Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lecture on bodily optimisation as fantasy projection -- in German as part of the Innsbruck Ringvorlesung.


Thanks for the invitation -- and for their graciousness -- to Andreas Beinsteiner and Tanja Kohn!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Transhumanism as Cargo Cult

Kurzweil, like most rich men, simply would rather not give up the riches of his life, not now, not ever.
The technological singularity is about not dying. Transhumanism is about not dying. 
 Hence when we argue on behalf of transhumanism we argue as very dedicated devotees of a cargo cult that has yet to deliver the goods—which is why it is a cult.
Just because, as the old New York City cum Eastern European Jewish joke argues on behalf of the neurosis of a relative who thinks he is a chicken: “we need the eggs.”

We need, we want what transhumanism promises, and surely it will soon come to pass and inasmuch as we are persuaded that the only thing that holds science back from this windfall of technological add-ons and upgrades is some ethical aversion to, say, stem cell research, we argue for the “value” of transhumanism, just to quell such objections.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

All this gives us is another reason to prepare for the coming singularity. 
 And as with other raptures, one does not expect to have a choice. 
 And one thinks this no matter how underwhelming the experience turns out to be -- in fact.
Note the very specific (and very popularly Nietzschean) “faith” in science and especially industrial, corporate, capitalist technology that has been with us since the interregnum between the two wars. That is to say, if we read Sloterdijk aright.  

Of course, and before Sloterdijk all of us should have been reading Sebald's The Natural History of Destruction.

And to be sure, Günther Anders had already analysed this in a locus safely outside of our usual purview, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.
As with a little more complexity had Theodor Adorno and in a different fashion Jacques Ellul.  So too, for years now, Paul Virilio along with his colleague the late Jean Baudrillard.

But this is again and also to say that such a vision is fascist through and through. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Human Enhancement as Fantasy Projection

Machines “project” as the phenomenologists say or, as the techno-theorists put it, they “extend” our human senses and our consciousness. The addictive and phantom effects of the internet have everything to do with this. Using this same phenomenological reading of technology, trans- and post-humanists are fond of speaking of human “enhancement.”  

But a phenomenological analysis of technology would remind us that the augmentation in question is more attuned to the machine than it is (or can be -- and this is in spite of the detours that Latour and actor-network theorists rightly emphasize) cut to human measure. 
Bruno Latour
 It is a reflection of this very attunement that, to speak as the ethnographers and sociologists who study this phenomenon, we are “machine-obedient.” 

Martin Kusch

Harry Collins

Nor are we as mechanically tractable or responsive as we are because we wish to be — because we love our machines, erotically, affectively, as Latour suggests that we do[1] or else as Donna Haraway has also argued (albeit in another way),[2] but and quite simply inasmuch as we have to be machine-obedient simply to use our machines in the first and last place. 
This is true from our autos to our computers and cell phones and cameras, indeed and even Facebook and so on. 

And here there is a network-actor loop (or loophole) at work: for it turns out that the greater our obedience, the more we comply, the better technologically attuned or, just to show our easy familiarity, the better techno-geeked out we are, the “better” the machine “obeys” our every whim.  
Christian Bales Batman survives the end of Christopher Nolans The Dark Knight Rises not just because of his technology, from his batsuit and its associated gadgets to his humvee (with wings) or tank transporter in the sky, but because of his intimate, second nature, or automatic (done weeks ago) coding prowess.
Bruce Wayne not only zen-wills himself out of a physical breakdown, with the aid of chiropractic, a ‘science’ traditionally derided by modern medicine but widely known for its efficacy, but through transcendence of will, he rises, learning fear, becoming like a child, out of the cave of his Jodhpur prison (this ascent is the meaning of the title).
But, and this is the films great Lacanian secret, this is the heart, this is the rule of the Symbolic Order, Bales Batman in addition to being Batman and having all Batmans resources (that would be comic book fantasy oodles of money colliding with real-live OWS corruption and the associated economic implosions of the same, and that would also be the star power of Morgan Freeman and the always excellent Michael Caine) also writes software like no one else can. 
And he does it on the fly, theres that deus ex machina of movie time, a full six weeks ago, always already. 
It is this that saves him -- precisely by saving the girl, who, shades of Pretty Woman, saves him right back.

Ah, equality. 


[1] Latour, Aramis or the Love of Technology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).
[2] Donna Haraway, Modest Witness@Second Millennium: Female_Man©_Meets_OncomouseTM, London & New York, Routledge 1997 but see also her “A Cyborg Manifesto,” taken from her Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), chapter 8, pp.  149-181. Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html) is an online dissemination of this chapter that works if anything has worked, through the erotic, feminist fantasy cover designed by Haraway and the painter, whose work was originally not attributed, Lynn Randolph. 
As the artist describes her own picture. 
“I placed my human-computer / artist / writer / shaman / scientist in the center and on the horizon line of a new canvas. … A giant keyboard sits in front of her and her hands are poised to play with the cosmos, words, games, images, and unlimited interactions and activities. She can do anything.”  
Donna Haraway
With all the power lent by the imaginary, Haraway remains the go-to reference for writings on the posthuman or human-cyborg techno-hybrid. See for one example, just for a start, Haraway’s interview with Hari Kunzru, “You Are Cyborg,” Wired Magazine, 5/2 (1997): 1-7.