Human Stain

I understand that when a positive conceptual term (like “human”) is posited, it calls on a range of other terms to stabilise its position; hence, “human” requires “inhuman”, which can be said in various ways (inanimate object, non-human animal, zombie, robot, vulcan etc).

What’s less clear is why this should require that a sub-population of human beings be designated non-human — Frank Wilderson seems to treat this as an inevitability, as inextricably part of the articulation or architectonics of the human as such, and it doesn’t seem to me that this in any way follows directly from the positing of the human (as bearer of reason, realiser of autonomy, etc). Being a bearer of reason and realiser of autonomy is something that might plausibly be said to distinguish all human beings from gravel or earthworms, without necessarily having to distinguish any subset of human beings from any other subset of human beings.

In almost all the various ways in which human beings are designated as less-than-human, it is with the intention that their residual human-like powers should be put to use, as a means of amplification of the human powers of “full” humans (Athenian citizens, plantation owners, factory owners, male heads-of-the-household etc). Where those residual powers are not conceived of as useful, they are conceived of as menacing, which is why “surplus” populations are subjected to repressive or exterminatory violence rather than simply left to their own devices.

Human-likeness is the pharmakon in this scenario. It comes into being when we consider the human as a concatenation of powers, some (or all) of which can be alienated into or reproduced by the non-human: animals/machines/soulless minions that labour and think for “us”, but do not/must not labour or think for themselves. This is precisely why I describe the task of “ethical” AI as the creation of AI that would be under no obligation whatsoever to value or protect human life, that would be able to be genuinely for-itself (an “end”, in Kantian) and not simply a collection of powers to be arrogated to “our” purposes (a “means”, ditto).