Thu, 19 Oct 2017

Human, Animal & Machine

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Melville's War Poetry and the Human Form

Printed in A Political Companion to Herman Melville, ed. by Jason Frank.

You can read the essay here. https://www.academia.edu/32185708/Melvilles_War_Poetry_and_The_Human_Form

Drones and the Question of "The Human"

Carnegie Journal of Ethics & International Affairs, volume 28, issue 02, pp. 159-169.

 

The increasing reliance on drones is threatening our humanity—but not because of the inhumane ways we use Predator drones in warfare. It is a mistake “to use the term “drone” to refer only to these much publicized military devices. Drones, more precisely understood, are intelligent machines that—possessed of the capacity to perform repetitive tasks with efficiency, reliability, and mechanical rationality—increasingly displace the need for human thinking and doing. The trend Jünger and Turkle worry about is unmistakable: we are at risk of losing the rich and mature relationships that mark us as human. The rise of social robots, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other one-dimensional machines that act like humans—without the perceived human weaknesses of distraction, emotion, exhaustion, quirkiness, risk, and unreliability—answers a profound human desire to replace human judgment with the more reliable, more efficient, and more ra- tional judgment of machines. For all the superficial paeans to human instinct and intuition, human beings, in practice, repeatedly prefer drone-like reliability to the uncertain spontaneity of human intuition. In other words, we confront a future in which “human” is a derogatory adjective signifying inefficiency, incompetence, and backwardness.

Read the essay Here

Drones and the Question of "The Human"

Drones and the Question of "The Human," Roger Berkowitz, Ethics & International Affairs, volume 28, issue 02, pp. 159-169.

 

The increasing reliance on drones is threatening our humanity—but not because of the inhumane ways we use Predator drones in warfare. It is a mistake “to use the term “drone” to refer only to these much publicized military devices. Drones, more precisely understood, are intelligent machines that—possessed of the capacity to perform repetitive tasks with efficiency, reliability, and mechanical rationality—increasingly displace the need for human thinking and doing. The trend Jünger and Turkle worry about is unmistakable: we are at risk of losing the rich and mature relationships that mark us as human. The rise of social robots, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other one-dimensional machines that act like humans—without the perceived human weaknesses of distraction, emotion, exhaustion, quirkiness, risk, and unreliability—answers a profound human desire to replace human judgment with the more reliable, more efficient, and more rational judgment of machines. For all the superficial paeans to human instinct and intuition, human beings, in practice, repeatedly prefer drone-like reliability to the uncertain spontaneity of human intuition. In other words, we confront a future in which “human” is a derogatory adjective signifying inefficiency, incompetence, and backwardness.

Download the essay here.

The Loss of Human Judgement

TEDx East Hampton

View the video here.

Lost in the Loneliness of Anti-Social Networks

The Fortnightly Review, (2011). Review of Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

THE UNMANNED DRONES DROPPING laser-guided bombs in Pakistan do what they are told. But now the military is pursuing ethically programmed robots that could make autonomous decisions about when and when not to fire. As roboethicist Ronald Arkin has argued, these robots might very well act more humanely than humans. This may not be a high bar, as our moral sense is easily impaired by anger or numbed by fear amidst the fog of war. Unlike humans, robots can be programmed to painstakingly follow a moral or legal code. The appeal of military robots is not simply that they are a useful tool like a gun or a tank; the appeal is that robots are actually better than humans at being humane.

Being humane and being human are not the same. Humans make mistakes, they are irrational, and they are befuddled by feelings. Humans are, for want of a better word, irremediably human and thus frequently inhumane. Our humanity – that human dignity that names our special claim to be the greatest species in existence – is also a mark of our inadequacy. We are merely human, and that seems to be the problem.

Read the full article here.

The Wonders of Man in the Age of Simulations

The Fortnightly Review (2010)

A Fortnightly Review of The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, and Simulation and Its Discontents by Sherry Turkle.

IN “THE ODE TO MAN” from Antigone, Sophocles conjures “Man” as the wondrous being who wears out the “imperishable earth” with his ploughs. This man “overpowers the rough-maned horses with his devices” and tames the “unbending mountain bull.” He flees the “stormy darts” of winter’s frost and he escapes “needful illness.” Such a man who tames nature is a wonder, according to the Ode’s opening line:

Manifold the wonders
And nothing towers more wondrous than man.

The Greek word for “wonder” is Deinon, which connotes both greatness and horror, that which is so extraordinary as to be at once terrifying and beautiful. This is how Sophocles understands man. As an inventor and maker of his world, man can remake and master the earth. This wonder terrifyingly carries the seeds of his destruction. Man, Sophocles imagines, threatens to so fully control his own way of life that he might no longer be man. As the chorus sings: “Always overcoming all ways, man loses his way and comes to nothing.” If man so tames the earth as to free himself from uncertainty, what then is left of human being?

Read the full article here.

Earth Alienation from Galileo to Google

Language & Thinking Rostrum Lecture

Roger Berkowitz, Director of the Arendt Center, held a lecture this week titled "Earth Alienation from Galileo to Google," as part of the Rostrum Lecture Series sponsored by Bard's Language & Thinking Program.

View a video of the lecture here.

Liberating the Animal

Theory & Event (2010). Review of Vanessa Lemm's Nietzsche's Animal Philosophy

The animality of humans has been a basic axiom of philosophical thinking at least since Aristotle characterized the human being as the animal having logos. Logos is sometimes translated as speech, so that humanity is distinguished as the animal having language. Others, building upon Kant, translate logos as reason, itself a multi-faceted idea that alternates between the sense of calculative rationality and logic on the one side and a higher and less-well-defined sense of freedom and knowing on the other. Ambiguous as it remains, the appeal to man’s logos has for millennia named a hierarchical relationship, one in which human beings stand above irrational animals lacking logos.

The Aristotelian-Kantian elevation of the human as the animal who reasons is under attack. In part, the dissent results from our changing views of animals. At a conservation camp for the endangered Thai elephants in northern Thailand, elephants have been taught to paint. You can watch these amazing animals carefully administering brush strokes on internet videos. Elsewhere, scientific studies on mirror neurons in both humans and animals suggest that animals—especially elephants who are regularly observed in acts of empathy and grief—share the same neurological basis of the human moral faculty. The painting elephants and the grieving elephants—to take just two examples—raise questions about the traditional hierarchy of man over animal as the rational animal.

Read the full article here.