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The midpoint of a pony's leg is a po-knee.

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On Becoming a Pony · 6:29am Apr 9th, 2020

To many the very concept is, on the face of it, insane. A good portion of people won't even get to the "but how" part, some because they're so comfortable with what they currently are that they can't comprehend a sane person desiring change, and others because they view "human" as some sort of sacred designation to which change could only make one lesser, as a beast or monster. But I would claim that the idea is not as far-fetched or unusual as common wisdom would have it.

When I propose becoming a pony, I do not mean it by way of magic, of jumping through some sort of portal, or making a deal with a witch (not outside of stories, at least). Nor do I intend mere roleplay (which is just stories in a different medium). And I absolutely do not mean to promote self-delusion as otherkin do in their claims that they are, in some sense, already a pony or dragon or dolphin (roleplay is an acknowledgement that the ideas and activities embarked on are not wholly real, and is therefore a healthy exploration of imagination; otherkin and related postmodernist ideologies refuse to acknowledge this boundary between imagination and reality, and so fall into the realm of insanity). When I speak of becoming a pony, I speak in the sense of modification of the self through the rational sciences.

There is a broader idea to which this belongs, known as transhumanism. Now, that label carries a lot of baggage, often associated with spiritualistic concepts of either the inevitability or desirability, or both, of a post-human future where ourselves or our descendants have become something beyond our current comprehension. I discard all of that as nonsense, though I won't go into why here. But what remains is still substantial: The idea that we can use resources and ingenuity to improve not only our lot in life, but our very selves. In a broad sense this idea is ancient, having been in the cultural consciousness since humans first became able to have a culture. For example, the oldest story of which we still have record, the Epic of Gilgamesh, is about a quest for immortality.

And although it is often coached in the most extreme terms (see "immortality" above), which can give the impression that such transhumanist ideas are completely out of reach, a more careful look will find that we have already stepped into the shallow end of the concept, and in some places waded quite deep. I would divide particular improvements to the (physical) self into three categories: Those that stave off decay, those that fix what has been broken or replace what has been lost, and those that add something new. In all three of these, humanity has already made advances.

For the staving off of decay, we look to much of what we call "medicine"; from washing hands to nutritional supplements to surgical removal of cancers, medicine is often about slowing down the natural downward trend of a body's systems and function. We could even, if we were feeling generous, include safety features such as helmets, or even verbal cautions of danger passed from one person to another; any instance of thinking and taking actions to minimize injury to ourselves and others could be thought of as an incremental form of transhumanism, granting longer and better life than if we were absent rationality. But we've gone much further than that in recent times, and are now well on the road to directly preventing the most severe of these degradations: Age-related illnesses such as heart disease and dementia. There's still a long way to go, but an active effort is being made that is likely, in time, to bear fruit. After that, it's only death itself that lies in the way for this form of physical improvement.

Then we have fixing and replacement. Some of the earliest such endeavors include eyeglasses, wooden legs, wheelchairs, and similar items that give some of the abilities possessed by the standard human back to those who are less fortunate. The last century and a half has seen great strides in this restoration of lost function. Surgeries to reconnect broken bones or ripped tissue are now commonplace. Recently there has been an even greater boom here, which many people aren't fully aware of. On the biological side, regrowing entire lost organs is a hot topic that's made massive strides in the last decade. On the mechanical side, fully cybernetic limbs controlled by neural interface are already here, not around the corner, but in existence, tested and functional. There's still much to do to make them better, but what was once considered a dream is no longer. We are within reach of the ability to fix, through biological or cybernetic means, any bodily injury that does not effect the brain itself; and even that could soon change, as neural interfaces improve and we begin to look towards connecting computers directly to the mind, although such ideas are substantially further off than limb-replacement.

But what of adding something knew? Well, that's also a very old idea. Body piercings and tattoos fall into this category; although they're (mostly) aesthetic, being pleasing to the eye is still a novel function. Various cultures have had rituals to change the body's appearance in more severe ways, such as bronze rings to "stretch" the neck (actually compresses the collarbone). But that's just the tip of the iceberg: Clothing is also a way to extend the body's abilities, as are various tools large and small, while an abacus or calculator extends the abilities of the mind. In the modern age, more radical and direct changes have become possible, starting with aesthetic surgeries (face lifts, waist reduction) and continuing with technology either worn on or embedded in the body (Google Glass, magnets in the wrist (yes, there are people who do this)). Laudable progress is being made in sex reassignment treatments, which are perhaps the most significant endeavor of this type of physical improvement that has met at least partial success thus far. Improving our bodies and what we can do has been a central tenant of human civilization for millennia. As the defeat of death is to the first kind, and eternal health is to the second, the ultimate achievement of the third kind of physical self-improvement would be the unrestricted modification or creation of a body; freedom from our birth forms. Becoming a pony would be achievable somewhere along the path towards that goal.

But how would that work? There are a few plausible ways. The one that is the biggest stretch is a fully biological pony body; it's unclear if we'll ever have the precise and powerful control over organic matter that this would require, although it is not outside the realm of possibility that biotechnology could reach such a stage at least in part, by way of creating a desired genome and growing the body in a lab. The trouble would be with putting your brain in that body; whether through transplant, encoding an entire new brain with a recorded neuron pattern, or a digital interface, it could work, but it would not be easy.

The next idea would be modification of the body we already have, through surgery and implants (biological or otherwise). This is more clearly achievable, with extreme plastic surgery and cybernetic limbs making it, quite possibly, within the reach of an exceptionally wealthy person today. It is, however, not the most desirable method, mainly because major surgery like that carries major risk, not only during surgery but also afterward, with autoimmune problems and susceptibility to infection a serious concern.

A much cleaner idea, and also one that is potentially achievable in the near future if not today, is a remote neural interface with a robotic pony body. With no need to deal with messy biology at all beyond the neural interface itself, it is perhaps the "easiest" method. It also has the advantage of being temporary, like a set of clothing (although some might say that is a point against it, and it doesn't quite embody the idea of "being" a pony). It could also potentially be done in a wholly digital manner, wherein there is no actual robot at all, but rather an avatar in a virtual world with robustly constructed sensory feedback. I put my metaphorical money on this neural robot concept being done in some form within our lifetimes, perhaps even within the decade, although commercial availability will probably lag a bit. Maybe there is even a passionate brony working on this right now, and the first constructed body that a tester experiences will be a pony one.

*As a side-note, this took me nearly three hours to write, because I had to take so many trips to the bathroom that I can't give the number. I might need to see a doctor about my gastrointestinal tract, but that'll probably have to wait for the end of this pandemic thing.

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Comments ( 4 )

Whi a pony, though?

Fair enough. Something more humanlike might be easier, though.

Anthro pony would be an acceptable intermediate step. :eeyup:

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