Tag Archives: human

Writing things we can no longer read!

There is a very interesting TED talk by Kevin Slavin called “How algorithms shape our world,” which is relevant to our discussion of the New Aesthetic and how the digital-physical divide is becoming indistinguishable.

Slavin highlights a crucial point in saying that “we have lost the sense of what is happening in this world we have made” because “we’ve rendered something illegible” by “writing things [ie. algorithms] we can no longer read”.

Using the example of what is called “Pragmatic Chaos,” the Netflix‘s algorithm, Slavin claims that this algorithm is “trying to get a grasp on you, on the firmware inside the human skull” by trying to recommend the next movie you might want to watch. The absolute power and significance of Pragmatic Chaos is evident from its responsibility for 60% of the movies rented on Netflix.

Slavin argues that “these [algorithms] are the physics of culture” and “we are terraforming the earth with this algorithmic efficiency”.

It is no longer “a weird uneasy collaboration between nature and man,” Slavin says, because there is a “third co-evolutionary force” – algorithms.

“We have to understand them as nature,” Slavin suggest, “and in a way they are.”

The adoption of this machine dialect into societal culture is essentially what constitutes the New Aesthetic.

Slavin, Kevin. “How algorithms shape our world“. TED. July 2011.

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The Posthuman

N. Katherine Hayles defines the ‘posthuman’ not as what comes after the human, as a linguistic interpretation of the term suggests, but as a new conceptualisation of what defines a ‘human’ and the quality of being human.

Hayles claims that “the posthuman view thinks of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate” and it emphasises “informational pattern over material instantiation” (1). The posthuman view also “configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines” because there are no essential differences or absolute demarcations between” both (3).

Having said that, however, Hayles emphasises that “it is important to recognise that the construction of the posthuman does not require the subject to be a literal cyborg” because the “defining characteristics [of the posthuman] involve the construction of subjectivity, not the presence of non-biological components” (4).

Amber Case studies the symbiotic interactions between humans and machines and how our lives are being shaped by and through the increased use of technological mediation. Case shares a similar view to Hayles. Case, building on Donna Haraway’s work, argues that we are all cyborgs even without possessing non-biological or biotechnological, human-machine integrated components.

If we agree with Hayles’s and Case’s interpretation of what defines the ‘posthuman’ (which I do) then it appears that we have already entered this rapidly expanding period of post-humanity. We are at the end of a definition of what human is. By surpassing the limitations of the human through the use of technology, we are redefining what it is and means to be human. Basic evidence of this can be seen from how the older generation of society, who are still alive, experience great confusion when they attempt to comprehend their perception of what is happening in our technologically saturated world.

The lines that both demarcate and define our sense of “what is human” have been and are being blurred by our (external and internal) incorporation of technological tools as physical and mental extension of our human selves.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics. Chicago: U. of Chicago P, 1999. Print.

Case, Amber.“We are all cyborgs now.” TED.

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