artist, journalist, bodybuilder, practitioner of new technologies...
You've been described as an superhuman object of desire, combining the virtues of Madonna,
Schwarzenegger and Marcel Duchamp. How would you describe yourself ?
I like being referred to as superhuman and an object of desire!
Could you tell us something about Extropism
and Transhumanism ?
My deep interest in pursuing knowledge about life extension
sciences and technologies is steered by a practical optimism. It is essential to continue
evolutionary advances by using technology to extend life, augment intelligence, optimize
psychology, and improve social systems. We are changing and we will continue to acquire
greater capabilities with which to enjoy our lives and the universe around us. In doing
so, I find it advantageous to challenge conventional thinking about human limits and think
about how technologies will improve our future.
The footnote here is that attempting to change conventional
thinking requires both sensibility and understanding. Many people find it difficult to
adapt to new ways of thinking, especially when it involves biotechnology. Rather than
alienate those who question the ethics or the direction of science and technology, I try
to understand opposing views.
Extropy Institute acts as a repository and portal for detailing
information on advanced technologies and their positive potentials as well as their
challenges, and their possible dangers.
The extropian philosophy is a specific type of transhumanism and
a philosophy of life that seeks the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of
intelligent life beyond its currently human form and limits. The integration of technology
seems to be a positive way to do this as evidenced by any heart transplant and prosthetic
limb. The extropian philosophy encourages the use of science and technology, guided by
This form of technophile optimism seems to
correspond so perfectly with what is essentially the geographic cradle of Hollywood stars
and Silicon Valley start-ups, that it's hard to imagine Extropism or Transhumanism
originating anywhere else other than California. To what do you attribute the particular
brand of energy and, often extraordinary, expression of avant-gardism, which apparently
excites and inspires this corner of the globe to such an extent ?
Actually, transhuman ideas didnt start in California, but
it did develop here. The ideas have been derived across geographic landscapes and
psychological borders. In my book Create/Recreate: The 3rd Millennial Culture I discuss
the beginnings of transhumanity. I wrote about the transhuman timeline and designed a
graph (Transhuman Timeline) indicating human ingenuity over centuries and
manifestation of our ideas.
Many of the ideas that transhumanists expand on today were
developed over time and those who first used them did not refer to themselves as
transhumanists, but in essence they were because they wanted to expand on life in positive
ways and understood our continuous merging with technology.
The first transhumanist ideas were presented by the author
FM-2030 at the New School of Social Research in New York City in 1960s. I started
Transhumanist Arts in the early 1980s based on my work generated in the 1970s while living
in Telluride, Colorado. Although FM influenced my work immensely early on, I continue to
be influenced by many individuals who have an uncanny ability to understand the
complexities of the future and make is warm and delightful.
However, living in California, and perhaps Hollywood, have given
me a broader understanding of how the world works. Its quite an enormous playing
field. The incomparable philosopher Max More created Extropy Institute based on his
extropian transhumanist philosophy in the 1980s. It was in the late 1980s and early 1990s
that transhuman ideas started flourishing and this was certainly due to FM, Max and myself
and others here in Southern California.
Which of the following would be most fully
embody the concept of Transhumanism : - a top model whose body has been remodeled by
cosmetic surgery and who spends her time jetting between 5 captials and 4 continents.
- an astronaut in an orbiting space station whose daily bodily functions are reviewed in
minute detail by a whole battery of machines.
- a bisexual porn star, tattooed, pierced and running their own |website...
At first blush, number 1 or 2. But, being transhumanist and being
a transhuman are different concepts. A transhuman is an evolutionary stage from being
exclusively biological to becoming post-biological. Post-biological means a continuous
shedding of our biology and merging with machines. On the other hand, a transhumanism is
not an evolution but a philosophical viewpoint.
Okay, now back to my choices. Id have to go with number 2.
This astronaut exists outside the gravitational field of the earth and her body is working
with machines as a synergistic system to protect and monitor her life. It would seem that
she, out of the three, would be psychologically supportive of far reaching technologies
and extreme life extension. Number 1, the jet-setter is transhuman in her body because of
the biological modifications, but her mind could be either intelligently developed or
pigeonholed in deathist desires. Number 3 seems to show the least outward physical
appearance of a transhuman, but clearly she has moved beyond conventional sex-gender
dogmas in her bisexuality but she might be a religious fanatic and not interested in life
You appeared with your husband in the
article 'The Future Gets Fun Again' in the January 2000 issue of Wired and I imagine you
share the author's enthusiasm. How do you manage to stay so optimistic when so many of our
contemporaries, including a large number of intellectuals and scientists, have serious
reservations about our future on this planet ?
WIREDs piece The future Gets Fun Again or
Dont Die, Stay Pretty was an exciting interview for me because I was
asked about future transhuman bodies and I was able to elaborate on speculative ideas
about posthumans. I was delighted to be featured on the splash page across from Ms.
Calment known for having lived longer than any human. I think that one reason
its not difficult for me to be optimistic about the culture and the future is
because I enjoy problem solving and I my radar is persistently focused on psychology. The
latter is a favorite pastime for me. Why does a person think the way he does, what
happened in his life to cause him to have one reaction rather than another. Why do some
people gyrate toward one particular belief system over another?
Humans and transhumans are complex creatures and our thinking is
full of contradictions. Someone may be very advanced in one line of thinking and very
archaic in another. Another reason why I am able to be optimistic is because I have
enormous respect for human and transhuman cognitive capabilities and our ability to put
our words in to action. Ingrained in our psychology is a desire to overcome odds and these
are the people I tend to bet on.
How are your views generally received by the
media ? I would imagine that your unadulterated confidence in the future and your
voluntarist optimism must have shaken up a fair few...
So far so good. I have been interviewed for many television
programs and there was only one program I was totally embarrassed about. It was called
The Other Side. The producer tricked me into thinking that they were
supportive of superlongevity. Not. I was also on The Geraldo Rivera Show, and Geraldo was
enthusiastic, but then I didnt discuss anything really pertaining to human/machine
interface. Most of the print interviews I have done have been quite good, but only a
smidgen are skeptic. Id like to do an interview with Interview magazine and also
appear on Barbara Walters show, and Politically Incorrect. This would give me more
of a finger on the pulse.
What's a typical day in the life of an
Extropian ? One can conjure up a picture of you all living in palacial californian
residences, rubbing shoulders exclusively with the beautiful and intelligent, revelling in
a hedonism light years away from the reality of the working masses... Practically a
eugenicist's dream come true/ wet dream.
I dont know about anyone else, but I live in an aesthetic
environment and love rubbing shoulders with beautiful people. But I view beauty as a
seven-letter word: intelligence. One aspect of my life that I keep close to the chest is
that I live a duo-life. One half of me is in Telluride skiing, the film festival, at
Hollywoods parties and celeb friends. The other half of me is content working in my
digital studio, writing, going to the gym, playing with my cats, gardening and taking
short walks to the ocean.
But let me get back to your question. Most of my research is
produced with people I meet in every day life situations. I have worked with the many
types of people because it creates a balance in my own life. For example, I was in the
merchant marines for a couple of years as the chief and I sailed on merchant sea vessels.
I was also a construction worker in Vail, Colorado at one time. There is a type of
Gurdjieff-like quality to learning how to free oneself from class stature and discover
what it is like to be around those who have no idea of my own background.
Yet, at the same time, I am very comfortable in the company of
some of the worlds most intelligent, talented and beautiful people. There is something
very moving about being with close to such elegance as Raquel Welch or Sophia Loren,
talking with such great minds such as Carl Sagan or Marvin Minsky, or exploring a creative
moment with such talents as Volker Schloendorff or Francis Ford Coppola.
You wrote the Extropic Art Manifesto. How do
you see the evolution of artistic expression in the 21st century. Some would say that
everything has already been done in art. What would be your reply to them ?
Gary Snyder said it best in an essay in his book A Place In
Space. That essay is titled "The Porous World":
"When asked 'What is finally over the top of all the
information chains?' one might reply that it must be the artists and writers, because they
are among the most ruthless and efficient information predators. They are light and
mobile, and can swoop across the tops of all the disciplines to make off with what they
take to be the best parts, and convert them into novels, mythologies, dense and esoteric
essays, visuals or other arts, or poems. And who eats the artists and writers? The answer
must be that they are ultimately recycled into the beginners, the students. That's where
the artists and writers go, to be cheerfully nibbled and passed about."
This paragraph is raw and rich and provoking. It reminded me that
yes, indeed, this is what I enjoy. And it reminded me that this is why I learned the
"skill" of "art"to develop a keen awareness of the times in
which I live and to integrate what I value into whatever artistic mode works best for me
and to feed that synthesized and nourished matter back into culture.
What changes in art and the arts are the tools. It is tiresome to
deal with some of the people behind the emerging technologies that will improve and extend
our lives and try to explain to them why the arts are integral. Why develop ways to live
longer if we do not emphasize the wonders and joys of life! Humans, including transhumans,
want to express themselves. Self-expression is a marvelous way to free the
human/transhuman spirit and develop a sense of courage and resourcefulness. It helps to
instill a sense of self-responsibility as well as compassion.
You practise bodybuilding daily. Could you
elaborate on the relationship between your work as an artist and this discipline ? I
believe that you view the body as a medium for artistic expression, a medium to be shaped
and transformed according to one's desire and inspirations...
Yes, I view the body as an artistic expression. I also view the
mind and manner of living as artistic expressions. What if a body could be more powerful,
better suspended, more flexible, its body offering extended performance and Italian style.
What about a body with a Metabrain the expansive interior giving 100 quadrillion
plus synapse capability with a wide range of optional features. And, perhaps a
nano-engineered fluid chassis reconfigures under the guidance of networked AI.
The body, as we transform ourselves over time, will take on
different types of appearances and designs and materials. Consider the body as a fashion
statement and having the ability to alter it in many ways to reflect how one feels and
what one is doing. I would want a different design for a party look than I would want for
hiking a mountain. But both designs Id like to have my body accommodate my needs.
For hiking a mountain, Id like extended leg strength,
stamina, a skin-sheath to protect me from damaging environmental aspects,
self-moisturizing, cool-down capability, extended hearing and augmented vision (Network of
sonar sensors depicts data through solid mass and map images onto visual field. Overlay
window shifts spectrum frequencies. Visual scratch-pad relays mental ideas to visual
recognition bots. Global Satellite interface at micro-zoom range).
For a party, Id like an eclectic look - a glistening bronze
skin with emerald green highlights, enhanced height to tower above other people, a
sophisticated internal sound system so that I could alter the music to suit my own taste,
memory enhance device, emotional-select for feel-good people so I wouldnt get
dragged into anyones inappropriate conversations. And parabolic hearing so that I
could listen in on conversations across the room if the one I was currently in started
Looking at society on a broad scale, there seems to be an
imbalance between how much effort we invest in actively pursuing sensory experiences and
how much we passively experience sensory stimuli. We know that our brains sort through
sense information to keep us from being bombarded by an information brigade. The
brains gauge on the amount of sensory data we receive is to protect us.
We should be very glad for this, but it seems that a full
enjoyment of the senses for aesthetic purposes is somewhat restricted. Could there be a
social imprint on our minds instructing us to believe that pleasurable senses are
semi-erotica tabootoo much of a pleasure to fully exercise? Is there an innate
psychological auto-turn off switch?
Throughout culture, historical icons are often those who
feel something more than others do and express it in unique ways. We are often
fascinated by someone who sees differently or has a different
perspective on life. Although Oscar Wilde said, It is better to have a
permanent income than to be fascinating
In Walter Jon Williams Aristoi, the character Gabriel was a
sensory elite. He designed the World, Illyricum and gave it an alluring blue light. His
environment had to be not simply real, but finer, more real, than reality
itself. He designed his appearance with a slight exaggeration built into its
visual and tactile dimensions.
In-depth training of the senses is often thought to be only for
the artist, the gifted or talented, but not for everyone. Thus, just as someone may not
take the time to study astrophysics or computer programming, one may not take the time to
study the senses. Such training is designed to teach a person how to fully recognize the
value of aesthetics and brings it into focus as a quintessential part of life. As Goethe
said, Our senses dont deceive us: our judgement does.
Emphasis on one sense over another may lead to an individual
sensory hierarchy. Dancers are kinesthetically dominant and designers are visually
outstanding. Musicians use the auditory sense foremost and haute couture, a sense of
touch. Although the hierarchy is understandable and necessary in this regard, an expansive
full use of the senses gives a broader and richer scope. Just as a musician who is not
tactilely sensitive or who does not see the musical note may be sensorially handicapped,
the person who does not fully use his senses may be missing out on many experiences and
wonders of life.
Shaping the mind is quite a skill and talent! We can change
ourselves by first wanting to, and then taking action.
With respect to the human body, are you
interested in body modifications and the work of artists such as Sterlac who focus on
implants and body extensions. Your own approach seems a more naturalistic one by
I like Stelarc and look forward to a collaboration at some point.
Where we both augment and enhance our bodies and integrate our bodies with machines. Both
of us are performance artists and both of us are excited about augmenting our bodies and
brains. Perhaps the difference between our art is that I am involved in superlongevity and
lift weights? I think that as far as posthuman (no longer exclusively biological) is
concerned, nobody knows what we will look like, or what we will be. Putting a piece of
technology on ones body does not necessarily make good art, nor is it futuristic.
What goes on in our brains how we think is much more impressive, and
eventually the meshing of human and machine that be natural and the
late-transhuman stage as natural as how humans view themselves today, that a
posthuman will not seem to remote.
Freeing the self from biological
constraints, increased life expectancy and immortality are some of your main concerns.
What do you think the next technological discoveries or revolutionary breakthroughs are
likely to be which will bring us closer to achieving these goals ? Do you believe that we
might live to witness such cataclysmic developments in our own lifetimes ?
I think that reversing aging is a next big step. Once we
understand what causes death, we can handle disease. Another big step will be designing
whole body prosthetics. Nanomedicine will have a major influence on medical procedures.
What advice would you give to someone who
wished to improve their life expectancy ?
Protect yourself. Keep learning and improving. Exercise and enjoy
life. Discover what makes you happy and put as much of it in your life as possible. Stay
away from anyone who interferes with your well being: your family and your livelihood. Say
away from people who think they can trick you into believing they are smart but really
want to take your essence. Its a bad investment. Get a pet and a loving bedfellow or
. I became interested in Cryonics in 1996
when working on a documentary and drew the conclusion that the current available
technology is insufficient to guarantee that it will be possible to revive those whose
bodies have been suspended/preserved in liquid hydrogen. How did you react when Timothy
Leary - one of the main protagonists of this technique - finally decided not to enter into
Cryonic Suspension at the Alcor Life Foundation and how do you feel about it now ?
Timothy Leary was a friend and someone I adored. I was at his
home two months before he made that decision. We made a video together and discussed
cryonics and he let me know then that he was considering different avenues. I was deeply
saddened by his decision not to be suspended. I remember after his death the memorial
service held at the Santa Monica airport. It was almost unbearable. It was a sanctimonious
display of deathas if dying were an honor. My personal feeling is that Tim was very
impressionable during the final stages of his life and the people who spent a lot of time
around him had specific religious beliefs. While cryonicists were trying to be respectful
of his privacy, others were trying to influence him away from cryonics. Perhaps if more
cryonicists hung around his house and camped out in his living room he would be suspended
now. I suppose Tim is immortal after all, isnt he? His brilliant and riveting ideas
still carry on, if only in digital form.
Lets not end on that note! Id rather fill my mind
with all sorts of challenging ideas. Currently, Im working on a new book project A
Talent For Living: 20 World Class Thinkers Crack the Myths of Mortality. My reason for
engaging myself in this project is because people have written about he sciences and
technologies of extending life but not why we would want to live longer. There is a
sense-ability to living which is deeply ingrained in how seriously we take our future and
how enthusiastic we are about our passions.
We must explore what we admire and have an affinity for. We must
pay attention to cultural nuances. Change is nourishment. If we arent busy moving
toward the untapped ideashowever smart, stinging and verifyingwe are busy
Additionnal reading on the web
Natasha Vita Mores personal website.
The Extropy Institutes website.
Max Mores personal website.