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									The Virtual Human – a Trans
Without Qualities?

Prefatory Note on Method

To guard against potential
misunderstandings, I would like to
point out that in my understanding,
technologies never represent mere
tools that humans can use for good
or evil ends. Not even the
admittedly more precise definition
of tools as extensions of our sensory
organs (television = eye) accurately
characterizes the actual state of
affairs: it is in technologies that we
give form to the human world in
accordance with our ideas.
Technologies are thus
anthropomorphic modes of
existence, in a strict sense life
technologies, and in this regard
there is no difference between
organic, mechanical, or cybernetic

It is equally important not to fall
prey to the fallacy of construing
media and the internet as
substitute worlds.
Anthropologically, the aim is never
to replace (even if such does occur
in fact and springs from the
intentions of individuals), but to

augment. The urges and instincts of
stone age people have not died
within us any more than virtuality
will ever replace that to which we
presently refer as reality. The
French philosopher Gilles Deleuze
described as a rhizome that which
resists the demands of the
Either/Or and gives itself over to
the flow of the And.[1]

Furthermore, one should not forget
that humans are characterized not
solely by mortality, but by natality
as well: the thinkers and lovers
Martin Heidegger and Hannah
Arendt [traced this
curve(?)/recognized this/pointed
this out (hat diesen Bogen
geschlagen]. Mortality should
ideally caution us to withhold
judgment (not to mention
condemnation) of modes of life
[Lebensformen] that we will
experience in all likelihood only in
their early stages. At issue here is
not the world of the current
generation of adults! Yet this, too,
must be borne in mind: our
natality, i.e. the ability to begin
anew, to do things differently than
before (characterized by Arendt as
the essence of the political)
completely justifies our curiosity

about the unknown (variously
damned and praised) land of media.
“Forever young,” we are not to be
hindered by any biological age from
encountering and getting to know
the unexpected and the unheard-of.

1. The Anthropology of the Virtual

There is nothing new about the
notion [Bestimmung] of the “virtual
human.” Contemplation of human
nature, philosophical anthropology,
has always emphasized openness
as the existential [I wasn’t aware
that “Existential” could be used
as a noun – is there another term
you’d like me to use?] that
determines us [The German
sentence seems to be missing a
direct object – should there be a
“sich” in there, or is “die
philosophische Anthropologie, die
Offenheit” or simply “die Offenheit”
the direct object? As it stands, the
sentence in German is ambiguous. I
went with the last option.] While we
may be born into certain
conditions, nothing can keep us
there: the human being is a
“thrown-down sketch” (“geworfener
Entwurf”) (Heidegger), a project
about which the initial conditions

(genetic and social) are known (or
will be known in the future), but
whose outcome is never known.
Friedrich Nietzsche characterized
the human being as “the
undetermined animal;” the
philosophical anthropologists of
1920s Germany characterized him
as the “errant creature of
evolution,” the incorrigibly deficient
being” and a “mistake of nature.”
[The German sentence initially
misleads the reader into thinking
that „Irrläufer der Evolution“ ,
unverbesserliches „Mängelwesen“
und „Irrtum der Natur“ belong to
the group of Nietzsche’s
characterizations of the human
being. Splitting the German
sentence in two would eliminate
this ambiguity, i.e. “…den
Menschen charakterisiert. Als
„Irrläufer der Evolution“…]
Hellmuth Plessner, the most
important member of this group,
pointed out in his work “The stages
of the Organic and the Human
Being” [check if title has been
translated] (“Die Stufen des
Organischen und der Mensch”)
(1928) that our place in the cosmos
is in principle “eccentric.” By
relating to ourselves (or as
Heidegger puts it, by… [i.e. I need to

speak with you about this quote.
One question: can I take this: “oder
wie HEIDEGGER sagt, es uns in
unserem Sein und dieses Sein
selbst geht” to mean this?: “oder wie
HEIDEGGER sagt, indem es uns in
unserem Sein und dieses Sein
selbst geht…”]), we are always
already trans, those who transcend
ourselves. According to Plessner’s
correct analysis, we take up vis-à-
vis our environment a position
chosen by ourselves and control
with the aid of our consciousness
this openness of our borders
[Grenzen]. Even our subconscious –
at any rate in Jacques Lacan’s
estimation – urges us to do
whatever it is we dare to do.[2] The
world is our idea, even if it is the
case that according to Arthur
Schopenhauer no subject is
thinkable without an object, nor
any object without a subject.[3]

Immanuel Kant’s central question,
“What does it mean to be human?,”
can be answered only thus: it
means to be virtual, a creature of
possibility, open to an unknown
future, a trans full of undreamt-of
qualities. The writer and engineer
Robert Musil, in his book-of-the-
century The Man Without Qualities,”

(1981 [date OK? or 1930/1932?])
conjured forth the horrifying vision
of a technology that has become
autonomous. In this negative
vision, the human being has been
reduced to a statistical figure whose
potential has become its weakness,
and only transgression can promise
a taste of the real. But endless
possibilities need not lead to the
indecisiveness that leaves the
business of governing to the
machines; they can urge the
individual human being to
rigorously grasp each and every
chance. The American way of life,
as it is now spread around the
globe, serves as a good positive and
negative example. Yet there would
be no development at all (let alone
progress) if our distant stone-age
ancestor had not already been a
virtual human, designed [entworfen]
in light of his possibilities the same
way as the human at the beginning
of the 21st century.

What is now starting to change
fundamentally is the consciousness
of this virtuality. What once
appeared as a curse, to lack a locus
and a fixed identity, is now grasped
as an opportunity. Before their
computers sit programmers,

graphic designers, even
philosophers, who design ever
better, more complex, and braver
new worlds. Peter Sloterdijk speaks
of a “crisis of space,” for the
recognition of our general virtuality
defies the familiar notions of space
and spatiality.[4] As the “artificial
ones of nature” (Plessner), we find
ourselves not merely in a “being-in-
the-world” (Heidegger); rather, we
are to be defined [sind…zu
bestimmen] as an active “being-for-
the-world” (Deleuze).[5] Concretely,
this means that humans bring forth
worlds and do not merely dwell in

Yet would it not be conceivable that
our possibilities culminate in the
act of doing away with us? “What
comes after us?” asked the weekly
newspaper Die Zeit in its special
millennium edition (1/1999) and
imagined a possible future without
humans as we know them: “No
species persists for eternity. This
law makes exceptions for only the
most primitive of life forms… Let us
look in the mirror: nowhere do we
see a sign that the current state of
evolution is an optimum.” Many
prophets of the future believe that
mankind is already working on its

successor, the übermensch, a post-
human being described prosaically:
“Virtual reality gives its perceptions
a new space… The physical and
psychic person becomes
increasingly artificial, a plan made
real. The technologies of brain
transplantation and targeted
consciousness-expanding drugs are
still in their earliest stages of
development and yet they point
ahead toward the end of that which
evolution has brought about with
such enormous effort. While it is
true that in culture, we have always
had a way to reinvent ourselves,
but we may be at the threshold of a
new phase: the rebuilding of body,
mind, and emotions.”

How much self-hatred lies at the
heart of such fantasies of doing
away with ourselves, how strong is
the belief in a “better beyond” that
with the help of instrumental
technology can be forced back into
the here and now? With the
Terminator films, Hollywood has set
to words and images this
technological endgame between
good and evil, whereby Arnold
Schwarzenegger, as the fighting
robot, is allowed to switch from one
side to the other. A person who

seems to have had quite enough of
his fellow humans is the German-
American roboticist Hans Moravec:
“The most intelligent machines
today have computer brains whose
capacity is equivalent to the brains
of insects… But the machines will
one day surpass us [werden sich
von uns fortentwickeln]. The
universe will inherit super-
intelligent machines, and biological
humans, their predecessors, will be
relegated to a historical memory.”
With such dim prospects, one of
our most promising opportunities is
our own death! [Is this what you
want to say?] Still, it must be
remembered that neither Moravec
nor his critics were ever able to find
out who is now right – it is thus
only ever a matter of what ends one
wishes to achieve in one’s work.
Nevertheless, none of us can
determine in advance the indirect
results of our own actions (or
inaction), for the nexus (rhizome) of
possibilities is decidedly too
complex. Thus, it may well be the
case that the virtual human is the
one who will overcome humans as
we know them, but this means little
sub specie aeternitatis. Since no
historical human being can claim to
be the human being par excellence,

one need not regret at all the
overcoming of a particular breed of
humans: the human being is what
the human being becomes – no
more, no less.

2. Ontology of Fictitious Realities

In which reality do we live? One
speaks today in America of the
“alchemy of new technologies,”
which makes the old dream come
true: transforming leaden reality
into a golden age of unlimited
possibilities (= virtuality). No doubt,
the notion of alchemy describes a
decisive trait of the reconstruction
of reality carried out with the aid of
technology [is this what you
meant to say?]: we consciously
violate the rules of natural life in
order to create an artificial life that
better accords with our wishes. The
world as wish machine, as Deleuze
and Felix Guattari predicted in Anti
Oedipus (178). We acknowledge less
and less the necessity of accepting
fatalistically the biblical travail of
existence. When the fury of nature
still reveals itself (as in the raging
storms with the catchy feminine
and masculine names) or when the
harshness of personal fate cannot
be averted (as with cancer), we

follow the plot as we would in a
disaster movie. We are secretly
fascinated and yet at the same time
indignant that such a thing is still
possible. Particularly to a (young)
generation who has grown up
taking the various technologies for
granted, wars are seen as mere
video games (Gulf War), horror films
(Bosnia), or as (actually rather
anachronistic) bomber films
(Kosovo). The [gelingende]
successful alchemy that transforms
naturalness into artificiality is at
any rate operating under full steam
and is bringing forth a world that
might resemble the familiar one but
is in fact quite different from it.

Yet what is this, the vexingly
unfamiliar within the familiar
reality, and who can actually
perceive it? It is at this juncture
that many controversies are raised!
Does it vex us that we generate a
world no longer from a test tube (as
we did in the first half of the 20th
century), but from the computer?
What are the consequences of this?
Biochemistry augmented nature at
first only with things that came
from nature (this way of viewing the
matter goes all the way back to the
ancient Greeks, who exemplified

this phenomenon with the wine
grape). Information technology, on
the other hand, generates a second,
a more humane nature, which
orients itself only occasionally to
the first (mostly in order to learn
something useful to the
development of new technologies).
Hand in hand with this goes a
radical reinterpretation (not even a
conscious one) of the “Role of the
Human Being in the Cosmos” (Max
Scheler): rather than our being a
part of nature, nature becomes a
part of us. Our building of a solely
human world and our adopting of
anthropomorphicity as our supreme
measure, accords completely with
ecological strivings and with the
limits of growth. Our protection of
nature is self-preservation.

Yet what has become of our power
of judgment? How, for example, do
we deal with the obvious aesthetic
impoverishment such as is brought
about by architecture from the
computer or the rather tedious
aesthetic of computer art? Is there a
significant difference between the
films Terminator 1 and Terminator
2, between the killer-machine
played by Schwarzenegger and the
next-generation computer-

simulated model? And with
cartoons, is it not obvious how
aesthetically superior the hand-
drawn Bugs Bunny is to the
computer-generated heroes of Toy
Story? Yet for which perception do
these observations hold true? Won’t
things be completely different for
the children of Sony Playstation and
Nintendo 64 (there are no longer
any children of Marx and Coca-
Cola)? For them, the natural world
looks like nostalgic black-and-white
photography! Their reality is at
present populated by Pokemons,
constantly reproducing Japanese
pocket monsters, and you have to
catch all of them! The simulacrum
needs no paradigm, as Jean
Baudrillard has long since
recognized, but how do we believers
in reality deal with this situation?

So is this the point of controversy:
Will the machine with its perfect
uniformity triumph over the fallible,
notoriously ambivalent human
being? Vehement controversy has
raged about this question for some
time now, and yet the question
itself seems to have been posed
incorrectly. Whether technology is
to become autonomous or remain
controllable is a power question,

which aims at control, and thus
exactly the kind of outmoded
thinking that is not even tenable
with the military any longer. For
leadership decisions are made quite
differently today; they are feedback
processes dependent on complex
data, and have made hierarchies
long since obsolete. What counts in
the world of human beings is that
which is simplistically called the
market, the number of the satisfied,
and machines are never asked
whether they are satisfied. As
Mitchell Feigenbaum, the Mozart of
chaos theory, has demonstrated in
the Hammond Atlas of the World, it
is technically possible to teach a
computer to draw a straight line
that we would experience as
beautiful (because of its
irregularity). But the teaching
process turned out to require an
extreme effort, and the program
development cost millions. It is this
economic consideration, not a
technical constraint, that is the
reason why architecture programs
produce (for the present) “ugly”
buildings. Only George Lucas in
Hollywood (with the best machines
money can buy) has been able to
come up with simulations marked
by an increasing degree of

anthropomorphicity. It is as a film,
Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
(1999), that the past looms up from
out of the future – just as Heidegger
once said about the legacy of the
Greeks. Who even remembers the
tiny green screens of the first-
generation computers that seemed
to force us to adapt our seeing
habits to the computer. Today,
mass production (one of the most
powerful weapons against economic
shortsightedness) has made
gigantic monitors so cheap that this
interface between the human and
the machine functions more and
more seamlessly, and more and
more to our taste.

Thus the question is not who
controls the perception of the world,
for humans have always answered
this question themselves [is this
what you’re saying?]: the answer
is humans, and always will be, until
the “last human” (Nietzsche). The
real question is this: How can our
technologies effectively realize the
untapped potential of humans; how
can they transform our mental
virtualities into reality? The actual
challenge is to prevent this
development process (which does
not mean the same thing as

progress) from ever coming to an
end. Aristotle, the father of all
science, has already provided us
with the suitable maxim: potential
stands above reality. What was
once merely thinkable, is now being
built as a matter of course!

Yet weighty questions remain: in
the face of this anthropological
openness, how does one gain an
identity of one’s own, which as
temporary as it may be, is
nevertheless stylistically instructive
for the formation of the personality?
We will have to learn that
evanescence and effectiveness are
not mutually exclusive aims. On the
contrary: this impermanent
“myself,” barely perceptible and yet
a unique motivation for my worlds
of ethics, exists behind our backs
as an integral part of the good
life.[6] But how do I at the same
time let the “face of the other”
(Emmanuel Levinas) shine forth,
such an important invention of
mine, without which I, left by
myself, would soon be bored to
death (Baudrillard)?

Vilem Flusser advocated an
ontology of bottomlessness that
takes seriously the human as self-

designed being [Selbstentwurf].[7]
Laying down artificial floors
(something along the lines of what
Hans Jonas has in mind when he
speaks of founding a new religion)
is a possible but only locally
effective expedient here. Believers
must repress the fact that they
invented the gods, and this forced
amnesia has consequences that go
far beyond religious faith. As
Nietzsche observed, anyone who
can live without falsehood must
become a free artist-technologist, or
else he will become the victim of his
own [back world?? Hinterwelt].
The brave acknowledgment of
bottomlessness, on the other hand,
encourages an existence of birdlike
soaring that settles only
occasionally on an imaginary
branch. Such openness to existence
can succeed [gelingen] only
through our life technologies. Just
as the bird’s ability to fly makes
possible its particular mode of
being, it is our technologies – from
our first breath all the way to the
omnipresent media – that preserve
us in anthropomorphic being. One
of these life technologies is identity:
punctual self-ascertainment and
the fictitious (because it has always
just been left) jumping-off-place of

our world-behavior. Our identity is
punctual (in the word’s “pointlike”
sense, not its “habitually on time”
sense) and fictitious because it can
never be codified, and is reinvented
in every interpretation: we never
step twice into the same river. Not
even memory is reliable, since we
remember differently every time,
and are notorious blurrers of our
horizons (HANS-GEORG

While the human being as creature
of media is characterized by a
schizophrenic consciousness, a
multiple personality whose core is
indiscernible, the recognition of this
character is not necessarily
tantamount to a cultural-critical
complaint. The seduction to
schizophrenia that emanates from
the media is at the same time a
challenge to us to come up with a
self-[Entwurf]: we are Homo
generator, the self-generating being,
and with human beings, the only
thing that persists is change.

3. The return of the real: the
Columbine High School massacre

But do not real limits exist for this
self-[Entwurf]? Can all outgrowths

of the virtual world, with its
emphasis on cybersex and cyber-
killing, be endorsed? Is it not the
return of the real (Baudrillard) that
is now being observed, a reality
check that often ends in disaster for
the imaginations of cyberspace?
The Columbine High School
massacre is still fresh in the world’s
memory. On April 20th (Adolf
Hitler’s birthday), two 17-year-old
students there killed 12 fellow
students and one teacher before
killing themselves. From the six
videotapes they recorded before
carrying out their act, it is now
known that they had planned to kill
250 people with homemade bombs
and thereby launch a worldwide
uprising of the oppressed. Dylan
Klebold and Eric Harris called their
act of revenge “our own last
judgment,” [check quote] but the
bombs failed to go off, so that they
had to rely on guns. The two
students were portrayed as crazy
outsiders, racist Nazis, and as
infusion of evil into an innocent
world. The facts that the two had
their own website and loved violent
computer games like Doom were
quickly used to demonize the new

But this tragic incident can also be
interpreted another way, and it
must be pointed out, to the credit of
the American media, that at least
the New York Times considered this
interpretation after the initial
shock: two highly intelligent
students who were by no means
racists (the attack was actually
supposed to take place on April 19,
and its postponement to Hitler’s
birthday was a coincidence) were
tyrannized as outsiders in a school
system that gives priority to
athletes and social conformists.

The two perpetrators were
characterized by one of the football
players as “rejects and sick fags”
[check quote]. The dominance of
mediocrity at Columbine High
School was not merely atmospheric,
but manifested itself in the form of
physical harassment in the
lunchroom and fistfights, the likes
of which one hopes would have
ended with the bully-culture of
elementary school. In their video
testament, Dylan and Eric named
all the people who had mistreated
them since their grade-school days,
relatives included. They claimed
their rage had been growing for
years and was breaking forth now

that their situation had grown not
better, but worse. It must be
pointed out that the two students
expressly absolved their parents of
any guilt; Eric in particular
apologizes in moving words to his
parents for what he will do to them.
(Meanwhile, both sets of parents,
who did not have the least thing to
do with the deeds of their sons,
have been sued for damages by the
victims’ families for the amount of
250 million dollars.)

According to the notions and
unwritten rules of American
culture, Eric and Dylan (and their
friends from the Trenchcoat Mafia)
should have endured this daily
harassment and ridicule over their
appearance (face, hair, clothing) as
good losers, and should have looked
forward to their days at an elite
college when the situation would be
reversed. Instead, they acted like
the barons [Freiherren unter allen
Umständen – is this a quote?]
who, in Ernst Jünger’s provocative
definition, are prepared to kill, and
above all to kill themselves. It is an
open secret that a human being
only then becomes free when the
threat of being killed no longer
appears threatening. One knows it,

but prefers not to talk about it. For
no one is more dangerous than the
one prepared to die, for in his
unwillingness to compromise he is
invincible, [ein Ernstfall des
Menschen in der Revolte – not
sure what you mean here]
(ALBERT CAMUS) [source?].
Suicides among young people are
not unusual; each of us must
certainly remember moments in our
youth when life did not seem worth
living. But society has reached the
consensus that a youth oppressed
by his environment must accept his
role as a victim. Thus, while his
suicide may express accusation, it
nevertheless remains without
consequences. This scenario
contains no provision for the
unfortunate victim’s sudden
transformation into judge (and
executioner), which constitutes a
grave breach of the rules. Where
would it lead if all the suicides in
schools were to take their
tormentors (from the ranks of
teachers and fellow students alike)
with them on that long journey into
the night? It would lead
dangerously close to that universal
justice of which Schopenhauer
speaks, which [die zum
Minimalrecht einer Gesellschaft

niemals paßt – not sure what you
mean here]. Eric and Dylan, who
had been treated like dirt, wanted
to haunt the survivors like a
nightmare, and there is much to
indicate that they have succeeded.
Mutual hate has increased, and the
victims’ families have long since
begun quarreling about the
distribution of the donations made
in the wake of the massacre.

In their video testament, Eric and
Dylan speculate whether Steven
Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino will
buy the film rights to the Last
Judgment of Columbine. The role
played by the new media is
revealing as well, but in a different
way than one would think.
Cyberkill games like Doom did not
cause this act! While it is true that
constant exposure to media violence
can have a hardening and
deadening effect, this argument
falls flat when one compares the
effects of media violence with those
of the very real violence to which
the two students were subjected.
Constant humiliation and fear,
mortal fear, are caused by
playground bullies, and adults who
try to play this down have only
repressed how much they

themselves have suffered from it.
What cannot be denied is that the
way Eric and Dylan carried out the
shootings reflected the influence of
video games, to the extent that such
games provide excellent training in
hand-eye coordination. On the
other hand, they shot their victims
at such close range that they could
hardly have missed, regardless of
what kind of training they had had.
Yet the influence of the new media
revealed itself in the fact that the
two students got up the courage
(others would say arrogance and
insolence) to strike back, with any
means necessary, at their
tormentors and at the system that
wore them down. The law calls this
“self-defense,” even if the two
shooters clearly used excessive
force in this case. All of America
wondered how these humiliated
outsiders, whose sense of self-worth
must have hovered close to zero,
could have turned into powerful
judges over life and death. Where
did they get the certainty that they
had the right to punish others,
since the role accorded to them by
society was clearly that of recipients
of punishment? Perplexed
investigators explain today that
Dylan and Eric had wanted to

become famous, and desired a
greater portion of fame than the 15
minutes allotted to each of us by
Andy Warhol. But it was that very
hope of making it big,
understandable in any young
person, that seemed to have been
vigorously extinguished in the two.

The explanation is simple: Eric and
Dylan had found in the internet
their true peers, who lived scattered
in various unknown locations and
yet constituted a virtual community
online. The internet gains particular
significance for those who feel
isolated, for whatever reason, in the
environments in which they were
brought up. One cannot
overestimate the great advantage of
the internet: that one can choose
for oneself one’s own
communication partners. Unlike in
the conventional life-world, where
the choice is usually limited, the
individual can search the entire
internet for people who share his
world view. In chatrooms, listservs,
gaming communities, one can meet
like-minded people – millions of
them. Eric and Dylan, through their
web presence and internet video
game skills, enjoyed considerable
respect as members of what Flusser

termed a freely chosen family [or
did he call it something else?]
The two students must have felt all
the more keenly the sting of the
injustice perpetrated on them by
their real environment: a world into
which they were thrown and which
they could leave only at the price of
their presumable self-destruction.
Eric, whose father is an officer, had
indeed made an attempt to break
out; he tried to enlist in the Marine
Corps but there, too, he was turned
away. One of the most disturbing
moments in the video testament
was when the two perpetrators, who
are also victims, expressed the
naively religious belief that they
would go to a better world after
their deaths.

It was the return to the real that
doomed these two young people and
their victims. The virtual
communities of the internet can
offer effective support only to those
who have freed themselves from the
spell of reality and who view the so-
called real world as but one world
(admittedly a necessary one) among
others. Dylan and Eric returned to
the reality of guns and bombs, took
the lives of others, and destroyed
themselves forever – an

anachronism within the sphere of
the virtual, a conclusion without
openness, a case of malpractice in
artificial life [or do you have a
better way to replicate
Thus it is not without irony that the
return to the real, yearned for by
many as an antidote to postmodern
arbitrariness, transpires in the form
of mass murder.

4. Ethics of Virtual Life

A turning (Heidegger) toward the
media, such as is currently taking
place in the form of what Reinhard
Margreiter refers to as the “medial
turn,” would conceive of media as
the place without location where we
carry out an ethical life. The third
globalization (Sloterdijk) now makes
possible a global behavior
[Weltverhalten] in which such
anthropological constants as love,
hate, and schadenfreude remain
recognizable yet can still be
bracketed [eingeklammert]
(Edmund Husserl); i.e., stripped of
their direct efficacy. We do not live
exclusively in media (we merely do
so with increasing frequency), but
we do go there to confirm our own
existence. Does my life succeed

[gelingen]? This question,
fundamental to any ethics, that can
be answered only on an individual
basis (which Dylan and Eric
answered with an emphatic no) is
posed perpetually by us (and
others) in the media. In a precise
sense, the media are our
autobiography: we inscribe our life
in the media, at least to the extent
possible. A Spielberg film would
indeed have the lives of Eric and
Dylan succeed [gelingen] after the
fact, but only if the futility of their
escape to reality could be made

As long as interactive media remain
in their beginning stage, our life will
be inscribed in the media by others,
by the programming executives and
creative personnel, with more or
less regard for us, the spectators.
The only means we have at our
disposal for changing the text of the
mass media are the viewer ratings!
But in the internet, the situation is
already starting to look different.
Without active participation, which
leads to more and more refined
representation and surfing
techniques, this medium will
remain inaccessible. Without
creative intelligence we will quickly

fall prey to corporate interests, just
like in real life. Yet for netizens, the
true world citizens, a (somewhat
altered) maxim by Goethe applies:
“Tell me with whom you surf, and I
will tell you who you are!” The
cybergenius who invokes (produces)
the net in us stands in need of
constant improvement. Perhaps
anyone can be a Mozart or a
Picasso if he or she only has the
right software, but without personal
effort (and the occasional flash of
genius) nothing is going to happen
here, either. Ability is indeed a
requirement here (not just good
intentions) for stimulating the
genius of others via media and thus
turning appearance into reality.
Electracy (Gregory Ulmer) is the
ability to carry out electronic
communication, and it is a skill
that must be learned, just like
speaking, reading, and writing.

Yet the media contribute to a good
life (the domain of ethics) only if
they do not set out to do so. The
images propagated by advertising
and soap operas of the good life are
lies and distortions. Only when
virtual life in the media becomes a
matter of course and founds a
virtual family behind our backs

(Dawnja Burris)(8) does another
existence start to develop. The
virtual human, this trans full of
unexpected qualities, preexists
every theory that tries to explain it,
and can be described in retrospect,
but never prescribed. Ethics as
dwelling with oneself and with the
things has also always been medial,
as far back as the oral cultures with
their epics we lived a medial life,
long before it attempted to capture
reflection in concepts. In the
development from orality to literacy
to electronic communication, none
of this has changed fundamentally:
the media as life technology precede
the truth technology of philosophy.

The successes and failures
[Gelingen und Misslingen] of our
medial life must not be ignored, but
given careful attention. But
attention does not mean a simple
trashing of the media, as well-
thought-out or unreflected as such
a trashing might be. Nor does it
mean the creation of arbitrary
standards for a virtual life. Instead,
ethical attention urges us to enjoy
our media experiences and the
insights gained through them as
one would enjoy a remarkable film,
but to forget as quickly as possible,

on the way home, what pleased or
displeased us. This apparently
paradoxical interplay of attention
and forgetting can only with great
difficulty be given a theoretical
basis, but in a practical sense it is
very much a part of our ordinary,
everyday art of artificial life. The
beautiful moment cannot stop and
tarry, the auspicious encounter
cannot be repeated – on pain of a
reversal into bitter disappointment.
Nevertheless, we need not fear that
we have learned nothing from
success and failure ([Gelingen und
Misslingen] when we wisely refrain
from transforming our medial
experience into a theory (and set of
instructions). For in the process of
forgetting, we strengthen
imperceptibly (and thus all the
more enduringly) our feeling, our
intuition, and our taste for that
which is peculiar to ourselves alone.
The trace of the moment remains
invisible-visible, since we have
refrained from developing
Heidegger’s “wrong path” (Holzweg)
(which leads into untrodden
territory) into a road to happiness.
Relinquishment gives, and the
virtual human lives well when he
has forgotten his virtuality. Even
more: when he, as the mystic

Meister Eckhart urged, can forget
even this forgetting.

Translated by Daniel Theisen


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