Alexander Wilson

PhD, Postdoc

Alexander Wilson

Profile

My areas of expertise include science and technology studies, philosophy of technology and science, the history of ideas, cultural and media studies, Anthropocene studies and posthumanism.

One of the recent strands of my research involves applying a computational approach to some debated topics in science and technology studies as well as in the philosophy of technology. My project, TECHNOFUTUROLOGY, engages the question of whether, how, and to what extent, different technologies and technoscientific paradigms influence temporal perspectives and futurological attitudes by enabling different modes of retention and expectation. The methodological hypothesis is that if such paradigmatic changes do in fact have profound effects on social priorities and attitudes toward the future—a central notion in the philosophy of technology—then it should be possible to identify, map, and track the evolution of these changes in text-based archives using natural language processing methods. I am currently building custom applications in Python that are tailored to extract and analyze data relevant to the exploration of this topic. I believe that the self-reflexive methodology I propose, combined with the timely nature of the topic, promises to attract substantial funding interest. I aim to apply to the major research funding bodies for long-term support to establish a laboratory pursuing these objectives, with the greater goal of contextualizing contemporary social practices with regard to the history of ideas, as well as taking on an advisory role in the development of technological policy. 

This agenda follows from the research I’ve pursued since late 2015 in my position as postdoctoral researcher with the School of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University in Denmark, which supported the completion of my first monograph, Aesthesis and Perceptronium: On the Entanglement of Organism and World (forthcoming: University of Minnesota Press, Posthumanities Series). The book examines the conditions of possibility of human experience (perception, cognition, agency) in the Anthropocene. Drawing equally from the philosophy of science and technology, aesthetics and epistemology, evolutionary neurobiology, as well as posthumanism and Anthropocene studies, the book makes several conceptual contributions to these fields, and situates scientific and technological practices within broader non-anthropocentric thought on agency, embodiment, and cognition. My current research stems directly from the premises established in the book, notably its plea for naturalizing transcendental subjectivity (Kant) by considering the effects of scientific paradigms and technological environments on human cognition and agency.

During my postdoc, I’ve also investigated contemporary perspectives on the human future as they play out in culture, technology, art, and the media. For instance, I’ve worked at philosophically and historically contextualizing contemporary variants of technological pessimism and optimism, posthumanism and transhumanism, luddism and prometheanism. In my article “Techno-Optimism and Rational Superstition”, which appears in Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, I scrutinize and historicize the implicit assumptions of contemporary techno-optimism. In “Beyond the Neomaterialist Divide”, published in Theory, Culture and Society, I negotiate certain outstanding problems in the contemporary new-materialisms and environmental humanities by enlisting the principles of integrated information theory. I have also investigated problems relating to the informational paradigm of contemporary techno-science (ie: digital physics and bio-informatics). In “Big Data and the Thermodynamics of Discretization” (The London Journal of Critical Thought), and “Biosphere, Noösphere, Infosphere: Epistemo-Aesthetics in the Age of Big Data” (Parallax), I expose important inconsistencies at the centre of contemporary science’s attempts to reduce the world to the discrete state spaces of the digital model.

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