Incoming Transmission: Thanatophobia and the Future of the Human Body (Part 3: Human Worlds and Art)
A Human World: When the world gathers – to use Heideggerian terminology – toward man, who challenges it to reveal the essence of technology, the world appears uncannily organic: roadways appear as veins, highways as major arteries, both of which facilitate the transport of red and white blood cells (the lights of cars heading toward and away from an observer); sky scraping towers appear as cancerous growths, rectilinear, glass, immense growths concentrating in one of the organs (cities) where these veins/arteries (roadways-highways) link together.
Hemispheres might be likened to the North as head (rationality and consciousness), the South as rear-end (shit and piss), or else sections of the Divine Comedy: the world as a poor pagan in need of a Saviour! The world itself is literally is pulled into the orbit of man, who gathers it into the realm of the anthropocentric.
Complexity and Artifice: The hyper-real is not simply about the hyper-complex, but hyper-intelligent. The cultural landscape of North American cities is not simply becoming more ‘complex’, but increasingly ‘artificial’ and ‘intelligent’. This is what it meant by the hyper-real being ‘more real than real’. The distinction being that while ‘complexity’ can indeed be a natural aspect of an organism or thing, that which is ‘artificial’ or ‘artifice’ bears the mark of some sort of intelligence. Human culture is not intelligent simply due to its complexity, but due to its propensity for devising abstractions and artifice, including often simple objects – such as stone tools – that bear the clear mark of some sort of craftsmanship. (This is one of the arguments used to thwart the claims of the proponents of Intelligent Design, the most recent version of Creation(ist) Science. i.e. see Scott, Eugenie. Evolution vs. Creationism: an Introduction).
The world is indeed becoming imagined as an intelligent space, that is, not only a complex space but a space subject to human artifice, from the incursion of nanotechnologies to G.P.S to ubiquitous forms of communication. Bruce Sterling’s shocking conception of the SPIME, a world filled with objects wholly on the terrain of the human, articulates the degree that artifice and craftsmanship, and not simply complexity, are coming to define the world. Sterling, drawing his commentary from the way we currently produce goods in the information economy, writes: “In the future, an object’s life begins on a graphics screen. It is born digital. Its design specs accompany it throughout its life. It is inseparable from that original digital blueprint, which rules the material world. This object is going to tell you — if you ask — everything that an expert would tell you about it.” (i.e. see Bruce Sterling’s 2004 talk ‘When Blobjects Rule the Earth’). This is not merely an issue of complexity, but one of artifice and intelligence.
On this theme, we might briefly might consider Heidegger’s assertion that modern technology, as opposed to Greek techne, wrests the world of its ‘wordliness’ and puts in its stead a human world. Heidegger’s arguments regarding the nature of contemporary technology are persuasive: the planet is indeed increasingly becoming enmeshed in grids of command and control, altering the nature of our perception of the world and ourselves. Walking down the streets of downtown Toronto one has the eerie sense that it is, aside from the naked faces other denizens, simply the few trees, whose branches each season grow in unpredictable ways, which alone remind us of the contingency of things, of a sense of otherness. (This is a sensibility that the geometric-prim trees of Second Life cannot offer.
Nearly everything else that meets our gaze; carefully measured roadways and sidewalks, automobiles, immaculate advertisements and signs, brand name clothing, the network of subway, electrical and hydro lines that run beneath our feet, etc…, bear the stamp of human artifice. Even the position of the trees themselves, arranged a certain distance from the curb, attempt to create an utterly ‘human’ world. Walking through these dense urban centres one might wonder how long denizens have before a view of the sky, and endangered rays of sunlight, are lost to looming computer designed skyscrapers – perhaps we will someday need municipal ordinances securing a right to the sky!
Natural-Artificial Paradox: But is there not a paradox here? Things, as we have discussed, become artifice, abstraction, hyper-real (which means more-than-real rather than simply illusionary or false) while the world becomes slippery, fluid, nomadic, in flux, networked, virtual, simulational.
This seems to run up against everything we know about the truth-falsity binarism, for this binarism, since Plato has held a fixed grasp on truth and falsity. Truth co-responds to that which is unchanging, the Word, the Code, while the false co-responds to materiality, writing, modern technology etc…
The hyper-real designates the collapse of this binary: the abstracted, hyper-real world, possesses traits from both of Plato’s categories! Baudrillard writes simultaneously, for example, of the true, the hyper-real, the code, the Word, and the fluid, the imaginary and the simulational.
Cybject is nothing more than a thought experiment.