Monday, January 12, 2015

are we becoming posthumanists?

Wow. I read "Among The Disrupted," by Leon Wieseltier, a very insightful essay on the state of humans, information, and technology.  Some excerpts...


What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability.

Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything. It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data-generating capabilities of the new technology. The distinction between knowledge and information is a thing of the past, and there is no greater disgrace than to be a thing of the past.

The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university...

In American culture right now, as I say, the worldview that is ascendant may be described as posthumanism.

Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.

Every technology is used before it is completely understood. There is always a lag between an innovation and the apprehension of its consequences. We are living in that lag, and it is a right time to keep our heads and reflect. We have much to gain and much to lose. In the media, for example, the general inebriation about the multiplicity of platforms has distracted many people from the scruple that questions of quality on the new platforms should be no different from questions of quality on the old platforms. Otherwise a quantitative expansion will result in a qualitative contraction. The new devices do not in themselves authorize a revision of the standards of evidence and argument and style that we championed in the old devices. 

Sentimentality is not always a counterfeit emotion. Sometimes sentiment is warranted by reality.

There is nothing soft about the quest for a significant life. And a complacent humanist is a humanist who has not read his books closely, since they teach disquiet and difficulty. In a society rife with theories and practices that flatten and shrink and chill the human subject, the humanist is the dissenter. Never mind the platforms. Our solemn responsibility is for the substance.

Read the full article here: "Among The Disrupted"

Artwork above is by Joon Mo Kang



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