Post-human society and the future of humanity

The previous Morphogenic Society project had focused on social mechanisms and configurations rather than on agents’ subjectivity and humanity, which remained acknowledged but understudied. This second project reversed this approach and focused the discussion on the place of humanity in contemporary (morphogenic) societies.

Until the most recent decades, natural and social science could regard the ‘human being’ as their unproblematic point of reference, with monsters, clones and drones being acknowledged as fantasies dreamed up for the purposes of fiction or academic argument. In future, this common, taken for granted benchmark will be replaced by various amalgams of human biology supplemented by technology – a fact that has direct implications for democracy, social governance and human rights, owing to questions surrounding standards for social inclusion, participation and legal protection. Considering the question of who or what counts as a human being and the challenges posed by anti-humanism, the implications for the global social order of the technological ability of some regions of the world to ‘enhance’ human biology, and the defence of humankind in the face of artificial intelligence, the books in this series examine the challenges posed to the universalism of humankind by various forms of anti-humanism, and seek to defend ‘human essentialism’ by accentuating the liabilities and capacities particular to human beings alone.

Volume I: Al-Amoudi, I & Morgan, J (Eds) (2019). Realist Responses to Post-Human Society: ex machina. London: Routledge.

This volume is the first of a short series which investigates, from a broadly realist perspective, the place, and challenges, of the human in contemporary social orders. The authors, all members of the Centre for Social Ontology, ask what is specific about humanity’s nature and worth, and what are their main challenges in contemporary societies?

Examining the ways in which recent advances in technology threaten to blur and displace the boundaries constitutive of our shared humanity, Realist Responses to Post-Human Society: Ex Machina explores the philosophical and ethical questions raised by these developments, and discusses the dangers posed by the combination of transhumanism with post-humanist social theories and antihumanist practices, institutions and ideologies.

Volume II: Al-Amoudi, I & Lazega, E (Eds.) (2019). Post-Human Institutions and Organizations: confronting the Matrix. London: Routledge. 

When the Matrix trilogy was published in the mid-1980s, it introduced to mass culture a number of post-human tropes about the conscious machines that have haunted our collective imaginaries ever since. This volume explores the social representations and significance of technological developments – especially AI and human enhancement – that have started to transform our human agency. It uses these developments to revisit theories of the human mind and its essential characteristics: a first-person perspective, concerns and reflexivity. It looks at how the smart machines are used as agents of change in the basic institutions and organisations that hold contemporary societies together, for example in the family and the household, in commercial corporations, in health institutions or in the military. Its main purpose is to enrich the ongoing public discussion of the social and political implications of the smart machines by looking at the extent to which they further digitalise and bureaucratise the world, in particular by asking whether they are used to develop techno-totalitarian societies that corrode normativity and solidarity.

Volume III: Carrigan, M & Porpora, D (Eds) (2021). Post-Human Futures: Human enhancement, artificial intelligence and social theory. London: Routledge.

This volume engages with post-humanist and transhumanist approaches to present an original exploration of the question of how humankind will fare in the face of artificial intelligence. With emerging technologies now widely assumed to be calling into question assumptions about human beings and their place within the world, and computational innovations of machine learning leading some to claim we are coming ever closer to the long-sought artificial general intelligence, it defends humanity with the argument that technological ‘advances’ introduced artificially into some humans do not annul their fundamental human qualities. Against the challenge presented by the possibility that advanced artificial intelligence will be fully capable of original thinking, creative self-development and moral judgement and therefore have claims to legal rights, the authors advance a form of ‘essentialism’ that justifies providing a ‘decent minimum life’ for all persons. As such, while the future of the human is in question, the authors show how dispensing with either the category itself or the underlying reality is a less plausible solution than is often assumed.

Volume IV: Archer, M & Maccarini, A (Eds) (2021 forthcoming). What is Essential to Being Human? Can AI robots not share it? London: Routledge. ISBN 9780367368289

This book asks whether there exists an essence exclusive to human beings despite their continuous enhancement – a nature which can serve to distinguish humans from artificially intelligent robots, now and in the foreseeable future. Considering what might qualify as such an essence, this volume demonstrates that the abstract question of ‘essentialism’ underpins a range of social issues that are too often considered in isolation and usually justify ‘Robophobia’, rather than ‘Robophilia,’ in terms of morality, social relations and legal rights. Any defense of human exceptionalism requires clarity about what property(ies) ground it and an explanation of why these cannot be envisaged as being acquired (eventually) by AI robots. As such, an examination of the conceptual clarity of human essentialism and the role it plays in our thinking about dignity, citizenship, civil rights and moral worth is undertaken in this volume. What is Essential to Being Human? will appeal to scholars of social theory and philosophy with interests in human nature, ethics and artificial intelligence.