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45 . I N T E L L E C T U A L I N T U I T I O N A N D F I N I T E C R E AT I V I T Y The claim that technology will make—­ or has already made—­ Gods of men is an old and extremely familiar one. The supposition is that humankind has so greatly upgraded its biological capabilities with technological enhancements that they now resemble powers which previous generations would have ascribed only to (the Judeo-­ Christian) God.1 Perhaps the most noteworthy articulation of this claim is made by Freud in Civilization and its Discontents, where he famously writes that due to our advanced technological and cultural acquisitions “man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God.”2 The tacit assumption underlying Freud’s observation is that technological progress occurs in a continuous, uninterrupted sequence of augmentations—­ “with every tool man is perfecting his own organs”—­ with the ultimate goal being the overcoming of finite limitations in the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, not to mention immortality.3 Moreover, it conceives of the relationship between God and man as existing on a single, graded plane with God as the upper extremity. So when Žižek suggests that neurotechnologies will bestow God-­ like capabilities upon the user the temptation might be to view it as simply one in a long line of prosthetically enhanced God–­ man narratives. However, this would be to fail to grasp the true stakes of Žižek’s extraordinary proposition , which is noteworthy for two important reasons. The first is that the God invoked is Kant’s Supreme Being, and not the anthropomorphic, or superhuman , God of popular imagination. For Kant the human and the divine structurally obscure one another and share no common territory. The second reason is that the ability to directly intervene into the external world with the mind, or to automatically bring into existence an object of thought, does not 2 46 I n t e l l e c t u a l I n t u iti o n a n d F i n it e Cr e a ti v it y . simply amplify the functioning of an existing organ or faculty but instead constitutes an entirely original power. The question is what sort of power this is and what the consequences of exercising it would be. Žižek writes: Even Steven Hawking’s proverbial little finger—­ the minimal link between his mind and outside reality, the only part of his paralyzed body that Hawking can move—­ will thus no longer be necessary: with my mind I can directly cause objects to move; that is to say, it is the brain itself which will serve as the remote-­ control machine. In the terms of German Idealism, this means that what Kant called “intellectual intuition”—­ the closing of the gap between mind and reality, a mind-­ process which, in a causal way, directly influences reality, this capacity that Kant attributed only to the infinite mind of God—­ is now potentially available to all of us, that is to say, we are potentially deprived of one of the basic features of our finitude. And as we learned from Kant as well as from Freud, this gap of finitude is at the same time the resource of our creativity (the distance between “mere thought” and causal intervention into reality enables us to test the hypotheses in our mind and, as Karl Popper put it, let them die instead of ourselves), the direct short circuit between mind and reality implies the prospect of a radical closure.4 There are three significant claims here, which need to be considered separately . The first is that a form of cognition characterized by Kant as belonging only to the mind of God is made available to us by neurotechnologies. The second is that this capacity would enable us to overcome our finitude. The third is that this very overcoming of finitude, rather than bestowing upon us an enhanced power of unconditional freedom would in fact see us relinquish the very form of creativity that we possess. However, the reverberations of such an event would not only be felt by future acts but would have retroactive impact as well, suggesting that human finitude, and creativity, must be reconsidered from the ground up. So this “deprivation” would be total and irreversible , and the genie cannot be returned to the bottle...


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