The Augmented Humanity by Éric Sadin

February 1, 2015

On her return from Paris, Diana Bulzan has brought me Éric Sadin’s 2013 book L’Humanité augmentée. L’administration numérique du monde, published by Éditions L’Échappée. The author, who constantly alternates between literary and theoretical writings, is well known for his previous titles Tokyo (POL, 2005), Surveillance globale (Climats / Flammarion, 2009) or La Société de l’anticipation (Inculte, 2011). Sadin claims we are getting closer to the troubling emergence of a sort of parallel humanity constituted by intelligent electronic fluxes set to manage the 21st century world. I am particularly drawn to Sadin’s writing on computational intelligence as augmented cognitive organism, his talk around clairvoyant robots and specially the notion of “anthrobology” that I would like to explore for my PhD research. However, I am less convinced about the notion of ‘digital revolution’ as a power to collect and analyse all data, to map an infinity of local or global situations and to project optimal or securing solutions in real time. The very idea of ‘revolution’ seems to me a bit like a remote, ‘progressionist’ perspective. But the book is nevertheless interesting in its articulation of the hybrid humanity as “anthrobological condition.”

Starting from the discussion of the emergence of a superior artificial cognition (!) and moving on to discuss the passage from digital revolution to the advent (the French term avènement is definitely more substantial and nuanced) of an anthrobology (encompassing miniaturization, new forms of corporality, the sensible intelligence of the Technique and the universalisation of the smartphone as the end of the digital revolution), the “adjusted” robotic life (covering themes such as the emergence of interpretative systems, algorithmic trading, the mathematisation of life and the era of the geo-localised / assisted individual), the totemic dimension of technology with its new mythology of technical objects (like with ‘revolution,’ the use of term ‘new’ seems problematic to me, especially in this context), the passage from intelligence to the “life” of processors (discussing topics such as the “sociality” of digital robots and the age of electronic complexity, accounting for the emergent “sensoriality” of electronic robots), or the passage from humanist subject to an algorithmically assisted individual (marking the “agony” of modern anthropocentrism, the relativity of political power or the progressive abolition of the idea of hazard), Sadin concludes by addressing the question of an “anthrobological” condition. In his own words: “Assertion indéfiniment vérifiée par le mouvement différentiel de l’Histoire, qui recouvre aujourd’hui la particularité d’avoir généré un nouveau type d’hybridité, d’ordre non plus seulement épistémologique mais également anthropologique. Le phénomène ‘d’antiquité croissante’ à juste titre relevé par Pascal relevait d’une structure interhumaine, induite par l’enchaînement des générations et la conservation exosomatique du savoir. L’hybridité propre à notre XXIe siècle correspond à celle impalpable mêlant corps et codes numériques. ‘Haute Antiquité anthropomachinique’ qui détermine désormais notre condition, non plus cantonnée à ses propres limites cognitives, mais augmentée dans ces facultés de jugement et de décision, signalant l’instauration pérenne et universelle de notre réalité anthrobologique.” (p. 177-178). “Condition anthrobologique qui entrelace à un rythme croissant organismes humains et artificiels, introduisant un nouveau terme dans la configuration intersubjective constituée par la binarité homme/femme, découvrant une tierce présence déterminante et incorporelle.” (p. 178-179)

To be explored thoroughly as part of my PhD thesis.