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FleshFactor: gaps

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

  Intellectually, I can appreciate the notion of escaping the constraints
of biology through our integration with technology, but practically I'm
skeptical.  Even if we have set in motion changes which make our biological
intelligence just a component of a larger conceptual framework, our
intelligence is not just inextricably linked to the physical, it is
physical.  Due to the relatively slow process of biological evolution, our
mind-bodies are adapted to a a very different niche than the one in which
we live.  (Newer models of evolution describe large leaps punctuating an
otherwise slow process, but they require very strong selection pressure.)
In our case, it seems that that evolutionary gap or lag time can only
continue to increase, because the conceptual-technological changes
described are largely disengaged from selection pressures.  (The ability to
negotiate in cyberspace doesn't seem to be closely linked to producing a
lot of offspring...)   Perhaps the more we change the world around us the
more we are forced to face that evolutionary gap between what we are and
what we perceive.

What concerns me most is not so much the nature of technological
development, but rather the nature of the complimentary reactions that
proliferate in parallel to it.  The evolutionary gap or disjunction
catalyzes both positive and negative reactions.  The wildly uncontrolled
variable is how all those fleshy individuals intuitively respond to the
disparities.  Some responses could be cultural adaptations which compensate
for loss, and others could be destructive and dysfunctional reactions to

Progress is no longer free.  Increasingly, it seems, we must address
consciously and creatively the space between what we need and what we think
we need.  Stocker refers to the development of an "intimate and intensive
relationship" with this second machine-mediated environment, in which there
is no subject-object distinction.  Maybe that's not a new development, but
rather just the waning of the "wholly, autonomous individual" concept.
Perhaps the development of a "hybridized, networked subjectivity" is just
an adaptive response to an old loss.  In many cultures, past and present,
individuals view themselves as having no subject-object distinction in
relation to the "first natural environment".

Potentially, art offers an other way of knowing the world, of being engaged
and making sense of experience, a process for questioning value.  In
reality, though, the "dialectic" between art and science appears pretty
one-sided.  Science and technology play a big role in our lives, drive a
lot of change, and organize the way we perceive the world.  Other ways of
knowing aren't highly valued, and art doesn't inform most people's lives at
all.  Art arriving at a way of being meaningful and relevant could be one
functional adaptation, a way to address the holes.

Laura Vandenburgh

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