Special Issue CFP: “Marxist Transhumanism or Transhumanist Marxism?”
To be published in New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary
Guest editors: James Steinhoff and Atle Mikkola Kjøsen
In this special issue call, New Proposals asks authors to explore how
Marxism and Transhumanism might be brought into conjunction. Could there be
a transhumanist Marxism or a Marxist transhumanism?
Transhumanism is defined by its proponents as an “intellectual and cultural
movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally
improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by
developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and
to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological
capacities” (Humanity+ n.d.). While this description says nothing about
politics, transhumanism has been deeply pro-capital due to its
popularization in the 1990s via techno-libertarian “extropianism” (More
1990). Because of this, the promethean project of improving the human
condition by technological means tends to be joined with, and confused for,
capital accumulation. Some of the most radical transhumanist thinkers have
tended to assume to continued functioning of capital amid cataclysmic
socio-technological change. For example, although transhumanist luminary
Ray Kurzweil argues that the coming technological singularity (the moment
when machines exceed human capacities in all respects) will irreversibly
transform every aspect of human life, and even “death itself,” he still
expects there to be a need for “business models” (2005, 7). Today,
transhumanism is tacitly represented in the operations of venture
capitalists and the giant tech capitals. DeepMind, acquired by Google in
2014, seeks to “solve intelligence” by creating AI with generalized
learning abilities and Elon Musk’s Neuralink aims to provide a seamless
machine connection to the human brain.
However, transhumanism is not inherently incompatible with Marxist thought
and communism. While transhumanism today appears to be a capitalist
project, its historical lineage can be traced back to early twentieth
century socialist thinkers such as Alexander Bogdanov, J. B. S Haldane, and
J. D. Bernal (Bostrom 2005; Stambler 2010; Hughes 2012). Marx himself has
many, what we might call “high modernist” moments in which he argues for
overcoming human and natural limits, and advocates the socialized use of
technology to achieve freedom from necessity for all humans. This high
modernist Marx can be read as expressing a transhumanist impulse toward
technologically augmenting the human condition (Steinhoff 2014). With a few
exceptions (Armesilla Conde 2018), Marxists have shown little interest in
transhumanism, other than as an object of critique (Rechtenwald 2013;
Noonan 2016). One exception to this are the left
accelerationists/postcapitalism theorists, who draw on transhumanist
motifs, such as cyborg augmentation, terraforming and full automation
(Srnicek and Williams 2015; Mason 2016; Bastani 2019). Left accelerationism
has, however, picked up transhumanist motifs while dropping the
capital/labour antagonism central to Marxist thought, glossing over much of
the difficult question of how exactly capital is supposed to come to an
end. We suggest that left accelerationism forgets its Marxist roots as it
is blinded by transhumanist futures.
We argue that the issues central to transhumanism should not be the purview
solely of representatives of capital like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, nor of
the left accelerationists. Instead, Marxist thought should seriously engage
with transhumanism in order to “decouple it from its blindly capitalist
trajectory, reflect on Marx’s own high modernist tendencies, and delineate
a social project to embrace or escape” (Dyer-Witheford, Kjosen & Steinhoff,
2019, 161). Therefore we ask how a Marxist transhumanism or a transhumanist
Marxism might be possible.
For this special issue of New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and
Interdisciplinary Inquiry we are interested in contributions that engage
transhumanism and Marxism with one another. We are not interested in
Marxist dismissals of transhumanism. That is not to say that we do not
welcome Marxist critiques of transhumanism. We are, however, seeking
critiques which take at least some elements of the theory and/or practice
of transhumanism seriously from within a Marxist framework.
Possible topics include:
syntheses of transhumanism and Marxism
transhumanism and value theory (e.g. engagement with core concepts like
social form, labour-power, the working day, surplus-value etc.)
critically engaging with and/or embracing the high modernist moments in
staking out a communist approach to transhumanism and/or the singularity
(e.g. a communist version of Kurzweil’s intelligence explosion)
engaging with the transhumanist kernel in left-accelerationist thought
from a Marxist perspective
engaging with transhumanist projects or technologies from a Marxist
perspective (e.g. radical life extension, terraforming, morphological
freedom, space exploration, genetic modification, nanotechnology,
artificial intelligence, intelligence augmentation, brain emulation)
connecting transhumanism to the history of Marxist thought and socialist
societies (e.g. Soviet space endeavours, central planning)
Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words in length, plus a short
biography, to Dr. James Steinhoff (email@example.com) and Dr. Atle Mikkola
Kjøsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 29th, 2020. Please put “New Proposals
special issue” in the subject line. Notifications of acceptance will be
sent out by March 31st, 2020. Full-length papers are 5,000 - 10,000 words.
29 February - deadline for submitting abstract and biography.
31 March - notifications of acceptance
1 August - deadline for submission of full-length (5,000 to 10,000 words)
paper for peer review
15 November - submission of final revised paper
Early 2021 - papers published.
Please note that acceptance of an abstract does not guarantee publication.
All submissions will be peer reviewed once papers are submitted.
Armesilla Conde, Santiago Javier. 2018. Is a Marxist Transhumanism
possible? Eikasía – Revista de Filosofía 82, 47-86.
Bastani, Aaron. 2019. Fully automated luxury communism. Verso Books.
Bostrom, Nick. 2005. “A history of transhumanist thought”. Journal of
Evolution & Technology 14:1.
Dyer-Witheford, Nick, Kjosen, Atle Mikkola and Steinhoff, James. 2019. Inhuman
Power: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Capitalism. London: Pluto
Hughes, James J. 2012. “The Politics of Transhumanism and the
Techno‐Millennial Imagination, 1626–2030”. Zygon 47:4, 757-776.
Humanity+. n.d… “What is transhumanism?” https://whatistranshumanism.org/
Kurzweil, Ray. 2005. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.
Mason, Paul. 2016. Postcapitalism: A guide to our future. Macmillan.
More, Max. 1990. “Transhumanism: Towards a futurist philosophy.” Extropy
Noonan, Jeff. 2016. “The Debate on Immortality: Posthumanist Science vs.
Critical Philosophy”. The European Legacy 21:1, 38-51.
Rechtanwald, Michael. 2013. “The Singularity and Socialism.” Insurgent Notes.
Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams. 2015. Inventing the future:
Postcapitalism and a world without work. Verso Books.
Stambler, Ilia. 2010. "Life extension – a conservative enterprise? Some
fin-de-siècle and early twentieth-century precursors of transhumanism. ‘’
Journal of Evolution & Technology 21:1, 13-26.
Steinhoff, James. 2014. “Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical
Connections”. Journal of Evolution & Technology 24:2, 1-16.
New Proposals : Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry represents
an attempt to explore issues, ideas, and problems that lie at the
intersection between the academic disciplines of social science and the
body of thought and political practice that has constituted Marxism over
the last 150 years. New Proposals is a journal of Marxism and
interdisciplinary Inquiry that is dedicated to the radical transformation
of the contemporary world order. We see our role as providing a platform
for research, commentary, and debate of the highest scholarly quality that
contributes to the struggle to create a more just and humane world, in
which the systematic and continuous exploitation, oppression, and
fratricidal struggles that characterize the contemporary sociopolitical
order no longer exist.
New Proposals is a fully open access journal. We do not charge publication
or user fees as a condition of publication. However, if your institution
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Special issue editors
Dr. James Steinhoff is a UW Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the
University of Washington. He researches the artificial intelligence
industry, data science labour, Marxist theory and automation. He is author
of the forthcoming book Automation and Autonomy: Labour, Capital and
Machines in the Artificial Intelligence Industry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021)
and co-author of Inhuman Power: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of
Capitalism (Pluto Press 2019). .
Dr. Atle Mikkola Kjøsen is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of
Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. He
researches Marxist value theory, media theory, logistics, artificial
intelligence, androids, and post-singularity capitalism. With Nick
Dyer-Witheford and James Steinhoff, he is co-author of Inhuman Power:
Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Capitalism (Pluto Press 2019).
Dr. Atle Mikkola Kjøsen
Faculty of Information and Media Studies
University of Western Ontario
New book out: Inhuman Power
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