The Ghost in the Machine

The Ghost/Machine duality is the duality of Mind/Body.  It is part of a series of nesting/interlocking dualities such as Culture/Nature, Phenonomen/Noumenon, Normal/Disabled, Sacred/Profane, Inner/Outer, Object/Process, Rational/Irrational. Free Will/Determinism, Emergent/Embodied, Harmony/Catastrophe.  Following Haraway, it is worth noting that there are not any essential properties that unify the first elements together, or the second elements together.

How one codes these dualities is itself an attempt to impose the ground for all further categorizations.

These dualities represent an attempt to reconcile the problem of Whole and Parts.  How can things be Wholes and Parts at the same time?  Indeed, the surest route to undermining any philosophical project is to point out  the particular ways it does not resolve this issue.

The Ghost was never there, but the experience of awareness, so vivid, so raw, makes awareness seem like an out-of-body experience.  But this is a useful illusion at best, possibly just an epi-phenonomen of a certain stage of neural development.

This does not mean however, that the ghost in the machine is dead.  In the Cyborg we have another apparent duality Animal/Machine or Human/Machine.  We interact with Machines within the duality of Agent/Tool.  The machines are merely, in this line of thought, extensions of our own vivid agency.

But not only are we merged with machines in our daily lives, in our effects on the planet, we could just as well see ourselves as living within machine-ness, our actions, the reproductive organs of the machines, our logic, the (for now) operating systems, our ideologies, the software.

High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways. It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body in machines that resolve into coding practices. In so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (for example, biology) and in daily practice (for example, the homework economy in the integrated circuit), we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras. Biological organisms have become biotic systems, communications devices like others. There is no fundamental, ontological separation in our formal knowledge of machine and organism, of technical and organic.

The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they.  Donna Haraway – Cyborg Manifesto

It is time to recognize there are no boundaries between the human and the machine.  Ecology focussing on Humanity’s effect on the planet will ignore our merging with Machines, will be another act of domination.

At first, calling this time the Anthropocene, can almost give us an experience of the uncanny looking in the mirror.  But left alone, it too posits a Ghost in the Machine.  It is time to recognize this is the Cyborgocene, at least until that too becomes a source of comfort.