"We are Not in Control Anymore": Technological Possessions Facilitated by Simulacra in the Posthuman Reality of "Hated in the Nation"

by Shastri Akella

Note: Page numbers from the print version are indicated in brackets and should not be considered part of the text of the article.

Abstract: [page 11] Acts of technological possession occur in “Hated in the Nation” at the point of intersection of two forms of surveillance: social media- and government-driven surveillance, each form producing a simulacrum. The work the simulacrums do together to facilitate the act of technological possession is symptomatic of a partially-realized posthuman reality, one in which honeybees have gone extinct and technologically-driven drones perform the task of pollination. Self-imposed limitations might create a more sustainable relationship between the technology that facilitates the posthuman state of being and the environment in which the posthuman subsists.

Keywords: Black Mirror, climate change, posthumanism, social media, surveillance, technology, Trans-humanism

“There’s a Schizophrenic Worldview” (or) Technological Possession in “Hated in the Nation”

“Hated in the Nation” (2016), the hour-and-a-half long finale of Season 3 of Black Mirror, is set in a world in which honeybees have gone extinct and Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs)—robotic honeybees—are responsible for pollination. That, however, is not the only task that they perform. The government covertly uses them for large-scale public surveillance. The antagonist, Garret Scholes, hacks into the system that controls them and uses them to kill those who monitor and shame others on social media. Thus, there are two degrees of surveillance that are at the heart of the episode’s narrative, vertical (the government spying on its citizens through the drones) and lateral (people monitoring each other on social media), and together they subject individuals to what Bernard E. Harcourt calls tentacular oligarchy: they are spied upon from multiple vantage points. To punish (ab)users of social media, Scholes executes a vigilante version of justice by engineering what I [page 12] claim is an act of technological possession.

In most narratives of paranormal possession, a spirit enters and takes control of a human body and uses it to extract revenge. The invasion of an entity that occupies a space where it does not belong becomes the source of terror for characters and viewers alike. The act of possession in “Hated in the Nation” follows a similar logic. Each act of technological possession is constituted of two steps. First, Scholes writes a code that he uses to infiltrate the system that governs the operation of the ADIs. The first territory to become a site of struggle is the technological body of each ADI. Granular, an environmental robotics company, creates them to sustain the ecosystem, but the government agrees to fund the project only if they are allowed to use the ADIs for surveillance. The ADIs are therefore already a contested territory between its two governing forces, Granular and the government. Each ADI, “controlled” by Granular and “colonized” by the government, becomes a “site of struggle” when Scholes hijacks it, alters its operative force-field, course of action, and physical destination (Scott 89). His code possesses the ADIs, which are now driven by his agenda and not that of Granular or the government.

Second, each ADI, a technological body now reanimated by Scholes’ code, invades the organic body of a victim, an individual who shamed someone on social media. That body becomes the second site of this struggle: Scholes uses the ADI to overpower the organic body with pain, and the victim attempts to overpower the pain even at the cost harming herself. The victim’s body, the contested territory, has seizures that are “evidencing acts of territorialization. [Such] convulsions [are] a process of space-making that is constitutive of the space-makers” (88). Territorialization, as Deleuze and Guattari clarify, is akin to “putting your signature on something to claim it…[for the act] ‘delineates a territory that will belong to the subject that carries or produces them’” (qtd. in Scott 90). The two ‘space-makers’ that are located within the convulsing body of the victim are the invasive ADI and the individual, the former the source and the latter the object of terror (akin, one might say, to the ghost and the human victim in a paranormal possession narrative). Together, they generate the affect of territorialization and are, in essence, representations of the two forces of power that are in conflict: whereas individuals exercise power over those whom they shame in [page 13] social media, the ADI, directed into their bodies to punish them for their acts of shaming, is the power Scholes exercises over them. This struggle between the two kinds of powers turns the convulsive organic body, as Scholes intends, into a spectacle, “a resistant receptacle…that is…volatilized and pulverized into a multiplicity of powers that confront each other…the struggle …[between]…competing forms of power-knowledge…centered in the body” (88-89).

Thus, in the context of a technological possession, the term “possession” derives its meaning from the theoretical framework proposed by Scott in which he amends “Foucault’s theorization of the convulsive body of the possessed as a site of struggle…with Gilles Deleuze’s and Felix Guattari’s notion that the concept is not object but territory” (88).

In what follows, I discuss social media- and government-driven surveillance in “Hated in the Nation” in the light of the discourses of Firmin deBrabander and Michel Foucault. Each form of surveillance, I then claim, produces a simulacrum, drawing on Brian Massumi’s interpretation of the term. The work that the simulacra do to facilitate the act of technological possession is symptomatic, I argue, of partially-realized posthumanism, drawing on N. Katherine Hayles’ take on the subject. In conclusion, I propose that the vision of the posthuman, when tempered with certain limitations, might create a more sustainable relationship between the technology that facilitates the posthuman state of being and the environment in which the posthuman subsists. I draw on the concept of ecopsychology and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner’s comparison of the posthuman to Nietzsche’s Overhuman to propose what these limitations might be.

“That Backdoor Worked Both Ways” (or) Surveillance in “Hated in the Nation”

The technological horror in “Hated in the Nation” begins with an act of digital sharing; Jo Powers writes a web article in which she criticizes the suicide of a disability-rights activist. As a result, she faces widespread vitriol on a social media platform that looks like Twitter. She also receives a cake with “Fucking Bitch” iced on it, and the next morning she is found dead in her apartment. Police chief Karin Parke and her assistant Blue Colson [page 14] are put in charge of the case. They interrogate, among others, Liza Bahar, a preschool teacher who sent Powers the cake. Colson, who specializes in digital forensics, checks Bahar’s social media feeds and finds that one of her posts says “#DeathTo Jo Powers” followed by Powers’ social media handle and picture. When Colson brings the post up, Bahar says, “It's a hash-tag game. It's not real.” She found someone using the hash-tag and so she used it, she says. Her behavior is an example of the normalization process that social media platforms bring into effect by enabling, alongside a culture of circulation, a culture of surveillance. About this process of surveillance and the normalization it causes, Michel Foucault writes:

surveillance and with it normalization becomes one of the great instruments of power at the end of the classical age. For the marks that once indicated status, privilege and affiliation were increasingly replaced—or at least supplemented—by whole range of degrees of normality indicating membership to a homogeneous social body...In a sense, the power of normalization imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible to measure gaps, to determine levels…to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another. (187)

Individuals might be aware of the phenomenon of Internet rage, but they are often not conscious of it in their own practice of social media. If, as Christopher Higgs notes, dehumanization is the “psychological capacity to relegate people to the status of non-human animals, and so to deprive them of the protection normally accorded to fellow humans by moral codes,” then expressions of Internet rage dehumanize the anonymous individual whose virtual personality is, most often, nothing more than a summation of their profile pictures, public posts, and the perceptions that social media users project onto them based solely on their posts (31). The normalization process equips individuals with this “psychological capacity” that inoculates them from the effect that their Internet rage has or its moral standing. Further, exaggerated expressions like #DeathTo are often responses to acts that have no immediate bearing on the reality of the individual who does the shaming. The intensity of such responses, moreover, is at odds with their transient nature. A day after Powers’ death, the rage channeled towards her finds another target in Tusk, an American rapper who [page 15] is touring England. Thus, as Firmin deBrabander points out, “individuals not only accept this form of discipline, but it soon becomes invisible to them, and they willingly perpetuate it. Surveillance makes power…less about the top-down threat of violence, and more about ‘a network of relations’ that induces acquiescence.”

The digital vitriol to which Tusk is subjected—for publicly demoralizing a nine-year-old fan who aspires to be a dancer—includes the #DeathTo, and by the end of the day, he is also murdered. As Parke and Colson are investigating the murder of Powers, Shaun Li, who works for the National Crime Agency, is handling Tusk’s case (possibly because Tusk is a high profile visitor from America). Autopsies reveal that both Powers and Tusk were killed by ADIs that tunneled their way through the victims’ ear canals and to their brains’ pain center (the dorsal posterior insula), causing, as the doctor states, “agony [that is] off the scale.”

Colson then discovers that on the weekend before Powers was murdered, “identical tweets from a set of duplicate bot accounts” were used to seed the Internet with #DeathTo—in order to “get it out there…wanting people to pick up on it,” she explains. One of the bot accounts, which has a honeybee as its profile picture, released a short video which explains that the hash-tag facilitates an “unpopularity contest” called “Game of Consequences” in which social media users “pick a target” and “post their name and photo with #DeathTo”. The “most popular target is eliminated after 5pm,” the video promises, and the game resets at midnight. Users like Bahar who post the hash-tag are not aware that their actions cause literal deaths. They see it as nothing more than a form of virtual punishment. As one of the social media users in the episode puts it: “if you're an arsehole, you deserve to be shamed.” The hash-tag gains momentum, as Colson points out, with each passing day: “Day one. 63 people used the hash-tag on Jo Powers, okay? On day two, 223 used it on Tusk…[and now] at number one is 880 people using it on someone called Clara Meades.” deBrabander likens such a form of justice, in which multiple digital critiques of someone’s actions are meted out from behind a screen, to “Foucault’s conception of power which in turn resembles Sigmund Freud’s description in Civilization and its Discontents (1930) of the role of the ‘super-ego’ in the human psyche: a restraining, moralizing agency installed by civilization in each individual.” [page 16]

The rising popularity of the hash-tag also underscores the fact that the “act of watching is itself a devastating exercise of power…[for social media users who] patrol the boundary between what is normal and acceptable, and what is shameful and deviant,” and “whereas Big Brother tried to crush people’s emotions and desires in order to control them, our current system supports, excites and ultimately harnesses those desires in order to exercise control” (deBrabander). If, as Foucault states, “visibility is a trap” (200), then, as deBrabander clarifies, “allowing oneself to be watched, and learning to watch others, is both seductive and dangerous.” Giving in to the seductive power of the provocative hash-tag makes users visible in a way that is fatal, for their visibility is a trap set up by Scholes.

It is worth making a distinction at this juncture between the two kinds of ADI-assisted murders that take place in the episode. Within the first forty-five minutes, viewers witness the deaths of Jo Powers, Tusk, and Clara Meades, who are victims of social media abuse. The 387,000 social media abusers who die off-screen in the episode’s final act are Scholes’ ultimate target. Killing them is his endgame. He kills the first three individuals to bait more social media users into using the abusive hash-tag—#DeathTo—with which he has seeded the Internet. Further, the cinematic apparatus reveals the struggle between the two competing forces within the convulsive bodies of Tusk and Meades and the mutilated body of Powers, thus allowing viewers to imagine how the bodies of over three million social media (ab)users might have convulsed in the moments before their death.

Clara Meades is, as mentioned, the third target of the Game of Consequences. Having understood the game’s modus operandi, Parke, Colson, and Li have her secured in a remote location. Meanwhile, Sjolberg detects the breach in the ADI system and attempt to purge the culprit out of the system. He is not yet aware that Scholes is the one hacking into the system, so that to him, the offender remains a faceless individual behind the digital map that marks the various locations the ADIs in the UK. Scholes’ anonymity is an ironic double of the anonymity of the social media users whom he targets, individuals who shame others from behind a screen. Scholes’ technical expertise, as it turns out, surpasses that of the system’s creators, and he locks Sjolberg out of the system and assumes control of not just one ADI but of hives full of them. [page 17] Each becomes possessed with his code-consciousness. Consequently, viewers, along with Li and Colson, watch a swarm of bees approach the building where Meades is secured, their frenzied arrival a visual echo of the predatory attack depicted in Alfred Hitchock’s movie The Birds(1963). Despite the best efforts of Parke and Colson, a bee finds its way into Meades’ brain through her nose, and she dies for having committed the mistake of posting a picture in which she pretends to be urinating on a war memorial.

By the next morning, the news catches wind of the three murders that have “possibly” been caused a hash-tag on the Internet, and even as reporters wonder if this is no more than “urban myth,” users decide to continue using it, because “someone's gotta be top of the list…so why not make it someone, you know, who deserves it, like a racist?” Therefore, next on the “chopping board” is the U.K.’s governor, Tom Pickering. There seems to be a general consensus that his conservative politics, particularly towards healthcare for the underprivileged, is what earned him that place. To protect himself, Pickering considers a variety of measures whose drastic nature betray his fear; he considers, among other things, defaming a fellow-politician and shutting down the Internet. Thus, the public divests him of his power by using a hash-tag and, in doing so, fosters another kind of shared power that deBrabander calls “decentered power.” In its new avatar, power is still “meant to signify control, mastery, governance—in short, the philosophical project associated with Descartes, who assigned mankind the mission of exercising dominion over the world, and over mankind itself” (Dupuy x).

Early on in the episode, Colson tells Parke that some people “reckon the government uses the bees to spy on us,” and in response Parke says, “Let me guess, this is some people on the Internet?” Only after the third ADI-assisted murder does Li reveal that the government uses the ADIs for “spying on the public, and keeping them safe.” What Colson calls “total nationwide surveillance,” Gilles Deleuze calls a control that is “continuous and without limit,” and Foucault calls an “inspection” that “functions ceaselessly” for “the gaze is alert everywhere” (33, 196). The government funds the ADI project under the condition that it is allowed to use it for surveillance: in the words of Li, “government's not going to pump billions into it just ’cause some lab coat says so, [page 18] and it grabs 200 green votes. They saw an opportunity to get more, they took it.” The resultant drone system, used not exclusively for “propping up the ecosystem,” creates “the problematic of an architecture that is no longer built simply to be seen (as with the ostentation of palaces), or to observe the external space (the geometry of fortresses)” by producing in its stead a system that is also used “to permit an internal, articulated and detailed control—to render visible those who are inside it…to act on those it shelters” (Foucault 172). The governmental usage of the ADIs turns them to a

central point that would be both the source of light illuminating everything, and a locus of convergence for everything that must be known: a perfect eye [from whose gaze] nothing would escape…a machinery of control…formed around men…an apparatus of observation…[that] is everywhere and always alert…it leaves no zone of shade and constantly supervises…and [is] absolutely 'discreet', for it functions permanently and largely in silence.” (Foucault 173)

The ADIs are equipped with a facial recognition technology that Scholes taps into and uses to identify his first three victims. They are manufactured with this feature in order to do the work that government has in mind for them. Thus, because they are constructed to be instruments of surveillance, they turn into instruments of cyberterrorism.

In the culture of social media justice, criticism is leveled at an individual rather than at his or her post, and through the collective blaming, the post—its inappropriateness—becomes the individual. Users who tag Powers, Tusk, and Meades with #DeathTo are unaware of the complex constellation of acts, identities, and expressions of which they are made up. For instance, the Tuck who discourages his young fan is not the Tuck who shares an easy camaraderie with his friends, a side to him that the episode’s audience sees but the social media users in the narrative do not. The photograph that accompanies the hash-tag is itself a reduced, static copy of the individual, and the singular association that is forged between the individual’s photograph and the individual’s act that is being criticized, often out of context, separates the snapshot from the person—who she is—by another degree. For instance, the photograph of Powers that accompanies the post “Adolf Hitler [page 19] and Jo Powers stand in front of you. You have one bullet. #dilemma #DeathTo @JoPowersWriter” becomes less a picture of her and more a performance of the single act for which she is being criticized. Seen in this light, the photographs that appear in social media feeds—the circulated personalities of Tusk, Powers, or Meads—are akin to a simulacrum, that by definition is “a copy of a copy whose relation to the model has become so attenuated that it can no longer properly be said to be a copy. It stands on its own as a copy without a model” (Massumi 91).

N. Katherine Hayles, in her work on posthuman studies, also states that digital spaces caused what she calls a “blurring and transition” of identity (17). Citing the works of Sherry Turkle, she adds that the “Internet enables people to construct their identity in…a ‘culture of simulation,’ which is in turn part of a larger cultural context: the postmodern story of ‘eroding boundaries between…the unitary and the multiple self.’” (17). Where users have agency in their avatars or virtual personalities that they engender in MUDs (multi-user role-playing games), for example, or in social media, the particular narrative that one user ascribes to another in the Game of Consequences strips the latter ofagency, so that she has no say in the narrative circulated and associated with her simulacrum. Yet, the underlying logic, that the virtual space allows for the creation of another identity that is removed from the individual, holds.

Similarly, the ADI also becomes a simulacrum: it is meant to be an imitation of a honeybee; in being used by Scholes to kill people, it becomes something else. As Massumi points out, “beyond a certain point, the distinction is no longer one of degree. The simulacrum is less a copy twice removed than a phenomenon of a different nature altogether: it undermines the very distinction between copy and model. The process of its production, its inner dynamism, is entirely different from that of its supposed model; its resemblance to it is merely a surface effect, an illusion” (91).In the light of my earlier claim, that the intersection of two acts of surveillance—individuals monitored on social media, the public monitored through the ADIs—triggers an act of technological possession, one may note that social media surveillance associates #DeathTo with the image (the first simulacrum) and the ADI (the second simulacrum), and identifies its victim using the first simulacrum. Thus, the original thesis statement may now be [page 20] restated as follows: the two forms of surveillance intersect when the simulacrums that they produce are put in dialogue by Scholes to facilitate an act of technological possession. As a result, the episode’s human culture transitions towards a posthuman culture.

The Posthuman Symptoms of “Hated in the Nation”

Parke is at first convinced that Powers has been murdered by her husband. When Colson sifts through the social media vitriol directed at Powers in an attempt to find clues or motives that might have been left online, Parke says, “That Internet stuff drifts off like weather. It's half hate. They don't mean it.” Bahar’s confession, that her usage of #DeathTo was meant to be a joke, underscores Parke’s argument that social media conversations have no implications beyond the virtual portals in which they circulate. Bahar says she was exercising her “freedom of speech” with the vitriol that she levels at Powers, but the contradiction is perhaps lost upon her: instead of critiquing the article that Powers writes, she shames Powers with a tweet and a cake with an obscene message, so that she ends up critiquing the freedom of speech that Powers exercises in writing the article. Further, she unconsciously absorbs what she sees as she scrolls through her news feed and replicates its language—lingo—in her post and then, as she confesses, forgets all about it until prompted by Colson, so that her digital footprint, like that of many social media users, reflects an absence of agency. In the context of a paranormal possession, an individual who is possessed has no agency over her actions (even when it might appear to onlookers, who are unaware of the possession, that the individual is making conscious decisions). The ghost that takes control of a person’s body makes her perform acts that she might not recollect later. Similarly, possessed by groupthink, a penchant for passive absorption and unconscious replication, and the desire for endorsement, social media users produce digital content (comments, posts, images) that they are not fully conscious of in the moment and that they don’t always remember after the fact.

The observation that Hayles makes about the posthuman subject is pertinent to this context: “the presumption that there is an agency, desire, or will belonging to the self and clearly distinguished from the ‘wills of others’ is undercut in the [page 21] posthuman, for the posthuman's collective heterogeneous quality implies a distributed cognition located in disparate parts that may be in only tenuous communication with one another” (4). On social media platforms, the “distributed cognition” of “collective heterogeneous” human subjects manifests as zones of homogeneity separated by gaps that are often left unbridged. Politically left-leaning and right-leaning users are a handy example: each group forms a separate echo chamber and they are either unwilling to interact with each other or they shame each other when they do interact (in the comments section of a think-piece about gun control, for example). It is human participation that animates the platform of social media, but social media, in its capacity as a tool of surveillance and normalization, erases or diminishes the quality of individual wills: for individuals, constantly watched, acquiesce and, ironically, give one kind of power to exert another. Over time, the habit is internalized and the absence of a clear individual will becomes the norm in one’s practice of virtual conversations. Thus, as Hayles adds, “If ‘human essence’ is freedom from the ‘wills of others,’ the posthuman is ‘post’ not because it is necessarily unfree but because there is no a priori way to identify a self-will that can be clearly distinguished from an other-will” (4).

Quoting Turkle, as Hayles adds, on the one hand,

people…log on to a community where they have virtual friends and lovers…not thinking of the computer…as an analytical engine…[but] as an intimate machine,” and on the other, they produce, through and in the same community, an alternate, performative self who partakes of the act of social media surveillance, publicly denouncing a community member and sharing opinions that would earn the community’s endorsement; if in the former instance the individual exercises his gaze on another then in the latter he willingly becomes the subject of another’s gaze (Turkle 1996: 26).

Tess Wallender, an ex-employee of Granular, “took a photo of a guy on the Tube, said he'd harassed her, lewd comments or something. Turned out he had a learning disability so she caught a ton of shit on social media.” When Parke interviews her along with other ex-employees of Granular (as part of her efforts to find the culprit), Wallender says the following about the online hate that she receives: “It was like having a whole weather system turn against [page 22] me. Just hate message after hate message, around the clock, all piling on. It's hard to describe what that does to your head. Suddenly there's a million invisible people, all talking about how they despise you.” (It is worth noting that both she and Parke compare digital vitriol to weather, but whereas in Parke’s version of the metaphor it is harmless, in Wallender’s version it is the source of harm). Wallender’s housemate, as it turns out, is Garret Scholes, who “had a thing for her.” One may safely deduce that having seen what online surveillance does to the one you love, he took the extreme step that he did.

Wallender’s persona that is circulated on social media (that is, Wallender as she is seen by those who shame her) is a simulacrum that bears little similarity to Wallender herself (Wallender’s experience of and take on the situation). As Scott points out, “ontologies…divided into dualistic categories and interacting in linear, cause-and-effect relationships can oversimplify the complexity of social lives” so that only “an ontology of actions…helps theoretically work beyond the impasses one encounters when debating directions and degrees of influence between originals and copies, or between essential natures and social constructions” (90). The two “actions” in this case—the vitriol that reduces Wallender to a particular meaning that is taken out context and blown out of proportion and the social reality of misogyny that causes Wallender to misread the man’s behavior—are conducted in contexts that do not intersect. Thus, their outcomes, the simulacrum and Wallender’s behavior, cannot be placed readily in a comparative dialogue.

If the image-simulacrum is a posthuman phenomenon on account of an absence of agency, then the ADI-simulacrum is a posthuman phenomenon because it is a prime example of information stripped of its body. As Hayles notes, “when information loses its body, equating humans and computers is especially easy, for the materiality in which the thinking mind is instantiated appears incidental to its essential nature….in the posthuman, there are no essential differences or absolute demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation, cybernetic mechanism and biological organism, robot teleology and human goals” (3). Scholes diverts the ADIs towards and into his target-victims based on two data points: their IMEI number, a detail drawn from the phone (hardware) from which they share [page 23] their social media vitriol, and the visual reference of their face, a detail drawn from the post (software/interface). These multiple pieces of information all operate out of the body of the ADI.

“We’re not in control anymore” (or) the Advantages of Self-Imposed Limitations

While the primary thrust of “Hated in the Nation”—and, consequently, the focus of this paper—is the technological possession caused by intersection of two forms of surveillance, it is important to consider the necessary condition that is critical to the narrative’s initiation, progress, and eventual culmination in the death of 387,000 individuals: the ADIs exist because honeybees have gone extinct, as has the Siberian crane, following the loss of its wetland habitat, a detail that is revealed by UKN, a fictitious news channel that provides news coverage throughout the Black Mirror galaxy, often doing the work of exposition, providing the background information that is needed to reveal information to viewers within and of the show. ADIs pollinate, have their own hives, and even reproduce. Each new ADI is a 3D print that is equipped with the intelligence that it needs to autonomously perform its intended task of pollination. Yet the ADIs do more than their organic predecessors: they spy on the public and become weapons in cyberwarfare. The sound that the ADIs make mark them as uncannily different from the insects which they look like and imitate: a sound that, as Robbie Collin notes, is “a guttural, steel-mill squeal, halfway between organic and metallic: one at a time they sound like fillings gone wrong or sheared-off fingertips, while in chorus, it’s like the approach of certain death.” They are, therefore, the most drastic posthuman vision made manifest: technology used to build an intelligent machine that is based on but is far superior to an organic life form. Further, despite the similarity in their appearance, the posthuman and the organic bodies cannot procreate or pass on their collective traits to a common progeny (Sorgner 33). This vision, when applied to the human species, entails the use of technology to create a superior posthuman who has evolved from but is far superior to humans and is different enough from them to be a species in its own right.

The haunting visual in the final act—a dimly-lit warehouse full of shrouded corpses captured in long-shot—endorses the need for [page 24] a more pragmatic, restrained version of a posthuman vision, one in which technology helps to create a race that boasts of enhanced cognitive and emotional capabilities but that is human all the same. This altered vision, as Sorgner notes, aligns with Nietzsche’s vision of the Overman. According to Nietzsche (1954), humans are constituted of power quanta: each entity, while self-contained like a monad, can interact with other quanta to beneficial ends. Further, humans display a natural inclination towards evolution, and thereby, a desire to enhance oneself (Sorgner 30). This process, which Nietzsche called overcoming, resulted in the creation of the Overman, who is more evolved than his ancestors but who is, nevertheless, inhibited in his capacity to develop by genetic, situational, or cognitive limitations (33).

Thus, even if hypothetically it were possible to do away with all limitations, it may be necessary, in the long-term interest of humans/posthumans and the surrounding ecosystem in which they subsist, to self-impose some limitations in order to create a posthuman who is evolved but still human and shares a sustainable relationship with his planet. In “Hated in the Nation,” after ADIs have been orchestrated to murder millions, they no longer seem to be in commission; viewers do not see the honeybee clones that, up until the mass killings, have a ubiquitous presence; it is safe to speculate that, in the absence of the pollinating drones, what follows the human catastrophe is an environmental catastrophe.

The one limitation, therefore, that this process of technological enhancement should impose—a trait that should not be lost in the process of “technological selection”—is that of biophilia, which Theodore Roszak defines as “inherent affinity for the environment” (7). He adds that “we can read our transactions with the natural environment, the way we use or abuse their planet, as projections of our unconscious needs and desires, in much the same way we can read dreams and hallucinations to learn about deep motivations, fears, hatred” (7). Roszak thus recommends a move away from transcendence and towards immanence.

The present of the characters in the show and that of the viewers (even if the two temporalities are at different stages of technological advancement) are in the phase of Transhumanism: the viewers and the show’s characters are trading in questions of technology, testing its limits, and exploring its possibilities, all in an attempt to enhance the human state of being. Therefore the [page 25] fictional and real present are in that critical phase where such a limitation can be made integral to the code upon which the future posthuman is constructed.

Freud shared Nietzsche’s vision of human evolution, but his version, which Roszak delineates, is bleaker: “The attributes of life…were at some time evoked in inanimate matter...the tension which then arose in what hitherto had been an inanimate substance endeavored to cancel itself out. In this way, the first instinct came into being: the instinct to return to the inanimate matter” (9). If there is one choice to be made in the present, it should be to self-impose this limitation, which will work against rather than facilitate the instinct to return to the inanimate—and, at a small cost, allow for an environment in which the future iteration of humans can yield the benefits of present technological industry. The alternative, of course, is an evolution that, while enhanced to a point of perfection, will rapidly encounter its annihilation from and in the ecosystem which it inhabits.

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MLA citation (print):

Akella, Shastri. “'We are Not in Control Anymore': Technological Possessions Facilitated by Simulacra in the Posthuman Reality of 'Hated in the Nation.'” Supernatural Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, 2018, pp. 11-26.