I Am A Posthuman Gouache and watercolour on paper 42 x 30 cm 2016
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The code above appears in my new painting I Am A Posthuman. It actually 'forms', or maybe 'performs', or otherwise 'instructs' a structural element to the 'figure'. You can guess the translation for sure!
But, is this figure me? Maybe? It could also be a posthuman entity from a far distant future expressing itself through me? That's probably a bit far fetched, but worth considering, even if only playfully. However, if we are simulations run by posthuman entities, as per Prof Nick Bostrom's theory, then maybe not such a playful idea! It depends if you believe that the posthuman is something that will occur in the far distant future or whether you think we are already posthuman as a result of various things including drugs, technological devices such as pace makers, glasses, hearing aids and other health oriented devices. Then there are the augmentation or enhancement devices such as [again] drugs, wearable monitoring devices, certain sports gear, cosmetic surgery, developments in AI assisted activities and more.
Yet, are these various devices making us posthuman or is it more correct to describe them as part of a transhuman process? The prefix 'post' means after and whilst we humans may have changed over the centuries, unless we are all simulations, I think the 'posthuman' tagline is somewhat premature. Having said that, though, some of our activities may precipitate a human extinction event that does flip the whole idea of the human into the posthuman [ie: no human!] potentially rather quickly. Whilst the chance of such event/s occurring are considered to be very small, the outcomes are considered potentially irredeemable. This kind of risk concern has seen the formation of various research centres that examine existential risk posed by emerging technologies Future of Humanity Institute [Oxford], Center of the Study of Existential Risk [Cambridge], Future of Life Institute [US - out of MIT].
If using technology that enhances and augments somehow makes us posthuman then have we been posthuman since our early ancestors picked up rocks and stones to make tools? One could argue that any kind of implement is a technology that enhances chances of survival and progress. Or, maybe just thinking differently about ourselves flips us from human to posthuman? But, history is a complex trajectory of many instances where cultural, political and social changes have triggered new ways of thinking about being human. Examples are feminism, Indigenous rights, post-colonial theories, democracy, science and more! I would argue that these processes are actually what makes us human...just like the cognitive impulses that saw our stone-age ancestors pick up rocks and stones to use as implements.
But, returning to existential risk posed by emerging technologies - the fact that multidisciplinary research in this area is taken very seriously should cause people to take notice. A literal post-human time may occur before we are ready to ensure some kind of human survival!
I Am A Posthuman
Like some of my other recent 'posthuman' paintings this posthuman figure is formed with a combination of 'codes' ie: binary code and the tree-of-life. The figure seems to float in outer space. There is no horizon line nor indication of precise environment. Is this posthuman simply an entity embedded in a computer or is it a speck of stardust or is it at 'home' in outer space? Or, maybe its 'environment' is my imagination?
Recent other posthuman posts and paintings