Thursday, January 10, 2013

We Are Becoming Posthuman Cyborgs, We Must and Will Deal With It

My big expense item for this Christmas was a book, Cyborg Selves:  A Theological Anthropology of the Posthuman.  It is by Jeanine Thweatt-Bates.  Her blog is Rude Truth.   During the Holidays and after, I read the first two chapters in small pieces with TV on and dogs barking, etc.  This morning I woke early and in the peace and quiet slowly perused the first chapter again to get a better grasp and poke it deeper into memory.

The "posthuman" refers to the fact that there is

     "a new and growing appreciation for the
      plasticity and flexibility of 'human nature'
      spurred by discoveries in biotechnology  
      and virtual, information and communication

Like it or not we humans are changing ourselves.  It is going to happen, no it is happening already.  We can already replace some organs with manufactured  versions.  A person can change their gender.  Technology continues to expand the range of human senses and performance.  It cannot be imagined that this will not continue.  Not unless there is a world wide catastrophe casting us back into a dark age and our technical skills forgotten.  It is inevitable.  Jen's book assumes this and aims to engage it.  She informs us that the term "posthuman" is an open one.
 "In this book, I argue that these multiple and competing notions of the posthuman currently crystallize around two distinct and promising visions, cyborgs and uploads." 
She also says,
"If, as N. Katherine Hayles contends, we are at a crucial historical juncture with regard to our emerging posthuman future, such that we bear a moral responsibility in the visioning and construction of our future selves, the stakes are high; theologians must know precisely what is at stake in order to contribute helpfully to the process of fashioning a faithful posthuman future.

The reader may experience some discomfort in thinking about the changes that may and will occur.  Time honored notions of what is normal and what is natural and what is human nature will no doubt be questioned and violated.  What does this mean for religion and theology?  This book aims to clarify the state of things and prepare for and is an example of rational engagement across the boundaries of technology, science and theology.

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