Iljoon Park is a visiting professor of Christian Research Institute for Integral Studies at Methodist Theological University, Seoul and a lecturer at Yonsei University. His research interests have focused upon the subjects of being-human in contemporary philosophies, cognitive science, evolutionary theories, evolutionary psychology, artificial life and so on.
His main publications include: “Betweenness, the illusory self, and the disruptive subject: In evolutionary biology and cognitive science,” Tran-Humanities, vol.1 (2009), 177-199; “Betweenness and the authentic self: a comparison of Daoist thought with Heidegger within the context of living with an authentic selfhood,” Madang, vol.11 (2009), 95-117; “To talk about justice: Suturing the Whiteheadian harmonious subject to the Badiouan militant subject for the universal subject of ta me onta,” Korean Journal of Christian Studies, no.87 (2013), 303-319; “an ontology of the between in evolutionary theories: the ontology of event in a Post-Human age” in Korean (2014); “evolutionary theory and the ontology of event: post-human implications of evolutionary theories” in Korean (2014); “Rereading of the Whiteheadian understanding of organism in a trans-human age: a critical review of the ‘extended mind theory,’ Trans-Humanities, vol.8, no.1 (2015), 111-130; “A Post-naturalist idea of ec-stasy: an East-West Dialogue in a Tran-human age,” in Nature’s Transcendence and Immanence: A Comparative Interdisciplinary Ecstatic Naturalism, eds. M. Lawrence & J.S. Oh (Lexington Book, 2018), 137-147.
“Political Theology of Inter-carnation: Being-human in the brilliant development of science and technology”
The pandemic has let us know that we are already cyborgs. Although Andy Clark says we humans are already natural-born cyborgs, many of us have not recognized enough that our life already has been entangled with virtual realm via digital networks, through which we connect our nerve cells to the digital world. A cyborg life is not a possibility in the future but a reality. However, cyborg or robot or A.I. does not become a savior for us from labor work, but it turns out to be a means to exploit our neuronal energy for the current semiocapitalist system. We work through digital networks. Ironically in an age of A.I. or an age of homo deus, we eke out scanty livelihoods under this dire predicament. In the name of human rights, we are exploited as cyborgs. Which means that we are not humans. However, they don’t say we are not humans, but they call this age that of homo deus. Those who are not able to become ‘homo deus’ would simply be relegated to losers in infinite competition. As a matter of fact, those who are not able have never been humans but non-beings or ta me onta (“those who are not” [1 Cor. 1:28]). Although the pandemic did not cause the gap between those who are and those who are not, between home deus and non-beings, the age of human rights ironically has led to the age of cyborgs who are digital laborer whose human rights are denied because they are cyborgs, that is, non-(human)beings. As a matter of fact, the loophole of the concept of human rights lies in its conceptual foundation itself. Huma rights is legitimately protected only for those with citizenship. So, the semiocapitalism twists human rights and finds a way out by turning human citizens into cyborg workers. As we maintain our daily lives with the help of digital networks, which are the driving force of semiocapitalism, in which the exchange of digital signs produces the capital, and as the so-called humans work by connecting their nerves to digital networks, we are not humans but nodal points in a digital network. Here where Andy Clark sees a brilliant expectation for his idea of the extended mind, we as ta me onta just experience an upgrade of inequality. Working conditions have been worsened by the semiocapitalist systems of infinite competition and winner-take-all. Technological applications of A.I., robots and digital networks to production take relatively decent jobs away from human laborers. Except less than 1% of human population on the earth, most are relegated to the status of being less than humans. Thus, people are divided into homo deus, who are the superrich, and the less than humans who work like a machine. Thus, most of us feel being impotent in an age of meritocracy. People without merits financial or intellectual are treated as non-human cyborgs that are made to work like slaves.
The so-called posthuman age is at the same time the age of “upgrading inequality” (Y.N. Harari). Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi calls this age that of impotence. People have been educated to be the subjects of their lives, but they would never have a chance to be winner in the infinite competition of semiocapitalism. Education has been corrupted as a social mechanism to sieve losers. Justice is an empty slogan only for winners who are very few. The term ‘marginalization’ is very ironic in that the marginalized today are the majority in number, as the majority are the minor in number. This means that most people are marginalized and treated as cyborgs deprived of human rights. In this situation, they are depressed with anger for being destined to be losers. Their unexpressed anger can be burst with the antidepressant, Prozac, which can trigger off unreleased rage against other losers who are themselves on the face of the others.
Marshall McLuhan already warns of autoamputation. For him, media is the extension of human being. As technologies have given birth to new technological artifacts, humans are extended via their bodies as media. In this sense, technological inventions are the extension of human body, through which the mind works. However, there is always a lag between the bodily extension through technologies and the recognition by human central nerve system (CNS) of the extension. When CNS does not recognize the technological extension as its extended part and thus as the other, it amputates the unrecognized part. This is the process of autoamputation. Simply, it is the process of amputating part of the self because the self does not recognize its extension as its extended part but the other invading its boundary. In such a situation, hatred and aggression are increased between people. Instead of resisting against the oppressive system of the age and of trying to find an alternative for a better world, people pour out their uncontrolled anger from their desperate situations of life to other losers, because they find the face they do not want to see on the faces of the others: the face of a loser. Then, a vicious circle of evil forms. Indeed, the autoamputation takes place on the social level these days. Hatred crimes against Asians under this pandemic have been increased. In the age of impotence, nervous anxiety derived from the elimination of the infinite competition becomes a source for terror and violence.
How can theology overcome a brilliant technological trap into the upgrading of inequality? Recovering the Christian idea of the divine family, in which all human beings are brother and sisters, is a way to overcome the social autoamputation taking place today. Also, one can imagine overcoming the idea of the extended mind by reinterpreting the Christian idea of incarnation as inter-carnation. It is to propose a new meaning of being-human for all-connected society in a way not to legitimate and justify the coming society of homo deus but to care for pain and suffering between humans, animals, plants, natural resources and earth. Pain is pervasive all over the earth, and the real meaning of incarnation is to be with the pain and suffering of beings on the earth which is none other than the meaning of com/passion. Inter-carnation means care for pains and sufferings between all forms of beings. In so doing, this paper will examine the meaning of entanglement for sympoiesis rather than autopoiesis. Symbiosis is always life making together, and this is the meaning of sympoiesis. Life is not auto-production of the self but ‘making-together.’ Every form of being is entangled on the web of life. When some beings are in pain, our beings are also damaged. One needs to start a theology of sympoiesis by reconsidering the unit of being not as individual but as the collective. When wolf and lamb play together, one should not forget that the wolf is a carnivore. Which means symbiosis and sympoiesis do not exclude predation. What really matters is not the elimination of predation, pain and suffering from our sympoietic life, which is impossible. Rather, we change priority in life. Life is not a jungle of the fittest survival but rather an entangled web of sympoiesis, in which predation is one of the ways balancing the total energy balance for life on the earth. One should not forget or ignore pain and suffering of those living with flesh. Sympoietic attitude to life is to keep alert our response-ability to the other beings human and nonhuman. We need a new concept for this entangled web of sympoiesis beyond human rights for individual citizens.