Keywords of the Greater Bay Area



Benjamin Bratton


Terraforming is the deliberate composition of a region, ecosystem, or entire planet to make it suitable for "Earth-like" life. Originally coined to describe hypothetical megaprojects on Mars or Luna, it is now clear that the evolutionary career of homo sapiens has had terraforming-scale effects on Earth, albeit ones that were seldom intentional or well-planned and which have made complex life here more precarious. This moment comes with the realization that for a viable planetarity to be achieved, further terraforming will be necessary, but will also demand not the improvisational emergence of past centuries, but the planetary-scale coordination of reason and care. This may resemble governance, or technology, or land-use policy, or biotechnology, but will surely incorporate them all and more into a new institutional form. Properly calibrated, the terraforming will extend the experimental impulses of cosmotechnics that link the scientific disclosures of our astronomic condition to our philosophical reflections—one feeding the other. It will cohere not from the pre-Copernican dominion of humans over their Blue Marble garden, but from a recognition of our own mediality. First, it recognizes that the human form that specifies designs for a planet in the course of terraforming is less the Vitruvian core from which technological prostheses extend than it is the result of millions of years of interfacial co-extension with technical systems. The human is plastic, and so available to further conscious revision. Second, the cognitive capacity for prospective abstraction that models the terraforming-to-come is itself an emergent faculty of the planet, not a virtual superimposition. It is an active by-product of planetary evolutionary unfoldings. The terraforming is foremost a planet thinking itself and artificially composing itself accordingly.

About Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

The "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" is a new construction envisioned from a top-down perspective and territorial integration. It is a blueprint for a future urban development based on efficiency, speed, and mobility. What if we conceive the Greater Bay Area as an experiment, an imaginary experiment? On the one hand, there is the question of 'diversity'. When we talk about smart cities, artificial intelligence, automation, ecological crisis, information security, the future of virtual reality, global trade, etc., where does this view of the future come from, and what determines it? On the other hand, a profound political, spatial, historical, and geographical significance is present in the Greater Bay Area. Is it possible to develop a different imagination based on the history and culture of the "Pearl River Delta-Greater Bay Area;" meaning, to consider a development departing from local knowledge production, negotiating with accelerating technologies, facilitating collaborations between art and other disciplines, and reshaping the vision of institutions of art and technology? By exploring the diversity of technologies, human and non-human ecologies, and reproduction of social relations, might it be possible to reposition the "Greater Bay Area" as a pioneering experiment of southern China's technological and cultural imagination beyond a mere economic zone?

Editors: Jianru Wu, Guo Yun
English editor: Christy Lange