jump to navigation

The Singularity to mandate universal sexiness June 16, 2010

Posted by Summerspeaker in Evo psych, Feminism, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
trackback

For whatever reason, the concept  of improved attractiveness from Michael Anissimov’s famous top ten list has been making rounds on Facebook lately. The fervor for enhanced physical appearance makes me uncomfortable. The discussion uncritically accepts Michael’s articulation of attractiveness as hardwired rather than culturally constructed. I suspect the whole notion of wanting to engage in sex acts with people based on how they look is as much invented as inborn. The fact that Michael selected the image of a thin, phenotypically white women in twentieth-century Western feminine attire to embody beauty bolsters my case. I applaud the ability to easily shift appearances if it encourages variety and undermines gender. If instead the technology codifies existing patriarchal norms and enshrines objectification, then I’m not interested.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. rechelon - June 17, 2010

> I suspect the whole notion of wanting to engage in sex acts with people based on how they look is as much invented as inborn.

I really, really wish that was the case for everyone. Despite my constant paranoia about socialization, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that my visual focus is largely genetic. I’ve been pretty strongly dissatisfied with the suboptimal ethicality of my heterosexuality for as long as I can remember (as opposed to a more inclusive, less visually locked pan/bi), and the opportunity to finally have a crack at that source code is an amazingly strong appeal to transhumanism.

2. Chaz.Forgiste - June 17, 2010

I can see what makes someone attractive to the average male, but I do not personally feel attracted to such characteristics. I tend to ignore appearance to some extent, but am more aroused by virtous people. Aspects of character, such as curiosity, open-mindedness, humility, and self-respect are what I find attractive.

3. Summerspeaker - June 18, 2010

Despite my constant paranoia about socialization, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that my visual focus is largely genetic.

How can you tell?

I’ve been pretty strongly dissatisfied with the suboptimal ethicality of my heterosexuality for as long as I can remember (as opposed to a more inclusive, less visually locked pan/bi), and the opportunity to finally have a crack at that source code is an amazingly strong appeal to transhumanism.

This makes think of the reorientation machines from Sam Delany’s novel Trouble on Triton.

4. rechelon - June 21, 2010

> How can you tell?

That’s like asking for a doctoral thesis there’s so much to cover.. 1) I was raised in an obsessive socialist-feminist bubble ridiculously disconnected from the outside world (absolutely no tv, magazines, leaving the school environment, etc), yet I strongly triggered on a certain range of thin female forms the moment I hit puberty and it certainly wasn’t reflective of something like how they carried themselves. 2) While the intensity/scope of my visual triggers falls close or largely within the much broader realm of socialized conceptions of beauty, it also falls within the much narrower and more precise subgroup formed by my het male relatives, regardless of social/spatial remove. 3) It’s too visceral. The pattern recognition of curves is too core to fiddle with and at various times I’ve been able to eventually fiddle with pretty much every structure in my mind — I can reverse sensations, bundle and unbundle all sorts of stuff, rewrite my reflexes… pretty much the only thing I maddeningly can’t find even a trace of access to (much less force access to) are a subgroup of sexual triggers, including smell and visual curve recognition. Amazingly, with a ton of comparison and investigation it seems like the whole curve recognition suckerpunch to the brain occurs before any of my normal brain process would usually even begin to decipher what I’m looking at.

Bleh, being asked “how can you tell” something like this is obnoxious because language doesn’t have the bandwidth to discuss the full mechanisms of our internal realm. But further it’s infuriating because it presumes that I’m not a fully conscious human who’s done enough vigilant internal investigation to be aware of how my thoughts and perceptions function. There’s a slew of evidence constantly churning up in the most diverse and solid studies that there are biological-caused strong visual triggers to attraction (to widely varying degrees and most strongly concentrated in males). Obviously socialization can influence this significantly, particularly by adding extra stuff (albeit to a less instinctive response), but come on. While it would be nice to live in a magical fairy world in which the entirety of beauty and visual attraction was naught but a social construct, the tendency in radical circles of aggressively and perpetually biasing the burden of proof on biological hypotheses sometimes just makes us look lame. We’re transhumanists. Why care so much about what’s human nature and what’s a social construct? We’re out to transcend both.

5. Michael Anissimov - June 21, 2010

Summerspeaker, you’re against anything that affirms the power or beauty of the individual or in any way undermines us from all becoming socialist drones.

You don’t have to be “interested” if technology becomes available that allows continued improvement of personal appearance, it will happen anyway.

I suspect the whole notion of wanting to engage in sex acts with people based on how they look is as much invented as inborn.

This statement shows how massively brainwashed you really are. There is a mountain of scientific research that contradicts this. Organisms have been carefully selecting mates based on fitness indicators since the dawn of sexual reproduction. There is definitely a cultural component to attractiveness, but there is also a human-universal instinctual bedrock of attractiveness-appraising neural machinery.

6. Summerspeaker - June 21, 2010

But further it’s infuriating because it presumes that I’m not a fully conscious human who’s done enough vigilant internal investigation to be aware of how my thoughts and perceptions function.

Wait just a moment. I presume no such thing. You speak as if we’ve solved the matter of human thought and behavior. I certainly wouldn’t claim to perfectly understand my own mind. I don’t know what about my personality comes from nature and what comes from environment. I hold various guesses and assumptions but have no overwhelming evidence.

Though I’m sure you can detect my skepticism, I asked out of curiosity as much as anything. I’m glad you shared your story. It’s interesting in how dramatically it conflicts with my own experience. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be raised in socialist-feminist bubble. I find I can easily alter my perception of sexual attractiveness through conscious effort. Honestly, the whole visual thing confuses me somewhat. I consider sexuality far more about the sense of touch. We both should be careful about universalizing. In my case the culprit could be that goddamn gay gene I’m always hearing about. (What the hell? I don’t even wear jeans!) We’ll see.

While it would be nice to live in a magical fairy world in which the entirety of beauty and visual attraction was naught but a social construct, the tendency in radical circles of aggressively and perpetually biasing the burden of proof on biological hypotheses sometimes just makes us look lame.

I cannot agree. Particularly when appeals to innateness conform to the patriarchal account, the burden of proof ought to be extremely high. Don’t underestimate the difficult involved here. I’ve read so much dubious evolutionary psychology it makes my brain hurt just remembering. Culture is omnipresent. You can’t design an experiment or setup a laboratory outside of its influence. Proceeding with caution and humility stands as the only wise course.

Why care so much about what’s human nature and what’s a social construct? We’re out to transcend both.

It’s necessary to distinguish. If, as you and Michael argue, sexual attraction is more parts nature than culture, any program aiming to smash the patriarchy needs to take that into account. Conversely, trying to biologically rewire social programming dooms you to disappointment. Most critically I fear the future being hijacked by supposedly scientifically informed male supremacy. The patriarchy ain’t some ivory-tower theory but a global human rights crisis that affects billions each day. All research conducted on the subject of gender and sexuality needs to understand this political context.

Summerspeaker, you’re against anything that affirms the power or beauty of the individual or in any way undermines us from all becoming socialist drones.

Why must your attacks on me always be so far from the mark, Michael? I’m an abundance anarchist not some scary Stalinist. If all goes according to my design individuals will enjoy unprecedented liberty and there won’t be a single (sentient) drone.

You don’t have to be “interested” if technology becomes available that allows continued improvement of personal appearance, it will happen anyway.

Depends on the status of that feminist revolution I’ve been talking about. As I wrote in the post, I of course support morphological freedom. But our actions have meanings and consequences. The notion of sexiness embodied by the female form is a tool of the patriarchy.

Also, though they can go together, there’s a distinction between sexual attractiveness and aesthetic appeal. You seem focused on the former. Is the idea of being surrounded by OMG hawt folks really so desirable?

This statement shows how massively brainwashed you really are.

That the brainwashing appears to work in practice actually bolsters my case. There ain’t nothing wrong with a little self-conditioning. As noted earlier, though, perhaps I’m deluded by the queer code in my DNA.

Organisms have been carefully selecting mates based on fitness indicators since the dawn of sexual reproduction.

Yes, but they lacked the wonderfully flexible general purpose intelligence that we possess.

7. Valkyrie Ice - June 21, 2010

Fun thread.

If you’ve seen my Avatar, or been to my blog (which I know you have been Summer) then you know that I plan to look like a succubus someday. I designed my form and figure from scratch to appeal to what I find “sexy” for myself and myself alone.

Why? Because having that form makes me comfortable. It matches my self image, not my physical body. When I am in SL, I feel more relaxed, more “myself” than I do IRL. I don’t really care if anyone else finds me “sexy”, even though I know for a fact that others will, because I don’t look that way to please anyone but myself.

And I am not alone in that either. Everyone wants to look the way they want to look. You might find my appearance an “Objectification” of stereotypes, and indeed, many have, including myself. I freely admit to having objectified myself, because I’m an artist, and I’ve made myself into a work of my own art. But I did so BECAUSE I CHOSE TO. Not because I was forced too.

That’s the difference. Yes, people will to some extent use morphological freedom to reinforce stereotypes, but the very fact that morphological freedom will exist will destroy the basis for those stereotypes. Every stereotype exists because we have not previously been able to change the results of the genetic lottery which has dictated such things as race, gender, and appearance. There WILL be a period during which morphological freedom will be used to do little but promote those same old stereotypes, when millions will simply copy the latest hollywood icon of male or female beauty. I see it quite often in SL among those who are new to the environment.

But in time, those who stay invariably begin to grow more comfortable with that ability to chose personal appearance. They become more comfortable exploring that freedom, and begin to experiment more with new forms.

So yes, at first we will see an intensification of old stereotypes, and increased objectification, and then we will get used to fact that no-one HAS TO REMAIN A STEREOTYPE, and those behaviors will gradually fade away.

8. Summerspeaker - June 21, 2010

Intriguing, especially the use of Second Life as evidence. If it turns out as you predict that would be a lot better than some of the other options. I’m uncomfortable, however, with the notion that appealing to individual choice makes a decision beyond critical analysis. Where do our choices come from and what meaning do they have in the broader social context? The succubus image and concept, for example, has a whole train of cultural baggage behind it.

9. Valkyrie Ice - June 21, 2010

I never said it made a decision beyond critical analysis. There is indeed an enormous amount of cultural baggage behind any sort of icon. The same can be said for those who would chose to be elves, anime cat girls, and even Klingons.

But right now, we are faced with a serious disconnect between our mental and physical selves. We can grow and change and develop our mental selves, but at present, our physical bodies don’t. Regardless of who we are mentally, we are forced to remain the same physically, with only a limited amount of change possible.

So most of us hide our mental selves behind our physical selves. We hide ourselves behind the expectations that match our physical bodies, regardless of whether those expectations are remotely appropriate for our mental selves. I am an extreme example, because not only is my physical body male, but I’m built like a linebacker, which forces the stereotype of “big dumb jock” on me, despite the fact that I am, and always have been, neither dumb, or a jock.

So because of this habit of hiding, most of us are uncomfortable at first with actually getting to be who we are mentally. I’ve seen this many times in SL, and gone through it myself. In fact if you’re interested I wrote about it in a possible first chapter to a book I am thinking about writing. I just posted it to my blog: http://valkyrieice.blogspot.com/2010/06/following-is-opening-chapter-of-book.html

It’s that “getting used to” phase which will create the intensification of stereotypes, because at first most people will be uncomfortable with having the freedom to choose, and many will actually be terrified of it, and demonize it, and those who embrace that freedom. There will be those who use it to make themselves into Arnie on steroids, and those like me who will chose to have bodies Pamela would kill for. There will be those who can’t cope at first with the fact that that hot girl used to be a man, just like we trannys already have to deal with, and there will be those who love the fact that they can switch back and forth if they wish.

Hell, I doubt that even furries will have as hard a time as the LGBT have had getting equality, because we’ll have already done a lot of the work for them, and once we can change forms, there’s really no leg left for racism, genderism, or any other kind of prejudice to stand on.

10. Brendan Taylor - June 23, 2010

If instead the technology codifies existing patriarchal norms and enshrines objectification, then I’m not interested.

This is exactly why I think it’s a bad idea to focus on approaching transhumanity rather than fixing existing societies. Unless things change radically before “improved appearance” becomes possible in the way that we’re talking about, the technology will inevitably be used in ways that reinforce existing patriarchal norms.

There is great promise in technology, but the ways that it changes societies are difficult to control. My experience is that most people who consider themselves transhumanists/technology fans/whatever have far too much faith in the inherent goodness of new technologies.

11. Summerspeaker - June 23, 2010

Brendan, my interest in future technologies comes partially out of pessimism with the present struggle. Let me channel a bit of Marx for a moment. Changing material conditions matter. I see a potential space for revolutionary success within the disruption and disorder. If people who value liberty and equality understand the possibilities ahead we can take advantage of them as they arise. That’s the theory I’m operating under. It’s a long shot, but what isn’t in this business? Ideally we smash the system tomorrow and hold an egalitarian global discussion on how to proceed. We’ll see.

12. Brendan Taylor - June 25, 2010

My fear is that the system gets smashed tomorrow and the same hierarchies reproduce themselves in the aftermath (since we are nowhere near prepared).

But I think I had your purpose entirely wrong, my comment above should have been posted to a blog titled “Singularitying the Queer”. Realizing what you’re doing was a bit of a revelation.

13. Summerspeaker - June 25, 2010

My fear is that the system gets smashed tomorrow and the same hierarchies reproduce themselves in the aftermath (since we are nowhere near prepared).

That’s what tends to happen in revolutions, yes. As your comment implies, even under the best case scenario radical social change will take vast time and effort. The sort of technologies transhumanists dream of and discuss will likely appear during the process. I think there’s merit in contemplating these possibilities in the present.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: