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Metropolis film poster (1926)

Metropolis film poster (1926)

Continuing on my previous post on trans-humanism I recognize this is a complex subject where a one size fits all analysis could risk the required understanding of and engagement with this movement.

On the one hand I am convinced repressing our human capacity to create and develop technology goes directly against human nature, self-realization and purpose. Subsequently I vehemently oppose the demonization of trans-humanism and by default, the demonization of human progress.

On the other hand I cannot stress enough the urgency to (1) raise awareness of the risks inherent to the trans-humanist agenda and (2) to manage such risks.

I am probably less optimistic or idealistic than most people in our society’s ability to manage the impact of these new powerful life altering technologies effectively and timely. We have been indoctrinated by modern society, primarily by corporations and universities into a blind faith in technology. Such faith keeps us complacent believing technology will save us all in the end. This inability to question technology’s limitations and safety keep us powerless in the face of considerable risks.

History has shown society does not wake up to major risk until we have come to the very brink of the crisis. An example of such human behavior was the insane arms race escalation which drove the US and Russia to the so-called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) scenario. It was long after both super powers had made enough weapons to destroy several planets like earth that both parties realized nuclear war could not be won by either side. No nation could escape the enormity of the resulting nuclear holocaust. It took such an overwhelming and terrifying realization before the parties recovered the common sense to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

I am still looking for a way to manage the challenges that trans-humanists goals like human life extension will bring to a world where the carrying capacity of the Earth will have been exceeded several times over. We would need fantastic technologies to compensate for the extra people who would live by immediately reducing the ecological-footprint they would add.

And that is where my main argument arises. What will take to remove our anthropocentrism (human centeredness) from technology and from the human perception and interaction with the planet? That achievement would allow us to approach reality with a true consciousness that will call for the most ethical, rational and responsible use of technology. Such level of consciousness would enable us to prioritize our never ending list techno-wish list accordingly and allow us to better manage our development. It comes down to prioritizing planetary threats such as water scarcity over saving 40 year-old women from wrinkles.

It is amazing to see how the egotistical obsession with ourselves can cloud our judgment so much that we can completely detach from reality and  the urgent growing list of planetary issues which make such self-indulgent trans-humanist goals not just unimportant but shamefully frivolous. Resolving the global threats upon us, assuring the health of our life sustaining system and ensuring social justice and equality should take priority over any other goal by humanity. I will support trans-humanism in as much as it may contribute to the progress of sustainability.

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Anyone would think this is a scene from a sci-fi or James Bond film but the scary thing about it is that this gentleman is no actor and he represents a growing fundamentalist movement called trans-humanism set to harness human evolution through technology to ultimately become God. This particular character is very serious about his plan to become God. He says “if you’re going to interfere with me becoming God, we’ll have big trouble. Then we’ll have warfare”.

I think the threat posed by this new religious worship and absolute belief in the almighty power of technology is more serious and far greater than global terrorism, global warming or global financial meltdown. We are dealing with what is after all a religious fanaticism far more dangerous than any militant religious extremist group or ideology.  What makes this extreme faction of the so called  trans-humanism movement such a concern is the very acceptance of the movement – even its radical elements. Such acceptance is won because modern society sees trans-humanism as mere science and that is enough to make it legitimate and unlikely to be questioned.  So much for Homeland Security when we have such a threat well rooted inside our borders brainwashing our very own populations. Their technique is extremely powerful and subtle: to hook the public with luring promises such as human perfection and eternal youth.

Let’s examine where this techno-dogma comes from. The mission of trans-humanism’s is the development of the next stage of human evolution called post-human or neo-human. Writer and globalization expert Carl Teichrib describes the premises of trans-humanism:

“1. DNA: Now that we are unlocking the secrets of DNA, we can alter our genetic makeup to augment desirable traits and block negative characteristics. It’s hoped such a move will bring longevity and eradicate diseases. Other possible outcomes include the production of designer babies in the womb, and even introducing DNA from other species into the human code; thus building a ‘Human Plus’ equipped with advanced physical and cognitive traits. Such a trans-human/hybrid would be ‘transgenic’, in other words a human Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) just like corn or soy.

“2. Computer Interfacing and AI: As the secrets of the brain are discovered, it is anticipated that a time will arrive when the mind is efficiently interfaced with cyber-space. It is believed that in such a scenario the brain, once ‘plugged-in,’ could allow the mind to surf the network, download and upload from the web, receive memory upgrades, and converge with a global mind-to-machine-to mind community—forming a type of cyber-hive. Or, according to some cybernetic purists, to allow one’s consciousness to completely leave the bounds of flesh and enter cyber-space as an electronic entity. After all the brain, it’s argued, is an electrochemical organ. This mind uploading, it’s believed, could culminate in what the Catholic mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere: the emergence of a living, global consciousness. The web would thus ‘come alive’.”

The objectives stated above have been used by sci-fi literature and films to warn us about the potential for the future to become a horrible nightmare, but guess what? I am wide awake and by looking at the news I can only realize the plan for this nightmarish future is already under way, and apparently with no one willing or able to stop it. Despite the risks and horrific consequences the misuse of technology can bring such as that  posed by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) destabilizing the fragile balance of natural ecosystems, I take comfort in the fact that the core believes held by transhumanists are false. We humans are not machines and consciousness is not a computer algorythm.

Those two facts alone make the trans-humanist agenda a childish fantasy which nonetheless can cause great irreversible damage to humans and planet. Thus the activities of these people still need to be closely monitored and controlled. Alongside the supervision by those institutions whose role is to enforce bioethics and safety on the use of technology, we need to counter trans-humanism with a new humanism driven by core timeless human values. It is the removal of values from science that has allowed science to run unchecked, unquestioned and ironically become the greatest threat to civilization and the planet, despite all the benefits it has also brought to humanity. Deep ecology illustrates the true nature of human beings and the life honoring values which were upheld by our indigenous ancestors and that we urgently need to restore.

I am not against progress. Man must not give up on his inherent nature to develop science and technology. It is his right and duty. However after  four centuries of reckless exploitation of planet and people in the name of science and progress, man needs to retake responsibility for his power by re-infusing  science and technology as well as all his activities and his very own perception of reality with the mentioned human values and overall sensibility. We must contain our human progress within the domain the human of human values and ensuring we will not disrupt the fragile order of the natural world who we are not even close to fully understand due to its enormous complexity and the limitations of our scientific knowledge.

Let’s continue honoring our inherently human ambition for growing human knowledge and bringing progress, but let’s ensure we do it in a responsible, safe and ultimate sustainable manner.

 

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I can better understand now people how so much of the public can persuaded by political and corporate powers to deny the global environmental crisis and even be turned against the green movement.

You need not bribed scientists to make fake or unfounded scientific claims denying climate change, discrediting the benefits of clean-tech or promoting the cleanliness of carbon, just like the ‘scientists’ that were paid to promote tobacco as a healthy product.

The mere fragmentation and inefficiency of market driven sustainability and overall green washing we have reached today can alone turn the average citizen you into a skeptic. The Powers that Be take advantage of such deceptions no different than other powers take advantage of social inequality, oppression and exploitation to radicalize people and turn them against the West.

As objective as science and material progress has tried to be, we know no human activity, including science and business are not value neutral. Just like politics they both have had vested interests. Science cannot happen without a budget and quite often that budget has not come from the highest moral standards.

The collateral damage of material progress and the rate at which our current global economic system and our socio-technical infrastructure is devouring the environment makes it extremely urgent to re-infuse much of the science and many of the institutions who have sustainability in their mission statement with old fashioned core human values, the very same values that are at the essence of ecological thinking and sustainability: true respect and responsibility for all life.

The ancient and rediscovered discipline of DEEP ECOLOGY analyzes and promotes such values, which in turn generate a far more accurate, value-based and scientific perception of reality as well as extraordinary behavioral changes consistent with such values and perceptions.

A good introduction to the subject is this enlightening interview with Professor Michael Zimmerman who describes Deep Ecology in the context of the industrial paradigm I believe we are still lingering to as a civilization despite the urgency to shift to true sustainability.

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Have shallow ecology, the fragmentation and inefficiency of market driven sustainability and overall green washing turn you into an skeptic?

I do not blame you. You can however survive such skepticism: going to the essence and the origin of sustainability: DEEP ECOLOGY. I will be writing more on this subject on my next blogs.

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17

Titled ‘Blue Marble’ the photograph above taken from Apollo 17 was one the first shots capturing the whole planet from space. These powerful pictures helped coalesce the modern environmental movement as it conveyed the fragility of Planet Earth. Today ‘Blue Marble’ is one of the symbols of Deep Ecology.

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The Gaia theory considers the Earth a living organism.

The Gaia theory considers the Earth a living organism.

While orthodox science completes the validation of the Gaia theory, I wonder  ‘what are we humans in this gigantic living system called Earth?’ Given the rate at which we are multiplying, taking resources and degrading this very planetary organism that sustains us, except for a few negligible exceptions, we humans should probably fall in the category of parasites.

We have already started an irreversible transformation in this living organism as its equivalent of our immune system tries to cope with our invasion and threat to its vital living functions. We are turning this planetary animal into a new species which we know nothing about. The relationship it had with its human ‘organelles’ is no longer.

Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells. Source: Wikipedia.

Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells. Source: Wikipedia.

We humans are then in uncharted territory when looking at the future. How will be able to relate to our mother organism in order to survive? I strongly believe we will need to turn from parasites to at least beneficial bacteria. This is my response and challenge to the unsustainable conservative doctrine which to this day has kept man at the top pedestal of creation.

Our record actually takes us down from that pedestal to the very bottom, to the ground where bacteria lives. We must shed the prejudice and superiority complex that has led us to the exploitation of every resource and submission of all species in the planet including our very own.

But the very power we have employed to devour our environment can be used to restore it and regenerate it. Only when we learn the humility necessary to understand we are no more than a strand in the web of life, that we have no greater rights than any living species, will we be able to develop the consciousness to live symbiotically with the planetary system; only then will we be willing and capable to morph our socio-technical system, our human infrastructure in such a way that it can exist in harmony with Nature; only then will we be able to successfully integrate the human environment into the biosphere; only then will we achieve true sustainability.

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Most people are living the illusion we can afford to maintain our totally unsustainable existence. It does not cease to amaze me the mental condition that modern society suffers at the collective and at the individual levels. We are completely detached from the real reality which is nature based and outside of our fabricated reality of shopping malls and the stock market. Most people, particularly those in the highest positions of power, are dangerously lost in a waking dream where Nature is infinitely resilient and unlimited in resources. Such hallucinogenic state combined with an insatiable compulsion for materialism and consumption is what is in the way of humans shifting our obsolete industrial paradigm to the sustainable paradigm. It does not matter how much noise institutions, organizations and corporations may make to show how GREEN we are becoming. No amount of  clean technology, sustainable business practices or environmental laws can save the planet while the current global economic system and the dementia that drives it continues to rule the world. We shall not be able to reach the critical mass of sustainable transformation in this planet until we find a “cure” or at least until we can effectively manage such mental condition.

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For a lot of people the expression human nature is at some level an oxymoron. The science based system in which we have been educated that still dominates our world view has instilled very deep in our psyches that humans are unlike other organisms independent and ultimately separate from the natural world.

Humans disconnected from nature after concluding nature is an external foreign entity. This perception was institutionalized with the famous “Cogito Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am)” by Renee Descartes which separated mind from matter, and Galileo’s new rules of science. The conception of the world went from an organic, living universe to that of a machine devoid of any quality including ethical sensibility, values or consciousness creating the mechanistic paradigm that still characterizes orthodox science as well as our industrial existence and relationship to the planet.

Most educated people are indoctrinated in this view of reality which as we know has taken us to endangering the very biospheric system that keeps us alive. Without exaggeration, this attitude defies man’s sanity or connection to reality. Most of these people would argue that man is different from the other organisms. “Animals have instincts; we have intelligence and technology is our nature” they claim. And I do not dispute that view but technology is ultimately a product of nature so we should not have any problems reconnecting at the psychological level technology and nature. Unfortunately for as long as we perpetuate the conditioning that we are autonomous from nature and we isolate ourselves in our man-made environments, we will be not able to reconnect with nature psychologically.

If we cannot establish that psychological connection which involves both rationality or logic and emotion or spirit, we will not be successful in re-establishing the physical connection with the natural world, and it is that physical connection that will assure and complete the transition the holistic life-centered sustainable paradigm. Technology is ironically the root-cause but also the solution to saving our planet. We just need to infuse technology with the consciousness we lost along the way. Unfortunately I cannot find a term in orthodox science that can fully embrace the meaning of ‘consciousness’. That is the problem? Let’s call it challenge!

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