Claire Isabel Webb directs the Berggruen Institute’s Future Humans program that investigates the histories and futures of life, mind, and outer space. With the advent of invented life, computational intelligences, and extraterrestrial exploration, what will it mean to be human in the future? How will humans relate to multifarious entities from microbes, to rhizomes, to sperm whales, to AIs, to possible alien life forms? Future Humans projects address these questions in several registers: in the science and speculative fiction writing workshop Vaster than Empires; in Embodied Machines that considers the slippage between increasingly unstable categories of the mechanical and the biological; and Life, Otherwise, a imaginative exosolar system in which leading exoplanetary astronomers and astrobiologists simulate life and worlds beyond Earth.
Webb earned her Ph.D. from MIT’s History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) program in 2020. Her book project, Reflexive Alienation, explores how scientists since the Space Age, despite alien life forms' perpetual and perhaps permanent unknowability, have designed sophisticated experiments of expectation that anticipate Other biologies and intelligences.