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I want to become a cephalopod

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A transhumanist project towards co-evolution, rooted in desire

I want to become a cephalopod is a trans-humanist proposal for using mostly the octopus, but also cuttlefish and squid, as a model species for the future of the human. This research began as a response to the ideology dominating the promises of genetic modification: the scouring of earthly genotypes in order to augment and "improve" human capabilities, or solve human "problems." This positions other species and their DNA as yet another resource to be mined, extracted and manipulated, a sort of "shopping" or "collage" project for biology. In our work, we ask "what if?": What if the future of biology was rather an encounter with a species, as-is, and perhaps on its own terms? What if the term "model species" meant not that the species was for humans of high utilitarian use, easy to produce, maintain, practice science upon—what if "model" meant something more like the "mode" or "role model"? What if I wanted to abandon the oncoming future of becoming a computer-aided AI robot, and become a cephalopod instead? What if the role of desire and fantasy in the … View full description

A transhumanist project towards co-evolution, rooted in desire

I want to become a cephalopod is a trans-humanist proposal for using mostly the octopus, but also cuttlefish and squid, as a model species for the future of the human. This research began as a response to the ideology dominating the promises of genetic modification: the scouring of earthly genotypes in order to augment and "improve" human capabilities, or solve human "problems." This positions other species and their DNA as yet another resource to be mined, extracted and manipulated, a sort of "shopping" or "collage" project for biology. In our work, we ask "what if?": What if the future of biology was rather an encounter with a species, as-is, and perhaps on its own terms? What if the term "model species" meant not that the species was for humans of high utilitarian use, easy to produce, maintain, practice science upon—what if "model" meant something more like the "mode" or "role model"? What if I wanted to abandon the oncoming future of becoming a computer-aided AI robot, and become a cephalopod instead? What if the role of desire and fantasy in the discourse and practice of innovation was made explicit, even foregrounded? And what if the epic project of transhumanism focused first on training as a technology, rather than immediately moving to material, product-based intervention? What if we were to start Training Transhumanism (informed by the practices of the communities studied in  ¡ONWARDS + UNDER!)?

To limit our thinking of the future of the human to its current form is limiting, and rooted in traditionalism. The first stages of becoming a cephalopod focuses on three main attributes: 

  1. Camouflage. To practice camouflage is to be a shape-shifter, constantly aware of one’s hyper-local environment, and ready in response. It is a practice of fluidity, flexibility, impermanent identity. I will create a training program for myself in order to develop these sensitivities and capabilities for the human, pulling from somatic practices, attention training, flexibility training (for both body and mind), ego relinquishment (the consistent internal representation of who we are). This will involve as few props as possible. A demonstration, and research interviews towards developing the practice, will be filmed.
  2. The Decentralized Brain. The octopus has 3/5 of its neurons in her arms, and her arms can make decisions independent of the main brain (sometimes she has to watch her different arms to know what they are up to), while sharing a single intention “set” by the main brain. But how can a human decentralize her brain? She is a very centralized organism—head, on top of spinal cord, two appendages on either side, and so on… Perhaps it takes more than one person to become a cephalopod. Perhaps the question is not how does one human decentralize her brain, but how do two humans become a single organism (at least for some period of time)? How do we push beyond negotiation, beyond collaboration, to a place where two humans can share a single intention, and work as two arms in achieving it? And how might one train humans to be more sensitive and better adept in such relations? A training regimen is under development.
  3. Embodied knowledge, and relation to the world. Cephalopods are basically giant tongues. They relate to the world through touch, chemically sensing what they encounter. Although octopuses in particular have excellent eyesight, what if the future of the human relied more on physical contact and chemical sensing (through our nose and mouth) in order to interact, understand, and act upon the world? How do we develop and extend our abilities to physically, tactically, and chemically sense the world?