chapter  3
18 Pages

Remote control: human autonomy in the age of computer- mediated agency

ByJOS DE MUL AND BIBI VAN DEN BERG

Human beings have always used instruments, media and machines to strengthen and expand their agency. These technologies enable them to have ‘remote control’ over both the natural and human world. Technological extensions serve to increase the ‘action radius’ of human autonomy. They enable us to do things we couldn’t do without them: writing makes it possible for us to delegate our memories to clay tablets, papyrus or paper. Pulleys facilitate lifting things that are far too heavy for our human bodily constitution. Telephones and e-mail enable us to be socially present in places while being physically absent from them (cf. Gergen 2002). Gamma knives allow us to target brain tumors with high doses of radiation therapy without affecting (much of) the surrounding tissue. And the Mars Exploration Rover enables us to gain insight into the geological history of Mars under circumstances that are physically impossible to survive for humans.