B-Part Am Gleisdreieck
16:15 - 17:15
The Machine in the Mirror: Remaining Human in the Age of Virtual Identity

Short thesis

Connecting the technological dots between cave wall paintings and immersive VR experiences, this session will start with a whirlwind tour of history that puts a new spin on the last 10,000 years of recorded humanity Mathana will introduce their concept (re)defining the current era, what they have coined ‘The Fog’ (a provocative take on ‘the cloud’) that offers a new approach towards the way cataloging civilizational epochs.


After remixing history, Mathana will move on to contrast the stark (epistemic) differences between how humans conceptualize machines and the ways that machines are able to sense (and therefore express bias towards) humans. To highlight the implications of  they will end with case study into a largely uncharted domain of the ethics of VR to show how new technologies hold the potential to fundamentally alter our perception of what it means to be human in the age of The Fog.

Although the wheel and the printing press brought about revolutionary change in commerce and communication, algorithms are now being tasked with make many of the decisions that were once the sole domain of humans. Mathana Stender believes we have entered a new epoch of human history. Although we hear much about ‘the cloud,’ this new era functions more like a fog.

This session will map human history up to the current era where big data, ubiquitous surveillance and continuous connectivity keep us suspended in a near-invisible layer of signals and sensors. Mathana will discuss how our bodies both impacted by this Fog and are impacted by it, and demonstrate how emerging algorithmically-mediated experiences are both philosophically distinct and ethically unique from humanity’s pre-21st century civilizations.

With the proliferation of algorithmic decision making, human agency is gradually being removing as the primary force behind the decisions that shape our lives.

The talk will also dive into the ways that asymmetries in digital literacy have created bubbles and gaps in our perception of what artificial intelligence and robotics are capable of, ans show that both individuals and societies around the world encounter algorithmic intermediaries to learn, communicate and even perceive notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, we are being nudged into decisions that are perhaps not our own by machines who will never see us in the same way we see ourselves.