Tag 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.

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

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