Our Biogenetic Future: Cladistics, Bifurcation, Enhancement

With rapid improvements in biotechnology and bioengineering, we may reach a point where, for the first time in history, it becomes possible to translate economic inequality into biological inequality. Biotechnology will soon make it possible to engineer bodies and brains, and to upgrade our physical and cognitive abilities. However, such treatments are likely to be expensive, and available only to the upper crust of society. Humankind might consequently split into biological castes.

– Yuval Noah Harari, Are we about to witness the most unequal societies in history?

In his recent Guardian article Yuval Noah Harari, author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, sees the possible nightmare scenario of a bifurcation in the human genome, the invention of selective artificial evolution of a superior species. The twist for Harari is that this bifurcation will instigate a new society and culture on the planet, one based not on racial/ethnic class divisions or economic inequality,  but rather on biogenetic eugenics and biological castes.

The notion of cladistics and clades have been around for quite sometime. A clade (from Ancient Greek: κλάδος, klados, “branch”) is a group of organisms that consists of a common ancestor and all its lineal descendants, and represents a single “branch” on the “tree of life”. Over the last few decades, the cladistic approach has revolutionized biological classification and revealed surprising evolutionary relationships among organisms. Increasingly, taxonomists try to avoid naming taxa that are not clades; that is, taxa that are not monophyletic. A monophyletic group is a taxon (group of organisms) which forms a clade, meaning that it consists of an ancestral species and all its descendants. The term is synonymous with the uncommon term holophyly. Monophyletic groups are typically characterized by shared derived characteristics (synapomorphies).

With the emergence of movements surrounding Human Enhancement or Transhumanism which seeks to use scientific technology, pharmakon, and advanced techniques to modify or enhance both current normal humans, as well as to edit or modify the DNA of embryos providing optimizations of intelligence or physical prowess this seeming madness of the human project may take us all into strange places.

Years ago, long before the Star Trek movies about Kahn and his biogenetic species of superior humans brought the notion of eugenics wars back into focus through science fictional scenarios there was the actual history of Progressive Eugenics which was established both in the United States and in Germany. Lest we forget Eugenics ( from Greek εὐγενής eugenes “well-born” from εὖ eu, “good, well” and γένος genos, “race, stock, kin”) is a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population. This notion of improving, of improvement is the central motif of the whole tradition of progressive democratic thought from the Enlightenment period to now. The notion of both technological and social improvement, not to mention its strange aberration in the pseudo-history of eugenics which during the late forties and fifties be modified by the Rockefeller group to become modern genetics and molecular biology.1 As many historians have noted the Rockefeller philanthropic interest in eugenics, dating back to before the First World War, had continued, albeit sporadically, into the late twenties, when the Foundation began to support the research of Professor C. R. Stockard, of Cornell Medical College, in “eugenics and heredity.” In the early thirties, doing its part to deal with a world seemingly going out of control, the Rockefeller officers ventured a programmatic departure: to sponsor scientific research-medical, biochemical, biophysical, and psychological-in the analysis of human behavior. (ibid., p. 208)

It was during the 1950’s that the eugenics label would become more and more transitioned into what we know as modern genetics:

…the revelations of the Holocaust had all but buried the eugenic ideal. After the Second World War, “eugenics” became a word to be hedged with caveats in Britain and virtually a dirty word in the United States, where it had long been identified with racism. In their 1954 textbook, Human Heredity, James Neel and William J. Schull censured the eugenics of the past, warned against the extremes to which its biases could lead, and, while endorsing reform eugenics, did so in a gingerly fashion and with an insistence that the first order of business was to continue advancing the science of human genetics. (ibid., p. 251)

I think I’ve bored the reader enough with the prelims… the point of this exercise was to show that genetics arose out of a spurious pseudo-science that based on progressive ideology of improvement. As one commentator states it

The front door to eugenics is closed. Hitler’s Lebensborn project, the most infamous attempt in this century to produce “good babies,” cast a chilling pall over the frontal assault, the direct route.1 While we have witnessed the development of sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, and artificial insemination, only a small fringe will take the public stage and argue for eugenic aims. Shockley and a few others have espoused a kind of selective breeding of the “good” genetic (“eu-genic”) stock, but would be human breeders remain a tiny node on the periphery of the current genetic revolution. They are likely to remain so.2

The ‘old’ eugenics was inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution and was shaped by the Enlightenment, the scientific revolution, and the optimistic ethos of modernity. It included a belief that through the use of science, technology, and reason humans would achieve mastery over the forces of nature and would continue to achieve progress towards total liberation from the perils and constraints of nature. The horrific events and barbaric nature of the Second World War lead to a dramatic critique of the ethos of Modernity, and from this critique came a warning and a recognition of the perilous downside of excessive science and technology.

The ‘new’ eugenics of the late twentieth century to early twenty-first century is characterized by the combination of molecular genetic techniques and assisted reproductive technologies, including premarital, pre-implantation, and prenatal genetic testing. Historically, this era of eugenics emerged alongside new reproductive technologies and is shaped by the ethos of late modernity or reflexive modernity. This is the era of human rights, ratified by the post war Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948 and other international documents, such as the Nuremberg Code 1947, the Belmont Report 1979, and the Declaration of Helsinki 1964; 2008.

‘Future’ eugenics will most probably be characterized by the futuristic (but not fictitious) technologies of reproductive cloning and germ-line genetic modification. Unlike its previous incarnations, ‘future’ eugenics will no longer be constrained by what already exists in the human gene pool. This ‘future’ eugenics could go beyond the natural limits of the human gene pool by crossing both the species-boundary and the boundary between the natural and the artificial. It has been predicted that the future eugenics will create new beings named ‘superhumans,’ ‘transhumans,’ ‘posthumans,’ ‘cyborgs’, or ‘human-animal hybrids’. As we enter the age of “future” eugenics, we will become the architects and authors of our future. As Buchanan et al. suggest, our evolutionary future will no longer be left to chance; it will become a product of our own choice.3

Biological Inequality: Kahn and the Rise of the Übermensch

Who will forget seeing the muscular Ricardo Montalbán as Kahn a genetically enhanced superhuman who used his strength and intellect to briefly rule much of Earth in the 1990s. Montalbán said that he believed all good villains do villainous things, but think that they are acting for the “right” reasons; in this way, Khan uses his anger at the death of his wife to justify his pursuit of James T. Kirk.

Based on the three novels by Greg Cox The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh which detail the history and dramatic sequences of the genetically engineered “Children of Chrysalis” who were mentally and physically superior to ordinary men and women. The scientists of Chrysalis desired for their creations to take over Earth, but things do not work out in the storyline for this superior human breeding program. Kahn the great leader ends in internecine struggles with his fellow enhanced society and things go awry and downhill in an all-too-human scenario.

The notion of Nietzsche’s Übermensch – or Overman is a contested notion in scholarly circles even today. I have not read it but there is a fascinating debate in a scholarly work Nietzsche and Transhumanism: Precursor or Enemy? which brings together many of the contemporary Nietzsche scholars to discuss this concept along with the Transhumanist project. As I read through the introductory I got a sense that there is very little agreement among scholars over either the original intent of Nietzsche’s use of the notion nor of its alignment with human enhancement in our current transhumanist adventures and experiments.

In the first essay of that book Stefan Sorgner argues against Nick Bostrom’s claim that Nietzsche cannot be an ancestor of the transhumanist movement and shows the parallels between the concept of the posthuman and Nietzsche’s overhuman. In this discussion Sorgner finds similarities between Nietzsche and transhumanism in their conceptions of dynamic, always changing aspects of life and human life, in their valuations of science, and their belief in enhancement and development.

For Bostrom and colleagues the path to enhancement would be fraught with peril for present humanity. Even in his arguments about AI and Superintelligence he says “the first superintelligence may shape the future of Earth-originating life, could easily have non-anthropomorphic final goals, and would likely have instrumental reasons to pursue open-ended resource acquisition. If we now reflect that human beings consist of useful resources (such as conveniently located atoms) and that we depend for our survival and flourishing on many more local resources, we can see that the outcome could easily be one in which humanity quickly becomes extinct.”4

Others such as Andy Walker see the world in optimistic terms of Human 2.0 or an upgrade path merging human and technology, or the Cyborgization of humanity: “What’s more likely to happen is that the machines will be integrated with human flesh and blood. We will be indistinguishable from the machines and they will be indistinguishable from us. And if you are now conjuring some image of your future self as a 1980s movie cyborg, you’re on the right track. However, chances are you’ll be a less dystopian Terminator and a more Walmart-shopping soccer mom who can access the fridge inventory with her brain.”5

Most of us remember Donna Haraway’s 90’s Cyborg Manifesto. “The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.”6 The main leitmotif of her manifesto was that the cyborg “is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, preoedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense – a ‘final’ irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the ‘West’s’ escalating dominations of abstract individuation, an ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space. (ibid., p. 6) This sense of absolute abstraction, of the end of the metaphysical project of transcendence, of overcoming both Plato and Christianity in an overleaping of the boundaries between organic and machinic life. Or, as Haraway would say at the end of that manifesto: “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

In one of her later works Haraway will speak of the wounds to human narcissism that have awakened us out of our dogmatic belief in human exceptionalism. Freud described three great historical wounds to the primary narcissism of the self-centered human subject, who tries to hold panic at bay by the fantasy of human exceptionalism.

First is the Copernican wound that removed Earth itself, man’s home world, from the center of the cosmos and indeed paved the way for that cosmos to burst open into a universe of inhumane, nonteleological times and spaces. Science made that decentering cut. The second wound is the Darwinian, which put Homo sapiens firmly in the world of other critters, all trying to make an earthly living and so evolving in relation to one another without the sureties of directional signposts that culminate in Man. Science inflicted that cruel cut too. The third wound is the Freudian, which posited an unconscious that undid the primacy of conscious processes, including the reason that comforted Man with his unique excellence, with dire consequences for teleology once again. Science seems to hold that blade too. I want to add a fourth wound, the informatic or cyborgian, which infolds organic and technological flesh and so melds that Great Divide as well.7

But what happens to the mass of humanity who will be excluded from such enhancements? Will we see as Harari in my epigraph portrays it a great gap or divide between the new hypergenetic elites and the rest of us normal? As Harari commenting on this states it:

Throughout history, the rich and the aristocratic always imagined they had superior skills to everybody else, which is why they were in control. As far as we can tell, this wasn’t true. The average duke wasn’t more talented than the average peasant: he owed his superiority only to unjust legal and economic discrimination. However, by 2100, the rich might really be more talented, more creative and more intelligent than the slum-dwellers. Once a real gap in ability opens between the rich and the poor, it will become almost impossible to close it.

With access to these new technologies of enhancement will the rich elites and Oligarchies advanced their progeny into a dark hierarchical society in which as Harari suggested we will become both useless and excluded? Will we see a new form of exploitation that instead of racism is based on biologism? Rather than ethnicity we’ll it become a division of enhanced/unenhanced? Ultimately if you look into the Transhumanist movement as a whole it is just this religiously motivated move toward perfectibility, transcendence, and immortalism we’ve seen in most of the World’s monotheistic religions, except that the latter were based on other worldly concerns while transhumanism is based on a strict this worldly agenda.

One need only read the Transhumanist Declaration (2012) to understand where this is going:

Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth. We believe that humanity’s potential is still mostly unrealized. There are possible scenarios that lead to wonderful and exceedingly worthwhile enhanced human conditions. We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. There are possible realistic scenarios that lead to the loss of most, or even all, of what we hold valuable. Some of these scenarios are drastic, others are subtle. Although all progress is change, not all change is progress. Research effort needs to be invested into understanding these prospects. We need to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications. We also need forums where people can constructively discuss what should be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented. Reduction of existential risks, and development of means for the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of grave suffering, and the improvement of human foresight and wisdom should be pursued as urgent priorities, and heavily funded. Policymaking ought to be guided by responsible and inclusive moral vision, taking seriously both opportunities and risks, respecting autonomy and individual rights, and showing solidarity with and concern for the interests and dignity of all people around the globe. We must also consider our moral responsibilities towards generations that will exist in the future. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise. We favor allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies. 8

The term that sticks out most is “risk” which as Ulrich Beck would remark in “risk societies, the consequences and successes of modernization become an issue with the speed and radicality of processes of modernization”.9 He go on to say,

A new dimension of risk emerges because the conditions for calculating and institutionally processing it break down in part. Under such conditions a new moral climate of politics develops in which cultural, and hence nationally varying, evaluations play a central role and arguments for and against real or possible consequences of technical and economic decisions are publicly conducted. In the process, the functions of science and technology also change. Over the past two centuries, the judgement of scientists has replaced tradition in Western societies. Paradoxically, however, the more science and technology permeate and transform life on a global scale, the less this expert authority is taken as a given. (p. 6)

This notion that the sciences and scientists have taken on the authority and power that the Priests of religion once held is at the center of such a risk society. In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley more succinctly defined this epistemological cartel of the sciences: The older dictators fell because they could never supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles, and mysteries. Under a scientific dictatorship, education will really work…with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown (Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, p. 116, 1958). This is the ultimate objective of the elite: an oligarchy legitimized by arbitrarily anointed expositors of “knowledge” or, in Huxley’s own words, a “scientific dictatorship.” Huxley first presented the “scientific dictatorship” to the public imagination in his book Brave New World. In fact, the literary genre of science fiction itself has played a significant role in programming the masses for their comfortable assimilation into just such a dictatorship.10

Technocracy? As one recent author and apologist for it tells us the ancient Greek philosopher Plato articulated a range of possible regimes from aristocracy to tyranny, with democracy being the penultimate phase of degeneration. For Plato, the essential ingredients for a successful polis were an educated and engaged citizenry and a wise ruling class: Democracy combined with political aristocracy. Democracy with neither of these attributes would be a free but dangerously anarchic society whose lack of discipline made it easily susceptible to tyranny. To ward against such decay, his preferred form of government was led by a committee of public-spirited “Guardians.” Parag goes on to say: “Today we call such a system technocracy. America has more than enough democracy. What it needs is more technocracy—a lot more.”11 Then he adds:

The way to get there is ideally neither war nor revolution—nor a bout of tyranny—but to evolve America’s political system in a more technocratic direction. Technocratic government is built around expert analysis and long-term planning rather than narrow-minded and short-term populist whims. Technocrats are not to be confused with the complacent establishment elites that were just stunned by Trump. Real technocracy has the virtues of being both utilitarian (inclusively seeking the broadest societal benefit) and meritocratic (with the most qualified and non-corrupt leaders). Instead of ad hoc and reactive politics, technocracies are where political science starts to look like something worthy of the term: A rigorous approach to policy.

This combination of utilitarian and meritocratic overseer of Guardians shaping, modulating, manipulating society toward some transhumanist telos seems to be underwriting current elite thinking. As Parag states in his conclusion “Direct technocracy is the superior model for 21st century governance” (p. 120). He tells us it combines Switzerland’s collective presidency executive and multi-party parliament with Singapore’s data-driven and utilitarian-minded civil service: A blend of technocracy and democracy, assisted by technology. (ibid., p. 120)

The notion of a new aristocracy of aristoi or aristos – rule of the noblest, bravest, and most virtuous, which began in the city states of ancient Greece will take on a whole new meaning when it is enhanced humans who take on this power over society, civilization, and the planet itself. In ancient Athens Plato would compare the education and enculturation of the young elites that came to his Academy to the good breeding of dogs.12 As Jaeger will state it for the Greeks the notion of areté became the hallmark of an Aristos or Aristoi, used to describe not only “human merit but the excellence of non-human things – power of gods, the spirit and speed of noble horses” (ibid., p. 6). The distinction between normal men and the aristoi was that the former did not have areté while the latter were not only marked by it but its very power became the attribute of their noble nature. For the Greeks this power of areté gave the aristoi the natural gifts of leadership, as well as mental and physical prowess over all other men. Without it one was a mere slave to impulse and affect, a slavish creature to one’s appetites.

In his notebooks under the entry for the Strong (898) Nietzsche will tell us

 The strong of the future,—  That which partly necessity, partly chance has achieved here and there, the conditions for the production of a stronger type, we are now able to comprehend and consciously will: we are able to create the conditions under which such an elevation is possible. Until now, “education” has had in view the needs of society: not the possible needs of the future, but the needs of the society of the day. One desired to produce “tools” for it. Assuming the wealth of force were greater, one could imagine forces being subtracted, not to serve the needs of society but some future need. Such a task would have to be posed the more it was grasped to what extent the contemporary form of society was being so powerfully transformed that at some future time it would be unable to exist for its own sake alone, but only as a tool in the hands of a stronger race. The increasing dwarfing of man is precisely the driving force that brings to mind the breeding of a stronger race— a race that would be excessive precisely where the dwarfed species was weak and growing weaker (in will, responsibility, self-assurance, ability to posit goals for oneself). The means would be those history teaches: isolation through interests in preservation that are the reverse of those which are average today; habituation to reverse evaluations; distance as a pathos; a free conscience in those things that today are most undervalued and prohibited. The homogenizing of European man is the great process that cannot be obstructed: one should even hasten it. The necessity to create a gulf, distance, order of rank, is given eo ipso— not the necessity to retard this process. As soon as it is established, this homogenizing species requires a justification: it lies in serving a higher sovereign species that stands upon the former and can raise itself to its task only by doing this. Not merely a master race whose sole task is to rule, but a race with its own sphere of life, with an excess of strength for beauty, bravery, culture, manners to the highest peak of the spirit; an affirming race that may grant itself every great luxury — strong enough to have no need of the tyranny of the virtue-imperative, rich enough to have no need of thrift and pedantry, beyond good and evil; a hothouse for strange and choice plants.13

This sense of a severance, of a complete cutting away from the heritage of homo sapiens sapiens – a new stronger type of being, an enhanced being, the Übermensch. Already the military and its experimental arm DARPA are envisioning this enhancement of soldiers, one in which as one recent article tells us:

“We can have Soldiers wearing the system walking on the treadmill, measuring how hard the foot hits the ground and how hard their muscles are working, and then have them immediately go outside and climb over stumps and downed trees and walk through water to their ankles if we want them to,” LaFiandra said. “We’re also developing ways of capturing more of the high-resolution laboratory data in that field environment.”

As another commentator in the same article describing the financial and foundational aspects of this project, says “They’re part of our Warrior Web community, which will have about 30 different industry, academic organizations and government partners by this summer. They also actively participate by making sure that the technologies created by our performers integrate into existing Soldier systems.”

As with NASA and the Space Agency programs one will see in the future a commercial and civilian use of these advanced capabilities emerge into the open markets. The inevitability of this world view is already here. The Human Enhancement agenda is in the mainstream elite military and civilian mindset. The future is already here. As one of the members of Warrior Web said: “Thirty months from today, we will outfit a squad with our suits and we will compete against a squad without them in activities such as the 12-mile rucksack march, marksmanship and the obstacle course,” Hitt said. “Our vision is to significantly reduce the time it takes to do a rucksack march and then when you get onto the marksmanship course, you’re almost as fresh as if you hadn’t marched at all.”

In another article Be More Than You Can Be Michael Goldblatt, former head of Darpa’s Defense Sciences Office stated:  “The future was a scary place, the more we looked at it. We wanted to learn the capabilities of nature before others taught them to us.” In DARPA’s New Biotech Division Wants To Create A Transhuman Future we discover that among its many current initiatives, DARPA is working on advanced robotics, an artificial human brain, next-gen robotic aircraft, advanced prosthetics, and self-teaching computers (if anyone’s going to build a recursively improving AI it’s going to be DARPA).

The article also relates that in addition to these projects, DARPA has been busy at work on various biotechnology-related endeavors, but these attempts to date have lacked cohesion and focus. Looking to change this, DARPA has announced the creation of its Biological Technologies Office (BTO)— an effort to “explore the increasingly dynamic intersection of biology and the physical sciences.” The new division will expand upon its Defense Sciences (DSO) and Microsystems Technology (MTO) Offices.  As the DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said, “Biology is nature’s ultimate innovator, and any agency that hangs its hat on innovation would be foolish not to look to this master of networked complexity for inspiration and solutions.” One of the goals is the enhanced soldier. A priority for DARPA is in restoring and maintaining the abilities of its warfighters. It wants to maintain peak soldier abilities and then restore those abilities as soon as possible after an injury. This will include the development of advanced prosthetics (featuring mind-controlled limbs), neural interfaces, the ability to survive blood loss, and even neurotechnological solutions to treat psychological trauma such as PTSD.

Another facet is the Pentagon also wants to dabble in artificial life as a way to create completely new biological systems, products, and materials. It’s hoping to gain a better understanding of natural process and the underlying design rules that govern the behavior of biological systems, and then apply that knowledge to forward-engineer new systems and products with completely novel functionality. In one project alone  biologists have recently built an artificial chromosome from scratch. Once refined, this biotechnology will allow for the creation of entirely new organisms, while adding new capacities (or “features”) to existing ones — including humans. Imagine a soldier who never needs to sleep, requires minimal sustenance, or who has cat-like infrared vision. Artificial chromosomes could pave the way towards this kind of future — technologies that could eventually trickle into the civilian domain (much like the Internet and GPS has — both military innovations).

The ethics of such enhancement have been brought up at such organizations as the Human Genome Research Institute (here):

Some have speculated that genetic enhancement might affect human evolution. Philosophical and religious objections also have been raised, based on the belief that to intervene in such fundamental biological processes is “playing God” or attempting to place us above God. People from various perspectives believe that any interference with the random offerings of nature is inherently wrong and question our right to toy with the product of years of natural selection. Geneticists have countered that the power to control human evolution is unlikely, as the evolution of the human species is a nonrandom change in allelic frequencies resulting from selective pressure. The change progresses over generations because individuals with specific patterns of alleles are favored reproductively. If new alleles were introduced by gene transfer, the impact on the species would be negligible. Moreover, there is no certainty that genetically enhanced individuals would have greater biological fitness, as measured by reproductive success.

Even so many transhumanists are hedging their bets that such enhancements will indeed bring about greater biological fitness, not only for themselves but their progeny. But what is this thing? Transhumanism? As Mark O’Connel in his recent exploration of this world, To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, tells us: A broad definition: transhumanism is a liberation movement advocating nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself. There is another way of seeing this, an equal and opposite interpretation, which is that this apparent liberation would in reality be nothing less than a final and total enslavement to technology. We will be bearing both sides of this dichotomy in mind as we proceed. For all the extremity of transhumanism’s aims—the convergence of technology and flesh, for instance, or the uploading of minds into machines—the above dichotomy seemed to me to express something fundamental about the particular time in which we find ourselves, in which we are regularly called upon to consider how technology is changing everything for the better, to acknowledge the extent to which a particular app or platform or device is making the world a better place. If we have hope for the future—if we think of ourselves as having such a thing as a future—it is predicated in large part on what we might accomplish through our machines. In this sense, transhumanism is an intensification of a tendency already inherent in much of what we think of as mainstream culture, in what we may as well go ahead and call capitalism.14

Does that ring a bell? Nick Land who seems to be strange attractor for the impulse of capitalism has for years iterated as he tells us the notion that “There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence.” As he’d suggest in his book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time, describing the impact of civilization and the culture of modernity:

As its culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems. The greater the progressive impetus, the more insistently cyclicity returns. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.15

It’s this sense as I suggested in my recent essay The Apocalypse of the Human: Technicity, Magic, and Integral Reality that we are going through a phase-shift, a temporal short-circuit that is merging and unifying the magical world view of our ancestral pool with the hypertechnification of our contemporary accelerationist investment in NBIC technologies. Things are happening so fast that time is reversing itself and the future is imploding toward us rather than the other way round. We are not moving forward toward the future, but rather the future is moving and imploding onto us at the speed of light. The notion that the apocalypse has already happened is this sense of revelation, of a knowing more than can be known, a gnosis that is sending messages back from the future into our now. Caught between a sort of Philip K. Dick schizo episode of Exegesis and a William Gibson meta-fictional Peripheral we seem to be entering a intermediated realm or twilight zone in which almost anything is possible rather than impossible. Our reality systems are falling apart even as new one’s replace them, forcing us to shift our very notions of the human into realms that have no meaning beyond the nihil.

The point of this exercise is to push our thoughts to the extreme, or as Jean Baudrillard would tell us in The Vital Illusion: Here, however, lies the task of any philosophical thought: to go to the limit of hypotheses and processes, even if they are catastrophic. The only justification for thinking and writing is that it accelerates these terminal processes.”

  1. Kelves, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Heredity. (Univ. of California Press, 1985)
  2. Duster, Troy. Eugenics by the Backdoor. Routledge; 2 edition (March 1, 2004)
  3. Turda, Marius. Crafting Humans: From Genesis to Eugenics and Beyond. Merryn Ekberg. Eugenics: Past, Present, Future. Copyright 2013 by National Taiwan University Press, Taipei, Taiwan
  4. Bostrom, Nick. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Kindle Locations 2748-2751). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  5. Walker, Andy. Super You: How Technology is Revolutionizing What It Means to Be Human (Kindle Locations 760-763). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
  6. Haraway, Donna J. . Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge; 1St Edition edition (December 14, 1990)
  7. Haraway, Donna J. . When Species Meet. Univ Of Minnesota Press (December 7, 2007)
  8. The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future (p. 54). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
  9. Beck, Ulrich. World at Risk (p. 6). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
  10. Collins, Paul. The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship: An Examination of Epistemic Autocracy, From the 19th to the 21st Century (Kindle Locations 146-156). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.
  11. Khanna, Parag. Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State (p. 3). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition.
  12. Jeager, Werner. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture: Volume I: Archaic Greece: The Mind of Athens. Oxford University Press; 2 edition (April 24, 1986)
  13. Nietzsche, Fredrich. Nietzsche: Writings from the Late Notebooks (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) Cambridge University Press (March 10, 2003)
  14. O’Connell, Mark. To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death (Kindle Locations 138-148). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  15. Land, Nick (2014-11-05). Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time (Kindle Locations 375-378). Urbanatomy Electronic. Kindle Edition.

2 thoughts on “Our Biogenetic Future: Cladistics, Bifurcation, Enhancement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s