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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 26

Simulation

EVAN SELINGER

According to Sherry Turkle, “In the culture of simulation the notion of authenticity is for us what sex was to the Victorians – ‘threat and obsession, taboo and fascination’.” This observation invites an explanation that can clarify why such strong and mixed sentiments concerning simulation abound.

To the delight of some and the chagrin of others, many of the current debates about simulation can be traced back to Jean Baudrillard’s œuvre. According to Baudrillard, the history of imaging contains four distinct interpretations of what “images” are and symbolize. Initially, Baudrillard contends, images were understood as representations. A proper image, therefore, reflected “basic reality.” In this context, the simple properties of basic images were said to correspond directly to real phenomena: primitive cave paintings referred to real events, like hunting animals, and religious artifacts reflected the basic reality of God’s existence. But, as time progressed, visual culture changed. Baudrillard contends that the mimetic sensibility became eclipsed by three transformative stages that culminated in the present, in an age of simulation. Today, images proliferate that do not contain indexical traces of an original referent. Today, ubiquitous images exist that fail to symbolize the melancholic memento mori. To clarify these points, the remaining three stages require elaboration.

In the second stage, the image becomes synonymous with the process of ...

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