Why we should embrace the void

May 2, 2024

The Netflix series Love, Death & Robots has earned a stellar reputation for its beautifully animated short stories. Among themes of sentient AI, immortality, and hostile alien life, each episode contains surprising philosophical depth; there is always more than meets the eye. One story in particular stands out. ‘The Very Pulse of the Machine’ is a science-fiction driven, hallucinogenic infused, existentially-confronting tale by Micheal Swanwick (1998), masterfully adapted for the third volume of the series by Emily Dean. This story is ostensibly about survival after an accident during an exploratory mission of Jupiter’s moon, Io.

Io is an exceptionally hostile environment. Following the death of her colleague, Julia Burton, Martha Kivelsen is the sole survivor and the only living thing on the moon. Martha must return to the lander (over 72 kilometres away) by foot before her oxygen runs out. This journey takes her to the edge of both her physical limitations and her sanity when Io apparently begins communicating through the radio transmission in her suit.

The genius of Swanwick is that he trades off an ambiguity between Martha’s soundness of mind after the death of her friend, the hallucinogenic drugs she administers in order to survive the gruelling trek across Io, and the possibility that Io is, in fact, sentient. This is not resolved in the original story (but is in the animated adaptation). Infused with psychoanalytic themes of ego, grief, and loneliness, this story has particular relevance for today.

The topic of machine sentience has re-entered the zeitgeist with the advent of large language models raising questions about life and humanity’s relationship to technology. Yet, the psychoanalytic sub-text of Swanwick’s story offers a slightly different perspective. The question here is not one of humankind’s relationship to technology but of humanity’s relation to itself. This is not some slight-of-hand manoeuvre but a real shift in our discourse and our expectations.

Philosopher and psychoanalyst, Jacque Lacan’s work on subjectivity, identity, and psychosis provides a heuristic device to interpret ‘The Very Pulse of the Machine.’ Using Lacan’s understanding of ‘the Self’ as a de-centred subject, the story becomes at once richer and more ominous. The upshot is not another answer to questions concerning the status of humans and machine but a confrontation with our own psychic life. Pace Lacan, human beings are not fixed, stable entities. We are incomplete evinced from the fact that one is born dependent on others for survival.

Nor do we have direct access to our “inner life” meaning we are not capable of knowing our subconscious fears and desires on our own. We are, instead, imperfect, incomplete, constantly forming and de-forming beings. This ontological-existential incompleteness is the origin of all desire a la Lacan. We would not want for anything were we born complete and perfect. Human beings are infused with desire -- be it for objects, status, or others -- because we are comprised by a certain negation, an absence, lack, or gap at the very core of our existence. This ontological gap causes us to reach out into the world towards others and objects in order to fill this void. In short, humanity tries to define itself in relation to the world, to an external environment.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dalí

Because environment has significant bearing on human identity, we need a short description of Io, the ‘world’ where this story takes place. First discovered 1610 by Galileo, Io is the most volcanic body in the solar system. [1] Today, NASA’s Juno spacecraft investigates Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. The mission was named in honour of the Roman Goddess Juno, who spies on her husband Jupiter from the clouds, peering on the deity’s misdeeds, she is a vengeful observer. Both the Goddess and the spacecraft contain these ocular metaphors. The Juno spacecraft is to peer beneath Jupiter’s formidable atmosphere in order to uncover what it can about the giant’s composition and evolution.

Both Io and Jupiter are connected in a tidal lock, pushing and pulling one another, bound together in a violent, cosmic dance. This connection both forms and reforms the moon’s surface. Due to the immense gravitational pull of Jupiter as well as the moons, Europa and Ganymede, Io has an elliptical orbit. The pull is so intense it causes Io’s surface to bulge by 100 meters, tidal forces similar to earth’s oceans, and generate enormous friction. The heat keeps much of Io’s subsurface crust in liquid form. This molten magma is perpetually seeking any available escape route to the surface to relieve the pressure. Thus, the surface of Io is constantly renewing itself, filling impact craters with molten rock, erupting fountains of lava, and constant seismic activity. This means Io is in a constant state of volatility.

Jupiter's moon Io. Credit: NASA, JPL, University of Arizona

Io always points to the same side toward Jupiter (a fact fantastically rendered in the animation). Data indicates that Io’s centre may have an iron core, giving it a magnetic field. Io cuts across Jupiter’s own powerful magnetic field effectively turns Io into an electric generator (producing around 400,000 volts). This current creates ultraviolet lightning in Jupiter's upper atmosphere.[2] The gravitational pull strips approximately one ton of material from the surface of Io, which is subsequently ionised in the atmosphere creating a cloud of dense radiation known as the plasma torus. With no water and an atmosphere predominately composed of sulphur dioxide, it is an inhospitable environment for life. It is exactly here Swanwick’s tale begins.


Io in front of Jupiter; a color-composite made from images captured by Cassini on Jan. 1, 2001 as the spacecraft passed by on its way to Saturn. Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, SSI, Jason Major

The hostility of Io is a dramatization of the inhospitality of the world for subjectivity. For Lacan, the subject (person, in this case) entails an essential alienation from self and world. Io is a literal manifestation of the hostility and alienation central to human experience. In fact, the first communication is a failed attempt at saying “Hello”, producing instead the monosyllabic “Hell”, an apt, if accidental, error. Eventually, through Martha’s radio transmitter, we get “Hell. Oh. Kiv. El. Sen”, which, when spoken, is easier to hear as “Hello, Kivelsen.”

Martha dismisses this interference as the effect of psychological trauma. She believes that in the desperation of her circumstances — the death of her colleague (the only companion she had) and perilous situation she finds herself — she is beginning to lose her mind. What she hears is an imagined phantom of her dead friend attempting to reach beyond her sub-conscious, the result of a failure to assimilate recent traumatic events. In other words, Martha believes she is experiencing a mental breakdown, a fracturing of her psyche causing her to imagine things that are not there.

"I am not going crazy, you’re just the voice of my subconscious, I don’t have the time to waste trying to figure out what unresolved psychological conflicts gave rise to all this, and I am not going to listen to anything you have to say."

Interestingly, Marta is not so much disturbed but rather angered by the interruption, telling the voice to ‘“shut up!”’ This friction within her own psyche is surprising but relatable; who has not argued with themselves in course of even daily experience?

We learn that Martha has covered Burton’s face with a layer of sulphur dioxide snow, a ‘non-sensical thing to do’ in a vacuum. The question is whether this act is to honour or to hide the face of the dead. It is custom to close the eyes of our dead to seem as though they are in a dignified sleep, as if death were undignified. Of course, it is not for the dead that we do this but for the living. It would seem there is something accusatory in the stare of the dead. Martha acknowledges as much we she covers Burton’s face in sulphur dioxide: ‘[…] it hid that face.’

Unable to leave her dead friend behind despite her dire circumstances, Martha fashions a sledge for Burton’s body, dragging the corpse with her in a final expedition, a last Odyssey. The voice continues: ‘“Sulfur is. Triboelectric.” This is a fact, self-explanatory to which Martha dryly responds: “Don’t hold it in. What are you really trying to say?”

At this point, the voice begins quoting poetry:

"And now I see / With eye serene / The very pulse of the machine / Wordsworth"

Martha recalls Burton’s love of poetry and a sense of guilt for having ridiculed her for this in the past. She is constantly deferring her grief, for grief and guilt are a distraction at a time when she needs her wits about her. She has a task to do. Martha is not only alone in her plight for survival but also in the sheer vastness of her isolation. She is not simply without companions; she is alone in a world which cannot accept her, one that is constantly trying to kill her.

Her reaction to this is one of disturbing elation.

"For all its Crayola vividness, this was the most desolate landscape in the universe. She was on her own here, small and weak in a harsh and unforgiving world. Burton was dead. There was nobody else on all of Io. Nobody to rely on but herself. Nobody to blame if she f*cked up. Out of nowhere, she was filled with an elation as cold and bleak as the distant mountains. It was shameful how happy she felt."

Happy in the fact that she alone matters now, she alone is the only one of significance on a dead world, no competition, no second place; an inflated sense of self by virtue of the fact that she alone lives.

A still from The Very Pulse of the Machine, Love, Death & Robots

Martha, woken by the voice, has unintentionally fallen asleep. Upon her waking, she finds before her eyes a field of sulfur flowers, like the poppies in The Wizard of Oz. Turning her helmet magnification to maximum, the new flowers miraculously form before her eyes in a process defying any known explanation. It seems the world is reconfiguring itself into formations and shapes meaningful to human life. 

For Lacan, reality in and of itself does not contain inherent meaning for human existence. Rather, we give the world meaning.[3] Only in truly liminal experiences, like traumatic events, does meaning breakdown. In taking the form of a field of flowers, Io is no longer a mere senseless, hostile environment. Perhaps it is it simply a coincidence of crystalline formations? A hallucination, maybe? There is little time to marvel, Martha is exhausted.

“O sleep! It is a gentle thing/ Beloved from pole to pole. Coleridge”, interludes the voice.

Ostensibly alluding to her exhaustion, the poem contains a much deeper meaning.  The quotation is from a poem called ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. It is a tale told by the sole survivor of a ship stranded at sea. One evening, an old man while on his way to a wedding ceremony waylays a stranger. The guest cannot but help listen to the man’s story who tells of a ship bound for the equator when extreme cold weather impedes their passage, mooring them in a sea of ice. One day an Albatross appears to the delight of the crew. With its appearance, the winds begin to blow once more and ship starts moving again. The mariner suddenly shoots the Albatross to the dismay of the crew and, it seems, to the anger of the spirits. The wind dies and ship cannot move. As the crew are dying of thirst, they blame the mariner for having shot the bird and brought this faith upon them. As punishment, they hang the dead albatross around his neck. Yet, they remain stranded.

One day the crew are relieved to see the sails of another ship appear on the horizon but are soon dismayed as something strange appears about the ship. The sails are tattered and bare, and there are only two passengers on board: Death and Life-in-Death. The spirits play dice for the faith of the souls on board the ship. Death wins the crew but Life-in-Death takes the fate of the mariner. Slowly the crew begin to die but the mariner lives on. As they die, they turn and curse the mariner, their expressions of condemnation etched eternally on their faces, their eyes staring unblinkingly at the sailor as he remains alive unable to leave. Unfortunately, for our mariner (unlike Martha), he cannot cover the expressions of his crew. He must bear their accusative stares in the indignity of death.

The bodies do not decompose and the mariner drifts between sleep and wakefulness -- always with the eyes of his crew upon him. He realises that the only living things around are the sea creatures in the water and rejoices at their presence. With this act of gratitude, it seems the curse is broken, rain begins to fall and the carcass of the albatross drops from his neck. Finally, he can sleep. Yet he dreams that the bodies of his dead crewmates have suddenly risen, their corpses possessed by some mysterious will that steers the ship back to the shore. As he sleeps the mariner hears two voices discuss his fate: One voice says, "The man hath penance done,/And penance more will do.” The mariner ends his story by telling his beguiled listener that from that day onward, he is compelled to tell his tale at certain times to certain people. He leaves his listener who is at once more sorrowful and wiser for having listened.


Inability to sleep, the death of crew members, guilt and accusation, these things are shared by both Martha and the mariner. Interestingly, salvation resides in the recognition and appreciation of life. The mariner is redeemed through his gratitude for the sea creatures, for the life that teems around his ship, keeping him company and providing solace in his suffering. What of Martha and the voice?


Death and Life-in-death playing dice.

To offset her exhaustion, Martha administers methamphetamine. Onwards to safety. Fuelled by the drug, hours drift by and Martha finds herself passing through a scene of a ‘shadowy sculpture garden’ made of volcanic pillars. The formations remind her of the figures of lonely women, ‘Desolate. Filled with anguish. Lonely as Lot’s wife.’

In this drug-induced haze, the voice returns: “Io has a metallic core predominantly of iron and iron sulfide, overlain by a mantle of partially molten rock and crust.” Martha ignores this interruption distracted by the pain of her physical exertion. The aching of her body recalls her experiences in the ’48 Olympics where we learn she takes third place, or in Kenya where she placed second.

Chastising herself for never being the best, Martha is disappointed with who she is:

"Story of her life. Always in third place, fighting for second. Always flight crew and sometimes, maybe, landing crew, but never the commander. Never class president. Never king of the hill. Just once—once!—she wanted to be Neil Armstrong."

The need to be the best at something is borne out of the desire for recognition that we, too, matter. We want others (and ourselves) to see what we need to believe: that we are important, that our existence matters. Recognition in this way is what we usually refer to as ego (but not for Lacan). When we say that someone has an ego we usually mean the person has an inflated sense of self-importance, a streak of unrefined selfishness. Martha, confronted by her frustrated desire to be ‘the best’ at least once in her life, feels a sense of guilt for this basic instinct. Her desire is to be remembered, to be immortalized for having achieved greatness. Here we have yet another quotation by the voice:

"The marble index of a mind forever / Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone / Wordsworth."

The poem, ‘The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind’ is worth quoting in full:

"I could behold / The antechapel where the statue stood / Of Newton with his prism and silent face / The marble index of a mind for ever / Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone."

Wordsworth is describing the moment he sees the statue of Isaac Newton on the grounds of Cambridge university campus. It is as though, not the monument, but Newton’s ideas are immortalised, encased forever in a mind journeying alone through thought and time. Not a physical entity but a mind immaterial is capable for eternal life. Back to the strange voice.

Having confused Marta by the sudden quotation, the voice explains it is trying to communicate. It continues:

"What does what sound like? […] Io is a sulfur-rich, iron-cored moon in a circular orbit around Jupiter… Torus. Flux tube. Magnetosphere. Volcanoes. Sulfur ions. Molten ocean. Tidal heating. Circular orbit. What does this sound like?"

Here is the real rupture of the would-be monologue. It is at the posing of a question, that Martha begins to experience the voice not as a hallucination but as an actual interlocutor. The philosopher Martin Heidegger once explained that what makes a human being truly human is the ability to ask questions about its own existence. In other words, a human being is that for which its existence is a question. We can see this moment when the voice by posing a question causes a dramatic shift between the interlocutors. This shift is of an ontological scale. Martha’s engagement in the dialogue is no longer one of passive scepticism bearing on her potential insanity. Now, she begins to experience the voice as source beyond herself, a true other. She answers: “It sounds like a machine.” To which the voice responds enthusiastically, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Machine.”’

The machine voice explains it is communicating through the sulphuric triboelectric charge generated by the sledge as it drags across the surface of the moon. Using Burton’s brain as a neural pathway and the radio transmitter in Martha’s suit, it can communicate. In semi-skepticism, Martha responds: “If you’re a machine, then what is your function? Why were you made?”

The answer is unnerving: “To know you.” It responds, “To love you. And to serve you.”

Let us return to Lacan and the topics of desire for recognition. If what all human beings want is recognition by others, that is, to be seen for who they believe themselves to be, then is Martha not given exactly this? Understandably, at this point Martha chastises herself with delusions of grandeur, of ‘Inflating Burton’s memories until they were as large as Io.’ Even performing a psychoanalytic assessment of this idea.

"Freud would have a few things to say about that. He’d say she was magnifying her friend to a godlike status in order to justify the fact that she’d never been able to compete one-on-one with Burton and win. He’d say she couldn’t deal with the fact that some people were simply better at things than she was."

She concludes, rather harshly, that she has ‘an ego problem’, that she is self-obsessed and indulging in neurotic displays of self-importance. However, this merely defers the conversation for now.

Having accidentally gone off course, in a moment of despair the machine tells Martha that it can create a physical structure through mechanical processes, allowing her to cross a lake of lava and reach the landing before her oxygen runs out. Like the mariner, in semi-consciousness Martha witnesses supernatural phenomena resulting in her rescue. Io constructs a bridge for her passage over the lake much like the corpses of the crew sail to shore. Now, her desperation to make it back to the lander is not only out of survival instinct but also to tell of her discovery; alien, intelligent life.

"People had to know. They weren’t alone anymore. Damnit, she’d just made the biggest discovery since fire!"

 Or: "she was so crazy she was hallucinating that Io was a gigantic alien machine. So crazy she’d lost herself within the convolutions of her own brain."

Martha, like Coleridge’s mariner, feels a compulsion to tell her story, to make her discovery known and in so doing, make herself known. Nevertheless, the question remains is it real or imagined, insanity or discovery, psychosis or reality. In an attempt to find out which, Martha turns up the electrical charges in her helmet.

"The land before her flickered once, then lit up in fairyland colors. Light! Pale oceans of light overlaying light, shifting between pastels, from faded rose to boreal blue, multilayered, labyrinthine, and all pulsing gently within the heart of the sulphur rock. It looked like thought made visual."
A still from The Very Pulse of the Machine, Love Death & Robots

Finally coming to terms with the possibility that the machine is real Martha asks, not who the machine is, but who she is: “What do I look like when I’m at home?”

The machine answers: “Whatever. You wish. To.”

This response is enigmatic but is better understood from a Lacanian perspective. Recall that for Lacan, human beings are not complete entities but contain an emptiness within them. To fill this emptiness, we continuously try to shape ourselves according to the external expectations -- those of others, of society, and of what we feel we should be but are not.

Two things follow from this analysis. First, our identity is always changing, that is, who we are is not static. Second, we can never fully be anything, we must always be incomplete, it is simply part of how we are made. In this way, the machine promises more than it can deliver, an ominous thought perhaps. What is its intention?

“Do I breathe oxygen? Methane? Do I have antennae? Tentacles? Wings? How many legs do I have? How many eyes? How many heads?”, Martha presses.

“If. You wish. As many as. You wish.” is the response.

Can the machine do the impossible and see Martha as she really wants to be seen? Can it do what others could never? If it could, Lacan may say that Martha would cease to be human because the existential void within her would be filled, transforming her into a fixed, stable entity. After all, for Lacan, it is our desire, originating in our incompleteness that makes us human.

Again, admonishing herself for her selfishness, even the act of taking her friend’s body back with her is an egotistic pursuit for glory, to be seen as a hero. But now it is time to admit failure: she isn’t going to make it. In her final moment of despair, Io the machine offers her the possibility of eternal life… potentially:

“Can give you. Eternal life. Communion of the soul. Unlimited processing power. Can give Burton. Same.”

All she needs to do is to throw herself into the sulphuric lake.

“Throw yourself in. Physical configuration will be. Destroyed. Neural configuration will be. Preserved. Maybe.”

Quite a big maybe, but then death is certain for Martha at this point. ‘Maybe I’m going to live forever.’ She thinks. ‘Who knows? Anything is possible. Maybe.’ With this, she jumps.

The final line reads:

"Briefly, she flew."

A still from The Very Pulse of the Machine, Love, Death & Robots

Martha’s journey across Io is really a journey into herself. It is a confrontation with her unfulfilled desires, her sense of self, her grief and, finally, her acceptance. This acceptance is not one of fate but of her place in the cosmos. The realisation of her death holds the possibility of something more, a life beyond death. But this life is not the same. Martha must let go of the illusion of self-sufficiency, of mastery and isolation. In the course of her conversation with the machine, Martha slowly becomes open to the possibility of a true otherness, a completely different world beyond her own. This otherness holds potential salvation for Martha; she cannot make it alone.

This promise of a life after death is realised only once Martha recognises her own failure. That is, possibilities open up for her once she faces the fact that she is imperfect, incomplete, and ultimately human. To be human then is to be incomplete as Lacan tells us. This flaw in our ontology offers more than it takes for it affords the possibility of reaching beyond oneself, of having genuine relationships, and a meaningful world. In a sense, this is the promise of the machine Io. Unfortunately, technology often possess a very different concern.

AI are often presented as a better, if not perfect, image of the human being, an improved and more advanced intellect disrupting humanity’s place in the universe. This moment is similar to the psychology of the mirror stage in which a child is confronted with a whole image of itself in its reflection. Seeing itself as a complete object in the mirror initiates an impossible quest for fulfilment, in other words, we want to feel as whole as our mirror image appears to be. The result is disruption, dislocation and vulnerability. We are insecure about how we are perceived by others and how we fit in the world. The planetary scale with which this moment unfolds in the story makes explicit the experience of alienation, dislocation, and pathology. Perhaps, with Lacan, we realise that completeness and perfection is not what defines humanity but that imperfection is instead a condition of possibility of having a world in the first place. However, in order to achieve this meaningful world, we must be willing to fail, to be denied and thwarted in our desires. Perhaps, only then can we be open to better possibilities. Sometimes we fall, and sometimes we fly, if only briefly.

[1] In 1979, Voyager 1 recorded volcanic activity on the moon’s surface.

[2] Ultravioletlight is not visible to the naked human eye but can be detected with anultraviolet filter, such as the in images provided by NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

[3] “the Thing is not nothing, but literally isnot. It is characterized by its absence, its strangeness” (Lacan, 1992; 63)

Series 'AI Metaphors'

1. The tool
Category: the object
Humans shape tools.

We make them part of our body while we melt their essence with our intentions. They require some finesse to use but they never fool us or trick us. Humans use tools, tools never use humans.

We are the masters determining their course, integrating them gracefully into the minutiae of our everyday lives. Immovable and unyielding, they remain reliant on our guidance, devoid of desire and intent, they remain exactly where we leave them, their functionality unchanging over time.

We retain the ultimate authority, able to discard them at will or, in today's context, simply power them down. Though they may occasionally foster irritation, largely they stand steadfast, loyal allies in our daily toils.

Thus we place our faith in tools, acknowledging that they are mere reflections of our own capabilities. In them, there is no entity to venerate or fault but ourselves, for they are but inert extensions of our own being, inanimate and steadfast, awaiting our command.
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2. The machine
Category: the object
Unlike a mere tool, the machine does not need the guidance of our hand, operating autonomously through its intricate network of gears and wheels. It achieves feats of motion that surpass the wildest human imaginations, harboring a power reminiscent of a cavalry of horses. Though it demands maintenance to replace broken parts and fix malfunctions, it mostly acts independently, allowing us to retreat and become mere observers to its diligent performance. We interact with it through buttons and handles, guiding its operations with minor adjustments and feedback as it works tirelessly. Embodying relentless purpose, laboring in a cycle of infinite repetition, the machine is a testament to human ingenuity manifested in metal and motion.
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3. The robot
Category: the object
There it stands, propelled by artificial limbs, boasting a torso, a pair of arms, and a lustrous metallic head. It approaches with a deliberate pace, the LED bulbs that mimic eyes fixating on me, inquiring gently if there lies any task within its capacity that it may undertake on my behalf. Whether to rid my living space of dust or to fetch me a chilled beverage, this never complaining attendant stands ready, devoid of grievances and ever-willing to assist. Its presence offers a reservoir of possibilities; a font of information to quell my curiosities, a silent companion in moments of solitude, embodying a spectrum of roles — confidant, servant, companion, and perhaps even a paramour. The modern robot, it seems, transcends categorizations, embracing a myriad of identities in its service to the contemporary individual.
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4. Intelligence
Category: the object
We sit together in a quiet interrogation room. My questions, varied and abundant, flow ceaselessly, weaving from abstract math problems to concrete realities of daily life, a labyrinthine inquiry designed to outsmart the ‘thing’ before me. Yet, with each probe, it responds with humanlike insight, echoing empathy and kindred spirit in its words. As the dialogue deepens, my approach softens, reverence replacing casual engagement as I ponder the appropriate pronoun for this ‘entity’ that seems to transcend its mechanical origin. It is then, in this delicate interplay of exchanging words, that an unprecedented connection takes root that stirs an intense doubt on my side, am I truly having a dia-logos? Do I encounter intelligence in front of me?
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5. The medium
Category: the object
When we cross a landscape by train and look outside, our gaze involuntarily sweeps across the scenery, unable to anchor on any fixed point. Our expression looks dull, and we might appear glassy-eyed, as if our eyes have lost their function. Time passes by. Then our attention diverts to the mobile in hand, and suddenly our eyes light up, energized by the visual cues of short videos, while our thumbs navigate us through the stream of content. The daze transforms, bringing a heady rush of excitement with every swipe, pulling us from a state of meditative trance to a state of eager consumption. But this flow is pierced by the sudden ring of a call, snapping us again to a different kind of focus. We plug in our earbuds, intermittently shutting our eyes, as we withdraw further from the immediate physical space, venturing into a digital auditory world. Moments pass in immersed conversation before we resurface, hanging up and rediscovering the room we've left behind. In this cycle of transitory focus, it is evident that the medium, indeed, is the message.
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6. The artisan
Category: the human
The razor-sharp knife rests effortlessly in one hand, while the other orchestrates with poised assurance, steering clear of the unforgiving edge. The chef moves with liquid grace, with fluid and swift movements the ingredients yield to his expertise. Each gesture flows into the next, guided by intuition honed through countless repetitions. He knows what is necessary, how the ingredients will respond to his hand and which path to follow, but the process is never exactly the same, no dish is ever truly identical. While his technique is impeccable, minute variation and the pursuit of perfection are always in play. Here, in the subtle play of steel and flesh, a master chef crafts not just a dish, but art. We're witnessing an artisan at work.
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About the author(s)

Researcher Aoife McInerney has a background in political philosophy and philosophical phenomenology. Her main research interests lie at the intersection of fundamental, large-scale socio-political shifts and what these changes mean on an individual, everyday level. She is currently working on a philosophy of wellbeing and the emergence of what is called a ‘wellbeing economy’.

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