Views on Technology

(course for AS, 2010/11)

In daily life, if people demonstrate a general opinion about technology, it tends to be either very negative or very positive. Technology can be for
example mentioned as something that is in opposition to human nature, as something that distorts, is unhealthy and which can be profoundly alienating. On the other hand, one of the defining characteristics of humans is the fact that humans make and use tools, and animals generally don’t. So technology can be that which makes humans human, while at the same time being considered as something unnatural andforeign to human nature. In this course we will read and discuss a selection of texts that try to cover a spectrum of opinions about humans and technology that is as wide as possible. We will go all the way from Ludd and the Unabomber to the ideas of Transhumanists and Extropians.
As a focal point we will use Sloterdijk’s text ‘Rules for the Human Zoo : a response to the Letter on Humanism’. We will orbit around this text to discuss questions about the taming or enhancement of man through technology and ideas about responsibility and hybridity.

Peter Sloterdijk, ‘Rules for the Human Zoo : a response to the Letter on Humanism’,
translation published in: Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2009, volume 27, pp 12-28
(originally in “Nicht gerettet: Versuche nach Heidegger”, Suhrkamp, 2001, pp 302-333)

Nick Bostrom, ‘In Defense of Posthuman Dignity’, in ‘Bioethics’, Vol. 19 (2005), No. 3, pp. 202-214

Jack Burnham, “Beyond Modern Sculpture”, Braziller, New York, 1968.

  • ‘A Teleological Theory of Modern Sculpture’, pp 370-376

F.M.Esfandiary, ‘Upwingers, a Futurist Manifesto’,
Popular Library, New York, 1973

  • pp 135-188

Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’,in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181.

Ted Kaczynski, ‘Industrial Society and its Future (Unabomber’s Manifesto)’,
New York Times / Washington Post, 1995.

  • introduction par 1-5
  • sources of social problems etc. par 45-76
  • the motives of scientists par 87-92
  • the nature of freedom par 93-98
  • industiral-technological society cannot be reformed etc. par 111-135
  • human race at a crossroads etc. par 161-179
  • two kinds of technology par 207-212

Humberto Maturana, ‘Metadesign’,
from: Joke Brouwer, Carla Hoekendijk (ed), ‘Technomorphica’,
V2_publishing, Rotterdam, 1997, pp 171-203.

Jos de Mul, ‘Transhumanism, The Convergence of Evolution, Humanism and Information Technology’, from: Rewers, E., and Sójki, J. (ed.), ‘Man within Culture at the Treshold of the 21st Century’, Wydawnictwo Fundacji Humaniora, Poznan, 2001, pp. 101-122.

Lewis Mumford, ‘The Myth of the Machine, The Pentagon of Power’
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, New York, 1970.

  • chapter 11, ‘The Megatechnic Wasteland’, pp. 300-320.

Douglas Rushkoff, ‘Program Or Be Programmed, Ten Commands for a Digital Age’,
OR Books, New York, 2010.

  • chapter 10, ‘Purpose’, pp. 128-144.

Langdon Winner, ‘The Whale and the Reactor, A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology’,
University of Chicago Press, 1986.

  • chapters 2 and 3, pp. 19-58.

Joost Rekveld