The Posthuman Paradox

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: The singularity is a dirty, naked old man whipping wide his raincoat and revealing the absence of genitals.


This post got me thinking about my technological pessimism once again, and why I think ‘posthumanity’ simply has to be a disaster from our own ‘good ol’fashioned homegrown human’ standpoint. In fact, I had something of a small clarificatory revelation.

Brain science. The reason why I fear that ‘cognitive augmentation’ will be catastrophic turns on the way I see psychology and neuroscience slowing confirming what I think should be humanity’s greatest scientific fear: the possibility that meaning and morality are simply figments of our neural parochialism. If this is the case, it means the very frame of reference that Marone uses to value ‘biohacking’ will in fact be one of the first casualties of biohacking.

How does one value the death of value? How can any given frame of inferential reference argue for its own destruction without lapsing into abject contradiction?

This is a tricky, prickly, paradoxical question. To be clear, if meaning and morality are parochial artifacts of human conscious awareness, then ‘expanding’ that awareness does not, as seems to be the assumption, mean expanding meaning or morality. Quite the contrary, it means leaving them behind. In other words, given ‘semantic parochialism,’ transcending the human means transcending meaning and morality. Or put differently, embracing nihilism.

The posthuman is the postsemantic.

The possibilities extolled by Marone, in other words, are nothing more than optimistic guesses, a hope grounded on the unwarranted assumption that meaning and morality transcend the human, and so will faithfully await us as we use technology to disrobe our souls. As optimistic guesses, they should be treated as such, pending the results of that great slayer of human conceit, science.

Of course, an inverted version of the same paradox afflicts this argument as well: If science reveals there’s no such thing as meaning and morality, why should anybody give a fuck one way or another?

Welcome to the Whatever Future.

What this underscores, I think, is the way the problem of the posthuman just is the problem of nihilism considered in concretion. People keep crying, ‘More! More!’ not realizing that it could be a certain kind of less, a certain kind of confusion or even outright delusion that makes ‘more’ more valuable in the first place.