When thinking of the word "human," the first idea that comes to mind is us. We are human. Human is basically defined as a mammal. We are mammals. We are warm blooded, meat eating, mammals. We are the way of life on Earth. But this term "posthuman" just doesn't sit well with me. To me, this means that we, humans, no longer exist and there is some new life or being on Earth. But maybe I'm taking it to a much literal sense of the term. But what could there be after humankind? Technology is the answer! The only problem with that is that we are creating the technology. So to recap, we are slowly wiping ourselves out of existence. But is that really true or does "posthuman" mean something else?
I think maybe there is room for it to be interpreted as a lifestyle that will make us sit by the wayside and become an even lazier being. We could create such advanced technology that we can have whatever we want in a matter of seconds. But this is all theory, so none of this is true. This is not happening, at least not to my knowledge. But someday it could very well happen. We may or may not be here but someone in our family will be here to experience it. It can either help us as a civilization or potentially destroy us.
Now Lyotard has caused a hiccup in some people's logic and outlook on life. These people have come to think that "the idea that our current technological endeavors will lead to a sentient existence, which, while continuous with ours, can no longer properly be called "human."." This is what they call "the Posthuman." And they may be right or they could be fools making outrageous comments on something they really read into.
Now what does Hawthorne have to with any of this you might ask? Well allow me to answer that question now. If you look at Chapter 17 of Hawthorne, when Clifford is on the train and conversing with the older gentleman, he goes off on a tangent about the future. He says that the “admirable invention of the railroad” will “do away with those stale ideas of home and fireside, and substitute something better.” The old man disagrees, and Clifford begins to rant and rave. He then talks about his belief that mankind moves in an “ascending spiral,” where previous ideas are revived and reformed. In this case, the arrival of the railroad will allow mankind to return to the nomadic culture of its primitive era, and will prevent people from becoming “prisoner[s] for life in brick, and stone, and old worm-eaten timber.”
But Clifford doesn't stop there. He goes on to talk about the telegraph as well. He thinks that the unifying nature of the telegraph, which he believes will serve to make the world smaller by allowing lovers to talk over long distances. He deplores, however, the ability of the telegraph to aid in hunting down criminals, because it prevents them from being able to escape their crimes and start over, robs them of their rights, and deprives them of a “city of refuge.” and yet look how far the telegraph has brought us. We now have phones that are portable and can do multiple tasks such as text messaging, internet access, listening to music, etc. And is it weakening us or does it make us stronger? Clifford believes that technology will help us, and that it will weaken us.
Hawthorne has not chosen a side for this matter. He is "playing the field" or "leaning on the fence" waiting for something to happen that will sway him. Or maybe he just is not sure what side is on. Maybe he does not want to chose. But he must chose because that's what it is to be human. Our lives depend on the choices we make. Not all of them necessarily work out in the end though.