Fluid Gender and Early Transhumanism

The fluidity of gender is a positive development, an attempt to create ‘one’ where previously there were two. In Catholic symbolism, the presence of ‘two’ is always a fundamental problem. Reflected by a devil’s twin horns, where two concepts exist, they necessarily go to war. Nature and technology, for example, and men and women, are binary oppositions currently forced into spiritual war.

But the only good outcome of that war is a synthesis. Man-woman together, as one entity. Nature-technology together, as the same fundamental force. That is the aspiration I move toward, as I must write, despite the seeming decay of the written word, I have known no other future for myself. Perhaps it would have been easier a century ago, and that is the source of many of my biases – perhaps I resent the spoken word of YouTube and the micro-literature of Twitter, and yearn for the classic age of the novel, simple, uniform. But reality cannot be denied – the world is moving into infinite forms, before it can ever possibly lay claim to ‘one’.

In the study of gender, the manifold plurality is what jumps out immediately. The pronoun ‘they’ refers to multitudes, a being who is many beings pressed together. This seems correct – a Jungian understanding of the human being would consider the mind to be a nexus of competing personalities, some male and some female. The result? A singular, unified ‘they’, a host of thoughts both male and female. I see no problem with this.

The problem, with gender studies, is when biology gets denied. Instead of a singular ‘they’ uniting male and female, the inclination is to deny that either category is real, and that they is simply ‘they’, atop an indifferent gender-neutral psycho-biological structure. But this is a low-quality viewpoint. Of course, the differences between men and women on average concerning their interests and personalities are very real. The masculine and the feminine, and their literal counterparts, male and female, are realities of evolutionary biology. The attempt to integrate them into a higher position, however, is why gender is currently such a topic of contestation. I believe that we are living in an age that could be considered Early Transhumanism, when body modifications such as pocket computers and sexual reassignment surgery have begun to redefine what it means to be human. Genetic editing and the artificial womb are sure to follow – humankind is to be separated from its own biology.

This Promethean separation has always been our evolutionary gift. After all, the story of Genesis is the story of technology – we invented clothes to hide our naked bodies. In that instant, we human beings created a mode of being outside of nature, the mode of instrumental technology, malleable into clothing, books, large hadron colliders and staggering cities. An ultimate result of this gift, the ability to make clothing, and fire, is to be found in the CRISPR machine – the ability to edit our own DNA. But if we stagger ignorantly upon such a world-bending device, we will find ourselves shadows of what we could be. I can predict already a progressive-conservative alliance in opposition to eugenics, rejecting the editing of DNA and manufacturing of children.

The artificial womb, which is certainly technologically possible and will become real in the coming decades, stands to remove pregnancy from women. What, then, will women become? Men, of course. And men will become more like women. The allure of artificial wombs will be accelerated by the needs of capitalism – to free women entirely in the workplace is to automate the womb, to remove pregnancy as a factor limiting one’s career. The outcomes for capitalism are fantastic – the wage gap may vanish. But what of us human beings, trained for the duration of our entire evolutionary tree to find a partner? If all of evolutionary biology is not a fraud, then we must concede that the fundamental union of masculine and feminine has been pregnancy and childbirth, throughout history. But no more – technology will separate us further from our own origins.

Sex and relationships are already deeply in decline in the developed world. The benefits of capitalism and globalization create sterile paradises. Everywhere, overconfident men and pornified women compete for pair-bonds, while under the surface, the total alienation of our biological roots grows and grows, like an ink pool in the sea, and I cannot help but notice it. Who will have children anymore? Who will date anymore?

Consider the prospects of a 25-year-old woman, a university graduate, a well-off professional, in 2045. She can waste her time dating online or waiting to find chemistry among the slim number of people she actually encounters on her daily commute, or she can select for the highest-quality donor, raise a child in an artificial womb while losing no time from work, then hire a nanny and live as a part-time single mother. This is the most efficient path to bearing children. A man could do the same thing. If we no longer speak or engage with each other, and if the sexes are in endless conflict, why wouldn’t this become the default mode of parenting? It is, after all, more equal. It involves more choice. And yet, it would raise a generation even further removed from its own biological origins. A new philosophy would have to be invented for them.

Japan is clearly the ground-zero for all this. Men locked up in tiny rooms playing videogames in abject isolation and career-driven young women with no interest in pregnancy are a kind of crystal eyeglass through which to view the future. Loneliness will become more normal than the reverse – being single will be the eternal condition.

The only solution for such a dead-end world is simply to fuse men and women together, to make them the same, to make them the large-eyed, large-brained unigender species that we have envisioned of the alien Gray. That is no alien – it is our future. Historical records have shown that over the past 9,000 years, the human being has become more feminine in facial structure. This trend will only accelerate.

Subjected to ridicule, trans people, and even otherkin, those who identify with non-human species, have found themselves far ahead of the curve. The dissatisfaction with biological nature has become too profound to ignore. Nietzsche, ever the proponent of the will to transform one’s identity and relationship to the world, would gladly applaud the shifting gender dynamics, if only they can continue without losing sight of tangible, personal humanity. That is what we stand to lose – each other, not ourselves. The internet has enmeshed us in ourselves. Indeed, we will never break free of ourselves. The only true ‘outside’ is others, in genuine conversation, in love and in sympathy. That future must be preserved. The melding of men and women into one risks creating totally self-sufficient individuals with no need for others.

The traditionalist sees this, and fears it rightfully, and so he rejects transgender ideas out of a commitment to the original man-woman synthesis, heterosexual marriage and childbirth. It must be understood that this will be the popular response to a total reshaping of humanity – with such vast technological change around the corner, and the loss of the personal felt everywhere, the impulse to ‘go back’ is a powerful one. But it is incomplete. You can rewind the clock as much as you please – the pieces that you cast into disarray will ultimately reform and continue their movement. History has gone the way it has for serious reasons, not trivial ones. Lamenting the loss of gender roles or the triumph of capitalism is to reject the machinations that produce history.

The first step to living in a time of profound chaotic and historical change is to first accept it. Tell yourself, this is a phase of history, the phase of Early Transhumanism. I live in a world dominated by capitalism, marketing, mass-production, the copying and transmitting of memes, of junk information, a world adrift in a blood-orange sea of information and uncertainty, a long-lasting grief despite constant technological progress and prosperity, a deep confusion and mercurial curiosity seizing us when we pause to conceive of our own nature. The balance between adjusting and preserving is the golden philosopher’s stone we seek. But what to do? I have thought about these questions for years and only now come to small answers, seeds of an approach, and my thoughts change weekly.

One thought on “Fluid Gender and Early Transhumanism”

  1. I would argue that evolutionary psychology presents us with a genre of stories in another category— possibly true, maybe even “probably true,” but (in my opinion) “interesting” only in a peculiarly narrow way, almost as a form of literature or creation myth. Stories about why humans developed certain psychological tendencies — as opposed to what those tendencies **actually are,** which is endlessly interesting— are not generalizable to any other species, are not testable against any other species’ experience, and tell us nothing about how to behave or about how humans may evolve thousands of years hence. (These theories also differ from all other forms of evolutionary study in that we cannot find past human mental states in a fossil record.) Knowing that my mind tends to wander, and that I tend to generalize from insufficient evidence, I fail to see how it is “interesting” to “know” or to tell myself a speculative story that a wandering mind that leapt to conclusions helped our species to survive. Similarly with observed psychological differences between (among) genders. Their persistence is “interesting,” their misty origin stories are not, since we can never know how malleable gender roles actually are unless we try new ones. Yet plenty of people smarter than I am find these stories fascinating.

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