Towards an integral, p2p approach to posthuman destinies

we focus on inner technologies of self knowledge and self-governance and their co-evolution with ethical stances appropriate to the ubiquitous technological environments we increasingly populate.

For me an integral approach is an approach that refuses reductionism in any form and that combines an understanding of both (inter)subjective and (inter)objective aspects of any reality (always combining inner and outer realities!!). Peer to peer on the other hand, adds the ethical requirement that we should treat each other as equipotential beings who all have something to contribute to the world, and that we need social systems that allow the full expression of those possibilities for every human being.

While both the integral and p2p approaches are growing separately, it is still rare to find them combined. The better known integral approaches, such as those of Ken Wilber, take a strong pro-hierarchy stance and align themselves with neoconservative values.

There is one exception that I’d like to bring to our readers attention and that is the site maintained by Rich Carlson and friends, called “Science, Culture, Integral Yoga“, and which attempts to bring the work and insights of Aurobindo into the 21st century. It’s a site that consistently brings high quality thinking and it has started focusing on posthuman destinies lately.

A recent example of a blog item to give you a flavour of the site:

* Bernard Stiegler and the Question of Technics

But especially look at this four part series:

* Techno-Capitalism and Post-human Destinies – by Debashish Banerji

I asked SCIY editor Rich Carlson to explain the motivation of the site and their focus on the posthuman theme.

It is undoubtedly heady stuff but for those willing to do their theoretical homework, this site really rocks. Really one of the few places where the history of the future is being written, and that has got its emancipatory heart in the right place.

Rich Carlson:

Much like P2P, Posthuman Destinies contemplates emerging global networks, technology and culture. Additionally, perennial matters of identity and difference, being and becoming etc.. are foregrounded through articles and discussions that concern posthumanism.

Philosophically posthumanism assumes an existential stance that interrogates the claims of Humanism, a view of humanity derived from the European Enlightenment. Humanism assumes that human nature is constituted by possessive individuals intrinsically unified around a free willing rational essence that expresses its agency in a world in which social relationships are determined by a liberal political economy.

The premises of Humanism has been challenged for perhaps at least a hundred years or more when representational art began its abstract expressionist turn in the first decades of the last century, at a time when the most cherished assumptions that Humanism held about rationality and human nature were shattered by the First World War. For the past several decades the premises of philosophical humanism have been thoroughly challenged by postmodern theorist. Most recently assumptions underlying what we think of as the “liberal humanist subject” (Hayles 2005) have been challenged through advances in cognitive, neural, information and complexity sciences that conceive human nature as resultant from the emergence of multiple autonomous biological programs running in complex parallel sequences. Rather than imbuing it with the quality of individual personality these new sciences quantify human nature in terms of cybernetic information or reduce it to Darwinian algorithms.

Coupled with the cybernetic perspective that the new sciences view human nature through, our understanding of cultural history has radically shifted. In the dromospheric vision of philosopher Paul Virilio “we are passing from the extensive time of history to the intensive time of an instantaneity without history made possible by the technologies of the hour”. (Virilio 2000)

The compression of time through exponential processing advances in transferring data at light speed is disorientating for those who have historically conceived identity in reference to a spatial environment fixed in time. As time accelerates along with is it evolutionary co-efficient of increasing virtual space we find ourselves inhabiting mental environments that serve to erase traditional referents for constructing identity.

The advent of the posthuman is also facilitated by the desiring machines of the global market place whose technological will works us over constantly by harvesting our attention for the consumption of its ever increasing digital commodity forms.

The posthuman condition is therefore predicated not only on a new cybernetic view of the human but also is a product of economic subjectivity in the early 21st century as well as resultant from the collapse of human identity as something rooted in nature and separate from the machine, network or circuit.

Another genealogy of the posthuman that is central to our concerns we trace back to the last pages of Michel Foucault’s Order of Things (1970), in which he proclaims the death of man and the discursive vanishing of the rational/irrational trace under the sign of reflexivity.

Foucault’s late discourse on the technologies of the self also serves as an organizing principle for posthuman destinies in that we focus on inner technologies of self knowledge and self-governance and their co-evolution with ethical stances appropriate to the ubiquitous technological environments we increasingly populate.

In cultivating an awareness of these technologies of self we follow another trail along the cross-cultural trajectory of the post human that leads to Sri Aurobindo the philosopher, seer and resistance fighter of colonialist Empire in early 20th century India. His visionary works conceive the potential for post human consciousness to integrate its physical, vital and mental dimensions of being through meditational techniques that facilitate inner quietude and self-awareness in order to stabilize mutations of consciousness that serve to open the human to new ranges of experience and to fix these “supramental” realities (1949) into the very cells of its evolving embodiment. The dialog with Foucault and Aurobindo is often mediated through an understanding of the posthuman as if envisaged in the Zarathustraian parables of Friedrich Nietszche in terms of the last man or the overman.

Posthuman Destinies also conspires to explore the creative tension between the remotely utopian vision of the evolution of consciousness held by such early and mid 20th century philosophers from both East and West, as Aurobindo, Tagore, James, Bergson, Whitehead, de Chardin, McLuhan and juxtapose these discourses with contemporary dystopian accounts of humanity as its co-evolves with the relational technologies of networks as theorized by philosophers such as Deleuze, Baudrillard, Virilio and represented in the fiction of writers such as Pynchon, Dick, Gibson, whose works recognize the radical global inequalities that destabilize any universal claims of progress that maybe couched within evolutionary narratives of consciousness or of the future. In this spirit we also attempt to engage with matters of global inequality, subjugation and alternate modernities posited in the post-colonial scholarship of theorist such as Said, Guha, Bhabha. Finally, our articles and discussions are all backgrounded by the realization that contemplating the uncertain fate of the future be it in humanity or nature can only lead to aporia.”


* Hayles, K. My Mother was a Computer, Chicago University of Chicago Press, 2005

* Virilio, P. Polar Inertia. London: Sage Publications, 2000.

* Foucault, M. The Order of Things, New York Random House Press, 1970

* Aurobindo Sri, The Life Divine Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1949

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