File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 79

Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 21:19:36 +0000
Subject: Cyborgs 1 - positive.

I've written some notes on the Cyborg issue: I broken this down into a 
number of segments - this is the first one.

In the 21st C a number of diverse theoretical constructs address the 
supposedly related threads of: eugenics, technologizing the body and the 
cyborg amoungst others, are trying to establish a unified position in 
the debates over biotechnology. I believe contrary to pseudo-scientific 
cyborg theorists, that they should be treated as separate disciplines 
and separate discourses linked by at best an archaeological thread. Some 
theorists are currently speaking about post-biological man. What would 
have been called the scientific/technological and the organic are 
crashing into on another. Neural networks are being modeled on the human 
brain and artificial life algorithms are simulating the millennium-long 
processes of evolution and natural selection. Designers are trying to 
build computers based on or integrated with DNA to increase their rate 
of computation and build devices to place biological activity (nervous 
system response time, hormone production, circadian rhythms) under 
technological control. The debates and uncertainties about genetics have 
begun but fewer people are looking at or arguing over the over-reaching 
statements regarding the supposed 'cyborgization' of the human being.

There have been many number of positive responses to the 'cyborg' 
phenomenon. AI researchers such as Moravec have almost declared that its 
time that carbon-based life gives control of the planet to its 
evolutionary descendents silicon-based life. This is they spuriously 
suggest is part of the grand design of evolution. The human cyborg (at 
least they honestly do not suggest my cat is a cyborg) is a 
'transitional species', prior to the human entering into total 
post-biological obsolescence. Evolution is being theorized from a 
Cybernetic perspective as an attempt to increase information-processing 
power latent in matter, a struggle against Newtonian entropy, an attempt 
at science achieving immortality. They suggest that post-biological 
artificial life will win out against the organic since it is more 
durable and more efficient (sheer nonsense of course). This is one of 
the more obvious theoretical fears in Lyotards late writing in the 
'Inhuman' for the end of humanity and gender leads inexorably to the end 
of thought...

Other theorists propose a more peaceable coexistence for human beings 
and the post-cyborg . I.e. the re-engineering of the human species, this 
endearing concept proposes that we treat human beings as we have treated 
the sheep and wolf and engineer the human equivilant of the 'loft' dogs 
of New York, who make the Pekinese look positively well equipped to 
survive. We can become the masters of self-selection, take control of 
human evolution. Perhaps it is hard to think against increasing the 
length of human life, increased intelligence (shudder) and so on because 
of the issues that we obviously have in these areas. Some people have 
suggested that without technological modification we will never 
accomplish the dreams of the human race except the dreams are not 
mine... The search for human perfectibility is one of the oldest of 
hetrotopian dreams.

"Hyperintelligence", augmented-intelligence that may be made possible by 
bioelectronics may save the human race from its own terrible behaviour. 
Many genetic engineers have suggested that human beings will be able to 
'remove' the genes for homosexuality, aggression, antisocial behavior, 
just as in the past they wanted to ensure the supremacy of the Ruling 
Class. Today cyborgian scientists/technologists/philosophers have 
suggested that augmented humans will be able to 'marry' technology in 
extraordinary ways to enable the rational management of the planet.... 
Of course since Comte and Plato people have suggested that the 
governance of the human race should be carried out by an autocrats, who 
possess wisdom, long-term vision, and breadth of perspective that humans 
do not.

Then there are the postmodern theorists who have proposed a have taken a 
favorable position on the cyborg. This version has followed the line of 
Haraway, who stated that she would rather be a cyborg than a goddess any 
day, in a cynical repudiation of the European feminism of difference 
(usually accused of being essentialist), ecofeminism and traditional 
socialist-feminism. (Gray occupies the Jeffersonian anarchist position 
in this unholy mess). This type of pro-cyborg position is interested in 
the links between humans and computers and usually feels that the cyborg 
is a metaphorical identity for humans in the 21st century. This is 
because it resists essentialism (one of the favorite targets of the 
new-left I seem to remember, and in the process presumably racism, 
sexism, ageism, classism, gender, culturism etc.) and helps to construct 
the supposed fluidness, hybridization, and boundary-transgression of 
postmodern identities (actually this is nonsense of course since the 
idea that a postmodern subjects identity is actually different from a 
modern subjects identity is an absurd claim). For Haraway, Gray and co - 
The cyborg is an additional way for humanity to free itself from the 
culture/nature split/trap in which we have found ourselves.




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