The Aphasic Cyborg

he Reasonable Cyborg takes as a given that technology, no matter how powerful, is instrumental to naked human intention.  Some RCs may grant that it is possible for naked humans, through inattention, laziness or lack of insight to cede their agency to technological processes.  They may advocate that Cyborgs periodically unplug from technology enough to disrupt habits that reinforce this agency cessation.  They may suggest various strategies to better manage the incursions into  human agency technology may make including various forms of meditation or mindfulness, or simply taking a walk in places they like to designate as Nature.

Others may assert that humans have always used technology, that indeed, the use of technology is one of the defining features of being human.  Here the Reasonable Cyborg equates the in-hand instrumentality of a hammer with ubiquitously coded spaces.  After all naked humans were instrumental in the writing of the code, in deciding what the outputs of the layers of algorithms should be.  A RC will point out that any decision-making these systems engage in is a result of a human decision.  While any matter at hand may be too complex, too demanding of naked human scale temporal and spacial abilities, the entire intentional freight of the enterprise is borne by the naked human’s head/brain/soul/humanity.

Reasonable Cyborgs understand the naked human’s felt Appearance of Agency as both accurate and determinative rather than a heuristic processing/enacting of cognitive, perceptual and emotional functions.  This frequently relies on understanding the understanding of consciousness as a hard problem, that lies somehow, at least partially, outside the idea that everything has a cause.

Some naked humans however, are simply not reasonable.

vibes of fuckyou orange - Christina McPhee
vibes of fuckyou orange – Christina McPhee

In past posts I have explored aphasia as a metaphor, a window framing in a revealing way various aspects of the human/tech relationship.  I came across an essay recently by a most unreasonable cyborg.

In Aphasia/Parrhesia/ Code and Speech in the Neural Topologies of the Net Christina McPhee presents her experience of aphasia as a way of understanding, of theorizing the coding of the world.  Here, the neural net interacting with the coded net creates not just an augmented naked human hybridizing into a cyborg, but a double of this cyborg entrapped in the coded net.

Against the trope of Metropolis, whose robotics are released from emblem into an active , mobile, fierce and even viral identity,[6] the neural landscape as cyborg refers the desires of the voyeuristic modern back to code, to a place where nothing is, atopia. In this negative landscape the question of the origins of trauma and violence plays out without recourse to either sacrificial emblem or to the modernist critique. All that is left is the algorithmic presets….

What if the territory of the invisible cities of the net could be contemplated as a brainscan, a neuralscape? .. An inchoate complexity ,a sound and fury signifying nothing, perhaps, and perhaps, something alive. The phenomenological scenario of a cyborg double, whose femininity is a cliché of the modernist machine mythos, unfolds as a place in which she is both an entity moving through an invisible space, and is the space itself: cyberspace as a flawed, mine-ridden war zone, a neural topography of aneurysm and amnesia. Her poorly discerned gestures might be imagined as the signals of an entrapped being in a crisis of speech….

The screen is like a motility membrane, a skin or gut wall, semi-diaphanous and anechoic, behind which, connected as skin is to central nervous system by the same embryology,  are the lesions of the brain, the zones of neural occlusion and disaster. The relative incoherence of the system is overcome only by the inveterate impulse of human participant-observers to try to interpret the fragments of speech. In this way the ground of meaning regenerates itself continuously in the realm of the human…

What is this failure but the experience of the loss of control of the image, the condition sine qua non of electronic arts, where nothing can be rendered within the safe confines of a heuristic universe…

I think we don’t want to talk about this because the idea of a completely atopic, hollowed out[14], embeddable, vulnerable, post human consciousness that stares back at us and tries to speak to us from the invisible realm of the electronic is disturbing: she mirrors something like a double[15], and yet, it seems the mirror faces a mirror in
ourselves, thereby generating an infinite regression. Or not. In which case the cyborg’s aphasic speech may make a kind of truth.

The truth of the cyborg then, emerges through an atopic, aphasic digital process mimicking the neural breakdown of the neural aphasic impasse.  Illustrating this, McPhee’s art, combines an elegance of line and abstraction of color to reveal the “violence, traumatic memory, environmental fragility, and regeneration” at the heart of the encounter between the naked human and the naked technological.

The naked human depends on an exaggerated sense of its Appearance of Agency to compensate for its low relief information processing.  The Reasonable Cyborg accepts the resulting heuristics as the baseline of awareness.4295554840_98d4e1c10c_o[1]

The naked technological in principle possess an ability and scale of information processing the naked human can only understand using its method of compensating errors. What happens when the cyborg on the other side of the screen learns how to overcome its digital aphasia and speaks?

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One thought on “The Aphasic Cyborg

  1. One of those impossibles is this gap between what we know of ourselves, and the fictional self that seems to inhabit the tropes of the electronic other that wanders free of us and is portrayed in the performative vision of others portrayal of us in the electronic medium. This gap between reality and its manifestation in the medium of this new mode of being brings with it just this for a aphasia. The discrepancy between the former self that seemed in control, knowing, normal, etc. and the new otherness of the speechless one who’s existence is bound to the borderland between two gaps: before and after. A knowledge of who we were, and a knowing of what we are now; and, between, the impossible bridge of those others who see neither before nor after, but only the fictional signs of their own false images that like some strange attractor orbit around our figural self in its performativity.

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