Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology

Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology

Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology

Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology

Synopsis

Techno-heaven or techno-hell? If you believe many scientists working in the emerging fields of twenty-first-century technology, the future is blissfully bright. Initially, human bodies will be perfected through genetic manipulation and the fusion of human and machine; later, human beings will completely shed the shackles of pain, disease, and even death, as human minds are downloaded into death-free robots whereby they can live forever in a heavenly "posthuman" existence. In this techno-utopian future, humanity will be saved by the godlike power of technology. If you believe the authors of science fiction, however, posthuman evolution marks the beginning of the end of human freedom, values, and identity. Our dark future will be dominated by mad scientists, rampaging robots, killer clones, and uncontrollable viruses. In this timely new book, Daniel Dinello examines "the dramatic conflict between the techno-utopia promised by real-world scientists and the techno-dystopia predicted by science fiction." Organized into chapters devoted to robotics, bionics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and other significant scientific advancements, this book summarizes the current state of each technology, while presenting corresponding reactions in science fiction. Dinello draws on a rich range of material, including films, television, books, and computer games, and argues that science fiction functions as a valuable corrective to technological domination, countering techno-hype and reflecting the "weaponized, religiously rationalized, profit-fueled" motives of such science. By imaging a disastrous future of posthuman techno-totalitarianism, science fiction encourages us to construct ways to contain new technology, and asks its audience perhaps the most important question of the twenty-first century: is technology out of control?

Excerpt

Computing power, neuroscience and nanotechnologies are
advancing so rapidly that they will combine to produce the most
significant evolutionary developments since the origin of life
itself. … Imagine yourself a virtual living being …free of
physical pain, able to repair any damage and with a
downloaded mind that never dies
.

—GREGORY PAUL AND EARL COX, BEYOND HUMANITY

We gave birth to AI… a singular consciousness that spawned
an entire race of machines. We don't know who struck first
us
or them
but it was us who scorched the sky. Human beings
are no longer born, they are grown. You are a slave, you were
born into bondage
.

—MORPHEUS, THE MATRIX

Techno-heaven awaits you. You will be resurrected into posthuman immortality when you discard your body, digitize your mind, and download your identity into the artificial brain of a computer. Cyberexisting in virtual reality, you will live forever in a perfect simulation of divine bliss. This techno-heaven is envisioned by a cult of techno-priests— scientists and their apostles—who profess a religious faith that the god Technology will eliminate the pain and suffering of humans by eliminating humans. These techno-utopians fervently believe that technological progress will lead to perfection and immortality for the posthuman, cyborg descendants of a flawed, inevitably extinct humanity. Is this a happy dream or a dismal nightmare?

In contrast to this bright vision of a pain-free, posthuman technoheaven, science fiction frequently paints a dark picture of technology. From the destructive robot-witch of Metropolis (1926) to the parasitic squid-

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