Constructions of the Future - Life Beyond Disciplines
‘It’s life, but not as we know it.’ This often used phrase has become quite conspicuous through the first decade of the third millennium. Threats to existing boundaries within human knowledge and thought about life question the definition and (re)imagination of the human condition, as well as the redefinition of the conditions of or for being human. Faced with life they do not know, the disciplines of the (post)humanities and the (post)sciences must themselves venture into and shape what they do not recognise. The prospect of life beyond disciplines therefore coincides with the study of ‘postdisciplinary lives’.
To gauge the challenges that this presents it is enough to live the real and imagined, exciting and disquieting futures which reconstruct us even as we discover and construct them. Such constructions of the future remould the human and the understanding of life at the same time that they are moulded by human action and by non-human patterns of interaction. Life within academia will never be the same again, not least because the disciplines have themselves changed our assumptions and perspectives on life. Within the post-anthropocentric and post-humanist humanities, it appears that the erosion of any consensus about the role of culture and of the humanist idea of the university has given birth to the ‘new’ or ‘post-humanities’. Meanwhile, the controversial debate about the future of ‘human nature’ and the role of eugenics, and the emergence of ‘life’ as a new scientific paradigm and interdisciplinary object of study, coincide with the institutionalisation of the ‘life’ or ‘biosciences’. These, in turn, have created alliances in the form of neuro-, bio-, cogno-, info-, and nano-sciences, which has contributed to the partial recasting of the traditional sciences into something like ‘post-sciences’. Under these conditions, new forms of interdisciplinarity (and perhaps even trans- and postdisciplinarity) within and across the ‘(post)humanities’ and the ‘(post)sciences’ are emerging. The resulting opportunities and uncertainties make the ‘future’ look, once again, radically open, even up to a point where it becomes questionable whether the subjects of this future will still be ‘human(s)’.
We have therefore been soliciting contributions from ‘critical futurologists’, cultural, social, political, historical and media theorists and philosophers working at the limits of cognitive and neuroscience, science fiction, information medical and bio-science, robotics and artificial intelligence, to investigate practices of constructing the future of life. The responses we have received are critically engaging with concepts like innovation and invention; utopia-dystopia-apocalyptism; naturecultures and biodiversity; experimentation and ‘(bio, cogno, info, nano...) technologies of the self’; mediascapes and mediafutures, technofutures; evolution and the supersedence of the human; interaction between humans, non-humans and systems; astronomy and cosmology; memory, archive, trauma and prolepsis; cosmology, speciesism and future life forms; theories of space, time and infinity; future histories of science, and many more …
Dr. Stefan Herbrechter