The artist character in David Bunch’s short story ” 2064, or Thereabouts” is a part-machine, part-human compilation who has reached his older years. This is suggested in the wiry white beard he has and in the rusted out, worn out, torn down appearance of his figure. He arrives at an enclosed structure in search of a peaceful watcher. He is representative of every person who has ever gone against the prescribed path to life to try to find their own way. This is suggested when he tells the narrator, ” I was never content to go behind some weapons, and a Wall to live with the Wonderful Appliances. In short, I could never quite find my place in the stability of the New Processes society” (94). The artist is searching for his true meaning in life, the deep, unfed spark that gives him purpose, but he never finds it because that purpose is in the seeking rather than the finding.
Joe Haldeman ” The Private War of Private Jacob”
The narrator of this story is Private Jacob, a soldier who fights doggedly forward at the commands of his sergeant even though he doesn’t seem to really understand why they are fighting or what they are fighting for. When other soldiers try to explain difficult concepts to him, Jacob is confused but tries to puzzle them out in his own time, trying to keep an eye on what’s going on inside his own head. However, because of the computer link the Army has established with its soldiers’ brains through their helmets, Jacob’s thoughts are not always his own, so sometimes the story switches into second person perspective to illustrate that Jacob is not the one doing the thinking.
Cordwainer Smith ” Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”
The ” Rediscovery of Man” within the book is the rediscovery of uncertainty, without the carefully regulated structure of the world people live in. By exploring this world, people are able to experience uncertainty, imperfectness, fear, hate, anger, excitement, and love. They rediscover the wonders of the past such as unique foods, languages, and weather anomalies, but they also come to realize the degree to which they have been controlled by machines and the important role played by the homunculi in directing their lives. This rediscovery is very unsettling to the true humans as they become able or inable to accept these realities of their world and the only failsafe is to erase the memories of the day.
Transhumanism is a term that refers to the transitional state of human beings as we go from the creations of natural selection to the post-human state, whatever that will be, that will be the result of intelligent design. Transhumanists ” yearn to reach intellectual heights as far above any current human genius as humans are above other primates; to be resistant to disease and impervious to aging; to have unlimited youth and vigor; to exercise control over their own desires, moods, and mental states” (3). There are several benefits and criticism to transhumanism which are also reflected in short stories such as David Bunch’s ” 2064, or Thereabouts.”
Two of the advantages of transhumanism are the cessation of aging and death and the ability to continue developing intellectually. ” People will begin to live for hundreds and then thousands of years, adding mental features like telepathy and physical features like super-strong bone structure; and, finally, we will begin to merge with our technological creations: the machines” (5). As we evolve into this state, we become more and more interconnected, more able to understand each other, and less in need of fighting over resources, leading us to the creation of a ” single, distributed and interconnected ‘brain’” (6). Without fear of death and with the increase in shared intelligence, we become our own gods.
However, these advantages may also bring about their own disadvantages such as the end of humanity or, at the least, the complete destruction of human culture as a guiding force to life. As machines become integrated with people and vice versa, there is the danger of the machines taking over everything important to biological human life, eventually determining its redundancy and eliminating it since the machines are then capable of reproducing themselves. By moving us into a transhumanist state, there are some critics that fear we will also eliminate considerations of those values that make us human such as limitation, jealousy, and love. These are the elements that ” make life livable and that bind us as a species, but the complexity of our current culture would collapse should this foundation be shaken” (8) and the transhumanists offer nothing solid to replace it.
These concepts and fears are easily seen in Bunch’s story ” 2064, or Thereabouts.” In this story, biological humans have been almost completely replaced by mechanical parts as each of the characters is described. Only flesh-pieces remain here and there upon the characters’ bodies indicating that they can live as long as they wish. However, there is no sense of the interconnectedness of transhumanism as each character remains in doubt of the other and unable to connect with each other. The artist remains ever hopeful, though, that he will find that elusive spark of human purpose if he only continues to search. The story reflects more of the fears of transhumanism, though, as the culture has clearly been obliterated and the artist, once he leaves the safety of the narrator’s Walls, is blown to pieces by a mocking neighbor who shows no signs of remorse or compassion.