Designing Beyond Human

Margaret Andersen – What Does “Posthuman Design” Actually Mean?

How does the concept of non-human design help us better understand what it means to be human?

I think of this often when being confronted with the idea of machine learning. I know that there’s a human entity behind the scenes that composed the algorithm through which the machine is generating whatever the product might be (text, images, codes, etc.). But the more mind-boggling implication of what the AI is attempting to do is show us how it interprets human desires. Andersen uses ML and AI as a vehicle into what the world of non-human design / posthuman design is. It almost begs the question…

Do we understand what prehuman design could be?

When we think of ourselves from a macroscopic view, we isolate a very specific moment in space and time in which we exist and will exist for a while, but I’m interested in what way posthuman design practitioners would construct insightful or thought-provoking designed constructions before humans existed- what lessons from the past are worth keeping? What do they teach us about our present, how could they predict our future?


Anab Jain – More than Human-Centered Design

I think Jain’s framing of this problem is even more abstract, but also more compelling. Humans have made things and operate with conventions that only make sense to us and arbitrarily delineate our design from non-human entities.

How would a jellyfish read a bar graph?

We live very ego-centrically in a world that we have tried in vain to bend to our demands. We destroy environments- we selectively breed its inhabitants so that they can live in our houses and comfort us- we codify laws and boundaries and borders separating ourselves, and we think we own. Property rights is an almost oxymoronic concept. I have ownership of something because… why exactly? I bought it? I made it from pieces of the earth in some strange assemblage that didn’t previously coexist this way? It baffles me that people think the world will respond to us as if we’re that important enough to it to be heard. If we destroy our planet (which we are currently) it will not care that humans have ruined their home. Maybe in billions of years it will rebound in a very familiar way to what we experience now- but its memory of ‘us’ will have long since faded.