Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Transhumanism and the Roads of Rome

Transhumanism is defined as any movement aimed at the posthuman goal, the establishment of an evolved paridigm of human individualism and/or civilization. This broad topic touches many, many different pools of knowledge, ranging from cybernetics and cryogenics to psychodelics, pop psychology, and architecture. In respect specifically to these last two categories, psychology and architecture, I have been analyzing an observation set that recently came to my attention, ironically enough in a Warren Ellis comic called "Desolation Jones". I have no shame in accepting inspiration from comic books, and for two reasons. First, any sufficiently founded idea is to be judged on its own merit, as they very often find their roots in the same source data that are the basis of scholarly articles. Secondly, and just as important, because popular culture (in this case not limited to the most consumer-friendly cultural staples) does define us in many ways. This element of transhumanism, specifically the elements relating to psychology and evolution, is referred to as memetics. Packets of evolution, in essence, ideas, mind viruses, contagious thoughts. If a thought is contagious and furthermore holds some logical significance, it should not be ignored, because the machine of popular culture is as capable of creating and testing an argument/premise as it is creating the loads of bullshit that we find so lovely to watch on cable TV.

Transhumanism and transient migration is what brings me here today at 5:25 in the morning. It has been theorized, and not without basis, that we are moving towards a cultural system defined more by flux, by motion and fluid dynamics than by hard and fast base-oriented communities. This is a function, in part, of urbanization. A city is not a small town. A small town has small houses, perfect for families to grow, alienated from those surrounding them by the space, like little worlds unto themselves. In cities, this is different. In cities, the urban sprawl facilitates a village scenario that focues on the extra-familial system of socialization. Our communities are what define us, because unlike small towns, where yes the community CAN define, in cities, you canno escape it. In small town, suburban America, people can and do live in their own simple worlds, running off of a system of routines. These routines are defined by the tasks required for the satisfactory maintenance of the lifestyle (usually a consumer-based socio-economic property system). In societies of cities, you wear your status. Your skills are far more important. You are condensed and in constant competitition.

This dynamic is what will eventually replace the current suburban dominance. Why? Because population, ever increasing, makes it so. As I write this, I reside in New Jersey, the most populous state in the union, per square mile. We are built out of small towns and medium-sized cities, connected primarily by street traffic. This is fundamentally bad for a growing society, especially one such as New Jersey. Case in point: Los Angeles, a city that grew from several small cities into one extremely dense one, but did nto modify itself for mobile existence, as New York did. The result is nearly every major problem the city has, from traffic, to pollution, to much of its alienation and criminalization. Compton and Hollywood are under the same charter, but functionally they are on two different planets. This is the final phase of the town structure.

Transhumanism in transience is a discussion of the ways we can and must adapt to this, forgoing many of the trappings of landed existence in favor of a more fluid plan. We are already on our way, with the popularity of cellular phones, laptop computers, the obligatory bluetooth and wireless communication technology, and a thousand other tools to make such a lifestyle possible. However, we address these things as perks, amenities, not steps in a much larger, much more significant chain of events. Live without a home. Live in hotels, hostels, home bases. Forgo your worldly possessions, not as an aesthetic step, but because for most professionals they are unnecessary. I am a writer. My world is right here. Yes, I had a lot of books, which I recently donated to a library. And you know what, if I still want to read them, or need them to research, somone is watching over them for me. The only tradeoff is that I have to share. I'll manage.

Next: work. If you have a job, contract-work is always best. Mys mobility, often most money, and most credit for your skills. Even a more lasting employment situation is not permanent, and while you are there, get only as comfortable as you need to be. Remaining fluid helps you sit outside the rut. You see, when you live without the home base, you see things in a different light. The city becomes a system of landmarks, not routes. You see things, to use mathematical terms, as points, not line segments. This difference in emphasis makes you more aware, because YOU have to connect the dots actively in an ever-shifting paradigm, as opposed to running on a dumbing autopilot system.

Third, and most noteworthy, are the basics of life. PO boxes solve the mail problem, for the brief time that we'll still use snail mail (as we all know how unreliable it is, deep down). Storage--lockers and storage space, for clothes and whatnot. We need them back. Terrorism and the DHS fucked us with this one. But we'll get them back, and then, back to evolving. Most notably, of course, are the problems in personal hygiene. I believe as this lifestyle moves on, the attention paid to providing these services to more travelers, and not just those who can pay motel fees (which are high, and the accessibility issues with needing to drive to them nearly negate their advantage), will rectify the showering and laundering issue that any good hotel-dweller doesn't worry about.

The advantages are legion. A vast socialization, based on non-familial ties, wider networks, integrating the internet, defying convential space...this is the future. The effects this has on the human animal, helping us move beyond the pack mentality of the small town, moving towards individualism and de facto humanistic excellence, is perhaps one of the most substantial opportunities available to the human race in the next century.

--Written from the driver's seat of a Chevy Cavalier, proving that inspiration and thought do not require a house and a writing desk.

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