Technically Man Dwells upon this Earth
Technically Man Dwells upon this Earth
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Authored by Ulysse Carrière (a.k.a. Émilie Carrière)
Introduction by Louis Morelle
It’s difficult to introduce this book, as it is not only an elaborate response to a burning question of the moment, but it is a vivid introduction into the work of Émilie Carrière, one of the most thought-provoking and impressive young authors of the last century — originally subtitled The Work of Art in the Age of Automated Reproduction, this text hits home as hard as Benjamin’s essay one hundred years ago. It is a a declaration of the conditions of the moment, and an introduction into how they will solve the problem.
A deep exploration into the future of art, and what A.I reveals to us about the direction art is going. The book contextualises art and philosophy within an evolutionary timescale, and uses biology as an entry point into tackling difficult questions about art and intelligence. If you ever wondered how someone might handle a combination of Plato and Deleuze without ever losing form, this is really worth your time.
This book has an introduction by Louis Morelle, another impressive, bright and young person with a really cutting-edge perspective on the moment. Between Carrière and Morelle, this text makes for a thrilling introduction to what they are calling Differential Henology. Both authors write with a cinematic flow, and perhaps it is there, in the comfort and conviction of their articulation, that we realise how talented these two authors are.
- Artificial Intelligence
- Millennial Subjectivity
- Art, Philosophy of Art
- The Intellect and Dwelling
- Techne and Externalization
- Avatar 2, Wednesday Adams
“It was no slight genius of the Greeks to first think techne through the figure of Prometheus. The name, evidently, means foresight, as is proper of techne; but Prometheus also served to articulate the relation between techne and dwelling. The original techne was fire, as the primary form of dwelling, and as the means of establishing a contact between the human and the divine. If the divine is that gleam, that holiness from which language and techne separate the human by setting it apart from the unitary process of life, it was techne, the Greeks saw, that allowed for a renewed contact, through dwelling (the hearth) and cult (the sacrificial fire). In the hearth, dwelling and techne came together as one. And this intrication of techne and dwelling did not escape Plato’s sight, for the ideal polis was one organized by techne (Tim. 17d). And it is as such, once techne departs from the zoological—once techne becomes productive rather than an extension of biological features through an acquired object—that it becomes impossible to grasp it through externalization.
The sharpening of a stone that was picked off the ground does not belong to the field of productive techne; it is only with something such as the Levallois method of handaxe production that techne begins to produce something that did not previously exist. The sharpened stone is as the gutted fish; something has been acquired and modified to fit a future use, but nothing new has been produced. However, the new kind of techne found in the Levallois method is radically different, as this production entails at once the creation of something that did not previously exist, and the creation of a dwelling. To wander, and wandering, to happen upon a suitable stone; the techne this involves is merely acquisitive. But then, has techne been inadvertently separated into two kinds, one acquisitive, the other productive? And if so, shouldn’t it become necessary to further implicate this productive techne in its relation to dwelling? An elucidation of Sophocles is in order...”
EVOLUTIONARY TIME SCALES
“It is often said that techne first externalizes the upper limb, as seen in those apes employing rudimentary tools as an extension of the arm — very fine. But this already places one too far ahead. And yet, even about 500 million years ago, with an organism like Pikaia, one will already find a bilateral symmetry, along with a notochord. That is, a body plan based on bilateral symmetry and a spinal structure, which will be the defining feature of more complex animals, already appears early on in the history of metazoans. The body plan of most animals consists in bilateral symmetry, a body plan composed of one axis running from head to tail (antero-posterior axis), the other from back to belly (dorso-ventral axis). The antero-posterior axis runs along the alimentary system, an axis along which a notochord and later a spine will develop. In a human, bilateral symmetry forms an antero-posterior axis along which one gets two symmetrical eyes, two arms, two legs, two kidneys, lungs, ears, etc. This provides the organism with an axis of segmentation where different organs can be disposed at different coordinates.
What Leroi-Gourhan discovers as crucial here is — the recession of the body plan. Bilateral symmetry, he explains, separates the body plan from the alimentary tract, thus creating an anterior field. With the segmentation of the antero-posterior axis, this anterior field can freely develop limbs. This segmentation of the antero-posterior axis, which is controlled by Hox gene clusters, must be older than vertebrae, as it is found in chordates, arthropods and nematodes alike, while limbs themselves are not controlled by the antero-posterior pattern of Hox gene expression. The anterior field of relation, then, is independent from the segmentation of the antero-posterior axis — and this is the most dramatic consequence of bilateral symmetry. Leroi-Gourhan had it right: the anterior field as separate from the antero-posterior axis, something confirmed by evolutionary developmental studies, is what allows for the independence between vertebral segmentation and the development of limbs. That is, bilateral symmetry makes the limb independent from the axis of segmentation running along the alimentary tract. A differential process distinguishes movement from feeding; for the worm, the same overall structure governs both. And so, that power of motility is gradually differentiated into its unity, away from the multiplicity of functions which, in the worm, are served by the same, identical structure.”
EXTERNALIZATION & TECHNE
“Externalization forms the common understanding of techne: a hammer externalizes the striking gesture of the forearm, a saw externalizes the slicing gesture of teeth, fire externalizes the body’s temperature, cooking over a fire externalizes digestive processes, writing externalizes linguistic memory, artificial intelligence externalizes computational intelligence. But if I approach Artificial Intelligence as a form of externalization, I think within the technical dispositive of externalization — or rather, the dispositive thinks for me. The thinking has already been done. Thought must first annihilate the dispositive if it is to think beyond the positive. But there can be no critique involved; thought cannot be allowed to founder into negativity. The positivity that would condition thought—what just is—is precisely nothing, and so it is not overcome by negation, but only by that annihilation through which thought strives back towards its own, the unconditioned.
If thought is not in its own, τὸ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ εἶναι, it is conditioned, and belonging to the series of conditions, it merely follows necessity and compulsion, it is fallen — and the positive becomes the limit of the span of thought, and thought cannot extend beyond the positive.
But if I say that thought must first think techne as externalization if it is to think techne as such, isn’t this a graver danger still? By grasping thought as a biological function proper to hominids, I set a biological limit to thought. But then it is precisely this very limit that comes to confront me in the unthinkable of a non-biological thought — Artificial Intelligence. So as I start off saying that thought is an evolutionary development, Artificial General Intelligence faces me as a non-biological form of thought, a contradiction. That life has evolved thought and that a machine may acquire it, this must tell me that thought is not essentially biological. Or is it really so? Because I can also assume externalization here, and suppose that a biological feature, thought, has been externalized from the human body. This is my problem. Did an organism evolve thought before externalizing it into a machine, or did an organism evolve up to thought, just like a machine might?
If I assume that thought is merely biological, techne then, confronts me as the biological limit of thought.”
18x11cm, 88 pages
Released: April 21st 2023