Robotic Life in the Deep Sea
Irus Braverman. 2020. “Robotic Life in the Deep Sea.” In Irus Braverman and Elizabeth R. Johnson (eds.). Blue Legalities: The Life and Laws of the Sea (Duke University Press)., Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2019
Date Written: 2020
Drawing on in-depth interviews with marine biologists and engineers, this chapter explores the relationship between human scientists, nonhuman animals (crown-of-thorns starfish and deep sea and tropical corals), and robotic entities (COTSbots, ROVs, AUVs, and OceanOne humanoids). The chapter considers how the drive to ecological management is articulated through, and confined by, national and international law. It asks whether it matters—physically, socially, and legally—if the acts of making live and making die are carried out by machines rather than by humans and whether it matters that these acts target nonhuman animals. Throughout, the chapter examines how the mechanization of knowledge and management in the deep sea has displaced humans, thereby creating the conditions for a kind of biopolitical gaze that extends not only beyond the human but also beyond specific management sites to encompass the entire ocean. At the same time, technology also enables the virtual reinsertion of the human into a scene that was once considered inaccessible to us. Technological developments thus both enable and reinforce a very particular vision of planetary management. The oceans are at the forefront of this planetary vision, and their transition toward management by robots signals a much broader transition toward robotic management in planetary government writ large.
Keywords: deep sea robots, biopolitics, COTSbot, OceanOne humanoid, planetary government
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