Superhuman and the new singularity

Structural hegemony is one of the biggest political concerns regarding evolution, therefore, to extinction. When thinking about super-heroes' stories, one can rapidly be nostalgic about the expectation that at one day we all could potentially get superpowers. Or, that maybe one day we will be safe thanks to a human that differs from us in many levels - from strategic thinking to brutal force. In any case, the comparison between ‘us’ is far from being fair. Both ideas are enough to think about what kind of privileges positions in societies these super-humans would have. The laws that are valid for most of the population, would be slightly (or, rather completely) different for these few ‘people’ belonging to the new class.

Here I want to play with the words superhuman and post-humanism putting together the perspective of Cecília Åsberg and with the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. Åsberg reflects on posthumanism arguing that rather than representing an end of the humanities, she calls for their inclusivity and, nevertheless, the end of normative forms of andro- or anthropo- or Eurocentric chauvinisms.[i] It does indeed commit to the ongoing deconstruction of humanism itself.[ii] 

Following Donna J. Haraway’s ideas, Åsberg argues that posthumanism doesn’t signal only transformations (in a progressivist sense), but rather a change that might have always been there, implying all “the pre-, in-, a-, less than, or more than human, since these denominations co-constitute each other, relationally.”[iii] Åsberg defends an ongoingness state of post-humanity, marked by the refusal to make the distinction between ‘human’ and ‘nonhuman’, what she would define as, borrowing Karen Barad’s term,  ‘posthumanist performativity’.[iv]

The unpredictability of its performativity is also a topic approached by Yuval Noah Harari, in which he includes “fundamental transformations in human consciousness and identity… [which] will call the very term ‘human’ into question.”[v] In his book “Sapiens: A brief history of Humankind”, Harari shows us that Artificial intelligence is already a deep part of Humankind. It is no longer living with robots, but rather living intra-connected with them. He proclaims the end of natural selection, replaced by intelligent design either through biological engineering, cyborg engineering, or the engineering of inorganic life.[vi]

What is astonishing in his analysis is that in a few decades the biological alterations might not only stay with physiology, immune system, and life expectancy - as we are used to - but also intellectual and emotional capacities too.[vii] Harari argues that it is unlikely to believe that the research of producing superhumans can be held for long, which includes the possibility of prolonging life indefinitely, conquering incurable diseases, and upgrading our cognitive and emotional abilities.[viii] Yet, the dilemma of developing high-tech biological alterations is constructed under our limited understanding of ethics and politics, as he points:  

“Most science-fiction plots describe a world in which Sapiens – identical to us {assuming that the one reading is a Sapien too} – enjoy superior technology…The ethical and political dilemmas central to these plots are taken from our own world, and they merely recreate our emotional and social tensions against a futuristic backdrop. Yet the real potential of future technologies is to change Homo sapiens itself, including our emotions and desires…Physicists define the Big Bang as a singularity. It is a point at which all the known laws of nature did not exist. Time too did not exist. It is thus meaningless to say that anything existed `before` the Big Bang. We may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that give meaning to our world, me you, men, women, love and hate – will become irrelevant. Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us.”[ix]

It does sound familiar, compared to the superhero stories and science fiction we are used to. The dilemma Harari sees is described by the ethics and politics of hegemonic performativities. He adds to that an interesting question: “[w]hat might happen once medicine becomes preoccupied with enhancing human abilities? Would all humans be entitled to such enhanced abilities, or would there be a new superhuman elite?”[x] If the latter would be true, what would the new structures of hierarchy look like? How would extinction be shaped under these new circumstances?

I want to close this session sharing a concern with Harari in which the question for the future is not ‘what do we want to become?’, but rather, ‘what do we want to want? `[xi] The ongoingness of posthumanities sheds light with a disconcerting feeling of not belonging to the future, extinguishing our understanding of what ‘humans’ are, falling then, into the unknowingness of a new singularity.

 

 

[i] (Åsberg, 2018, p. 196)

 

[ii] (Ibid., p. 189)

 

[iii] (Ibid., p. 190)

 

[iv] (Ibid., p. 190)

 

[v] (Harari, Sapiens: A brief history of Humankind, 2015, p. 463)

 

[vi] (Ibid., p. 448)

 

[vii] (Ibid., p. 452)

 

[viii] (Ibid., pp. 452-3)

 

[ix] (Ibid., pp. 460-1)

 

[x] (Ibid., p. 460)

 

[xi] (Ibid., 2015, p. 464)

 

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