Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reading the Transhumanist Way!

The Arakawa house, not really that comfortable
Transhumanism is a poorly thought out philosophy that states that human beings, by altering their reality, can 'force' evolutionary change. It defies biology and is a bit of an offshoot from the crackpot 'immortality' movement. Immortality, of course, is scientifically ridiculous. The reason we dominate the world  as a species is because humans mutate and pass on the awesome genes, rewarding the Don Drapers and Ghenghis Khans of the world, while punishing and killing off the lame genes, like whatever gene predisposes you to play World of Warcraft and eat Doritos 12 hours a day. People have tried to work transhumanist ideas into architecture (e.g. the Arakawa house, depicted above) and art, but what I think they're really gunning for is the idea that in order to advance intellectually/genetically/etc..., one must embrace a challenging environment and one must try not to get too comfortable, a pretty obvious notion.

An experiment in transhumanist writing, or a literary practical joke, not sure which.
So, as a sluggish reader, I try to diversify my reading in such a way as to 'not get comfortable.' This, by itself can slow the reading down: new styles to get used to, a different cultural perspective, different eras, etc...A pretentious notion probably, but I'm by no means sitting around reading War and Peace, Gravity's Rainbow, or Ulysses. It's less painful than that.

I try to 'not get comfortable' by reading a different author every book and abstaining from reading series as much as I'm tempted. Although, I'm sometimes not able to stick to my guns (Gene Wolfe got me for five novels). With the shear volume of books and authors, this is a straightforward task. There's a ton of award winning Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors out there and at the rate I read, I will never exhaust my reading list. Basically, if one starts with Gollancz's SF Masterworks series, a reader could plow through 60+ amazing Sci-Fi novels and rarely encounter the same writer twice. And luckily, unlike TV or film, the quality you encounter content-wise is greater per product than any other media form (in my humble opinion).

Start Here
So, should reading be for pleasure or should it be work? It depends on your goals. I read sci-fi because I love the genre, and I'm also researching styles. Part pleasure. Part work. Occasionally, I stumble across books that I realize are important and influential, but that I simply don't care for (like listening to the band REM, I appreciate them, but don't enjoy their music). Most of the time, this isn't the case however. Some books are written with simple language but are outstandingly executed (George R Stewart's "The Earth Abides" comes to mind) and others are outstandingly written but poorly executed (Ian McDonald's "River of Gods", it's quite the mess'). Different books I enjoy for completely different reasons.

I wish I was a quicker reader but I'm not. (Rose tells me my lips sometimes move as I read . They don't, but whatever), This is my system and it seems to work for the most part, exposing me to as much different stuff as efficiently as possible.

1 comment:

  1. 'Immortality, of course, is scientifically ridiculous' Oh no it isn't - certain species of jellyfish have been immortal for millions of years. One day we hope to figure out how to do it ourselves.

    So transhumanists are trying to 'force evolutionary change' are they? Care to name one? We actually don't give two hoots about evolutionary change since we want to change ourselves, within this generation. Evolution cannot do this, and so is disregarded.