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Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's the internet's world; we just bulk up in it

An interesting juxtaposition on the front page of today's "Sunday Review" in The New York Times.
We are nearing a point--if we have not already reached it--when the internet is no longer something we log onto, but something we exist within ("The Internet Gets Physical").  The development of sensor technology allows or will allow your refrigerator to order milk from the store when you're running low, hospital rooms to remind doctors to wash their hands before and after touching patients, and bridges to let structural engineers know that they are in need of repair in a way more congenial than the time-honored method of collapsing unexpectedly.  All of which sounds good, even as it does remind one disconcertingly of "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream"" (Harlan Ellison.  Read it) or Skynet (which was, I believe, based on "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream").  We seem well on our way to the Kurzweillian "Singularity"--that point at which we can ditch the meaty encumbrances we call bodies and simply upload our essential selves into a vast electronic consciousness.

And yet, at the same time, we have become ever more obsessed with the maximization of our brute physicality.  According to sportswriter Steve Kettman, testosterone supplements are not just for athletes anymore ("Are We Not Man Enough").Perhaps inspired by the sight of godlike--if puffy--sluggers shattering baseball's records, growing numbers of men are becoming aware of the benefits of increased testosterone--and the ravages of "Low T" syndrome.  Juicing is the new normal.

Is the obsession with physical enhancement--whether through testosterone injections, breast implants, or other more-or-less societally acceptable tweakings of the human form--perhaps a backlash against our diminishing reliance on our physical bodies?  As our physical selves become more superfluous, do we feel a need to assert our essential beings through greater emphasis on that which clearly separates us from the realm of pure thought?

Descartes famously said, "I think, therefore I am" (only he said it in Latin, so nobody could understand him).  It's looking, though, like "thought" will soon no longer be solely an activity of mankind.  Perhaps that which truly separates man from machine is not intellectual but physical achievement.  I juice, therefore I am.

 But as we become more wired, and more of the things that used to require human intervention can n

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