Prof. Bernard Stiegler, an emblematic figure-head at UTC-Costech

Fol­low­ing suit to the PHITECO 2021 sem­i­nar on the theme «Reflect­ing on tech­nol­o­gy with Bernard Stiegler», three mem­bers of the CRED (Cog­ni­tive Research and Enac­tive Design) team, Charles Lenay, Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy and Cog­ni­tive Sci­ences, Flo­rent Lev­il­lain, Senior Lec­tur­er, and Vin­cen­zo Rai­mon­di, Lec­tur­er and Research Sci­en­tist look back over the lega­cy of this emblem­at­ic fig­ure from the Knowl­edge, Organ­i­sa­tion and Tech­ni­cal Sys­tems (Costech) Laboratory. 

Bernard Stiegler, was noticed in 1988 by Lil­iane Vézi­er, then Direc­tor of the Tech­nol­o­gy and Human Sci­ences Depart­ment (TSH) at the UTC, as the design­er of an exhi­bi­tion enti­tled “Mem­o­ries of the Future” at the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou, Paris. 

At the same time, she was con­duct­ing a some­what aggres­sive cam­paign to recruit tem­po­rary staff, and Bernard Stiegler, who had not yet defend­ed his PhD the­sis, was among them. At the time, there was also Véronique Have­lange, who had orga­nized a sem­i­nar on “Cog­ni­tive Sci­ences and Philosophy“in a Euro­pean con­text. Bernard Stiegler, who at that time was devel­op­ing an assist­ed read­ing unit for the Bib­lio­thèque Nationale de France (BNF), made a plea — when he arrived at UTC — in favour of a phi­los­o­phy involved in the inno­va­tion process. This is how the sem­i­nar “Phi­los­o­phy, Tech­nol­o­gy and Cog­ni­tion” or PHITECO was renamed and the most recent edi­tion, ded­i­cat­ed to his work, was held in Jan­u­ary 2021. This edi­tion was co-organ­ised by Flo­rent and Vin­cen­zo’, explains Charles Lenay who knew him in 1989 when he arrived at the UTC. Bernard Stiegler was a key fig­ure in the field of human­i­ties at UTC. 

As a philoso­pher of tech­nol­o­gy, he devel­oped a rich and pro­found reflec­tion on the idea of the “tech­ni­cal ‘con­sti­tu­tiv­i­ty’ of human beings”.

In short? “We speak of “ACT” or anthro­po­log­i­cal­ly con­sti­tu­tive tech­nol­o­gy. This means that being human implies being a tech­ni­cal being, and this has always been so. Human evo­lu­tion, since the dawn of time, has tak­en place in a tech­ni­cal envi­ron­ment. There is no rela­tion­ship of exte­ri­or­i­ty between human sci­ences and tech­nol­o­gy. In oth­er words, there is not, on the one hand, Man who gives mean­ing and, on the oth­er, tech­nol­o­gy which would only reflect, so to speak, on exis­tence of mate­r­i­al con­di­tions. On the con­trary, it is our tech­ni­cal envi­ron­ment that makes us “human”, sup­ports our think­ing, sup­ports our con­scious­ness of time that would not exist with­out our tech­ni­cal medi­a­tions and our tech­ni­cal envi­ron­ment. This is Stiegler’s think­ing, a man of com­mit­ment and action. This is why, in 2005, he cre­at­ed the Ars Indus­tri­alis asso­ci­a­tion in order to com­bat the sub­mis­sion of intel­lec­tu­al tech­nolo­gies to mar­ket cri­te­ria alone, for exam­ple,” he explains. 

Vin­cen­zo Rai­mon­di agrees: “The the­sis of the inter­mesh­ing of human and the tech­ni­cal spheres has become the DNA of Costech. It has played a fun­da­men­tal role in research in our lab­o­ra­to­ry and per­me­ates much of our work. Not only Stiegler’s research, but that also of many oth­er research scientists.” 

What is spe­cial about Stiegler’s think­ing com­pared to oth­er philoso­phers of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy? “Stiegler’s pro­found orig­i­nal­i­ty in rela­tion to oth­er thinkers of tech­nol­o­gy, such as Jacques Ellul for exam­ple, is that he does not sep­a­rate the his­toric­i­ty of tech­nol­o­gy and that of humans. In his view, both are inti­mate­ly linked, and the his­to­ry of tech­nol­o­gy gives rise to a cer­tain psy­cho­log­i­cal struc­ture in our con­tem­po­raries. Human thought is itself ‘his­tori­cised’ by its inscrip­tion in the his­to­ry of tech­nol­o­gy; it is par­tic­u­lar to a giv­en era; it is sit­u­at­ed in a time, an era defined by the arte­facts it has con­struct­ed. Our era, for exam­ple, is the dig­i­tal era, a par­tic­u­lar form of tech­nol­o­gy that autho­ris­es cer­tain thoughts that were unthink­able in the last cen­tu­ry,” says Flo­rent Levillain. 

“It is thus a ques­tion of not reduc­ing tech­nol­o­gy to some­thing that could impov­er­ish human expe­ri­ence, dimin­ish our expe­ri­ences of the world,but rather to con­sid­er it as ‘con­sti­tu­tive’ of our expe­ri­ence,” adds Charles Lenay. 

How­ev­er, Bernard Stiegler enter­tains a lucid view of the risks of drift. “For Stiegler, any tech­nique or tech­nol­o­gy is a “phar­makon”. It can be both a rem­e­dy and a poi­son in the sense that it brings both solu­tions (cura­tive pow­er) and poten­tial new prob­lems (destruc­tive pow­er). This is why, in his view, all tech­nol­o­gy must be sub­ject­ed to a phar­ma­co­log­i­cal cri­tique,” con­cludes Vin­cen­zo Raimondi. 

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

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