Stage 9
16:15 - 16:45
Cancel the Apocalypse
Why The Zombie Haunts The Cyborg - Unveiling The Inherent Racism of Transhumanism


Why is it, that despite our current fascination and fear of the singularity, it is still not the cyborgs, representing a transitional state of human beings becoming machines, but the rather old fashioned zombies, that dominate pop culture and our collective imagination?

Both of these dystopian scenarios, the zombie apocalypse (with its recent update to a biotechnological, instead of a supernatural cause), as well, as the singularity (hostile to humanity or in the best case scenario viewing its creators with indifference), seem to represent a deep crisis of humanism. But should transhumanism be the answer to overcoming this crisis?


In my talk I will argue, based on the thoughts of the brilliant Jamaican theorist Sylvia Wynter, that it is not humanism we need to get over but the racism and duality of the self and the other on which western humanism has been build and various times been reinvented.

Traveling back in time, we will learn, how the value divide of heaven and earth of Christian medieval Europe and its structuring principle of body and spirit, has enabled first, the mighty power of the church, and was then remodeled, after Copernicus, into the superiority of the rational man over his irrational others, and finally with Darwin into the concept of the biologically (“naturally”) selected (white, male, straight, and rich) vs. the dysselected (nonwhite, female, queer, and poor). 

We then take a look at transhumanism with its proponents, like Steve Fuller and Elon Musk, who seem to just reinvent this never changing pattern of exclusion and oppression, casting many of us as subhumans to be left behind. 

How can we overcome this imaginary divide and opposition? 

Can we instead invent a humanism that includes us all? 
I will suggest that the pop culture zombies that keep haunting us might help. 

In a world of the 1% against the 99%, when, without showing any shame, cynical billionaires build fortifications to fight off future climate refugees, people that, very well, could be called the Undead. Dehumanized humans, stripped of their value and whom we are made to believe, we will need to fight. Why do we still identify with the privileged survivors, when watching tv shows like The Walking Dead? Today, those imagined surviving groups of arms carrying people, might be portrayed as diverse, but does that really make sense? And why, is it so incredibly hard to create and sustain solidarity, that is more than an empty lip-service? How come, we are so fascinated, instead of appalled, with those narratives of competition of us against them? Aren’t we all, like the zombies, the superfluous 99%?

In my talk, I will explore the dark side of humanism’s history and its cruel connection to de-humanization, racism and eugenics, and then link this history to the future proposed by transhumanism, and suggest, that identifying with the zombies instead of the cyborgs might help with imagining a new inclusive humanism, we urgently need. 


Some of the papers the talk will be based on:

Sylvia Wynter: Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/ Power/Truth/Freedom Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument

Steve Fuller - We May Look Crazy to Them, But They Look Like Zombies to Us: Transhumanism as a Political Challange


Knickerbocker - Why Zombies Matter:  The Undead as Critical Posthumanist