The Best of Disability Blogs and Banter
On Stephen Hawking, Vader and Being More Machine Than Man
Stephen Hawking has become a kind of a “brain in a vat.” Since acquiring amyotrophic lateral sclerosis almost 50 years ago, his muscles have stopped working, though his mind and senses remain unaffected. In some ways Hawking is, to borrow from Obi-Wan referring to Darth Vader, “more machine now than man.”
In one version of Hawking’s eulogistic story, we praise the smartest person in the world, one of the greatest cosmologists of our time. He fits perfectly well with our conception of how science and its heroes work: To be a genius all one needs is a powerful — a “beautiful” — mind. And indeed, because of his disability, Hawking embodies the mythical figure capable of grasping the ultimate laws of the universe with nothing but the sheer strength of his reasoning. …
We notice that he is more “incorporated” than any other scientist, let alone human being. He is delegated across numerous other bodies: technicians, students, assistants, and of course, machines. Hawking’s “genius,” far from being the product of his mind alone, is in fact profoundly located, material, and collective in nature. …
Both Hawking and celebrities hold authority from their positions at the top of the hierarchy, while the bottom makes it possible for these stars to enact and maintain their positions at the top. But in Hawking’s case, the network is much more distributed and intimately embodied. Hawking isn’t just issuing remote commands and expressed desires, his entire body and even his entire identity have become the property of a collective human-machine network. He is what I call a distributed centered-subject: a brain in a vat, living through the world outside the vat.
Popular media shows us that Hawking is a pure, isolated, once-in-a-lifetime genius; ethnographic analysis shows us that Hawking is not that different from other scientists even though he has a disability. In fact, it’s precisely because of his disability that we get to see how all scientists work … and how the entire world will work one day.
— Hélène Mialet, www.wired.com/opinion/2013/01/hawking-machine-man-robots/
Why the Disability Community Should be Done With the Republican Party for Good
The real reason for the Republicans’ down vote of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must be thoroughly analyzed by the disability community if we are to progress politically to improve our social standing. If the Republicans feel they can vote down a treaty that will improve the lives of millions of people with disabilities internationally without any repercussions, then they will have no fear in harming our community again at the next chance for political gain. We already see this with the fiscal cliff debate with Republicans demanding drastic cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, two programs that provide essential aid to many people with disabilities. Their deal with the president might divert another recession, but it will have potential to cause much harm to the disability community.
— Lateef McLeod, www.huffingtonpost.com/lateef-mcleod/