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The issue of the “emerging church” is picayune compared to the advent of the “post-human”. Since I use the term “post-human” in my writing quite a bit, I thought I would offer a brief piece on what I mean when I use this term.
Besides the obvious influence of too much science fiction, I was first inspired in this area of thinking by an article published in Wired Magazine written by Bill Joy titled, “Does the Future Need Us?” and later by a Summer 2000 issue of New Perspectives Quarterly (NPQ) titled, “Post-Human History?” The summer 2000 issue of the NPQ offered interviews with several thinkers, among them social philosopher Francis Fukuyama and futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler.
One point of view on the term “post-human” describes a future in which nanotechnology and robotics have created self-evolving robots that become superior in certain ways to humankind. Bill Joy’s infamous article (Wired, 1999) takes us on an adventure down this potential future path. The fear here is one of survival. What happens when humankind encounters a superior creature? Joy, then the chief scientist at Sun Microsystems, warns of a world in which humankind becomes a kind of “cattle” species for a superior race of robots. For Joy today’s technologies create a danger greater than the nuclear and chemical weapons of the 20th century. This is a serious and important perspective and probably what most people think of when they hear the term “post human”.
A second (and even dicier) POV on the term describes a future in which the nature of humankind is changed via biotechnology. Fukuyama describes a world in which biotechnology reaches out and touches the depths of the human soul, the essence of the human. The questions that emerge here are hugely important and provocative. Will we alter ourselves at the genetic level in such a way that a new evolved homo sapien emerges on the planet? How will the power to genetically alter all of one’s descendants change humankind? How will this effect history, politics, morality?
A third even more provocative POV on the term “post-human” is one which describes a future in which some hybrid of man and machine merge together to form one operating/biological system. This would yield a totally new life form and introduce a new species on the planet: “anthropo-technology” (Peter Sloterdijk).
These last two scenarios are what I point to in “Homo Electronicus Migratus”, a letter to my children I wrote in 1999. Those of you who follow my writings will remember that I re-published this letter here around one year ago. It’s been said before that the future earth is populated by clones and cyborgs. Add to this roll call, evolving robots, anthropo-technology, and Homo Electronicus Migratus. Our quest in that world will be the same as our quest in this world: to make it human again.
To those of you who have asked, I hoped ths brief description of how I use the term is helpful. There’s a lot more to come on the “post human” future. What do you think?
See you “in the mystic…”