2023 Perth Philosophy Circle 3rd presentation: The Future Can Wait: Apocalypse and the Status Quo

Date: June 19th

Presenter: Keegan Martens

‘Apocalypse’ has come to mean an end to our current way of life. Much of contemporary fiction is devoted to considering this notion of apocalypse, both as an immanent threat and as a past event. Similarly, many works of non-fiction consider the possibility of a sudden end to our current epoch and how we might avoid or survive such a possibility. In short, we are in the midst of a popular obsession with apocalypse.

This talk will focus not on any particular apocalypse, predicted or imagined, but will instead consider the effects of our fixation on apocalypse. I will make the case that one key function of apocalyptic media is to re-enforce and justify the status quo. This mode of justification involves presenting social and political change as the cause of humanity’s downfall while simultaneously re-enforcing the inevitability of technological progress which will provide the solutions to both current and future problems.

Ultimately, I will claim, these views about the dangers of social change and the promise of technology are underpinned by a particular understanding of the future: one in which the future is simply another state of the universe, exactly like the present but at a later time. This understanding of the future reassures us with its predictability while acting as a self-fulfilling prophecy—if no other outcome is possible, why try to change it in the first place?

Tickets available from June 5th, click button below to reserve yours.

2023 Perth Philosophy Circle 2nd presentation: Chirurgy, Chimeras and Control: How Biomedical compliance technologies and transhumanism might shape our future

Date: 17th of April

Presenter: Charles Foster

The implacable march of biotechnological development has provided humanity, or at the very least those with wealth and resources, the power to overcome or control ever more diseases and disabilities.  For many, this advancement has provided a ground upon which to imagine the possibility of a human life that may one day be freed from both physiological and mental suffering, and, in the most extreme cases, a future where death has been relegated from inevitable fate to mere personal choice.  In this presentation I want to consider the concealed apocalyptic possibilities of emergent biotechnologies, following two distinct lines of enquiry to question the possible dangerous potential of our newfound capabilities.  Firstly, I will examine how profit-driven medical insurance corporations have supported biotechnologies that aim to ensure pharmaceutical compliance and control, showing how this problematic development follows a longstanding, yet understated, influence that insurance companies have had on the development of modern medical treatments.  I will follow this theme of biotechnological profit to consider examples of how private companies developing ‘neuroceuticals’—implanted technologies in the brain—can and have had nightmarish repercussions for those who make use of their products.  My second line of discussion will be to consider biotechnologies that are being developed in order to make possible transhumanist dream of surpassing our natural capabilities and mortality.  I will argue that, while we ought to be sceptical of the ability of biotechnology to actually make such a Promethean transformation possible, this project does serve to bring a range of fundamental questions into focus: Would cybernetics really allow for human flourishing and a better life?  Is death simply a meaningless tragedy we should try to overcome?  What kind of political oversight, if any, ought we to have over the development of, and access to, biotechnological enhancement? And finally, returning to the theme of biotechnological profit, who is it that we trust to responsibly develop and provide these possibilities?

2023 Perth Philosophy Circle 1st presentation: The beginning and the end and the beginning of the Internet

Date: March 20th

Presenter: Andrew Hutcheon

Synopsis: Elon Musk buys Twitter, users rush for the doors and at least 50% of its staff are sacked. Facebook similarly sacks 1 in 8 of its global workforce in response to a decline in revenue and user activity. Misinformation is rampant, cybercrime is escalating and legislators are circling. Elsewhere, terms such as ‘digital detox’ – a term used to describe an intentional period away from an internet connection – and a general ambivalence towards the internet as it is currently developed should give pause to wonder whether the internet is reaching an end point, or else some kind of significant change worth noting. This presentation aims to provide an account of how we arrived at the present moment in the history of the internet and chart some possible futures, drawing upon a wide range of theory and material in the field, considering whether we have arrived at the beginning of the end, are continuing business as usual or something significantly weirder than we can anticipate.

It seems that despite the achievements of many civilisations, at the present, we live under the shadow of potential nuclear apocalypse. The re-emergence of conflict between global powers equipped with nuclear technology could lead to a global conflagration—a worldwide destruction with the potential to render our planet uninhabitable. But is our understanding of apocalypse limited to this brutal annihilation of the world?  In this year’s lecture series, we will consider alternative ways to reflect upon our modern technologies and ways of thinking, that might go beyond destructive apocalyptic prospects: What potential futures we face that may not necessarily end in world-wide destruction but, rather, open up different possibilities for the radical transformation of human life as we know it.

At the present, we understand the term apocalypse as the irreversible destruction or the end of the world. But its original meaning was very different. Originally, the term apocalypse came from the Greek word apokálupsis. For the Ancient Greeks, apokálupsis meant ‘to uncover’.  The term was later adopted in the title of The Book of Revelation ‘The Apocalypse of John’. Yet its meaning had changed. The apocalypse as uncovering became a revelation of the future, alerting us to a conflict yet to come, that would, without Christ’s salvation, lead to a destruction of the world. It was from this theological notion that our present concept of apocalypse as a destructive annihilation emerged.

In this year’s series, we will consider these various understandings of apocalypse to reflect upon a range of contemporary potential visions of the future. By questioning the ideas that support these prevalent visions, we hope to uncover the origins of these views of the future, while reflecting on the possible conflicts and destructive possibilities that remain uninterrogated.

Hence, in our new series, we will consider the apocalyptic undertones in our possible visions of the future through topics including: the idealism of the early internet and the perversion of this vision, emerging biotechnologies of control and transhumanism, how the idea of the ‘manosphere’ is transforming how relationships are understood, the dangers we face in our attempts to predict the future and our commitment to an unconsidered idea of progress, and other topics that consider the difficulty we face in thinking through our everyday connections to the world.  Harking back to our previous series, we want to reflect on a potential connection between apocalypse, crisis and hope. In other words, the issue is whether it is even possible to hope for our common future.

Each lecture will last roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour and will be followed by questions and conversation.

We invite you to join us for a night of ideas, discussion and drinks as we ask what it means to be human in our contemporary world.

Though this series builds off of our previous series on Utopia and Crisis, no knowledge of philosophy is required; everyone is welcome.

Free to attend but tickets required. All refreshments and food are available for purchase from Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle.

March through June presentation details:

March – Andrew Hutcheon – The beginning and the end and the beginning of the Internet

April – Charles Foster – Chirurgy, Chimeras and Control: How Biomedical compliance technologies and transhumanism might shape our future

May – Keegan Martens – The Future Can Wait: Apocalypse and the Status Quo

June – Eva Bujalka – Sex, Lies and Video Tates: The rise of the ‘manosphere’ and the future of dating