It is as if, today, “bio-cosmism” is reemerging in a new wave of “post-human” thought.

“In the first decade of the Soviet Union, so-called “bio-cosmism” enjoyed an extraordinary popularity—as a strange combination of vulgar materialism and Gnostic spirituality that formed the occult shadow-ideology, or obscene secret teaching, of Soviet Marxism. It is as if, today, “bio-cosmism” is reemerging in a new wave of “post-human” thought. The spectacular development of biogenetics (cloning, direct DNA interventions, etc.) is gradually dissolving the frontiers between humans and animals on the one side and between humans and machines on the other, giving rise to the idea that we are on the threshold of a new form of Intelligence, a “more-than-human” Singularity in which mind will no longer be subject to bodily constraints, including those of sexual reproduction. Out of this prospect a weird shame has emerged: a shame about our biological limitations, our mortality, the ridiculous way in which we reproduce ourselves—what Günther Anders has called “Promethean shame,”6 ultimately simply the shame that “we were born and not manufactured.” Nietzsche’s idea that we are the “last men” laying the ground for our own extinction and the arrival of a new Over-Man is thereby given a scientific-technological twist. However, we should not reduce this “post-human” stance to the paradigmatically modern belief in the possibility of total technological domination over nature—what we are witnessing today is an exemplary dialectical reversal: the slogan of today’s “post-human” sciences is no longer domination but surprise (contingent, non-planned emergence). Jean-Pierre Dupuy detects a weird reversal of the traditional Cartesian anthropocentric arrogance which grounded human technology, a reversal clearly discernible in today’s robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, artificial life and Artificial Intelligence research:

how are we to explain the fact that science became such a “risky” activity that, according to some top scientists, it poses today the principal threat to the survival of humanity? Some philosophers reply to this question by saying that Descartes’ dream—“to become master and possessor of nature”—has turned out bad, and that we should urgently return to the “mastery of mastery.” They understand nothing. They don’t see that the technology profiling itself at our horizon through the “convergence” of all disciplines aims precisely at non-mastery. The engineer of tomorrow will not be a sorcerer’s apprentice because of his negligence or ignorance, but by choice. He will “give” himself complex structures or organizations and will try to learn what they are capable of by exploring their functional properties—an ascending, bottom-up, approach. He will be an explorer and experimenter at least as much as an executor. The measure of his success will be more the extent to which his own creations will surprise him than the conformity of his realization to a list of pre-established tasks.

Should we see an unexpected sign of hope in this reemergence of surprise at the very heart of the most radical naturalism? Or should we look for a way to overcome the impasses of cognitivist radical naturalism in Deleuzian “New Materialism,” whose main representative is Jane Bennett with her notion of “vibrant matter”?”

- Slavoj Žižek, Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism





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