Tobias Rees is the founding Director of the Institute’s Transformations of the Human Program. He also serves as Reid Hoffman Professor of Humanities at the New School for Social Research and is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
The focus of Rees’s work is on the philosophy, poetry, and politics of the contemporary.
He is intrigued by situations that are not reducible to the already thought and known –– by events, small ones or large ones, that set the taken for granted in motion and thereby provoke unanticipated openings for which no one has words yet. In his writings – he seeks to capture something of the at times wild, at other times tender, almost fragile openness that rules as long as the new/different has not yet gained any stable contours. When it is (still) pure movement.
His work on the brain, on microbes, snails and AI have increasingly given rise to two observations that have come to define his work.
(1) A distinctive feature of the present is that the question concerning the human occurs less in the human than in the non-human sciences. Say, in microbiome research, in AI or in the study of climate change.
(2) The tentative answers that are emerging from these non-human fields radically defy the understanding of the human as more than mere nature and as other than mere machines on which the human sciences were built.
What to do with the displacement of questions that defined the arts into the fields of the sciences and engineering?
Alone and together with colleagues in philosophy, art, and the sciences/engineering Rees has sought to build conceptual and institutional possibilities for addressing just this question.
He has also worked as an advisor for many North American and European Universities for how to re-invent the human sciences.
Rees is the author of dozens of articles and three books: Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary (2008), Plastic Reason (2016), and most recently of After Ethnos (2018).