In some of my recent articles, I have referred to something called neurofuturism. While neurofuturism itself is not a new word (although weirdly, I didn’t know this when I first used it), I do believe that reconceptualising it may allow for a new discourse in the Neurodivergent community. Namely, a discourse around what the future of the neurodiversity movement and paradigm might look like.
With this in mind, let’s start by considering the original use of neurofuturism and take a look at it through a critical lens.
A lot of the discussion around neurofuturism thus far has looked at augmenting human cognition with technology up to, and including, artificial intelligence. This sounds exciting on the surface; fusing the human mind with technology as a way of unlocking our potential. It sounds exciting, but there are two main issues at the forefront of my mind
- Technology is not universally accessible.
- Technology can often be created with one purpose while incidentally fulfilling another.
Consider this, technology allowed us to split the atom. Fission reactors meant that we could create huge quantities of carbon neutral energy. It also meant that we were able to create nuclear weapons, fundamentally changing the nature of human conflict. As I mentioned, technology is not universally accessible. It often requires privilege to gain a seat at the table when it comes to research and design. Because of this, it is likely that people creating technology to go on your head either may not consider negative impacts on marginalised communities, or worse, may use it to actively oppress them.
Remember when Elon Musk claimed that neural interfaces could ‘solve’ autism and schizophrenia? We never asked for that, but it’s reasonable to worry that such a technology could be forced upon is if it were to exist.
So, why am I even talking about neurofuturism?
Neurofuturism has a place in human discourse, but it isn’t with the tech world. I firmly believe we should reclaim neurofuturism and reconceptualise it into something accessible and beneficial to all. What better place for such a concept to exist than within the neurodiversity paradigm?
Broadly speaking, neurofuturism as I conceptualise it has existed for some time. Neuroqueer theory could be considered somewhat of a flagship of neurofuturism. The idea that we can queer our identity and embodiment in line with our neurology is liberational, and that is what neurofuturism should be, a school of thought that emancipates us from the chains of the past.
In my mind, neurofuturism is a word to describe ideas that ask us to not blindly accept the knowledge of the past. It is a school of thought that asks us to take a degree of criticality to everything that has been taken for granted, including the ideas that the neurodiversity movement takes for granted.
Consider the ever-present threat of identity politics. We see it everywhere, and the neurodivergent community is not free of this threat. Much of the politics surrounding how people identify and what the embodiment of that identity should look like is based on some form of normative thinking. It’s necessary to consider the uncomfortable truth that even the neurodivergent community has its own normative ideas.
Wherever there is community, there is a status quo.
Thus, neurofuturism can be reclaimed as a way of advancing the community through criticality. This critical thought can be used to surgically cut through the chains of “normality”, shedding the excess so that we can walk unburdened into the future of our community.
This comes with a lot of uncomfortable thinking. It raises questions about objective truth and the social construction of everything from language to our own sense of Self.
Neurofuturism is not a ‘natural kind’. It does not exist without people observing its growth and trajectory. Moreover, it cannot exist without accepting certain truths, chiefly;
- Human thought and experience should not be pathologised. It recognises that our psychological world is not a matter for medical intervention.
- Where people experience psychological distress, we must look to their environment and the experiences it has afforded them.
- That if human experience is not a medical matter, then such branches of medicine such as psychiatry must use social change as a means of support, with medicine being a tool rather than a requirement.
These points to me seem as the necessary first ideas to acknowledge in a neurofuturist approach to neurodiversity.
There is much more to be said on the nature of neurofuturism, and I hope that as this blog series progresses, we can explore what the future can look like together. I hope we can use the reclamation of this concept as a way of accommodating all Neurodivergent people, and not just the select few with the privilege of being platformed in the right places.
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