by rthieme on October 7, 2003


by Richard Thieme

“Identity/Destiny” was published in Prophecy Anthology, Volume 1”  a full-color book featuring sequential art by artists such as Shannon Wheeler, Scott McCloud, Sho Murase, Yuko Shimizu, Nathan Fox and Bernie Mireault by Sequent Media (2004). The text accompanied wonderful graphic narrative.

Identity is destiny.

Identity is designed.

Our destiny then is to design our identity and …

how we design our identity determines our destiny.

Existence precedes essence. Our existence as conscious beings enables us to create and recreate ourselves (within constraints, of course) in our image(s).

Constraints include how we are constructed as cognitive and sensory systems and the deep structure of our biological and cultural inheritance, the context of which we are the contents.

Translating that deep structure which is “unknown and unwritten” through symbols into “known and unwritten” or “known and written” is a primary task of human civilization.

Identity is also a function of boundaries.

How do we choose to think of ourselves? As colonies of organs or glandular systems? as individuals whose skins are a hard delimitation of where we begin and end? as nodes in a network or members of a tribe or nation?

Our identity is determined by the line around ourSelf, our Selves.

[see the short story, Species, Lost in Apple-eating Time, at for sequential images of this moving target]

“Individual” is a notion-come-lately. “Individual” is a renaissance invention like the modern “self.”

Now we are again thinking of ourselves as cells in bodies, nodes in networks. Selves are becoming ourSelf again.

Boundaries are determined by technologies of information and communication.

Boundaries draw themselves at the levels of complexity of our social, economic, and political lives appropriate to the speed of the flow of information and the size and shape of the structures needed to manage that flow.

The printing press came to England in the late fourteen hundreds and transformed regional peoples into one people-becoming-English. Nation states were not thinkable before the printing press turned languages into dialects and chose one dialect to be a language, creating a unified framework for a “people” who recontextualized their former identities, now included and transcended, in something larger, something unimaginable prior to transformation.

Today England is fighting not to become part of Europe but England is already over. Using euros or translating pounds into euros is the same transaction.  The boundary has shifted.

Privacy is the illusion of containment. We radiate information about ourselves everywhere and always. We are systems of energy and information. Or we are one system of energy and information.

Language made us human. Language is the glue of the human universe. To be human therefore is to be social.

Even the Unabomber wrote letters. A human alone is a brain in a bottle.

There are four eras of the Technology of the Word: speech, writing, printing, and electronic communication. Fractal-like, self-similar at all levels.

The last era began with the telegraph, the first of the network-generating electronic technologies.

McLuhan talked about television a lot because that was his Internet.

Human beings and all other organizations are systems of information and energy. How energy and information flow determines the structure(s) of the system.

The era of electronic communication creates communities of identity on the fly, undermining prior identities. Cognitive dissonance is the result.

We do not know at any given moment which identity is speaking through us (in the sense that we do not speak a language but language speaks us).

Am I writing this as an American or as a trans-national … non-American?

What am I becoming? What is its name? Not-being-something is not an identity.

Nietzsche said creative thinkers see what is emerging and give it a name just before the herd sees it. Naming is a primary act of creativity. Names set boundaries and boundaries determines identity.

New names have not yet been invented.

Today our identities are modular and fluid because the networks in which we are immersed are modular and fluid. We created them but then they created us in their images. Our relationship with our technologies is symbiotic.

There is more to it than that, of course.

We are already cyborgs, fused with numerous made-bones, manufactured skin and artificial joints and implants in heads and hearts. Artificial and natural are no longer useful distinctions. Chips will be embedded in muscles, organs, brains to monitor or correct health. Optimal health will be redefined in terms of the kinds of intelligence, talents and skills we want to have. Whether ingested in chemicals or designed by genetic engineers or nanotechnologists, our redesigned fields of subjectivity will determine how we experience our selves as possibilities for action in the world.

We are cyborg selves with enhanced cognitive and sensory functions. We are it, the objects of our own design.

How can it not know what it is? asked Deckert of the replicant Rachel in Bladerunner.  Deckert did not yet suspect that he was a replicant too.

Not only Rachel-as-Other but ourselves-as-Deckert use photographs to frame our identities. At the micro level, photos remember who we are. At the macro level, conceptual images from PR, propaganda and psyops inside and outside our societies (there is no inside or outside anymore – whoops! there go the boundaries!) determine our collective memories, not our history but our shared myths.

History is not bunk. History is a manufactured field of collective subjectivity useful for managing the herd.

There’s more to it than that, of course.

A trans-planetary culture is already emerging in our midst like a fifth column, Viet Cong emerging from hiding in Saigon after the fall of the city.

Here is a direct quote from an intelligence agency analyst:

“The evidence for a cultural intrusion over a long period of time from other planets or dimensions is overwhelming.”

It does not matter if “we” go there or “they” come here. “We” and “they” are transformed in the encounter. Whether socially through neighborhoods or economically through trade or politically through alliances or biologically through interbreeding, a trans-planetary culture is the lead-edge of a transformation of earth identity into a trans-galactic identity.

Where are the Picts or the Celts?

Our designer progeny will ask, where are the Americans? where are the earthlings?

Picts, Celts, Americans, earthlings, all live on in story and song, memories helpful for managing nostalgia.  Nostalgia is how we manage transitions. Some are nostalgic for the days of a single planet. Some are nostalgic for individual species before we realized we shared the life of all higher primates. Some are nostalgic for the days before we knew that all sentient life shares an awareness.

Identities – humans, nations, trans-planetary alliances – are momentary states designed on the fly in specific cultural contexts to manage transitions from one state to the next. We swim from island to island  but we know too that islands are also made of water.

Identity is destiny.

Identity is designed.

Our destiny is to design our identity and

how we design our identity will determine our destiny.

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