CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, October 14th -- Roger B. Blumberg

The Politics of the Posthuman

"Yet the posthuman need not be recuperated back into liberal humanism, nor need it be construed as anti-human. Located within the dialectic of pattern/randomness and grounded in embodied actuality rather than disembodied information, the posthuman offers resources for rethinking the articulation of humans with intelligent machines" (How We Became Posthuman, p.287)

Introduction 1: Comments about Paper Writing

The first paper is due by Tuesday, October 26th, and you are more than welcome to complete it earlier. Reading over the topics proposed so far, and having learned from previous year's first-essay experience, I offer the following comments/suggestions/pleas:

Introduction 2: Brain-Machine Interfaces

We'll look quickly through a presentation by CS Professor Michael Black about the state of the art in brain-machine interface work. If there is interest we might invite Micheal to come talk with us later in the semester.

How We Became Posthuman, chapters 2 and 4.

We'll turn to Nina and Melissa to present questions and comments arising from these chapters.

How We Became Posthuman, chapters 9 and 11

"Thus the sciences of complexity articulated a limit on what reductionism could accomplish. In a significant sense, however, AL researchers have not relinquished reductionism. In place of predictability, which is traditionally the test of whether a theory works, they emphasize emergence." (pp. 231-232)

We'll begin by explicating this short passage from chapter 9, and try to explain how it relates to the conclusion of that chapter, the discussion of "distributed cognition" and Searle's "Chinese Room" example in chapter 11, the passage quoted at the beginning of today's notes (from p. 287), as well as Hayles final meditations on what we are to make of the posthuman.

From Persons to Politics: An Introduction to Unit Two of CHV

If Hayles encouraged us to think about the politics of the virtual, the next unit of the course asks us to think about the promise or peril of virtual politics. From the earliest days of the World Wide Web (only a bit more than a decade ago, after all), large numbers of politically-minded and civic-minded enthusiasts spoke of the coming of a new age of "digital democracy" and "virtual community"; a new age characterized by increased political participation, greater political awareness, and the promotion of political freedom and creativity. In Unit Two of CHV, we'll think about the substance of these claims, and read different visions of what democracy is and how information technology is related to its future.

For Next Time:: Read the first 104 pages of Andrei Cherny's The Next Deal. If you would like me to read a draft of your first essay, please send it to me no later than the end of the day on Tuesday.

Back to the Syllabus