Mapping posthuman discourse and the evolution of living information

Swift, Adam Glen (2006) Mapping posthuman discourse and the evolution of living information. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The discourse that surrounds and constitutes the post-human emerged as a response to earlier claims of an essential or universal human or human nature. These discussions claim that the human is a discursive construct that emerges from various configurations of nature, embodiment, technology, and culture, configurations that have also been variously shaped by the forces of social history. And in the absence of an essential human figure, post-human discourses suggest that there are no restrictions or limitations on how the human can be reconfigured. This axiom has been extended in light of a plethora of technological reconfigurations and augmentations now potentially available to the human, and claims emerge from within this literature that these new technologies constitute a range of possibilities for future human biological evolution.

This thesis questions the assumption contained within these discourses that technological incursions or reconfigurations of the biological human necessarily constitute human biological or human social evolution by discussing the role the evolution theories plays in our understanding of the human, the social, and technology. In this thesis I show that, in a reciprocal process, evolution theory draws metaphors from social institutions and ideologies, while social institutions and ideologies simultaneously draw on metaphors from evolution theory. Through this discussion, I propose a form of evolution literacy; a tool, I argue, is warranted in developing a sophisticated response to changes in both human shape and form. I argue that, as a whole, our understanding of evolution constitutes a metanarrative, a metaphor through which we understand the place of the human within the world; it follows that historical shifts in social paradigms will result in new definitions of evolution. I show that contemporary evolution theory reflects parts of the world as codified informatic systems of associated computational network logic through which the behaviour of participants is predefined according to an evolved or programmed structure.

Working from within the discourse of contemporary evolution theory I develop a space through which a version of the post-human figure emerges. I promote this version of the post-human as an Artificial Intelligence computational programme or autonomous agent that, rather than seeking to replace, reduce or deny the human subject, is configured as an exosomatic supplement to and an extension of the biological human.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16439
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Thomas, Glen, Cunningham, Stuart, & Hearn, Gregory
Keywords: posthuman, discourse, evolution, evolution theory, evolution literacy, metaphor, environmentalism, network theory, systems theory, cybernetics, autopoiesis, evolutionary psychology, genetics, code structures, technology, technological change, technological determinism, social shaping of technology, symbiosis, cyborgs, cyborg theory, hybrid theory, informatics, artificial intelligence, intelligent agents, bots
Divisions: Past > Schools > Creative Writing & Literary Studies
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Department: Faculty of Creative Industries
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Adam Glen Swift
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:03
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:47

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