Have We Entered The Biopolitical Age?

Illustration for article titled Have We Entered The Biopolitical Age?

We're obsessed with enhancing our bodies and tuning up our brains; already, our pop culture is full of heroic, cyborg megamutants. But what does it all mean? A seminar in Irvine, CA aims to find out, by exploring "biopolitics."


Caveat: I am a speaker at this seminar, so naturally I'm pretty excited about it. If you're in the Orange County, CA area on Friday, consider coming out to see luminaries like David Brin, Natasha Vita-More, Jess Nevins, and Jamais Cascio (and me!) discuss transhumanism and "The Biopolitics of Popular Culture." Organized by transhumanist braniac James Hughes, the conference will address our biotech future as a meme in pop culture as well as scientific development. Here's a description from the program:

Popular culture is full of tropes and cliches that shape our debates about emerging technologies. Our most transcendent expectations for technology come from pop culture, and the most common objections to emerging technologies come from science fiction and horror, from Frankenstein and Brave New World to Gattaca and the Terminator.

Why is it that almost every person in fiction who wants to live a longer than normal life is evil or pays some terrible price? What does it say about attitudes towards posthuman possibilities when mutants in Heroes or the X-Men, or cyborgs in Battlestar Galactica or Iron Man, or vampires in True Blood or Twilight are depicted as capable of responsible citizenship?

Is Hollywood reflecting a transhuman turn in popular culture, helping us imagine a day when magical and muggle can live together in a peaceful Star Trek federation? Will the merging of pop culture, social networking and virtual reality into a heightened augmented reality encourage us all to make our lives a form of participative fiction?

During this day long seminar we will engage with culture critics, artists, writers, and filmmakers to explore the biopolitics that are implicit in depictions of emerging technology in literature, film and television.


Here's a full list of speakers and a program.

Cost for the day is $150, or $100 for students, and includes lunch. For those who can't make it, the event will also be streaming live here, and a complete video record of the seminar will be posted online later.

Also, the venue for the conference is EON Reality, where engineers are researching 3D projections and other nifty virtual reality/augmented reality tech. There will be a demo!

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The question isn't weather transhumans can live peacefully with humans, it's weather humans can stand to live on a planet with people who have more advantages. The answer seems to be yes but only if precautions are taken, same as rich people living in a place where most people are poor.