Sex in the eHuman City

"Miranda was gone.
    She’d been his companion for almost fifty years. He thought it should be easy to let her go, but it wasn’t. It was every bit as hard as the last time a companion had Jumped. And before that—well, it was the same old story. The vow, 'Till death do us part' disappeared the day
humanity took a bite from the apple of immortality.
From eHuman Dawn
eHuman Dawn opens with a  breakup. Some might find that a strange way to begin a science fiction novel about the merging of man with machine to achieve everlasting life, but for me, it seemed the most natural, and important, place to begin. For at the heart of our humanity lies our sexuality. The opposite is true of machines--which rule the domain of logic and rationality. As science marches ever closer to bringing us together, I find myself wondering, where in this effort to stop death do we take a moment to consider birth? Or love? Or desire?

One of my previous blogs, In Defense of the Senses, touched on the idea that writing about love and attraction in a world without flesh wasn't always easy. I had to find a way to express desire without the beating heart, the sweating palms, or the steady insistence of our reproductive hormones. While writing the novel, I discovered that the issues of romance and sex went much further than figuring out how to fulfill our desires for one another in electronic bodies.

In a society where we've united with machines in order to live forever, sexuality itself becomes completely redefined.

Imagine a future, post-singularity world that hasn't completely abandoned the flesh, but instead some sort of implant that reverses aging has been invented. We can still have sex the good old fashioned way, but what does that mean if we live forever? At what age would we marry? Why would we marry? "Till death do us part" doesn't make much sense if we're never going to die. Given the fifty percent divorce rate in western societies, truly living together FOREVER is romantic for some, but torture for others.

More importantly, would we continue to procreate in such a world? What would we do about population control? Imagine it, at age thirty we take an implant that allows us to live forever. That means no one dies. But if people continue to be born, how do we manage that as a society? What would the balance be for our species? How would we deal with an ever increasing population on our planet? I can't help but wonder what we'd do about children if we could live forever and keep our reproducing, carbon bodies. The possibilities are fascinating--and terrifying at the same time.

In the end, it's impossible to take on death without discussing birth and sexuality. Considering the sexual implications of any scientific advancement is worthwhile. Asking questions is the place to start. Would I trade physical sexual pleasure to live forever? Would I give up the ability to procreate in order to live forever? Would my feelings even matter if I could be programmed to forget them? When considering a future society where the ultimate goal for health is immortality, we shouldn't forget sex, love or romance. Yet I rarely see them mentioned on any of the singularity and technology websites focused on the topic of machine based immortality and health. 

Immortality brings a whole new element to the story of romance. One that will completely change the definition of what it means to be human. Perhaps love, in its universality, will adapt and evolve and find new ways of expression that we can only dream of now.

It's The Question That Drives Us

Like many sci-fi fans, one of my favorite movies of all time is, "The Matrix." There's a scene where Trinity, the beautiful hacker female, approaches Neo in a nightclub. This is the moment of invitation, an event that forces him to wake up to the world around him--a world where something just doesn't feel right. In many ways, stories are our real teachers, and the dialogue in this scene calls for us to wake up to the true purpose of learning in our modern age.

Trinity: It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
Neo: What is the Matrix?
Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.

The writers of "The Matrix" advise us to ask the questions that are burning within our hearts. In Neo's case,  the question will lead him to the answer--which is something he cannot know until he voices the question. The two are intertwined, one leading to the other. Asking the question sets him off on the journey to finding the answer.

It's finals time here in my house, and that means spending hours studying with my children, memorizing, not the questions, but the answers. To tell the truth, I love this time, recalling facts I once learned long ago, being near my kids, and hearing the stories they have to tell about the historical figures, scientific theories and algebraic equations they've been learning. I'm always amazed at how deep the teachers go with their curriculum, and how little I would know about what went on in the classroom if I didn't take this time to study with my children. When we go over their study guides, they reveal details about discussions in the classroom and share with me their wonder and awe.

But if I only looked at their tests and homework, and never spent time discussing it with them, I'd assume that all they were learning was how to memorize facts--which seems pretty dry. Not only that, it seems fairly useless. In the days of the Smartphone and Google Search, why would my children need to memorize any date in history? Of course, knowing an approximate timeline or order of events is important--woe to the child who has no clue that Rome fell long before the advent of the computer. But is it necessary to spend brain power memorizing the exact date that the Vandals first sacked Rome?

Some may say yes, but I'd disagree. We don't have to wait for a future singularity event to realize that the days of knowing the "answer" are over. Tablets, Smartphones and the system of information that links them together, are changing the way we live in our world. In our house, if someone disagrees with another about a historical date, we let Google solve it. If my son wants to learn how to set up a "Let's Play" YouTube channel, he can Google it and find all sorts of people and information to aid him in his quest.

The fact is, knowing the "answer" isn't enough anymore. The intelligence we now need to cultivate is to know what questions need to be asked. And to develop the courage to ask them.

What is the question needed in any given situation? How do I ask the question in order to get the most accurate answer? How do I begin to understand the world as information all around me that is seeking to be known? How do I parse through the propaganda, to find the truth? For nothing is truly known on the Internet until the question is asked. Information is simply data stored on the Cloud, which has no meaning unless someone wants to use it. Asking the question puts the information in play.

How can we educate our children to ask questions? In reality, the educational system of the United States for the past fifty years has encouraged the exact opposite--Don't ask questions. Instead, listen to the teacher lecture, take notes, and memorize them. Questions slow things down. Questions get in the way. The authority already knows everything, you just need to receive the information. And then you'll be tested to make sure you got it all.

In today's age, to be spoon fed information isn't going to get our children very far. They need to be encouraged to ask for what they want to know. They must have a desire to understand and learn about the world around them. They need a fire lit inside of them, a passion, for asking questions. It's a vulnerable place to be, for to ask a question might make you seem ignorant. But the truth is, this is the direction our learning systems are going. As the Internet grows to mimic our own learning patterns, so will we begin to change in order to navigate this informational landscape.

Someday learning just may be a simple download. Like Trinity from the Matrix, we'll learn to fly a helicopter in moments. And yet, even in that extreme case, such learning cannot happen--unless we're confident enough ask the right question.

Which Side Are You On?

It’s a common thing to have to choose “sides.” In a world dead set on being binary, either/or, and exclusive, we all have to make decisions. Are you for the NSA spying on our personal internet experiences, or are you against? Is Edward Snowden a hero, or a monster traitor turned against his government? Do you think technology is good for us, or will it ruin our society, leaving nothing left in its trace?

Binary may be the language of the computer world, but human life isn’t binary. This is what differs our intelligence from artificial intelligence--we do not think or act in either/or. We romanticize that we are like machines, choosing logically in all conditions, but life isn’t black and white. We have colors such as gray, yellow, green, and brown, to name just a few. There are some behaviors that we can agree are entirely wrong, but most interactions in human life are complicated.

The internet may be a world of 1’s and 0’s, but human decision making is more quantum--one never knows where we’ll go or what we’ll do, given the circumstances at hand.

This week we learned from Snowden once more that the NSA is spying on us--this time within our gaming communities. World of Warcraft and Second Life have been infiltrated by the government. Phone records, banking statements and emails are personal, but what we reveal about ourselves when we play in these virtual realities is even more intimate. We form relationships online in these games. I once drove a thirteen year old boy home to his house who needed to arrive “on time” so he could gather with his friends from all over the world and fight a battle from the comfort of his bedroom. This is real to him, a place where he can be himself with others. Spying on gamers is a breech that borders breaking and entering.

As a result of these revelations, players from two major spheres of life came out this week to declare this state surveillance as unacceptable. First, Microsoft and Google formed a consortium with six other major tech firms to declare that laws be put in place to curb NSA actions. Then, the cultural community spoke out, with over 500 of the world’s leading authors doing the same.

Why is this important?

Of course each sphere has its own motivations. The tech giants fear orders on their services and products declining. Business wants the right to know everything we do so that they can make money off of us, but they don’t want the NSA surveillance to hurt their bottom line. As Falguni A. Sheth wrote in this week, business and the government have, “...the quintessential neoliberal environment: Corporations and the government converge to strip the focus away from rights so as to have better control over individuals. But at the moment that corporate profit is threatened, corporations no longer act in complete concert with the state, but rather “institutions” (the government and corporations) battle each other for control over consumers/citizens.”

This is obviously not a black or white relationship.

Enter in the third player--those who’ve been most successful in the cultural sphere of life are joining in the discussion. The fight for data privacy isn’t about business vs. government. It’s about our stories, music, arts and cultural life remaining in our control. We already know that after the age of massive corporate mergers, only a few companies now control entertainment in our nation. The Internet is the only remaining free channel for information to flow between people, without being spun. Yes, you have to mine the chaff from the wheat, but these authors are correct when they claim that state surveillance takes away from the freedom of creation. It’s a trespassing on the cultural commons of our humanity.

How this plays out will determine the future. In my novel, eHuman Dawn, big business leads the Great Shift, convincing the world to Jump into the eHuman form, in order to make a ton of money. Government goes along for the ride because a networked population is easily controlled. A win-win for both entities. In eHuman Dawn, the cultural sphere is destroyed, manipulated and controlled--completely in the hands of those who own the technology. This would be a terrible loss to our humanity.

Therefore I find it a good omen that the most successful authors and business leaders are taking a stand against the government. If this alliance remains, we might be able to create solid protection laws that make moving towards a singularity society safer for humanity.


Celebrating the Holidays...Forever

What an amazing month November turned out to be! As a contestant in the annual NaNoWriMo challenge, I found myself writing an entire, brand new novel, in only thirty days! Actually, it was less than thirty days because I needed to be done by the time my parents arrived on November 25th, for Thanksgiving. If there's one thing I can't do when others are around, it's write anything at all.

Even better, my novel eHuman Dawn, is now available to purchase on Amazon! It was published on November 27th, the same day I finished my NaNoWriMo novel. I've so many things to be thankful for, only one day of celebrating is simply not enough. Thank goodness the Holiday Season is upon us and I have until New Year's Day to party.

As I sat around the table with my family on Thanksgiving day, I wondered, as I often do--in an immortal world, where all humans lived forever at a global scale, what sort of holidays would be celebrated? If we could live forever, would we come back, year after year, to the same family? Would we hold on to parents, siblings, lovers and children in the same way? What would constitute a holiday? Most importantly, who would decide what our holidays would be?

In eHuman Dawn, I introduce the eHuman, a stunning technological feat of metal, plastics, circuits, fiber optics, energy transference and computing, as a new vehicle for human consciousness. Since the eHuman body does not age, and can be easily upgraded, living forever in such a body is considered the gift of health for all on Earth--whether you want it or not. In order to create their world, I had to consider the social habits of such a race. Would they still desire family connection? What would they be grateful for? Would there be a holiday season?

Celebrating holidays is as old as the human race. Even the American holiday season contains several holidays that have a long life to them. Colonists began celebrating Thanksgiving as early as 1565. Christmas is listed as an official holiday in Roman documentation dated 354 CE. Hanukkah is much older than that, celebrating a victory in 2 BCE. Winter Solstice festivals predate Stonehenge and honoring the New Year is as old as written texts, every civilization has their own way to enter into new contracts, obligations and opportunities at the end of their calendar year. Therefore celebration has a long, immortal history of its own.

And yet, these particular celebrations often center on the theme of life and death. We're grateful for this one life we live. The Christmas story, as well as all winter festivals of light, is one about light being born unto the darkness. The four seasons guided the ancients in their planting, mating and birthing rituals. Today we still honor them, as we can't escape the natural world around us. Each year, over and over, we witness the natural world around us birth, come to maturity, enter old age and then die with the seasons; just like our own humanity. The holidays we celebrate remind us of our destiny of birth and death. Which is why we celebrate them with those closest to us--the people who walk with us on this journey of life.

But what if we never died?
What meaning would the holidays take?
Whom would we wish to keep closest to us, when forever really is forever?   

While I can speak for eHumanity, and you'll have to read eHuman Dawn to enter their world, I can't speak for humanity as whole. I don't know what traditions would continue to exist. But my guess is an immortal humanity would have something else to celebrate than the wheel of life. Just what that is remains to be seen...