Tag Archives: world without us

Countdown to Zero

Now comes environmental and reproductive epidemiologist Shanna Swan, with an excerpt from her book, Countdown: How Our Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Males and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race. Quite a subtitle!

As Swan convincingly documents, the toxicity of “modern” life has not only saturated the world’s oceans and most distant deserts, but has also brought polluting “externalities” into our own bodies, bringing fresh dimension to Günther Anders maxim : a world without us.

An excerpt below, as released by the publisher. Images are from the remarkable “Red Body” series by Valentina De’ Mathà, as relayed from her website.






Yet we are sure to cook up some clever “disruptive” tech to resolve this issue through cryonics, nano-robotic sperm, embryonics or some other hubristic device that will permit us to survive as lab-grown meat without changing a single twitch of our collective behavior. As for other species, well, they might remain available  for our entertainment and nostalgia-binges via VR and possibly even in hermetically sealed zoos and aquaria.




Valentina De’ Mathà writes:




Dreams of the Scourge

During a strange New England summer of extreme heat waves, monsoon rains and an unnerving paucity of flying insects and pollinators, it is difficult to avoid slipping into the dark selfie-swamp of radical dystopia, the one where we (homo sapiens) disappear from the universe; thus we turn to an illuminating excerpt from an essay by China Miéville, exploring the interplay between apocalypse and utopia.

The images are pinged from the studio of Ruth Ewan, selections from a series of nineteen woodblock prints titled Unrecorded Future, Tell Us What Broods There.







Miéville adds texture to the debris rotting beneath the Angel of History in an excellent interview that appeared earlier this year in the pages of the Boston Review:




And finally, from the hand of Paul Klee, and with a nod to Walter Benjamin:

Paul Klee: <i>Angelus Novus</i>, 1920




Inverted Utopians



Günther Anders’ “philosophy of discrepancy” centers around his lucid insight that our Promethean ability to create weapons, tools and productive networks far exceeds our capacity to absorb their implications into thought. As he writes in The Atomic Menace:


How do “inverted Utopians” behave? Unimaginably — with an instinctive drive towards disappearance. From his essay The Term:


In Visit to Hades, an analysis of the extermination camps as a form of productive labor, Anders notes historically overlapping modes of obliteration. One way or another, the future belongs to mass murder.




Since the age of the Inverted Utopian is far from over, Anders’ philosophy of discrepancy remains strikingly relevant. We continue to devise tools, techniques and networked systems, with ethical and ecological implications that we are unable to fathom, whether in neurobiology, financial algorithms or energy extraction.

Anders would likely be surprised that the species is still around in the year 2013. And surely he could not have imagined that there would eventually exist such an occult ecstasy within the lethal discrepancy, namely among those infatuated with the coming (yearned for) “singularity” between human bodies and artificial intelligence.

In fulfillment of the inverted utopian maxim, a world without us will be such a crowning achievement for the species; let’s be sure not to leave any loose ends.