Our Posthuman Present
Annalee Newitz at io9.com asked me to contribute something to their "Posthumanity Week" series, and -- despite being in the middle of a conference a couple thousand miles from home -- agreed. My piece went live today under the title "Your Posthumanism is Boring Me."
"Posthuman" is a term with more weight than meaning; it's used variously to describe people with altered genomes, people with implanted machinery, people with lifespans measured in millennia, and a whole host of descriptors that ultimately boil down to "not us, not now." Enthusiasts and critics alike embrace the term precisely because it advances the argument that the Augmented is the Other - and either an aspiration or a nightmare, as a result. It doesn't illuminate, it disturbs.
But as augmentations move from the pages of a science fiction story to the pages of a catalog, something interesting happens: they lose their power to disturb. They're no longer the advance forces of the techpocalypse, they're the latest manifestation of the fashionable, the ubiquitous, and the banal. They're normal. They're human.
I've done variations of this rant before, but I think it's a pretty important concept. It serves us little good to think of plausible future changes solely in the present-day context. To really understand their impact, we have to imagine their role in a world that actually sees them as boring.
(And, as I said to Annalee, holy crap that's a big picture of me they're using as an illustration for the piece.)