Ernst Haeckel’s drawing of mammalian brains, from the fifth edition of The Evolution of Man (1910).
In the December 2014 issue of e-flux journal, Franco "Bifo" Berardi examines a fundamental tenant of transhumanism: "neuroplasticity," the notion that our brain and neural system can be reshaped to adapt to radically new ways of life. Bifo warns that this adaptability is already being exploited by those who want to turn our brains into algorithm-processing machines. But it can also be used, Bifo argues, for liberatory ends:
A dilemma casts a shadow over the near future: Do we adapt our neural systems to a social and physical environment that is becoming more and more intolerable to human sensibilities? Or do we pursue the autonomous reorganization of the general intellect? The first case is already largely on display in present social behavior: thanks to the globalized media system, we are daily exposed to images of unspeakable violence, torture, humiliation, misery, displacement, and the deportation of millions of children, women, and elderly people. But we are becoming more and more capable of deactivating compassion, up to the point that mass cynicism acts like a moral anesthesia. Permanent exposure to horror deactivates our ethical sentiment. Empathy is atrophied.
But neuroplasticity can go in the opposite direction. The plasticity of our neural systems can be the condition for a fundamental reactivation of the psycho-cognitive apparatus in its social expression. Neuroplasticity can be the condition for the reactivation of empathy and political solidarity—necessary conditions for a process of self-organization of the general intellect driven by ethical and aesthetic sensibilities rather than by the an-ethical impulse of economic competition.
Read the full article here.