Frames Cinema Journal reviews Human Error

By Sarah Soliman
Frames Cinema Journal

Pettman_Human coverAny number of examples can be held up as supposed proof of mankind’s extraordinariness. Ancient wonders such as the pyramids, scientific milestones like the moon landing, and artistic output from Michelangelo’s David to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to The Beatles’ catalogue (and according to the author of Human Error, his own breakfast crêpes) all attest to the greatness of humanity. Our presumably unique capacity for thought, empathy, speech, and imagination distinguish us from all other earthly beings.

Or so we narcissistically think.

In Human Error, Dominic Pettman confronts the idea of human exceptionalism, arguing that human beings aren’t the privileged species we’d like to believe. Rather than being at the centre of the world, Pettman says we use the world as a massive and infinite mirror that ‘humanity requires…to reassure itself of its enduring beauty’. It reflects what we wish to see, reinforcing our mistaken perception about our own superiority. To challenge this fallacy, Human Error takes up an exploration of the ‘cybernetic triangle’, which has as its three points human, animal, and machine. Throughout the book, Pettman makes use of this triangle to reconfigure the place of the human amongst our animal and technological Others, pointing out that we are not as distant or dissimilar a species as our egos would have us believe.

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