Near Futures

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Collecting Near Future visions as I work on my near future trilogy.

Synthetic Society: Art, Engineering, and Biology

In the future artists and designers and synthetic biologists will redesign our environments, existing organisms, and even construct completely novel biological entities. Synthetic biology manipulates the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. In search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, these researchers see themselves as designers, inventing new products and applications. But if biology is viewed as a malleable, engineerable, designable medium, what is the role of design and how will its values apply?

My List of current reading in this area:

Current posts on the near future

Artilect World

Futurological Memes

Art Deco and Deco Punk

Transmodernity

Transmodernity:

“Transmodernity prolongs, continues and transcends Modernity. It is the return of some of its lines and ideas, perhaps even the most ingenuous but also the most universal. Hegelianism, utopian socialism, Marxism, the philosophies of suspicion, critical schools … showed this ingenuousness. After the crisis in these trends, we look further back to the illustrated project as a general, looser framework in which to choose the present. But this is a remote, ironic return that accepts that it is a useful fiction. Transmodernity is the return, the copy, the survival of a weak, ‘light’ Modernity. The contemporary area that is criss-crossed by all trends, memories, possibilities. It is both transcendental and apparential, and is voluntarily syncretic in its ‘multichrony’. Transmodernity is a fiction: our reality, the copy that supplants the model, eclecticism both mean and angelical. Transmodernity is postmodernity without its innocent rupturism, the museum display of reason, not forgetting history which has died to avoid ending up in barbaric cybernetic or mass media domestication. It is proposing values as stops or as fables, but without forgetting, because we are wise, because our past was wise. Transmodernity takes up and recovers the vanguards, copying and selling them, but meanwhile it remembers that art has had, and has, an effect of denunciation and experimentalism, that is, not everything goes. It breaks down the distance between elitism and mass culture and reveals the connections between them. Transmodernity is image, series, baroque fugue and self-reference, catastrophe, loop, fractal and inane reiteration, the entropy of what is obese, the clumsy inflation of data, the aesthetic of what is full and of what has disappeared, entropic, fatal. The key to it is not what comes after, the rupture, but the trans-substantiation and overlapping of paradigms. The worlds that penetrate each other and end up as soap bubbles or as images on a screen. Transmodernity is not a desire or a goal. It is just there, like a complex, random, imposed strategic situation. It is neither good nor bad, beneficial nor unbearable… and it is all of these things together… It is the abandonment of representation, it is the reign of simulation, of simulation that knows it is real” ( Rodríguez Magda 1989, 141-142). – Rosa María Rodríguez Magda

Reality becomes constant transformation. Its actual conditions are transcended to become part of an interconnected whole that is infinitely readjusted on a global level. In the end, the Total does not bring us back to a religious or supernatural power, nor to the noumenal kingdom of Metaphysics or Absolute Logic. The transcendental that used to be beyond and yet close to empirical reality has now become the hyperreal empirical reality itself, i.e., virtual transcendency.

… a globalized information society provides us with a true perspective of neither post nor multi, but transcultural by way of dialectical synthesis, as it is impacted by both cosmopolitan and the most minute local currents.

…proper knowledge is defined more in terms of transmissibility rather than the old criterion of adequatio (intellectus ad rem). Ours is a society of knowledge in the sense that it is built and transformed according to the quantity of knowledge that it can transmit. Whatever cannot be transmitted simply does not count. All of us are in a position to claim leadership amongst the most privileged to the degree that we successfully become software providers, recycle, utilize, send out and apply information. Being interactive means to master the codes of transmissibility, to be successful and draw benefits from it. Whereas the added value in the industrial society was generated by the work force, in today’s digital society it rests on the input of transmissibility.

We are now in the era of transformation in which water-tight boxes no longer make sense and everything functions as long as it is interconnected, is based on team work or capable of reinventing itself according to new demands or applications. The industrial society propagated serial production and mass consumption as its criteria of profitability, whereas today’s basic products must be customized to individual needs, be it in furniture design, computer programming or cable television. And this change not only affects the manufacturing industry: the very shape and size of nature itself can now be designed – the dawn of a transgenic age fills us with both hopes and fears. And even the body reaches out to unite the biological and mechanical: chips, implants, assisted reproduction, cloning, technological gadgets developed to extend our senses ranging from cellular phones to wrist-size Personal Assistant computers. The cyborg model embraces the metaphor of a mutating transhuman body, just as transsexuality has dislodged and paved the way for a vast array of possible genders, desires and identity beyond the dichotomy of masculine and feminine.

Jean Baudrillard has described in exquisite terms the entire scenario surrounding trans. In his view, “we are all transsexuals in the sense that the sexed body is bound today to an artificial destiny”(8) . The social turns into its very own mediate “mise en scène”: “We have now entered transpolitics, i.e., the ground zero of politics, which is also that of its reproduction and indefinite simulation” . The doubling of things through advertisement, the media and images gives rise to a transaesthetics, an eclectic vertigo of form. “The system operates through the aesthetic added value of the sign rather than the added value of merchandise” .

If glasnost (transparency) marked the fall of perestroika, the decline of the Soviet regime and the end of cold war politics, the same metaphor of transparency today stands for a world that aims to be its own image, and longs for instant presence on television monitors, a translucid and transferable hologram.

Transmodernity presents itself to us as a type of dialectic synthesis of the modern thesis and the postmodern antithesis, and in certainly the light, hybrid and virtual form typical of these periods. Ironically, with respect to Hegelian aims it does not constitute an increase in the Absolute but rather its omnipresent depletion; it is not true reality but real virtuality; it abandons the pyramidal and arborescent structure of the System and adopts a interconnected model of self-multiplying overgrowth. Evidently globality is not the Spirit, nor is Absolute Reason the only type of thinking, but it is precisely the synthesis that, to count as such, needs to combine the positive momentum of the modern with the emptiness of the Postmodern, the longing for unity of the former and the fragmentation of the latter. We are left with a totalizing sum of contingencies oblivious to its underlying base and definition, turning into proliferating crystallography.

We thus return to the uncertainty of looking ahead into the future, a vision of tomorrow tired of the tiresome wave of revivals, plagued by cosmic heroes, threats of extinction and epics of glory, posthuman mutants dressed up as transnational executives, a Final Fantasy for which every day we invent the ingredients, eager as we are to go beyond our limits, but also anxious and delirious, because everything happens too fast, huge fragments of remaining misery leave blood stains on a deceivingly glossy universe, where bites fly through space like bullets and we have yet to resolve the human dimension of justice.

from Transmodernity: Globalization by Rosa María Rodríguez Magda

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