Very interesting Conference on “General Organology”, taking off from Bernard Stiegler’s work: Date: 20-21-22 November 2014, Location: University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.
Under the rubric Neuroscience and Cognition is a text written by me that has some relevance to my recent discussion with R.Scott Bakker:
General organology discusses the brain in its imbrication with social and technological organs. The brain is the privileged object of study and experimentation, and of possible manipulation, by the fast-advancing neurosciences. It is also the subject of new experiences and new forms of expression and action in its encounter with the new digital technologies, capable of extending our capacities for surveillance and control. A new form of power, neuropower, may extend, reinforce, and multiply the processes of de-individuation set in motion by the increasing exploitation of our drives by the capitalist machine (as exemplified in the rise of “neuromarketing”). However, the passage from the “reading brain” (Maryanne Wolf) to the “digital brain” (Bernard Stiegler) coupled with the continuing progress of the neurosciences open up the possibility of human “enhancement” as one mode of pursuing our psychic and collective individuation. The unprecedented technological possibilities of enhancement and/or control acting at the level of the central nervous system crystallize the urgency of the ethico-political questions that must be posed by such an organological reflection: How can we comprehend and evaluate the proposed supplementations and modifications to our constituted functioning? Who will benefit from such cognitive and behavioral adjustments? How can we make use of these techniques to further both individual autonomy and social justice? (I thank Anais Nony for helpful conversations leading to the formulation of this paragraph).
Commentary: I think Bakker’s perspective is incompatible with any idea of the enhancement of cognition, as for him all cognition is “incompetent” as apprehension and theorization of reality. This comes from his model of cognition centered on the individual brain, forgetting all technical inscription and equipment and all collective rectification. True I may misremember the colour of my tie at my birthday last year, but I can perhaps look at a photo or ask my wife.
All science, remarks Bruno Latour, is “equipped and rectified”, which contributes to its efficacity as cognition. The individual biologist in a cognitive scientist’s artificial lab experiment may misidentify the causes of a blionking light, but the very same day he may discover a cure for the cognitive scientists leukemia. Whose cognition trumps whose non-cognition? Claims that “all cognition is theoretically incompetent” are based on the lack of imagination of the claim-maker.