For my last official blog post of the semester, I figured I’d briefly state how my nonprofit ended up and then discuss one of the most interesting (and challenging) philosophers I’ve ever read: Peter Sloterdijk.
First, the New Sudanese Community Association seems thrilled to have their WordPress site and the Facebook page. Both are big improvements in many ways. Jade and I plan on training in a few of the members in order to ensure the ongoing development of the NSCA’s social media use. I plan on staying in touch with them and offering logistical help when possible. Overall, it was a fantastic experience–one that undeniably exhibits the potential good in social media and technology.
Interestingly—and perhaps “surprisingly” given his Heideggerian influence–Sloterdijk offers a very unique and somewhat optimistic view about technology and man’s orientation toward it.
In this 2004 excerpt from a lecture he gave, Sloterdijk discusses what he terms “Anthropo-Technology.” Basically, he believes that in the 21st century, mankind has found themselves irrevocably enmeshed in the Age of Information. However, the enormous spike in technology has not resulted in a direct increase in real threats (such as bombs and destruction), rather we are existing in an entirely new paradigm of technological understanding. He calls this “Anthropo-Technology” “non-dominating operativity,” which focuses more on “cooperation rather than domination.”
Important to the essentially Heideggerian analysis is the notion of human beings as “coping” beings who attempt to live meaningfull (or “dwell”) with the world, things, and tools. As time passes, mankind takes on new means of being-in-the-world, or devolves into feelings of “homelessness” or “astrayness.” Sloterdijk states that the “information in our age of networks and genome maps binds man and his tools that transform nature into one operative system.” So while Heidegger had a somewhat clear ontological distinction between man (as “Dasein”) and the tools that he uses, Sloterdijk believes that the metaphysical distinctions are becoming less stable. –This reminded me of a little bit that I had read about Marshall McLuhan and his notion that technology, in some profound sense, becomes an extension of our bodies and nervous systems.
Indeed, for Sloterdijk, we are existing in a “post-metaphysical” world where the distinctions between man-nature, subject-object, master-slave no longer “fit” with the current state of affairs. Indeed the “information ecology” is subsuming these notions–which were perhaps merely mechanisms to aid in our historical “dwelling.” Sloterdijk argues that it no longer holds to argue about “technology’s control of man,” but rather, since we are in a “non-dominating technological age” [with a premium on information rather than strict mechanical operations] we have to consider the only form of actual slavery as self-manipulation, and the only form of mastery is self-mastery.
To help clarify (a bit), Sloterdijk describes how “information enters between thoughts and things as a third value…[and] machines [become] reflections turned objective.” If mankind (as “Dasein”) dwells in the world with given hermeneutical schemas, then mankind is greatly affected phenomenologically by the dramatic increase and ubiquity of information, which seems to mediate and problematize traditional notions of “spirit” and “matter.” Indeed, where perhaps man would find the most frightful experience of technological manipulation, such as genetic coding, man in fact finds “the principle of information has transferred into the sphere of nature.” And the “I” and the “world”— such fundamental notions for Heidegger—become less fundamental and significant, and instead are “only regional states of inromation and its processing.”
While this might sound frightening at first–like mankind is losing his traditional means of “dwelling” and becoming more and more affected by information and data bits–Sloterdijk sees that reaction as a delusional “anti-technological hysteria” that is based off of the out-dated metaphysical beliefs–such as strict nature-man & technology-man. Sloterdijk states:
“The anti-technological hysteria that holds large parts of the Western world in its grip is a product of the decomposition of metaphysics, for it clings to false classifications of being in order to revolt against processes in which these classifications are overcome. It is reactionary in the essential sense of the word, because it expresses the ressentiment of those who cling to outdated dichotomies and reject complexities they fail to understand.”
Indeed, it is not a subsumption of the self into matter—this is a fixation on rebellion via a dead metaphysical schema. Rather, man, as “Homo Humanus, can only maintain itself in poetic resistance against metaphysical reflexes of humanolatry” (a play on “idoltry” and “humanity”). In order to authentically and dynamically dwell, mankind cannot presuppose any fixed ontological status of mankind…or for its relationship with technology. Indeed, for Sloterdijk, technology, as understood in its descriptive phenomenological sense, is what “brings Humans about” from “pre-human.” And that in our new poetic dwelling with information and non-dominating technologies, Sloterdijk remains optimistic that:
“In this system bound together by informational feedback and artificial intelligence, the preservationist instinct of the co-beneficiaries of co-intelligence will limit destructive acts of anthropo-technology against itself.”
Sloterdijk offers us a glimpse at this new and intimate dwelling with technology where we are so sensitive and connected to informational impulses—tweets, posts, news—that we will subsume the impulses as meaningful connections in our “dwelling” and seek to preserve our “home” as is instinctual…. at least that is how I’m interpreting it.
Not sure if this makes any sense… or if I made any sense of it. But it is late. Hahaha. This has been a wonderful class which has granted me the opportunity to read and post about some wild stuff. I look forward to continuing my blog and seeing where social media pulls me—and at what point the distinction between “it” and “me” will blur!