The Post-Dystopian Technorealism of Ted Chiang

Authors

  • James Hughes IEET
  • Nir Eisikovits Applied Ethics Center

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.55613/jeet.v32i1.97

Keywords:

science fiction, technorealism, utopia, Luddism

Abstract

In this article, we argue that Ted Chiang’s short stories offer a realist philosophy of technology, one that charts a third course between the techno-pessimism and techno-optimism that characterize the history of philosophizing about technology and much of the speculative fiction about it. We begin by surveying the history of utopian and skeptical approaches to technology in philosophy and speculative fiction. We then move to discuss two of Chiang’s recent stories and use them to articulate the author’s techno-realism. Chiang’s view, as it is developed in these stories, has three features: First, technology is not merely an agent of de-skilling, it can also promote self-knowledge and insight. Second, technology is not only an agent of alienation it can also provide succor and psychological relief. Finally, technology does not necessarily remake us into new beings with new capacities and needs. In many cases, it just gives us further avenues to be what we already were - to act on the tendencies and pursue the needs we always had.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Nir Eisikovits, Applied Ethics Center

I study the ethics of war, the nature of asymmetrical conflict and how countries rebuild after conflict. I also run the Applied Ethics Center at UMB where we explore questions at the intersection of ethics and everyday life.

References

Atwood, M. (1985). The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto, Canada: McClelland and Stewart.

Auden, W. H. (1969, September 6). Moon Landing. New Yorker, 38–38. https://allpoetry.com/Moon-landing

Bacon, F. (1626/1901). New Atlantis. New York: P.F. Collier & Son.

Bellamy, E. (1888). Looking Backward, 2000-1887. Boston, MA: Ticknor & Co.

Bradbury, R. (1962). Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Burgess, A. (1962). A Clockwork Orange. New York: W. W. Norton.

Chiang, T. (2002). Stories of your life and others. New York: Tor Books.

Chiang, T. (2008). Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang. London: Picador.

Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press.

Danaher, J. (2019). Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World without Work. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Descartes, R. (1637). Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences. 1911, translated and edited by S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Eubanks, V. (2018). Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Forster, E. M. (Edward M. (1909). The Machine Stops. Oxford and Cambridge Review, 1–54.

Frischmann, B. M., & Selinger, E. (2019). Re-engineering humanity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Huxley, A. (2004). Brave new world : and, Brave new world revisited. New York: HarperCollins.

Klein, E. (2021, March 30). Transcript: Ezra Klein Interviews Ted Chiang. New York Times, 1–16.

le Guin, U. (1969). Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace.

Marcus, H. (2020). Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In. Electric Literature. https://electricliterature.com/ted-chiang-explains-the-disaster-novel-we-all-suddenly-live-in/

Mill, J. S. (1863). Utilitarianism. London: Longmans, Green and Company.

More, T. (1898). Utopia. London: J.M. Dent.

Morris, W. (1884). How We Live and How We Might Live. First printed in 1887 by London: Commonweal. https://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/1884/hwl/hwl.htm

Morris, W. (1891). News from Nowhere, Or, An Epoch of Rest. Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers. https://www.google.com/books/edition/News_from_Nowhere

Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. New York University Press.

O’Neil, C. (2016). Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Largo, Maryland: Crown.

Orwell, George. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Secker & Warburg.

Piercy, M. (1976). Woman on the Edge of Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Rothman, J. (2017, January 5). Ted Chiang’s Soulful Science Fiction. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/ted-chiangs-soulful-science-fiction

Sandel, M. (2007). The Case Against Perfection. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Case_Against_Perfection

Schmitt, C. (1993). The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations (1929). Telos, 1993(96), 130–142. https://doi.org/10.3817/0693096130

Shelley, M. W. (1818). Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones.

Sibley, M. Q. (1973). Utopian Thought and Technology. American Journal of Political Science, 17(5), 255–281.

Vallor, S. (2016). Technology and the Virtues: A philosophical guide to a future worth wanting. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Vint, S. (2019, May 25). The Technologies That Remake Us: On Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation: Stories.” LA Review of Books. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-technologies-that-remake-us-on-ted-chiangs-exhalation-stories/

Wells, H. G. (1895). The Time Machine. New York: Henry Holt.

Wells, H. G. (1905). A Modern Utopia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Wells, H. G. (1923). Men Like Gods. London: MacMillan Company.

Wells, H. G. (1933). The Shape of Things to Come. London: Read Books Ltd.

Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books.

Downloads

Published

2022-06-30

How to Cite

Hughes, J., & Eisikovits, N. (2022). The Post-Dystopian Technorealism of Ted Chiang. Journal of Ethics and Emerging Technologies, 32(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.55613/jeet.v32i1.97

Issue

Section

Literature Review