In a world where we have come to rely on our computers, printers, and iPhones to do many tasks for us, might there be an expectation that someday these gadgets may end up “thinking” for themselves and performing functions that we ourselves should be doing but have relegated to technology?
This paper takes a look at the maker movement, where new developments in technology, especially the 3D printer, combine with users who create their own “products, designs, trinkets, and tools.” The authors use the term “anthropocentric” to describe the traditional relationship between humans and machines in which the human maker orchestrates the movements of passive machines and materials. They then propose an alternative design for human interaction with 3D printers, called Redeform, in which a post-anthropocentric maker becomes a collaborator with these machines and materials.
The authors use another term, “hylomorphism,” for anthropocentrism in which the human maker serves as “the primary factor [for] determining form,” while offering up the term “morphogenesis” for the post-anthropocentric mode of design in which there is a shift from human control of the environment to a more open-ended, collaborative relationship between human and nonhuman actors. This way of thinking has garnered attention from artists, educators, and policymakers who want to encourage youth to pursue science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) careers.
The authors make use of several examples of this relationship between humans and nonhumans where the human does not have the superior role as shown in the arts, film, dance, and music. The paper also shows photos of the anthropocentric and post-anthropocentric design results. The blurring of roles between humans and machines brings about new roles and new outcomes, which according to some political theorists like Jane Bennett “can foster more sustainable behaviors in the world” because the knowledge gained from such new thinking can bring about “shifts in perspective, moments of inspiration, and [ever-changing] thought processes.”
Despite the appeal of such thinking, we are a long way from letting machines take over our daily lives, even though at this stage it may seem we are close to it.