In order to keep up with the rapid developments of synthetic biology, geo-engineering, and cybernetics, we need new understandings of the bio-ethical implications of life. Following Erwin Schrödinger and Lynn Margulis, I propose a multi-layered re-evaluation of the most basic question: What is Life?
Instead of privileging certain creatures with the attribution of the ontological quality of life while others remain outlawed, I draw on the idea of sympoiesis or the stance that not individual entities, but only systems of living and non-living agents that are working together, can be considered to be alive. Ethical guidelines are nonetheless called for in the acknowledgment and conservation of living systems, even if the search for universal principles appears to be obsolete. I argue that biological forces such as life, evolution, and homeostasis are subject to change depending on their definition and context. Therefore, our understandings of these most basic notions of existence are in constant change depending on our approach to them; they bear a recursive relationship to their environment. In the twenty-first century, our scientifically sound understanding of life has become outdated due to the emergence of a variety of inventions: artificial intelligence, geo-engineering, neural networks and deep learning, CRISPR gene editing, or cloning. I want to examine how life is re-negotiated in the light of post-humanism and post-anthropocentrism, exploring questions like:
• How does the definition of life change in light of the post-anthropocene?
• How do these updated notions relate to our current era of late capitalism?
• What factors influence technological evolution?
• How are the prevailing definitions of life rooted in colonialism and racism?
• How will we deal with genetic discrimination due to the possibility of designer babies?
• How will the possibility to infinitely extend human lives influence our relationship to death? And what happens with non-biological life after death?