Category Archives: technology

Transhuman™

This poem was my contribution to a collection made by the Wyvern Poets with Dundee University as part of this year’s ‘Being Human’ programme in Dundee. The collection took the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a starting point to think about how the story still resonates.

Mary Shelley had probably either seen or was very aware of the showmanship of a character called Giovanni Aldini, who was the nephew of Luigi Galvani [that’s the famous electrical pioneer and zapper of frogs’ legs]. His nephew Aldini went one better and presented spectacles involving electrifying the (human) dead. In the preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley wrote:

“Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.”

As a novel bound up with the question of what it means to be human, Frankenstein remains very much relevant to now. Today there is a collection of real and often troubling ideas involving topics like gene-splicing, bio-hacking, body augmentation, digital consciousness, and no less than the reanimation of cryogenically frozen heads … all enterprises that find their ground somewhere around the idea and under the the banner of “transhumanism”.

This poem came (perhaps from a slightly tongue-in-cheek perspective) from thoughts about Frankenstein, transhumanism, identity and ‘being human’ …

 

Transhuman™ [some assembly required]

Six million dollars doesn’t buy the dream team of once-upon-a-time,
the future’s DIY, blister packed, bubble wrapped, and shipped by UPS.

… check the manifest of better-than-you-were-before;
better, stronger, faster, custom body parts …

They say deluxe membership guarantees personality upload,
your destiny securely backed-up in the eternal cloud.
They just have to work out how to do it, and how,
when, where and if, you might finally come back to life.

… fix cryo-preserved head to brass neck collet
with twin 15mm chromed boris-karloff bolts …

I wonder if bionic organs will harbour residual bodily charms,
some gene squeezed vestigial glamour, post bio-hack-and-splice?
Could you courie in to perfect bliss, a bench-grown better embrace,
cosily snuggle up to a pale cyborg, un-sun-kissed but so sublime?

… kneel and carefully tighten the jesus nut, but note:
improper fitting may fatally void warranty …

Reborn as carbon composite, I discover built-in lingering doubts,
has something (maybe still in the flat-pack?) somehow been left out?

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Ting-a-ling-a-ling

This poem was written after reading an article in New Scientist recently. The article shone a light on current thinking about human brain transplantation.

As the magazine’s leader suggested, whatever we might think about some of the ideas discussed, it is important that they are talked about. Scrutiny matters.

The title of the poem refers to a
World War I airman’s song:

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling / For you but not for me:
For me the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling / They’ve got the goods for me.
Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling? / Oh! Grave, thy victory?
The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling / For you but not for me.

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Ting-a-ling-a-ling

The man who would transplant
a human head, or properly,
exchange a human frame,
Frankenstein or Doctor Strange?
He talks his plan, so far so good,
and sure, well, perhaps, maybe?
Until chillier air keens a chime,
whispering the unsafe word,
                                                      immortality.

An itinerary reminder bings aloud,
it’s Monday, almost midday,
whether my head is there or absentee,
in two minutes the Bute in test
will scream alarm like a scorched banshee.
And in my arms a little twitch,
fingers flicker startle ready,
fumbling set to save my ears – fair warning
                                                      for you and for me.
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Lifted

p1160691-edit

Lifted

(found #micropoem)

alarm bell

car park

upmo

entrance

judo

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Gallery

Something a little different – a gallery with an assortment of some of the images and montages that I’ve made to illustrate this blog over the past wee whiley …


Earthed

Montage

Earthed

Beech pennies tanned rust and ochre,
circles of sky cast in cold pressed leaf,
they do not always look the same,
though Brighty is damp almost all year
the pools are not always present.

I can look above and below,
but not at the same instant.
I must choose one plane,
breathe low and look kindly, and
fix each in focus, turn about.

This short circuit, a balanced cut-log bridge,
needle scent, fern and copper scale contours,
barely fifteen minutes to walk around, but
gently, surely, it all returns to ground.
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The trap

switch

I did not tell you about the light switch
That I had replaced.

It was a faultless trap,
To catch you unawares after a day or so.

When you would reach and use it
Without a second thought.

At an unfussed click, gloom would depart,
Light would simply occur.

Your touch would smile with plain ease,
And you would know.

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Stravaigin’ the scrow

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