TFTD

“One has to become a cybernetician to remain a humanist.” In a sentence, this is why Peter Sloterdijk has become so important to me lately, despite his many and manifest shortcomings.

What this idea emphasizes is the necessity of actively, creatively intervening in the technosocial situation with which we find ourselves confronted, or, in other words, to propose a humanism that lets us not merely endure, but thrive, in a world evolving at the clock speed of informational technics.

To do otherwise is to surrender to the lassitude of a rejectionist and reactionary conception of the human, to content ourselves with the dwindling spoils left to us by the assuredly active and creative exponents of late neoliberalism, whether transhuman or entirely machinic, as they reticulate the world and reconfigure it to best serve their own interests.

The task before us is to discover, or invent, a politics, a mobility and a conviviality that are both authentic to the circumstances in which we find ourselves and capable of giving full expression to the emancipatory potential that remains latent and unrealized in our networked technologies.

6 responses to “TFTD”

  1. Anil says :

    I identify as both technologist and humanist, but the term ‘cybernetician’ is too loaded with references to mid Century functionalism, control theory and early systems thinking, for my comfort. Agree with you on the underlying point though.

    Regarding emancipation, I don’t see any reason to believe that any technology has a pre-inscribed ‘potential’ that remains latent within it. I agree with Harman’s interpretation of Latour on this point, extreme as it may be. Either entities have active affinities and relations or they don’t. I see no convincing reason to believe they possess an essence in which potential may reside.

    So can networked technology be emancipatory? I’d like to believe so, but only acting in relation with other actors in a co-ordinated manner. In this sense, it already has many alliances, as well as considerable counter phenomena such as emergent topocracy.

    I don’t think it’s constructive to simply assert that this potential is latent, as it amounts to an ideological projection or political posturing. The task, then, would be to go ahead and activate these technologies by bringing them in relation to other actants in ways which might be regarded as emancipatory.

    I love paragraphs two and three here. Brilliantly expressed.

    • AG says :

      So this is the always-fully-deployed argument, yeah? That we must only refer to actualities, to the set of connections with other actors that is currently realized, because anything else would be to evoke some kind of mystical, transcendent essence we have no way of verifying or speaking meaningfully about?

      I’ve always admired the intellectual rigor of that position, but I don’t think it quite holds here. Surely I can make claims on networked artifacts and protocols that involve their (yes) inherent ability to connect arbitrarily distal actors, without invoking “essence”?

      I’m not ever going to argue that the precise details of language are unimportant, and I thank you for holding my feet to the fire, but I’ll stand by my framing here, for now. Nevertheless, I think we’re basically in full agreement that what remains to be done is actually doing the work of causing the emancipatory configurations I believe in to eventuate.

    • Anil says :

      This is indeed a fairly subtle point regarding framing, and I wouldn’t get too hung up about it. If we take your example, yes, these technologies have a demonstrable ability to connect distant actors at near light-speed. That is evident and invokes no essence as such. But there’s a jump from that claim to the emancipation claim, particularly when evoking latent properties. It’s worth locating ideology whenever discussing the ‘potential’ of networked technology.

      Personally, I’ve found it quite liberating to ditch the notion of potential and instead adopt the ‘fully deployed’ perspective you describe. It does put the onus on actually creating assemblages that demonstrate said potential.

      Enjoying the interview transcripts too btw. It’s good to see a coherent project emerging here.

  2. samkinsley says :

    A very good critique of understandings of ‘post-humanism’ in relation to the manner in which you frame this concern is offered in Stiegler’s “What makes life worth living”: https://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745662701

    Indeed, much of the way in which you couch your argument is resonant with his political project… worth a look if you are so inclined.

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