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The posthuman: AI, dronology, and “becoming alien”

Abstract

This paper is addressed to recent theoretical discussions of the Anthropocene, in particular Bernard Stiegler’s Neganthropocene (Open Universities Press, 2018), which argues: “As we drift past tipping points that put future biota at risk, while a posttruth regime institutes the denial of ‘climate change’ (as fake news), and as Silicon Valley assistants snatch decision and memory, and as gene-editing and a financially engineered bifurcation advances over the rising hum of extinction events and the innumerable toxins and conceptual opiates that Anthropocene Talk fascinated itself with—in short, as ‘the Anthropocene’ discloses itself as a dead-end trap…”. The objective of this paper is, therefore, twofold: (1) to discuss how the Anthropocene is appropriated to certain ideological discourses (paradoxically) to maintain the hegemony of precisely those systems of production that have most accelerated climate change etc. and (2) to consider how the factography of the Anthropocene is exploited in this process to mask the ideological character of industry-aligned “technocratic” environmental management. The paper is not concerned with specific case studies in terms of government and industry policy, or climate science, but rather with the ways in which the discourse of the Anthropocene has been inflected within the humanities and the broader cultural field—that is to say, ideologically, as a system or logic of meaning. How the Anthropocene “means” is, in this respect, a question of some importance. This paper does not attempt to address all the facets of this question, but focuses upon a central “apocalyptic” strain in the discourse of the Anthropocene drawn particularly from Francis Fukuyama’s millennial posthumanism and centred in the question of “sustainability” as catastrophe management—with the risk that real environmental degradation will become an alibi for a revived neoliberalism. In other words, the critical Earth system transformations that characterise the Anthropocene are themselves commodities, and that the project of their amelioration is in process of defining a future (opportunistic) “crisis” rhetoric with a global political franchise. The ideological import of the Anthropocene stems precisely from the fact that it is planetary and, while catalysed by human agency, independent in its specific behaviour from it. The Anthropocene objectively presents as the contemporary counterpart of the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction and the most compelling argument for a new kind of technological “arms race”. However, it also presents as the condition of an emerging ideological discourse which will determine how this race is run. From the discourse on “energy security” to the widespread “security crackdown” on environmental activists across the socalled developed and developing world, the Anthropocene has come to represent the co-option of a scientific factography for the thinly disguised resurgence of “ideological science” of the Fukuyamaesque variety (posthistory, posthuman). For Fukuyama, the true meaning of “posthuman” is thus the accomplishment of humanity’s historical mission. As the “End of History” designates an end of ideological struggle, so too, the dénouement of the Anthropocene and the “ends of man” represents the accomplished purpose of species warfare: dominion, not simply over the world, but over all possible worlds. According to this narrative, science—like technology—must be uniquely at the service of the maintenance of the global order, organised around a universal appeal to “crisis management”. It is precisely for this reason that what calls itself posthuman masks the return of an ever-more-apocalyptic Humanism.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hubristically, from the point-of-view that the Anthropocene confirms humanity’s mastery over the “nature.”

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Correspondence to Louis Armand.

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Armand, L. The posthuman: AI, dronology, and “becoming alien”. AI & Soc 35, 257–262 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-018-0872-2

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Keywords

  • Posthumanism
  • Technological singularity
  • Human extinction event
  • Robotic evolution
  • Ideology
  • Biotechnology
  • Commodification
  • Neganthropocene
  • End of history