The latest video on my philosophical YouTube channel is on possible cities on Mars.
Elon Musk has some pretty concrete plans for the Red Planet. However, he mostly discusses technological and financial obstacles. I’m more interested in psychological and political challenges to living on Mars. And I found most insightful considerations from an unlikely source: Plato.
Plato’s Laws is about starting a new colony, the fictional city of Magnesia, on an isolated Cretan island. Many of the psychological and political difficulties that Magnesians would face can be juxtaposed to potential settlers on Mars.
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I was extremely fortunate to have been able to take part in the Philosophy of Human-Technology Relations conference last weekend. It took place online but the energy and the good collegial atmosphere that I have also experienced at Philosophy of the City events was palpable nonetheless. The full program is available at the conference website.
What was most mind-blowing was the keynote lecture given by Prof. Ashley Shew (Virginia Tech). She talked about human-technology relations from the perspective of a technologically enabled disabled person (Prof. Shew’s lower leg has been amputated and she relies on wheelchairs and prosthetics). She dispels many of the common myths around disabled people such as that they spend all their time wishing they could be cured or enabled to walk again – an assumption Shew calls ableism, or that all disabled people should play along in the narrative of being an inspiration for perseverance and high achievement for the non-disabled.
Shew identifies as a cyborg, though not in that kitschy Haraway-way. She draws attention to the fact that it is precisely the disabled who have immense experience with the interface between the human and the technologicized, since they deal with it in almost every moment of their life. Ironically, their perspective is almost never included in these discussions!
My contribution was on the way the city as a technology mediates to the wild. Both notions of the city (as the locus of the civilised) and the wild are historically shifting and constructed with various ends in mind and therefore require careful reflection. A video of my presentation is available here.
For obvious reasons, many of the conferences planned for this year are postponed to the next. Some groups, like Philosophy of the City, have put all conferences on hold for both 2020 and 2021. I am looking forward to presenting at the events “Public Spaces: The Ideal and the Real” and “Living Democracy” when they hopefully take place next year.