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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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26

Artificial Life on a Dead Planet

Charles Thorpe

ABSTRACT

In this chapter, Charles Thorpe argues that the trajectory of capitalist technology is toward artificial life on a dead planet. The destruction of ecosystems and species by deforestation, chemical pollution, and the effects of climate change is being accompanied by a parallel process of the creation of artificial forms of life. We currently face crisis in all the systems that sustain life on this planet: from the oceans, to the soil, to the atmosphere. But as capitalist industry devastates the existing natural world, capitalist-aligned technoscience brings into being new forms of autonomous or lifelike technologies. The devastation of existing ecosystems and the construction of lifelike technologies are interrelated developments that are rooted in capitalist dynamics of alienation, reification, and subsumption. Just as, under capitalism, human life activity is transformed into abstract labor, the productive and reproductive capacities of living things are transformed into abstract life. Life is eviscerated, simplified, and reified, while the powers of the living are transferred to capital. At the same time that the living world is in a state of crisis, capital is becoming increasingly lifelike.

Introduction

No one today remembered why the war had come about or who, if anyone, had won. The dust which had contaminated most of the planet's surface had originated in no country and no one, even the wartime enemy, had planned ...

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