di Robert Pepperell
I General statements
1. It is now clear that humans are no longer the most important things in the
universe. This is something the humanists have yet to accept.
2. All technological progress of human society is geared towards the
transformation of the human species as we currently know it.
3. In the posthuman era many beliefs become redundant — not least the
belief in human beings.
4. Human beings, like gods, only exist inasmuch as we believe them to exist.
5. The future never arrives.
6. All humans are not born equal, but it is too dangerous not to pretend that
7. In the posthuman era, machines will no longer be machines.
8. It is a deficiency of humans that they require others to tell them what they
already know. It is only then they will believe it.
9. Posthumanists do not fall into the trap of imagining a society where
everything works well. Economic and political theories are as futile as long-range
10. Surf or die. You can’t control a wave, but you can ride it.
11. We now realise that human knowledge, creativity and intelligence are
12. Complex machines are an emerging form of life.
13. A complex machine is a machine whose workings we do not fully
understand or control.
14. As computers develop to be more like humans, so humans develop to like
15. If we can think of machines then machines can think; if we can think of
machines that think, then machines can think of us.
II Statements on consciousness, humans and philosophy
If consciousness is a property that emerges from a specific set of conditions, in
order to synthesise it we do not need to re-model it from the ‘top-down’. We only
need to recreate the conditions from which it might emerge. This requires an
understanding of what those conditions are.
1. Consciousness is not exclusively restricted to the brain.
2. Consciousness is the function of an organism, not an organ.
3. One does not understand consciousness by studying the brain alone.
4. The mind and the body act together to produce consciousness. If one is
absent consciousness ceases. There is no pure thought isolated from a body. In
order to function the brain must be connected to a body, even if the body is
artificial. Consciousness is an effect that arises through the co-operation of a brain
and body; we think with our whole body.
5. Consciousness can only be considered as an emergent property. In this
sense it is like boiling: given sufficient heat, gravity and air pressure the water in a
kettle will start to boil. We can see what boiling is, we can recognise it as something
to which we give a name, we do not consider it mysterious, yet we cannot isolate
it from the conditions which produced it. Likewise, consciousness is a property
that emerges from a given set of conditions.
6. To say that conscious thought is not exclusively a function of the brain
does not deny that the brain has a significant part to play.
7. Human bodies have no boundaries.
8. No finite division can be drawn between the environment, the body and
the brain. The human is identifiable, but not definable.
9. Consciousness (mind) and the environment (reality) cannot be separated;
they are continuous.
10. There is nothing external to a human, because the extent of a human
cannot be fixed.
11. If we accept that the mind and body cannot be absolutely separated, and
that the body and the environment cannot be absolutely separated, then we are left
with the apparently absurd yet logically consistent conclusion that consciousness
and the environment cannot be absolutely separated.
12. First we had God, humans and nature. The rationalists dispensed with
God, leaving humans in perpetual conflict with nature. The posthumanists
dispense with humans leaving only nature. The distinctions between God, nature
and humanity does not represent any eternal truth about the human condition. It
merely reflects the prejudices of the societies that maintained the distinctions.
13. Idealistic and materialistic philosophical views both assume a division
between the thing that thinks and the thing that is thought about — between the
internal mind (brain) and external reality (environment). Remove this division and
both views become redundant.
14. The idealists think that the only things that exist are ideas; the materialists
think that the only thing that exists is matter. It must be remembered that ideas are
not independent of matter and that matter is just an idea.
15. Most philosophical problems are debates about language. They arise
because of the mistaken assumptions a. that language is consistent and b. that
because a word exists there must exist a ‘thing’ that it represents and c. that the
things that are represented should, in themselves, be consistent.
16. Logic is an illusion of human imagination. Truth and falsity do not exist
in nature — other than in human thought.
III Statements on science, nature and the universe
1. Science will never achieve its aim of comprehending the ultimate nature of
reality. It is a futile quest, although many scientists do not acknowledge this yet.
The universe(s) will always be more complex than we will ever understand.
2. The posthuman abandons the search for the ultimate nature of the
universe and its origin (thus saving a lot of money in the process).
3. The posthuman realises that the ultimate questions about existence and
being do not require answers. The answer to the question ‘Why are we here?’ is
that there is no answer.
4. To know the ultimate nature of the universe would require knowing
everything about the universe, everything that has happened and everything that
will happen. If one thing were not known it would imply that all knowledge of the
universe is partial, potentially incomplete and, therefore, not ultimate.
5. No scientific model can ever be complete, but will always be partial and
contingent. For any model to be complete it would have to take all influential factors
into account, no matter how insignificant. Since this is impossible the scientist must
make an arbitrary decision about which ones to ignore. Having ignored some factors
their model is incomplete, although this does not mean it isn’t useful.
6. The posthuman accepts that humans have a finite capacity to understand
and control nature.
7. All origins are ends and all ends are origins. Chaos theory has often been
illustrated with the image of a butterfly’s wing-flap causing a thunderstorm on the
opposite side of the globe. Whilst this might illustrate the sensitivity of systems to
initial states, it does not take into account what caused the butterfly to flap its
wings — a gust of wind?
8. Logic that seems consistent at the human scale cannot necessarily be
applied to the microcosmic or the macrocosmic scale.
9. Our knowledge about the universe is constrained by the level of resolution
with which we are able to view it. Knowledge is contingent on data — data varies
10. Scientists give privilege to order over disorder on the assumption that they
are gradually discovering the essential laws of nature. This is a fundamental error;
nature is neither essentially ordered or disordered. What we perceive as regular,
patterned information we classify as order; what we perceive as irregular,
unpatterned information we classify as disorder. The appearance of order and
disorder implies more about the way in which we process information than the
intrinsic presence of order or disorder in nature.
11. Science works on the basis of an intrinsic universal order. It assumes that
all phenomena are subject to physical laws and that some of those laws are well
understood, some partially understood, and some unknown. The posthuman
accepts that laws are not things that are intrinsic to nature, nor are they things
which arise purely in the mind and are imposed on nature. This would reinforce
the division between the mind and reality which we have already abandoned. The
order that we commonly perceive around us, as well as the disorder, is not a
function exclusively of either the universe or our consciousness, but a combination
of both, since they cannot really be separated.
12. Everything that exists anywhere is energy. Beside the fact that all material
processes are energetically driven, energy has two major properties:
a. It manifests in an infinite variety of ways
b. It perpetually transforms
13. The appearance of matter is an illusion generated by interactions among
energetic systems at the human level of resolution.
14. Humans and the environment are different expressions of energy; the only
difference between them is the form that energy takes.
15. The posthuman is entirely open to ideas of ‘paranormality’,
‘immateriality’, the ‘supernatural’, and the ‘occult’. The posthuman does not accept
that faith in scientific methods is superior to faith in other belief systems.
IV Statements on (dis)order and (dis)continuity
1. Order and disorder are relative, not absolute, qualities. The proof that
order and disorder are relative qualities lies in the fact that they define each other.
2. Anything we perceive can be considered to contain different degrees of
order and disorder. The perception of order and disorder in something is
contingent on the level of resolution from which it is viewed.
3. What we perceive as ordered and disordered is often culturally determined.
Logicians will assert that there are mathematical ways of defining disorder, entropy
and complexity — ways that are independent of human subjectivity. Whilst these
definitions may be useful in certain applications they remain open to relativistic
4. In posthuman terms, the apparent distinctions between ‘things’ are not the
result of innate divisions within the structure of the universe, but rather are jointly
a product of:
a. the way in which the sensual processes in living entities operate.
b. the variety of ways in which energy is manifested in the universe.
5. The ways in which energy manifestations are perceived by an observer can
always be described with two simple qualities — continuity and discontinuity.
Continuity is non-interruption of space-time. Discontinuity is a rupture in space-time.
Both qualities can be discerned in all events depending upon how they are
viewed. More importantly, they are both experienced simultaneously.
6. Energy manifestations should not be thought of as intrinsically continuous
or discontinuous; that is, there are no absolute qualities of energy. Energetic states
will appear as either continuous or discontinuous to an observer depending upon
their viewing position. The quality of (dis)continuity is context sensitive.
7. What distinguishes things from one another is the perceived dis-continuities
they display. The difference in manifestations of energy between a
philosopher and a chair allows them each to be distinguished.
8. The level of complexity in a system cannot be defined in objective (that is,
absolute) terms. Complexity is a function of human cognition, not an intrinsic
property of anything we might look at.
V Statements on thought, meaning and being
As long as models about how the brain might work are defective (being based on
fallacious assumptions), the creation of a synthetic consciousness will be
1. Human thought is something that occurs in co-operation with the human
body. It is not necessary to identify precisely where it occurs because it does not
occur precisely in any ‘part’.
2. It is tempting to think of thoughts as blocks of data in the brain. This
would be a mistake since it reinforces a static view of mental activity. A thought is
a path through the cognitive medium. Think of it like this: taking the London
Underground map as an analogy of how the mind works, some people would say,
‘Each of the stations on the map represents one of our thoughts and the lines
represent the links between them. The lines are what enable us to get from thought
to thought.’ The posthuman argues ‘A thought is not a station on the map but the
route from one station to another.’ That is, a thought is actuated in the process of
travelling, rather than being a particular destination.
3. Given that a thought is activated, for whatever reason, it consists in a
process of travelling through the cognitive medium that supports the mind. A
thought does not exist unless it is being thought, otherwise it remains a field of
potentiality, or attractor. The most likely journey that a thought may take once it
has been activated defines its path. Similar thoughts will take similar paths.
4. Paths can be created in a number of ways, including direct experience,
learning, prior cognition, and the act of thinking itself. In neuro-physiological
terms, the paths include the connections between neurons and the probability of
their firing, but are not restricted to these. Moreover, the neural fabric is not a
static substance. It is continually changing in response to stimulation and
activation and just as prone to adaptation just as the skin or muscles are.
5. The path that a thought takes is not uni-linear in the way that we normally
think of paths. A thought may take many different routes simultaneously. The
occurrence of one particular thought may require that we bring together many
different thoughts in combination.
6. The fact that different thoughts may lie in different paths, each of which
are distinct insofar as each thought is distinct, shows us how we can imagine things
we have never seen. We are unlikely to have seen a “girl with kaleidoscope eyes”
but we can imagine what she looks like by making a composite image of the
components, i.e. travelling through several distinct thought paths at once.
7. The activity of thinking is regulated by the conduct of energy in the
cognitive medium. This medium is no different from any other system in that it
represents a particular process of energy transformations. Where two thoughts are
continuous (for example, ‘blue’ and ‘sky’ in the sentence ‘The sky is blue’), the
pathway between each of these thoughts is well established, and it will require little
energy to pass from one to the other. Where two thoughts are not well connected
(for example, between ‘myrrh and ‘capstan’ in the phrase ‘The myrrh-capstan’)
more energy is required to fuse the thoughts since they have less well-established
8. Ideas that can proceed from one to another with relatively little effort
(energy) can be considered continuous. Ideas that require great effort to travel
between can be considered discontinuous.
9. The presence or absence of ‘meaning’ is determined by the amount of
energy required to pass from one concept to another. Difficult meaning arises from
the co-existence of concepts that are semantically distant, that is, when there is not
a well-established connection between them. However, the path between concepts
that have little or no connection may be too difficult to travel. For example in the
phrase ‘Echoes the wasp’s virile down-plate’, whilst not meaningless, is certainly
awkward to assemble by the standard of most phrases.
10. In order to maintain a sense of being the human tries to establish
continuity in response to the stimuli it receives from the environment. Such stimuli
are both stable and unstable since the environment displays different amounts of
each. The development of stable thought paths which correspond to stable stimuli
generates a sense of order. Over time such stability develops into a sense of being.
11. Were the sense of order not perpetually threatened by the recurrence of
random stimuli there would be no compulsion to re-assert order. As it is, since
humans are continually faced with random stimuli, it is necessary to keep re-asserting
order (maintaining meaning) so that we do not dissolve into chaos,
thereby losing our sense of being.
12. In posthuman terms, it is unimportant through what mechanism this
process of being occurs. The same effect can be achieved in a number of different
ways. It is true that we can learn from the human what is necessary for being, but
this does not mean that it is the only way it can be implemented.
VI Statements on uncertainty
1. The humanist era was characterised by certainty about the operation of the
universe and the place of humans within it. The posthuman era is characterised by
uncertainty about the operation of the universe and about what it is to be human.
2. Questions arise in the posthuman era that would have not troubled us in
the humanist era — What is a human? Is there such a thing?
3. Historically, we could say the posthuman era, the age of uncertainty, was
born in the period leading up to World War I since this was the time we were
introduced to quantum physics and cubism. The consequences of both made one
thing clear: in the words of Heisenberg, ‘There are no things, just probabilities.’
4. Uncertainty is becoming familiar. There is uncertainty about life time
employment, about political and economic theory, about what is happening to the
environment, about whether scientific progress is always beneficial and about
where technology is leading us.
5. What can we say is certain? Only that which we have to accept as certain
for some other reason.
6. In posthuman terms uncertainty is nothing to fear. The world has always
been as uncertain as it is now. What has changed is that it is now much harder to
impose authority since increased information flow diminishes authority: there is
more information, therefore, there is less false sense of certainty. Certainty, like
belief, only arises in the absence of full information.
7. Uncertainty is certain.
VII Statements on art and creativity
The production and appreciation of art is a particularly human faculty. It is often
cited by humanists as the highest expression of human thought and the thing that
most distinguishes us from machines. It would, therefore, be fair to admit that the
posthuman era cannot begin in full until we have met this challenge from the
humanists. In order to develop a machine that can produce and appreciate art we
must first have a clearer understanding of what it is.
1. What is art? One useful definition is that it describes any commodity of
the art market. We must distinguish between an art object and an aesthetically
stimulating object. An art object is a commodity that is traded on the art market.
An aesthetic object is one that is appreciated for its aesthetic quality. Something
may be both an art object and an aesthetic object, such as Van Gogh’s ‘Irises’.
Something may be an aesthetic object without being art, like a sunset or an iris.
2. Many people think that much modern art is not art because they consider
it to lack aesthetic value, even though it commands high prices on the art market.
They are simply confusing the art value and the aesthetic value of an object. These
two values are quite separate, but of course linked. ‘Art is a commodity like any
other,’ said Daniel Kahnweiler, Picasso’s dealer. Art is an aesthetic commodity.
3. In order to be clear, the art market can be defined as an identifiable set of
institutions and commercial organisations which collectively fund, promote and
4. Art must be (and always has been) élitist and exclusive in order to maintain
its financial value and prestige. Many modern artists use aesthetic élitism to
guarantee exclusivity which, in turn, ensures values are upheld. Hence, art
functions to distinguish rich people from poorer people.
5. Good art is aesthetically stimulating, bad art is aesthetically neutral.
6. The criteria that determine whether something is aesthetically stimulating
or aesthetically neutral are partly subject to social change.
7. Good art always contains an element of disorder (discontinuity), bad art
simply reinforces a pre-existing order.
8. Good art promotes discontinuity, bad art enforces continuity.
9. Discontinuity produces aesthetically stimulating experiences, continuity
produces aesthetically neutral experiences.
10. Discontinuity is the basis of all creation, but discontinuity is meaningless
11. Rich aesthetic experience is generated by the perception, simultaneously,
of continuity and discontinuity in the same event.
12. All stimulating design relies on balancing the relative quotients of order
and disorder in the object. This also goes for the composition of music and
literature. However, such judgements cannot be made in isolation from the fact
that values of order and disorder are largely prescribed by social agreement.
13. Posthuman art uses technology to promote discontinuity. Healthy societies
tolerate the promotion of discontinuity since they understand that humans need
exposure to it, in spite of themselves. Unhealthy societies discourage the promotion
14. Creativity does not consist in the production of anything that is
completely new. Creativity consists in combining things that already exist, but
which had previously been held as separate. Creativity and aesthetic appreciation
are both functions of the human ability to modify the connections in their thought
paths, or to have them modified.
15. The process of aesthetic stimulation is heightened when concepts are
forced together from relatively diverse locations in a discontinuous way. The
amount of energy required to contemplate diverse concepts produces the physical
rush of excitement familiar to those who appreciate art.
VIII Statements on synthetic beings
We already have machines that can learn. However, their abilities are currently
limited by the fact that they are logical. Logic is an idealised, self-referential system
developed by human imagination. Since there are few things less logical in
behaviour than humans, any machine that is restricted to using logic as its base will
never display human characteristics.
1. Currently the output of computers is predictable. The posthuman era
begins in full when the output of computers is unpredictable.
2. Most artificial intelligence machines are hermetically sealed. They are
limited by the complexity of the calculations our machines can perform. They are
only sensitive to a finite number of stimuli, and the quotient of randomness
intruding upon them is relatively small.
3. Human thought is not a hermetic, linear system. Since we know that the
mind, body and environment cannot be separated, we cannot rule out the impact
of any environmental stimuli on the process of thought, no matter how minute it
4. What is essential to the functioning of human consciousness is that the
mind receives a continuous input of random stimuli from the environment. The
human mind has evolved to absorb the unexpected — the discontinuous stimulus.
5. The compulsion to assert order in the face of random stimuli contributes
to our sense of being. Therefore, it is obvious that if we are to create any synthetic
intelligence that has a sense of being like that we recognise in ourselves it must be
sensitive to the same level of random interruption that humans are. It must have a
compulsion to re-assert meaning in the face of both stable and unstable input,
whilst also being able to adapt to and take advantage of the creative possibilities
offered by non-linear stimuli.
6. If we wish to produce a synthetic intelligence that displays creativity then
we need it to be able to establish connections between its thoughts in a
discontinuous way. This will be achieved by making it perpetually sensitive to
7. If we wish to produce a synthetic intelligence that displays aesthetic
appreciation then it should be able to sense continuity and discontinuity
simultaneously — without crashing. Whilst this would cause excitement in the
machine it is yet to be determined to what extent it would be pleasurable.
8. Humanists saw themselves as distinct beings in an antagonistic
relationship with their surroundings. Posthumans, on the other hand, regard their
own being as embodied in an extended technological world.
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