In his last works, Foucault envisioned the space of pleasures liberated from Sex, and one is tempted to claim that Houellebecq's post-human society of clones is the realization of the Foucauldian dream of the Selves who practice the "use of pleasures." While this solution is the fantasy at its purest, the deadlock to which it reacts is a real one: in our postmodern "disenchanted" permissive world, the unconstrained sexuality is reduced to an apathetic participation in collective orgies depicted in Les particules - the constitutive impasse of the sexual relationship (Jacques Lacan's il n'y a pas de rapport sexuel) seems to reach here its devastating apex.
We all know of Alan Turing's famous "imitation game" which should serve as the test if a machine can think: we communicate with two computer interfaces, asking them any imaginable question; behind one of the interfaces, there is a human person typing the answers, while behind the other, it is a machine.
What if sexual difference is not simply a biological fact, but the Real of an antagonism that defines humanity, so that once sexual difference is abolished, a human being effectively becomes indistinguishable from a machine.
Perhaps the best way to specify this role of sexual love is through the notion of reflexivity as "the movement whereby that which has been used to generate a system is made, through a changed perspective, to become part of the system it generates." This appearance of the generating movement within the generated system as a rule takes the form of its opposite; say, in the later stage of a revolutionary process when Revolution starts to devour its own children, the political agent which effectively set in motion the process is renegated into the role of its main obstacle, of the waverers or outright traitors who are not ready to follow the revolutionary logic to its conclusion.
All the celebrating of the new "enhanced" possibilities of sexual life that Virtual Reality offers cannot conceal the fact that, once cloning supplements sexual difference, the game is over.
And, incidentally, with all the focus on the new experiences of pleasure that lay ahead with the development of Virtual Reality, direct neuronal implants, etc., what about new "enhanced" possibilities of TORTURE?
Almost four decades ago, Michel Foucault dismissed "man" as a figure in the sand that is now being washed away, introducing the (then) fashionable topic of the "death of man." Although Houellebecq stages this disappearance in much more naive literal terms, as the replacement of humanity with a new post-human species, there is a common denominator between the two: the disappearance of sexual difference.
hardcore pornography is perceived as the predominant use of cyberspace.
The literal "enlightenment," the "lightness of being," the relief/alleviation we feel when we freely float in cyberspace (or, even more, in Virtual Reality), is not the experience of being bodyless, but the experience of possessing another - aetheric, virtual, weightless - body, a body which does not confine us to the inert materiality and finitude, an angelic spectral body, a body which can be artificially recreated and manipulated.
Abandoned by their hippie mother when they were small, neither has ever properly recovered; all their attempts at the pursuit of happiness, whether through marriage, the study of philosophy, or the consumption of pornography, merely lead to loneliness and frustration.
Bruno ends up in a psychiatric asylum after confronting the meaninglessness of the permissive sexuality (the utterly depressive descriptions of the sexual orgies between forty-somethings are among the most excruciating readings in contemporary literature), while Michel invents a solution: a new self-replicating gene for the post-human desexualized entity.
According to some interpreters, the point is to oppose the two experiments: a successful imitation of a woman's responses by a man (or vice versa) would not prove anything, because the gender identity does not depend on the sequences of symbols, while a successful imitation of man by a machine would prove that this machine thinks, because "thinking" ultimately is the proper way of sequencing symbols...