Eric Lewis. Care for Machines as a form of self-care: erasing the self-human/other-machine divide

While most theories of care take it as a given that we have both obligations and responsibilities for caring for ourselves, they differ when it comes to caring for others. Indeed one of the fundamental ethical dilemmas of care concerns to what degree and precisely how relationships of “closeness” should matter when it comes to our moral obligations to care for others. We naturally take it that we care more for our children than our friends’ children, more for our friends than the friends of our friends, and more for fellow citizens than those far off. To argue otherwise (as some theories do) requires,well, argument! Machines of all kinds are often left out of the calculus of care since they are not thought to be ontologically the right sorts of entities to be the object of care except perhaps purely instrumentally, that is, in so far as caring for them assists us in caring for someone else (we care for our car because it allows us to drive our children to school). I want to present some recent research in cognitive science, under the general rubric of the expanded mind hypothesis, which has it that many of the tools we use are best thought of as parts of our own cognitive systems, and so caring for them is both allowed by, perhaps even demanded of us, in so far as such care is an instance of self-care. At a less abstract level, realizing that many of the tools we use as artists are actually participating intimately in the creative processes that we properly think of as “ours” should reconfigure our relationship to such machines, and open up conceptual space for an ethics of care into which tools, digital and otherwise, can be not just for the care of others but the subjects of care themselves.

Eric Lewis is a professor of Philosophy at McGill University, Montreal, with a specialization in the philosophy of improvised art and critical race theory.  He is the author of five books, and numerous articles and book chapters. He is the President of AIM (Arts in the Margins), director of LUC (Laboratory of Urban Culture), and site director of IP/IICSI (Improvising Futures/International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation). He is a member of Medea Electronique and the scientific officer for Toolkit of Care. He is an active improvisor on brass and bass clarinet.