MY BODY : MY MACHINE
How much is my body still my body, if it ever was?
The human body serves as a contact surface of power to access the subject on the one hand, and society as a whole on the other, states Michel Foucault. He describes the reciprocal relationship between usefulness and compliance of the body in a politics of constraints; the human body enters into a machinery of exploitation. Today it is mainly the large corporations and internet platforms that have long exercised and further extended their power not just in economic terms.
Only too happy to self-regulate, we train, repair, rehabilitate, model, beautify and mechanise our bodies with cosmetics, fitness programs, supplements and medicines, surgical procedures, prostheses, implants, computer-brain interfaces and other technical enhancements. The effort and the results are recorded constantly by a range of programs and applications, and the data put at the disposal of the data-processing industries voluntarily and usually without criticism. Under their influence, the pressure to invest in our “body capital” in a self-responsible way increases, while non-compliance meets with sanctions.
It is not just in the age of Futurism that models of the machine man were still linked with promises and positive expectations, but also at the advent of the internet with its associated possibilities of a virtual body, a virtual life, e.g. in the form of an avatar in Second Life. There was hope that biographical, cultural, sexual and sociological fixations would be overcome. We now know the extent to which norms, prejudices, racisms, sexisms, etc. anchored in algorithms exert their influence on the body (especially the female body), whether in staging on social media platforms or on the virtual body on the internet.
Is it the euphoric vision of Google program developer Ray Kurzweil, who claims that with the help of biotechnology and artificial intelligence, humankind will have overcome its biological limits, i.e. the decline and death of the body, by 2045 – or are we already in the process of giving up our physical existence, in the sense of Paul Virilio, meaning that our disused bodies are merely shells of our self, digital interfaces, being as a constant online existence in a never-ending data stream?