Author Archives: Stephanie Thomson

Transhumanism and the illusion of control

In a 2011 essay, Katherine Hayles defines transhumanism as the idea that “contemporary technosciences can enhance human capabilities and ameliorate or eliminate such traditional verities as mortality.” The essay was a follow-up to a book she had written over a decade earlier in which she first identified the emergence of this trend. At the time, she had called for a more balanced approach to technology, where we recognize the power it has to improve our lives but also understand its limits. “My dream is a version of  the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of information technologies without being seduced by fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality,” she wrote.

I worry that her dream has not been realized. A few years ago my husband and I were struggling to conceive. Of course, I was constantly on Google looking up tips and tricks, so I started getting served all sorts of ads related to pregnancy. One that really stood out for me was from a femtech wearables start-up called Ava. The $270 device they were trying to sell basically told you when you were ovulating — exactly the same information you could get from a $15 pack of pee sticks! But their ads framed their product as though it was the answer to any fertility woes. They used vocabulary like “regain control” and even offered a “pregnancy guarantee or your money back.” I just used the Facebook Ads Library to see what types of ads they’re running, and it was exactly the same concept: positioning a (pretty basic technology) as some sort of salvation for people experiencing fertility problems.

Apologies for the slight delay in uploading — technology issues! (How ironic, given the topic.)