Re: [-empyre-] what is to be done?

but it's very easy to become non-human, there are many ways and it has always existed
one of them is called death
I don't see why we need all these Kurzweil's calculations ;-)
The truth I see in that curves is that indeed, at some point, being human might become too expensive, but only in the point of view of another human being. So we'll probably need to save at least one human greedy accountant to be sure everything goes

where to be human is also to be
everything but a unique individual, where to be human is to be both 'read'
and 'written' by machines

but that's exactely the idea of being human !! that's our everyday life since the beginning of times
personnaly I enjoy it quite a lot like that


----- Original Message ----- From: <>
To: "soft_skinned_space" <>
Sent: Sunday, January 07, 2007 10:58 PM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] what is to be done?

Thanks to all of you for your answers and comments. As you may have gathered
by reading my first post, I, like, you do not have definite answers to the
questions I asked.

Here's a very brief summary of what some of you have written (my apologies in
advance for what was left out):

According to Jim, machines have shown us how complex human beings are
(research in AI have clearly proven that intelligence is a much more complex
structure than first thought).

Brian sums up Bernard Stiegler's book in which Stiegler makes his case for a
return to what seems to me a romantic notion of humanity. Brian also asks me
to suggest some possible answers to the questions I asked.

Brett makes a crucial distinction between beauty and the sublime and suggests
that a productive strategy would be to let go of the 'our received assumption
about the ontology of both art and theory'.

Now what is to be done? How should we tackle the profound transformation of
our world? As you know, the questions about the role of art and its
relationship to humanity, are just a symptom of a much deeper metamorphosis. I
do not use this word lightly. To me, we are in the process of a true

(there are, all around us, many proofs of that. Kurzweil's law of accelerating
return being just one of them.

Alexandre Leupin's Theory of Epistemological Cuts being another.

According to Leupin, a paradigmatic revolution can be clearly seen when words
become homonyms. Before and after Galileo, for example, the word cosmos,
though the same, does not mean the same thing. Before and after Christ, the
word God means something completely different. Today, words such as life,
death, consciousness and even art do not mean the same as they did only a few
years back).

As Leupin and Kurzweil clearly show, we are right in the middle of a deep
transformation of the very fabric of life. Xenotransplantation, genetic
therapy, genetically modified organisms are not just exotic events: they are
signs of a great alteration in the foundation of life. Life is becoming one
great genetic pool out of which forms emerge. Some are 'natural' (i.e. age-
old), others not so (i.e. created in labs), but all are present in today'

Here, then, are my thoughts:

In my initial post, I mentioned technological reality. Technological reality
is the human/machine perception of the world. As opposed to biological reality
(which is the physiological perception of reality, i.e. that which is gathered
by our senses), technological reality lets us see slivers of reality we are
not cognitively or psychologically equipped to see and understand (the quantum
level of reality, for example). In Consilience, E.O. Wilson wrote: The brain
is a machine assembled not to understand itself but to survive. This, I
believe, is fundamental. Biological reality is our brain trying to decipher
the world in order to survive. Technological reality is our brain trying to
cope with the world as technology sees it. But these new levels of reality are
so alien to our understanding of the world (to our brain's structure of
survival), that they become true fiction. We might intellectually understand
their existence but we cannot truly grasp what they mean (what does 9, 10 or
11 dimensions, as string theory suggests our world is made of, actually

Thus, technological reality offers us a perception of the world which is both
frightening and beautiful. Frightening because it questions all of our notions
of what it means to be alive, to be human, to be conscious and intelligent,
all of our notions of what the fabric of reality is. Beautiful because it
shows us that 'reality' is infinite, that the universe is made of strange and
exotic structures, that what we thought were the universal (and simple) laws
of physics are but a tiny fraction of the fabric of the universe. Frightening
because it suggests that the world is beyond our understanding; beautiful
because it celebrates the observer (as defined by quantum theory) as an
essential component of reality. Technological reality does not deconstruct;
rather, it fragments objects, forms, individuals into an infinite series of
layers. Technological reality folds and enfolds phenomena until the
microscopic meshes into the macroscopic. Thus, through technological reality
the world appears both beautiful and inhuman.

This is why I call our present situation, The Inhuman Condition. I do not use
inhuman pejoratively (as in horrible) but rather in the proper sense of the
word (that which is not human). The inhuman condition tells us that since our
age-old understanding of life, death, individuals, intelligence and especially
groups and families, are specific to our biological level of reality, since
these notions are only constructions of our physiology (itself build from the
challenges of evolution), we must completely redefine what it means to be
human, we must completely rethink our notions of the fabric of life. The
inhuman condition also tells us that beauty and the sublime can co-exist with
the unnatural, the inhuman. To me, the inhuman condition creates many
troubling consequences. The most obvious one is a deep malaise. According to
the inhuman condition, what our senses tell us of the world is nothing but a
familiar and comfortable fiction. We may feel human, we may feel unique,
conscious and intelligent but science (and technological reality) tells us
otherwise (as you know, Richard Dawkins has labeled living beings 'survival
vehicles' for genes. Recent research has shown that the actual genetic content
of the bacteria living in our stomach is 99 times bigger than our own genetic
material (Gill, Steven R: The Institute for Genomic Research, in Harper's
Magazine, vol 313, no 1876, septembre 2006, p. 13). Thus, are we survival
vehicles for our genes or for our bacteria's? Who's the vehicle here?).

If humanity becomes inhuman, what, then, are the consequences on the artistic
process? But first, we must ask ourselves what, exactly, is art? We could, of
course, spend an entire year discussing it. Let me suggest my own definition
here (which is as flawed as any other). To me, art is the sensitive
questioning of metaphysics (science would be the objective questioning of
metaphysics). But since the fabric of life must be redefine, so must be
metaphysics: how can we question life, death, suffering if we do not know what
life is, when death occurs, what or who is suffering? If we don't even know
what reality is, where it originates, where it ends? How can we question
metaphysics if its basis, humanity, suddenly appears to be just one level of
reality (what are life and death if one is considered an colony of different
living beings, beings that can actually keep on living after the colony's
death? There are more than 200 different living species in each human. Death
does not occur at the same time for each of them. Further, the actual process
of life and death is quite different for many of them).

Art, I believe, must address and reflect this deep transformation. How? Well,
what the inhuman condition tells us is that the world that surrounds us is not
made of frontiers but of overlapping dynamics and levels (both horizontal,
between species, and vertical, between levels of reality). Art must then
search for beauty and the sublime within this new condition, i.e. by letting
go of the human as its founding and exclusive phenomena. How should it do
that? I'm not quite sure but I'll suggest the following: By using machines as
co-creators. Not only do machines makes us see a deeper, stranger, more exotic
universe than we ever thought possible, they also help us understand the
world, make sense of it, they help us extract a new beauty, a different
sublime out of that world (e.g.: fractals). Machines are not only instruments,
they have become an extension of our senses (as McLuhan mentioned), they have
become an extension of consciousness. Thus, they play a vital and fundamental
role in art. Now, is that something completely new? Well, not really,
especially if we consider language as a machine, one that opened the world for
us, made it much richer, much more beautiful, language is a machine that
filled the world with signs, symbols and representation. The original machine
(language) is what enabled humans to create art. Today's machines are doing
the same, albeit with a different entity, that of the inhuman.

But for that to be possible, we must abandon our notion of humanity, of what
it means to be human, we must accept that today's humanity is shaped by a new
reason, by a new rationale, one which might seem irrational to our age-old
notions of what it means to be human (humanity is now a colony of bacteria,
genes and memes; it's a swarm of many collective intelligences, themselves
part of larger collective intelligences; it's a mass of many different
survival vehicles, themselves feeding larger collective intelligences such as
civilization). Once we are able to do so, we will see the rise (I believe) of
a new form of art, one that seamlessly integrates the inhuman into its forms
and content. What is the inhuman in art? It's the sublime that emerges through
the combination of both man's and machine's languages. It's the sublime in the
intertwining of forms and contents (the rational with the irrational). Machine
and humans will feed off each other and produce art forms that reflects each
other's needs and questioning (can a machine have a will? Well, not in the
human sense of the word, but a 'will' to survive, spread and disseminate? Yes,
I believe so. Machine are survival vehicles for memes, they belong and are
intertwined in the planetary fabric; they thus obey the structure of

By the way, digital art, and especially database art, are already a sign of
these new, emerging art forms, one closer to the inhuman condition than to the
human one. Digital art show us a different side of metaphysics, where to be
human is not to be enmeshed in story telling, is not to belong to a linear
evolution, but to be intertwined in an imploded notion of time, space and
narratives, where to be human is to be a receptacle of data, is to be an
ephemeral form, produced by the convergence of different languages (machine's
and well as man's) and levels of reality, where to be human is also to be
everything but a unique individual, where to be human is to be both 'read'
and 'written' by machines, where to be human is to be inhuman.

Quoting Brian Holmes <>: wrote:
What is to be done with a process that helped create our
> perception of the metaphysical, but whose operations, whose forms and
> sometimes even content are now within the control of machines? When > most of

> what art produces today ignores humanity's need for the transcendent, > when

> what most of what art produces today responds to machine's perceptions > of
> world?

This is a great text, with interesting references and a clear relation
to present reality. But I think the onus is on you to give some initial
ideas of what is to be done. There is, effectively, nothing in the
Western philosophical tradition that will help respond.

I am currently reading a philosopher from that retrograde country,
France, one who writes in the minor imperial language most of them still
use over there, his name is Bernard Stiegler. He thinks that the entire
European production of technological writing machines in the enlarged
sense - the kind of machines with which we cultivate ourselves, along
the lines sketched out by Foucault in his text "writing of the self" -
should be reoriented so as to basically save the inhabitants of Europe
and perhaps elsewhere from a threatening reduction of human singularity,
and with it, of any possible ethics. He thinks that capitalism, in the
advanced economies, is now primarily cultural, focused around the
different devices whereby memory and creativity of all kinds is
exteriorized into objects and traces. He thinks such machines are
essential, a basic part of the human experience in time, but that care
needs to be taken with their production, so that persons can go on
becoming individuals ("individuating") in a relation of creative tension
with societies which are also constantly individuating. If this care for
the social and psychic self cannot be translated into a change in the
kinds of machines which are produced, he believes that a generalized
disenchantment with democracy will grow more widespread, leading to a
collapse of desire into gregarious, instinctual outbursts of destructive
violence. His latest book, Reenchanter le monde: La valeur esprit contre
le populisme industriel, begins precisely with a chapter entitled "What
is to be done?" However, if I have understood the post you sent, this
whole approach and anything like it is already obsolete. So I am quite
curious what you think is to be done.

all the best, Brian Holmes

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