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H+ The Digital Series is a television style series that was released through YouTube. It is a project of Warner Brothers and boasts Brian Singer as a producer. The series premiered last year, and as such there are now a number of reviews posted to blogs and websites. Reactions have been mixed, but somewhat uniform within certain online communities. It is these reactions, and not so much my own personal opinions of the series itself, that I will focus attention on here.
The title H+ needs to be understood before anything else, and the series actually makes a point to do this. It begins with a plain black screen and text defining the meaning of the word transhumanism:
“An international movement that supports the transforming of the human body and thereby the human condition through advanced technologies.”
More importantly it is stated that this movement is often abbreviated H+. Yes it is, and few people outside of transhumanist circles realize this. With this high budget series the H+ movement (also called Humanity+, formerly the World Transhumanist Association) truly could have garnered some major attention. Before watching the series I was sure that this was going to be the case and that publicity for Humanity+ would be the main reason for the series’ very existence, but after watching all of the episodes I find myself coming to far different conclusions than what I had expected.
Clearly there must have been some conversation between the producers of H+ The Digital Series and the staff of Humanity+ the movement. If only a brief exchange, permission to use the H+ title should have been asked for. Whether or not this conversation was extended even further, perhaps to a full-on partnership between producers of the series and the Humanity+ staff, I do not know. I scoured internet in search of such information, or for any possible connection between series producers and the transhumanist movement. I was unable to find anything. The two creators/writers of the series, John Cabrera and Cosimo De Tommaso, appear to be your standard Hollywood guys. Their purpose in writing a script infused with transhumanist themes seems to be primarily for entertainment purposes only.
So was H+ The Digital Series a promotion for the movement H+? Ultimately, I think that there is a pro-transhumanist message in the series, however it is one that is by no means appreciated by the transhumanists themselves. Quite the opposite, the reviews that I’ve read on transhumanist websites have all been bad. Perhaps the number one criticism of the series is that it portrays transhumanist ideas in a horribly negative light.
It is easily understood why transhumanists have taken offense to the series. After all it is implantable chips, the likes of which transhumanists promote heavily, that end up being the transmitters for a virus that kills untold millions of people instantaneously. The “H+ nano” implant as it is called in the series brings forth Armageddon. How could this possibly be good publicity for the real life H+ movement? It only makes sense that transhumanists are angry about this production, and have thrown it onto a massive heap of other Hollywood works that they contend portray transhumanist concepts in a purely negative light.
Transhumanists have long complained that Hollywood, and all mass media for that matter, tends to portray subjects such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, biotechnology and cyborgs as evil. The transhumanist cause can’t ever get a leg up due to the enduring negative stereotypes set up by popular fiction. Personally, I couldn’t disagree with this point more, and I have already written an article on the subject. I think that transhumanists are being extremely short-sighted in their criticisms of media, and if they were able to go beyond their own personal biases they would see that the transhumanist cause has actually been promoted by media in a big way.
Has artificial intelligence brought about its fair share of cinematic Armageddons? Hell yes, but the very idea of a technological Singularity is highly apocalyptic. To clarify, the Singularity is a hypothetical future event that occurs when Artificially Intelligent machines become self aware and start improving themselves. They eventually become “superintelligent” and independent of humans. As a consequence of this, machines end up controlling the world. As most transhumanist fantasies go these machines decide to “upgrade”‘ the human race so that they too may partake in superintelligence. How transhumanists ignore that this core concept of their belief system is apocalyptic is anyone’s guess. My guess would be that the transhumanist view of the Apocalypse is no different than anyone else’s. That view tends to be that the Apocalypse is a complete and utter disaster with no possible redeeming value. In contrast, the Singularity ideal represents a thing of beauty which can only bring the world into a higher state of being.
If the transhumanists could come to terms with the fact that they are promoting an apocalypse themselves, then perhaps they would have a different opinion of all the media that they love to hate. A broader understanding of Apocalypse deserves to be mentioned here as well. In the occult tradition the apocalypse is not a single future catastrophe, but rather the end of the world within. It occurs on an individual basis, and is psychological in nature. It ties into the death and rebirth ritual of the initiate. Occult initiation is marked by a change in consciousness. The end of the world is merely the end of old habits, behaviors and thoughts that the initiate used to live out on a daily basis. This change is dramatic enough to symbolically represent an apocalypse, a profound revelation. When understood this way, the apocalypse is not a single future event foretold by prophecy, but rather a continually recurring drama. Yes, this ties in directly to the Christian Revelation of Saint John, and talking about apocalypse in this way is bound to get both Christian and transhumanist fundamentalists enraged to no end. That is because both movements are extreme world-views. They happen to exist at two opposing poles of one greater reality.
The great irony of transhumanism rests in the fact that it is a highly religious movement, and yet most of its adherents are staunch atheists and hold the highest disdain for religion. That the Singularity is “The Rapture for nerds” does not seem to matter to this crowd as they are fully dedicated to their battle against religionists, spiritualists, and sometimes even philosophers. All those who don’t adhere to a strict deterministic mindset are deemed the enemies of Reason. This is an extreme point of view, and as such extreme ideas are promoted by transhumanists. The complete transformation of mankind via technological intervention is a very serious proposition. It equates to the destruction of the entire human world to make way for a recreated posthuman creation. This should absolutely be deemed an apocalypse and we should all be able to see that it takes religious conviction to call for such dramatic changes to our world, let alone to hope that they should come as soon as possible.
Transhumanists might do well to applaud apocalyptic futurist themes in media. In so doing, they would be promoting their cause. Fiction itself is a misunderstood beast. Ironically, it is too often taken literally. The events which occur on screen are taken at face value, and not understood in a symbolic context. When a large portion of the world population dies in a movie it is easy for the viewer to forget that what they are watching is not actually real. This dark vision becomes a dream projected onto a screen. Sure, this is a bad dream, but no one is getting hurt in the real world. An apocalypse is being completely encapsulated within the minds of an audience. While no one is actually being hurt, something powerful is in fact happening. The consciousness of the audience is being played to. If a film is powerful enough, it may even be able to bring about a personal apocalypse for the viewer. That is, a masterfully crafted film can change the mind of viewers. It can alter consciousness itself.
Mind over matter. This is a powerful reality, and one utilized by Hollywood magicians (as they are frequently called) to alter the world. The mind over matter principle simply points out the fact that consciousness drives the human experience. Where the mind focuses attention is where the body will travel. This is how consciousness brings change to our world.
Transhumanists have a difficult time coming to terms with the profound power of consciousness due to their deterministic mindset. It is because they view mind and consciousness as mere byproducts of the brain, as nothing more than electro-chemical reactions, that they are quick to dismiss any of the transcendent qualities of mind. Everything is a product of matter, and so anything intangible is deemed inconsequential. This is why transhumanists hate Hollywood, when they had ought to applaud it. It is why they obsess over minute details, such as whether or not a particular fictional technology would actually work in the real world. It is why they adhere to a religion while simultaneously believing that they are anti-religion. The typical transhumanist perspective is narrow. However, it needs to be mentioned that it is the atypical transhumanists who hold the real power within, and alongside, the Humanity+ movement. It is these individuals who know how to convince the general public that technological upgrades are on their way, and that these technologies will be of benefit to all.
Returning to H+ The Digital Series, all I can do is restate my own confusion as to its full significance. Whether or not it ties back to the transhumanist movement, I do not know. Whether or not transhumanists are right to be upset about it is actually hard to determine. What I do know is that posts promoting H+ The Digital Series on major transhumanist websites are scant to none. What posts can be found are inevitably marked by scathing criticism. It seems clear enough that the series has been reviled by the Humanity+ crowd. I definitely don’t think this was a major cinematic victory for the movement myself. However, the points that I have brought up in this article deserve serious contemplation. The Apocalyptic ideas within transhumanism need to be understood as such.