The Boundaries Between Man and Animal

As Derrida points out, animals do not have a voice. Thus, representing them in the law is difficult. “One cannot expect ‘animals’ to be able to enter into an expressly juridical contract in which they would have duties, in an exchange of recognized rights. (Derrida 74)” Despite this, humans have still taken it upon themselves to institute laws for the protection of animals. Why is this? Much of humanism is built on the establishment of the superiority of man over animal. It seems natural that this dominion would include the protection of animals from our own activities, but the way the humanist and the posthumanist would go about doing this is very different. The posthuman represents the restructuring of the barrier between human and animal. The posthumanist seeks to create a harmony between himself and nature, to give animals a new subjectivity.

It is instinctual for us to identify with things through anthropomorphism, especially through a humanist lens. Given this, humans tend to only identify with animals if they are displaying human characteristics, such as in the instance of an orangutan attacking the bulldozer destroying its home. People popularized this incident with humanist rhetoric trying to anthropomorphize this animal’s actions. Yet from a posthumanist perspective, these animals may not even be feeling human emotions, but their humanness or lack thereof is not why we should identify with them or recognize their lives.

Wolfe then takes the conversation in a striking but understandable direction when he compares people with disabilities to animals. As he says, “‘Where there is reason, there is a subject’ morphs, in the twentieth century, into ‘where there is language, there is a subject. (Wolfe 128)” Given the the points we discussed in class about how people with disabilities are treated (such as people in wheelchairs being kidnapped while people do not help them), there seems to be an implicit recognition that has grown up in recent decades that the disabled are somehow less human. If someone in a wheelchair is calling for help as they are being pushed away, people generally assume that it is more likely that the person is mentally unstable rather than actually being kidnapped. Applying the posthuman understanding of animals to the disabled, society can reinvent the way it views this minority group and care for it even though certain members of the minority may lack things common to most humans such as the ability to walk or communicate effectively. Perhaps through the development of a more posthuman lens, society may not only improve the its understanding of the natural world, but also its understanding and treatment of people with disabilities.

Braidotti in the Shell – Technology Changing the Human

The integration of advanced technology into human society has been changing the way we view ourselves and live our lives for decades. Ghost in The Shell is one proposed natural conclusion to this direction of human development. Ghost in the Shell focuses very heavily on what it means to be human, with the android protagonist herself directly confronting the question of what even makes her human. In this world, humanity is more of a mental state than anything else; there is a grand distinction between body and soul, ghost and shell. The biological (or lack thereof) composition of the shell is irrelevant as long as the ghost is present. Furthermore, the quality of humanity is performed through how people treat each other. Matoko says that the only thing that makes her feel human is how she’s treated. Yet even this definition of humanity is challenged when a ghost emerges that was not of human origin. This mirroring of human and machine development raises uncertainty about the nature of what is human and if that is even important.

Braidotti’s text proposes new perspectives to inform human meditation on these questions of existence. In light of Braidotti’s push toward post-anthropocentrism, it seems that perhaps there is not much point in defining humanity at all. The society of Ghost in the Shell takes its first shaky steps into a post-anthropocentric future when the puppet master merges with Matoko. She becomes something more than human (if indeed she ever was human at any point during the movie). She has merged with technology to the point where human and technology are no longer distinguishable but have to come together to form something different and new.

This reflects Braidotti’s proposal of the new role of technology in our lives. “Technological apparatus is our new ‘milieu’ and this intimacy is far more complex and generative than the prosthetic, mechanical extension that modernity has made of it.” (83) Consider the mobile device for example. It enables us to do almost anything from anywhere. We run our lives through them, and we have come to regard them essentially as parts of our own bodies. The mobile device is an extension of our personal space. It is now socially expected to ask permission before handling someone’s mobile device and touching one without permission is considered rude.

Our society and culture have already changed a great deal with the introduction of technology. Humanity has struggled to define itself for thousands of years. Now that we have the ability to alter our “shells” and change the nature of our minds and bodies, we may be approaching a time where the question of “what is human” is no longer an important one. Rather the question could become, “what will we choose to be?”

Annotated Bibliography

My Sources are divided into three different sections regarding how they will be utilized in the final project: Contextual Testimony, Cultural Artifacts, and Scholarly Foundation.

Contextual Testimony (Since my project is based around perception, these sources will serve as a real life window into how people developing and using prosthetics move through society and their experiences with others.)

WIRED. Can Prosthetics Outperform Real Limbs? | Cyborg Nation. YouTube, WIRED, 4 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2z8CE2vomY — A man loses both his legs in a rock-climbing accident and develops a new prosthetic pair for himself. He discovers that his new legs outperform his old ones and his friends joke that they now have to cut their own legs off to level the playing field

Motherboard. The Mind-Controlled Bionic Arm with a Sense of Touch. YouTube, Motherboard, 18 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_brnKz_2tI — A woman recounts her experience with a bionic arm. The end of the video also presents some reactions of lawmakers to increased prevalence of bionic limbs. We must rethink what we know about laws, privacy, and “domain over our own bodies.”

Seeker, director. Engineers Created A New Bionic Arm That Can Grow with You. YouTube, Seeker, 10 June 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luHmXHEpF7w — A man discusses his experience with his prosthetic arm. He has had an increasingly positive experience as technology has improved. “How does it work, rather than what happened to you?”

Davies, Sally. “Encounters with the Posthuman.” Nautilus. April 29, 2013. http://nautil.us/issue/1/what-makes-you-so-special/encounters-with-the-posthuman — A man creates a device to enhance his vision and overcome colorblindness. This article showcases negative reactions to prosthetics. People are uncomfortable around him and he told to leave several public places.

Cultural Artifacts: Whereas the first section was dealing with real life depictions, this next section will focus on fictional depictions. This section will consider a few different cultural artifacts and their depictions of prosthetics. It is important to consider the fiction involved in the rhetoric around prosthetics, because what is simulated is simultaneously a reflection of and an influence on what is real.

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 — This film takes place in a society where technologically enhanced bodies are the norm. Society has grown and evolved to reflect this. The body is no longer as sacred as it was; they now have warranties. The soul, or ghost, is considered the defining human quality, until the film shows evidence to the contrary in the Puppet Master

Oshii, Mamoru, director. Ghost in the Shell 2.0. Amazon, Starz, 2008, http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Shell-2-0-Crispin-Freeman/dp/B003AJSRVW/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=ghost+in+the+shell+2.0&qid=1554830059&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope — Ben Kenobi uses the statement that Vader is “more machine than man” to demonize him. The applicability of this demonization notwithstanding, this line represents a negative connotation surrounding prosthetics: they make you less human and that is bad.

Lucas, George, director. Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope. 20th Century Fox, 2004

Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back — Similarly to the first point, when Luke gets his prosthetic hand, the film deliberately shows that it is indistinguishable from a human hand, even in the tactile sensations it delivers. This again carries a negative connotation toward prosthetic limbs: they can potentially make someone stand out as not fully biological, and that is bad. Therefore, any prosthetic must be hidden and disguised; they are ugly things.

Kershner, Irvin, director. Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back . 20th Century Fox, 2004.

The Six Million Dollar Man — This television show portrayed prosthetic limbs and prosthetic enhancement in a positive light. The show portrayed prosthetics as a means to achieving superhuman feats. I picked this cultural artifact in particular because it was popular and fairly old compared to the other sources on this list. It increases scope of analysis when considering rhetoric surrounding prosthetic limbs.

Scholarly Foundation: These texts provide the philosophical background material that I will use to examine the information from these sources in the context of posthumanism.

Descartes, Rene. “Meditations on First Philosophy in Which Are Demonstrated the Existence of God and the Distinction between the Human Soul and Body.” Translated by Jonathan Bennett, Earlymoderntexts.com, July 2004, http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/descartes1641.pdf — Cartesian Duality – the distinction between body and soul – is an idea that is central to both posthuman rhetoric and the rhetoric regarding the philosophical implications of prosthetics.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “Prologue” and “Toward Embodied Virtuality.” How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 1999. xi-24 — The key take away from this reading regarding my project is that people have become accustomed to the idea that information can travel through various different mediums unaffected. Speaking more broadly, the permanence of form is becoming less relevant. If something changes parts of its form, that does not necessarily affect what is it. This can be related to the positive embracing of prosthetic advancement. Humans may change their bodies without altering their classification as “human.”

Graham in Maniac-The Exploration of Co-Evolution

Episodes seven and eight of Maniac exemplify Graham’s theory regarding humanity’s relationship to technology. “Humanity has always co-evolved with, and defined itself in relation to, its environment, tools and technologies. (Graham 223)” This idea that people and technology are dependent on each other and evolve together is extremely similar to the nature of the simulations that the test subjects are put into. In many ways, the simulation is pre-defined for them; certain scenarios will represent different things based on which stage of the trial the test subjects are on (A, B, or C). These simulations, however, grow and change based on the human component (the psychological elements that the subjects bring into the simulations). In this way, the technology of this experimental drug, follows Graham’s theory. People create simulations which are then changed by the people that use them, technology and humanity developing and changing together.

The GRTA is also an example of this anomaly, she was created from the psychological data of a human therapist, Greta Mantelray, but she is also made to grow and change from this base. GRTA uses her uniquely adapted brain to help humans work through their trauma. According to Dr. Mantelray, GRTA was supposed to help humanity move beyond all unnecessary forms of pain. Humanity makes great strides in the creation of artificial intelligence, which will in-turn help humanity evolve past the quagmire of mental suffering.

Furthermore, the reaction of Dr. Mantelray to GRTA is similar to another aspect of Graham’s text. Dr. Mantelray relates fairly well to what Graham describes as a “technophilic.” Dr. Mantelray’s fascination with technology and the end of human suffering are almost exactly what Graham points out. “Technophilic attitudes are subtended by similar projections, valorizing technologies as protections against fears of vulnerability, contingency, impurity and mortality.

The GRTA and the simulations of the drug trial may be taken further and understood as metaphors for technology in our daily lives. With technology in our lives, we are constantly living through simulations, dating apps for example. Such apps remove the human interaction of physical and emotional connection and replace it with simulated connection – swipe right, swipe left. Conversely, however, we alter the simulations as much as they alter us. The people that produce the simulations-programmers, marketers, artists, etc.-must draw on their experience of reality to create such simulations. People are affected by technology, but the rapid evolution of technology is determined by people. Through GRTA and the drug trial, Maniac shows us a metaphor of the co-evolution of humanity and technology as described by Graham.

Derrida and Baudrillard in Maniac-The struggle to connect in a Posthuman world

The four most recent episodes of Manic are all centered on people struggling to connect with each other. Owen and Annie are linked in B-pill experiences by the grieving GRTA. They share the memories of lifetimes together through technology. Owen is uncomfortable about what happened between them when Annie questions him about it. Technology brought them a closeness they had never experienced with any other person, yet simultaneously drove them apart. The simulations of the GRTA are an extreme realization of Baudrillard’s theories on modern communication. “What was projected psychologically and mentally, what used to be lived out on earth as metaphor, as mental or metaphorical scene, is henceforth projected into reality, without any metaphor at all, into an absolute space which is also that of simulation.(Baudrillard 128)” Their deepest thoughts, which had previously only manifested through their actions and motivations known only to their inner selves, were now made perfectly clear to each other.

Dr. Mantelray and his mother Greta also saw a related conflict over the nature of this drug trial itself. When discussing the GRTA’s fusion of Annie and Owen’s hallucinations, Dr. Mantelray and his mother come to very different conclusions; Dr. Mantelray proposes a simple technological malfunction (something physical, understandable, and fixable), while Greta proposes that perhaps there is something mysterious and cosmic about their connection (something spiritual, metaphysical, and beyond the realm of technological science). The struggle between posthumanism and humanism is present in this exchange. Dr. Mantelray believes he can simplify the mind down into a chemical equation that can solved with the right combinations of drugs (similar to Hughes ideas about happiness in society), while Greta believes that there is more to the human mind than chemicals in the brain. Dr. Mantelray exemplifies a posthuman belief in mastery and control over the mind, while Greta expresses a humanist reverence for and romanticism of the complexity of the mind.

These conflicts also exemplify a presentation of phenomenology as discussed by Derrida. The hallucinations experienced by Owen and Annie are an extreme manifestation of an entirely phenomenological world. Nothing is objectively real; everything is created through their past experiences and other elements of their psyches. For example, the lost chapter of Don Quixote manifests itself from Annie’s remembrances of her sister’s childhood fascination with the book.

Overall, these episodes of Maniac viewed through the lenses of Baudrillard and Derrida present the issue at the core of communication in a posthuman era. Technology, allowing us to be more connected than ever before, changes that communication to something never before experienced. As Baudrillard says, we can upload versions of ourselves onto the internet; we “interface” rather than connect. People can know each other and manipulate what is known about themselves with never before seen capability. Technology has turned communication into a phenomenological interface. Everyone connects with everyone else through different versions of themselves, and the objective “truth” is almost always locked behind lenses of subjective experience.

Foucault, Hughes, and Maniac – Happiness and Madness

Foucault’s essay on the asylum presents an interesting idea about the evolution of society. The definition and understanding of madness has changed over time. Initially madness was revered as a mark of difference or of uniqueness. It was celebrated not shunned. But with the introduction of the asylum came the popular idea of mental illness, that someone with aberrant thought processes was somehow sick and needed to be cured. The overall resistance to mental aberrance means that society must have developed a standard of cognition; people were now either sane or insane.

This more standardized view of the mind did not extend to mental illness alone but also to the very idea of happiness. Hughes’ essay on happiness is reflective of this. He proposes the idea that society’s ultimate goal is to make everyone happy. He goes on to say that society can accomplish this feat by creating an environment in which everyone has access to drugs that will alter their brain chemistry to produce the chemicals associated with happiness. Hughes’ ideas relate to the standardization of thought through the standardization of happiness. Hughes is essentially saying that it is possible for one type of universally available happiness to satisfy everyone.

Maniac utilizes themes from both Foucault and Hughes. Mental illness plays a prominent role with everyone telling Owen that he is insane. He sees a pattern where others do not. Annie represents a contradiction of Hughes’ idea of happiness, because she willingly continues to take a pill to make herself miserable, even though she should not want to do this according to Hughes. Furthermore, the company for which Annie and Owen are doing trials is a fulfillment of Hughes’ vision. The company believes they can use a specific mixture of drugs to alter brain chemistry to treat any form of mental problem.

Society’s new ideas of madness essentially stigmatize those thought processes which are unusual or inscrutable as not acceptable, and through this standardization society will come to believe that it can control standardized happiness (Hughes). This is how these ideas relate to posthumanism. Posthumanism is chiefly concerned with the rewriting of what it means to be human These new ideas of sanity and happiness have fundamentally changed (or threaten to change) the way members of society live their lives. The mind is an essential part of the human-being, and Hughes and Foucault have recognized that that mind has been rewritten by society, which is a chief part of rewriting the human as a whole.

Final Project Proposal

One thing that has fascinated me since the beginning of class has been the effect that the ongoing improvement and development of prosthetics has had on society and the idea that humanity is developing control over how its physical form is manifested. That is something I would like to explore with this project. The central thesis of my project will be how the perceptions and experiences of those that both use prosthetics and come into contact with prosthetics through popular media portray a post humanist rhetoric in our society.

My rhetorical basis will mostly be in Cartesian duality and other concepts that relate to the connection between mind and body in the definition of what is human.

My methodology for this project will consist of gathering data from multiple different sources and angles and interpreting it in relation to what is observed in society and how that relates to the rhetorical basis of my thesis. I will be looking at prosthetics themselves. Which ones are on my market? Which ones are the most popular? How affordable are they? How capable are they? After this, I will look more particularly at the testimony and experiences of those that use prosthetics with regard to their position in society and the public opinions of those around them. Then I will look at the portrayal of prosthetics in contemporary cultural artifacts such as movies and video games. These different pieces of data will come in different forms including but not necessarily limited to articles, tech websites, video games, YouTube videos, etc. Finally, after considering these different societal aspects in which prosthetics are involved, I will analyze these discoveries in light of the rhetorical basis and the relation to posthumanist rhetoric.

Edbauer and Boyle – Rhetorical Ecology, Practicing Posthumanism, and Oryx and Crake

These three readings all work towards the same point: society’s shift to posthumanism will be both difficult to slow and difficult to track. The post-human shift in society will be in all corners of our lives in different ways and we will perpetuate and continue the transition through our daily lives. Oryx and Crake exemplifies this principle in its presentation of the society.

Edbauer presents the concept of rhetorical ecologies, which is essentially the idea that rhetorical situations are connected to each other in many, often tangential, ways. “Rhetorical situations involve the amalgamation and mixture of many different events and happenings that are not properly segmented into audience, text, or rhetorician. (Edbauer 20)” We see this principle at play in Oryx and Crake. For example, Jimmy and Crake’s visit to the pleeblands reveals to Jimmy that the people that live there are not as simple reprehensible as he had been taught. He realizes that the point of view that the compounds presented to him was only a small distorted part of the whole picture. Furthermore, the compounds themselves work as a system of rhetorical ecologies. Their products and practices are affected by numerous different factors including but not limited to competitor activities, the need for the product, the state of the market, the ad campaign, etc. The public opinion of the compounds themselves are a part of the system of rhetorical ecologies that make up the country that Jimmy lives in.

Boyle presents the idea of rhetorical practice changing humanity over time and how that relates to posthumanism. “A practice functions as a germ that activates (metastatis) new relationships (metamorphosis) within an ongoing habit (metastability) of relations (metaphysical). (Boyle 58) Posthuman practice offers rhetoric a return to many of the inventive, ethical, aesthetic, and pedagogical opportunities that rhetoric engaged in during he tradition’s early emphasis on practice and bodily experience. (Boyle 58-59)” Essentially, we can reframe the role of rhetoric to account for this effect that practice has on society. Further, a posthuman perspective can re-invigorate rhetoric in this new intellectual landscape.

In the society portrayed in Oryx and Crake, we see the effects of the collective’s desires and habits morphing the society itself. Many of the people desire youth and beauty which is what gives Rejoovenesense its power. The practice of the people has altered the society to the point that melting off the entire epidermis to replace it with a new one, has become commonplace. The chickienobs are another more particular example of this. When Jimmie first sees the chickienobs he is unsettled, but he eventually adjusts to them and enjoys them after eating them often enough.

Essentially, we see Edbauer and Boyle’s theories at work (albeit in a rather dire context) in Oryx and Crake. Atwood’s novel provides a probable model of how these theories would play out together in relation to posthumanism.

Hallenbeck and Butler – Feminism and Post-humanist thought

The works of Butler and Hallenbeck present aspects of contemporary feminist philosophy that are strikingly similar to post-humanist thought. The struggle in the post-human world is defining what is human, because in such a world, humanity will likely have dominion over the human form itself. In Butler’s essay, she grapples with distinctions between male and female and sexual difference in general. “The regulation of sexuality at work in the articulation of the Forms suggest that sexual difference operates in the very formulation of matter. (Butler 24)” Following the reasoning of post-structuralism, she questions how much of sexual difference is based on matter and if these material distinctions are based on the matter itself or the intellectual discourse surrounding it. That is, are male and female as different as we think or have we simply grown into a sexually dimorphous discourse that no one thinks to question?
Similarly, Hallenbeck believes that “Feminist rhetoricians ought to turn their attention to rhetorical work that goes into creating and disturbing the gendered distinctions, social categories, and asymmetrical power relationships that women and men encounter in their daily lives (Hallenbeck 10)”

Both Hallenbeck and Butler question the validity of sexual difference in human thought. Their questions of material difference, in particular, strike me as applicable to the post-humanist conversation. A question that was briefly brought up in class this week intrigued me. If you have an android with the exact thought processes from a human, how do you differentiate them if reason has always been the defining characteristic of humanity? This question fascinates me because it seems to also call into the question material differences in the same way that Butler does. The distinction in this context is not between male and female but thinking human and thinking machine. Similar to Butler’s discussion of male and female, it may be that human and android are more similar than we realize and it is only our commonly held beliefs, discourses, and experiences that keep the two diametrically distinct.

Furthermore, in Oryx and Crake, the conversations between Jimmy and Crake offer a further examination of what is human. When discussing the mating habits of the children of Crake, Crake wanted to do away with any sort of “courtship behavior” and customize his children to simply reproduce with anyone they want when the participants are in heat. Crake’s willingness to modify the human form reveals a very fluid and non-concrete perception of the human. Jimmy, however, dislikes this assessment and argues that courtship behavior is integral to the formation of art. Jimmy’s reverence for art – the great accomplishments of man – is a distinctly humanist notion.

Overall, the discussions of feminist philosophy and the progression of Oryx and Crake deepen my understanding of post humanism through its connections to other schools thought such as post-structuralism.

In relation to the real world, I found the portrayal of the contrast between Martha Graham and Watson-Crick to be very poignant, considering Chapman just finished its new state-of-art science building making Wilkinson look even more impecunious by comparison. Speaking even more broadly, Oryx and Crake seems to take a current societal phenomenon and follow it to its extreme. Already we see in our current society a great emphasis placed on a STEM education and a devaluing of the humanities. This is Crake’s world, one that has only need and interest in humanity’s potential and future, not its past accomplishments. Watson-Crick is Atwood’s window into the world after humanism, the post-humanist world.

Badmington, Foucault, and The Future of Humanity

One part of Badmington’s article that jumped out to me was his analysis of Time Magazine’s 1982 Man of the Year being a computer. Badmington’s attention, however, is not on the computer on the cover, but the person observing the computer. “Why,” he states, “if the computer has ‘moved in,’ should there be a human witness?…If ‘Man’ is present at ‘his’ own funeral, how can ‘he’ possibly be dead? (Badmington 13)” This made me realize something as I was considering the future of the relationship between man and machine: Humanity has always loved and continues to love making everything about itself. We want to be at the center of our worlds, in control of our own destinies. Given this, I do not think that there will ever come a time where the popular theory of AI enacting a human genocide will ever come to pass. This is because when ever we make advances in technology, we figure out how to apply those technologies to ourselves. We create advanced mechanical arms. How can amputees use them? We create devices capable of translating light into soundwaves. How can the color-blind use them to augment their own vision?

The future will not simply be AI one day evolving past humanity; Humans and machines will evolve within and beside each other, not independently of each other. This coincides with Foucault’s ideas of enlightenment. Enlightenment is when “the universal, the free, and the public uses of reason are superimposed on one another. (Foucault 35)” We want to freely apply our reason to our lives. Humans are shapers by nature. We want to shape technology and through that shape ourselves. It is against our nature to allow any other will other than the human will to control our destiny. Even in many branches of Christianity, God’s omniscience allows for human free-will, which is central to many doctrines. If we will not even concede our self-determination to God then what chance does AI have? If artificial intelligence should ever decide to make an enemy of humanity, it will not be as frightening as science fiction often portrays. Because of the highly likely coevolution of man and machine, it seems likely to me that once AI reaches a point at which it can decide to make humanity an enemy, humanity will have already augmented itself to the point where AI is either an equal opposition or inferior to augmented humanity.

Even the technology of AI itself is being utilized to serve our ends, quite literally in this video from IBM. It is common to enthuse about the increased independence and creativity of AI, but it was not created for its own sake. As we make ever greater strides in the field of artificial intelligence, those advancements are put to work in the service of humanity, where we want them to be. The only way AI will reach its full potential will be through integration and cooperation with humanity and vice versa.