Robots Between the Past and the Future

Сегодня на 12-ом Конгрессе антропологов и этнологов России, проводимом в Ижевске 3-6 июля, был прочитан мой доклад “Робот: фигура будущего или ностальгический объект?” Читала его Elena Sokolova. Спасибо ей за это, а организатору, Sergey Sokolovskiy, – за приглашение участвовать.

Today at the XII Congress of Anthropologists and Ethnologists of Russia in Izhevsk, conducted in the 3-6 of July, my presentation
was delivered. It is titled “Robot: a Figure of the Future or Nostalgic Object?” It was read by Elena Sokolova. I am grateful to her, and to the organizer Sergey Sokolovskiy for the invitation.

American Anthropological Association Meeting, Minneapolis, 2016

On the 19th of November at the American Anthropological Association meeting (Minneapolis, Minnesota) I presented my work entitled “Archeology of the Robotics: Remnants of Soviet Robots” on the panel “Affect and the Materiality of Ruins: Radioactive Subjects, Contested Futures, and Evidence of Lost Worlds” that we put together with Magdalene Stawkowski and Kelly Alexander. They both presented their work, as well as Mark Gardiner. Alison Cool was the discussant. The panel enjoyed the attendance of anthropologists, and the discussion was so lively that questions and remarks went for five minutes beyond the time.

The key event of the AAA meeting in 2016 for me was a panel “Sleepwalking Into Extinction: Elaine Scarry’s S.O.S. to Anthropologists” on the same day.

I read Elaine Scarry’s book “The Body in Pain” and used her concept of the room of torture as a tool of torture to extend it to the landscape of torture as a tool of torture, in case of the ISIS performative executions, and was lucky to talk to her about it briefly after the panel.

Elaine Scarry’s S.O.S. is related to un-abolished nuclear weapons. I, as a child of the Cold War, did have nightmares and fears of the world dying in the nuclear catastrophe, which is a shared experience for my generation. It is true that the nuclear threat fell into the background (one of Scarry’s arguments). And it is reasonable to join Elaine Scarry in the statement that this should not be so. For indeed it was Foucault who first noted that the supreme new tool of biopolitics, nuclear weapon, could eliminate its creator. Elaine Scarry adds to that (or reminds)–not only its creator, but all the life on the earth.

I could not help but caught myself on the thought that, as much as the nuclear threat is important and real, there is also a tinge of nuclear nostalgia to the conversation about it. The question for me is: what kind of shared nightmares today’s children have?

Invention of the World

It might be not particularly important that there was a “day” assigned to opening of the world wide web, the 23rd of August, today. But what I suppose is interesting, is that WWW turns 25 (even if formally, it is worthy of being noticed).

Which makes it older than my students or my skillful conversationists on tumblr.

They do not remember, nor did they witness, the world without world network, of which we are magnificent spiders.

Governments, terroristic groups, artists, television, libraries — everything was to use the WWW.

25 is a young age even by humans’ measuring of time. We know little about how it affects us exactly but we know it does, and in a profound way.

We don’t know repercussions, we don’t know the future. But we can guess and we can dream.

It is exciting to see the WWW developing throughout the years. The invention of the WWW is but comparable with the world-wide implementation of book printing. The next such transformative invention is probably teleportation.

Sometimes we forget about the newness of this era. But then it reminds us.

One Wishes