The certainty of what counts as nature is undermined, probably fatally ... and with it the ontology grounding western epistemology. Who cyborgs will be is a radical question; the answers are a matter of survival.
Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late 20th Century." Simians, Cyborgs, and Women; The Reinvention of Nature, 1993.
As 21st century humans, we are in a constant struggle with our newfound cybernetic selves, and with our biological tethers of yore, neither of which are yet positioned to provide us with the lives that we yearn for. Simultaneously we of the younger, more mutable generation lament having to charge our phones—“dammit my phone died again (why can’t it just work?)" — as well as our outdated biological shackles to the human animal, like having the futile urge to pee in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Such scenarios didn’t exist when our species evolved, but they most certainly do now, and we have not adapted quickly enough to thrive in our technological environment. We are already cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) . . . but not very good ones.
In response to this mundane reality, here we are employing science fiction to open up the post and trans-human.
We’re here to ask these questions —
At what point is humanity no longer
beholden to its biological body?
When will humanity be defined more by its technology than its biology?
Our species is still running around on the proverbial Savannah. We are limited and defined by our animal origins; we still operate within primate bodies that do not always serve our needs and desires. This is the dilemma known as biological determinism.
In the 1980s and 90s, cyber-theorists including William Gibson (Neuromancer, 1984) and Donna Haraway (“Cyborg Manifesto,” 1991) demonstrated the possibility of breaking down the modern dualism of organism and machine, producing science fiction that seemed to
refuse the limitations of biological determinism. Now as it was then, it is clear that humans are no longer interested in being ruled by their bodies. Our physiologies are not sufficient, but neither is our technology. We no longer identify with our species-self, the human animal. But an advancing technology has the potential to cause a most rapid change.
Contemporary struggles in sexual and civil rights, for instance, would be rendered irrelevant if the human form were so mutable as to change sexes/skin colors/body shapes so that these designations become meaningless.
Given our current trajectory, this type of technologic agency is inevitable, not simply possible. For if there is one human trait that is
inherent, it is that we do things because we can.
This is an anticipation of evolution.
The desire to break away from the particulars of human biology is what will finally stimulate the human species to evolve once more. For many thousands of years, humans have evaded the process of natural selection, instead manipulating their environments and employing technology to enable their survival. And so while we have remained largely the same, it is our technologies that have evolved. Having been carefully fostered and improved by its human makers, the species we call
'technology' has developed from its origins in the sparks that kindled the first man-made flame to today’s infinitely complex computer networks. If technology is following processes of evolution parallel to its biological counterparts, should we anticipate a moment in which it becomes sentient?
In a 1993 presentation to NASA, Vernor Vinge delivered his paper ‘The Coming Technological Singularity’ to address this topic of technological sentience. Based on his popularization of the term, “Singularity” is the increasingly prevalent speculation that eventually computer systems will become capable of maintaining themselves, making the human obsolete. It is an idea with dystopian overtones, and anxieties toward the potential evolution of technoscience is alluded to in movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Blade Runner (1982), The Terminator (1984), I, Robot (2004), and Ex Machina (2015). They portray sentient, anthropomorphized robots hostile towards humanity. Technology here is categorically un-natural and non-human. But Vinge proposed that a technological consciousness may, in fact, arise out of a networking of humans and computers, rather than in the form of intelligent autonomous machines. He referred to this process as “Intelligence Amplification” (IA).
Extending Vinge’s speculation, the singularity does not necessarily have to be a triumph of the technological over the human, and is not necessarily a destruction or ending of the human species. Rather, this conflation may signify an opportunity for humans to leave their past limitations through technology. Technology is an evolutionary entity like any biological organism. Therefore, “singularity” is not a singular moment after all, but a gradual process, one that has undoubtedly begun already.
The humanoid form does not define us as a species. Our culture is our defining feature. Take away our bodies, upload us into the digital sphere, but give us interaction. Give us brain implants. Give us robotic arms, and memory enhancers, and biomechanical transducers. If we break free of biological determinism through cybernetics, we will continue to grapple with the factors of culture that have always defined our humanity more than our bodies have: the negotiation between the individual and the group, the need for self-expression, the need for shared rituals surrounding social life, codes of ethics, shared economic structures. It must be presumed that these fundamental factors around which humanity is organized will remain at the forefront of our existence, and so we will unquestionably remain “human.”
The purpose of volume 3 Control Space is to catalyze speculation toward this imagined future. Transposing the dilemmas of terrestrial nature and culture onto the Moon affords us a degree of separation, which may make for more humorous, uninhibited, radical ideas. Civilization on the moon will take place within an ecosystem that is more technological than it is biological, and such a predicament will undoubtedly accelerate the intermixture of the human and machine. We approach these developments with the same techno-optimism that has inspired futurists of the past. And while we defend that there is much meaning left to be gained from the biological origins of humankind, we cannot stop evolution, and so we choose to embrace the rush toward the future, anticipating the possibilities of what humanity will be. These are the conditions we confront when faced with defining a lunar humanity.