Prof. Dr. Yvonne Förster

Yvonne Förster has been teaching Philosophy of Culture and Art at Leuphana University Lüneburg and Aesthetics at Bauhaus University Weimar. She earned her PhD from Friedrich Schiller University Jena with a thesis titled “Experience and Ontology of Time” (2012, Fink). Her research focuses on Theories of Embodiment, Philosophy of Culture and Media, Philosophy of Fashion and Art. Currently she is working on the impact of neuroscience on human self-understanding, focusing on imaging techniques and their influence on film and media art. Recent publications include: “The Neural Net as Paradigm for Human Self-understanding”, in: Leefman, Jon, Elisabeth Hildt (eds.): The Human Sciences after the Decade of the Brain, 2016 (Elsevier). “Long Live the Immaterial! Corpo e Arte al Tempo della Virtualizzazione”, in: Francesca Iannelli, Gianluca Garelli, Federico Vercellone and Klaus Vieweg (eds.): Fine e nuovo inizio dell’arte, 2016 (Edizioni ETS: Pisa).  



From Neural Nets to Artificial Intelligences

Neuroscience and its images have a strong impact on what we think of human cognition. Simulations of neural nets, images from fMRI and PET have become part of basically every study within the field and help popularizing scientific results. Images from within the skull suggest that what makes us human, is our brain. Neuroscience not only investigates cognition by using imaging techniques, which visualize brain activity, also the simulation of neural activity in virtual or artificial brains plays a central role. Thus cognition is construed as being realizable in multiple ways. ‘Brainhood’, according to Fernando Vidal replaces concepts of personhood and individuality. The reductionist view of cognition as brain-bound process is strongly connected to a tendency toward the non- or posthuman. Philosophical accounts of new media and technology stress that human cognition is at least in part constituted by perceptually non-accessible features of technology. The growing complexity of the technosphere fuels our imagination. Cinematic and artistic images suggest a transcendence of human life by disembodied, net-like intelligences. Movies like Ghost in the Shell(1995), Her (2013) or Transcendence (2014) use representations of complex net-structures, which remind of disembodied neural nets that are self-organizing and able to learn and adapt. This tendency is contrasted by various artistic strategies and theories, which stress embodiment as crucial constituent of cognition. Experimental computer science and media art integrate sensorimotor-feedback in order to emulate embodied cognition in technological devices such as robots. 

During my stay at MECS I will investigate visualizations of embodied and disembodied cognition in science, media art and AI on the basis of phenomenological accounts of embodied cognition. Complementary to that movies staging artificial intelligences will be analyzed with respect to their images of future intelligences. I am reading film as a medium, which is informative for the way humans conceptualizes and imagine their relation with technology and the changes this brings about. Ultimately the project aims at understanding the impact of neuroscientific images on conceptualizations of cognition between embodiment and disembodiment, between human cognition and its transcendence in posthuman visions.