Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturation Point

Image Source: Business2Community.

Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.

Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.

"A ConVairCar, Model 118 flying car during a test flight in California, November 1947. The hybrid vehicle was designed by Theodore P. Hall for the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company of San Diego, California, but never went into production." Image Source: FPG/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY via Newsweek.

I think of this problem when I see my elderly father and his contemporaries coping with e-mail, the Web, and the banalities of a computer anti-virus scan or a Microsoft update. They are 20th century people, and while they are adapting to 21st century novelties, it is difficult for them to negotiate the landscape, to cope with the pace of change, and follow the shifts in Millennial mentality. They move slowly, and make halting decisions online. They write overly long, well-considered and grammatically correct e-mails which read like old-fashioned paper letters. For them, fifteen years ago is recent history and twenty years ago feels sort of like two years ago. For much of the younger world, that timespan encapsulates most of the birth of the modern Web.

Recent news articles pose or discuss this psychological challenge. Stay light on your feet as you navigate these waters:
Last year, I had a separate blog page for news links of the type above, but in a bungled blogger save, the entire page was lost and I haven't recouped it yet from backups. The volume of reports made monitoring the latest information out there impossible; that news page on this blog, inspired by Graham Hancock's Daily Alternative News Desk, revealed how difficult it is to keep track of what is going on these days. Part of the problem in coping in the new Millennium lies in the lack of time and human capacity to grasp the scope of change. During a 2010 photo shoot before his death, UK performance artist Sebastian Horsley quoted British satirist Malcolm Muggeridge:
"It is only possible to succeed at second-rate pursuits - like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing beautiful women, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits - involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding - inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is for ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention."

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