Are We Posthuman or Are We Infoman?

Postmodern Art

As I am currently reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (if you are interested in cryptography or the Philippines for that matter – a very nice read), I came across a notion which I have been blogging about before: post-humanity. Arguable, it is difficult for me to describe something as post-. I can digest the fact that we leave in a period that we call ‘modern’ even though it is kind of absurd isn’t it? I mean the guys in the medieval ages would not say that they live in the medieval ages (even though some scholars might really have referred to their times as dark ages). For them, it it was the modern times, they lived in. Developments of longbows and ways to ‘bomb’ a castle are certain developments that distinguish these times from before and therefore would enable them to call their time ‘modern’ – or even ‘post-medieval’. Compared to before it is post-something. And it is also modern. Well, when we came up with the distinctions of modern and medieval and so on it seemed quite okay to say we live in the modern world while people a couple of hundred years ago lived in ancient times.

What the hack is postmodern then? Because of all the developments and technological progress that happened, one had to define the term ‘modern’ and because of the differences/ evolution from modern to where we are now, we call it post-modern. Not really creative but hey… . I am just wondering what comes after that. I am pretty sure we are able to come up with some new terminology describing something that comes after post-modern but does not evolve around post-post-modern. That would be pathetic. Anyway. Speaking about times it kind of still makes sense to categorize it and then come up with differences and nuances that distinguish them from one another. How about categorizing humans though?

There is this funny shirt where the ‘evolution of man’ is portrayed in a series of pictures. The first being a cave man, walking while keeping his head low and his shoulders up. This development is traced to a more shaved, formal stuff wearing and standing rather than ducked person until it finally evolves into a man sitting on front of a computer looking a little bit like the cave man in the beginning. Certainly mankind adapted to the environment and to progress in technologies and development inter alia in medicine. Or due to that development for that matter. In average, we live longer, we eat healthier (arguably), we take more care of our physical body and we are enabled to have a totally obese and non-functional body and still survive due to things like supermarkets and 9-5 jobs. For me, this development does not appear as big as the development from some little huts to mega-cities with electricity, garbage collection, running water and traffic. Some might think so. You might hear in the radio things like ‘the modern man wears this and that’. Well, this being more of a designer line, there are certainly developments towards using the term ‘posthuman’.

Posthuman does not describe the spirit after our body is underground and people are gathering on our graves. It means that we evolved to something different, arguably better. The term comes into use more and more frequently with the development of technologies such as the Internet and everything surrounding it. So when we talk about a posthuman we talk about someone who is good with these things. Computer, Internet, mobile phones, software, hardware, coding, cryptography – name it! Knowing how to fix a computer became as much a symbol for being a real man as changing tires and surviving in the rain forest was for our predecessor generations. This line being content-wise borrowed from Stephenson. I think that it is true. However, I don’t think that knowing how to change the tires became less important. It just added up to the things we have to know. But you are only really posthuman if you also know of to fix tires (traditional man) and to cook (modern man). Even though the term still irritates me (what comes after post-human?), it kind of makes sense. Why post. We are still humans aren’t we? When half our body is substituted by electronics and robotics (no, a laptop in the bag, a phone in the pocket and a tablet in your right hand do NOT count) we might be posthumans. For now we are just humans with an increased knowledge of information and communication technologies and therefore enjoy some advantages. Not dying somewhere because the mobile phone enables us to call someone would be one. But posthuman? Really? Nah, I don’t like it.

We have humans, we have cave men so we need something with man in it. Don’t gender me. The most crucial development of the past decades where everything is evolving around in this new post-whatever era is information. 1’s and 0’s. So why not call us infoman? I like it.

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