Poetry Feed

"Defining Characteristics of the Posthuman & the Emergent Transition to the Transhuman: a Dystopian Scenario" by Kathryn Cramer

Posthumans communicate electronically. Pay no attention to the geek behind the handle.

A posthuman outnumbers a human: their emergent relationship is often predator and prey.

Humans are single, identifiable individuals. Posthumans are legion; they are multi-headed hydra. When fully developed, they contain multitudes, as many identities as they need.

Posthumans are the heroes of their own stories.

Humans may have several social identities, usually dependent on contexts such as work, parenting, gaming. Posthumans have more.

Humans are cursed with continuous lives; posthumans are not. Posthumans can go underground with a keystroke. Bingo, another identity!

Posthumans are lonely, they are looking for love and companionship and attention. Self-love does not ease the ache for another, more satisfying identity. Perhaps even as a superhero.

Posthumans are disinhibited.

Posthumans are thrill-seekers, enjoying the rush of the group demagogic skydive.

Posthumans live in constant fear of exposure as insignificant meat.

Posthumans argue against the unique identification of moral actors.

To protect them from predation, children are taught in elementary school how to become posthuman when going online. As with many top predators, by adolescence, these proto-posthumans with have learned the role of predator. Social networking plays a major and perhaps even Darwinian role in this socialization.

Posthumans hunt in legions. If no one else will hunt, posthumans become the legion.

Posthumans bear no responsibility for the past. For posthumans, electronic life is an organizing principle imposed on the past, which is chaos.

All the truth posthumans need is available online. And if it isn’t there, they can make something up and put it online.

For a human to seek a human's address and phone number, she looks in the phone book. For a human to seek a posthuman's address and phone number is stalking!

Humans privilege relationships formed in and founded on what they call "real life." Posthumans either deny a distinction between “real life” and online relationships, or disparage the idea that "meatspace" relationships have any privileged meaning.

Posthumans like to watch. They especially like to watch humans and other posthumans fighting.

Posthumans find inflicting pain easier than do humans. Posthuman demagogues easily replicate the results of the Milgram experiment again and again, since posthumans are drawn to such experiences.

Posthuman culture changes at a much more rapid pace than human culture, such that the social protocols of online communities less than five years old are often regarded as ancient and venerable traditions. Still, most bad ideas go back a long way.

Truth is the consensus of posthumans today. Tomorrow's truth will be different. There is no fact outside of constantly-shifting consensus truth.

Humans are limited to no more than 3 or 4 romantic entanglements at a time. Posthumans may pursue 15 or 20 simultaneously; those posthumans augmented by bots can pursue hundreds. For some posthumans, this can prove highly profitable, particularly those who specialize in widows and the elderly.

Posthumans can blogswarm from jail!

The posthuman condition is a happy state for registered sex offenders.

Posthumans have solved the problem of professional ethics: The ethics of posthumans are completely undiscussable. How dare you raise the issue of ethics!

Posthumans are becoming the natural prey of Intelligent Agents, currently in the service of humans and adept at parsing social networks and friends lists. Intelligent Agents perform due diligence.

A posthuman’s HR department already has the posthuman’s Charles Manson fanfic on file; is already aware of the disturbing themes in the posthuman’s Shirley Temple Second Life porn; the posthuman’s Flickr account has already been run by legal. Legal has advised management to let him dig himself in a little deeper.

Posthumans are losing security clearances for unexplained reasons.

Posthumans are now being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Now posthumans lose their jobs.

Intelligent Agents take over. Truth is the consensus of corporately owned Intelligent Agent systems.

The era of Transhumanity is at hand.

History has ended. Posthumans have no history.

Copyright © 2009 by Kathryn Cramer.

Poems about Internet Pseudonymity

I will not try to keep pace with those whose poems I'm blogging, partly because I did something stupid with my car this weekend and am mildly injured and taking not enough Advil. Rhymed couplets are a bit beyond me just now. 

I find these quite charming. They are excerpted below.

Lines on Pseudonymity by Henry Gee

But I digress. Consider: were you to choose
A handle, you might just as easily lose
It. I contend the pain of your exposure
Is worse than had you sworn instant disclosure.


On Anonymity by the Cuttlefish

The right to be a cuttlefish
And hide behind my ink
May not appeal to everyone
Despite what I may think.

Collage on the State of Publishing, 1994

Collage on the State of Publishing, 1994

I came across this collage this morning. I made it in 1994, I think at the year's end, as a kind of editorial cartoon on what was wrong with the publishing industry just then. Not much has changed, it seems. (One of my favorite items, you can't read very well without going to the larger version of the image: It is the book How To Do Automatic Writing.

That, for me, summed up the crux of the problem.

ALSO, further to the subject of casual art kicking around the house, I am quite fond of one of my earliest posts, Great Minds Sink Ships, a collection of refrigerator magnet poetry created by me, David Hartwell, and mystery writer Sarah Smith during a blizzard in February of 2003, and contains such lines as Beggars should not throw stones! and Those who live in glass houses make light work.

Magnetic Poetry on Flickr

  Originally uploaded by Greg's Team.

I suppose I should have thought to look for it before. I just discovered the magnetic poetry on Flickr.

My goodness.

Our own magnetic poetry, generated at Sarah Smith's house in Brookline in the big blizzard of February of 2003, is collected here, in a post entitled Great Minds Sink Ships, though not typeset in the original magnets.

A Few Shiny Pebbles on the Infobeach

I wrote to Alice Flaherty, expert on the neurology of writing, for help with references on the neurology of math. She suggested some places to look and some search terms, so I've been playing with PubMed and discovering interesting things such as that a lot more seems to be known about the neurology of metaphor than about the neurology of math. I came across a couple of articles with interesting descriptions which I though I'd share:

Research into the origins and characteristics of unicorns: mental illness as the unicorn. Abstract:

Ethical Hum Sci Serv. 2000 Fall-Winter;2(3):181-92.
Research into the origins and characteristics of unicorns: mental illness as the unicorn.
Simon L.
Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, USA.

    Basic research, particularly into the psychological and neurological underpinnings of schizophrenia and other "mental illnesses," is flawed because of its adherence to the ideology that unwanted, hard-to-understand behavior constitutes true medical illness. It is argued here that psychiatric diagnostic terms represent moral judgments rather than medical entities. By reducing experimental subjects to a moral label, and assuming that neurological differences associated with unwanted behavior are brain diseases, researchers fail to take into account the conscious experience, organization of self and self-image, patterns of motivation, history and social contexts of their patients. The failure to consider the psychology of their subjects renders the results of these studies ambiguous and irrelevant for any uses except bolstering the biomedical model of psychiatry.

    PMID: 15278984 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

(I had recently noticed that the literature associated with various conditions affecting the social skills is often contaminated by the researchers' dislike of the research subjects.)

And Neural activity associated with metaphor comprehension: spatial analysis.

Neurosci Lett. 2005 Jan 3;373(1):5-9.
Neural activity associated with metaphor comprehension: spatial analysis.
Sotillo M, Carretie L, Hinojosa JA, Tapia M, Mercado F, Lopez-Martin S, Albert J.
Departamento de Psicologia Basica, Facultad de Psicologia, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain.

    Though neuropsychological data indicate that the right hemisphere (RH) plays a major role in metaphor processing, other studies suggest that, at least during some phases of this processing, a RH advantage may not exist. The present study explores, through a temporally agile neural signal--the event-related potentials (ERPs)--, and through source-localization algorithms applied to ERP recordings, whether the crucial phase of metaphor comprehension presents or not a RH advantage. Participants (n=24) were submitted to a S1-S2 experimental paradigm. S1 consisted of visually presented metaphoric sentences (e.g., "Green lung of the city"), followed by S2, which consisted of words that could (i.e., "Park") or could not (i.e., "Semaphore") be defined by S1. ERPs elicited by S2 were analyzed using temporal principal component analysis (tPCA) and source-localization algorithms. These analyses revealed that metaphorically related S2 words showed significantly higher N400 amplitudes than non-related S2 words. Source-localization algorithms showed differential activity between the two S2 conditions in the right middle/superior temporal areas. These results support the existence of an important RH contribution to (at least) one phase of metaphor processing and, furthermore, implicate the temporal cortex with respect to that contribution.

    PMID: 15555767 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

and Neural correlates of metaphor processing.

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2004 Aug;20(3):395-402.
Neural correlates of metaphor processing.
Rapp AM, Leube DT, Erb M, Grodd W, Kircher TT.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Tuebingen, Osianderstrasse 24, D-72076 Tuebingen, Germany. Alexander.Rapp@med.uni-tuebingen.de

    Metaphoric language is used to express meaning that is otherwise difficult to conceptualize elegantly. Beyond semantic analysis, understanding the figurative meaning of a metaphor requires mental linkage of different category domains normally not related to each other. We investigated processing of metaphoric sentences using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Stimuli consisted of 60 novel short German sentence pairs with either metaphoric or literal meaning. The pairs differed only in their last one to three words and were matched for syntax structure, word frequency, connotation and tense. Fifteen healthy subjects (six female, nine male, 19-51 years) read these sentences silently and judged by pressing one of two buttons whether they had a positive or negative connotation. Reading metaphors in contrast to literal sentences revealed signal changes in the left lateral inferior frontal (BA 45/47), inferior temporal (BA 20) and posterior middle/inferior temporal (BA 37) gyri. The activation in the left inferior frontal gyrus may reflect semantic inferencing processes during the understanding of a metaphor. This is in line with the results from other functional imaging studies showing an involvement of the left inferior frontal gyrus in integrating word and sentence meanings. Previous results of a right hemispheric involvement in metaphor processing might reflect understanding of complex sentences.

    PMID: 15268917 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Pokémon Cards & Folk-Mathematics

Through most of my career as a mother, I have made it a point of aligning my interests with my children's interests. This has taken me to many interesting places, taught me many interesting things, and even gotten me published in the science magazine Nature (reprint on Fantastic Metropolis).

I have made an exception for annoying fads, especially the Pokémon thing. (See my May 18th, 2003 post, "Pokémon Infestations and Other Matters.")

I realized in the middle of the night, night before last, that there was something big I had been missing about the whole phenomenon. Here is an out-take from what I wrote about it:

One puzzling phenomenon I've observed watching 2nd graders is how kids, who are only just getting basic addition and subtraction of multidigit numbers by the tail, can spend literally hours trading Pokemon cards (by which I mean 2 or 3 hours at a time). The decisions of whether or not to trade are based on multiple factors, some of which are linear functions like how many hit points does a given card have (or is the sum of the hit points of the two cards you are offering me equal to or greater than the hit points of the card of mine you want), and some of which are binary (is it a "shiny", i.e. a holographic card).
. . .
I spot-checked Peter's sense of the relative value of cards back in February. I had him show me what he thought of as his three best cards. I priced them on Cardorder.com. The cheapest of them came in at $47.00. I then had him show me three of his cards that he thought of as "not-so-good." Cardorder.com priced those between 75 cents and $3.00.

Given what I know of the scholastically measurable of the math skills of the kids in question, there has to be some kind of pre-verbal calculation going on. They seem to me to be carrying out complex calculations involving multiple variables of different types, and arriving at basically correct conclusions via some kind of folk-math.
. . .
One other implication of this phenomenon, it seems to me, is that the equals sign, as a piece of mathematical notation, is highly socially embedded. I remember something about a second grade playground bead market at Ravenna during recess that spontaneously emerged and then spread until teachers banned it after a few weeks. It may be that there is a developmental phase around 7 or 8 in which the social embedding of trade is explored.

I would be interested in your anecdotes about young kids and card trading. I've decided to investigate further.

I should also say that this realization was inspired partly by Munir Fasheh's essay "Can We Eradicate Illiteracy Without Eradicating Illiterates?", an expansion on a paper given at a UNESCO meeting in Paris, on 9-10 September, 2002, to celebrate the International Literacy Day. The meeting was entitled "Literacy as Freedom."

In it, he dscribes his realization of his illiterate mother's mathematical sophistication:

My 'discovery' of my illiterate mother's mathematics, and how my mathematics and knowledge could neither detect nor comprehend her mathematics and knowledge, mark the biggest turning point in my life, and have had the greatest impact on my perception of knowledge, language, and their relationship to reality. Later, I realized that the invisibility of my mother's mathematics was not an isolated matter but a reflection of a wide phenomenon related to the dominant Western worldview. In this sense, the challenge facing communities everywhere, is to reclaim and revalue the diverse ways of learning, teaching, knowing, relating, doing, and expressing. This reclaiming has been the pivotal theme of my thinking and work for the last two decades.

My concern is not about statistical measures - for example, how many learn the alphabet - but about our perception of the learner and what happens to her/him in the process of learning the alphabet. My concern is to make sure that the learner does not lose what s/he already has; that literacy does not replace other forms of learning, knowing, and expressing; that literacy is not considered superior to other forms; and that the learner uses the alphabet rather than be used by it. My concern is to make sure that in the process of eradicating illiteracy, we do not crush illiterates.

In the 1970s, while I was working in schools and universities in the West Bank region in Palestine and trying to make sense out of mathematics, science and knowledge, I discovered that what I was looking for has been next to me, in my own home: my mother's mathematics and knowledge. She was a seamstress. Women would bring to her rectangular pieces of cloth in the morning; she would take few measures with colored chalk; by noon each rectangular piece is cut into 30 small pieces; and by the evening these scattered pieces are connected to form a new and beautiful whole. If this is not mathematics, I do not know what mathematics is. The fact that I could not see it for 35 years made me realize the power of language in what we see and what we do not see.

Her knowledge was embedded in life, like salt in food, in a way that made it invisible to me as an educated and literate person. I was trained to see things through official language and professional categories. In a very true sense, I discovered that my mother was illiterate in relation to my type of knowledge, but I was illiterate in terms of her type of understanding and knowledge. Thus, to describe her as illiterate and me as literate, in some absolute sense, reflects a narrow and distorted view of the real world and of reality. A division, which I find more significant than literate and illiterate, would be between people whose words are rooted in the cultural-social soil in which they live - like real flowers - and people who use words that may look bright and shiny but without roots - just like plastic flowers.

(It's a neat essay. Read the whole thing.)

Quantum Teleportation

Sometimes I am struck by the pure poetics of scientific language. I am charmed by this title and first line fromt he new issue of Nature. There's a whole anthology waiting in these:

Demonstration of a quantum teleportation network for continuous variables

Quantum teleportation involves the transportation of an unknown quantum state from one location to another, without physical transfer of the information carrier.

UPDATE: Michael at Articulatory Loop has names me Nerd of the Week for this post. : )

Great Minds Sink Ships

A parlor game: When snowed in at Sarah Smith's in February, various of us wrote poems based on proverbs. Sarah had a set of refrigerator magnets of chopped up proverbs that we could rearrange.

We reworked the proverbs into lines we liked, then used the lines to make poems:

Great Minds Sink Ships
by Kathryn Cramer

Many hands killed the cat:
Beggars should not throw stones!
Curiosity helps those who help themselves.
Flattery heals all wounds.
Ignorance is a many-splendored thing.
Practice makes the heart grow fonder.
Love gathers no moss.

Beauty catches the worm:
A dog is in the eye of the beholder.
A friend in need smells after three days.
But one good woman washes the other.
Cleanliness gets the grease.
Behind every great man is the road to hell.
Great minds sink ships.

Crime begins at forty:
Misery is next to godliness.
The best things in life should be seen and not heard.
Children make waste; silence sweeps clean.
A womanfs work isn't over till the fat lady sings.
Clothes make the heart grow fonder.
The world is never done.

Love saves time:
Every dog loves company.
One good turn is worth a penny earned.
A bird in the hand moves in mysterious ways.
Whatfs good for the goose makes Jack a dull boy.
Loose lips are soon parted.
Crime begins at home.

Great minds die young:
Dead men can't win them all.
Blood flies when you're having fun.
Good fences keep the doctor away.
Absence is the best policy.
The meek won't hurt you.
Beauty is the best medicine.

The world is never dull:
A rolling stone is its own reward.
Too many cooks die young.
God is a manfs best friend.
Dead men gather no moss.
The meek make the world go round;
Therefs more than one way to skin a god.

Snow conquers all
by David G. Hartwell

The truth is
another manfs
The meek make
the world go round.
Those who live in glass houses
make light
One hand moves
in mysterious ways.

makes perfect.
Misery is next
to godliness.
Dead men can't
win them all.
begins at home.

heals all wounds.
Loose lips are
soon parted.
Money flies
when you're having fun.
Crime begins
at forty.

The world
is never done.

The opera finds work for idle hands
by David G. Hartwell

Loose lips are soon parted.
Many hands killed the cat.
Ignorance is a many-splendored thing.
Great minds sink ships.

Fur flies when you're having fun.
Beauty is the best medicine.
Clothes make the heart grow fonder.
Too many cooks shall inherit the earth.

Boys flock together.
Every dog loves company.
Behind every good man is the road to hell.
Variety are better than one.

One good turn is worth two in the bush.
A womanfs work isn't over till the fat lady sings.

Silence sweeps clean
by David G. Hartwell

The squeaky wheel loves company.
A friend in need is never done.
Practice makes the heart grow fonder.
Good fences die young.

Every dog makes waste.
The good will get you nowhere.
A penny saved loves company.
The devill is your oyster.

Two heads are soon parted.
The meek won't hurt you.
A fool and his money is a many-splendored thing.
Many hands are better than one.

Familiarity begins at home
by David G. Hartwell

Practice makes the heart grow fonder
Many hands are better than one.
One manfs meat is a joy forever.
A friend in need is never done.

Absence is the best policy.
A fool and his money makes the heart grow fonder.
The squeaky wheel loves company.
Every dog washes the other.

A friend in need smells after three days.
A womanfs work isn't over till the fat lady sings.
Good fences keep the doctor away.
Ignorance is a many-splendored thing.