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Are we human?

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Martin Hall

on 16 February 2013

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Transcript of Are we human?

Are We Human? “agency is literally imbued in Blogjects. Things that matter completely sully the previously starched white relationship between subject and object, human and nonhuman. Things that matter inflect the course of social debate and discussion, and cannot help inflicting local and global change ... Our occupancy in the world changes when we enrol Things amongst us in the social web. How will the rules of tenancy within the physical world change when our Things — physical objects — are informatic and networked? How will my behaviour and my conception of physical space alter when the Internet pervades not only all the little nooks and crannies, but is accessible to all my little trinkets, my cereal box, my wallpaper, my ring?”

Julian Bleecker (2006) an alternative is to see new technologies as neither dystopian or utopian, but rather as a complex mix of benefits and consequences, and part of the journey that began with the australopithecines five million years ago And the forebodings of dystopia condemn technological advances as retrogressive:

“the crisis in humanism is happening everywhere. Although it continues to be debated by critical theorists, the reign of Man is simultaneously being called into question by literature, politics, cinema, anthropology, feminism, and technology. These attacks are connected, part of the circuit of posthumanism”.

Neil Badmington (2000). technology, and the ability to teach and learn, are the essence of being human, and always have been For example, the utopia of transhumanism prioritizes the individual and suppresses the context of inequality:

“At issue are the emotional dynamics of population change as people confront the possibility that Homo sapiens sapiens may not be the terminys of evolutionary processes; of parents engendering children so different from them they can scarcely make contact over the generation gap; of children contemplating parents whose closely held assumptions are no longer viable in a posthuman future. Each of these scenarios involves complexities for which the transhumanist philosophy is simply not able to account or to understand, much less to explain”.

Katherine Hayles (2011). “Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.”

Nick Postrom (2005) transhumanism “One creates a machine for a particular and limited purpose. But once the machine is built, we discover, always to our surprise - that it has ideas of its own; that it is quite capable not only of changing our habits but... of changing our habits of mind”

(Postman 1983, p. 23, quoted by Chandler, 2002) the Frankenstein Syndrome in thinking about more recent thinking, it’s useful to separate three strands:

* dystopia
* utopia
* how people respond (education) For example, William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984:

"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...." This complexity was anticipated by science fiction.... what’s new now? digital technologies have made massive amounts of data available, with unprecedented processing power. this speeds everything up, blurs boundaries and creates existential crises..... Articles
Badmington, Neil (2000). Introduction: approaching posthumanism. In Posthumanism. Houndmills; New York: Palgrave. http://www.palgrave.com/PDFs/0333765389.Pdf
Bleecker, Julian (2006). A Manifesto for Networked Objects — Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things. http://www.scribd.com/doc/14748019/Why-Things-Matter
Bostrom, Nick (2005). Transhumanist values. In Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May.
Chandler, Daniel (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth. http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tecdet.html
Fuller, Steve (2009) “Humanity 2.0: defining humanity”. TEDx Warwick
Gibson, William. (1984). Neuromancer. London, HarperCollins.
Hayles, Katherine (2011). Wrestling with Transhumanism. Metanexus http://www.metanexus.net
Johnston, Rebecca (2009). Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the Internet. First Monday 14 (4-6).
Prensky, Marc (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5.
Video clips
Plurality (2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzryBRPwsog
Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert (2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Pb_tmPKGk&feature=youtu.be
World Builder (2009). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzFpg271sm8
Robbie (2012): http://vimeo.com/40524878
True Skin (2012): http://vimeo.com/51138699
Avatar Days (2010): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9TEdGbvtnc&feature=youtu.be
Benditto Machine III (2009): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiXOigfDb0U Sources Being fully human will complete the journey from the earliest technologies, with the full integration of technologies and learning.

To be human is to be a cyborg: “The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust”.
Donna Haraway, The Cyborg Manifesto being fully human Perhaps, then, we are not yet fully human:

“’Things’ in the pervasive Internet, will become first-class citizens with which we will interact and communicate. Things will have to be taken into account as they assume the role of socially relevant actors and strong-willed agents that create social capital and reconfigure the ways in which we live within and move about physical space”.

Julian Bleecker (2006): not yet human? “spimes” are things that are searchable, track their location, usage histories and engage with the other things around them.
These are what Bleecker (2006) calls “blogjects”.
Blogjects track and trace where they are and where they’ve been and have self-contained (embedded) histories of their encounters and experiences.
They always have some form of agency — they can foment action and participate, and have an assertive voice within the social web. spimes and blogjects Perhaps, though, metaphors for the digital world are shaping our sense of reality...

“the most–used metaphors surrounded ideas of destruction. If the Internet is destruction metaphor becomes the predominant schema for reflecting on online experiences, how might this impact the future of the Internet? Could this metaphor encourage censorship and oppression online? What other metaphors better convey the future and potential of the Internet?” And what if the metaphor of the Interet becomes the reality of being human?”

Rebecca Johnston (2009) the power of metaphors Marc Prensky (2001): “Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to ‘serious’ work ... They are used to the instantaneity of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets, a library on their laptops, beamed messages and instant messaging. They’ve been networked most or all of their lives”. do digital natives really exist? People use, abuse, worship and deride technology, teach other people about it, and always have Benditto Machine III (2009): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiXOigfDb0U Our earliest ancestors were australopithecines. They looked like apes, and probably had very little language. So what made them different – made them “human”: Technology – the ability to fashion tools and teach others how to make and use them “Have we always, sometimes, or never been human?” Steve Fuller Martin Hall
E-learning and Digital Cultures University of Edinburgh February 2013 Are We Human? Rather than utopia or dystopia, the concept of the “internet of things” draws our attention to the interconnections between people and objects in a digital world, and the mix of consequences and benefits that this brings. True Skin (2012): http://vimeo.com/51138699 an internet of things Perspectives such as these suggest that learning is about the step-change that comes from comprehension, rather than from amassing information or from identifying patterns in data, however complex these may be. An answer to Steve Fuller’s question – “have we always, sometimes, or never been human? – could be that being human is about comprehension. The concept of comprehension connects our world with the world of the first anatomically modern people, and their art Learning Robbie (2012) looks at the same issues as World Builder, but from the point of view of an intelligent machine that has learned the value of face-to-face relationships Robbie (2012): http://vimeo.com/40524878 Robbie World Builder (2009) is a sensitive appreciation of the interplay between the power of digital technology and the centrality of face-to-face relationships World Builder (2009). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzFpg271sm8 World Builder Do people who have been immersed in the digital world think and learn differently? Does this mean that education as we know it is doomed? Avatar Days (2010): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9TEdGbvtnc&feature=youtu.be how people respond (education) In contrast to the dominant dystopian strand of representation, utopian visions are often commercially oriented, promoting digital wonders of technology. In Toyota’s advertisement, the all digital car is an extension of the driver’s ego, smashing into reality from the freedom of the virtual world. Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert (2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Pb_tmPKGk&feature=youtu.be utopia In the film Plurality (2012), the grid is “the ultimate social network”, controlling and directing lives in an Orwellian projection of 1984 Plurality (2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzryBRPwsog dystopia
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