Monday, January 12, 2009

More than human ... in fact,Transhuman

As I work on the Legends project, getting it ready to launch (soon!) I can't help thinking about other projects that are waiting not far down the track. Crystal Genesis is a project that's been close to my heart for almost two decades now; and then you have the NARC and Hellgate books, which share quite a bit in common -- as well they should, since they take place in the same space, albeit 200 years apart.

The biggest difference between the NARC and Hellgate "worlds" is the Transhuman element, which is the pivot point around which Crystal Genesis revolves. In the NARC stories (set a little under four centuries in our own future) people are ... well, they're still just people. There hasn't been much tinkering with the human genome to make humans over into "more" or "different." Then, along came the starship engines which pushed the frontier back so far that untold opportunities for colonization, industry ... empire ... came along. But a lot of these worlds were not quite earthlike. They were close enough to be terraformed to a degree, but the humans relocating there had to meet the new environment halfway.

And this meant the eventual acceptance of Transhuman engineering. It's a great term -- and not one I invented! It's already in use, and the ethics, protocols, politics, philosophies of Transhumanism are already being thrashed out, even here, even now, in 2009.

For a smattering of background on this, have a look at the Wikipedia page:

While you're there, take a moment to notice that there's a new magazine on the subject. The first issue of H+ magazine came out for fall 2008, and is downloadable as a PDF from the website:

I've just read quite a lot of the PDF and the whole thing interests me strangely. The world of NARC and Hellgate just came a step closer. One of the feature articles in H+ #1 is entitled, "Science Fiction gets funding."

If I could, I'd give you a little taste, to inspire you to get over to H+ and take a proper look; but the magazine is in PDF form, and -- quite understandably! -- the copy/paste feature is locked out. God knows, I lock it out on my own PDFs ... to make people get the whole thing, not just take a sniff or a bite in passing. So go here, and get the magazine:

Interesting, isn't it? Also controversial. As the technologies become realistic and the decision to be modified or not becomes exactly that -- an individual's own decision -- then, well, you can just bet your pension that the controversy will balloon. And it won't soon be over. You'll have religious bods who want everyone to grow old and die because they believe this is what god or God or gods intended; there'll be the moralists, who may be atheists, but who firmly believe that the warts-'n-all human is the right way to be ... diabetes and arthritis and heart disease being our birthright, and we'll stamp our collective foot if we get cheated outta them!

Nostrakeeganus going to stick neck way out and make big prophecy: the technology will come along within the next half century, though the arguments will still be in session. However, when the technology is a reality, sooner or later someone, somewhere will notice that rich people have stopped being 60. They're all 35. And they're slim, and muscular, and healthy, goddamn it. In other words, the therapies will be expensive and administered by rogue physicians in underground clinics frequented by the wealthy. Transhumanism will sneak in the back door, and when the Hollywood A-list of 2050 is, on average, 75 years old and looking forty years younger ... the tide of public pressure will sweep away the nay-sayers.

People want to look younger and slimmer; they want muscles; few actually want to be bald or have gray hair. We all desire perfect piano-key teeth, great eyesight, freedom from arthritis, deafness, cancer. If there's something amoral or weird about these desires, then the cosmetics industry ought to take another look at itself right now. Also modern dentistry, let alone the legions of plastic surgeons and research medicine gurus.

We slather our faces with anti-wrinkle cream, diet and exercise, put on our toupees and wigs, dye our hair, get our teeth capped, get fitted for contact lenses, do yoga, take fish oils and see chiropractors, invest in near-to-invisible hearing aids, and get screened for cancer every six months. This is normal and desirable, but transhumanism is amoral and weird?

Good question, isn't it? You have to know I'm solidly behind any harmless, side-effect-free, affordable, ecologically sound, financially supportable therapy that will "put paid" to disease and disability. Ever tried to have a sensible conversation with someone who's almost stone deaf? Ever helped a near-blind old aunt get groceries? Ever visited a near-the-end terminal cancer patient in the hospital? Have you experienced the first pains of unavoidable, normal "wear and tear" on your joints? Your doctor will patiently explain that everyone over about 35 has some degree of osteo arthritis. It's your body starting to wear out. And it hurts. The wear and tear is gradual, like the way your glasses keep getting thicker, and there's more gold and porcelaine in your mouth, and your face is, uh, spreading sideways and heading south!

You can take the moral high ground (as a lot of people do), and say it's all normal, and we should be glad to be mortal, go through this and go to that great typing pool in the sky --

But if you notice, the people perched on this moral high ground -- saying things that you might respond to with a smile and a nod while inwardly you wince -- are usually the ones with the beautifully dyed hair, the expensive spectacles, the perfectly capped teeth. And I'll bet they get screened for cancer and take the most expensive vitamins and antioxidants on the shelf. Fundamentally, they're breaking their own rules, because everything we do that aims to change what we are, what we were born, falls neatly into the Transhuman zone.

It's interesting, and it's going to be fascinating to watch this drama unfold between now, and, say, 2058 ... at which date, Keegan will be 100 years old. And driving a souped up, turbo-charged wheelchair up the line to get the newly-legalized therapies! Like a lot of other people, I'd like to live to be 120, which they say is the maximum normal human lifespan. But who the heck wants to live that long if you can't be mobile, active, creative, productive --

Good grief! It's just occurred to you that you'll have to read this bloody blog for another fifty years!

Ciao for now,

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