[Humanist] 27.270 effects of virtual barbed wire?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Aug 9 00:50:04 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 270.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 09 Aug 2013 06:30:00 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: virtual barbed wire

In a highly detailed history of barbed wire, in the London Review of 
Books 22.14 (20 July 2000), historian of mathematics Reviel Netz 
concludes that,

> These divergent perspectives tend to obscure the fact that the
> extension of the use of barbed wire from the control of animal to the
> control of human movement was not a perverse but a natural
> development of its capacities. At the basic level of pain – when
> barbs meet flesh – animals and humans do not differ very much. A
> species which enslaves another species puts itself at risk.

Indeed, to put the matter more generally, the controller does more than 
put him- or herself at risk. The very act is damaging to both controller 
and controlled. The history of servitude demonstrates, I think, that in 
the mildest of circumstances (say the kind of noble house depicted in 
Downton Abbey or Gosford Park) both are infantalized. So my question, in 
the morally neutral circumstance of robots made to serve, are we 
infantalizing ourselves? If so, how far can we go with such a thought?

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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