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Biomedicine in museums

The transhumanist freak show

By February 18, 2011No Comments

Ari N. Schulman has an interesting point about the current transhumanist movement. His point of departure is the blog of Lepht Anonym, who famously (see for example this feature in Wired) writes about her home-made enhancement surgeries, such as magnets under her fingertips and others kind of implants and mutilations, which sometimes gives her medical problems.

Schulman thinks there is something strangely refreshing about Lepht Anonym’s blog, because it’s the only transhumanist writing he has come across which seems to be written by an actual person with a reasonably complicated inner life. In his vew, transhumanists “seem to lose interest in expressing their inner lives when they give their thoughts over to the boundlessly incoherent muddle of transhumanist theorizing”. They have no conception, he suggests, “of any relevance to beings alive today of what it means to flourish, and neither, then, of what sorts of acts and states of mind constitute a profound lack of flourishing”.

What has triggered Schulman’s comment is the alleged fact that Lepht Anonym has recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. The transhumanists’ enthusiasm for her DIY bio practice thus reflects, in his view, their lack of ability “to evaluate self-mutilation as the self-destructive behavior of a person in need of help, but encouraging it — both by reporting on it so enthusiastically, and by fostering a subculture in which it could be understood as a laudable act of creation and self-expression”. Accordingly, Schulman sees the celebration of Lepht Anonym and similar DYI bio practies as a step backwards in human betterment.

Is our fascination with body-artists like Orlan and Stelarc fuelled by our tacit awareness assumption that they actually need care and support? Is the point of the contemporary freak-show the sublime contrast between their public self-mutilation in the name of art and their private craving for love?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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