08 March 2006

We are not for ever


Ooh-ahh! The android of last year's World Expo, in Aichi, Japan. It's really an amazing feat, and the photos I've seen of it are remarkable. We are on the exciting brink of the new era, one I believe has been somewhat accurately portrayed by the likes of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence, and Jeff Noon's Vurt. (I am sure William Gibson and others fit in there somewhere, too, but I've not read much of his writing.)

However, in writing this, I had to consciously refer to her it as such, and not as a her or a she. I know many of us have quickly contemplated this at some point, in a movie or while reading a book or something. A closer approximation of the difficulty of describing such black and white terms are modern-day trannies, cross-gender voyeurs, and the rest. I've never been particularly fond of overly feminine women, nor do I care for manly men, so these terms waned with me growing up through high school and in years where I came to be comfortable with my own sexuality.

And now we sit on the cliff's edge, and again we're about to be wrought with new fears and difficulties à la The Animatrix:



And again it hits me in the face how people cling to their fragile concepts of who they are, as individuals. Grant Morrison, on the Disinformation DVDs, even screamed out that individuality is a farce, one of the great illusions of all known history. And I'm becoming more aware of how people cling to these preconceived notions of themselves — a springwell of pain and suffering when these façades are challenged and tested.

Recetly, I came across a test via Kylark's Dodging Invisible Rays in which you can query people for five or six positive advectives that describe oneself. In turn, I tried it out, and the results were predictably boring. However, upon further research, I came across it's antithesis, what the designers called a Nohari Window.

In a previous post, "Being me," you can see the current results. It asks people to pick more un-flattering words to describe me. The reactions were fairly common across the board, both in adjectives chosen… as well as in the persons' responses to having to choose the words about me. Many didn't want to do it, a few refused to, and the only person who joyfully cranked out her choices in under 30 seconds was my beautiful Seana, whom I adore for her lack of social complacency.

Now it's not as though the words you could pick from were that scathing. Most seem to think of me as vulgar, chaotic, insensitive, aloof, distant, and smug, among other things. Jeremy pointed out that "Ukrainian" was not a choice, so the test was sorely lacking in ways to point out my shortcomings.

My friend, Chris, caught on in that I could learn more about the dynamic between myself and the persons filling out the Nohari Window than I could learn about myself. Only by embracing different friends' opinions, and even those of the people that dislike me, can I see the qualities that are open to perception by referencing themselves in contrast. One of my friends even called me "simple," and I can see how it might reflect a more aristocratic upbringing, but even that is simply learned manners and prescribed attitudes (in my opinion). So my flirtations with racism, thievery (in the past), and straight-up vulgarity may contrast in such a way as to paint an awfully "simple" picture. However, the opposite is true — in a way, I suppose — in that I take great joy out of devising alternativ eways to solve problems, and delight in learning my life's lessons, regardless of whether they are fortunate or a bit more… shattering.

(As a side, that is an interesting concept from a design perspective. I desire only to find a simplicity akin to the Zen master in my thoughts, but realise it takes a cluster of confusing experiential fuck-ups to be able to render aspects of my ego moot.)

On a much grander scale, I use what I know of myself and my attempts to understand my dynamics with others as an analogy for how society continues to develop, for itself, new challenges. Even in advancing ourselves as a whole, we render aspects of our social personality moot (organised religion, and I predict we'll see the waning of the State over time now, along with such reliance on our own physiological and neurological limitations — hello libertarian transhumanism!).

Unfortunately, it's harder than it seems at first to completely extinguish certain antiquated characteristics that I've developed. For example, I am quick to judge pretty women. If a see an attractive girl belonging to any fashion tribe outside of punk or a more conservative librarian sort of aesthetic, I automatically presume she's going to be a) shallow, b) vain, c) an idiot, d) boring, or e) any of the above. Now, as stereotypes, like myths, tend to come from somewhere, quite often certain elements listed here are often predominant in many women that lead a life in which they rely on their looks to accomplish their objectives. There seems to be no end to the amount of men (and other women) who will do more for a pretty face than for others, and research has revealed this to be statistically accurate. Growing up in a suburb known for it's "white trash with cash," or, in other words, under-cultured and over-paid, my clique and I dealt with rich bitches as a constant while growing up in our formative years.

This is a stereotype I've had to work on for years, and in the course of my prejudice, I've come to pre-judge many, many beautiful women. Fortunately for me, most of the time my profile fits and I can often pick out many uncanny details that will allow me gauge self-esteem and other elements that make for an interesting female acquaintance. Also, it has proven to be an interesting way to meet some of my closest friends, such as Melanie and Tara. They turned out to be much more complex than I initially had the capacity to presume. Good thing for me, I have charisma to fall back on. Or their pity, one of the two.

On the other hand, it is a rare thing for me to come across a gem such as my friend Seana who is in no way afflicted with social mores. She has her own concepts of what is sexy, borrowing from numerous subcultures and fashion eras, and she upholds her own concept in favour of others.

I like to think that I'm moving beyond the programme I developed as a youth, and in turn am just critical of pretty girls now, rather than mean. I give everyone a chance, as I've learned the hard way you can't judge every book by its cover.

It's also interesting to note that we seem to be making these tools as a society. The development of A.I. and robotics — in obvious conjunction with cybernetics and the phenomenal arts and philosophies that have grown out of such fields in the past two decades — are an expression of something inside of us. Paradox or no, this new cybernetic era will be interesting. I see an enlightened disposition of good will and libertarianism among the so-called geeks at the forefront of this new age, and they've embraced the group over the individual. In the form of Web 2.0, wikis, blogs, and the open concepts of letting the user build their own interface, a personalised door to all the information of humanity is being built for each and every user. It further removes the concept of individual as we explore the social effect in hyper-time, where communities can rise and fall like the waves atop an ocean.

In the end, we're creating tools — cybernetics and androids — to replace us. And why not? Let the beautiful part of us build a better vessel for the Universe to experience itself in. Let's give up who we are to allow for a better way to emerge.

We are not for ever.

1 comment:

~D~ said...

Hm, I'm disappointed you removed your observation about intelligent women and their 'conundrum' towards their heightened awareness of personal aesthetic despite their capacity for moving past it; how the pretty but simple ones have it easier. It's truly frustrating to overcome. It's hard enough as a female, being pre-dispositioned for alertness towards self-image in the first place, much less as a more perceptive one who's truly cognizant of what it ripples down to affect. It's a purposeful mental effort to prevent the knowledge from allowing oneself to withdraw further…

Not sure of my point, other than it was an impressive observation for a man to make. It also goes far to explain how soooo many god-awful singers make it onto American Idol: the talented ones are aware of their limitations, minute or not, and are sitting at home.