Over the next few months I’m going to be watching a heap of films and television series connected with transhumanist (and posthuman) themes and values with a particular focus on religious, spiritual and philosophical ideas and concepts present in them.
Some of these texts will be driven by an overt transhumanist agenda, others as thought experiments, and others as a way of using these concepts to tell stories about this world (or all of the above). Science fiction serves as the primary genre for these kinds of explorations, for as Stephen May notes ‘[s]uch invention can either suggest a universe as strange as possible (with equally strange creatures inhabiting it), or one like ours – except for one vital difference.’ (May, 1998:15)
Moreover, these contemporary narratives highlight what Lelia Green calls ‘the widespread fascination with the interface of biology and technology, and the potential for fusion between the two’ (Green: 2002: 167). It is in these types of stories that society explores the boundaries of what it means to be human and tries to distil the essence of humanness. Questions about how to live and how to be human are addressed, as well as the hopes and fears of people who are increasingly dependent on technology and the cultures it creates. There is, she asserts, almost an enthrallment with the question of how much technology compromises the essentially human.
In addition, Green notes that popular culture is “that subsection of mass media which are appropriated by people in their daily lives and remodeled as the raw material through which they communicate their values and enthusiasms, and through which they connect to others” (Green: 156).
So, I’ll be looking at not only the themes and values present, but the way in which those create new way of looking at the world and of orienting people in the world by offering hermeneutical (interpretative) keys for doing that.
- Green, Lelia, Technoculture: From Alphabet to Cybersex (Crowsnest, NSW, Aus.: Allen and Unwin, 2002).
- May, Stephen, Stardust and ashes: science fiction in Christian perspective (London: SPCK, 1998).