Središnji je cilj ovoga rada sagledati presjek književnih djela anglofonih autora iz perspektive transhumanističke filozofije. Takvo transhumanističko čitanje ne služi svrsi etabliranja transhumanističkog etosa koristeći književne primjere, već kao selekcija problema kojima će pri čitanju biti usmjerena pozornost. Ti se problemi tiču različitih tehnoloških razvoja koji mogu biti izravno relevantni za sadašnji trenutak ili još uvijek spekulativni, ali vrlo važni u slučaju uspješnog razvoja i korištenja. Ova je disertacija nadalje pokušaj izravnijeg povezivanja transhumanističke misli i književnosti na ozbiljniji, opsežniji i sustavniji način kakav nedostaje u trenutnoj literaturi. Analize književnih djela započinju Divnim novim svijetom Aldousa Huxleyja koji je vjerojatno i najčešće spominjano književno djelo u kontekstu transhumanizma pa se potrebno orijentirati ne samo na Huxleyjev roman već i na ta ostala (anti)transhumanistička čitanja. Keyesovi Flowers for Algernon prikazuju konkretno područje transhumanističkog interesa, to jest, biotehničko poboljšanje mentalnih sposobnosti čovjeka. Transhumanist Wager Zoltana Istvana stilistički je gledano daleko najslabiji roman u ovoj skupini, ali je ključan zbog svog društvenog utjecaja, kao i istaknutog mjesta samog Istvana među pobornicima transhumanizma. Powersov Generosity: An Enhancement sadrži vrlo zreo i nijansiran presjek različitih problematika koje su relevantne za transhumanizam, a otvara i put shvaćanju važnosti ekonomije unutar transhumanizma koje se naglašava u DeLillovom romanu Zero K usmjerenom na krioniku te ponajviše u Doctorowljevom Down and Out in the Magic Kingdomu. Završna književna djela proučena u ovom radu dvije su kratke priče poznatog transhumanističkog filozofa Nicka Bostroma. Priče su važne ne samo zbog tema starenja i superinteligencije već i zbog njihove specifične pozicije na granici između znanosti i književnosti. Disertacija završava nekim opreznim zaključcima o transhumanizmu i tehnologiji polučenim iz korištenja ovakve metode čitanja uz svijest o njezinoj otvorenosti promjenama bilo na teorijskoj razini, bilo u konkretnom smislu pri primjeni na neki drugačiji književni arhiv.
|Abstract (english)|| |
The primary objective of this dissertation is to read a selection of works by anglophone authors from the perspective of transhumanist philosophy. Such a transhumanist reading is not underpinned by the desire to offer an argument in favour or against transhumanism, but because transhumanism offers a group of issues and policies on which to base a coherent approach to the literary works being studied. These issues are primarily technological, whether the technology in question is something currently available or speculative. Additionally, this dissertation strives to explore the relationship between transhumanism and literature in a serious, extensive and systematic manner which is mostly lacking in the currently available research which touches upon these topics. Transhumanism is paradigmatic for literature not in the sense that only literature directly dealing with transhumanism is chosen, but because it provides a set of real world problems and dispositions that can be fruitfully analysed from a literary perspective. In a broader sense, this dissertation is an attempt to see the way literature and the real world interact in a well-defined area of inquiry. In order to successfully merge the research of transhumanism and literature it is necessary to specifically define the foundational ideas on which to base the concrete study of literary works. The very terminology which pertains to this research has to be defined before more advanced, but in essence also basic insights from philosophy of science can be construed in relation to this project. As the technological issues relevant in transhumanism go beyond the disciplinary boundaries of not only literary studies, but also the humanities in a wider sense, disciplinarity itself must be addressed. Transhumanism is a relatively recent philosophical development so an overview of the most relevant aspects of transhumanist philosophy is absolutely crucial for this research project. Finally, a basic position within literary studies also has to be defined in order to fruitfully approach reading the literary works chosen for this dissertation. In that context, Lubomir Doležel's theory of fictional worlds is especially relevant as it shows that literature offers a vehicle in which currently speculative technology in the real world can be shown in a consistent fictional context. Following the theoretical first chapter are the case studies based on specific works of literature. The first such chapter features the expected reading of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. This reading is conducted differently from others in this dissertation as Huxley's Brave New World is a widely known and frequently analysed text which has in the past been connected to transhumanism. The chapter accordingly has to not only feature the reading of Huxley's text itself, but also put it in the context of other (anti)transhumanist invocations of Brave New World. This chapter shows that the reading of Brave New World as a criticism of transhumanism is mistaken as the fictional world of that novel is not a transhumanist setting. However, the novel can be used as a relevant criticism of a part of the transhumanist agenda, that is, mood enhancement. In that sense neither the transhumanists who see Huxley's novel as unrelated to their philosophy nor the bioconservatives who see it as a conclusive argument against transhumanism are precise enough in their readings. There are also other relevant points in Brave New World which, while they might not be direct denunciations of transhumanism, are relevant and can offer valuable insights for the future development of transhumanist philosophy. The second case study is based on the work of Daniel Keyes. His Flowers for Algernon have been published in different forms – as a short story and a novel. Both the short story and the novel are relevant as they deal with an important area of improvement that transhumanists espouse, namely, intellectual enhancement. While not dealing with transhumanism as a specific philosophical orientation, Flowers for Algernon offer a nuanced portrayal of a highly relevant theme for transhumanism and can usefully influence transhumanist policies regarding intellectual enhancement. Zoltan Istvan's The Transhumanist Wager, the theme of the fourth chapter's case study, is unique among the literary works studied in this dissertation in several relevant ways. Firstly, it is a highly inconsistent novel which significantly reduces the use of reading it in a serious context. It is however integrated into this research due to the central position transhumanism plays in it, which is not matched in any other novel. Despite some challenges arising out of the problematic literary material, it is still possible to fruitfully analyse it. For example, the novel exposes the inherent problem with the existence of truly transhumanist political parties, which is further developed in this chapter. Quite unlike the novel of the previous case study, Richard Powers' Generosity: An Enhancement offers a nuanced and complex rendering of several relevant themes for transhumanism. The movement itself is presented in a thoughtful way through the character of the scientist Thomas Kurton. Genetic technology plays a central role not only in transhumanist thought and the novel, but also among already available human enhancement techniques in the empirical world. The concept of mood enhancement and the nature versus nurture debate also figure prominently among the themes of the novel which are extremely interesting from a transhumanist perspective. Additionally, the novel draws attention to the economical issues of the contemporary world which influence science. These issues are further explored in the following chapters. Zero K by Don DeLillo is another novel which draws attention towards the problem of the economic background behind contemporary technology. While not directly engaging with transhumanism, the novel is relevant because of its portrayal of cryonic technology. DeLillo's fictional cryonics facility, the Convergence, is a futuristic hub hosting not only the technicians working on the cryopreservation process, the amenities necessary for that process and the cryonically preserved, but also many other features which mark it as a futuristic space worthy of extensive consideration in this dissertation. The analysis of the Convergence's features paints the facility in a negative light and its dystopian undertones are undeniable. The realworld cryonics facilities are not even close to what the Convergence is, but in major part due to the economic reality of cryonics it is highly questionable whether a cryonics facility which is compatible with transhumanist goals is even possible. The short novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, written by Cory Doctorow, is the subject of the seventh chapter. This novel presents a highly futuristic society with access to radically more advanced technology than what people in the empirical world have access to. That opens the space for many different advancements which are related to transhumanism, such as mind uploading and brain-machine interfaces. The novel's portrayal of these concrete phenomena is instructive, but even more important is the novel's fictional currency, whuffie. The economic system of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom shows that radical technological advances are unlikely to automatically straighten out the problems arising out of capitalism. Not only that, but the novel also shows how capitalist logic can mutate to subjugate technological development into more fuel for its development while in the process erasing a significant part of technology's utopian potential. Nick Bostrom is not only a prolific transhumanist philosopher, but also a writer of fiction. The final case study is based on two of his short stories, The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant and The Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows. The former deals with attempts to prevent or ameliorate ageing, while the latter deals with the potential promise and danger of superintelligence. Both of these themes are connected to transhumanism, but they are not the only reason why Bostrom's stories are relevant for this research. Both of them have been published as a part of a wider scientific work and they challenge the boundaries between science and fiction. That makes them interesting not only from the perspective of philosophy of science, but also in the context of this very dissertation which draws upon both sides of that disciplinary divide. All of that accounts to thought provoking stories for the final case study. The final part of the dissertation offers some tentative conclusions about transhumanism. The categorization of 'transhumanist' literature suggested as a consequence of this research is revisited. It seems that literature generally offers a negative portrayal of transhumanism, but that is far from a conclusive judgement. It also draws attention to diversity within transhumanism and the difficulty with being categorically in favour or against the entire transhumanist philosophy. It is possible to reject some technologies espoused by some transhumanists while accepting the general transhumanist philosophical position, to reject the general philosophy while being in favour of a specific transhumanist technological development or some other position which is not cleanly associated with or positioned against transhumanism. The method used in this dissertation has shown its capacity for being fruitfully applied to a specific set of literary texts and it seems possible to apply it to another group of texts and another set of problems. However, it must remain flexible whether due to the specifics of the different object of research or due to more fundamental philosophical considerations.