This is the attempt to put down some inchoate reflection that comes to me again and again. When Heidegger speaks of the ‘danger’ in the ‘Question Concerning Technology’ what is the danger? The danger seems to be the way in which this latest epoch of being may close down the voice of Being so that it cannot speak its truth (of time) anymore and that from now on we will only hear the enframing tendency of the technological. As such technology is dangerous to Being. There seems to be something ironical in this (at least insofar as my reflection makes sense) for Heidegger is in a sense one of the first philosophers of the non-human -dasein being subject to the whim of being in many ways. The irony I mean comes from the idea that in order for technology to be dangerous in any meaningful sense it surely must be dangerous to something. We have answered this already though, it is dangerous to Being. But Being in this sense is made possible by dasein existing as a human. One might say that in a sense Heidegger would not care even about dasein other than that it allows being to speak (any being which allows Being to speak would be equally valuable). If though we let through the limited sense that human dasein is required for Being to speak, then this dasein becomes important in this sense. The point is to establish a sense in which this vessel for the speaking of Being is better preserved (according to Heidegger) in one state rather than another. I would like to suggest that this pre-danger state we can call ‘human dasein’. It is almost as if Heidegger believes that the restraints of the human mean that it enables a special relation to Being, one that could be endangered by technological enframing: the openness to the truth can be closed down leaving us perpetually stuck in the mirror of calculative thinking.
People question whether or not he is right in his analysis. I would like to propose that if you think of human-dasein having a kind of incoherent essence then probably he is correct. This seems a strong claim. Heidegger’s yearning for some simpler kind of existence appear often. The peasant in the field, the poet, the homecoming traveller, these motifs all seem to evoke a sense that we would identify with romanticism if we did not know this was not his aim. Heidegger thinks a world is withdrawing. Not just any world, the world possibility for Being as temporality to show itself as itself. The enframing produces enframed time as well as physical space. Being withdraws never to return. The possibility of the simple life and the immediacy of existential temporality seem inextricably linked together. In this sense isn’t he then correct? If you take that kind of human-dasein as the measure, technology as we now even more experience it, eradicates this relation. The relation to nature is only fed back to nature through technological grasping (taking up gardening because it’s good for you, travelling because it is a criterion for self development etc.). Modern calculative thinking epistemological relations do not allow for this [naive] state to persist. But it isn’t just peasant simplicity that is entailed by this. There is a raft of ideas entailed in our incoherent self-processing that comprise the human accretion. There are no sharp lines here, but the blur is happening right now and last century Heidegger could at least see the old world still partially in place. We are finite, but a section of us is pushing that as hard as we can. We are local, and yet now we are not. The mystery of facticity is replaced the appearance of a scientific necessity. We come to understand (partially thanks to Heidegger) that we are not fixed selves, fixed souls. These naive concepts of existence come unravelled. This incredible mutational event of cybernetic sexual transformation does indeed bring to light the possibility that a human-dasein -a creature knowing its own finitude and yet possessed of an inner authenticity that may escape the idle chatter of the world may retreat. This once creature of community and mores is human more and more if and only if human is just a biological classification.
Ironically the rise of the biological human signals the end of the physically/sexually/culturally/religiously restricted one. This all makes the after human sound incredibly positive. This is not the case. Whilst it is true that Heidegger’s human-dasein is possibly a less laudable entity that he would have us believe, the posthuman-dasein is not necessarily an improvement (insofar as the language of improvement makes any sense). Accelerationism offers no viable alternative for a more satisfying existence. Indeed part of the problem is that an actual satisfying existence is in a sense only possible under the sway of the Heideggerian gods (the role of the mystery) and the acceptance of finitude. There is only speeding towards the inevitability of machinic-transformation or biological-machinic hybridization. Survival modalities of cognition are all that essentially triumph. Left accelerationism solves little as it attempts to preserve Heidegger’s human in community etc using technology to prop this up. The gaping void will be still all too visible.
Of course Heidegger’s human is still with us in vast (most) swathes of the population. Poverty breeds unreflective hand to mouth existence, possibly speckled with moments of something transcendent. Yet even these vast populations are still largely driven by the enframing machine, its power is immense. Heidegger writes in ‘The Question…’ that Holderlin says something to the effect that ‘where the danger lies, there the saving power grows.’ There are two possible versions of ‘the saving power’ I can envisage in this situation (that H might approve of).
One is that the machinic transformation fails (AI does not successfully equal human ability and we reach a limit that we cannot surpass without a yet not visible set of ideas) and miraculously ecological large scale disaster is somehow averted. In this instance the continuing unravelling of human-dasein continues to a point where it is liberated into being (within a certain fleshy finitude) culturally almost anything. The failure of machinic transformation feeds back to generate a kind of non-naive-post-calculative thinking that we cannot yet conceive of. This new way of grasping enables a (for Heidegger) more authentic experience with our temporality and hence Being). Two is that the ecological disaster will render many of the technological systems dysfunctional. Presupposing a) part of the environment is habitable and b) part of this habitable part is available to others than the remainder of a technocapitalist elite then that part of the population barred from remaining technological systems will be forced to engage once more in the joys of labouring hard for its existence and hence(for Heidegger) will regain its connection enabling Being to speak once more.