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Robert Pepperell - ImmInst Chat

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#1 Bruce Klein

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 09:20 AM

Chat Topic: Mar 28 - Posthumans & Extended Lifespans
Writer, artist, and Associate Editor of Leonardo Reviews for the journal of the International Society for the Arts, Science and technology, Robert Pepperell joins ImmInst to discuss the prospect for posthuman existence and extended lifespans.

Chat Time: Sunday Mar 28, 2004 @ 3* PM Eastern
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Chat Room: http://www.imminst.org/chat
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Robert Pepperell was born in London in 1963 and grew up in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire where he was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School.

He studied Fine Art at University College, Wales (then Gwent College) under Roy Ascott, the visionary telematicist. Whilst here he developed a strong interest in experimental film and theory. During post-graduate studies at the Slade School of Art, Robert became fascinated by computer technology, particularly the potential of global digital communications. He contributed to a number of significant art installations with Roy Ascott including The Venice Biennale and Ars Electronica.

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In 1995 Robert Pepperell published a book called 'The Post-Human Condition' (Intellect Books 1995, reprinted 1997) which addressed the impact of new technology on art, philosophy, science and what it is to be human. It was also released as a digital manifesto on the internet. The book was well received and is now regarded as a critical text, being on many University reading lists.

A new and updated version of the Posthuman Condition, subtitled "Consciousness Beyond the Brain" was released in 2003. [Amazon.com]

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In 1997 he collaborated with Coldcut on the 'Let Us Play' project. As creative director he was responsible for the production and design of the CD-Rom (widely acknowledged as one of the best music CD-Roms ever produced), cover concept and contributed two tracks. In addition he designed and produced the innovative software which was used on the subsequent world tour which allowed Vjs and Djs to collaborate in live performance.

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He has recently published a second book, "The Postdigital Membrane: Imagination, Technology and Desire", co-authored with Michael Punt, Intellect Books. See www.postdigital.org

#2 Bruce Klein

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Posted 28 March 2004 - 09:16 PM

* BJKlein Official Chat Starts Now
<BJKlein> Writer, artist, and Associate Editor of Leonardo Reviews for the journal of the International Society for the Arts, Science and technology, Robert Pepperell joins ImmInst to discuss the prospect for posthuman existence and extended
<BJKlein> REF: http://www.imminst.o...ST&f=144&t=3214
<BJKlein> Thanks for joining us, Rob.
<Infinity> sure, klein
<dialethic> I'm happy to.
<BJKlein> Rob, looks as if you're staying busy these days?
<BJKlein> What is your main focus now?
<BJKlein> Infinity, can I get back with you in one hr?
<Infinity> sure
<dialethic> really it's a combination of research into art and philosophy, looking at ways of developing 'posthuman' art and ideas
<BJKlein> As you see Art helping humans see a posthuman future?
<dialethic> well, art is often one of those things people cite as being what makes us human, so it's an interesting thing to look at in the context of post-humanism
<Guest> Rob, when did you first learn about the concept of the posthuman and how did you become interested?
<dialethic> I worked closely with technology for many years ( in an art context) and was interested in how this stuff was going to change what it meant to be human. Posthumanism seemed loke the best way to describe the various changes going on.
<BJKlein> See Rob's artwork here: http://www.stem-arts.com/robart2.htm
<BJKlein> Thus, Rob, do you see immortalism as a viable goal for humans?
<dialethic> In brief, yes, although I think there are hugely complex philosophical issues around mortality, immortality and indeed what humans are in the first place. These are the aspects of immortality that really interest me.
<BJKlein> If you don't mind me asking, how long do you wish to live.
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<BJKlein> Rob, are you able to discuss your posthuman ideas with transhumanist groups there in the UK?
<dialethic> That's a good question, and one to think about. I think the way we value and live our lives is conditioned to a great extent by awareness of death. A lot of things we do that give us satisfaction, purpose, direction, etc. are done in the context of limited time. I can't really imagine *how* to live in any other way. But I guess I want the *experience* of life at its best to continue indefinitely.
<BJKlein> Right, for me, death = oblivion. Thus, to live forever is the only real option I see.
<dialethic> Yes, there are lots of people interested in various aspects of post/transhumanism - all coming from different angles. It's a vibrant community.
<BJKlein> But, for many, death gives their life 'meaning'.
<BJKlein> I'm reading "The Posthuman Manifesto" now
<BJKlein> very interesting document..
<dialethic> I agree that's true, and the question of extended life means we have to think about what life is for and how to use it. No easy thing.
<BJKlein> I'm of the idea that there is no 'meaning' in this world..
<BJKlein> we just are
<BJKlein> and as your Manifesto says:
<BJKlein> It is now clear that humans are no longer the most important things in the
<BJKlein> universe. This is something the humanists have yet to accept.
<BJKlein> REF: http://www.post-human.net/
<dialethic> Yes, but there are varying qualities of experience in our lives. I think humans are less significant in biological terms than their experiences.
<BJKlein> Also: "Complex machines are an emerging form of life." which brings me to a new line of thought....
<BJKlein> have you looked in the possibility of a technological singularity
<Rotaerk> I wanna know...why people use "important" as an absolute adjective
<dialethic> I'm interested to know what you mean by technological singularity
<BJKlein> Rotaerk, i suspect the general point is made.. information was exchanged, that's the most 'important' thing ;)
<BJKlein> dialethic, for a good introduction: http://www.singinst.org
<BJKlein> but briefly:
<BJKlein> the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence
<BJKlein> that eventually improves at an exponential rate
<Rotaerk> well it seems the information that is being transmitted by that use of the word is twisted
<dialethic> Singularity- yes i see what you mean. Of course one can't ignore what's happening with AI, etc., and now A-consciousness. I'm working myself on a kind on self-aware system - a 'conscious art'
<BJKlein> Just a point blank question (out of the blue, sorry) do you think death = oblivion?
<Discarnate> A-consciousness? Could you expand on that term, please?
<bioimmortal-> dialethic i like your "black back. & light letters" write-manner :] IMO it increases concetration
<Rotaerk> there is no such thing as death from a the dead person's perspective, because that person is null...non-existent, so no I dont believe it's oblivion, it's just the deletion of that being from the universe...
<dialethic> Death=oblivion. Not necessarily, there is mounting evidence that consciousness is not biologically restricted, i.e. it extends beyond the body. In which case physical death need not equate to loss of consciousness.
<Rotaerk> it's just a matter of perspective, I think the flaw in how people think about death is their attempt to personalize it
<dialethic> A-Consciousness is artificial consciousness, that is, in machines or equivalent.
<Discarnate> Thank you.
<BJKlein> dialethic, agreed, consciousness isn't biologically dependent.. however, i would suspect it's not metaphysical either, would you agree?
<BJKlein> thus, consciousness is substrate dependent..
<BJKlein> it needs something to be on, in order to work?
<dialethic> If you mean metaphysical, as in beond explanation, then I'd agree. I think consc. can be explained but not reduced to it's explanation, if you see what I mean.
<Rotaerk> they hypothesis that consciousness is physically grounded is the only one left after application of Ockham's Razor
<BJKlein> and to destroy this substrate (biological system, or burn the computer chip) would in effect 'kill' the consciousness
<Rotaerk> there is no reason to believe it to be metaphysical
<Rotaerk> but it still may be metaphysical for all we know
<dialethic> I think of the analogy of the radio receiver. Consc. is 'in the air' but can be picked up and turned into something useful with the right apparatus. Destroy the apparatus and you can't get the signal, but you don't destroy the signal.
<Rotaerk> good analogy for the expression of the metaphysical consciousness idea
<Guest> what evidence is there that consciousness is not biologically restricted?
<BJKlein> biology is atoms
<dialethic> But you have to remember that the kind of receiving apparatus affects the way the signal is manifested, so the individual biology is not irrelevant.
<BJKlein> computers are atoms
<Guest> this is refering to consiousness being independant of the substrate
<dialethic> Guest- a very great deal, from philosophy, neuroanatomy, Ai, and other sources.
<Discarnate> dialectic - then you're postulating consciousness is some process we cannot trace.
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<dialethic> No, it's no *independent* of the body/apparatus - but extends beyond it - a big difference!
<Rotaerk> but why do you think that
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<dialethic> Take another analogy - Consciousness is like boiling. It's an emergent property that relies on a number of con-extistent factors (heat, gravity, containment, air pressure, etc.) The phenomenon of boiling cannot be isolated from thne conditions that give rise to it
<Rotaerk> but?
<outlawpoet> that's an unusual analogy.
<Rotaerk> it doent sound complete
<Rotaerk> where's the part of it that describes the extension beyond the system on which it is dependent
<BJKlein> dialethic, from this reasoning.. you could create a perfect copy of somone's brain.. and 'poof' there'd be consciousness
<dialethic> It helps to show how consciousness can't be isolated from the substrate that supports it, but is not present in any particular part of that substrate - it's distributed.
<Rotaerk> of course, it's a high level description of the structure and components of its substrate
<Rotaerk> it's also abstract concept that should be portable to other substrates
<dialethic> Rotaerk - The extendedness in the boiling analogy comes from the fact that all the factors that go into making the boiling happen are part of the phenomenon of boiling, even though they're distributed (power, steam, noise, etc.0
<Rotaerk> ah, so you think the brain is a necessary COMPONENT of consciousness?
<Rotaerk> but it's not the only component?
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<Infinity> whoa this reasoning has major flaws in it
<dialethic> Yes I agree, consc, is possible in a number of substrates, but only in those sufficiently complex and sensitive.
<dialethic> Yes the brain is necessary, but not sufficient.
<Rotaerk> which reasoning, infinity?
<BJKlein> dialethic, have you considered cryonics?
<dialethic> Cryonics. Yes, and I'm dubious about neuropreservation, or just saving the brain, but not so dubious about the whole body
<Rotaerk> dialethic still hasnt explained his reasoning, he's only desribed the result of his reasoning through analogies
<BJKlein> thus, you see information to be saved with the whole body?
<Infinity> either consciousness is an emergent property, or it is an always present signal that it is capable of being received, you can't have it both ways. Which one is it?
<dialethic> The whole process of reasoning would take too long, it's laid out in my boo, The Posthuman Condition, but I'l try to answer what I can here.
<Rotaerk> yeah, his two analogies were inconsistent...
<BJKlein> Robert has some really cool Posthuman artwork here (for those who have just joine us) http://www.stem-arts.com/robart2.htm
<dialethic> Infinity - in fact it is both, a combination of a 'signal' (although that's only an analogy) and the appropriate apparatus (active body, brain, nutrition, etc.)
<Infinity> ok, in that case you shouldn't use the emergent property analogy to make your point. the term emergent implies that something comes into existance
<Infinity> does "boiling" always exist, but is "received" by the factors of heat and pressure that actualize it?
<dialethic> The 'signal' part is not consciousness in any way we would understand it, I believe it's a particular property of the Universe (I'm not alone in this), but that it is one of the contributing factors to the emergence of consc. as we know it.
<BJKlein> we're coming up on the end of the official chat.. feel free to stay as long as you'd like, Rob.
<Rotaerk> dialethic, I think we have an okay understanding of your view
<Rotaerk> but please, what is your reasoning
<Rotaerk> WHY do you think that
<dialethic> It becomes a problem in the case of cryogenics. If the person dies, then in effect the 'boiling' stops. You then freeze the water, but it's the boiling you want to preserve.
<BJKlein> what about freezing embryos?
<dialethic> Ok, it's been quite exhilerating, I'm not sure if I've been clear, but these are complex topics. Thanks to all of you for your interest.
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<BJKlein> thanks very much, Rob
* BJKlein Official Chat Ends
<BJKlein> thanks for taking time.. I know you're quite busy..
<BJKlein> best of luck tommorow!
<Rotaerk> there was an official chat?
<dialethic> BTW, My email is pepperell@ntlworld.com. I'm happy to follow up with anyone, or via this board.

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