This article is what first introduced me to the posthuman concept. It establishes analytical points that outline both the motivation and the application of Post humanism within various aspects of society.
It first outlined the reason why post humanism is used frequently within pop culture and current mediums. Essential it is born from the dissatisfaction of everyday life. By envisioning something different, Post humanism motivates both religious and scientific thought. The idea of transcendence and the notion that “changing what we are means, in a way, letting go of what makes us suffer” (Marsen). Marsen points out that the foundation of Post humanism is its exploration on how we interact with the world differently. These changes to external circumstances result in both negative and positive reactions. The positive results would be the avoidance of suffering such as disease, isolation, poverty, oppression, and prejudice. However, these interactions also can instigate the blind acceptance of injustice.
Transhumanism, a subarea of Post humanism, also is a point of consensus. Reverence towards the scientific method, and its connection to human advancement, is the focus point of transhumanist teachings. Through precision, objectivity, and fallibility, transhumanist theorist are proponents of an advanced human condition. One could view them as activist looking to science to help relieve suffering from the human experience. Marsen also addressed the controversy circling this theory. Although transhumanist applications are no new phenomenon, and have allowed the human better control and understanding of their body, individuals fear the rate of change scientific and technological advancement is undergoing and insist on the proper path of integration for current and future advancements. One concern is the strong grasp of the internet. The Internet has become an embedded member in our lives, however fears arise as that grip becomes stronger and venture further between the cracks of our lives. Marsen presents studies that conclude non-physical spaces ignite escapism, addictive behavior, and emotional isolation.
Lastly, this article follows up with the emergence of technology as adaptive interfaces. This connects well with my independent novel Feed by M.T. Anderson (put link to another blog). Marsen highlights three components of the user interface and how they are used. First, is immersion. By engaging more and more of the user’s senses, interfaces construct a unique user experience that immerses them into false perception and a blurred view or reality. Second, is persuasion. These simulated environments are so immersive, that they link into the daily lives of the user, forcing them to classify it as a necessity. Lastly, interfaces eventually become a meeting ground between humans and machines. As interfaces become more adaptive, the user interface will become consciously human, resulting in potential dialogue or possible conflict.
As an introductory element of the Post human concept, it is rooted in multiple field of inquiry. Topics of transhumanism, perfection, social behavior, cognition, and technological interfaces are address as synthesized. Marsen created source for such a diverse topic!
Marsen, Sky. Ceoming More Than Human: Technolgy and the Posthuman Condition Introduction, Journal of Evolution and Technology, Vol. 19, Issue 1 ,September 2008, pgs i-v http://jetpress.org/v19/marsen.htm
Ever wish you could see the future? Ever wish you could witness the course of human evolution as it speeds into the vast unknown wastelands of time?
If you say yes, then you are likely a lover of dystopian fiction, because they tackle these very questions. So, in acknowledgement of the changes dystopias illustrate towards humanity, my research concentrates on the post humanist theory and how it is connected to the YA dystopian genre. The environment or setting is often how a dystopia is characterized, however when presented in the context of the individual, I realized that what makes the society dystopian is based upon their post human characters.
My independent novel Feed by M.T. Anderson exemplifies post humanism concepts vividly, and it will be my main literary connection within my research. Posthuman literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human. This topic is fascinating, because it includes so many things that we aspire to become, yet are presented in a catastrophic way within this dystopian societies. The heritance of every generation has been to progress to new height. One of those improvements include improvement upon ourselves. However, there is a definite limit when it comes to how enhanced the human can be, and the creation of dystopias shows what happens when that limit is crossed.
I aim to expand upon 3 aspects of post humanism that serve as the cause or foundation of dystopian societies. These are enhancement, removal, and transformation, and they apply to most YA dystopian novels.
Enhancement comes in the form of body or mind modifications through scientific and artificial means. Subsequently, methods to enhancement institute the need to remove what no longer fits. Finally, when observing the posthuman within YA dystopias, alterations are often due to some environmental catastrophe or spontaneous occurrence that transforms humanity unwillingly. This causes humanity to be far from our idea of normal.
As an engineer, this topic is what captivates me most about dystopian literature, and I hope my research ignites conversation and directs more attention to the post-human theory.
The human condition has come a long way, and even today we thrive on the concept of going further. Within the world of dystopian fiction, the definition of “human” is often the point of contrast. In a society, there are multiple pillars that support the foundation of progress, and improvements placed on infrastructure, transportation, and communication have made our surroundings ever-changing. Swarmed with so much external innovation, the aim eventually turns to the refinement of human nature. Altering the human form is current and optimistic, however in many dystopian texts these modifications lead to a disastrous world that is no longer human, but “post human”.
The novel Feed by MT Anderson takes place in future America. The world has gotten a little bit bigger, even adding a few planets to our diplomatic roster. Much innovation has occurred, yet so has much destruction. The latter is not discussed much, but we are given a clear picture of humanity, and it’s not what one would expect. The human population have acquired brain implants that allow them to access “The Feed” which connects the user to everything they could possible want or need. This becomes an artificial addition to the human body; however, technology is not the only alteration present. Due to the radiation exposure presented on Earth, adults striving to be parents must resort to genetic engineering. The book does not confirm how long radiation contact has been an issue, but Feed presents a new human race that can no longer produce children on their own. This alteration of genes also births the institution of cloning which appears specifically in the form of Abraham Lincoln by the main character’s best friend, Link. Even the main character, Titus, was modeled after his parent’s favorite male film star. Partnered with human infertility are the outward signs of Earth’s dire conditions. The hazardous effects of the environment appear in the form of throbbing lesions on the body. This is normal. In fact, lesions become so prevalent among the human population that they are even made into a fashion statement, with girls getting fake lesions or wishing for more. Humanity is almost unrecognizable. (Anderson, Feed)
When tackling the concept of dystopian post humanism, it’s easy to conjure up just the technological and scientific alterations of man, however it extends beyond that. Dystopias illustrates humanity that is very different than what we see it as now, and it often aids in the many sufferable conditions of the dystopian world. It seems that there is a limit placed on the human condition, and the distance of human exploration. While not all dystopian societies have the physical exaggerations like Feed, the majority presents humanity in new distorted shades. I’m interested in investigating the post human specimen, and how dystopias establish new constructs of the human race.
Anderson, Matthew. Feed. Candlewick Press, 2002.
Violet was screaming, “Look at us! You don’t have the feed! You are the feed! Your feed! Your being eaten!”
In the novel Feed by M.T. Anderson, media plays a huge role due to its integration into the human body. By getting rid of external technology, the internal construction of the human brain becomes a media playground with the “feed” constantly probing and advising the user. It’s often hard to disguise between personal thoughts and the feed, because there often are none. There is just the feed!
Feed takes place in a futuristic dystopian society in which everyone had “the feed”. The feed is a micro-chip that is imbedded in the brain, “feeding” the user any information they want or would want to know. Everything is available with in a blink of an eye…literally. No remote, no phone, no TV needed. So, in having the feed you basically have a built-in mind computer. As such, you are frequently bombarded with advertisements, commercials, TV shows, social updates, and the news.
Part of the book describes, when accessing the feed, the user seems to dazing off, leaving behind a blank expression. Another response happens involuntary when the user looks at products, merchandise, or thinks of something they want. The feed is the brain, and it allows direct media access from corporations to their target consumers. All the time.
In this case, the feed is the media, and it’s an intimate part of you. Not only does the feed facilitate your desires, but it also allows corporations to have a literal voice in your head in the form of Nina your personal shopper.
She works much like an algorithm. Every sensory detail helps Nina construct a personal profile that better aids “the feed” to distribute information to you, while also assisting corporations to distribute products that you might want and ultimately buy.
“All you must do is want something, and there’s a chance it will be yours.” But, the primary job of the feed is to serve as a distraction. It become evident towards the end of the book that reality is not so great as the feed perceives it to be. The Earth is dying, and the environmental conditions are gradually causing physical degradations to its inhabitants. Viruses, lesions, even hair balding is happening. Slowly, the people are being consumed by the dire conditions that they have ignored , and even embraced. They are being eaten alive, but its all up to the feed to make sure they don’t realize it.
Anderson, Mathew. Feed. Candlewick Press, 2002.
Dystopias, as a genre, contain a huge amount of content. They consider all that is in a society, and pushes them to the extreme. A dystopia represents a stratified socio-political state that exercises total (or near-total) control at the price of their subjects’ individual rights, and uses deceptive appeals in the form of slogans and propaganda to maintain order according to a corruptive governing doctrine.
(1) Organized Division
The atmosphere of a dystopian world is characterized by the presence of a caste or divisive mandate. In the Divergent series, we see that to maintain order and control, hope is only placed on the “ones that know” and have a place in society. We witness a division of friends and even family members, based on character and individual qualities, into four groups that accentuate an individuals primary trait (knowledge, bravery, selflessness, honesty, kindness). This separating and hierarchical influence is also established in the in-class text The Hunger Games in which Panem is divided into 12 districts that have distinct cultures, customs, and commodities, while only interacting with one another through the televised bloodshed between their tributes. Both texts show how divisive measures are placed on the populaces in efforts to maintain order, and, in other ways, limit communication.
Dystopias are NOT societies run per the govern. These are communities that have essentially given up on human nature, and therefore do not trust the decisions made by their citizens. In dystopias, this control is presented as security and protection from the unpredictable flaws of human nature. This heavy hand has its grasp on every facet of an individual’s interactions. Individual rights do not exist in a dystopian society, and if they do, they are limited or an item of deception. Dystopian control also extends further to surveillance and forced uniformity. In dystopian text like The Giver, everyone is denied knowledge, sexual relationship, and even to see visual color. This “sameness” illustrates the control that is relinquished by the individual to the “betterment” of a society.
(3) Doctrines and Deception
Dystopias are also a socio-political entity, and are run by a governing doctrine. Looking through the eyes of a radical socialist, one would see many similarities. Dystopias often thrive on exaggeration. A slogan is often the core of the verbiage within these society doubling as the source of deception. These doctrines and mandate are usually contradictory to their method of execution. For example, in The Hunger Games, in efforts to maintain peace, the Capital established violent gladiatorial combat between teenagers while simultaneously pinning the 12 districts against one another. Even looking at a classic dystopian text like 1984, we are presented with a term called “double think” which is the act of holding two contradictory opinions at once and simultaneously believing in both of them, which is said to be a talent every Party member was required to possess.
These are just three core principle that go into defining a dystopia, but there are many more. Dystopias are fluid concepts, and, depending on what is exaggerated, can appear in many different forms.
Work Cited (Books):
- Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
- Lowry, Lois. The Giver.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993.
- Roth, Veronica. Divergent.HarperCollins, 2011.
- Orwell, Georgia. 1984.Harvill Secker.1949