Tuesday, June 12, 2012


                                                 Ad Infinitum Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm

So, will life continue ad infnitum?

Ad infinitum is a Latin phrase meaning without end, without limit, never ending, to infinity.

We know that human life started but a blip ago, when compared with the history of the universe. Yet, all of existence could come under the title of life....couldn't it? I suspect that the majority of human beings believe that human existence... now that it is here manifested in us thinking, breathing, bipeds...will continue ad infinitum. It's a tad scary to think otherwise! But, it depends in what form the ad finitum existence takes.

To ensure the survival and continuance of the human race, are we propelling ourselves towards an 'existence' which muddies the word life? As we deal with seemingly ever increasing ecological and environmental issues, science seems to be proposing a kind of post-human existence which mixes us with machines. Drum roll.....cyborgs! 

So, if we annihilate food producing land, contaminate oceans and air, destroy waterways...we can still exist! We can exist as cyborgs, who presumably are 'fed' by some kind of self replicating nanobot, injected at 'birth', to supply sustenance. These nanobots could be programmed to take our taste sensations from 'Mother's Milk' to grown up foods. The 'sensation' could be enhanced by watching re-runs of quaint old fashioned television shows like 'Master Chef'. These re-runs would be experienced via entertainment device implants.

Is this kind of continuation of life wishful or nightmarish thinking? Is it abdicating responsibility to sustaining and nurturing life as we know it now? Are environmental, economic and sustainability issues becoming so overwhelming that a cyborgian existence seems like a good alternative? Is it too hard to imagine another kind of 'mutation', where thinking, imagination, and creativity cause transformation and transcendence as a physcial and spiritual whole human being, with only minor accoutrements? Indeed, as a cyborg a 'person' could live forever...ad finitum! The individual lives forever! But, what about the human race? 

The merging of human and machine is called singularity. Last year I attended a presentation, by academic and clinical psychologist Dr. Glen Slater, where he explained that for some people singularity is an ultimate goal. He also described how reliance on technology, whilst beneficial in many areas, is also 'prepping' us for this merging of machine and human. Yes, artificial limbs, implants, pace makers, IUDs, etc are all helpful, even life saving devices. But, when there are suggestions that we can download our memories, possibly mixed with another's, into a new 'self' created from stem cells grown from our skin, 'life' gets interesting and peculiar! But, is it an inevitable phase of evolution? To understand the gravity of this question please listen to this TED talk ' 'Will Our Kids Be A Different Species' by Juan Enriquez, a leading world authority on the economic and political impacts of the life sciences. It's a great presentation.

A post human state where 'we' might be cyborgs and/or a 'different species' involves a complex mixture of various types of technologies. But, is it inevitible? Worringly, Enriquez pointed out that since 2000 there has been a 78% increase in autism. I am not sure if this includes across the spectrum from aspergers to severe autism or just the latter. Whatever it is, it is significant. From my experience many people who fall in the autism spectrum have a great affinity with technology. Indeed, they prefer to relate to their gadgets, whether it's a camera [sorry cameras-they like to collect!], computers and other devices. But, have you noticed we are all [well an increasingly proportion of people] relating to devices in a way which is akin to emotional attachment. But, as we relate to the inanimate, what happens to our reltaionships with the animate...and indeed including our self?

Regular readers will know, from my last post, that I attended the University of Queensland's Dean of Medicine's Lecture given by Prof. Michael Merzenich, Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience, University of California at San Francisco: Chief Scientific Officer, Posit Science. I first came across Prof. Merzenich in the fabulous book by Dr. Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself. With this lecture in mind, I think it's interesting that in his TED presentation Enriquez talks about 'rapid brain evolution' in regards to the trajectory things like the statistics on autism are perhaps suggesting.

I could go on. It is a fascinating issue to think about.


In my new painting 'Ad Infinitum?' [above] I have used my much loved transcultural/religious tree-of-life, to suggest ongoing life forces across time. The circles seems to pulse and vibrate. The slightly changed hues in the colours, suggest tansformations and adaptions. Yet, the tree's 'vascular' qualities hold onto life systems. If existence is an ongoing rhythm of expansion and implosion, where does it place human life? Maybe we are destined to be half machine, half human...but then maybe not? Or, maybe 'life' will continue without us at some point in the future? The phrase ad infinitum does not seem to allude to a beginning...maybe life is a series of ad infinitum beginnings? Maybe some kind of a priori concept holds the clue?

                                         Perpetual Beginning Oil on linen 80 x 120 cm
                                                               Previous post HERE 

No comments: