Friday, February 26, 2016


Vascular System for Posthumans? Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016


I've been thinking about posthumans and posthuman futures. Regular readers of this BLOG will have noticed my interest!

I recently read Founder and Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, Prof Nick Bostrom's paper I Want To Be A Posthuman When I Grow Up . He makes some convincing arguments about why it would be in humanity's best interest to welcome posthuman modes of being. Yes, very logical arguments pertaining to healthspan, cognition and emotion. Is logic a way to live though? We'd [whatever 'we' means] live longer and never get sick...cures for aging and sickness! We'd have enhanced ability to think, learn, deduce, create and appreciate. Plus, the posthuman would experience emotionally stable states of happiness and well-being, healthy relationships with self and others. 

All sounds pretty terrific [no not really!]. BUT...

Envisioning the end game ie: posthuman beings of exemplary capacities is one thing, but how do we get there? The 'road' is a long and curly one! What if there are occurrences that render the best possible posthuman mode of being impossible, compromised, vulnerable? I mean, to be posthuman entails enhancements and augmentations to alleviate the constraints of biology, so there are processes to be developed and achieved. As Bostrom, in another paper The Transhumanist FAQ notes there are a few ways to become posthuman - they include technological and eugenic-like processes.  
  • “completely synthetic artificial intelligences
  • “enhanced uploads”
  • “result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human.”  Nick Bostrom, “Transhumanist FAQ: A General Introduction Version 2.1” (2003), 5. 
I ask myself, what if all three posthuman ways of being occurred because consensus about choosing one mode was not successful? Would a hierarchy develop? Would a 'haves' and the 'have nots' develop? Would the utopic nature of the hoped-for outcome actually render it impossible, therefore exposing vulnerabilities? Would posthumans end up being a mish-mash?


There are lots of questions to be asked. And, it's both fun and frightening to think about them. And, it's the asking of questions that has inspired my new work on paper Vascular System for Posthumans?

I've combined my much-loved age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life with binary code again. As regular readers know, I see the tree's repeating branching patterns as some kind of template for the universe. Might posthumans or postbeings perhaps already 'roam' in this universe?  

In this painting an x-ray/scan type impression of a body is achieved. Yet, binary code 'instructing' Am I? repeats itself along major vessels in the human vascular system. These erupt into cascading tree appendages and a branching-expanded mind! As I was painting this image, I thought it could represent the merging of human and machine or even a completely synthetic AI's circuitry  - or maybe its idea of what it is...holding onto a remnant of represented human-ness in its synthetic 'brain'. A kind of wishful computation on the part of an original code? I also thought maybe it could represent the 'picture in mind' of 'self' for an enhanced and uploaded mind, even if it does not have a 'body'? Or the image could illustrate "cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human"...maybe the branching trees represent humanity's expanded presence throughout the universe...well lets stick with the galaxy first then we'll go intergalactic! 

Other recent Posthuman Paintings

Picturing the Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 30 x 42 cm 2015


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