December 11-14, 2023 – Brisbane Australia. Queensland University of Technology, Gardens Point Campus.
Deus Ex Machina – the God in the Machine – captures something of the present. It has deep origins in Greek drama, referring to the physical crane through which gods appeared on the stage and the dramaturgical device through which plots become miraculously resolved. At a time of miraculous devices that create text and images, exercise public and private power, constrain and empower life and death, where what and who is human is slipping and hybridising, the sense of nomos – of normative order, of law, of permissions and restrictions on what should be and should not, of how the future can unfold – is critically urgent. How do we want the gods in the digital networks, supply chains and machines of life and death to be? Are we waiting for the miraculous thing – the killer app, the spontaneous revolt, the irredeemable crisis, the history changing device – for everything to be all right?
The humanities are the creative engine through which humans dream themselves and their shared complex world. They encompass the dreams of dreamers who know that they are dreaming;  watching the play, seeing the crane, yet seeing also the terrible god lifted into the narrative. Embedded and embodied, located and partial, the thinking, stories and concepts of the humanities, allows understanding of being human as lived in, rather than as measured and managed. If there is to be a sense of future that can be ordered, anticipated and planned, then it is essential for the humanities to creatively engage with the many gods in the machines. This is especially significant when time and history are becoming enclosed. The platforms of the digital, the user face of hungry AI feasting on data, freeze time. The data of the past forms structures that harden and constrain what can be in the future forming an ever-present where the past is recycled as the only future permissible in the code. History repeats, global powers animated by myths of past greatness talk and conduct war. Against this stagnation, violence and death, a better future needs to be reasserted.
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