A Transhuman Views the Singularity Summit 2011
Last weekend (10/15-16/2011) it was my pleasure to attend Singularity Summit 2011, an event presented annually by the Singularity Institute since 2006. As much as Arse Elektronika celebrated the freedom of citizen science and engineering in pursuit of more fun and joy for everybody, so Singularity Summit celebrated actual and potential financial success and public welfare enhancement from emerging technologies.
It seems to me, as an activist and advocate for real time living, based on transhuman ideals, including especially intergender forms of self-expression, that both these events were worthy explorations of important social territory; however, the logistic and organizational differences were striking and illuminated an undesirable dichotomy in the community of Transhumanists.
Arse Elektronika was held in various San Francisco hangouts and groovy venues, including the Chez Poulet gallery, Carol Queen’s Center for Sex and Culture, and Noisebridge, a well-known cooperative hacker lab. A four day ticket cost $50. While there were certainly people talking about having sex with machines, there were also a lot of people who are more interested in the idea of building machines people would want to have sex with. Their machines become proxies for their erotic organs. Very transhuman. Very sexy. Very real.
Singularity Summit was held in the 92nd Street Y in midtown Manhattan, in a richly paneled auditorium that seated a bit over 900 people. Golden letters above the stage proclaimed “DAVID, MOSES, ISAIAH” and were flanked in equal grandeur by “WASHINGTON” and “JEFFERSON.” A two day ticket cost $560, including two light buffet meals each day. The great men of the day (Ray Kurzweil, John Thiel, et al.) put in appearances long enough to give rah-rah speeches and promptly went back to real work. The ideals of social justice were served by an outstanding presentation from Jaan Tallinn, a founder of Skype and Kazaa. I cannot recall any discussion of sex, except when I was explaining the VenusPlusX vision to some innocent bystander. Very transhumanist. Very male, wealth-oriented, and NYC. Another reality.
The difference in privilege represented by these two communities would be overwhelming when applied to social issues, except that most of the world doesn’t seem to care much about the opinions of either one of them. One community is empowered by vast “new money” from development of innovative technologies that have made valuable improvements to the lives of billions. The other community is empowered by grasping and trying to live the truth as they feel in their innermost being and by “having nothing left to lose.” Yet each represents something that is missing from the other vision. And while neither group would wish to live and be the other, there is an essential common thread of unified purpose that can transcend fear and bring unity to the collective purpose of enabling and accelerating the emergence of the New Age.
The mega-capitalists who came to Singularity Summit present themselves as a highly ethical group, well aware of their responsibilities to the earth and its peoples for the wise stewardship and utilization of their wealth. Let us expect that each will genuinely and personally commit to uphold and support rational short and long-term enhancements to technology and society. Let us further expect that they will forego opportunities for egocentric, exploitative, and bullying behavior, even though this might give them greater apparent power and prestige.
Many social objections to the innovative visions of Transhumanists, including much work described at the Singularity Summit, will only be overcome by changing public attitudes towards adventure and risk taking for the improvement of the human condition. Grassroots activists and friends of sex, such as the folk from Arse Elektronika and a host of other organizations and activities, are undermining social attitudes of erotic repression, changing hearts and minds and supporting the transformation of religion, government, and business required to free humanity from its unfortunate and inhibiting past.
As a transhuman observing the behavior of these groups seeking transcendence through technology and the commercialization of technology, it seems to me that both groups are missing essential elements by focusing on the “scientific” and “materialistic” to the exclusion of other ways of knowing, understanding, and living that represent a much greater stream of the collective human consciousness.
To the comfortable capitalists, society is a great machine that produces ideas, creative geniuses, and lots of workers building good things for other workers and buying good things from other workers. Investors who appreciate the opportunities born of invention will take risks that uplift the common good. But there is an intuitive side of human socialization that may provide answers to problems not amenable to frontal assault through material technology. There are intellectual factors of communication and education, which this conference tried to address, as well as spiritual factors of human motivation, which this conference ignored.
To the sexy socialists, society is a system that assures fairness and equality of opportunity to every person. It is expected that the gifted and unusually successful children of such a community will give back to the society a measure of help and assistance as they are able. Though these pioneers may be driven by the desire to give people more and better orgasms, and intuitively understand the benefits, they have yet to understand the new age frontier in which erotic techné can combine with spiritual techné to make erotic joy even better and truly spiritually uplifting.
The time has come to begin the unification of these two disparate approaches to social organization and liberation of the future. Investment and serious development of erotogenic technologies can only occur by overcoming the social stigma that attach to anything suggesting hedonism. VenusPlusX proclaims a new vision of the future to humanity—a future in which physical, mental, and spiritual joy are all accepted as worthy human pursuits and gifts from god, finally to be unified in the individual happy person. To quote the gospel according to Goldilocks:
- Eros without agape is too hot.
- Agape without eros is too cold.
- Eros and agape together are just right!
Only by beginning human liberation with sincere erotic transcendence can a new and secure foundation for human development be laid. This needn’t involve conflict, nor any misconceived battle between human and divine, or between body, mind, and spirit. We can all agree: erotic sensation and the joy of orgasm are fundamental and desirable aspects of human experience. For those who dare, combining this power, this divine gift, with the quest for personal growth and personality integration will lead to full participation of the individual in the supreme harmonies of life.
A sane and happy people will embrace the promise of the future with open arms and a whole heart. And through spiritually deployed erotic technology the chains will fall away from all lesser forms of human achievement.