2012/10/28

How We Became Posthuman (1999) by N. Katherine Hayles

本書堪稱是 Posthumanism 最為重要的論述正典之一,也難怪現在能找得到的本書評論,幾乎都來自於學術期刊。以我這般半廢學術功力,能勉強看懂已經得偷笑了,談不上品評論辯,因此這篇差不多就只有閱讀記錄(認真程度和筆記可差遠了)而已。

第一章 "Toward Embodied Virtuality" 從 Hans Moravec 寫在 Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence 的想像開始說起:Moravec 在書中提到「未來」可將人腦內的資訊直接傳送到電腦裡,整個人從肉身到機械,心智卻不受變化。於是激發 Hayles 針對 posthuman 與相關主題(e.g. cybernetics、computational biology、artificial life 等)的歷史研究,並獲致三個互相關連的發展方向:1) how information lost its body、2) how the cyborg was created as a technological artifact and cultural icon、3) how a historically specific construction called the human is giving away to a different construction called the posthuman。由此進而推導出 Hayles 版的 posthuman(建議型)想定:

1. the posthuman view privileges informational pattern over material instantiation → embodiment 只是歷史偶然
2. the posthuman view considers consciousness, regarded as the seat of human identity in the Western tradition long before Descartes thought he was a mind thinking
3. the posthuman view thinks of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate, so that extending or replacing the body with other prostheses becomes a continuation of a process that before we were born
4.(最重要的)the posthuman view configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines.
另外,"the construction of the posthuman does not require the subject to be a literal cyborg.  ...  The defining characteristics involve the construction of subjectivity, no the presence of nonbiological components."

因此,Hayles 從 cybernetics 演進史中,以上述原則選擇對應理論,歸納出 posthuman 發展的三波進程:1) 1945~1960, took homeostasis as a central concept;2) roughly 1960~1980, revolved around reflexivity;3) 1980~迄今(成書年份 1999)highlights virtuality. 並對這些世代所代表的意涵加以分析、闡釋。基本上本章就是全書的總訣式,其後各章全都更進一步針對所提及的要點細項加以說明。

第二章 "Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers" 是很龐大的既有文獻探討,跳過。(這壞喵也太懶了......)第三章搬出 the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics 給讀者灌輸一點相關學科理論背景;第四章則根據歷史進程,講第一波世代;其所對應的文學作品,則以 Bernard Wolfe 的 Limbo (1952) 為例,在第五章專章討論。

第六章回到歷史進程講第二波世代,第七章的對應文學作品則是 Philip K. Dick 的 1960s 後半的小說;Hayles 先分析 Dick 生平,試圖從中找出可以套入 posthumanism 理論的思維想法。接下來則是從小說抓橋段來套;Hayles 不照歷史順序,而是有什麼合主題的就抓哪一本出來討論。基本上那個時期的全作品都沒放過。

第八章 "The Materiality of Informatics" 則針對 abstraction / embodiment 再度進行文獻探討,試圖找出可以拿來套用在文學作品上的理論架構。第九章則簡述 artificial life 的科學發展與未來展望。以上兩者就是第三波歷史進程的背景論述。第十章 "The Semiotics of Virtuality: Mapping the Posthuman" 再度回到(科幻)文學作品的實戰演練。Hayles 的 semiotic square of virtuality 的兩條軸線分別是 pattern / randomness 和 presence / absence,對角線畫上去,則產生了 replication (pattern ←→ presence) 和 disruption (randomness ←→ absence)。進一步轉換,又可產生四種概念:materiality (presence ←→ absence)、hyperreality (absence ←→ pattern)、information (randomness ←→ pattern)、mutation (presence ←→ randomness),每種概念所代表的意義,和其相對應的代表性作品如下:
1. mutation: humans were taken over by computer parts → Greg Bear, Blood Music
2. hyperreality: human were made to function as if they were components of another entity → Cole Perriman, Terminal Games
3. materiality: computers behaved like human → Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2
4. information: people were made to behave as if they were computers → Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
接下來就是各作品的詳細分析,只能說科幻中人必看嘎。

至於結論就只是再提出「未來」可繼續發展的 posthuman 相關主題,並提出 posthuman 不等同於 antihuman 或 apocalyptic 的看法。


閱讀版本:
N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999)

本書 Prologue:
http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/321460.html

網上評論:
Cybersociology Magazine
Journal for Culrural and Religious Theory
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
Journal of the Association for History and Computing
Modern Fiction Studies
Spike Magazine
The Village Voice

ebr9
H-Net
RCCS

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