File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 21

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 22:26:34 +0000
Subject: Re: more on cyborgs and the inhuman


I am waiting for the critique of Badiou...

The problem with the cyborg notion for me is precisely in the 
formulation you propose below. It substitutes one foolish notion that of 
the 'goddess' for another one 'cyborg'. In my view there is nothing to 
be gained in this intellectual sleight of hand. I understand the cyborg 
formulation as you propose it, as a penetration of the human body by the 
strange and vast range of technologies from language, through the great 
industrial revolutions into the information/cyborg one that a small 
minority of humanity is living through in the present. There is nothing 
luddite in understanding that the human subject has an uneasy 
relationship with the prostheses/technologies we simply are.

The love of the cyborg, the use of it as a metaphor, repeats the same 
errors that the use of  clockwork or the machine resulted in. God, 
goddesses, clockwork, machines, information processors(the cybernetic 
model), cyborgs - no we are simply human subjects and the metaphors used 
are endlessly reductionist. A postmodern challenge  needs to include an 
exploration of scientific and intellectual responsibility not to fall 
back into the simplifications of another machinic metaphor.

"...are these all merely deterministic functions of
development, technology and complexity, or are they the result of the
social/economic/politic matrix from which these technologies..." 

They are the same - where Lyotard uses the word 'development' he is 
incorporating all the above into the postmodern, he is precisely 
refusing the logical 'or' that seperates these elements from one 
another... even those technologies invented prior to the renaissance 
have been incorporated into the dominant order. Lyotard's reference to 
techno-science is reminiscent of Deleuze's discussion of 'Royal' or 
'State' science and places it securely in its relation to postmodern 
society - in other words the current version of 'capital'.

Cyborg, play, polymorphus.... yes... I agree but... recently you have 
been referring to the 'Zone' a piece which I also like... but where 
Lyotard refers to the suburban wastelands, gesturing back to the zone 
which was where the lumpen proletariat used to live on the outskirts of 
paris (which reminds me of my recent trip to the wastelands of Falls 
Church on the Beltway in Washington), I would suggest that J.G Ballards 
surreal tales of suburbia with his absurd idea that the future lies in 
the suburbs or The Strugatsky Brothers great SF novel of the Zone 
'Roadside Picnic' are more appropriate references... The latter 
especially - technology for most of humanity is simply a 'black-box' 
 hardly anyone understands what goes on inside the box - hence the 
'roadside picnic' metaphor.... 'Imagine a picnic... picture a 
forest....A Car drives off the country road into the meadow, a group of 
young people get out of the  carying bottles, baskets of food, radios, 
cameras. They light fires, pitch tents turn on music. They next morning 
they leave. The animals, birds, insect that watched in horror through 
the long night creep out of there hiding places and what do they see? 
Gas and oil spilled on the grass. Old spark plugs and other tools and 
machines strewn around on the grass. Rags, burnt out bulbs, and a monkey 
wrench left behind. Pollution on on ponds surface. And the usual 
 mess...A roadside picnic....on some road on the cosmos...'  Most humans 
are like the animals and insects wandering around the remnants of the 
technological debris left behind.... (The Strugatsky Brothers, simply 
great). After all 70% of the human race has never made a telephone call. 
and hardly anyone has touched or understood the architecture of a 
computer as for nanotechnology...

The metaphors of the strong are strange, they reflect there inner fears 
and selves, and yet human beings are descended from creatures who were 
forced out of the safe verdent African forests by their stronger 
relations onto the unsafe savannahs. We are descended from the weak and 
the failures. Change does not come from the strong but from the weak... 
from the multitude.

Our enemies as Toni Negri said are the 'imperials' who were once called 


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>To very briefly address the topic of cyborgs here, let me confess that I
>have admittedly been using cyborg is a rather polemical way.  I like
>Haraway's formulation "I'd rather be a cyborg that a goddess" because it
>points to a formulation that would allow us to achieve the ends of
>religion without the need for religion.  It provides for the moral
>equivalent of religion, if you will.
>My formulation of the cyborg sees it not merely as external hardware,
>but as intrinsically immanent and subjective as well.  To the extent
>that we can act instrumentally to transform situations through language,
>inquiry and social interactions, technology is embedded in the very
>constitution of who we are and what we may become.
>The Luddite/Heideggerian perspectives, in my view, merely recapitulate
>the Cartesian error of seeing external machine things without and
>spirits/ghosts/consciousness within.  I think the cyborg perspective
>helps overcome that false view in the convex mirror.
>I am definitely opposed to the Wired/Promethian/capital privatization of
>technology as well because this seems to me to be merely the flip side
>of the same error.
>What I am arguing for instead is taking responsibility for our
>cyborgian-floating-world-embedded-transactional-shifting-identities by
>allowing for more social and democratic control of our technologies.
>Besides the dystopian consequences of development for its own sake,
>there also remain the questions Lyotard raised in the Postmodern
>Condition, namely who shall control the data banks? and how can the
>paralogical replace the performative as the basis for the social bond?
>Is speed, frenzy, stress, the 80 hour workweek, the dependence on fossil
>fuels, the proliferation of intellectual property, the loss of privacy
>through government and corporate invasiveness, the inequalities brought
>about technological differentiation, the growing stockpile of weaponry,
>gated communities - are these all merely deterministic functions of
>development, technology and complexity, or are they the result of the
>social/economic/politic matrix from which these technologies emerge.
>"I'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess."  
>That doesn't mean I want to remain a micro-serf reading Tom Clancy and
>Wired and playing Doom on my computer while I pray to Jesus ala Kevin
>By cyborg I mean using technology to extend the social bond in a
>convivial fashion, replacing work with play, becoming polymorpheusly
>perverse to the great chagrin of the Christian/Moslem/Jewish
>fundamentalists (and even the liberal ones are basically
>fundamentalists!) and entering into godlike and blissful states of the
>Ubermind without groveling on our knees to outworn dogmas and
>patriarchal tribal creeds.  By cyborg I mean a way to resist development
>and complexity because we sly organisms still have other plans and even
>wear our electric hearts upon our sleeves.
>I'd rather be a cyborg than an Ashcroft, a Bin Laden, a Sharon, a Bush,
>a Billy Graham, a Jerry Falwell, a Trent Lott, a Jesse Helms, a Pope
>John Paul II.
>Philip K. Dick was right - The Empire never ended. 
>There's a hell of a good universe next door. Let's go!


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