Artificial Life in a Neo-Biological Age examines the construction, manipulation and re-definition of life in contemporary technoscientific culture. It takes a critical political view of the concept of life as information, tracing this through the new biology and the discourse of genomics as well as through the changing discipline of artificial life and its manifestation in art, language, literature, commerce and entertainment. From cloning to computer games, and incorporating an analysis of hardware, software and 'wetware', Sarah Kember extends current understanding by demonstrating the ways in which this relatively marginal field connects with, and connects up global networks of information and communication systems characterised, increasingly, by claims to autonomy, agency and evolvability. From a feminist perspective, and with a set of concerns related to the role of the body, the self and the species in the production of life-as-it-could-be, the argument turns on the realisation that resistance is futile. Artificial life (ALife) is, in part, an adaptation to the climate of opposition surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In ALife, as elsewhere, the meanings of reductionism and determinism, transcendence and disembodiment are complex and internally contested. The strategy for change advocated here therefore rests on dialogue and on risk where risk entails the renunciation of rhetorics based on the redundant distinction between nature and culture: science and humanities; essentialism and constructivism; ontology and epistemology. In this way, debates on artificial life are directed beyond the science wars. As well as offering suggestions for the evolution of (cyber)feminism in ALife environments, the author identifies the emergence of posthumanism; an ethics of the posthuman subject mobilised in the tension between cold war and post-cold war politics, psychological and biological machines, centralised and de-centralised control, top-down and bottom-up processing, autonomous and autopoietic organisms, cloning and transgenesis, species-self and other species. Ultimately, this book aims to re-focus concern on the ethics rather than on the 'nature' of life-as-it-could-be.