Anxious Robots Desiring Repression, Generating Profit

David Savat, Christina Chau

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Robots are increasingly playing roles in everyday life. These roles range from
doing the vacuuming, to assisting in surgery, to stocking shelves, to assisting
teaching children with autism, to providing care and entertainment for the
elderly. This essay deals less with robots themselves, however, and more with
the particular anxieties that surround the use of robots. Critical to our
argument is that robots are not separable from human being, just as humans
are inseparable from machines. They are better thought of as fragments of
human subjectivity that in and of themselves are neither beneficial nor
hazardous. Instead we argue, partly through an exploration of the work of
Stelarc, that the anxieties around the use of robots reflect an anxiety about
the possibility of people’s own machinic nature. The important question to
ask, we argue, is how our machines, including robots, affect our own capacity
to act, as well as our capacity to be affected. What is at issue is precisely the
machines in our own heads, and in particular the production of forms of
subjectivity in which we can recognise, or rather fail to recognise, our own
becoming robotic, all in the name of capitalism and profit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-68
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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