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Accepted Paper:

Trans- and posthumanism in the light of the anthropology of Günther Anders  
Thomas Walli (University of Innsbruck)

Short abstract:

In this talk, I undertake a critical reflection on technology-driven trans- and posthumanism (TH/PH) in light of the philosopher of technology Günther Anders. His philosophy helps us to rethink TH/PH as an existential response to the "human obsolescence" (Anders 1956) vis-à-vis (digital) technology.G

Long abstract:

The human desire to evolve into something new, better, higher is a common theme in Western thought. One of the most prominent contemporary currents of thought in this regard is transhumanism and posthumanism (TH/PH) (cf. Coenen 2009). These are scientific-intellectual, technophile and economic-libertarian movements dedicated to human enhancement – i.e. the “expansion of human abilities through technical [as well as genetic and neuroscientific] modification of the body” (Dickel 2016, 101).

In this paper, I engage in a critical reflection on TH/PH in light of the philosopher of technology Günther Anders. Although a thinker of the 20th century, Anders’ work is impressively relevant to the digital age and contemporary human existence. Years before Jean-Paul Sartre, Anders explored human’s “enstrangedness from the world” (Müller 2016, 5). This implies an alienation from the world, considering the absence of any essence (“Weltfremdheit” in Anders’ words). Therefore, humans compensate for this lack by relying on technical artefacts: “artificiality is the nature of the human beings” (Anders 2009 [1936/37], 209).

Since Anders’ time, industrial and digital technologies have evolved enormously. With Anders, humans feel deprived, curtailed and ‘obsolescent’ (“antiquiert”) (Anders 1956) in comparison to these technologies. I argue that Anders’ philosophy helps us to rethink TH/PH as responses to this “Promethean shame” (ibid.) and as ways out of ‘human obsolescence’. Humans aim to bridge the “Promethean gap” (ibid.), which separates perfect and immortal, i.e. replaceable and repairable, technology from imperfect and mortal human beings, by becoming transhuman or posthuman.

Traditional Open Panel P250
Understanding and interpreting technology in STS and Philosophy of Technology
  Session 1