Interviews - Written by on Friday, January 2, 2009 2:23 - 0 Comments

AKMA’s handwritten notes

The very first part of we-magazine vol. 2: AKMA’s handwritten notes:-) with his most beautiful comment: “I wrote these all out longhand with my fountain pens — it’s funny to be transcribing them for digital transmission, after having composed them in so doggedly physical-sensual a medium!”

akmahandwriting.jpg

And just to tease you a little here is one question from the interview we’ve done:

we-mag: What about the evils of post capitalist consumer culture? The fantasy of immortality which is becoming more tangible with stem cells, merging with our machines in cyberland? At the very least we might double our life span in the next 30 years – does the techno-science revolution scares you? What hope do you have and why?

AKMA: The topic of hope involves a treasury of complications – about which I know a little, since my wife is writing her doctoral dissertation on it! Without invoking all the technical intricacies, though, I regard technoscience with guarded appreciation. I would like to live a very long time, with as much strength and activity as possible, but not at just any cost.

The recent stages of capitalist culture have continued (and in some ways have intensified) the self-serving tendency of privileged people to allocate resources in ways that benefit themselves very directly, very immediately, and benefit others only indirectly and gradually – and that’s when the economic system works at its best. Right now, the world is experiencing the ramifications of that system’s more usual aspect. Those who can take wealth and power and good health for granted concentrate their efforts on securing those privileges, rather than on orienting the economic system toward benefits for their less privileged neighbors. Governments bail out their respective versions of Wall Street; CEOs who supervised their companies’ decline into bankruptcy take severance packages for sums of money that a successful, hard-working laborer won’t earn in a lifetime of sweat and aches (and that’s just the severance package for leaving a failing business). There is a logic that supports such economics, but it’s a logic that doesn’t sound very convincing if you’re a migrant laborer, a sharecropper, a war refugee.

So people who vest their hope in technoscience are participating in something that resembles another sort of Ponzi scheme, a scheme of research and experimentation that offers a version of immortality to a few, at the cost of basic life-sustaining medical care to millions. Advocates of technoscience frequently discuss the future of human health and longevity as though these opportunities would avail for all people, equally — and we critical observers have no reason whatsoever to accept that premise, when an actual system for cultivating and distributing food, shelter, and medical care still disregards a staggering proportion of the world’s population.

And just as the premise that “the new immortals will include you and me” is false, so also the hope that of immortality – at least, “immortality” in a sense that fits what people have usually associated with “living.” A tremendous proportion of what people experience daily (one might say “all,” but there’s no point in starting an argument over that) is conditioned by limitations, risk, frailty, and incarnation, bodiliness. Those limitations change radically – if they even pertain at all – if, for instance, the electrical impulses of my brain were transferred into a CPU and hard drive located in a robotic superstructure. (David Weinberger offers keen arguments against distinguishing the formal properties of an electrical system of processors and digital memory (on one hand) from the conditions by which those electrical impulses are received, processed, and stored (on the other hand).) Robotic immortality – even if it were possible, even if it were available to people regardless of their economic status, neither of which premises holds true for the foreseeable future – robotic immortality is not the sort of immortality people long for. The legendary Cumaean Sibyl asked Apollo for indefinite longevity, but neglected to ask for strength and good health throughout her life – so that as the years passed, Apollo allowed her body to wither and shrink, until she dwindled away but did not die. We should beware of technological promises lest we, like the Sibyl, discover that deathlessness without the bodily life we love is worse than the death we fear.



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