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Monthly Archives: December 2015

“We are shipwrecked passengers on a doomed planet. Yet even in a shipwreck, human decencies and human values do not necessarily vanish, and we must make the most of them.” This struck me as a peculiar line from Norbert Wiener’s The Human Use of Human Beings, which elides that his mission is in some part moral. It positions his conception of control as being the tool through which humanity could be held together, even if that necessitates disembodiment. I wonder to what extent Wiener’s project manifested within the context of the ‘nuclear threat’—both signifying political and physical entropy—and McCarthyist notions of “human decency” and “human values.” More so, what role might have American culture played in the movement of Wiener’s ideas from theory into praxis? As Hayles notes, “both the literary and scientific manifestations of chaotics are involved in feedback loops with the culture. They help to create the context that energizes the questions they ask; at the same time they also ask questions energized by the context.’

While reading Hayles, I found it useful to read “embodiment” as ‘interiority,’ a broader term through which we can think more about the body and its rights to remain opaque and contain private information. Given that liberalism, since Locke, has been about enclosure— the right to maintain one’s private space, and the erection of a wall between one’s own space and the rest of the world—how might we conceptualise opacity without flesh? Would this merely reinscribe the existing failures of liberalism? Might a reworking of intellectual property provide the solution?

A related thought I had while reading How We Became Posthuman was about how disembodiment might relate to a perceived ‘annihilation of space,’ a de-spatialisation of information for the very reason that it is “free to travel across time and space”—which is not necessarily the same as disembodiment. What might be the difference between a political approach set on re-embodiment and one set on re-spatialisation, one that perhaps finds a form of opacity without the baggage of liberalism?