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The body electric 

At the gym, The Observer understands the utopian optimization of surveillance. Each day, The Observer goes and thinks back to videos consumed on how to move the arm (locked at the elbow) to locate the muscle, and then we do our three sets of 12. Then, like the scientist with his rat, we record the data.

Though in other parts of life, The Observer freaks out a bit about the constant uploading of the self to the cloud, still we think how nice it would be to have a theoretically benevolent electronic overlord biologically monitoring all of our movements. It could track The Observer's exact flailings and calculate their burn, their productivity and their production. It would weigh this against The Observer's eating and give a clean regression of whether or not we are, or not, a fatty. Our little ombudsman. Can knowledge eradicate the sin of sloth? More importantly: Wouldn't it be nice, sometimes, to not have a body?

By uploading, The Observer can put the most basic human annoyances of the body's needs into a system. For example, The Observer keeps a log of our exercise in a phone application that is combined with a food diary. To track the food, The Observer takes photos of the bar codes of items (for example, sandwich: photo of Swiss cheese code, photo of turkey code) to create nutrient and caloric tabulations. Throughout the day, The Observer will check the caloric count, from which is subtracted calories burned by the exercise The Observer logs, to see whether we're in spitting distance of our goals. Or, The Observer will slide over to a section titled "Macros" that — via pie chart — lets us know if we are consuming the proper percentages. As in, is our diet 20 percent protein? All of this satisfies the part of The Observer that grew up playing video games and enjoys the setting of goals and making of lists.

Not that it's really about production. The hope is to be happy. Which is simple to say, but so inherently biological — and personal — that you have to figure out how your brain chemistry ticks and tocks until it hits joy. Some people really want to go all robot, go past their humanity to felicity. The Observer shares this dream only sometimes, mainly when finding the body disappointing. Or, after being grumpy all day and then running for 10 minutes and feeling calm sweep over us almost immediately.

A recent essay in the magazine n+1 talks about "transhumanism." The idea is that there will be a singularity where we, as humans, merge with technology to become "posthuman: immortal, limitless, changed beyond recognition."

Generally, The Observer is fearful of such talk, having watched the Edward Snowden documentaries and seen Facebook rants after someone reads "1984." Also, it's mostly touted by strange Silicon Valley-types like Peter Thiel (who, no joke, talks about transfusing blood from the young to live longer). The Observer has no twinkle in our eye about living to 120.

But, the essay reminds us all that these ideas about transhumanism "are a secular outgrowth of Christian eschatology." What happens after we die? Well, what if technology lets us be born again? Born better ... that's something every Bible reader can understand. If The Observer goes to the gym every day, tracks the food every day, and is persistent, can The Observer be born better, too? It's a nice thought to be able to hack happy, but probably just a thought.

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