Spare Me Posthumanity

I was reading up on Transhumanism because I thought it would make an interesting blog topic. Mind officially blown. I decided that it’s way too intense and complicated for it to be broken down into one of my random musings. (In other words, I am feeling too lazy to make the effort.)

But within that topic I came across the idea of Posthumanism, and it made me muse, indeed. The website whatistranshumanism.org describes it like this:

“Many transhumanists wish to follow life paths which would, sooner or later, require growing into posthuman persons: they yearn to reach intellectual heights as far above any current human genius as humans are above other primates; to be resistant to disease and impervious to aging; to have unlimited youth and vigor; to exercise control over their own desires, moods, and mental states; to be able to avoid feeling tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things; to have an increased capacity for pleasure, love, artistic appreciation, and serenity; to experience novel states of consciousness that current human brains cannot access. It seems likely that the simple fact of living an indefinitely long, healthy, active life would take anyone to posthumanity if they went on accumulating memories, skills, and intelligence.

“Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or they could be enhanced uploads, or they could be the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human. The latter alternative would probably require either the redesign of the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or its radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psycho pharmacology, anti-aging therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable computers, and cognitive techniques.

“It is difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to be a posthuman person. Posthumans may have experiences and concerns that we cannot fathom, thoughts that cannot fit into the three-pound lumps of neural tissue that we use for thinking. Some posthumans may find it advantageous to jettison their bodies altogether and live as information patterns on vast super-fast computer networks. Their minds may be not only more powerful than ours but may also employ different cognitive architectures or include new sensory modalities that enable greater participation in their virtual reality settings. Posthuman minds might be able to share memories and experiences directly, greatly increasing the efficiency, quality, and modes in which posthumans could communicate with each other. The boundaries between posthuman minds may not be as sharply defined as those between humans.”

Okay, so is anyone else a little freaked out by this concept? Yes, it would be nice to have an enhanced capacity for learning, and who wouldn’t want a little extra vigor? But I really don’t want to live forever. I think that would become tedious and depressing. If I couldn’t count on an expiration date, I’d take everything for granted and not appreciate or value anything. I would procrastinate even more than I already do. Nothing would be precious. It would all feel inevitable.

I wouldn’t mind not feeling “tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things,” but I’m not so sure I’d want to be able to control my desires or mental state completely. Everything would become predictable. There’d be no surprises and nothing to get excited about. What would be the point?

And do I really want to risk augmentation? Too much could go wrong. Not only that, but would I want to live in such a superior state that I could no longer relate to humanity? I would hate to view people as mere primates. And while I might be able to communicate more effectively with my fellow posthumans, I would cease to be able to communicate with anyone else, and that would be tragic. And I genuinely believe that the most valuable sign of intelligence is the ability to get your point across to anyone, regardless of their IQ.

And then there’s the fact that certain people, if given these enhanced powers, would not use them for good. And because they would be so far ahead of us mere mortals, there would be little, if anything, we could do about it. That scares me.

While I can’t predict the future, and I’m sure that there are things around the corner that I can’t even begin to imagine, one thing is for certain: I wouldn’t want to meet a posthuman in a dark alley, or anywhere else.

Posthuman

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Mid-Month Marvels: Lifetime Learning Center

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

__________________________________

When I first got to the Seattle area, I didn’t really know anyone, and I was kind of lonely, so I decided to take a pottery class at the local community college. I learned more in that class than I anticipated (and I blogged about it here.) That’s also where I learned about the Lifetime Learning Center.

This center believes, as I do, that you’re never too old to learn something new. According to their website, their mission is to promote successful aging and maintain the social, cognitive and physical well-being of adults within our community. They do this by providing a variety of reasonably priced classes that meet once a week. (A $15.00 registration fee is required each quarter, and most classes are $35.00 per 8 week session.)

They don’t require that you be a senior citizen to attend their classes, but that is their target audience. And I think that’s wonderful. Learning is a great way to keep the mind sharp, and it gives you purpose and reduces isolation. We could all do with a bit of those things.

A quick glance at their course catalog definitely got me interested. Here are some of their offerings this quarter:

  • A History of the American Musical

  • Crochet

  • Intermediate Ukulele

  • Life Stories Writing Group

  • The Earth and the Oceans

  • Marxism

  • India: The Past is Present

  • Quilt Making Basics

  • Watercolor: An Innovative Approach

  • Beginning Bridge

  • The Tempest

  • Positive Psychology: Choose Your Own Adventure

  • Contemporary Arguments About Philosophy

If and when I retire, and my schedule becomes more flexible, I hope that I remember to take advantage of the classes on offer at the Lifetime Learning Center. Because I don’t want to ever stop learning.

I hope you’ll support this organization, and/or see if your community offers something similar.

OLÉ!
These are NOT students at the Lifetime Learning Center, but I’d like to think that the dynamic is the same.

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Your Eighth Decade

More and more of my friends are in their 80’s now. The older I get, the more that will happen. I see them as precious gifts.

I have no idea what life must be like in one’s 8th decade. I hope to find out myself one day. But as it stands, I have a great deal of admiration for all of these people.

Making it to 80 is no small accomplishment. It means you are overflowing with life experience. You are a survivor. You have seen and done things that most of us can only dream of. You have lived and loved and laughed and cried and fought and struggled. And here you are. Did you imagine you’d reach this mountain top? What a triumph!

You have watched the world unfold, and have been an active part in its unfolding. You have been there and you have done that. You know what it’s like to live at a time that was less comfortable and convenient. But because of that, you know that it’s possible to live without a cell phone and a microwave and 257 TV channels. Does our dependency on such foibles make you inwardly laugh?

You have most likely not been appreciated nearly as much as you deserve to be. People think they’ve heard all your stories, but they’ve barely scratched the surface. They probably aren’t asking the right questions. Shame on them.

When I see these friends, I know I’m gazing into untapped depths, and I wonder what I’m missing. People in their 80’s are diamonds walking amongst us, and should be cherished as such. The rest of us can only hope to travel that many times around the sun, and do it with such style!

Diamond

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March of the Waddling Grey Penguins

On our cruise to Alaska, we were some of the youngest passengers aboard, by decades. I get it. It’s an expensive trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime. But there’s something to be said about doing your major trips while you’re still able-minded and able-bodied.

We often shared a dinner table with strangers, as is often the case on cruise ships. Some were a delight. But most were complaining about being in pain. Or about not liking the food. Or about the ship rocking. Or about their ungrateful grandchildren. Or about feeling trapped. Or about the cost of things. You name it, they complained about it.

We were having a wonderful time, so listening to these people grouse was, to be honest, annoying. It did make us grateful that we are not yet in pain, or plagued with digestive issues or the like. It made us try harder to be patient when caught in the middle of the migration of these waddling grey penguins. Our time will come soon enough.

But jeez. Why take a trip if you know it’s going to make you miserable? Eat your salad during your salad days. Or, if this is your only chance to travel, at the very least, don’t rain on everyone else’s parade.

Okay, so I guess this is me complaining. But you get the point.

Falkland_Islands_Penguins_36

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Later Love

I’m a 54-year-old woman, so I come with accessories.

I wear glasses and compression socks and I suspect that orthopedic shoes are not too far over my blurry horizon. I sleep with a night guard so I don’t grind my teeth, a CPAP mask so I actually breathe, and wrist braces so I don’t hyperflex my wrists during the night and inflame my tendons. I also require a pile of pillows of various shapes to be comfortable in bed as I’m not as limber as in days of yore.

My medicine cabinet is full to overflowing with both prescriptions and over the counter remedies. There are certain foods that I absolutely love but will no longer eat because I’m not willing to bear the consequences, but I keep cures for those consequences on hand in case I forget. And, oh yeah, I keep a variety of lists because I can’t always count on my memory.

It has been a life well lived, and I have no regrets. I’m about as healthy as the average American my age.  You, too, will accumulate baggage as the years go by. Trust me. It’s all part of the process.

I often look over at my husband with a certain level of awe, because we hooked up later in life, and that isn’t for the faint of heart. I cannot believe he managed to look beyond this massive pile of accessories and was actually able to see me as the catch that he believes that I am. That is a unique gift indeed, and I treasure it. I will never take that for granted.

I can’t imagine how May/December romances actually work. At least when you are with someone of a similar age, the nightstands on both sides of the bed are equally overwhelmed with flotsam. We each have our accoutrements, so neither of us feels unduly burdened. The scale of life is relatively balanced, and that’s such a comfort. When you start off together in the land of accessories, you don’t have to anticipate quite as many future surprises, and on the rare occasion when a surprise comes along, it isn’t quite as big of a shock. What you see is what you get.

Those of you still in your prime won’t yet understand this, but there’s nothing quite as romantic as the sound of two CPAP masks clinking together when you kiss good night. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Clink.

aging hands

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Writing into a Void

Today is the 93rd birthday of a beloved aunt, one of my favorite people in the whole world. Unfortunately, she’s in a nursing home 3000 miles away. Even if I were to go visit, she doesn’t even remember who I am most of the time, such is the level of her dementia. The last thing I want to do is upset or confuse her. I’ve stopped calling her for that very reason. My last call left her agitated and unhappy. She couldn’t understand why I couldn’t visit her, even though I may as well have been a stranger.

So I write her letters and send her some chocolates. She adores chocolate. It’s one of the million things we have in common. I hope she can still eat it. I suspect the nursing home staff are always happy to see my packages.

It’s hard, writing to someone who hasn’t responded to you in any way in about 5 years. I don’t even know if she actually receives what I send. Her primary caretaker has taken a disliking to me for some reason, even though we’ve never met. She told me that my letters are all about me, and she finds that annoying, and therefore stopped giving me the updates, that I long for, years ago.

Of course my letters are about me. It’s the only frame of reference that I have. It’s not like I can ask her what’s new in her bedridden world. The question would go unanswered. It’s like trying to communicate into a black hole. My own voice doesn’t even echo back to me, and hers is long gone.

So, in my letters, I reminisce about things she and I used to do together. I tell her a joke that I know she would have really found funny, once upon a time. I tell her she is not forgotten. I tell her she’s my favorite person. I tell her I’m now married, and happy, and I’ve written a book, and I have three dogs. The person I used to know would have been glad to hear these things. I also send her pictures.

Writing to her these days brings tears to my eyes, because I know that the person that I love so much is already gone in so very many ways. But I’ll continue to write into the void, for the love of the aunt who meant so much to me, and because I want her to know she isn’t forgotten, even though she’s forgotten me.

More than anything, I want to hear her tell me she’s proud of me. But as I drop each package in the mailbox, I know that isn’t going to happen. Never again. And that leaves a black hole in my heart.

Echo

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Sobering Sexual Statistics

I just read an intriguing article in The Washington Post. It’s entitled, “The share of Americans not having sex has reached a record high”.  (First of all, interesting capitalization choices, but I already digress.)

The article came to several conclusions as to why we seem to be moving away from horizontal activities. The most obvious conclusion is an aging population and higher numbers of unattached people. Americans, in general, seem to be partnering up later in life. It also says that the employment rate among young people has declined, and the number of them living in their parent’s houses has increased. That has got to hurt your ability to get busy, as the saying goes. We are also spending a lot more time in cyberspace.

But I can think of several more reasons for this decrease in sexual activity.

  • A friend of mine said that he thinks the depressing state of the world and our politics is influencing this. That dreary mood could indeed, have something to do with why we as a nation are not in the mood.

  • Unfortunately, too, more and more of us feel the need for antidepressants, and they’re more readily available, and most have the side effect of decreasing one’s sex drive.

  • But I also hope it has to do with the younger generation becoming more aware of sexually transmitted diseases. I know for a fact that this had an impact on me. I was looking forward to going to college and really letting loose. But I arrived on that scene just as AIDS started to rear its ugly head. Noooooooooo! Life is so unfair!

  • Also, I believe that today’s women are starting to realize they have more to offer the world, and are less apt to view themselves as some kind of sexual commodity. At least I hope so.

  • We’re also even more busy and distracted. We have a lot more options to occupy our minds and fill our lives.

  •  I think we don’t feel the need to procreate as much, or marry as much, in order to feel successful and/or to survive.

  • And yeah, we’re an aging demographic, and becoming more obese as a species. Declining health and less energy equals fewer shenanigans.

But I tend to look at these polls with a jaundiced eye. (Look how inaccurate they were during the last election.) How much of the population was sampled? How do you know they answered honestly?

Plus, nobody asked ME. No one ever asks me. Why is that?

Bad Mood

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As Our Idols Fade Away

I just saw the most amazing video. Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke is 24 minutes long, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Youtube. Paul shows James Corden around Liverpool, to his childhood home, and his old haunts. He hadn’t been back to many of these places since he was a teenager. And he’s now 76.

It was delightful, and I’ve watched it several times now. But it brings tears to my eyes every time. It wasn’t sad. It was actually quite upbeat. But as I watched, there was this feeling of poignancy. One of my idols, visibly aged. And he won’t be around forever, except in terms of a legacy.

The older you get, the more you realize how finite things are. Things fall apart. The center does not hold. It’s the nature of things to fade away. But the closer you come to that fading, the more fraught you become about the whole concept.

Don’t go. Please. Stay with me.

I wonder if James Corden sat in that car and thought about what an amazing life he’s getting to lead. I would have. Sitting there, singing Let It Be with Paul McCartney? That’s epic. Nobody gets to do that.

And someday, far too soon, nobody will be able to do that, because yet another Beatle will be gone. Life. It’s so freakin’ precious.

James-Corden-Paul-McCartney-Carpool-Karaoke-

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Taking Health for Granted

It really is ironic that right about the time when you have the most freedom and discretionary income, that’s when your body really starts breaking down. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I have come to tolerate routine aches and pains that my 20-year-old self would have been horrified by. And that’s particularly annoying because it’s her stupid antics that have caused me to be able to predict the weather in several of my bones.

I would love to climb more mountains, but I know those days are gone. I want to go to foreign lands and try exotic foods, but I don’t seem to digest things as easily as I once did. I can’t cover the same amount of ground in a day as I did 30 years and 80 pounds ago.

Older people used to warn me that this would happen, but I was too busy being young to listen. If I had really gotten the message that I shouldn’t take my health for granted, maybe I’d have done more back when I could do more. But no.

I don’t know what terrifies me the most: becoming physically dependent upon indifferent caregivers, or staying relatively spry, but becoming the overwhelmed caregiver of my loved ones as life passes us by.

No matter how much you jog or do sit-ups, age is inevitable. Things fall apart. The center does not hold. So maybe I need to stop looking backward with regret. What’s the point?

It’s time to assess what’s possible now, and take advantage of it while I can. Do more. Now. Because 10 years from now, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be even further down the hill.

Aging

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Starting Out Silver

Dating in one’s 50’s, or even later than that, is something else again. It’s not for sissies. It adds another whole layer of complexity to things.

In your 50’s, you’re more apt to come with appliances. Glasses. Dentures. Night Guards, canes or back braces, arch supports, bottles of pills.

There are things you can no longer do. Maybe your lower back isn’t up to that 10-mile hike. Or you don’t hear well enough to hang out in that noisy bar. You become less flexible, both physically and emotionally.

Chances are you’ve outgrown a lot of the shenanigans of your youth, too. Getting drunk isn’t as much fun anymore. One night stands are just depressing. And yes, I’d love that slice of pizza, but green peppers give me indigestion.

You also come with a boatload of baggage. You’ve got your whacky adult children, for a start. And ex-husbands or wives. Experiences you’d rather not repeat. You are skittish.

And lest we forget, that first impression of you naked is not going to be as stellar as it was when you were in your 20’s. Gravity has taken its toll. There are surgery scars. There are wrinkles and sags and grey hair, or no hair at all. Some things don’t work as well as they used to.

And, speaking from a purely female perspective, there are a whole lot of older men who are still looking for women in their 30’s. Lord knows why. They won’t be able to keep up with them. But they still expect you to be lean and athletic, with nice tight… skin. In other words, they’re in a fantasy world.

But oh, when you get it right… it’s magical. Age-appropriate partners are much easier to relate to. They get your cultural references. They understand your jokes. There’s a feeling of “we’re in this together.” You’ve each made your share of mistakes and have therefore learned a great deal. You’re hopefully more patient. You have many more stories to tell.

And even better, you get to feel young again. Just when you thought those butterflies in your stomach had moved on, they’re baaaaack! You forgot you knew how to blush. Life seems much more exciting. Hope springs eternal. And best of all, you appreciate things so much more because you never thought you’d ever have those things again.

What a gift!

silver

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