Lifestream, Tweets

In identifying key criticisms of extropianism and transhumanism, Miller (2011, p. 215) indicates that ‘bioconservatives’ (those opposed to significant alteration of the body through technology)’ take issue with the potential for technological augmentation to create inequalities and conflict between those who are augmented and those who are not. Additionally,  bioconservatives see technological augmentation as a source of the debasement of human character and dignity (Bostrom,  cited in Miller, 2011).

For me the first concern is legitimate, but one which we are unlikely to heed. Bourdieu (1984), for instance, has suggested that the body has always been a site through which social distinction is sought, not only through the cultivation of appearance through dress and grooming, but also through the role of class in determining what foods are appropriate to eat and how bodies are used in labour – both of which impact on physical form. 

The second concern, that of the debasement of human character and dignity similarly ignores that what we do with, and how we control, our bodies has presumably always been influenced by culture. ‘Natural’ bodies would not blow their noses delicately, suppress belching or attempt to contain flatulence – in the many of today’s societies it is the civilised body which avoids debasement, not the natural body, and just as the social requirements and expectations for bodily control changed to affect that body, they are likely to continue to evolve under the influence of technology (see Wiliams & Bendelow, 1998, Ch 4.  The body in ‘high’ modernity and consumer culture from Williams & Bendelow, The Lived Body Sociological Themes, Embodied Issues, pp. 67-93).

Miller, V.  “9. The Body and Information Technology” from  Miller, Vincent, Understanding Digital Culture, pp.207-223. London: Sage