plastic vs. blood and bone?

You lose an arm you are getting ready for surgery and the surgeon comes in to talk about the options: A) you can have a bionic prosthetic arm or B) you can have an arm similar to the one you have. What do you choose?

The decision is hard, which limb will you choose?

Moreover, why? I did a little anecdotal experiment in my home and asked my 11 yr old which he would prefer. His response was:

“I’d like to be a normal human not a ¾ human robotic” “Like to be more of a human than a robot”

My 4 yr old daughter’s response:

“Bionicle. Cause I want to be strong. I’ve never been strong before”

Now, these are kids and this is anecdotal, but the point is that there is more to it than choosing plastic or bone. It’s a choice of being more than human, “Bionicle”, and being Other, the inhuman. So why do we need a choice? It’s a choice that defines what you want your “human” self to be. We don’t have the same preference on hair, teeth, breasts, etc. We have options. So it seems that when an option for a biologically replicated arm comes about, then we have the right to choose what parts we want or don’t want on our bodies.

With the prosthetic arm, you can have increased capabilities. In addition to these capabilities, a prosthetic arm is customizable. As prosthetic skin options improve so do the aesthetic options. Think Aimee Mullins.

Multiple leg options

You can have a different arm for every occasion.

In the February 2010 issue of Fast Company, they had an article “Super Human”. It was about emergence of envy and sexiness towards those with prosthetics. I was honestly a little bit jealous of Carrie Davis’ sexy black arm in the magazine.

Carrie Davis in Fast Company

My arm will never look as good as hers does, even if I dipped it in latex and even then, not nearly as sexy. A great image captures what it can be to have options with your prosthetics. The article interviews Hugh Herr who has a lot to say about the potential for prosthetics that are not just limited to function, but are opened up to enhanced capabilities and appearance.

Now, the option discussed in the article. You can have artificial or you can have essentially “your” arm back. It does what you can do now. The capabilities are the same and the options are relatively limited, at least for now.

Looking at the option again, does this expand to a deeper decision? Referring back to my anecdotal example, do we want explicitly to be part robot? I am completely for the option, but like any form of body modification or enhancement, I think people have the right to have this option. What we can take away then is that we are on our way to having options and therefore need to have the right to choose what we want based on our needs and desires. It is handy for a surgeon to have access to parts for replacement, but people should have the option to choose what replacement part they want, or at the very least the option to discuss it with the surgeon beforehand. This is only the one of many questions and issues to discuss.

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Filed under body parts, Cheetah Flex Foot, cosmetic plastic surgery, future, human enhancement, rights, self, technology, Uncategorized

Pandora’s Box gets bleached, tightened & a mint for good measure

Generally, I write about enhancement and cosmetic surgeries done to the upper portion of the body. A suggestion came in to turn my attention to the work done below the belt. Apparently, I have been neglecting to give attention to that region and there were interesting things going on. AlterNet’s Andy Wright wrote awhile back about The 6 Weirdest Things Women Do to Their Vaginas. The article made me curious about what we women were up to and what are motivations were. The list Andy gave is as follows:

  1. Vaginal Deodorant
  2. Douching
  3. Vaginal Rejuvenation
  4. Labiaplasty
  5. Vagina Mints
  6. Vaginal Bleaching & Dying

What is interesting about the article is that we are willing to beautiful an area of the body that, let us say, four people see regularly: You, Your Partner, Your baby and Your Gynecologist. Which one of these people is concerned about whether or not your vagina is in tiptop runway condition?

As far as the smell is concerned (deodorant/douching), if you want to avoid wafting, spray a good expensive perfume like you normally would and you can walk around in a cloud of flowers or fruit most of the day. If the smell is powerful enough to permeate this cloud of perfume, there may be a medical issue going on. I am not a medical professional, but I know that there are signs your body gives to tell you something wrong. It would be better to be aware of an offensive odor and figure out the reason that the odor is what it is instead of covering it up and staying in denial.

Vaginal rejuvenation and Labiaplasty, turns out to be popular after having kids. I know there can be medical problems and those are NOT what I am referring to here, I am talking about the elective and cosmetic use of this procedure. For the elective cosmetic procedures, I wonder, at what point do we look at our vagina and say they are not up to par? Who are we comparing our vaginas to that makes us feel so incredibly insecure to electively undergo a surgery in this most personal of areas? Alternatively, what is it that drives us to bleach or dye our vaginas or anus’! Ladies, it makes me wonder if we are looking too much or have run out of other viable ways to spend our time and money that this is what we are electing to do. I can see where, if this is your paid profession and need to undergo procedures for your job, and I would love to have that conversation another day. If we are putting our vaginas out there for the world to see, what is the dictate of beauty that we aspire and desire?

Mints! I know there are goodies out there; I have a friend who sells them. There are other options besides inserting foreign objects. What happened to mouthwash? Why mints? Who came up with these?

To address our third member of the list, your baby does NOT care what your vagina looks like in labor. I remember watching a show and there was an expectant mother close to her due date. She was asking for the full work-up. She wanted waxing, pedicure, the whole nine yards of vaginal/feet preparedness for baby’s birth. Admittedly, I got a pedicure before my second, it was for me and it was my only time. I know vanity and that insecurity of going in there to the stirrups and thinking, “They are all looking at me and judging me!” After three, they are not, they should not be and your baby could care less. Our baby’s are not interested in the way our vaginas smell, look or taste. They are more interested in the way you and your body, smell and tastes to some extent. In addition, I know, the baby may be the cause of #3, through normal birth or an episiotomy, but talk to your Dr. about the options, like vaginal massage and exercise, outside of the extreme of surgery.

As far as your doctor is concerned, I do not think that the extremes are necessary to give your doctor something to look at that they cannot judge. He sees your vagina once a year and he wants to see what is medically going on, not that you got a heart shaped pubic, a fresh vajazzle or bleaching. Doctors, if I am wrong, please let me know. Some maintenance grooming, but overall they should not be judging us on the superficial appearance of our vaginas. If they are, who interests are they looking out for anyway? You have a whole year before you have to make eye contact again.

I know someone will read this and think I am completely against anything outside of regular grooming. To clarify, I am not anti-beauty, anti-enhancement or anti-modification (Body mod is for another post). In this instance, we are electing here to manipulate and modify our vaginas to achieve beauty in an area that very, very few people will see unless it is your profession. I support women taking steps with our bodies and find it truly fascinating. Pushing the limits of beauty and perfection requires us to ask questions about not just what we are doing, but why. Such as, in our desire to push the limits and reach for the ideal what are we willing to go through, for whom, and at what potential expense? I would love to hear where the influence is coming from, from the self, others or society. I can imagine, because there is a power and control in modifying our bodies I imagine there also comes a change in our self-esteem when we change something so personal. We can take the reigns over nature and make ourselves be what we see in our minds. Ultimately, what are we trying to achieve, where are we going, what do we want and why?

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Filed under An Incovenient Truth, baby, cosmetic plastic surgery, future, human enhancement, kids, marriage, relationship, self

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

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?


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