What is Morphological Freedom?
by Mike Meyer
There are so many land mines in our world that it becoming difficult to find anything like a safe route forward. The road to a successful future will be littered with appendages, components or roles that were either blown off or jettisoned in order to achieve a workable morphology.
Morphology is the key word. While I don’t think most people are that involved with morphology they will be very soon. This has arrived in the form of transhumanist demands for morphological freedom as an inherent right of all sentient creatures. In fact I see this as the underlying issue that has begun tripping up an ever wider group of people including those who think they are arguing about pronouns and gender.
We have had the first announcement of genetically engineered children born in China. That came as such a shock to many that those most prone to being upset by major changes have had trouble getting their outrage working. I’m suggesting that this is now part of a broad redefinition of humans and should be considered from that perspective.
To put this in context we have had a steady movement over the last fifty years into morphological freedom. This is, I think, distinct from previous history that was culturally based in terms of distinctive looks from ethnic dress, hair styles, and augmentation with tattoos , piercings, scarring, decorative insertions, etc. All of these had personal components but were all based on fitting in rather than building individual variations.
The great hair debates of the sixties are now of no real concern except in certain organizations or groups that dictate styles for affinity identification. Hair length and styles are a personal choice and not worth a comment. That was all a long time ago.
This moved through the benign days of punk and spiked hair style development into a variety of piercings. Green hair was once a fairly extreme expression but again now mundane. The point is that there is now a great range of options using what are, effectively, very traditional ways of decorating the human body.
Things have taken a more interesting turn as this movement to individual ornamentation intersected with various ways of indicating gender. Even that was little more than diversity in hair length and style. But then the long over due death of binary culture began to free gender from an extreme and unnatural binary dictate.
As everyone knows this was always a factor in primates and humans that was dealt with in various ways by cultures. Gender is both biological and cultural and both can range freely across the full range of gender to non-gendered preferences. Many cultures dealt with this by defining as many as five genders related to sexual morphology or roles.The movement to a growing inclusive planetary post industrial culture greatly accelerated by networked virtual societies has created space for an infinite range of cultures and identities no longer limited by geographic boundaries and provincial limitations.
The old concept of freedom to act on one’s own volition was always extremely limited by the social instincts and constraints of primates. Our branch, based clearly in Homo sapiens being the third chimpanzee/bonobo family, makes loners very rare.
The simple reality of having access to only something like 100 or so fellows in family, clan or tribal group limited by traditional lands and ranges was broken only by the youthful wander lust. This would often bring back not only mates with different cultural styles but also other original things to introduce to the group.
In 21st century urban metropole culture each individual can both travel and search for other styles, forms, and groups with people who share an incredible range of human potential diversities. As we are genetically predisposed to tribal indicators in style, dress, and social characteristics, it is no surprise that identities have exploded. This is obviously rooted in the great range of human potential forms and roles that are now open in a way never before possible.
The intersection of gender and morphology for cosmetic indicators of selected social groups also then intersects with tremendously expanded options in medicine, genetic engineering, plastic surgery, and, increasingly technological augmentation.
This is now a very large intersection bringing together true freedom of choice with a removal of almost all traditional provincial cultural limitations. English and other languages’ traditional structures representing dominant forms of gender identification and roles have become suddenly dysfunctional in ways that are prone to a variety of dangers primarily from people who have been limited by limite. Serious change results from this type of paradigmatic shift.
The problem is that we have the perennial problem, now, of the conservative minded who are the most violently affected by change and most rigidly constrained by their traditional linguistic morphology. These people have great difficulty unlearning things that they were raised with as fixed. We are in a period when these people must change or establish their own colonies somewhere. Even that is practically doubtful as no one is truly isolated from the planetary culture.
Gender and gender roles are morphological. You are born with cisgender and then may wish or need to define yourself to a compatible social role that may or may not include hormonal or anatomical changes. The shear range of options has made this the first active mine field socially and politically.
But this needs to be looked at from the larger perspective of morphological freedom as the potential choices are expanding rapidly with the need for intense discussion of both inherent morphological rights, dangers, and potential ways to abuse children.
We are seeing ill prepared selection of gender for children literally coming home to roost in both China and India with a generational shortage of women due to cultural loading to prefer male offspring. This alone will shape the newest generation with a very negative attitude toward mindless misogyny in paternalistic cultures. The ability to change things that have major long term effects on societies need to be understood by everyone.
The general consensus for genetic engineering is and should be to approach generational changes very conservatively. Not that this will stop some parents from committing mindless acts that may well earn them the life long enmity of their children but we should make the standards clear at a planetary level.
This is an area that is clearly headed for disaster unless we make planetary standards for rights including the rights of children independent of their parents. Morphological freedom needs to be a universal right at the same time that children and others in dependent situations must be protected from anyone forcing any morphological or genetic change on them.
I think this is intersectional arena that must be addressed fully to limit avoidable social disasters resulting from ignorance and dysfunctional traditions. We are in this now and must work our way through for all sentient life on this planet.
That brings us to the other fast growing are of morphological change, transhumanist technological augmentation. We have decades now of pacemakers controlling heart rate or prevention of fibrillation. We also have about twenty years of ocular implants providing hearing for a variety of congenital or other specific causes of hearing failure. These provide another path to deliver sound vibrations to the nerves that provide hearing.
We can also include a number of experimental technologies used to provide some level of sight for the fully blind. These things are moving very quickly but also quickly run into the distinction between ‘correction’ and ‘augmentation’.
As the recipient of an ocular implant four years ago there are very useful added benefits to being able to hear with a damaged ear. The sound processors for ocular implants all include direct access to Bluetooth or proprietary Apple networking that gives you direct access to your phone and music. I can say it is very helpful to be able to use digital input for music while maintaining biological hearing for environmental sound. As I am not deaf I have two audio paths that can be used simultaneously. The corrective device becomes, in that case, fully augmentative.
Enhanced abilities is a major problem for athletic competition through drug modifications. We also have athletes with replaced limbs who are far superior to the highly trained and talented biological athletes. And we know this is being adapted very quickly for military purposes.
The range of potential advantages is now explosive. The effect on human society and psychology is only beginning to be understood. Needless to say these are paradigmatic shifts never before imagined as possible but we need to manage our adaption of not just gender diversity but superhuman abilities.
Attempting to pretend that there are only two, biologically dictated genders was always a losing proposition. Attempting to say that human physical performance is limited only to unaugmented morphology is also a losing proposition. These are all areas of rapidly growing diversity. And the social changes required are far greater than arguing over labels on public toilets or antique linguistic morphology.