- anti-humanism + post-humanism
- ---- by Kim ToffolettiBaudrillard questions the precepts of humanism that declare the subject to be a self-determining, autonomous and rational agent. His writing can be understood as anti-humanist when viewed in terms of his theory of simulation. Following this logic, simulation culture generates the illusion of the human as a liberated individual with choice and agency, in order to obscure the fact that such freedoms have little relevance under the logic of sign exchange. Baudrillard has used the examples of referendum voting and popular opinion polls to demonstrate the way that individuals are presented with the option to choose 'yes' or 'no' and encouraged to freely exercise choice, yet this can only occur with a predetermined set of responses (CPS, SC). Voting and polling provide the simulation of humanist values and qualities, sustaining the notion of the subject's agency by creating the sense that individuals are empowered to determine voting outcomes, even if the results are unlikely to lead to discernable change. In this regard, the semblance of choice is more important than the actual outcome.On another level, Baudrillard's anti-humanist tendencies manifest in his writings about human-technology relations. The technical innovations he discusses in The Ecstasy of Communication (1988c [1987b]) lead him to conclude that individuals have become 'terminals of multiple networks' (EC, 16). He cites the examples of the television screen and the car to illustrate how the human interfaces with electronic systems, and in turn dissolves the neat distinction between 'man' and 'machine'. In the instance of the car, it becomes impossible to fully separate the human from the technological objects s/he uses because they are part of the same system.It is the car that speaks to you, which informs you spontaneously of its general state and yours (eventually refusing to function if you are not functioning well), the advising, the deliberating car, a partner in a general negotiation on lifestyles; something (or someone, since at this stage there is no more difference) to which you are wired. (EC, 13)As our lifestyles become increasingly reliant on digital networks of communication and information, Baudrillard observes the emergence of a new modality of the human. The human gives way to the post-human when the virtual replaces the actual as the primary mode by which we conceptualise and experience reality. Humans have become virtualised - immersed within digital circuits of instant and excessive information technologies - to the point where we can no longer maintain a critical distance from the cyberspaces that surround us. Temporal and geographical distance is eradicated in an age of 'real-time' communication via satellites and highspeed digital networks, making it seem as though everything and everyone is instantly accessible, visible and knowable. Yet as Baudrillard's reality principle of simulation would dictate, 'the Internet merely simulates a free mental space, a space of freedom and discovery' (SC, 179). As examples of virtual spaces where the self is enacted and realised, online social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, or programs such as Second Life, demonstrate the post-human moment where there is no separation any longer, no emptiness, no absence: you enter the screen and the visual image unimpeded. You enter life itself as though walking on to a screen. You slip on your own life like a data suit. (LP, 75)Crucially for Baudrillard, it is the interactive, immersive and instantaneous nature of our digital encounters that erodes the distance between the subject and the screen, and which makes the individual as much a spectacle as they are a spectator.The erosion of the parameters of the human is also evident in the biological sciences. Baudrillard believes that 'as soon as the human is no longer defined in terms of freedom and transcendence but in terms of genes, the definition of man - and hence, also, that of humanism - is wiped away' (IE, 97). This is because increased emphasis on gene manipulation and DNA mapping to explain human existence and motivations remakes the human as the product of genetic expression, resulting in the 'the genetic simulation of living beings' (IE, 97). What we are left with is something that is neither humannorinhuman,butavirtualreality-amanifestationofacodesignified by the body (VI). And if the human can be simulated from a predetermined model (genetic information), this invariably leads to the prospect of cloning. According to Baudrillard, cloning puts an end to the notion of the human as an individuated and autonomous subject. Without a mother or father, it is impossible for the clone to undergo the psychical processes through which the subject differentiates the self from the other. Consequently, we can no longer speak of the human at the point where otherness is eradicated, relying instead on a simulated otherness and humanness (VI).Passwords
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.