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Human Error

Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines

Dominic Pettman
Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Human Error
    Book Description:

    What exactly is the human element separating humans from animals and machines? Dominic Pettman argues that the most decisive “human error” may be the ingrained impulse to understand ourselves primarily in contrast to our other worldly companions. Human Error boldly insists on the necessity of relinquishing our anthropomorphism but also on the extreme difficulty of doing so.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7699-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Human Element
    (pp. 1-36)

    Where better to rediscover our sense of species-being than on the Discovery Channel? This staple of basic cable television in the United States has recently become a cultural magnet for explicit explorations of what it means to be a human, at a time when new technologies are making such a sovereign category seem increasingly arbitrary and precarious. One television event in particular stands out as worthy of our attention, for it betrays a general anxiety about not only our role in an increasingly automated and algorithmic world but our very existential mandate. For while the historical transition from sacred to...

  5. 1 Bear Life: Tracing an Opening in Grizzly Man
    (pp. 37-58)

    The year 2006 was a big one for snuff movies. Not only did Australia’s self-appointed “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin find himself on the wrong end of a stingray barb, but Werner Herzog’s remarkable filmGrizzly Mandebuted on the Discovery Channel.¹ In the first case, the footage of the fatal moment has been safeguarded by Irwin’s widow and daughter, who, together, continue his dubious legacy in plucky showbiz style. In the second case, the footage of the murderous moment is absent in two senses: due to the lens cap over the camera during the attack and because of Herzog’s decision...

  6. 2 Zooicide: Animal Love and Human Justice
    (pp. 59-110)

    It is perhapstheprimal scene of the impending twentieth century. Friedrich Nietzshe, his nerves shredded by spirochetes and spiritual exhaustion, sees a horse being beaten in a Turin plaza on January 3, 1889. He throws his arms around it, weeping and whispering brilliantly incoherent words of solace. The man who wroteEcce Homo (Behold Man!), and who employed animals primarily as figurative beasts of burden for the benefit of theÜbermensch, reveals an anguished sympathy—or perhaps even empathy—for his fellow creature.¹ As the mythology presents it, witnessing this scene of senseless cruelty broke the emotional dam inside...

  7. 3 After the Beep: Answering Machines and Creaturely Life
    (pp. 111-128)

    The song “A Simple Process of Elimination,” by the Glaswegian band Aerogramme, ends with a telephone message that reportedly appeared out of nowhere one day on the drummer’s answering machine, during the recording of their second album. The voice is female, possibly drunk, and incredibly distressing. “Hello. Please get in touch with me. Oh, please . . .please. I need you to help.” The woman’s voice breaks in the second sentence in a way that few actors could mimic or simulate, and it sounds, quite simply, like the penultimate whimper of a dying animal. Though the inclusion of amusing,...

  8. 4 The War on Terra: From Political Economy to Libidinal Ecology
    (pp. 129-194)

    It is an article of faith that human beings are exceptional creatures in terms of our relationship to the environment. For while we are not the only animals to “terraform” the ready-made objects of nature into dwelling places or social levers, we are seemingly alone in comprehensively adapting the planet’s resources to our own agenda rather than the other way around, to a degree at which the natural balance is lost. To put it glibly, we have turned a functioning ecosystem into a toxic and precarious ego-system.¹ Hospitality—for ourselves as much as others—is not something we moderns are...

  9. Conclusion: Human Remains
    (pp. 195-214)

    To err is human . . .

    But why are we so quick to embrace this ostensible fallibility? This fallacy? After all, animals miscalculate, too (and get gobbled up by other animals in the process). Computers are seemingly nothing but the furtive, chattering activity connecting error after error. As Erol Morris’s filmFast, Cheap, and Out of Control(1997) demonstrates, animals, humans, and machines all “fail.” But rather than being an ontological flaw, it may in fact be acapacity: the key to adaptation, survival, and—yes—learning.¹ Without error, we could not function, or rather, we wouldmerelyfunction.²...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 215-278)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-292)
  12. Filmography / Videography
    (pp. 293-296)
  13. Index
    (pp. 297-318)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-321)