March 26, 2019

Arnold Distinguished Professorship Lecture: "Inventing the Future: The Straight Line We Never Walk Yet Always Walked"

Event Details

Date & Time

Tuesday, Mar 26, 2019 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM




Jepson Center, Wolff Auditorium

Event Type & Tags

  • Academics

About This Event

What makes us human keeps evolving as technology continuously shapes and alters human possibilities. Might we one day reach immortality through cloning? Might we transfer an individual's consciousness onto a computer for interstellar travel? Such questions still require a leap in the future: there is no direct road to them from the present. As such, we often deem such futures fictional and we define what it is to be human below the apparent gap that separates us from our future self – still perceived as an Other. Yet, retrospectively, being human appears to be a straight line, joining in an illusory continuous line slices of human history that only seem contiguous from the present looking back. Before the first world face transplantation, no human had ever lived with the face of another human. Before the first auditory cortex-based brain-computer interface, no human suffering from the Locked-In Syndrome or ALS had directly communicated by thoughts. Before the first motorized exoskeletons, no quadriplegic patient had grabbed an egg or self-served a cup of coffee. Yet, at the precise moment each of these technological advances became reality, they actualized a new slice of human possibilities, taking us across a leap that we never felt and conferring a quality of continuity to the notion of humanhood akin to the illusory continuity of a visual saccade. In this talk, Dr. Marie-Christine Nizzi will explore a radical shift in paradigm to conceive of what makes us human in a dynamic rather than a static conceptual framework. Frontier rather than border, the becoming of our human nature follows a dialectical co-evolution with technological creation.

Dr. Nizzi holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Sorbonne and recently defended her Ph.D. dissertation in psychology at Harvard University.