[NetBehaviour] A Biopunk Manifesto - Meredith Patterson.

Helge Peters helge at udk-berlin.de
Thu Jan 10 13:43:09 CET 2013

I would insist that there is an important distinction to be made  
between transhumanism and posthumanism.

The latter best describes a heterogeneous bunch of theorists concerned  
with critiquing the tenets of humanist philosophy, often by reading  
technoscientific discourses and practices through a poststructuralist  
lens. Haraway would fit in this camp, as does Katherine Hayles.  
Transhumanism, on the other hand, is basically a marketing effort by  
futurologists like Ray Kurzweil and Vita-More (live-longer, get it)  
who confound the implications of actual technoscientific practices  
with their own private sci fi daydreams and  actually might be, if we  
want to grant them some theoretical weight depsite their their pretty  
obvious intellectual vacuity, best understood as perversely  
radicalising the most problematic assumptions of humanist philosophy.

A good example for making this distinction clearer is the problem of  
mind/body dualism, since Rene Descartes a central theme of humanist  
philosophy. While posthumanists would insist on the embodiment of  
cognition (often out of feminist concerns with the historical  
privileging of the 'male, rational' mind over the 'female, irrational'  
body), transhumanists, on the other hand, want to shed their mortal  
bodies and upload their minds into some sort of cybernetic spirit  
realm where they will live forever (this is no joke). I do not see  
much common ground between these two ideas, other than maybe a shared  
fascination with contemporary technoscience.

Although he does not identify with either camp, Dale Carrico does a  
splendid job dissecting transhumanist discourse from a queer left  
perspective: http://amormundi.blogspot.com/

How biopunk and emerging diy bio practice fit into this picture  
remains to be seen. The current fascination with understanding biology  
in computational terms seems problematic to me because it points  
towards the transhumanist idiocy of neglecting the materiality of  
life, but then again the 'messy' practice bio hobbyists engage in  
could be an interesting corrective for too quick a conflation of life  
and algorithms.

Am 09.01.2013 um 17:10 schrieb marc garrett:

> Hi Marco,
> It's a funny thing transhumanism (or post humanism), an (x) British  
> citizen, Max More (http://www.maxmore.com/) gained much attention  
> with his ideas regarding what (i think) he termed as 'extropianism',  
> and since has developed it with others through 'science and  
> technology', now calling it 'transhumanism'.
> "Transhumanists go beyond most of our traditional humanist  
> predecessors in proposing fundamental alterations in human nature in  
> pursuit of these improvements. We question traditional, biological,  
> genetic, and intellectual constraints on our progress and  
> possibility. The unique conceptual abilities of our species give us  
> the opportunity to advance nature’s evolution to new peaks. Rather  
> than accepting the undesirable aspects of the human condition,  
> transhumanists of all stripes challenge natural and traditional  
> limitations on our possibilities. We champion the use of science and  
> technology to eradicate constraints on lifespan, intelligence,  
> personal vitality, and freedom."
> And then you have an individual like Natasha Vita-More. Who has  
> worked with More (perhaps related), proposing a cyber philosophy on  
> transhumanism through paper's such as "The New [human] Genre — Primo  
> Posthuman" http://www.natasha.cc/paper.htm
> What's interesting here, and this may get us closer to your  
> question, is that cyberfeminism, biopunk and cyberpunk theory - all  
> connects to this. For instance, she says "Other interpretations of a  
> cyborg approximate the human, but encourage machine-images with  
> superhuman powers. Donna Haraway’s interpretation of the cyborg  
> [Haraway, 1991, pp. 149-181] differs from the original ideal, and is  
> more of a "transhuman" [Vita-More, 1983] in scope than actual  
> cyborg. Yet, in most instances the cyborg lacks social consciousness  
> and suggests a grim and dire nature by impersonalizing humanity."
> and proposes, 'Primo is engineered like a finely tuned machine and  
> displayed visually like a biological body to mirror the human shape  
> for cognitive association, visual recognition, and aesthetic appeal.  
> Yet, the Primo body does not age, is easily upgraded, has meta- 
> sensory components, 24-hour remote Net relay system, and multiple  
> gender options. Its outer sheath is primed with smart skin which  
> vanguards practical designs purposes for communication. The model  
> structure is composed of assembled massive molecular cytes or cells  
> connected together to form the outer fabric of the body. The smart  
> skin is engineered to repair, remake, and replace itself. It  
> contains nanobots throughout the epidermal and dermis to communicate  
> with the brain to determine the texture and tone of its surface. It  
> transmits enhanced sensory data to the brain on an ongoing basis.  
> The smart skin learns how and when to renew itself, alerts the  
> outside world of the disposition of the person; gives specific  
> degrees of the body’s temperature from moment to moment; and  
> reflects symbols, images, colors and textures across its contours.  
> It is able to relate the percentages of toxins in the environment  
> and the extract radiation effects of the sun."
> What Natasha Vita-More, fails to get across when she discounts  
> Haraway, are the contexts of why "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science,  
> Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century",  
> is important - to women and men.
> It is precisely about reclaiming our consciousness against the  
> overpowering capitalist 'male' dominating structures. Although,  
> unfortunately Haraway still relies on science to answer social  
> problems but less 'potentially' as authoritarian in its poetic  
> discourse. More's argument relies on top-down transhumanist values,  
> alongside neoliberal contexts. So, it's liberation for the elite,  
> whilst the poor swim in the sea of disease unless they can afford to  
> pay for a longer life and all the technical attachments. Also, one  
> of the annoying things many transhumanist's expound is "the human  
> project has failed", which is also exudes a level of eugenics which  
> is worth consideration regarding their 'real' agendas.
> What I have said is in no way suffient enough to crack open the  
> deeper resonances of the dialogues and critical reasonings for and  
> against transhumanism.
> I know others on this list may be qualified to add light on the  
> subject. I can certainly suggest biopinks - such as Heath Bunting  
> with his His D.I.Y. superweed kit (http://www.irational.org/cta/superweed/kit.html 
> ),
> which he  "claims give's people the power to disrupt the  
> introduction of genetically-modified crops by growing a ‘superweed’  
> that is naturally resistant to GM herbicides. Superweed’ has strong  
> resonances at a time when governments and public opinion, are in the  
> process of deciding whether scientific advances in agricultural  
> production are always beneficial."
> If this dialogue expands, I have other examples & I'm sure you and  
> others do as well :-)
> Wishing you well.
> marc
>> thanks for bringing this to the attention of the list Marc.
>> The talk started circulating a few days ago (at least around my  
>> newtwork), and I found the talk deeply interesting.
>> I feel still unclear about the relation between biopunk and  
>> transhumanism.
>> On another note, it is important to add that "biopunk" does not  
>> refer only to dna and organism hackers, but includes also the  
>> physical body hackers, a community within which I'm glad to  
>> identify myself. Perhaps, without labelling though.
>> See: http://www.grindhousewetware.com/projects-1
>> best,
>> --
>> Marco Donnarumma
>> New Media + Sonic Arts Practitioner, Performer, Teacher, Director.
>> Embodied Audio-Visual Interaction Research Team.
>> Department of Computing, Goldsmiths University of London
>> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>> Portfolio: http://marcodonnarumma.com
>> Research: http://res.marcodonnarumma.com
>> Director: http://www.liveperformersmeeting.net
>> From: netbehaviour <netbehaviour at furtherfield.org>
>> Subject: [NetBehaviour] A Biopunk Manifesto - Meredith Patterson.
>> To: netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org
>> Message-ID: <50ED3ACB.1030604 at furtherfield.org>
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed
>> A Biopunk Manifesto - Meredith Patterson.
>> A biohacker is a biopunk hobbyist who experiments with DNA and other
>> aspects of genetics.[3][4][6] A biohacker (or "wetware hacker") is
>> similar to a computer hacker who creates and modifies software or
>> computer hardware as a hobby, but should not be confused with a
>> bioterrorist, whose sole intent is the deliberate release of viruses,
>> bacteria, or other germs used to cause illness or death in people,
>> animals, or plants (in the same way a computer hacker should not be
>> confused with the more popular, yet erroneous, use of the term,
>> describing someone who spreads computer viruses or breaks into  
>> computers
>> systems for malicious purposes).
>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thn7d7-jywU
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