[SEMINAR GENERAL] “Politics of irrationality – emerging technologies and their publics” – 20 February 2020

Debates on the future of humanity, allegedly on the verge of dramatic transformations due to emerging technologies (artificial intelligence, bio- or nanotechnologies), are ubiquitous in academia, in the media, and in many other fora. In the STS literature, these issues have predominately been framed in terms of “sociotechnical imaginaries”, or in terms of “promises” or “expectations”. In both bodies of scholarship, the public is largely left off-scope, especially when it doesn’t fit in established forms of participation.

Rooted in a long-term ethnographic study, my talk will focus on the transhumanist movement, and on some aspects of the debate on solar geoengineering. I will look at how activists groups elaborate and promote their own views of the future, and describe their strategies to establish themselves as legitimate stakeholders, and how they are repeatedly pushed back as irrational and/or naïve freaks. I will thus explore how specific publics of emerging technologies are seeking for empowerment in a debate fuelled by disempowerment; how rationality and irrationality are distributed; and how these debates might lead to a dangerous depoliticization of the future – of humans and non-humans.


Gabriel DORTHE is a postdoc researcher at ETHICS – EA 7446 (Ethics on experiments, Transhumanism, Human Interactions, Care & Society), Université Catholique de Lille.