While the third week of the E-Learning and Digital Cultures course has been mainly devoted to humanism, this week’s focus was more on post-human aspects.
What is posthumanism? An excerpt of Wikipedia:
Posthumanism mainly differentiates from classical humanism in that it restores the stature that had been made of humanity to one of many natural species. According to this claim, humans have no inherent rights to destroy nature or set themselves above it in ethical considerations a priori. Human knowledge is also reduced to a less controlling position, previously seen as the defining aspect of the world. The limitations and fallibility of human intelligence are confessed, even though it does not imply abandoning the rational tradition of humanism.
Film 1: Robbie (8:45)
The one talking is Robbie. Robbie’s not human. Or is he? Is he only human-like? Does it make him a human, that he is thinking about humans? That he likes their company and is interested in them? Does it make him human that he expends his energy for the last request that he is switched on again (woken up!). Or is he still just a robot? A device? At several points the film shows that people do not think so much from him as he from them. He is seen as a thing, albeit in a slightly humanoid form, with the ability to express his views verbally, not more. Helen has asked the important question on her blog:
„So if you are not treated as human by others does this mean you are not human?“
What would that mean for our society? If inhuman treatment at the same time also dehumanizes?
In his vision, Robbie is placed in a coffin, just as a human being, even the pose of the hands is copied. But can you die if you weren’t alive? Or, at least according to our definition you haven’t been a living creature?
And if a robot suffers from emotions, can you heal him? Are there any chemical remidies such as pills? Or is it a purely technical problem, the board must be replaced? Is the emotion itself a mistake that can lead to misunderstandings and performance changes? Does that mean that what makes us unique, is the same thing that makes us wrong? In short: will our ethical and moral standards still be applicable in the future?
Much like Robbie, but without the oppressive feelings. On the contrary, Gumdrop is refreshingly positive and fun to watch. In both films, I felt very much remindend of Johnny 5.
Film 3: True Skin (6:12)
Another film which I personally would rather assign the horror drawer. Until the end, that is. I find the idea of a backup copy of my knowledge and memories fascinating. But even here there is the fundamental question: What makes us as a person? Is that all? Where is the soul? Would someone ‚download‘ all the knowledge, experiences and memories of me, would he be me? Hardly. I do not think you can break down the spiritual thoughts of immortality on such pragmatic issues. Perhaps my knowledge would be preserved and can still be useful to others. But my ego, my self, that would be lost.
By the way, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard a very familiar dialect and have discovered that the (real) part was filmed in Dublin. I have lived there for several years and have recognized places in the video. My favorite scenes, based on the content:
Minute1:00: reminds me of a previous job, call-center-like office job. I really like in this scene, that only the horn of the WoW character looks over the partition. You cannot see nor recognize the human behind the partition. This is very significant and could be symbolic for this kind of work. But maybe someone with such a job defines himself as a person, as a human when he is virtually playing, interacting with others, instead of being locked up alone in his office-square. Can you be more alive online than offline?
And from minute 3:17: „In real life, you can work as hard as you want and you will not always get the credit for this, you earned“. In the game you will receive recognition and gifts. It has a sense of positive achievement and so you happily play again.
This also fits well this TEDtalk which, although older, I’ve seen but just the other day:
Not exactly about posthumansim, but, in gaming also, we have to think about on how far we want to go. Could we even improve the positive experience by body enhancements or is ti a taboo?
Further material, and If you do not have the time to read through them all, I highly recommend Carr: Is Google making us stupid?
- Bostrom: ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy
- Hayles: Wrestling with transhumanism
- EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme
- or the complete report
- Carr: Is Google making us stupid?
- There’s a lot of #edcmooc going on (shawnlauzon.com)
- Accepting Posthumanism/Transhumanism (parablematernal.wordpress.com)