Extra human ambassy

Moebius

“Everything is bearable … as long as there is an end in sight” – Greg Egan, 2006.

The book “Permutation city” by Greg Egan offers an unprecedented exploration of digital modes of existence and immortality. In this novel, the spatio-temporal disruptions and the subjective fragmentation of digital topologies question the meaning of being human, alive and / or immortal. By confronting AI Copies with swarming entities from artificial life, Egan explores the differences between these two paradigms from the perspective of the science-fiction quest for “eternal life.” The Copies have to face a timeless space, they are put to the test of boundless space, expressing their ontological dislocation through their body-panic, which pushes them to cross the limit that separates self-transformation from death. The non-bodies of the Copies deny, by their abstraction, the most fundamental phenomenological experience, the corporeality, the visceral or visce’real’. Their ordeal finally confirms that only what has an end is bearable. The example of artificial life developed in the novel reverses the logocentric (digital) gaze and dismisses the post-human center by revealing the hubris of the Copies. Where the cybernetic post-human falters, non-human paradigms of artificial life, thanks to the enactivity of their evolution, manage to adapt to potentially survive immortality. La Cité des permutants shows how artificial life offers SF a credible opportunity to narrate a true extra-human otherness emancipated from Western metaphysical traditions, thus developing a precious reflection on the human and post-human condition.

The reductionist rhetoric of neuro-cybernetic symbiosis reveals a return to the flagship concept of Cartesian AI: “thought as calculation”. As Hans Moravec recognizes, this perspective is first of all that of “a mind that aspires to immortality” (Moravec, 1992, p. 11), that of the search for transcendence in the machine at the expense of phenomenological understanding of thought, body and world. It appears that the programs for the metamorphosis of the human into a sort of formal digital AI, if they strive to emerge from the absurd, are still only science-fictional processes or the translation of the inclinations of access to immortality tinged with humanist philosophy. These artificial lives return our human gaze, once omnipotent, to us, calling into question the prerogatives we granted ourselves over “life” itself. The bodies of artificial life are also the bodies of the Other extra-human that we could meet in the cybernetic environments to come: “Bodies capable of reconfiguring themselves by more permutations than we could ever conceive of for our alter- virtual egos ”(Clark, 1995, p. 130). Thus, these artificial lives could prove to be rich in lessons about our own, transient condition of “becoming post-human” underway. According to Thomas Ray, artificial life allows for truly comparative biology. Its practice could allow us to generalize our concepts of biology, evolution and complexity, today still limited to terrestrial conceptions (Ray, 1995, p. 179). This is how Egan engages in a reflection on the discourses of artificial life and the post-human (digital) condition while producing a contemporary SF work that is both original and instructive.

The acknowledment that ‘Permutation city’ ostensibly rejects immortality could lead us to defend the thesis that this novel is a whistleblower, but the final fate of the Copies remains ambiguous. We don’t know that infinity is no longer possible, we’re not sure that the new “Garden of Eden setup” will not succeed. What we can say is that the Copies are no longer the infallible Creators of their own subjective universe. The fate promised to the “triumphant” planet Lambert is no clearer. The consequences of their R3’s hegemony over our R1 are also not discussed. Although the fall of Permutation City is confined to the digital paradigm, there are, in reality, genuine concerns that artificial life may constitute “rightly forbidden” interference, interference that could have consequences worthy of mention. Frankenstein for human life, risking an “involuntary extinction” (Levy, 1992, p. 346-47). Egan remains remarkably ambiguous on this question. It gives little indication of how we should view artificial life: as our future? Like our successor, replacement? Like an extra-human ambassador, an Other to cohabit with, a mortal adversary? Egan’s work belongs to that style of sci-fi which presents scenarios for different technological futures in a style that decidedly takes no position.

Ambassade extra-humaine

« Tout est supportable… du moment qu’il y a une fin en vue » – Egan, 2006.

L’œuvre dans “La Cité des permutants” de Greg Egan propose une exploration inédite des modes numériques d’existence et d’immortalité. Dans ce roman, les disruptions spatio-temporelles et la fragmentation subjective des topologies numériques questionnent la signification d’être humain, vivant et/ou immortel. En confrontant des Copies sous forme d’IA à des entités en essaim issues de la vie artificielle, Egan explore les différences entre ces deux paradigmes dans la perspective de la quête science-fictionnelle d’une « vie éternelle ». Les Copies doivent faire face à un espace intemporel, elles sont mises à l’épreuve de l’espace sans borne, exprimant leur dislocation ontologique à travers leurs corps-panique, ce qui les pousse à franchir la limite qui sépare l’auto-transformation de la mort. Les non-corps des Copies renient, par leur abstraction, l’expérience phénoménologique la plus fondamentale, la corporéité, le viscéral ou viscéréel. Leur calvaire confirme finalement que seul ce qui a une fin est supportable. L’exemple de vie artificielle développé dans le roman renverse le regard (numérique) logocentrique et destitue le post-humain du centre en révélant l’hubris des Copies. Là où le post-humain cybernétique chancelle, les paradigmes non-humains de vie artificielle parviennent, grâce au caractère énactif de leur évolution, à s’adapter pour potentiellement survivre à l’immortalité. La Cité des permutants montre comment la vie artificielle offre à la SF une occasion crédible de narrer une véritable altérité extra-humaine émancipée des traditions métaphysiques occidentales, développant ainsi une réflexion précieuse à propos de la condition humaine et post-humaine.

La rhétorique réductionniste de la symbiose neuro-cybernétique révèle un retour au concept phare de l’IA cartésienne : la « pensée comme calcul ». Comme le reconnaît Hans Moravec, cette perspective est d’abord celle « d’un esprit qui aspire à l’immortalité » (Moravec, 1992, p. 11), celle de la recherche d’une transcendance dans la machine au prix de la compréhension phénoménologique de la pensée, du corps et du monde. Il en ressort que les programmes de métamorphose de l’humain en une sorte d’IA numérique formelle, s’ils s’efforcent de se dégager de l’absurde, ne sont encore que des procédés science-fictionnels ou la traduction de velléités d’accès à l’immortalité teintées de philosophie humaniste. Ces vies artificielles nous retournent notre regard humain, autrefois omnipotent, remettant en cause les prérogatives que nous nous octroyions sur la « vie » elle-même. Les corps de la vie artificielle sont aussi les corps de l’Autre extra-humain que nous pourrions rencontrer dans les environnements cybernétiques à venir : « Des corps capables de se reconfigurer par davantage de permutations que nous ne pourrions jamais en concevoir pour nos alter-ego virtuels » (Clark, 1995, p. 130). Ainsi, ces vies artificielles pourraient se révéler riches d’enseignements à propos de notre propre condition, transitoire, de « devenir post-humain » en cours. Selon Thomas Ray, la vie artificielle permet une biologie réellement comparative. Sa pratique pourrait nous permettre de généraliser nos concepts de biologie, d’évolution et de complexité, aujourd’hui encore limités à des conceptions terrestres (Ray, 1995, p. 179). C’est ainsi qu’Egan engage une réflexion sur les discours de la vie artificielle et de la condition post-humaine (numérique) tout en produisant une œuvre de SF contemporaine à la fois originale et instructive.

Le constat que La Cité des permutants rejette ostensiblement l’immortalité pourrait nous amener à défendre la thèse selon laquelle ce roman serait un lanceur d’alerte, mais le sort final des Copies reste équivoque. Nous ne savons pas que l’infini n’est plus possible, nous ne sommes pas certains que la nouvelle « configuration jardin d’Éden » ne réussira pas. Ce que nous pouvons affirmer, c’est que les Copies ne sont plus les infaillibles Créateurs de leur propre univers subjectif. Le sort promis à la planète Lambert « triomphante » n’est pas plus clair. Les conséquences de l’hégémonie de leur R3 sur notre R1 ne sont pas non plus abordées. Bien que la chute de Permutation City soit cantonnée au paradigme numérique, il y a, dans la réalité, de véritables inquiétudes quant à la possibilité que la vie artificielle puisse constituer une interférence « interdite avec raison », interférence qui pourrait avoir des conséquences dignes de Frankenstein pour la vie humaine, risquant de nous mener à une « extinction involontaire » (Levy, 1992, p. 346-47). Egan reste remarquablement ambigu quant à cette question. Il ne donne que peu d’indications sur la manière dont nous devrions voir la vie artificielle : comme notre futur ? Comme notre successeur, remplaçant ? Comme un ambassadeur extra-humain, un Autre avec qui cohabiter, un adversaire mortel ? Le travail d’Egan appartient à ce style de SF qui présente les scénarios de différents futurs technologiques dans un style qui ne prend résolument pas position.

“L’hai sognato, lo ha fatto il transumanesimo. E cosa stavi sognando? Di porre fine alla malattia, alla vecchiaia e perché no? Di porre fine alla morte! “

People were asking for it, so transhumanism has gone ahead and done it! And what were you dreaming of? To end disease, old age, and why not? to end death!

The scientific institution of transhumanism

According to Hélène Jeannin, the main goal of the transhumanist movement is to thoroughly transform human beings thanks to innovative technology, it is divided into a plurality of currents, however, they all agree on the following postulate: technology will participate in the improvement and increase of human capacities, this is how Humanity would be freed from physiological and psychic limits in order to reach a higher level of consciousness.     Continue reading

La legge sui rifugiati (Refugee Law – La Loi sur les Réfugiés)

loi réfugiés

Refugee law may be the world’s most powerful international human rights mechanism. Not  only do millions of people invoke its protections every year in countries spanning the globe, but they do so on the basis of a self-actuating mechanism of international law that, quite literally, allows at-risk persons to vote with their feet. This is because, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) has insisted, refugee status is not a status that  is granted by states; it is rather simply recognized by them: Continue reading

Sollevare lo sguardo verso l’invisibile. Immagini medievali (Ing. & Fr.)

Looking up towards the invisible

How can we doubt that images were in the Middle Ages much more than what we now banally call an image? The medieval world was gradually filled with material images of all kinds: some painted on the walls, others in the books – the miniatures were so called, not because they were relatively small, but because the minium was the base of their red color – on the windows of the churches, on the altarpieces and pictures of wood; others embroidered or woven (think of the Bayeux Tapestry, which is actually an embroidery) – or carved in bas-relief or high-relief in wood or stone, melted in bronze, silver or gold. Continue reading

Metodologia del Diritto Internazionale (Ing. e Fr.)

Methodology seeks to define the means of acquiring scientific knowledge. There is no generally accepted definition of the methodology of international law. In this article it will be taken to comprise both its wider meaning of the methods used in the acquisition of a scientific knowledge of the international legal system and its narrower and more specialized meaning, the methods used to determine the existence of norms or rules of international law. Continue reading

La decolonizzazione della natura (Fr. & Ing.)

The conception of nature as matter to be objectified by modern science or as an inanimate resource at our disposal is currently being disrupted by ecological, ethological, anthropological and philosophical research. Because of global warming, nature is simultaneously entering the political scene. Ironically, the urgent need to reassess our relationship to nature is surfacing at the very same time that we are losing its concept.  Along the way, we might also lose a certain type of humanhood: who are we becoming, and what is our place in this coming nature? Continue reading

Dono, scambio, valore e moneta (Fr & Ing.)

By virtue of a habit determined by our own conditions of social existence, we only consider money as an economic agent which acquires merchandise  on a market. It is inseparable from the equivalence that can explain why goods are traded and according to which relationship; the latter determines their economic value. In the classical theories, money is therefore defined by exchange, that is to say by a form of reciprocity. It is this definition that the practices of certain so-called exotic societies call into question – they who see money as a means of exchange only because it is first the object of a gift. Continue reading

Attraverso la fotografia – Ian mcewan Il Comfort degli Estranei

The conspiracy in The Comfort of Strangers- Ian McEwan

References to photography are infrequent in McEwan’s work, and therefore it becomes all the more interesting to study the distinction that can be made among the photos, from one work to another. To approach The Comfort of Strangers, it should be noted that a curious first parallel occures between a passage of this novel and another one, from The Cement Garden. Continue reading

Il ruolo, l’impegno e le prestazioni delle agenzie di aiuto come importanti fornitori di beni pubblici globali. (Ing. & Fr.)

camp

Beyond much rhetoric and stated ambition in recent years, the implementation of global public policies has been weak so far. There is a huge gap between the official discourse and the reality. This chapter focuses on the role, commitment and performance of aid agencies as ‘small’ but important suppliers of global public goods. While acknowledging some advances in the right direction (broad international recognition and improved costing of the global risks, consensus on the high vulnerability of the low-income countries and the need to act urgently, and substantial financing commitments) the author argues, based on available evidence from evaluations and effectiveness reviews, that only limited progress has been made in the aid delivery model and that the poor have not yet gained much from these undertakings. Continue reading

Ecosostenibilità, Arte, Antropologia e Filosofia

mille anni 4

GREEN CULTURE – The conception of nature as matter to be objectified by modern science or as an inanimate resource at our disposal is currently being disrupted by ecological, ethological, anthropological and philosophical research. Because of global warming, nature is simultaneously entering the political scene. Ironically, the urgent need to reassess our relationship to nature is surfacing at the very same time that we are losing its concept. The books addressed in this article combine art and theoretical thought. They function as explorations that both try to outline the kind of nature we are leaving behind and the possibilities we could be traveling towards. Along the way, we might also lose a certain type of humanhood: who are we becoming, and what is our place in this coming nature? All these questions are asked by these recent publications. Continue reading