What three (or more) quotes capture the critical import of the text?


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July 18, 2019
In response to:

P. 93 "The problem is particularly acute when it passes through the mouth: “A shaman in Iglulik once told Birket-Smith: ‘Life's greatest danger lies in the fact that man’s food consists entirely of souls’” (Bodenhorn 1988: 1). This is not, then, the contemporary fear that our food is composed of ‘transgenic organisms’, but a fear of the latency of quite other hybrids, transontological intentionalities, nonorganic lives that are just as, or even more, dangerous, inducers of corporal metamorphoses and abductors of souls. The theme is fairly well known: cannibalism is, for the native peoples of America, an inevitable component of every act of manducation, because everything is human, in the sense of capable of being human: this cosmic background humanity is less a predicate of all beings than a constitutive uncertainty concerning the predicates of any being."

P. 93-94 "In sum, these are worlds where humanity is immanent, as R. Wagner (1981) puts it; that is, worlds where the primordial takes human form; which does not make it in any sense comforting, much the opposite: there where all things are human, the human is something else entirely. And there were all things are human, nobody can be certain of being unconditionally human, because nobody is— including ourselves. In fact, humans have to ‘decondition’ their humanity in certain precise conditions, since the influx of the non-human and becoming-otherthan-human are obligatory ‘moments’ of transition for humans. The world of immanent humanity is also a world of the immanence of the enemy."

P. 95 " Each species is thus ‘in’ culture, occupying the position that humans (that is, the humans’ humans) see themselves as occupying in relation to the rest of the cosmos. Hence, it is not just a question of each species identifying itself as a culturally defined humanity: perspectivism also means that each species possesses a particular way of perceiving alterity, a ‘consensual hallucination’5 device which makes it see the world in a characteristic way. "

P. 96 "Perspectivism does not state the existence of a multiplicity of points of view, but the existence of the point of view as a multiplicity."

P. 100 " In an earlier work, I argued that the constitutive problem of Western modernity, namely, solipsism—the supposition that the Other is merely a body, that it does not harbour a soul like that of the Self: an absence of communication—had as its Amazonian equivalent the (positive or negative) obsession with cannibalism and the affirmation of the latent transformability of bodies—a total impregnation of the cosmos by subjecthood, a supposition-fear that what we eat are always, in the final analysis, souls: an excess of communication. Here I wish to suggest that the true equivalent of the indigenous experience of the supernatural are not our extraordinary or paranormal experiences (alien abductions, ESP, mediumship, etc.), but the quotidian experience, perfectly terrifying in its very normality, of existing under a State."

July 18, 2019

P. 89 " In the stem cell laboratory, cells are instruments for experiment and at the same time living beings, which sometimes ‘resist’ standardization and spiral out of control. Indeed, cells both need and demand attention and commitment from scientists and technical staff. Exploring emerging liveliness in the laboratory environment, this paper describes how scientists and technicians care for their cells and develop affective relations with them."

P. 95 "Nanami later says, ‘I can’t work with someone who doesn’t feel that cells are kawaii. In recruitment interviews, I always ask interviewees whether they feel cells are kawaii or not’. Her characterization of this core attitude exemplifies how affective and aesthetic dimensions are essential for noticing subtle differences in the intracellular state of cells as well as their intercellular interactions."

P. 99 ". Gradually, I learned how my hand movements could affect the cells. At the same time, my own body and my emotions were becoming affected by the responses of the cells. Onomatopoeia helped me to memorize and consolidate in my body a sense of the subtle differences presented by cells: in a synesthetic way, the mimetic words bridged my sense of hearing, sense of sight, and sense of touch. Through the learning process, I began to appreciate that cells are indeed living beings. Thus, the gestural effects of onomatopoeia enable the qualities of cells to enter into our body. Highly skilled iPS sommeliers seem able to use onomatopoeia to make fine distinctions between cell states and increase their sensitivity to the condition of cells."

P. 103 "Rather than endeavoring to dominate and control nature, by establishing affective ties and responding bodily and emotionally to the state of the bodies they cultivate and nurture, iPS sommeliers create new relationships between specific humans and nonhumans. This situation may be peculiar to the experimental system of the early stages of the emerging field of regenerative medicine."

July 15, 2019

pg. 124: "In English, ‘multiplication’ covers both reproduction, as in speaking of a discipline reproducing itself, and diversification, as in the aspiration for diverse anthropologies that will proliferate through different interests. To have a future, then, anthropology must be at once recognizable as itself (as one entity) and able to flourish in numerous and unforeseen circumstances (be multipliable)."

pg. 128: "if what we value about a future world with anthropology in it includes its multiple character, that is going to be bound up with the work to which anthropologists put the very idea of relations."

pg. 131: "Rather than the idea of constant fragmentation as disciplines divide, what emerges is the relational character of fractal distinctions, the same relationship repeated over and again, that generates similar structures at multiple ‘levels’ of organization. In fact, this may be conducive to merging as well, for these replications become entangled with cross-cutting possibilities."

pg. 144: "More generally, anthropologists’ exploration of relations of all kinds serves as a marker or stand-in for an aspiration to see beyond their own conventions of knowledge-making. What this nonachievable aspiration does achieve is a humility of sorts towards those who provide information, along with a commitment to a social accounting of its acquisition. (Such an interest in ‘origins’ keeps epistemic and social relations in tandem.) They may express this in terms of an open-ended approach to people’s relational worlds."

pg. 147: "Identity is not something one sees without specifying relations between different moments."

May 14, 2019

"[O]ne of the problems with technological determinism is that it leaves no space for human choice or intervention and, moreover, absolves us from responsibility for the technologies we make and use. If technologies are developed outside of social interests, then workers, citizens, and others have very few options about the use and effects of these technologies".

 "[W]e cannot ignore technological determinism in the hope that it will disappear and that the world will embrace the indeterminacy and complexity of other types of accounts of the technology-society relationship. I argue that we in the STS community cannot simply despair of the endurance of technological determinism and carry on with our more subtle analyses".

"[J]ust as we treat technology seriously, we must treat technological determinism seriously. It is no longer sufficient to dismiss it for its conceptual crudeness, nor is it enough to dismiss it as false consciousness on the part of actors or as a bleak, Nietzschean outlook for the future of humanity. Technological determinism is still here and unlikely to disappear".

May 14, 2019

"[C]omputing studies" is a useful term with which to label the discourse that rejects technicist presumptions and attempts to encourage empirical research on computing and its social correlates. One must also distinguish anthropologists as who study computing as a cultural process (computing anthropology) from those who are mostly interested in computers as a tool or computing as a methodology in anthropology. This discourse has roots in various academic disciplines and national scholarships".

"[A]mong anthropologists who study computing culturally, some such as Pfaffenberger and I reject the computer revolution hypothesis"

"[T]he strong belief that computers more or less directly transform society is held in both overdeveloping and under developing nations This strong view is technicist: It assumes that social change is a consequence, not a cause, of technological change. While also a widely-held presumption, technician's limitations as an explanatory position are demonstrated by Noble (97), who shows how social processes impact computing before computing impacts society"

May 14, 2019

"[T]he history and sociology of technology, and the emergent field is known as science and technology studies (STS). Collectively, these fields, without much anthropological involvement, have developed a concept, the sociotechnical system concept (48) that refuses to deny the sociality of human technological activity"

"[O]ne reason for the rapid advance of STS is its refusal to accept the myths of science and technology at face value. Mulkay (74), for example, shows that sociology's refusal to develop a sociological analysis of scientific knowledge stems from sociologists' uncritical acceptance of a mythic Standard View of science. I suggest that the achievement of truly social anthropology of technology likewise requires extending anthropology's recent productive venture into reflexivity"

"[S]sociotechnical systems may very well include ritual components with explicit productive goals that we find "false," such as enhancing the fertility of the earth; but to ignore them is to miss the crucial role they play in the coordination of labour. I would, therefore, argue that the social anthropology of technology, against all common sense, should adopt a principle of absolute impartiality with respect to whether a given activity "works" (i.e. is "technical") or "doesn't work" (i.e. is "magicoreligious"); only if we adopt such impartiality do the social dimensions of sociotechnical activity come to the fore"


May 14, 2019

"[T]he paper explains how the ongoing Digital Revolution is characterized by a complex interplay between worker skills and digital capital in the workplace, and consequent changes in job mobility for workers and in output prices affecting consumer demand for goods and services. In particular, it explains how current worker–technology interactions and the equilibrium effects they entail combine to create economy-wide job polarization with winners and losers from ongoing technological progress".

"[T]he final and most recent hypothesis is that of routine-biased technological change (RBTC), embedded in the task assignment model of Acemoglu and Autor (2011). Their model works to capture two forces that are central to understanding recent human-machine interactions.

(i) Technological progress is not increasing labour productivity (as in SBTC) or best captured by a decrease in the price of capital (as in CSC). Instead, the Digital Revolution is assumed to directly replace workers doing routine and therefore codable tasks. Hence the name routine-biased technological change.

(ii) There is self-selection of workers of different skill levels (low-, medium-, and high-skilled workers) across different tasks (least, middling, and most complex tasks) according to comparative advantage, as in Roy (1951)"

"[N]ote that RBTC predicts that the Digital Revolution will lead to job polarization in employment, rather than skill-upgrading as was the case for SBTC and CSC. The process of job polarization implies that there is a u-shaped relationship between employment share changes over time and jobs (e.g. occupations with different task contents) ranked by their wage or educational attainment."

May 14, 2019

"[S]ince the dawn of the digital age, decision making in finance, employment, politics, health, and human services has undergone a revolutionary change. Forty years ago, nearly all of the management decisions that shape our lives- whether or not we are offered employment, a mortgage, insurance, credit, or a government service - were made by human beings. They often used actuarial processes that made them think more like computers than people, but human discretion still ruled the day. Today, we have ceded much of that decision- making power sophisticated machine power to sophisticated machines. Automated eligibility systems, ranking algorithms and predictive risk models control which neighbourhoods get policed, which families obtain needed resources, who is shortlisted for employment and who is investigated for fraud"

'[T]he system doesn't seem to be set up to help people. It seems to be set up to play gotcha', said Chris Holly. 'In our legal system, it is better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man goes to jail. The modernization flipped that on its head'. Automated eligibility was based on the assumption that it is a metaphor for ten eligible applicants to be denied public benefits than for one ineligible person to receive them"

"[O]ur relationship to poverty in the United States has always been characterized by what sociologist Stanley Cohen calls "cultural Denial". Cultural denial is the process that allows us to know about cruelty, discrimination and repression, but never openly acknowledge it. It is how we come to know what not to know. The cultural design is not simply a personal or psychological attribute of individuals; it is a social process organised and supported by schooling, government, religion, media and other institutions.

May 14, 2019

"[T]he impact of a particular technology on employment and wages depends both on whether technology substitutes or complements for labour and also on equilibrium impacts that manifest themselves through changes in labour supply and product demand"

"[T]o assess the likelihood that a particular task may be automated, economists have moved beyond a simple ‘skilled’ versus ‘unskilled’ or ‘manual’ versus ‘non-manual’ distinction to consider how ‘routine’ a task is (Autor et al., 2003). As laid out in detail in Frank Levy’s contribution to this issue (Levy, 2018), assessments of the routineness of a task, and thus its ability to be automated".

"[l]abour markets are characterized by imperfect information about the location of workers and of vacancies, and by asymmetric information on the ability of workers and the quality of their work. Here technology can change both the search and hiring process and also facilitate new monitoring and performance management schemes once an employment relationship is initiated"

May 14, 2019

 "[W]hat about the Marxian concern that automation will immiserate workers by obviating the demand for labour? In simple economic models, this outcome cannot really occur because capital is owned by the economic agents who are presumably also the workers; but, alternatively, the returns could accrue to a narrow subset of agents. Sachs and Kotlikoff (2012) and Sachs, Benzell, and LaGarda (2015) explore multigenerational economic environments in which a burst of robotic productivity can enrich one generation of capital owners at the expense of future generations. These later generations suffer because the fruits of the productivity surge are consumed by the old, while the young face diminished demand for their labour and, in some cases, also experience credit constraints that inhibit their human capital investment”

"[E]ven if automation does not reduce the quantity of jobs, it may greatly affect the qualities of jobs available".

"[I]f computers largely substitute for routine tasks, how do we characterize the no routine tasks for which they do not substitute? In Autor, Levy, and Murnane (2003), we distinguish two broad sets of tasks that have proven stubbornly challenging to computerize. One category includes tasks that require problem-solving capabilities, intuition, creativity, and persuasion. These tasks, which we term “abstract,” are characteristic of professional, technical, and managerial occupations. They employ workers with high levels of education and analytical capability, and they place a premium on inductive reasoning, communications ability, and expert mastery. The second broad category includes tasks requiring situational adaptability, visual and language recognition, and in-person interactions—which we call “manual” tasks"