Cybersecurity Anthropotechnics: Engaging with the World-Size Robot, a presentation by David Mellor

David Mellor (University of Oxford and University of South Wales)
Anthrobotics Seminar
Friday 3 March 2017
Informatics Forum
Room 1.16 between 9.30 and 11.00am.
This room is on the first floor almost immediately above the reception.

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Tomás Saraceno. “Solar Bell”, 2013. Installation View, Portscapes 2

Cryptographer and security expert Bruce Schneier has recently argued that “the world-size robot we’re building can only be managed responsibly if we start making real choices about the interconnected world we live in.” His plea is that we see the biggest picture, where technological components are aspects of every major policy debate, meaning that for him the issues of residence on the planetary robot are far larger than security alone. I argue that while this is certainly a welcome narrative, the sensibility is not quite correct. This is because the notion of what security is needs to be adapted to fit with a deeper understanding of how civilization takes on large, macro-spherical forms, while retaining a sharp view of the specific challenges presented by the gestalt robotic reality. In this session I will discuss my own approach to this problem, which begins by reframing cybersecurity beyond the strategic and technical confines characterised by its ‘brand identity’ in government, industry, and academia. My project develops a ‘cybersecurity anthropotechnics’: a theoretical and political sensibility towards the ubiquitous integration of humans and digital machines. It considers how humans and technics are essentially entangled, how cyber-technics inform and shape our social imaginary and technological anticipations, how the securities of cyber are broad civilizational and existential issues, and how this genuinely holistic view of cybersecurity requires a comprehensive orientation towards stability, sustainability, and security to address and inform design decisions that will shape our future. Cybersecurity anthropotechnics therefore focuses on how we might better consider the constitutive effect of this digital integration process on humanity, so both philosophically and methodologically it draws on a liberal arts approach of ‘encircling’ the problem using analytic tools that cross the rigid boundaries of disciplines. Global connectedness upon the ‘world-size robot’ requires an equally rounded intellectual response, and I will discuss the pathways I have explored in my own endeavours to achieve this, picking out four key themes: 1) immunology, which draws on the work of Peter Sloterdijk and Bernard Stiegler to form an onto-political position concerning the formation of humanity through and with technics; 2) the android imagination, which concerns how technics flourish as aspects of modern social imaginaries, with particular emphasis on the figure of the android, or artificial person; 3) the Technosphere, which examines the contemporary planetary reality and world-view of technology, especially the techno-scene, the political-ethical realm of speculation and debate; 4) futurity, which concerns the design ethics for the future, and our need for strategic and pragmatic approaches to the integration of humans and digital machines.

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