Monday, October 26, 2015

The Posthuman Delusion Marches On

We're being lied to, by everyone with any degree of power or influence. That's not news. That's human nature. But what is new is a growing mythology that humanity is on some inevitable march to a glorious posthuman (or transhuman) future, one in which all of our longstanding problems will magically disappear beneath an avalanche of technological magic.

It's essentially the same line we heard during the (previous) Depression, that if we just tighten our belts and muddle through, that everything will work out splendidly. Only now our intrepid scientists are laboring as we speak to ready our robot bodies and nanobrains.

The kind of scientific evangelism we are smothered in these days has troubling precedents; both the Nazis and the Communists proffered "Science" as a salvational force meant to displace traditional religion. It has the inbuilt advantage of turning all attention back to the State, which completely controls and dictates the course of science, both through its own infrastructure and that of its crony capitalist allies such as National Geographic (all too appropriately owned by Rupert Murdoch now).

It seems a little late, now. I don't know how much of this the rubes are buying. We all see how unfair and unequal society has become, all the more so over the past five years or so. No less a firebrand than Chris Rock said that if normal working people saw how rich celebrities lived there'd be a revolution.

So no one really believes that ordinary folk will ever benefit from all of this technology and a lot of us don't really believe that this technology is ever coming to market. Certainly not in the form it's being evangelized.

Even so, the New Dispensationalists are out there, hawking their linear progress model of human history, telling us all we're inevitably evolving into technological superbeings. The latest pile of nonsense comes (inevitably) from the Royal Society.

British astrophysicist and cosmologist, Sir Martin Rees, believes if we manage to detect aliens, it will not be by stumbling across organic life, but from picking up a signal made by machines. 
Writing for Nautilus, Sir Martin said that while the way we think has led to all culture and science on Earth, it will be a brief precursor to more powerful machine ‘brains’. 
He thinks that life away from Earth has probably already gone through this transition from organic to machine. On a planet orbiting a star far older than the sun, life ‘may have evolved much of the way toward a dominant machine intelligence,’ he writes. 
Sir Martin believes it could be one or two more centuries before humans are overtaken by machine intelligence, which will then evolve over billions of years, either with us, or replacing us.
Make no mistake, this is religion. This is based on nothing at all, no science, no data, no observation. It's opinion. It's based on a linear progressive model of human history that is really not much different than the Protestant Christian model of history unfolding towards revelation. They're still stymied by what's floating around beyond Pluto, so it's best to take anything they have to say about other solar systems with a grain of salt.

But let's for a moment humor this credentialed fantasy. What happens to this glorious race of cyborgs when the Sun has a momentary case of indigestion and shoots a random solar flare at our shiny new Borgworld? 

We almost found out:

The solar storm of 2012 that almost sent us back to a post-apocalyptic Stone Age 
While you didn’t see it, feel it, or even read about it in the newspapers, Earth was almost knocked back to the Stone Age on July 23, 2012. It wasn’t some crazed dictator with his finger on the thermonuclear button or a giant asteroid that came close to wiping out civilization as we know it, though — no, what nearly ended us was a massive solar storm. Almost two years ago to the day, our most bounteous and fantastical celestial body — the Sun — kicked out one of the largest solar flares and coronal mass ejections ever recorded. And it missed Earth by a whisker. “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker, who led the research into the massive solar storm.
Imagine all of the electronics in your body suddenly seizing up and shitting the bed? Goodbye, Borgs.

This is apparently such a concern that bogus articles are pumped on search engines reassuring tech consumers that all is well, resulting in headlines like this: Strong solar storm won't fry electronics.

But in a stunning example of how duplicitous the propaganda tech consumers are constantly bombarded with, the soothing headline was definitively contradicted halfway down the body text of the article itself:
Solar flares can damage the power grid and electronic technologies. The U.S. government regards the possibility of major solar storm as a "black swan," event that could be calamitous. In 1989, a geomagnetic storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec.

What's more, there's a growing body of evidence that technology in fact is having a devolutionary effect on the human organism. 

The data is being published and it's damning. But it's not being discussed in the major media, itself increasingly the property of the major technology concerns.

 Here's a headline for you: How The Internet is Making Us Stupid:

In a recent experiment at Stanford University, researchers gave various cognitive tests to 49 people who do a lot of media multitasking and 52 people who multitask much less frequently. The heavy multitaskers performed poorly on all the tests. They were more easily distracted, had less control over their attention, and were much less able to distinguish important information from trivia. 
The researchers were surprised by the results. They expected the intensive multitaskers to have gained some mental advantages. But that wasn’t the case. In fact, the multitaskers weren’t even good at multitasking. “Everything distracts them,” said Clifford Nass, one of the researchers. 
It would be one thing if the ill effects went away as soon as we turned off our computers and mobiles. But they don’t. The cellular structure of the human brain, scientists have discovered, adapts readily to the tools we use to find, store and share information. By changing our habits of mind, each new technology strengthens certain neural pathways and weakens others. The alterations shape the way we think even when we’re not using the technology. 
The pioneering neuroscientist Michael Merzenich believes our brains are being “massively remodelled” by our ever-intensifying use of the web and related media. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr Merzenich, now a professor emeritus at the University of California in San Francisco, conducted a famous series of experiments that revealed how extensively and quickly neural circuits change in response to experience. 
In a conversation late last year, he said that he was profoundly worried about the cognitive consequences of the constant distractions and interruptions the internet bombards us with. The long-term effect on the quality of our intellectual lives, he said, could be “deadly.” 
I think the science is already in on that- our intellectual lives have already been decimated. Being kind. And now we have more data to mull over- all across the board, all across the world, IQ levels are dropping.

But technology is also having physiological evolutionary effects. Far from the Nephilim-like giants that Scientism advocates are predicting for our future, we may be instead looking at a race of hunchbacks.
Children as young as seven are developing hunchbacks and curved spines because of the hours spent bending over smart phones and tablets, a chiropractor has claimed.

He said patients often came in complaining of a headache but that a simple heel-to-toe test revealed that they had developed a backwards curve in the neck having spent hours hunched over electronic devices.

"The condition is called 'text neck' because it is often caused when people sit with their heads dropped forward looking at their devices for several hours at a time.
"Instead of a normal forward curve, patients can be seen to have a backwards curve. It can be degenerative, often causing head, neck, shoulder and back pain. 
"Many patients come in complaining they have a headache, but we actually find text neck is the cause of it. They often fail a simple heel-to-toe test and tend to fall over."
Sammy Margo, from the UK's Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, agreed that "text neck" was on the rise.
Now some clinicians are also wondering if smartphones are also making young people mentally ill, leading to an increase in suicides.

But there is also an alarming rise in autoimmune disorders, including those effecting the nervous system. Aside from the usual culprits such as our horrible food, could electromagnetic pollution be a silent cause of this troubling epidemic?
According to a new study the prevalence and incidence of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes, is on the rise and researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are unsure why.  
Between 2001 and 2009, the incidence of type 1 diabetes increased by 23%, according to The American Diabetes Association. Finland also showed a similar increase. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, while Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot use the insulin adequately. 
Earlier studies have shown that genetics and environmental factors cause autoimmune diseases. The researchers discovered that children and teenagers suffering from type 1 diabetes have complications, such as nerve damage, that could lead to amputations. 
In the sales department-driven world of technohype and Science evangelism, everything is always looking brighter and everyone's lives are always getting better. In the real world, nearly every negative trend you can wave a stick at is on the rise. Blind allegiance to Scientism will not save us and the promises coming out of the hype machine are looking increasingly hollow. 

Maybe they mean well. But they have misread human psychology and history. And I don't see a lot of enthusiasm out there for what sounds increasingly like a pie-in-the-sky bill of goods.