This is a introduction to, and a first exploration (one year old now) of intended meanings of the newly invented adjective TransNatural. TransNatural is above or beyond nature. This is a narrative exploration of the possible meanings of transnatural thinking and acting.
In its most glorious role, technology was the way to escape the limitations of nature – it was a freedom not granted, but created, developed by focused human trial and error. A limping, half-aware imitation of evolution.
Often the relations between nature and technology are understood along the lines of Greek myths, with their powerful and highly dysfunctional, divine characters. In this context, technology often plays the role of natures’ crude brother, that breaks the delicate toys with its clumsy, thick fingers – or more dangerous characters, like that of the dark genius with a hidden agenda, and nature is then cast as a vulnerable, oversensitive child. Conversely, nature often takes stage as tormented mother, that finally loses her patience with her cold, cruel son, and hits back with tsunami’s, AIDS or Mexican flu.
This thinking, telling and acting by which technology and nature are posed against each other has had its most productive period in the past.
Culturally, technology was the means by which humans protected themselves from nature, and with which they tried to control it. Technology served as a fortress and a weapon against nature. Most technology has thus conceptually come forth from a world of users with walls around it. Close to the walls is a source of endless raw material and energy. And further outside is a wide, wild, even hostile place, where non-personal dangers lurk, and where used -up stuff and dangerous waste can disappear into.
This notion has brought us a lot of development, but from the second half of the twentieth century onwards, it has turned itself strongly against us, as is well known. Through mass-media and later the world wide web, one could see and experience that the world of users, the source of raw material and energy and the outside world were actually one and the same place, that was far from endless, and that its tasks were more and more irreconcilable. The first photograph of the whole earth, taken from an orbiting spacecraft helped a lot to establish that idea.
In the 21st century we have to look for another role for technology, another story about technology, and from there also for a technology that follows different design paradigms. In this context, the practices from the arts, design and technology, science, politics and nature are more and more connected, and meaningful to each other. It is high time we get used to the idea that nature and technology have the potential to form a less dysfunctional family, whose family name is not yet decided. It even looks like the 21st century will be the first century in which nature and technology will have children that will have children of their own.
The adjective transnatural is an attempt to start thinking beyond the animosity between technology and nature. Transnaturalism in a way acknowledges that nature has always been complete, and yet, that it will never be finished. Note: there is no moral obligation or a manifest destiny to expand nature, it is merely a tendency we are beginning to observe. Technology can expand nature infinitely, and is finally learning by which rules that game can really be played.