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<eyebeam><blast> posthuman politics

On Feb. 9, Kate Hayles wrote:

"The posthuman is best understood ... as the newest phase of a process
that has been on-going for thousands of years of cognitively enriched
environments.  Edwin Hutchins points to this process when he asks why
modern humans are capable of more sophisticated cognition than cavemen.
We can achieve this, he suggests, not because we are smarter, but
because we have built smarter environments in which to function.  Seen
in this way, the posthuman offers us a way to think about human-machine
interfaces in ways that are life-enhancing rather than life-threatening.

Kate, welcome to the forum and thanks for a clear statement. Your
approach demystifies cybernetic technology and relates it to older
mnemonic technologies such as books, architecture, frescoes,
cave-paintings, etc. - all the forms that humans have impressed more or
less permanently upon matter, either to save themselves the physical
energy of doing a job, or the mental energy of remembering a thought, or
both at once. In this sense we have always lived in a "distributed
cognitive system," part living, part inanimate. But there has been some
disquiet for a long time about the perception that the accumulation of
disciplinary technologies - relating, for instance, to the structure of
the state, or the organization of industrial production and the
management of its symbolic equivalents (i.e. money) - could become so
great and so rigid as to effectively block human autonomy, freeze it
into certain very limited patterns. When people complain about being
reduced to the status of machines, they're generally complaining about
the imposition of such a discipline.

Are you suggesting that the development of cybernetic technologies, as
such, may help alleviate that problem? Will posthuamn cyberintelligence
have a more supple approach to human relations than the earlier
varieties? Or will it just be more efficient? I would be curious to see
the way your thinking on a new understanding of embodiment and of the
human-machine interface can be related to political questions, i.e., how
technology is used and for whom.

Best regards,
Brian Holmes

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