Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Post-Human Future?

In many contemporary philosophical discourses the idea of the 'post-human' has recently achieved a certain dominance. Here, the post-human equates to a new technological image of the human that undermines the basic assumptions of western humanism; especially the idea of the human as something radically separate from both nature and technology. We might say that this is because we now live in age of 'creative computing'; an age when computer power supports machinic creativity and when computation itself is seen is giving rise to new forms of human creativity (through digital art and so on).

For some, this state of affairs represents an 'evolutionary leap forward' that is transforming our basic ideas of who and what we are. We the contemporary period is viewed in this way it appears that we are currently experiencing a radical break with our humanist past.

Moreover, as humanism assumed the possibility of prediction of control of nature, the era post-human suggests a new condition of instability and unpredcitability.

Is this just techno-hype? Isn't strange that people are making such claims when we can't even build a computer that can tie its own shoelaces? More generally, can we really believe that human ingenuity has no bounds and that there are no limits to computational power?

I find this faith in computability rather strange.

Neil Turnbull


  1. In recent lectures and seminars in both literary theory and phil of film and media we have touched on this. when we think of an increasingly technological being i dont think we necessarily need to imagine cyborgs or robots etc. There is a theory, i forget from whom, that suggests that the interent has affected the way our minds work. Take, for example, wikipedia. much of the information i have taken from that site relates to completely irrelevant knowledge. thanks to the blue links, i jump from, say, an article on the english civil war to one on classical poetry. instead of learning through a mass of context, like a book, and arriving at facts through development and association, my mind jumos from fact to fact... my mind is, increrasingly, a network rather than a narrative

  2. It's interesting to think about the future of technology and post humanism. In much science fiction, the idea has been that technology would, distinct from us, develop exponentially, first mimicking us and then eventually becoming better than us and superceding us. But I think the post-human fear is that we will 'become technology'. While we attempt to make computers that think like us, we are, as Fred said, beginning to think more like technology. We can make bionic eyes and limbs, mechanical hearts and limbs etc. Perhaps the way to think is not of a robot capable of tying it's own shoelaces, but of a future where without technology we cannot tie our own shoelaces. Where technology does not simply facilitate lifestyles but facilitates human life itself. Technology and human life become literally inseparable. As we dismissively refer to everything before civilisation as prehistory, maybe this era is just the beginning of technohistory...