The Consolation of the Weak

It is a mere consolation to the timid to imagine that philosophy has died. The fact of
the matter is quite to the contrary. Philosophy will be the last of human things; perhaps
the efficient impulse of the end. That humanity is fated to terminate is amongst the most
basic thoughts, and no more than the most elementary qualification for philosophy, since
to think on behalf of one’s species is a miserable parochialism.

 – Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

The Happiness of Secular Man

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Ever since it became theoretically evident that our precious personal identities were just brand-tags for trading crumbs of labour-power on the libidino-economic junk circuit, the vestiges of authorial theatricality have been wearing thinner. … Where Descartes needed God to mediate his relations with his fellows, secular man is happy with his television set, and with all the other commodified channels of pseudo-communication with which his civilization has so thoughtfully endowed him. Such things are for his own protection of course; to filter out the terrifying threat of infection. If openness to alterity, base communication, and experimental curiosity are marks of an exuberant society, its only true gauge lies in its tendency to be decimated by sexually transmitted diseases and nihilist religion.

– Nick Land, A Thirst For Annihilation

Time to die… Replicant Dreams, Replicant Futures

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Roy: I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those … moments will be lost in time, like tears…in rain. Time to die.

Most of us remember Roy and his fellow replicants, artificially constructed autonomous systems that reduplicate human appearance, fought wars at the edge of the galaxy, and returned to earth to seek out the one thing that would give them what they needed, more life – a life without end. In the end though they, like us die; yet, they were built to die within a prescribed time, a fatal time of a few years. The difference for them is that they new exactly when they’d die, unlike us who live with the illusion that we have years and years ahead of us, that death is something beyond – an unfathomable destination or as Shakespeare so eloquently put it, “The Undiscovered Country”.

Being animals we’ve watched as loved one’s went to that silent world of darkness, pondered the fate of this realm of finality. Throughout time humanoid like beings, even our extinct neighbors, the Neanderthals were fascinated by death, creating art and ritual for burial and mourning. Humans have always been fascinated by the prospects that death is not final, that there must be something beyond, something that transcends this plane of existence, something else that continues on beyond oblivion. In our age at post-Enlightenment philosophy we still ponder the world of death. Atheists and secularists will side with the sciences and naturalists who say: This is it, there is nothing else, we die, caput. In fact, there is no one and nothing that even exists to go on, that the illusion of self is itself a product of a phantasm created by the brain itself; the first-person perspective that the “I” exists is nothing more than the projections of the brain’s own interventions into the body’s processes, a continuity of phenomenal naturalism that creates the illusion of self as the center of consciousness, when in fact it is but the ephemeral bit player and end point of processes that take place deep within the decisioning systems of the brain itself. That the free-will we think we have is actually the fatal strategy of necessity itself, a part of the fatalism of the brain’s own processes in its quest to survive in a hostile universe.

Some like the philosopher Gilles Deleuze would describe the illusion of self and world, this notion of an inner self and an external world is merely a trick played on us by the brain, that in fact things are closer to what Spinoza once suggested, that there is no duality, that we exist on a plane of immanence. Deleuze would say it this way: “The important thing is to understand life, each living individuality, not as a form, or a development of form, but as a complex relation between differential velocities, between deceleration and acceleration of particles. A composition of speeds and slownesses on a plane of immanence.” … and, that our bodies are shaped by “capacities for affecting and being affected… not by its form, nor by its organs or functions, nor as substance or subject. (123)”1 Against Plato, Aristotle, the Scholastics, and all those who had seen life under the eye of a dualistic structure of Subject/Object and Substantive formalism Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bataille, and Deleuze would say ‘no’ – there is only velocities and capacities, not form and substance, minds and bodies. So that we are pure process rather than things that exist as definitive beings. In fact the whole conception of Western Metaphysics is a lie for such thinkers, the whole notion of some grand unified Being, the One is itself an illusion of the Philosophers. That there is only becoming, only process, and nothing else.

So that with Lucretius the first poet of process, and who would introduce the trope for change, the clinamen or swerve. He gave us this power and force of endless metamorphosis, of a universe open and unfinished. One that had no beginning, no creator; and, no end point, or telos, toward which everything is moving; no progress of time. In a realm of pure creation there is no time, no stopping point, no settled place or resting point to stabilize the realm of Being, to solidify and capture, freeze the world into form or substance. We’ve been tricked and captured by an ancient fear, a world of thought and logic that sought to keep us ill-informed, to bind us to its rigid hierarchy of Being, to dominate us and imprison us with its dubious and corrupting logic of the Word. So began the long invention of the human.

If you’ve ever read the French author Michel Houellebecq and found him disturbing it’s because like many children of Democritus, Lucretius, Spinoza … he discovered early on that modern Westerners are hopelessly lost in a false world of narcissistic self-immolation, because they have removed themselves from life through layers and layers of abstraction. The greatest abstraction ever invented by the human is ‘transcendence’, the notion of immortality, the notion of survival of a substantive form, the Self itself transcending death into a life-without-end. Norman O. Brown once suggested:

It is the flight from death that leaves mankind with the problem of what to do with its own innate biological dying, what to do with its own repressed death. Animals let death be a part of life, and use the death instinct to die: man aggressively builds immortal cultures and makes history in order to fight death.2

Western Civilization and Culture is itself an immortality machine, an engine of transcendence, and even now at the edge of extinction, when climate change and the slow death of earth is before us our fantasists, the Transhumanists dream of the purity of perfection and immortality, of overcoming death in a life without end. As Ernest Becker in his Escape From Evil once stated:

Civilization, the  rise  of   the  state,  kingship,  the  universal  religions-all  are  fed
by  the  same  psychological  dynamic :  guilt  and  the  need  for  re­demption.  If it  is   no  longer  the  clan  that  represents  the  collective immortality  pool,  then  it is  the  state,  the  nation,  the  revolutionary cell,  the  corporation,  the  scientific  society,  one’s  own  race. Man still  gropes  for  transcendence… (119).3

Talking of Alan Harrington’s book from 1977 The Immortalists, one of the early technoimmortal visionaries of the transhuman project, John Gray the conservative philosopher would suggest, “Like the anti-heroes of Dostoevsky admired by Stalin, believers in technological immortality want to become God.”4 There are those like Ray Kurzweil who dream of even living on through changing substrates, unsatisfied by the organic bodies we have through evolution been subjected too for millions of years, he believes it is time to go robotic,

The most radical aspect of transhumanism is the scenario that humans will be able to transport the content of their brains, their minds, to a nonbiological entity and thereby achieve immortality. Kurzweil and other transhumanist visionaries imagine a “brain-porting scenario” that will involve “scanning a human brain capturing all of the salient details.” This will entail reinstantiating the brain’s state in a different—most likely much more powerful—computational substrate. According to Kurzweil this will be a feasible procedure and will happen most likely around the late 2030s.5

As a recent article on the Guardian suggests “immortality could be sneaking up faster than we can believe. Barely a month goes by without some new advance in organ replacement, and a recent operation to replace a boy’s windpipe with one generated from his own stem cells was called “embarrassingly simple” by the specialist in charge.” This article mentions the Sens Foundation, led by the radical immortalist Aubrey De Grey, who proposes a brutally simple plan to give humans an unbeatable protection against cancer. This involves limiting human cells’ ability to divide at cancerous levels, with regular top-ups from externally grown cells replacing worn-out tissue.

Alexander Chisholm makes light of such an immorality saying, an immortal future would not be a perfect utopia. Deadly accidents would still happen. Society would still be riddled with flaws, foibles, sorrows and absurdities. We would have to deal with those, as we always have done. At an individual level, people worry about their health, avoid the red meat counter, and spend a fortune on supplements while grinding themselves to a pulp in the gym. All these tiny tweaks add but a few years to your life and come at a cost of time, money or sensation.

Chisoholm takes the liberal stance nonchalantly, as if the world would go on as usual, that people would just continue their haphazard way, with just a few minor updates here and there; no big deal. But … there is always a but… what of a world that continues to populate itself? With the billions already existing how would we look a few centuries from now? If we have 6 billion now… would we think 20, 30, even a 100 billion down the pipe… and, would the earth support and sustain such a population? Would things become quite maddening in a world of density, a maze world, much like the experiments of the 50’s with rats running in a maze, overpopulating to the point that in the end they kill each other off, then go extinct? I josh, but seriously… or, we could take it the other path, that immortality would become something earned, or monetary, or lottery? Would it become a transhuman species bifurcation, wherein only the new update humanity 2.0 can enter this immortal realm? Or, even the next step, only those who have become robotic transplanters, shifted substrates? And, who will qualify for such a shift?

As Massimo Pigliucci said recently in critique of such a world of immortals and transhumanist techno-untopianism:

There are several problems with the pursuit of immortality, one of which is particularly obvious. If we all live (much, much) longer, we all consume more resources and have more children, leading to even more overpopulation and environmental degradation. Of course, techno-optimists the world over have a ready answer for this: more technology. To quote Munkittrick again: “Malthus didn’t understand that technology improves at an exponential rate, so even though unaided food production is arithmetic, the second Agricultural Revolution allowed us to feed more people by an order of magnitude.” Yes, and how do we explain that more people than ever are starving across the world? Technology does not indefinitely improve exponentially, and it must at some point or another crash against the limits imposed by a finite world. We simply don’t have space, water and other prime materials to feed a forever exponentially increasing population. Arguably, it is precisely technology that created the problem of overpopulation, as the original agricultural revolution (the one that happened a few thousand years ago) lead to cycles of boom and bust and to the rapid spread of disease in crowded cities.

Of course we’ve all heard this argument before, too. The argument against technology, etc. Yet, ultimately Pigliucci’s real argument comes at the end when he tells us that true immortality …must be unbearable for any sentient being: imagine having so much time on your hands that eventually there will be nothing new for you to do. You would be forced to play the same games, or watch the same movies, or take the same vacation, over and over and over and over. Or you might kill time by reading articles like the one by Munkittrick literally an infinite number of times. Hell may be other people, as Sartre said, but at least at the moment we don’t have to live in Hell forever. (ibid.)

One might call this the argument from boredom. Of course I’ve written of boredom before. I once suggested that behind the concept of the future there is a nagging sense that we may never transcend the present moment? Isn’t the future all about transcendence? Can we ever get out of this deadly circle and truly discover an unknown future, or are we condemned to repeat ourselves infinitely. The future as boring is like a character waiting for a Godot who will never appear, it’s the plunge of a vehicle toward a cliff in which one is handcuffed. With anxiety and trepidation one knows what is coming but one knows as well that one is without redress toward its consequences. All one can do is suffer the future; no more, no less. Is this not the predicament of the Left at the moment. Is this not what Debord railed against as counter-revolutionary? A nostalgia for possibilities rather than the knowledge that one must construct the future rather that wait for it passively like some bored aesthete of time.

And, I remember quoting Samuel Beckett who suggested “The boring is ugly, or rather: Ugliness to the point of the dead, empty, tautological awakens a feeling of boredom in us. The beautiful allows us to forget time, because, as something eternal and self-sufficient, it also transports us to eternity and thus fills us with bliss. But if the emptiness of a view becomes so great that we begin to pay attention to time as time, we notice the lack of content of pure time – and this feeling is boredom. Boredom is not comic in itself, but a turn-around towards the comic occurs when the tautological and boring are produced as self-parody and irony.” (Collected Short Fictions)

So if beauty and the sublime transport us to the utopia of immortality, and disgust, the ugly, and boredom keep us attuned to the comic truth of our mortality, our foibles, our finitude which side of the fence do you situate yourself? I admit a fondness for comedy, what about you; are you a comic, or rather a stern believer of the raptures of immortality? Nick Land once wrote in parodic mode saying,

The ‘Gothic avatar’ is a decadent Western dream of immortality, producing a corruption of the atmosphere wherever something refuses to die; clutching at the eternalization of self, or returning from the grave. White maggots heaving in the carcass of the social, rippling beneath the skin. Fortress Europe pustulation, subordinating techonomic efficiency to demonic negative transcendence.6

So is the dream of immortalization a dream of Zombiefication? A sort of transport into fixity, a substantive formalization of the Self-as-Eternal-Substance and Structure? Why do we persist in seeking to stop the world, the universe; seek to create eternal substance, to pour life into some mummified realm of Being, where like the first emperor of China we can sleep through eternity with liquid mercury of floating kingdoms floating by around our entombed dreams. Why not rather the endless liquidity of things in metamorphosis, process, openness and change; or the end as one more change into something else, particle to particle the eternal return of the swerve, the clinamen, the difference that makes a difference?

Revolted by the sublime and carnage, the mind dreams of a provincial ennui on the scale of the universe, of a History whose stagnation would be so great that doubt would take on the lineaments of an event and hope of a calamity… – E.M. Cioran


  1. Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy.  City Lights Publishers; First Edition in English edition (January 1, 2001)
  2. Brown, Norman O.. Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (p. 101). Wesleyan University Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Becker, Ernest. Escape From Evil. Free Press; Reissue edition (March 1, 1985)
  4. Gray, John. The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death (p. 209). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.
  5. Hansell, Gregory R.; Grassie, William. H+/-: Transhumanism and Its Critics (p. 42). Xlibris. Kindle Edition.
  6. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 4728-4732). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

Zahavi, Dennett, and the End of Being*

Scott on the wholesale naturalization of phenomenology: “Blind Brain Theory possesses the conceptual resources required to achieve this integration. Via neglect and heuristics, it allows us to see the first-person in terms entirely continuous with the third, while allowing us to understand all the apories and conundrums that have prevented such integration until now. It provides the basis, in other words, for a wholesale naturalization of phenomenology.”

Three Pound Brain

We are led back to these perceptions in all questions regarding origins, but they themselves exclude any further question as to origin. It is clear that the much-talked-of certainty of internal perception, the evidence of the cogito, would lose all meaning and significance if we excluded temporal extension from the sphere of self-evidence and true givenness.

–Husserl, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness

So recall this list, marvel how it continues to grow, and remember, the catalogue is just getting started. The real tsunami of information is rumbling off in the near horizon. And lest you think your training or education render you exempt, pause and consider the latest in Eric Schwitzgebel’s empirical investigations of how susceptible professional philosophers are to various biases and effects on that list. I ask you to consider what we know regarding human cognitive shortcomings to put you in a skeptical frame of mind. I want…

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Andrew Culp: Dark Deleuze – A Short Summary

[The] ultimate task of Dark Deleuze is but a modest one: to keep the dream of revolution alive in counterrevolutionary times.

– Andrew Culp, Dark Deleuze

DarkDeleuze

The way I think through another’s work is to write, to question, to take notes, read parallel works that pop out of my memory, cross-reference notions, ideas, propositions, diagrams, etc., and generally push a thought to its extreme limits. As I’ve been reading Andrew Culp’s work Dark Deleuze, which I must say has my mind buzzing, I’ve been gathering a few thoughts here and there, publishing a few excerpts that stuck out. Sometimes when you read an author, work through his ideas, thoughts, conceptions you get a feel for his approach, his attitude, his – shall we say, enemies, his targets, those he is taking aim against, as much as the very notions he is seeking to overturn and replace with his own. In Andrew’s case it is the new materialists more than even those like Badiou of Zizek of the dialectical materialist fold that Andrew is taking to task in this short work.

I’ve only read the first chapter, so this is just a brief reprieve, a few notes on my own meagre reading or misreading; for, truly we all take away from another not some one to one ratio of meaning, but those – as Emerson once suggested, alienated thoughts of our own that seem to come back to us out of the “alienated majesty” of their work. In this first chapter Andrew is combining a critique of two facets of our current dilemma in politics, and, even philosophical thought: connectivism and productivism.

As he’ll say: “Philosophically, connectivity is about world-building. The goal of connectivity is to make everyone and everything part of a single world.”(6) In this sense his attack is against holism and all forms of totalism that have creeped back into current neoliberal appropriation of Deleuze/Guattari’s thought. ANT theory, or pure relationism; notions of Gaia and environmental studies associated with Latour, etc., all these based on a constructivist approach in that it avoids essentialist explanations of events or innovations. All these notions have taken from D&G a positive program that has of recent years produced such thinkers as Jane Bennett Vibrant Materialism, Rosi Braidotti Metamorphosis, or even Latour himself in Rejoicing: or the torments of religious speech. This sense of a joyous, positive almost techno-utopian front is even seen within current Leftist Accelerationism, as see within Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams work Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work.

As for productivism, Andrew says, yes, we should hook up with the forces of autoproduction of the Real, but that rather than “simply appreciating the forces that produce the World, Dark Delezue intervenes in them to destroy it.” (8) For Andrew there can be no compromise with the current global system, no taking over the command and control systems and hijacking them for some Leftist accelerationist coop; no, for him the Symbolic Order that continues to absorb the desires of the planet into its technical and technological constructions must go, must be replaced by an alternative. Why? Because productivism works by way of a “logics of accumulation”, and it limits “production to reproduction,” so that to merely takeover the system itself is to be tied to the very logics of accumulation and reproduction that has ensnared us to begin with.

Andrew invests his thought with the non-dialectical stream of materialism-empiricism that Deleuze inhabits, but turns it from the elements of joy and vitality he perceives in many epigones of that philosopher toward other ends – a darker turn, non-dialectical and non-telic of non-teleological path of negation and resistance; ends that seek to divest the world of late capitalism and its systems of capture and symbolic power, while plunging this fake world of Capital into a black pit of ruin and destruction. Andrew seeks to destroy a the World that Capital built, to bring it to an end and through revolt and revolution bring us something else. Yet, unlike Badiou or Zizek with their oscillations between truth-conditions, and acts – events that slide this way or that, Andrew is seeking to renew the barbarous forces of the Outside in, bring the indiscernible sensibility and a renewed vision of hope from below.

Rather than an inversion of those vitalistic philosophies of light and joy, Andrew sees a different path forward; instead, for him we must work through a series of contraries rather than antinomies. To do this he proposes a diagram or chart that exposes the tasks that a Dark Deleuzeanism will map out the Joyous and the Dark paths (Andrew opts for the Dark):
Screen Shot 05-28-16 at 08.49 AM

 More on Andrew Culp: http://www.andrewculp.org/

Bernard Stiegler: Digital Democracy and Re-Individuation

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Bernard Stiegler tells us the Sophists of ancient Athens implemented a practice of writing that no longer aimed to increase the individual and collective critical capacity of that social group known as the polis, but, on the contrary, short-circuited this critical activity, and enabled the Sophists to manipulate thinking—that is, to prevent thinking. Because to think is always to think  for oneself, whereas Sophistic writing consisted in spreading received ideas, commonplaces (topoi) that were all the more dangerous in that they granted the illusion of thinking to those of whom they took hold, at the very moment that they in fact prevented them from thinking. This engenders what can then be called stupidity.

We live in such a time when the doxa of opinion polls permeates the minds of democratic electoral. People no longer think for themselves, but rather accept the opinions of quacks and sophists, talking heads and mediatainment morons for their daily quota of meagre thought. Can we even call it thought? Rather we should term is manufactured stupidity, for that’s the actual truth one gets out of media blip culture. What Stiegler will term the media culture, or Zizek the symbolic order are machines of false memories and thoughts; ideological mirrors for fabricated knowledge scripted behind the scenes to manipulate and twist the minds of their viewers, persuade them with the validity of their products; in this case, the Candidate as Product of Capitalist Media-Buzz.

Media bring both remedy and poison, as we begin to depend on our digital devices more and more, we grow passive, externalizing our memories, our thoughts, our lives. As Stiegler will say: “This technical exteriorization of my memory can lead to its weakening, to its atrophy, and eventually to the destruction of this  psychic  memory that is the foundation of the capacity to think for oneself—that is, of the capacity to think full stop.”

Most of the people in my own country do not read books, newspapers, etc., they do not, for the most part, have the capacity to think much less think-for-themselves about issues beyond the immediate pay check or survival from month to month for themselves and their families. Most of my fellow countrymen exist in a bubble of false memory and culture, manipulated by systems and technics that have entrapped them in a world of fictions and beliefs that have replaced real community and life, and given them instead death and economic hell. But because they are so dependent on this system of desire that promises them the moon and delivers them a hollowed out world of bare subsistence they no longer no where to turn.

Most of these people despise academics, see the intellectual as an enemy rather than a possible way out of their hell holes. These are people that have been taught that the Left is some kind of socialist nightmare from which monstrous tyranny brews harsh worlds of holocaust or Siberian death-camps. Yes, these people go to Sunday school, live down the street from you, mind their own business, go to the bar nightly, have fights, love whores, kick the shit out of their kids, and generally have a hollow sense that life left them behind. These are the one’s Nietzsche described as bound deeply within the realm of resentiment and anger, and anger that’s been festering for years in the racist backwaters of white power imbeciles. Biding its time for one such as Trump to come along, one they could believe in, one they could count on to do their bidding, open a door, make a crack in the cultural monopoly systems.

Many on the Left laugh at it eerily, as if it were all a joke, a nihilist shtick, a sick and festering open wound of a populace that doesn’t have a chance in hell to take the country. Sadly, its that kind of overconfidence that has allowed this to happen to begin with. Instead of building a country of educated citizens, we’ve allowed neo-liberal regimes calling themselves by the term Democrat and Republican – for, to tell the truth, it is a minor difference between the two on the economic and political scene, only the minor blemish of rhetoric’s and a few enactments separates the real power of these regimes. Both support the actual power of Banks, Wall-Street, and the corruption of lobbying, etc. Both parties have sold their souls to moneyed regimes. The game is a sordid one without any sign of ending. And we still think it can change… maybe, I’m too much the pessimist anymore, but I do not think Hilary, even if she wins is going to change things for the better. I think she will bring more and more of the type of corruption she has been known for.

As for Trump. Not much to say: an extreme socio-pathic narcissist. A man whose only care is himself, everything else follows from there.

Stiegler speaks of André Leroi-Gourhan who showed that it was through the exteriorization of their memories that human beings were able to accumulate individual experiences transmissible from generation to generation, thereby forming that collective memory we call culture: this memory is technics. This is Mnemotechnics, or memory technologies, which in our age pervade the digital divide, and act as a two-edged sword that can bring a potential emancipation and what Gilbert Simondon spoke of as ‘individuation’ to the collective general intelligence of humans, or it can be used to circumvent that and dis-individuate and trap humans in a short-circuited world of simulacrum and false semblances rather than knowledge and truth, etc.

As Stiegler tells it:

“All this proceeds from the pharmakon that, always and irreducibly,  both individuates (produces individuation, increases of the potential to act) and dis-individuates (produces dis-individuation, deprivations of the potential to act). In this regard, we, men and women of the twenty-first century, find ourselves in a very particular situation, of which I shall here draw attention, essentially, to two aspects.(46)

Most of the people you talk to everyday of your life are no longer individuals in the old liberal sense, people have been de-individualized to the point that they are mere simulacrum of humans. Our consumerist society is so manipulated that the ubiquity of our dependency on external systems goes unnoticed and unregistered on the radar of most thinkers. We take people at face value, thinking they are human, that they have thoughts of their own, but we’ve become lazy, we’ve become so used to the mutation that has been going on for a century that we accept it. And, must I add, that we, too, should look in the mirror and ask the question: “Are my thoughts my own? Am I able to think for myself?”

Yet, with the rise of the digital economies, and the world of financialization the consumerist era is coming to an end as we’ve known it according to Stiegler. As he suggests digital society “is the bearer of a social organization no longer founded on Fordist consumerism, but instead on the economy of contribution”. And, yet, we must he believes introduce a new general organalogy if we are to re-individuate humans and once again create a viable democratic society. As he states it a general organology is a method of making scientific disciplines work together in relation to three spheres of individuation:

  1. psychosomatic individuals (a psychic individual always has a body, and its “psychism” is inseparable from the organs of its body, the brain, heart, kidneys,
    etc., the neuro-vegetative system, perceptual organs, and so on);
  2. technical individuals (a technical system links together artificial organs each one of which is dependent on the others—a technical object never functions on its own, just as, for example, a brain cannot function without the heart, since it needs to be irrigated by blood, whereas a smartphone needs to be fed either by an
    electrical network or by a photovoltaic battery—these artificial organs equipping psychosomatic organs: a pair of glasses equips a pair of eyes, a bicycle equips
    the moving body, writing equips memory, and the sharpened flint characterizes the first hominid);
  3. collective individuals, which form social organizations (social systems that have as a goal to make compatible and efficient the connections between physiological
    organology and technological organology). (48-48)

For Stiegler it is through the implementation of this dual approach (pharmacological and organological) that reticular society, network society, will be able to confront the
collapse of the consumerist model and implement an economy of contribution that is also an economy of the reconstitution of knowledge, that is, of the struggle against the processes of proletarianization that the pharmakon tends to spread to “all levels of society.” (49)

I’m not sure I buy into his optimistic take on the new digital and financialization of society. Reading Bratton’s The Stack and other works of late I tend toward the notion that the powers of Big Data, Surveillance capitalism, and the nefarious cooption of technics and technology under neoliberal regimes will continue unabated within the digital just as they have in our consumerist societies. Only time will tell…


  1. Stiegler, Bernard. Digital Bearer of Another Society. Digital Transformation Review (July, 2011)

 

 

The Stack as Alien Intelligence & Governance

For Bratton the insidious and monstrous, even chthonic power of the Stack that has infested and globalized its technical systems over the past century is a system that is inhuman to the core; or, as he suggests – a system of technics and technicity that is collapsing the distinctions between the human and the inhuman, as its “interlacing of land, sea, and air through networks of recombinant flows realizes the simultaneous physicalization of the virtual and the virtualization of physical forces”. Like some viral or technical organism it has entered and spliced the virtual / actual worlds of our planetary existence to the point that we can no longer exit or unplug from its life sustaining systems; for better or worse we are now mere fragile pieces in a systems game that exists only to capture desire, and it has replaced the natural continuum of life on this planet for an anorganic machinic phylum that will outlast its progenitors. As he’ll suggest the “Stack makes space by occupying it; it does so by surveying abstraction, absorbing it, and virtualizing it, which is how it is even possible to consider whether or not it expresses a nomos at all”.

He continues:

…  Practical sovereignty over what its geography becomes is animated and augmented by a drive for a spectrum-dominant position within an integrated totality of enumerable, governable zones, both high and low, visible and invisible. … Inherited political orders are both circumvented and reinforced as the worlds they once described are disenchanted. That is, whereas states may be agents doing the taking and formulating of worlds, they cannot do so without transforming the anatomy of their own sovereignty at the same moment. The Stack space is not an already given vessel into which states intervene or markets mediate or political theologies invest with myths; rather it is generated in the confluence of platform logics that will recalculate the fate of all of these.

Unrestricted by the brakes of proper nomos, the absolute motivation for capture extends up and down from molecular to atmospheric scales. But for The Stack, these terms are not operating on their own untethered; they are instead as bound by their planetary situation as any other form of occupation. Even in the absence of a proper nomos, they congeal layer by layer into a metastructural order of a different governing order: a machine that is a state held together by deciding the spaces of technical exceptions as much as legal ones.1

One of Bratton’s Central Arguments:

“A central argument of this book is that the “political program” is not only to be found in the legal consensus (or dissensus) and policy admonitions of traditional “politics” but also in machines directly. This is where the global-scale arrangement of planetary-scale computing coheres into The Stack, and how the convergence of the architectural and computational design logics of program directly contributes to that system.”1

This is where the work of those like Reza Negarestani and his computational functionalism, pragmatism, and rules based systemization might touch base. Because whether we buy into his neo-rationalist ethicist program or not, his computational functionalism is informing much of current development techniques and ideologies across various Enterprise Systems and Architectures in the Corporate Worlds.

Yet, for Bratton it is far less important how the machine [The Stack] represents a politics than how “politics” physically is that machinic system. The construction of platforms draws in, to varying and contingent degrees, strong connotations of “design” (design as in to “designate,” and to govern through material intervention) and, in this platforms are plots, and (per Singleton) also diagrams that “ensnare” actors in their fatal outcomes (design as in “to have designs on something,” to trap the User just so). (ibid.)

This notion that The Stack is made of a multiplex of platforms at the level of social, political, technical, etc., and that each of these platforms is part of a vaster global technics of entrapment and libidinal economy using “diagrams that “ensnare” actors in their fatal outcomes” seems part and partial for our late capitalist machinism. As he says of Platforms:

Platforms are generative mechanisms—engines that set the terms of participation according to fixed protocols (e.g., technical, discursive, formal protocols). They gain size and strength by mediating unplanned and perhaps even unplannable interactions. This is not to say that a platform’s formal neutrality is not strategic; one platform will give structure to its layers and its Users in one way, and another in another way, and so their polities are made. This is precisely how platforms are not just technical models but institutional models as well. Their drawing and programming of worlds in particular ways are means for political composition as surely as drawing a line on a map.(ibid.)

It’s as if whether on the level of industry, politics, culture, or any other level or domain of the global matrix The Stack made up of these generative engines for capturing desire, whether technical or institutional are decomposing humans into their inhuman compositions at the expense of humanity. Over and over this aligns for me with Nick Land’s notions of Capitalism as an Alien Intelligence sent back into time to develop and coordinate the collapse of the future onto our present moment. What some term the Singularity. As if every aspect of life were being incorporated into a worldwide machinic phylum where everything is automated, efficient, and inhuman; where humans as we’ve known them under the liberal worldview gives way to the inhuman or non-human-centric machinic civilization of robotics and AGI (Artificial General Intelligence).

As Land once said in Meltdown:

The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalitization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization take-off. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.

As one person once commented on this passage: The earth (both literally & figuratively) is under the spell of a vast, almost oceanic technological renaissance in which technology assembles, disassembles, adjusts, modifies itself to any change. Its ability to disrupt societal norms and order, is due to its own success.  (here) Humans as individuals will disappear and be replaced through a process of denormalization, and deconditioning over a period of time. This process has been going on for sometime in our academies, but is taking on a greater and greater accelerating effect in the next few decades as the Singularity approaches. (The notion of the ‘machinic’, as used here, comes from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, as well as the sequel A Thousand Plateaus and Guattari’s later work including Chaosmosis and Chaosophy.) Rather than seeing humans as subjects, this approach sees them as machines alongside other machines, collections of active objects both human and non-human (institutional, mechanical, animal, geological…) These different machines work together, hence a synthesis…

As automation takes effect more and more, with companies like Foxconn that recently laid off 60,000 workers with robotics workers. Most of the Third World manufacturers  are following suit. In the coming decades most of the menial labor intensive jobs will be done by robotics workers leaving the humans in a no-work zone of less than adequate subsistence. As capitalism cycles faster and faster; and this revolving economic speed creates disorder. Deregulation is becoming one of Capitalism’s primary goals. Free trade! The struggle of freedom over the control/order of the state goes on and on into cyberspace.

The Techno-Commercium is the ancient Roman right to participate in financial contracts. A Planetary Commercium would be a system that facilitates a lot of these contracts, i.e. Capitalism. Emergent refers to its novelty, but also to its unpredictable mutability – see the concept of ‘Emergence’ in game theory, wherein simple rule systems lead to incredibly complex metastable states and systems. Most of our current systems are based on Game Theory pragmatics that enforces a rules-based system of “give and take” that is working by a method of subtraction and replacement of humans by engineered environments. The vast resources of corporate and governmental systems that own the global networks are slowly putting into plan initiatives designed to transform the remaining resources of the planet into off-world platforms and Stacks.

Franco Berardi will tell us that one of the tasks of the philosopher in our times is to “To map the territory of the mutation, and to forge conceptual tools for orientation in its ever-changing, deterritorializing territory.” Berardi maps out mutations in capitalism, literature, neuroscience and psychology. In each of these fields and others, he finds landmark transformations: from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism; from a language of affection to one of intellection; from sensibility to sensitivity; from governing to governance.  Following those like Nietzsche, Bataille, Foucault, Deleuze/Guattari and, even Baudrillard, Berardi sees “the will to abstraction” at the core of this new accelerating capitalism. As he saying in his book And: Phenomenology of the End,

“Digital abstraction virtualizes the physical act of meeting and the manipulation of things. These new levels of abstraction concern not only the labor process, but they tend to encompass all spaces of social life. Digitalization and financialization are transforming the very fabric of the social body, and inducing mutations within it.”

But the effect of every mutation is unique, and “takes different forms and coheres in different ways according to different cultural environments.” So humanity is undergoing a mutation into non-liberal forms of political, social, and global machinic and non-human forms of thought, belief, and, even – religious systems. Such notions as Transhumanism are becoming the ideology of this new religious turn mixing science and philosophical temperament toward belief systems of mortal immortality, health, purity, and almost biogenetic paradises of longevity and luxury. At the heart of this is a new eugenics system disguising itself within medical, pharmacological, mythic, scientific, political, and other regimes.

As the climate presses the world into a greater and greater heat-death scenario these ideologies and belief systems will only gain greater foothold on peoples minds. The other recent avenue has been the investment in off-world technologies. The accelerating pace of moving to off-world colonies, Mars, and other systems of exploration, resource hunting, etc. are taking hold and gaining a wide acceptance in the cultural drift. We can expect more of this as the year proceed.


  1. Benjamin H. Bratton. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Software Studies) (Kindle Locations 1056-1059). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

Age of Abstraction 2.0?

 

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“I always decide in favor of feeling rather than calculation.”

           – Kandinsky

As Hilton Kramer suggested in his rendition of the those modernist artists after 1913:

For both Mondrian and Kandinsky, the artistic base from which they made their fateful leap into abstraction was landscape painting, but their respective approaches to landscape were, again, very different. Whereas Mondrian’s was that of an ascetic determined to strip nature of its mutable attributes, Kandinsky’s was that of a mystical lyricist for whom nature is an enchanted realm of poetry and symbolism. Yet for both, the leap into abstraction was at once guided and sanctioned by their faith in the metaphysics of the occult, which in the end emancipated them from the mundanity of the observable world.1

This notion of the disappearance of Nature, the natural as introduced by Enlightenment philosophe’s and the rationalists before them as the mechanistic, and observable, objective res extensa – the extensive world out there of naïve realism and naturalism had always had its enemies. In the 19th Century the Romantic Poets, the Decadents, the Symbolists, the Aesthetes had all called into question this naïve physicalism/materialism of the world. I sometimes wonder how the natural sciences ever came to power in our world, except that, oh yes – they produced a knowledge that could actually effect change upon matter in the world. Whether this matter was substantive and solid, or fluid and dynamic was always open to question for scientists.

Battles over our views of reality seem to crop up over and over again as either atheism or religious visions take hold of the common vision of the age. We in our own time hear of a opening into some new ‘religious turn’ as if all the apostles of skepticism, cynicism, postmodernism had been quelled, smashed under the falsity of there corruptions, etc…. but I wonder, is it more likely that the other party, the reverent and speculative religious mythographers, the sophists of our present era are trying through the power of rhetoric to reestablish their old place in the sun?

All this talk of realism in our time seems more about invisibility, indirect access, the darkness, the abyss of the Real, the Void of Voids…. suddenly the stable world of Platonic and Aristotelian substantive formalism of essences and eidos give way to the fluidic dynamics of processes. But haven’t we seen this battle before? Most of our present lot of philosophers seem to be updating what was already previously tried with Abstraction 1.0… the moderns… hmmm or we not then moving into Modernity 2.0? Is this what is happening, after a devolvement through postmodern deconstructions we are reentering the troposphere of a new formalist purity of abstraction… but on a different plateau? Immaterialism? Even our so called materialists talk from within radicalized Idealisms: Badiou (Plato), Zizek (Hegel), Negarestani (Stoic, Confucian, Kantian)… not to mention all the various flat ontologies under the OOO appellation, which is itself a pure abstraction of force withdrawn into the volcanic dynamism of a new substantive formalism.

Those who speak of affects, sensations, empiricism seem to be on the downswing today… condemned as – oh the bad word: “vitalist”. What of them? Rereading Kandinsky there is this movement of abstraction alright, but one that takes the effects of affective relations seriously, while wary of the calculative work of those ascetics like Mondrian. In our age of algorithms and calculation, computational functionalism and the supremacy of modeling, simulation, forecasting… should we retake a look at that other abstraction in such thought as Kandinsky? Affective relations vs. Calculative and computational functionalism? Or, better yet, no more oppositions, but rather a parallelism without boundaries, an openness that is inclusive rather than exclusionary?


  1.  Kramer, Hilton. The Triumph of Modernism: The Art World, 1987–2005 (Kindle Locations 92-96). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Reading Derek Raymond

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Derek Raymond’s (Robin Cook) Factory Novels were part of the flow of works meant for the working class, novels that actually carried on the acts of social critique at the street level, a bleak world of shadow lives where the erotic and the sacrificial disturbed the night like angelic whispers from the halls of Pandemonium. Here’s one of Raymond’s main characters talking about unjust laws and police power that on the surface looked perfectly legal, but down below where power hides itself was another world of nefarious truth. He’s speaking a particular Law that had just passed parliament:

It was what I thought of as banana laws – the law of a society in the process of breaking down. Once properly tightened up, it would have meant that I could stop and arrest a man in the street simply because I didn’t like the look on his face, or the way his pockets bulged. It would have synchronized nicely with the plastic ID cards that every citizen would be required to carry by then, and before long we would have turned the country into a birdcage.1

Sadly in our time the planet has become more of a ratcage with no where to run, we all squirm in the secret places of darkness waiting for the axe.

Robin Cook who would use the pseudonym to write five novels in the series would say of the fourth – I Was Dora Suarez, which many see as one of the greatest noir novels of the 20th Century:

Writing Suarez broke me; I see that now. I don’t mean that it broke me physically or mentally, although it came near to doing both. But it changed me; it separated out for ever what was living and what was dead. I realised it was doing so at the time, but not fully, and not how, and not at once. […] I asked for it, though. If you go down into the darkness, you must expect it to leave traces on you coming up — if you do come up. It’s like working in a mine; you hope that hands you can’t see know what they’re doing and will pull you through. I know I wondered half way through Suarez if I would get through — I mean, if my reason would get through. For the trouble with an experience like Suarez is that you become what you’re writing, passing like Alice through the language into the situation. (The Hidden Files, pp. 132–133.)


  1. Raymond, Derek. The Devil’s Home on Leave (Factory 2) (pp. 25-26). Random House Inc Clients. Kindle Edition.

 

Technologies of Memory: On Reading Stiegler


Bernard Stiegler is an acquired taste, not a pop-artist star like a Slavoj Zizek, Stiegler’s work belongs to a world where philosophy, philology, and technology interpenetrate the human animal. The more I read him the less I know. It’s as if one needs a dictionary of terminology that splices together all the many technical appropriations of terms from Greek, Latin, and other languages that needs to be open beside you to get through some of his thick and opaque texts. Even he seems to understand this at times, as if the teacher in him wakes up and realizes the terminology is no longer conveying meaning, but is rather depleting it, eliminating, and subtracting meaning word by word as he writes it: it’s as if in following his mentor Derrida that his complete oeuvre were “under erasure”. Instead of presence we find the unbound abyss of absence, each word assembled moment by moment with some technical meaning that once used will slip away into the silence never to be heard from again.

I’ve attached a paragraph below which begins:

“Through the industrial expropriation mnemo-technologies, that is, through retentional systems that are the technical supports required by all psychic and collective individuation, the twentieth century optimized the conditions of production and consumption by linking them tightly together.”

Years ago reading Merlin Donald’s Origins of the Human Mind, where he describes a three-stage externalization process of memory involving technics and technology one came across much of the same territory. During the first stage, Merlin reports, our bipedal but still apelike ancestors acquired “mimetic” skill – the ability to represent knowledge through voluntary motor acts – which made Homo erectus successful for over a million years. The second transition – to “mythic” culture – coincided with the development of spoken language. This cognitive advance allowed the large-brained Homo sapiens to evolve a complex preliterate culture that survives in many parts of the world today. In the third transition, when humans constructed elaborate symbolic systems ranging from cuneiforms, hieroglyphics, and ideograms to alphabetic languages and mathematics, human biological memory became an inadequate vehicle for storing and processing our collective knowledge. The modern mind is thus a hybrid structure built from vestiges of earlier biological stages as well as new external symbolic memory devices that have radically altered its organization.

Stiegler does the same but uses his understanding of language, memory, and technics to elaborate a theory of grammatization (Derrida), along with Simondon’s notions of psychic and collective indviduation. What’s most interesting for me is that he treats this whole process as if humanity has been incorporated into this external memory system as part of some ongoing project in which humans are only the servants and helpmates of some larger encompassing technical process. This is where it gets touchy. Is he bound to a telos?

In an essay for Technicity he tells us:

“Human memory is originally exteriorised. Straight away, this means that it is technical. It first takes on the form of a lithic tool two million years ago. As a spontaneously created support for memory, however, the lithic tool is not made in order to store memory: it is not until late Palaeolithic times that mnemotechniques in the true sense of the word will appear. These are the mythograms of a society steeped in magic, a society to which the Australian aboriginal churinga is a recent witness, as are tattoos on the body of a witch-doctor and the knotted cord of native American Indians. The writings at the origin of the first handwritten texts, which only appear after the Neolithic Era, give us the alphabet— which is still responsible today for organising the agenda of the business executive. From here on, this calendary object is an appliance: the Personal Digital Assistant. Thus, we have gone from mnemotechniques to mnemotechnologies.”1

Technicity is defined as this process of human creation of technology, brings with it the reciprocal notion that these very innovations of externalization and prosthesis in turn have shaped humanity into our present form. Yet, what seems to be happening now is that we as humans seem to be losing our knowledge as well: “These cognitive technologies, to which we devote an ever-increasing part of our memory, also make us lose more and more of our knowledge.

Losing knowledge as we externalize memory feeds into that original insight of Nietzsche termed the completion of nihilism, an age not only when all external value systems would finally crumble, but also a time when humans would forget themselves and become Other than what they are… shall we term this the Age of Forgetting

Stiegler would say of it: “We thus have pure cognitive labour power utterly devoid of knowledge: with cognitive technologies, it is the cognitive itself which has been proletarianized. In this consists, then, cognitive capitalism, also known as ‘creative’ or ‘immaterial’ capitalism. And this is concretely expressed in the fact that the cognitive has been reduced to calculability – logos has become, pharmacologically and economically, ratio.”

The point of this is that we’ve become so dependent on our external memory devices (i.e., mobile phones, tablets, computing devices, data centers, etc.) that if we lose or misplace these devices our lives become immersed in loss: we no longer memorize phone numbers, addresses, people’s descriptors, appointments, etc.. As Stiegler states it,

“These cognitive technologies, to which we devote an ever-increasing part of our memory, also make us lose more and more of our knowledge. Mislaying a mobile phone is equivalent to losing track of the numbers of the people one is in contact with and realising that they are no longer in one’s own memory, but in the device itself. And we must here stop and ask ourselves if the industrial and large-scale development of mnemotechnologies does not constitute a structural loss of memory, or, more exactly, a displacement of that memory: a displacement by means of which memory can turn into an object of knowledge control, and form the essentially mnemotechnological base of those societies of control … that Gilles Deleuze started to theorise towards the end of his life.”

The point here is that as we give up our internal memories, become dependent on external sources of memory in our lives we are at the mercy of external systems of control who can allow or disallow access to this data, destroy it, or encode it into technical linguistic signs that become markers that follow and control your virtual/actual behavior and existence. As Stiegler says: “For this knowledge that escapes us seems to induce “human obsolescence,” which finds itself thereby more and more deprived, as if hollowed out from the inside.”

He brings up the slow process of automation that since the rise of assembly lines in early Fordist capitalism, to our current movement to automate driverless cars that will obsolesce cab drivers, to many other technologies that will depend on external databases and logics to control their behavior, the human body is losing its functional capabilities, and along with it the mind itself. Humans are being made obsolete by the very creations and inventions we once hoped for and cherished as modern conveniences. As Stiegler will say of this process,

The more we delegate the assumption of the series of little tasks which make up the framework of our lives to devices and to modern industrial services, the more futile we become: the more we lose not only our know-how, [savoir-faire] but also our savoir-vivre— and with that the little pleasures that make life worth living. We end up only fit to consume indiscriminately, without the pleasures that knowledge alone can provide— as if we were impotent. We become disabled, if not obsolete— if it is true that it is knowledge that gives us the power to be human. (ibid.)

Bernard Stiegler – Anamnēsis and Hypomnēsis: The memories of desire:

The question which is addressed to us today on the subject of a politics of memory is therefore that of a politics of desire, that is to say, of a political economy of the unconscious. The unconscious is what connects bodies to tertiary retentions and hypomnesic supports, constituting the body as a technical power, in other words, as a power of the imagination, as a power of phantasy. To think today about the question of memory— insofar as it is originally exteriorised and allows us at one and the same time to intensify individuation and to produce disindividuation by loss of knowledge and by proletarianisation— is to reformulate a hypomnesic and anamnesic concept of the general economy of knowledge insofar as the latter is a manifestation of the libido.

In our time— such is the eminently strange and disturbing character of contemporary capitalism— we see that knowledge is destroyed, and thereby the libido, by an exteriorisation that enables both the control and the intensification of drives to the detriment of the libidinal economy, in other words, of anamnēsis. The mimetic, gregarious and drive-led nature of consumer capitalism reactivates the technics of the Sophists at an incomparably more powerful and dangerous level, which is that of the veritable grammatisation of desire itself. This constitutes a limit towards which capitalism obviously tends. If nothing comes to alter this state of affairs, capitalism will end in collapse and self-destruction.

From this moment on, we must set up research programmes into the hypomnesic economy of desire that numerical media make possible: such forms of media are carriers of anamnesic as well as hypomnesic possibilities of individuation and transindividuation that are hitherto completely unknown. The task is to think these numerical hypomnēmata and the new forms of otium that can appear within them, and thus to found a new political economy of memory and desire.1


Notes on anamnēsis and hypomnēsis:

In the Meno and other texts, Plato institutes a now infamous opposition between the Socratic “recollection” of the immortal soul, called ἀνάμνησις (anamnēsis), and the artificial or technical supplement to memory, called ὑπόμνησις (hypomnēsis). It is with this entirely unprecedented opposition that western metaphysics and, arguably, western philosophy more generally, comes into existence. To Plato’s way of thinking, thought is nothing other than the act of the immortal soul remembering itself once again. On the one side, then, we have thought, the infinite, the transcendental and something called “philosophy.” On the other, however, we have artifice, finitude, the empirical and something called “technicity.” Yet what happens to the finite world— with all its inherent contingency, variability and fallibility— when the immortal soul recollects itself? If thought is defined as the recollection of immortality, then finitude, contingency and technology are, as Bernard Stiegler has argued, thereby consigned to the darkness of the unthought: true anamnēsis apparently has no need of the sophistical or technical supplement that is hypomnēsis.

Turn the Tables on Techno-Commercialists

I have to admit that for me what Stiegler sees as horror and loss, I see as an opportunity for a greater freedom of knowledge. Let me explain. He goes back to the argument that Socrates makes (Plato) where in the Phaedrus— that the exteriorization of memory is a loss of both memory and knowledge— is what, today, we experience on a daily basis, in all aspects of our existence and more and more often in our feeling of impotence, if not disability.1

But I wonder why we should feel impotent? One of the benefits of externalizing memory is that it allows us to develop other brain processes that up to now have been bound and restricted to memory techniques. Think of all those Art of Memory techniques developed over centuries that culminated in those memory palaces such as Matteo Ricci. He used a the method of loci (loci being Latin for “places”) is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualizations with the use of spatial memory, familiar information about one’s environment, to quickly and efficiently recall information. The method of loci is also known as the memory palace or mind palace technique.

Instead of internalizing all these advanced systems of memory we are now free to explore external sources of memory, which entails a new advance: the need for better forms of discovery and retrieval of data. We hear the term Big Data analytics all the time… and, yes, we seem to be bound to the notion of techno-commercial use of data rather than human learning, we seem caught up on machine learning techniques instead.

But shy not turn these machinic processes to good use, invent a ethics of learning, not morality; but, instead a new educational system based on not acquiring knowledge per se, but rather in solving problems, inventing concepts that can be put to work for us in solving social, economic, political, and environmental problems. We balk at critiquing capitalism so much without ever turning the tables and reappropriating these technologies for emancipatory projects.

Why is that? Why do we spend so much time repeating the same critiques of capitalism over and over again from various perspectives, with new iterations of concepts, etc., but in the end a fruitless task that gets us no closer to actually solving real problems in our societies and singular lives?

Instead we need to turn the tables, retake the cognitive lead, and develop these systems as vehicles of emancipation rather than as systems of control. Maybe in the end the Left needs to put their thought to work rather than critique…

I’ll have to return to this…


  1. Armand, Louis; Bradley, Arthur; Zizek, Slavoj; Stiegler, Bernard; Miller, J. Hillis; Wark, McKenzie; Amerika, Mark; Lucy, Niall; Tofts, Darren; Lovink, Geert. Technicity (Kindle Locations 319-326). Litteraria Pragensia. Kindle Edition.

 

Spinoza / Hegel: The Phantoms of the Negative

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In the reproach that Hegel will make to Spinoza, that he ignored the negative and its power, lies the glory and innocence of Spinoza, his own discovery. In a world consumed by the negative, he has enough confidence in life, in the power of life, to challenge death, the murderous appetite of men, the rules of good and evil, of the just and the unjust. Enough confidence in life to denounce all the phantoms of the negative.

For Spinoza is one of the vivants-voyants. Spinoza did not believe in hope or even in courage; he believed only in joy, and in vision. He let others live, provided that others let him live. He wanted only to inspire, to waken, to reveal.

– Deleuze: Spinoza – Practical Philosophy

Thinking Too Much and Not Enough

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“…It is said that Spinoza kept his coat with a hole pierced by an [assassin’s] knife thrust as a reminder that thought is not always loved by men. While sometimes happens that a philosopher ends up on trial, rarely does a philosopher begin with an excommunication and an attempt on his life.” (Spinoza: Practical Philosophy)

I was also reminded of Zizek who in the past few years has come under scrutiny by partisans of the Left, who have both put him on trial and excommunicated him within certain factions. Strange how even his friends and admirers have also become part of that scrutiny… I was reading this today by Adam Kotsko : Would not the most radical political intervention for Zizek be precisely to STOP?! . Kotsko says,

Slavoj Zizek needs to stop writing political columns. He is not good at it. Some readers are still making heroic efforts to construe his political columns positively, but if you need a supporter to write a 2000+ word defense of your pithy political intervention — indeed, if most readers construe it as meaning the opposite of what is intended — then you are doing it wrong.

I’ve done it in the past, too. So, am as guilty… Maybe we need to rethink this issue?

Exit the Progressive Era Failures…

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That’s the problem, as long as the Left tries to compete with capitalism on its own turf it will always lose. The point is to exit the game rather than compete with it. Leave the board and there are no pieces to move around, smash, enslave, corrupt… time to forget the Voice, and Exit the Game. Of course on a Global Chessboard or a Realm of GO where does one go? That’s the BIG Question of our time… maybe it’s not a place, as much as it is a retroactive change in the Players and the Game itself… a reconditioning of the very symbolic field of play on a global level, a mutation, a slow substitution of the board itself and its subtraction and replacement by an alternative strategy…

The Progressive strategy has failed us… maybe fail better, a different strategy? An alternative? Fail better with something new, a creative strategy outside the box of democracy? Is there such a thing? Can we even create concepts or strategies anymore?

A friend Ivan Niccolai on FB, said:

Oh I know you weren’t defending capitalism, I’m arguing for a type of reformism, but today it is radical after 40 years of neoliberalism. We need time, we need space to think, we’re all precarious, simply not needing to worry about rent, or do a bullshit job, is far from a minor demand. What will come after that, who knows, but it would be huge first step.

I said:

Yea, exactly my point: we need space to think… that’s what I mean by Exit… a “space of thought and reason, as well as strategy” to think outside the box of localism and globalism… to create something new… a real alternative that isn’t bound to the repetitions of the past failures…”… and, of course that means building consensus and collective help systems outside current failures.. we act atomistic when we are singularities and plural… we seem bound to the subordinated and outmoded, habitual traditionalisms of the Left and unable to move forward, and like those on Salvage who seek to bewail our fate in melancholy estate we seem to be in a slump a bleak funk… we’ve got to fail better, try better… crawl out of our shit holes and help each other… Yet, it cannot be reformism… it cannot be resurrected Progressivism of any form… it must be something creative, something new for our moment… Maybe, we need a “space of heterogeneity” and subversion, a site of transgression outside the Law, outside the homogenized thought-worlds we’ve been habitually repeating for so long.

Fiction Day, reading The Melancholy of Resistance

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Fiction Day, reading The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai. Here he describes a group of travelers sitting in a train station waiting for a train that may or may not arrive:

“To tell the truth, none of this really surprised anyone any more since rail travel, like everything else, was subject to the prevailing conditions: all normal expectations went by the board and one’s daily habits were disrupted by a sense of ever-spreading all-consuming chaos which rendered the future unpredictable, the past unrecallable and ordinary life so haphazard that people simply assumed that whatever could be imagined might come to pass, that if there were only one door in a building it would no longer open, that wheat would grow head downwards into the earth not out of it, and that, since one could only note the symptoms of disintegration, the reasons for it remaining unfathomable and inconceivable, there was nothing anyone could do except to get a tenacious grip on anything that was still tangible; which is precisely what people at the village station continued to do when, in hope of taking possession of the essentially limited seating to which they were entitled, they stormed the carriage doors, which being frozen up proved very difficult to open.”

This sense of fatalism and indifference in the face of a world that no longer fits the fictions and habitual notions most of us live by seems to be par for the course as we enter this last age of the human. What do they call it now? Anthropocene? A sort of hyperbole for the cesspool of time…. the drip of toxic soup upon the alter of a bad joke. It’s as if all the ways we’ve represented life to ourselves in philosophical or religious literature were suddenly null and void, as if we might as well chunk it all into a large barrel and burn it to keep warm, because our expectations and reality no longer coalesce. Frank Ruda puts it this way,

“This desire, however, is not caused by the soul itself. It may appear as if it were a product of free self-determination, but it lacks freedom. Thus in order to avoid following a desire that obeys an external form of causality that one does not recognize as what it is (i.e., to not simply follow the solicitations of the body but to act as an embodied free being), the soul has to struggle “with these representations, aiming at instituting other associations than those formed by nature or habit.””1

László Krasznahorkai’s world is one where everything has already happened; where everything has been foretold; where the multiplicity of signs spell utter doom; and, where the scraps of news received day by day offers merely the “omens of what was referred to by a growing number of people as ‘the coming catastrophe’”. As if the event were a thing of the past, seen from the future, a retroactive movement of rupture unfolding from some undefinable and unfathomable collapse of Time.


  1.  Ruda, Frank. Abolishing Freedom: A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism (Provocations) (Kindle Locations 736-740). UNP – Nebraska. Kindle Edition.

Short note on Sylvie: Lacan/Bataille

forfaiture_1937_diaporama

Sylvie

Short note on Lacan/Bataille:

Andrew Ryder a scholar of Lacan reports,

“despite his personal proximity to Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan makes very few direct references to his work. Indeed, the only mention of Bataille’s name in the 878 pages of the Écrits is in a footnote to “on a Question prior to any possible treatment of psychosis.” This article declares that Daniel Schreiber, the prototypical psychotic, was exposed to inner experience by his insight that “God is a whore.” Lacan affirms that his mention of inner experience is an allusion to Bataille, and refers the reader to Inner Experience, which he calls Bataille’s central work; and to Madame Edwarda, in which “he describes the odd extremity of this experience.” Lacan here identifies the experience of Madame Edwarda with Bataille’s “inner experience,” and stipulates that both are identical to Schreiber’s psychotic break.”1

This association of Bataille’s Inner Experience and Madame Edwarda with the notion of Schreber and psychosis is telling. Bataille pushed the limits of the impossible as if almost daring a collapse into that abyss from which the mind may never recover. Of course that was the first of many works he’d planned in his project of non-knowledge that he was not to live and complete.

Lacan would marry Sylvia, Bataille’s second wife; and, would remain on amicable terms even to the point that Bataille would “spend summer vacations with Sylvia and her second husband, Bataille’s friend Jacques Lacan, at his country home”.2

One would have liked to have had the private conversations between these three, a one-act play with the three of them done in the Beckettian mode, somewhere between despair and psychopathy; even, a Pirandello farce, a triangle of Eros, Death, and the French Freud; or, maybe a full blown comic roman noir, after – let’s say, Blaise Cendrar’s last embellishment on Therisse, To the End of the World. Oh, yes, the power of the word to spawn laughter and tears…


Note:

Sylvia Bataille (1 November 1908 – 23 December 1993) was a French actress, born Sylvia Maklès in Paris (where she also died), of Romanian-Jewish descent. When she was twenty, she married the writer Georges Bataille with whom she had a daughter, the psychoanalyst Laurence Bataille (1930–1986). Georges Bataille and Sylvia separated in 1934 but did not divorce until 1946. Starting in 1938, she was a companion of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan with whom, in 1941, she had a daughter, Judith, today Judith Miller. Sylvia Bataille married Jacques Lacan in 1953.

A pupil of Charles Dullin, Sylvia Bataille’s theatrical debut was with the agit-prop troupe Groupe Octobre, directed by Jacques Prévert. Her film debut came in 1933, and in 1936 she played her most memorable role in Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country) directed by Jean Renoir. Her final appearance was in 1950.


1. Andrew Ryder, Inner ExperIence Is not PsychosIs: BataIlle’s
EthIcs and LacanIan SubjectIvIty
2. Kendall, Stuart. Georges Bataille (Kindle Locations 1713-1714). Reaktion Books. Kindle Edition.

Started Reading Bratton’s The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty


The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty

Making time this week for Benjamin Bratton’s new book The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, where he tells us “…this book starts with the technologies themselves, abstracting from them a formal model that is general and comprehensive, but not complete or fixed. The model does not put technology “inside” a “society,” but sees a technological totality as the armature of the social itself. It does not focus on computation in the service of governance, or in resistance to governance, but rather on computation as governance.” He continues:

“…this book proposes a specific model for the design of political geography tuned to this era of planetary-scale computation. It works from the inside out, from technology to governing systems. As we link infrastructure at the continental scale, pervasive computing at the urban scale, and ambient interfaces at the perceptual scale, we will explore how these interweave and how we might build, dwell within, communicate between, and govern our worlds.”1

Looking forward to reading a chapter a day this week…

Daily Notes:

Already I’m a little bit skeptical with Bratton’s project. Why? He speaks of the Stack as “forming a coherent and interdependent whole”.1 Are we back to holism and totalistic systems of governance? Is Foucault behind the scenes, here? Megastructures, planetary-scale computing infrastructure – larger incipient global institutions and social systems? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt? But this seems to be the sort of notion that could very well be coopted by Neoliberal Business and Global Governance systems just as easily as radical thought? Or, is that his intention? He hint’s in the prologue of policy influencing?

Here’s the excerpt:

Planetary-scale computation takes different forms at different scales—energy and mineral sourcing and grids; subterranean cloud infrastructure; urban software and public service privatization; massive universal addressing systems; interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand, of the eye, or dissolved into objects; users both over-outlined by self-quantification and also exploded by the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Instead of seeing all of these as a hodgepodge of different species of computing, spinning out on their own at different scales and tempos, we should see them as forming a coherent and interdependent whole.

As the shape of political geography and the architecture of planetary-scale computation as a whole, The Stack is an accidental megastructure, one that we are building both deliberately and unwittingly and is in turn building us in its own image. While it names the organization of a planetary-scale computing infrastructure, my purpose is to leverage it toward a broader program for platform design. In the depiction of this incipient megastructure, we can see not just new machines but also still-embryonic geopolitical institutions and social systems as well.


In some ways Bratton’s work is building a new geocomputational architecture for mapping how globalism is fracturing the older forms of Sovereignty, and redesigning new forms to meet both the flow of information and peoples, work and play, etc. All the while developing a technics of ‘platform sovereignty’ situtated outside the older systems of Nation State, etc. Design as GeoComputational:

“The Stack model suggests both the means and ends of a specific kind of platform sovereignty. It demands that we understand the designability of geography in relation to the designability of computation and to see the state (and other sovereign institutions) in relation to both at once.”


Ok, I was correct, Foucault popped his head up as Bratton compares the platform geocomputational model with Foucault’s notions of “governmenatility”:

“Michel Foucault located “governmentality” more directly as the immanent discourses, techniques, and architectures that constitute the objectivity of the modern subject. For Foucault, the state, as such, is only one site of governance among many others and by no means the most central for understanding economies of power. Platforms are similar in this regard.”1

Similar, but different? Analogue? We continue… so in this way the Subject is external to the relations; not the older liberal subject, but rather the collective subject caught in the governing network of external relations of discourse, technics, and power, etc. Many have been questioning Foucault’s notions of Subject of late… I’ll need to trace this down and compare…


Bratton on the Platform Machine as State:

“The emergence of The Stack may represent this historical logic taken to an extreme new maturity. It is not the “state as a machine” (Weber) or the “state machine” (Althusser) or really even (only) the technologies of governance (Foucault) as much as it is the machine as the state. Its agglomeration of computing machines into platform systems not only reflects, manages, and enforces forms of sovereignty; it also generates them in the first place.”1

This notion of the technical object as produce and producing in turn the very forms of governance as the oscillation between technics, poiesis, and the Stack as a GeoProcessing Information Platform of Governance. Equation of the Machine = State becomes the completed task of the earth as fully dominated by an information processing machinic entity or system. He uses the term ‘whole’, but this is sounding more like a totalized system of domination and tyranny.

Bratton sees the geocomputational device that is the World-as-Machine as a self-organizing entity for the production of intelligence, and not necessarily for the benefit of humans, but more likely has an agenda all its own and alien to the designs of human systems:

… unlike for Foucault’s archaeology, its [Machine] primary means and interests are not human discourse and human bodies but, rather, the calculation of all the world’s information and of the world itself as information. We, the humans, while included in this mix, are not necessarily its essential agents, and our well-being is not its primary goal. After billions of years of evolution, complicated heaps of carbon-based molecules (that includes us) have figured out some ways to subcontract intelligence to complicated heaps of silicon-based molecules (that includes our computers).1

I keep asking myself if he’s suddenly imposing a technological determinism and telos upon this Stack as Machine as GeoComputing Device? Is this nothing other than a totalizing system of governance across both human and non-human systems? What is Bratton constructing with this notion? And, I’ve only reached the end of the first section…


1. Benjamin H. Bratton. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Software Studies) (Kindle Locations 320-323). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

 

On Becoming Mutant: The Immanent Movement of Exit

Baudrillard would offer a snort of his laughter:

The dialectic stage, the critical stage is empty… there is no more stage. The masses themselves are caught up in a gigantic process of  inertia through acceleration. They are this excrescent, devouring, process that annihilates all growth and all surplus meaning. They are this circuit short-circuited by this monstrous finality.  (Baudrillard, 1994: 161)

The irony of this is now apparent, Baudrillard’s time has past, we remain… yet, in the aftermath of the apocalypse we surmise retroactively the future that never will be, a future that seems more a slow erosion of our present into the abyss of climatic catastrophe. Day by day we watch the nihilist circus of our later day Rome’s, our political sham games of corporate thugs, whether of the Left or Right – it no longer matters, their all in the pocket of someone’s corporate niche… the Left follows in the hoof beat of the Koch or Soros clans; while the Right follows the Hunts or other clans… Here in America doom is spelled with greenbacks, while the abyss is nothing but the end of currency rather than the sinking of New York City into the Atlantic.

The global mediatainment system filters the game as one of ethical responsibility, while the snickers off-stage collapse onto the floor of political subterfuge and the boys in the high offices chant money, money, money to their hearts content. Inevitably we root on our favorite candidate as if Representation were the last crime of a pulp novel no longer bound to the wheel of fate. But in the back of our mind we know better, we know that our votes mean nothing, the game is rigged, and we are not even victims anymore… it was all foreseen, planned, marketed to just ring a little more surplus value from your pockets into the Big Bozo’s on Wall-Street or some other HiveWorld.

We tweet, we FB, we churn the daily quota of radical thought… radical? The image of radicalism is not radicalism… just the simulate simulacrum which keeps the narcissistic music and sound bytes flipping through the demos… no, our world is slow diving into chaos and we continue to measure our revolution in spoons of memes and viral chants.

The real problem is most people want someone else to fix things, they want to believe that if we follow the rules, elect the correct public servant, believe in liberalism, believe in democracy, believe in life… that everything will turn out alright, that in the end someone will come along an save the day. As if we all lived in a comic book world, with super-heroes who can perform miracles, do for us what we want do for ourselves.

Problem is that works great on the Big Screen in Hollywood, but in life things just go from bad to worse… and we keep on keeping on, talking, talking, talking… we love to play the blame game, and accuse the Other… always the Other… someone always has to be the fall guy for our problems, never us, never the way we live or think. No. We’re the good, the true, the beautiful… even if down deep we no our lives are a complete sham. We keep up the appearances. Keep telling ourselves we can get better, that we can become collective citizens of a bright future if we will only… it’s always if… if we will do this, or do that… it’s never just “do it”… it’s always the con job of … yes, but… but we have to have others on board, we can’t do this all by ourselves, can we?

Oh… so we convince ourselves the problems are just too big for us as individuals to do anything… our leaders must do it for us. So we keep on keeping on… believing in the miracle of the liberal order, the symbolic order of lies and sweets that keep us fed and happy; or, not so happy, but at least fed… or, if not fed, at least we have each other… oh, maybe not each other… but … yes, you are alone in your own world of shit. Isn’t it about time to climb out of that shit-hole?

Maybe, we need to Forget Baudrillard, return to Nietzsche – seek out that destructive energia, the active nihilism that no longer sits back passively waiting for the end, but rather seeks its own way actively destroying the symbolic illusions that bind it to a dead culture and symbolic order. A time of the new completed nihilism would entail overcoming it… in a post-nihilist exit from the dormant logics of a philosophy of closure and sociopathic pulsions. Maybe the future is full of seeds waiting for us to emerge from the traumatic world of postmodern mourning, and once again to light up the fires of a new world shriven of the ghosts that suck us dry; and, instead seek those ‘lines of flight’ into alternate zones of immanent alterity. Dirty our hands with life itself, get a little muddy with doing things, acting, rather than being acted upon. A time of active participation in change and metamorphosis… time to become monstrous and mutant.

Cunning Intelligence


Cunning Intelligence

Along with the various readings of Ancient Greek thought, I’ve been plowing through two books on Cunning Intelligence: Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture by Jean-Pierre Vernant and Marcel Detienne and Society, and Cunning by Don Herzog.

Vervant and Detienne spent 10 years delving into this ancient form of wily or cunning intelligence, which as they suggest was bound to the notion (not concept) of Metis. “Metis must be tracked down… in areas which the… philosopher usually passes over in silence or mentions only with irony or with hostility so that, by contrast, he can display to its fullest advantage the way of reasoning and understanding that is required of his own profession.” (5).

Of course their speaking of Plato, Aristotle and those of the academies, etc. As for Metis what they discovered was a type of intelligence and thought, a way of knowing (not knowledge, or episteme); it implies complex but coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behavior which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over a number of years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement or calculability. (4)

In most ways this was portrayed by Homer in his figure of Odysseus, the Trickster and wily, cunning agent of craft, skill, and technical intelligence. For those like Plato this sort of intelligence was not to gain a foothold on philosophy, but rather to be expunged, and eliminated. Plato saw it from the perspective of an elitist of the aristocratic state reason; and, saw such cunning as native to the artist and sophist. Somewhere between the deceiver and the Con Man the cunning intelligence is the technologist par excellence, the Engineer and builder of labyrinths and machines, a Daedalus. As Herzog says,

“There’s no point in trying to stipulate a definition of cunning. Definitions come at the end of the day, if at all. Anyway, dictionaries are often unhelpful. (Try looking up love or justice.) Notice, though, that cunning brings to mind crooked, shifty, slippery, elusive, evasive.”(7).

wile-e-coyote

But for most skilled laborers and craftsmen, cunning was the learned bodily truth of their lives, something that even skilled warriors, hunters, and builders knew without having to theorize it. If it’s fallen into disrepute, become the degraded farce of advertisers, Con Men, Stock Brokers, Bankers, and elite bull-shit artists everywhere – a part of the late capitalist arsenal of sophistic practices – don’t blame the Greeks. That’s another story of corruption that’s had a long and habitual learning curve of new tricks and subterfuges… but, alas, maybe there’s somethin about this type of intelligence we need. Even in our cartoons with Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner we see remnants of this old style of intelligence played out in colorful laughter. Yet, indigenous tribes across the globe still rely on this more earthy and resilient form of cunning to live, hunt, and support there worlds; and, even to fight against the encroachment of those very IMF banksters who would through cunning and deception destroy and enslave their lives…

The Philosophers would build their worlds of Being and oust Becoming from the Academy. For the Philosophers the sphere of Being, the One, the unchanging and fixed, of limited, and true and definite knowledge (episteme) was the epitome of the intelligible cosmos, – the harmonious order of the universe. While Becoming was the realm of the multiple, the unstable and unlimited,  a realm of the oblique and changeable opinion. Metis was left without a bargaining chip once Becoming had been exiled from Greek thought. Metis is characterized precisely by the way it operates by continuously oscillating between the two poles of Being and Becoming. Metis lives in a realm of forces, a realm pitted between stability and instability, the limited and unlimited, the realm of adversity and struggle. Plato would have none of this. He sought a utopia freed of struggle based on mathematical and sublime perfection of the mind based of fixed principles and axioms of Being. Metis is based on connivance, opposition, and rivalry that sought movement and becoming rather than the fixed axioms of some stable realm of abstract Being. Metis, the deceiver, the Trickster, the cunning intelligence of art and craft, the skilled worker who knows with his hands and eyes in heterogeneous movement, rather than from some distance or through some conceptual or theoretical installation. The intelligence of metis is the one who placed in the midst of things does not react, but rather knows without having to stop and reflect; rather, the becoming of metis acts and works: a doing not a being.

James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed:

“All human activities require a considerable degree of mētis, but some activities require far more. To begin with skills that require adapting to a capricious physical environment, the acquired knowledge of how to sail, fly a kite, fish, shear sheep, drive a car, or ride a bicycle relies on the capacity for mētis. Each of these skills requires hand-eye coordination that comes with practice and a capacity to “read” the waves, the wind, or the road and to make the appropriate adjustments. One powerful indication that they all require mētis is that they are exceptionally difficult to teach apart from engaging in the activity itself.”

The notion of becoming, movement, activity: metis as the temporal intelligence of the evental.


1. Jean-Pierre Vernant and Marcel Detienne Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society. University of Chicago Press (June 18, 1991)
2. Herzog, Don. Cunning. Princeton University Press (April 6, 2008)

The Odyssey: Robert Fitzgerald’s Voyage to Ithaca

ithaca

Odysseus saw the townlands and learned the minds of many distant men, and weathered many bitter nights and days in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.

– Robert Fitzgerald, The Odyssey

I still am amazed that Robert Fitzgerald’s version of The Odyssey still beats out all contenders (at least for me). His remarks at the end of that great work by Homer on his first setting site on Ithaka, homeland of Odysseus still bring a certain clarity and :

“The ship on which I sailed from Piraeus one summer night approached Odysseus’ kingdom from the south in the early morning. Emerging on deck for the occasion, I saw a mile or so to the west the bright flank of a high island, broadside to the rising sun. This was Kephallenia, identified by tradition with Same of The Odyssey; in fact the port where we presently put in is called Same. Beyond it to the north and dead ahead rose another island mass, lying from northwest to southeast and therefore visible only on its western side, all shadow, a dark silhouette. This was Thiaki or Ithaka.”1

He mentions the uncertainty surround a specific description that is in the Homeric poem’s text that has stymied the scholars up to his time:

“Uncertainties ramify handsomely in the first line, but let me confine myself here to the second, which literally means, or appears to mean, that Ithaka lies “toward the gloom, while the other islands lie apart toward the Dawn and the Sun.” Long before my Ithakan landfall I knew that this line has been thought simply inaccurate. But when I saw the islands with my own eyes in the morning light I felt at once that I had discovered the image behind Homer’s words. He, too, I felt sure, had looked ahead over a ship’s bow at that hour and had seen those land masses, one sunny and one in gloom, just as I saw them. An overnight sail from Pylos would have brought him there at the right time.”

This sense of word and image coming together forming the real that brings an ancient description and its modern variant suddenly together, transforming them from the realm of pure speculation to the clarity of the Real where eye and mind no longer distant from the actual, bring the virtual into the momentary movement of the mind in its becoming aware. It’s this quality that Fitzgerald in his versions of the Illiad and Odyssey was exemplary at conveying and transcribing, and allowing readers to envision and see through an allurement of the sensual image in its grasping of the Real.


  1. Homer; Robert Fitzgerald. The Odyssey: The Fitzgerald Translation (Kindle Locations 7203-7207). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Reza Negarestani: The Promethean Enlightenment


For Reza the enemies of AI are the enemies of thought itself, because the history of the Mind is one of its artificialization artifactually enacted across time:

“Exploring the meaning of the mind coincides with artificially realizing it, and the artificial realization changes the very conditions by which this meaning used to be determined.” (151).

“Realizing the mind through the artificial by swapping its natural constitution or biological organization with other material or even social organizations is a central aspect of the mind. Being artificial, or more precisely, expressing itself via the artifactual is the very meaning of the mind as that which has a history rather than an essential nature. Here the artificial expresses the practical elaboration of what it means to adapt to new purposes and ends without implying a violation of natural laws. To have a history is to have the possibility of being artificial—that is to say, expressing yourself not by way of what is naturally given to you but by way of what you yourself can make and organize. Denouncing this history is the same as rejecting freedom in all its forms. Denying the artificial truth of the mind and refusing to take this truth to its ultimate conclusions is to antagonize the history of the mind, and therefore, to be an enemy of thought.” (151).

Below as if Reza had read David Roden’s Disconnection Thesis he will report that the melding of the human mind to machine in the future elaborates a “discontinuity that we do not have the cognitive means to fathom”:

“­­A project that in theory and practice articulates the possibility of realization and implementation of the human experience in machines is a project that concretely undermines what the human experience is and how it looks. ” (152). “By attempting to realize the human mind in the machine, such a program realizes a mind that shatters the canonical picture of the mind we use to recognize ourselves, distinguishing ourselves from the machine we regard as inherently disabled. What the mind was and what it is, how it was originally realized and how it is presently constituted no longer bear any determining significance on the multiply realizable mind. Such a program genuinely belongs to the future, its present theoretic-practical dimension elaborates a discontinuity that we do not have the cognitive means to fathom.” (152).

In continuation of the project of the radical enlightenment, Turing’s project is in fact a program for amplifying the imports of enlightened humanism insofar as it fully conforms to the following principle: The consequentiality or significance of the human is not in its given meaning or a conserved and already decided definition. Rather, it is in the ability to bootstrap complex abilities from primitive abilities. These complex …abilities define what the human consists in. But insofar as they are algorithmically decomposable (cf. different types of computation for different functions, different kinds of algorithms for different activities and abilities), they present the definition of the human as amenable to modification, reconstruction, and implementation in artifacts. (153). … The significance of the human lies not in its uniqueness or in a special ontological status but in its functional decomposability and computational constructability through which the abilities of the human can be upgraded, its form transformed, its definition updated and even become susceptible to deletion.( 153)

Reza Negarestani: Dethroning the Human – Narcissus is Dead, Long Live… the Empty Mirror!

“Turing’s computational project contributes to the project of enlightened humanism by dethroning the human and ejecting it from the center while acknowledging the significance of the human in functionalist terms. For what is the expandable domain of computers if not the strongest assault upon the ratiocentricity of the human mind in favor of a view that the ratiocinating capacities of the human mind can be reconstructed and upgraded in the guise of machines?” (154). … “What used to be called the human has now evolved beyond recognition. Narcissus can no longer see or anticipate his own image in the mirror. The recognition of the blank mirror is the sign that we have finally left our narcissistic phase behind. Indeed, we are undergoing a stage in which if humanity looks into the mirror it only sees an empty surface gawking back.” (154).

Yet, Reza takes a cautious approach toward both functionalism and computationalism, realizing that there must be a better formulated implementation and strategy than has been enacted in the past. For him the is no one-fits-all way of combining the two since both work with multiple realiziabilities and perform a multiplicity of both functional algorithms and computational paradigms. What will work for a discursive/linguistic/semantic computational algorithm and its functional systems may not work for a system/environment search and track based computational and functional system. It may involve an interaction of a multiplicity and pluralist approach to computational functionalism. As he suggests below there is a long history:

“The history of functionalism has deep philosophical roots going back to Plato, to the Stoics (the functional account of emotions) and extending to Kant, Hegel, Sellars, Brandom, and Wimsatt. Similarly, computationalism has alsoa long history passing through scholastic logicians, the early mechanistic philosophy, the project of mathesis universalis, and in the wake of revolutions in mathematics and logics leading to modern computation and ultimately, the current advances in computational complexity theory and computational mechanics (as represented by figures such as Charles Bennett and James Crutchfield). However, computational functionalism—at least its rigorous elaboration—is a recent alliance. Among its forerunners, one name particularly stands out, Alan Turing. The significance of Turing’s computationalist project is that it simultaneously pushes the boundaries of theory and experimentation away. Computational functionalism is presented by Turing as a theory that gestures toward its own realization and in fact, it is the theory that has to keep up the pace with the escalating rate of its concrete realization.­­” (146).

So theory and praxis work hand and glove at an ever accelerating pace if such a experimental computational project is to move forward. Ultimately he suggests that even though this might be a controversial claim, in recognizing thinking as an activity that ought to be theoretically and practically elaborated, philosophy turns itself into an implicitly functionalist project. A philosopher should endorse at least one type of functionalism insofar as thinking is an activity and the basic task of the philosopher is to elaborate the ramifications of engaging in this activity in the broadest sense and examine conditions required for its realization. Pursuing this task inevitably forces philosophy to engage with other disciplines, and depending on its scope and depth, it demands philosophy to rigorously acquaint itself with social and natural sciences, political economy as well as neuroscience, computational linguistics as well as evolutionary biology. (141)

For Reza the Promethean project offers to radicalize Turing’s computational project contributing to this project of enlightened humanism by dethroning the human and ejecting it from the center while acknowledging the significance of the human in functionalist terms.(154). To provide a path forward that allows for a revisioning of the human in functional terms that is a blueprint for the reconstruction of the human and the functional evolution of its significance beyond its present image.(154). The image of the human as bounded by its organic heritage is obsolete, what comes next is anyone’s guess; yet, for Reza the Mind has always already been artificial, and its history has been one of successive evolutionary updates, revisions, and exchanges. There is no valid reason why it cannot situate itself from an organic to an anorganic substrate in his view, and that this is as it should be, pragmatic, functional, and computationally feasible. The human will migrate from its present image as organic life-form into machinic organism. How and when that may come about is anyone’s guess, and in what form it will take shape  – that, too, remains to be seen.


– Reza Negarestani, Revolution Backwards: Functional Realization and Computational Implementation (Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas ed. Matteo Pasquinelli)

Zizek Quotes

The twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall should have been a time for reflection. It has become a cliché to emphasize the “miraculous” nature of the fall of the Wall: it was like a dream come true. With the disintegration of the Communist regimes, which collapsed like a house of cards, something unimaginable happened, something one would not have considered possible even a couple of months earlier. Who in Poland could have imagined the arrival of free elections, or Lech Wałęsa as president? We should, however, note that an even greater “miracle” was to occur only a few years later: namely, the return of the ex-Communists to power through free democratic elections, and the total marginalization of Wałęsa who had become even more unpopular than the man who, a decade and a half earlier, had attempted to crush Solidarność in a military coup—General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

The standard explanation for this later reversal evokes the “immature” utopian expectations of the majority, whose desire was deemed contradictory, or, rather, inconsistent. The people wanted to have their cake and eat it: they wanted capitalist-democratic freedom and material abundance but without paying the full price of life in a “risk society”; that is, without losing the security and stability once (more or less) guaranteed by the Communist regimes. As sarcastic Western commentators duly noted, the noble struggle for freedom and justice turned out to be little more than a craving for bananas and pornography.

– Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times

Buddhism, Non-Buddhism: The Speculative Turn

9f39aea34fb8630363d0204c3a582620

Okay, I admit it I’m not a Buddhist. Let’s get that out of the way. I studied Northern Shaolin forms of Gung Fu under Sonseang-nim Chul Wu Jung. Recently I posted a naïve post on Zen Buddhism not knowing anything of current philosophy, literature, or issues surrounding the practice or non-practice of Buddhism. I soon learned that was a mistake. I learned that current thought has a great deal to say about Western appropriations of Buddhism. This is a beginning article in my search to understand what is occurring under the rubric of Non-Buddhism and Speculative Non-Buddhism. I discovered nothing on the books section of Amazon.com. I found a search on Google to uncover a site run by a gentleman Glen Wallis, who with a few others offers information across a broad spectrum on the topic of Speculative Non-Buddhism. Wallis himself tells us that he is not a “Buddhist”  of any sort, and has written several books and articles on various aspects of Buddhism. You can find further information at his website and in this interview.

Continue reading

Andrew Culp: Dark Deleuze and the Death of this World

nietzsche-essay-deleuze

NON has a sneak peak of Andrew Culp’s new book coming out soon Dark Deleuze and the Death of this World by Andrew Culp.

Geert Lovink speaks of it and Berardi here:

Berardi’s study fits into the recent turn from the Joyous to the Dark Deleuze. As the Anarchist Without Content blog puts it: “those who knew Deleuze consistently note his firm commitment to joyful affirmation and his resentment of negativity. Beatifying this sentiment, Deleuze has been used to establish a canon of joy. But what good is joy in this world of compulsive positivity?” According to its author, Andrew Culp, it is “time to move from the chapel of joy to the darkness of the crypt.” Many of the characteristics of Dark Deleuze also count for Berardi. The overall task of ‘destroying worlds’ can be exemplified here with collapsing financial markets, epidemics as signs of failing health care, crumbling infrastructures, lacking social services due to budget cuts and environmental degradation. The word ‘mutation’ often appears in the thesis. The same can be said of elements and movements such as withdrawal and old autonomist motives such as the interruption. The politics here is cataclysmic, not molecular.

Nietzsche: The ‘I’ As A Construction of Thinking


Nietzsche: The ‘I’ as a construction of thinking:

What separates me most deeply from the metaphysicians is: I don’t concede that the ‘I’, is what thinks. Instead, I take the I itself to be a construction of thinking, of the same rank as ‘matter’, ‘thing’, ‘substance’, ‘individual’, ‘purpose’, ‘number’; in other words to be only a regulative fiction with the help of which a kind of constancy and thus ‘knowability’ is inserted into, invented into, a world of becoming. Up to now belief in grammar, in the linguistic subject, object, in verbs has subjugated the metaphysicians: I teach the renunciation of this belief. (35, Section II)

– from the Notebooks

What’s interesting as well is that his term “regulative fiction” that helps us attain “knowability” is very much like what we term heuristics in our present age. His influence seems to percolate up as time moves onward. Secondly, is that here he sees this very concept as needful because his is a philosophy of becoming as against structure and Being; a non-metaphysical philosophy or force where heuristics provides the semblance of stability and constancy because of its creative and productive (invented), and active (inserted) interpellation into a “world of becoming”, etc.. Here we already see Deleuze’s third sense of time as movement and repetition, as cinematic projection, etc. This is becoming spatialized as the ‘plane of immanence’, rather than the Platonic/Aristotelian substantive and solid, therefore fixed or structured object world. Another point is that belief comes after habitualism, so that for Nietzsche what is being renounced is not the validity of the heuristic device or habit of the ‘I’ founded on repetitious habitualism, but rather what comes after – the veritable installation of the ‘I’ as substantive Subject that precedes sense-data (i.e., the ‘I’ as Idea or eidos-essence of Idealism).


Addendum:

I’d made a post on FB (Facebook):

Nietzsche Attacking The False Infinity of Absolute Creativity:

But what, then, is the proposition and belief which most distinctly formulates that critical turn, the present ascendancy of the scientific spirit over the religious, god-inventing spirit? Is it not: the world, as force, must not be conceived of as unlimited, for it cannot be conceived of that way – we forbid ourselves the concept of an infinite force, as being incompatible with the concept of ‘force ‘. Thus – the world also lacks the capacity for eternal novelty. (36)

– from the Notebooks

Here Nietzsche affirms the necessity of distinctions, of delimiting force as ‘force’ rather than as the unbounded infinity of creativity and invention or some absolute or infinite force (God). I left out the earlier parts of this entry where he attacks Spinoza’s notion of ‘deus sive natura’. The implication here is that force is not essence, it does not precede and impose a telos on the world, but rather force arises with the world as its ongoing processual (becoming) formation which is goalless and without a final cause, etc. Nieztsche was forever harping against Aristotle’s fourth cause as a error of substantive formalisms inability to think process (becoming).

A friend said:

Félix Alles Zermalmender love these selections you’re pulling–feel like a different nietzsche is emerging, one not confined to contemporary interpretations of an exclusive concern w/ affect or a vitalistic approach: could you elaborate on your sidenote that force≠essence?

My answer:

I’m reading him along with Land, Deleuze, Spinoza, Bataille, Canguilheim, and many others… a sort of ongoing research project on philosophies of forces as against philosophies of Being. I use force as against notions of vitalism in the sense that Nietzsche was outside metaphysics as were many of those that followed in his wake. Let me expand on that. Metaphysics is bounded by logos and Being. While Nietzsche and many other later thinkers (not philosophers) were moving toward philosophies of force and becoming. Or drive and process: libidinal materialisms.

Nietzsche as I’m rereading him was against notions of organic/anorganic which stymie vitalist philosophers. As I go back and reread Nietzsche I use Deleuze’s conceptuality to seek out and discover these early notions of force and process (becoming) in his discourse. Nietzsche’s was not a completed project, but he opened the door for many later thinkers. Some like Heidegger fell back into metaphysical quandaries and ended in poeisis, etc.. Others like Deleuze (who many have seen as vitalist) were inventing the possibility of a completed project of processual philosophy based not on Being but Process: the ‘plane of immanence’.

All those that disparage Deleuze/Nietzsche are of the traditions of dialectical materialism, and other speculative philosophies: Badiou, Zizek (dialectical materialism), Husserl/Heidegger (idealisms), Speculative Realists, etc.: all based on metaphysical approaches that accept some form of structure, Being, and substantive formalism, whether of Subject or Object. These others Nietzsche, Bataille, Whitehead, Deleuze, Land, De Landa, and a few others were eliminating metaphysics, ousting the long standing need for Being, for the fixed concept and structural relation. Against this they were developing monist ontologies of force: a pluralism of forces in movement and process – with temporality or time as the vector within, not life.

So it is to Time – as temporal movement or process that we must discover a way forward in our conceptual notions of force, not the vitalist error of those castigator philosophies of Being. Vitalism was always a false object, because metaphysical philosophers are stuck in Being so are unable to understand force as anything else as energia that splits organic from anorganic life; since for them things are fixed and substantive. For Process philosophy this is error pure and simple, there is not Being, only becoming. Since there is no eidos, no fixed essence that precedes or drives process, then force is not an Idea as engine of movement, but rather the tendency of form itself as in Lucretius’s notion of ‘swerve’: the first trope for becoming and process without goal or telos – as against Aristotle’s fourth cause, etc. Our perception of final causes is an error after the fact, a retroactive reconstruction of process not Being.

The Age of Forgetting: The End of the Human

Nietzsche will tell us that the historical sense is the “capacity to  divine  quickly the order of rank of the valuations by which a people, a society, a man lives – the relationship of these valuations to the conditions of life; the relation  between  the authority of  the values and the authority of the forces that are at work (the presumed relation usually even more than the actual one): being able to reproduce all this within oneself constitutes the historical sense”.

In our time we’ve lost this ‘historical sense’ through a specific transformation that has recently happened: we no longer know what a human is, much less what it does; we’ve entered a zone where the hyperintensive forces of our moment have dissolved the human into a fractured assemblage without a center to hold it. Of course Nietzsche had seen this, too; foretold it’s outlines, its patterns of behavior and destiny, had given it a name: nihilism. Divided it into its active and passive forms and prophesied its transport across a two-hundred year vector of multivalent forces.

But would he have foreseen the closure of the human upon the future? Would he have seen the future collapse upon the present, ending the very form of history of which he speaks? If the human is no more, then can we speak of history anymore? If the very system of valuation and ranking based on a knowledge of humans across time was the key to this historical sense can we reproduce this anymore in ourselves? Or, are we rather sliding intemperately into a strange newness from which the notion of internalization of history will seem like a fairy tale for a bygone age?

We use the term “post” this or that to foreground our quandaries. We speak of post-human, post-history, post-capitalism…. post post post…. Deleuze would speak of And… And… And… a sort of transitional phase-shift through the chaotic spume of a Rubicon abyss from which nothing human will remain. So who will speak of valuation now? Who will speak of such transvaluation of values in our time? Is such a thing not only passé, but erroneous in an age when the future is seen more as an apocalyptic event: a Climatological collapse, sixth extinction, AI Singularity… name your poison? And, the past? What is it anymore if we are no longer human? If the natural is no longer “natural”? If we have suddenly become so artificial and enclosed in the presentism of a non-world of techno-commercial hyper-accelerationist implosion, that the future is collapsing upon us and history is vanishing into the black hole of forgetfulness?

 

Is America Desiring Fascism?

mussolini fascism

Is America Desiring Fascism?

People wonder why we could be duped by both Hilary and Trump on the Left and Right… a part of it was already apparent to Deleuze and Guattari quite a while back:

Reich is at his profoundest as a thinker when he refuses to accept ignorance or illusion on the part of the masses as an explanation of fascism, and demands an explanation that will take their desire into account, an explanation formulated in terms of desire: no, the masses were not innocent dupes; at a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for. (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 29)

This sense that a certain part of our population are not simply “innocent dupes,” but that the conditions are ripe for such a fascist perversion of democracy. Yet, one wonders if ignorance does indeed play a part in this on both the Left and Right of the spectrum. Most of the followers of both Hilary and Trump are true believers. I mean by that they will follow their parties status quo no matter who it might be. Like the blind leading the blind they’ll walk into the abyss for their Party’s chosen one. I use that term tongue-n-check, “Chosen One”; yet, eerily one feels a shudder of dismay, and thinks, maybe, after all this is a little too emotional, a little too affective, a little to religious – an almost hysteria of the masses rising from the subterranean lairs?

We need to remember that for Deleuze and Guattari, unlike Lacan or – to take another immediate example, Zizek, desire was not based on lack but rather was productive: desire produces the objects, rather than seeking some lost object to fill the void of its lack. Now we can disagree or agree, that’s outside the scope of this post. For experiment’s sake I’m accepting their notion of desire as productive.

The people who have perversely produced for their party the strange objects of their desire in Hilary or Trump have done this unconsciously rather than with conscious awareness. Todd May in an essay will tell us about it this way:

“If there is only desire and the social, it is because desire produces the social. Rather than, as with psychoanalytic theory, desire being desire for something, desire directly creates its objects. We can recognize here Deleuze’s distinction between the virtual and the actual. The actual is a product of the virtual. The virtual is a field of difference from which aIl actuality arises. The actual, in turn, emerges from the virtual, while still retaining the virtual within it. In the same way, desire produces the social.” (14).1

We have known for a while that the mediatainment complex acts like a false memetic system that has replaced real and actual forms of cultural memory with artificial and simulacrum forms of corrupt and reified illusory systems of coercion and production of subjectivity. Many people in our country’s middle-classes are oblivious to how regulated their unconscious desires are by all these technological apparatuses. Ones that have from the early twentieth-century been highly adapted to effect propaganda, public relations, consumerist advertising, polling, and other media platforms to guide and shape the public mind, as well as actively shape the weak and vulnerable to the illusory desires of democratic rhetoric’s. Both the Democrats and Republicans have adapted to these systems, used them, brought them to bare to shape the mass psyche. And, in some ways both parties have come under the direct influence of corporate and lobby pressure and deep influence through power, money, and lucrative systems of desire.

None of this happened overnight, it’s been a gradual creation over the past century, adapting to the various technological advances in the ICT’s or Information and communications technologies that have created our regulated infosphere within which we all ubiquitously share a general intelligence. The few who can see what is happening get no voice in the public sphere, but are succinctly and with a certain malice expunged from both spectrums of Left and Right as the “lunatic fringe”, etc. .

So for Deleuze and Guattari if there is a problem, it is one of desire not illusion and/or ideology: ‘ It is not a question of ideology. There is an unconscious libidinal investment of the social field that coexists, but does not necessarily coincide, with preconscious investments, or with what preconscious investments “ought to be.” That is why, when subjects, individuals, or groups act manifestly counter to their class interests … it is not enough to say: they were fooled, the masses have been fooled’ (Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus: 1977: 104).

For Deleuze and Guattari our very investment in consumer society itself has produced our desire for such leaders, rather that some nefarious and illusory duping on the part of the masters. We ourselves seek such leaders because we desire our lives to go on as they are, to have the things we have, to live the way we live. As Todd May tells us:

To ask why it is that the masses form beliefs that are against their own interests is to ask the wrong question; it is to ask a question at the wrong level. ‘We see the most disadvantaged, the most excluded members of society invest with passion the system that oppresses them, and where they always find an interest in it, since it is here that they search for and measure it. Interest always comes after’ (Deleuze andGuattari 1977: 346). (15)

Instead of asking why we desire fascism (consumerism), May reports that instead we need to recognize our libidinal investments in the system and make them more revolutionary rather than allowing ourselves to remain passive participants. May will give a lot of remedies to this situation, but in the end as he reports it comes down to this:

We must see the fascism both in what we think and in what we want and create. We do not, or at least very few of us, think anything we tell ourselves is fascistic. Rather, it emerges in the practices in which we engage. It arises not because we desire fascism but because what we desire is fascistic; it arises not because we believe in fascism but because what we believe is fascistic.(26).

One almost remembers a line from Ghandi: “We are botched, therefore we are potential.” And, Mao Tse-Tung’s saying: “There is great chaos under heaven — the situation is excellent.” Maybe, admitting our vulnerability to such desires is in the end to accept the responsibility to create something new with them rather than to let the elite and powers of global capital to continue capturing them with such banal machines.

————————————————————-
1. Evans, Brad and Reid, Julian. Deleuze & Fascism: Security: War: Aesthetics. Routledge; 1 edition (May 29, 2013)

Should we be worried about Biogenetic Manipulation?

Should we be worried about Biogenetic Manipulation in the near future?

Not only will capabilities for genomic manipulation dissolve biological identity into techno-commercial processes of yet-incomprehensible radicality, but also … other things. For those keeping up with Biogenetics, etc. A conference about having transparency in the biogenetic and biotechnological worlds of techno-commercialism.

CFP: Performance Philosophy and Biopolitics, Biotechnology & Biogenetics: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sojcqb

This working session will explore intersections of performance and theatre with biopolitics, biotechnology, and biogenetics by looking at the ways in which life increasingly resides in a transversal realm of indistinction, which produces live (i.e. concrete and tangible) consequences within digital and embodied environments. The working session seeks to understand what theatre and performance studies can learn from a critical inquiry into biopolitics, biotechnology, and biogenetics to examine ways in which contemporary ideology gravitates towards concerns regarding transparency. By drawing on the etymology of transparency— from the Latin trans- “through” and parere “come in sight, appear”—we propose to investigate transparency and its absence as it occurs across wider areas of study which may include cinema, visual and performance arts, video gaming, and digital humanities.

Further, for bio-transgenic corporealities—from biomaterial markets to Bodyworlds—the stakes of transparency are also rooted in the passage of biomaterials across, beyond, and outside of bodies in biotechnological transformations. The trans-actions of power in the practices of biotechnology— including gene mapping, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and blood and tissue sample collection—are embedded in questions concerning transparency, namely the mapping of the human genome, the rights to biomaterials, the profits and markets associated with biomaterials and the apparent reduction of life to scientific codes of identification through information.

One doubts that will come about too quickly when billions are at stake, and the capitalist corporations behind these technologies seek to keep their patents, and tech secret and secure. I’ve been collecting a lot of research of late on the NBIC technologies across global capitalism. The biggest impact in the near future honestly is the actual and real dilemma we face in regards to gene editing, splicing, manipulation, etc. The moment we begin altering our genome we may seed a future for a genetic divergence from homo sapiens into something else… opening the door to divergence through technological biogenetic manipulation will have definite repercussions and consequences that we will have no control over, nor even understand the unknowns of our own actions. Yet, I’m cynical enough to realize that if its already being thought, it will probably become a reality in the near future if the techno-commercialists have their way. Most of our legal systems and political resolution is far behind technology at the moment, and there is always a black market world and countries off the grid to allow such activity for a price. That’s the sad truth of it all…

The Cult of ChemSex?

dath_squad

In an article that asks Chemsex: how dangerous is it? a few thoughts came to me…

I think the difference between current chemsex and that which I grew up within during the sixties is one of hope against despair. In the sixties we still had the illusion of hope: drugs, rock-n-roll, and a mixture of the soft rebel and the laughing hyena. Hendrix, Joplin, Eddie Cochran… and, so many more went down not in apathy, but at the high-point of their jouissance. Else there were those that shot the dive into the dark like Sid Viscious with a final sense of “hell, here i come” belligerence. In our time the young have sex, chems, and music to hide from their parents stupidity, rather than to protest it; the despair of a future gone south, a world collapsing, and a zombie culture bent on hyper-death. Today it’s the “young, affluent professionals” rather than some time-out-of-joint hippie culture spiking the juice with extended peak sex: the chemical suicides of a cult of erotic death-metal in hyperdrive. A nihilist prelude to the Singularity, zombies for the automated death-machines of an unbound future.

Basho (1644–1694)

D-BASHO-MATSUO04

To me the word is just the place where sense and non-sense reveal themselves, not as concept but as life lived. I was rereading some of Basho’s poems (Haiku) today:

Don’t imitate me;
it’s as boring
as the two halves of a melon.

So simple, elegant; and, at the same time, mundane and ordinary. But isn’t that it? Isn’t the point of creativity to lead us back into our lives, give us back again the truth of our ordinariness: our ordinary lives in the mundane, day to day activities, where for the most part we act unconsciously, automaton like; and, in this awakening of the power of poetic or conceptual revelation to once again help us realize that, yes – that’s it exactly: to wake up and be blessed by the truth of our ordinary lives, our lived moment, the traveling of this road that is our singularity? No longer to live unconsciously, but to cherish even the triviality of spliced water melon, or a conversation, or the flight of a bird? This is where the natural occurrences break across an awakened mind…

220px-MatsuoBasho-Haka-M1932

The 17th-century Japanese haiku master Basho was born Matsuo Kinsaku near Kyoto, Japan, to a minor samurai and his wife. Soon after the poet’s birth, Japan closed its borders, beginning a seclusion that allowed its native culture to flourish. It is believed that Basho’s siblings became farmers, while Basho, at Ueno Castle in the service of the local lord’s son, grew interested in literature. After the young lord’s early death, Basho left the castle and moved to Kyoto, where he studied with Kigin, a distinguished local poet. During these early years Basho studied Chinese poetry and Taoism, and soon began writing haikai no renga, a form of linked verses composed in collaboration.

In his late 20s Basho moved to Edo (now a sector of Tokyo), where he joined a rapidly growing literary community. After a gift of basho trees from one student in 1680, the poet began to write under the name Basho. His work, rooted in observation of the natural world as well as in historical and literary concerns, engages themes of stillness and movement in a voice that is by turns self-questioning, wry, and oracular.

Soon after Basho began to study Zen Buddhism, a fire that destroyed much of his city also took his house. Around 1682, Basho began the months-long journeys on foot that would become the material for a new poetic form he created, called haibun. Haibun is a hybrid form alternating fragments of prose and haiku to trace a journey. Haibun imagery follows two paths: the external images observed en route, and the internal images that move through the traveler’s mind during the journey. Basho composed several extended haibun sequences starting in 1684, including Nozarashi Kiko, or Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones (1685); Oi no Kobumi, or The Knapsack Notebook (1688); and Sarashina Kiko, or Sarashina Travelogue (1688). 1

Collection of Six Haiku

Waking in the night;
the lamp is low,
the oil freezing.

It has rained enough
to turn the stubble on the field
black.

Winter rain
falls on the cow-shed;
a cock crows.

The leeks
newly washed white,-
how cold it is!

The sea darkens;
the voices of the wild ducks
are faintly white.

Ill on a journey;
my dreams wander
over a withered moor.


  1. Basho, Biography

 

On Fantastic Horror and Cosmic Nihil

cosmic_horror

The Fantastic is situated between the Marvelous and the Uncanny… Horror lives in that space that draws from all three: and presents the faces of the sublime and disgust, beauty and the ugly.

The Sublime was originally the elevation of that which is so horrible and fascinating at the same time that it cannot be described nor reduced to the images of mundane existence, but rather must enter into the music of the word, the dance or gleam on the edge of things, the invisible that becomes almost for a moment visible; not to our sight, our eyes, but rather to our mind.

The ugly and the distasteful or disgusting bring us back down into the revolting mass of our toxic envelopment in the Real, in the bodily farce of existence itself. Disgust reminds us of that which surrounds us and would deign to kill us at each and every moment of our lives, to corrupt us and degrade us into a massive slime entity without thought or sentient existence – only the vibratory electricity of death interminable.

Cosmic Horror seeks the ineffable corruption of all things absolute and beyond (transcendence), while the tentacular horror brings you to the monstrous mutations of your earthly dance in the slime (immanence). If one can bring both together not in fusion but in fission then one collapses all things into the immanent transcendence of the Real, the horror of the Void; the utter indifference of the Universe.

It is here that the fatalism of laughter begins…

More thoughts…

I don’t know about the public intellectual per se, but for me it was the great literary critics from Samuel Johnson, Hazlitt, Wilde, and others who opened me to a world beyond my own nose… I think like a lot of people (especially working class like I was – retired now!) when delving beyond the occasional novel or short-story, etc. soon lose their way in a library. I know I did. As a young man I used to wonder: who wrote all these books? Each book seemed like a new world to me… an uncharted territory, and I was without map or compass in such a realm. I’d pick up a book here and there not knowing if it was good or bad (not in the moral sense, but in the sense of – good writing, ideas, history, fiction, science, philosophy, etc.). I just didn’t have a way of telling, of deciding what was worth reading or not. Even my teachers in grade school didn’t really go into it much. Oh we’d read a few books from time to time in class, but no one in grade school, Jr. High, or High School taught much more than the usual fare of safe and narrow books I think we’ve all come to know as the classics of one’s country or nation, etc. What lay outside of that was like a jungle full of unknown beasts.

So one day I happened on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I was amazed at the power of his words to capture for me some of the feelings and thoughts I’d always held and believed to be true (at least for me). His verse was simple, clear, and imaginative; and, it held me, fascinated me, kept me wanting more; wanting to know how he could put words together like that, how the spell he cast over me suddenly awakened laughter or tears. So I asked a librarian about Blake, and if they had any books on his life, etc. I was directed to Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry. That was the first critical work I ever read. Suddenly I was thrown into a world that exposed me to critical thought for the first time. I was hooked. He made Blake’s poetry come alive, it made sense. I was now able with the help of Frye’s commentary on work and life of Blake to understand the message of the poetry as well as its music. Blake had many strains from lyric to epic to prophetic, etc. But it was this world of poetry that opened my eyes to language itself. From then own I wanted to know more, so I began reading all the poetry and critical lives and works on poets throughout the ages.

After that came my need to know the actual history and thoughts of people that informed much of this poetry. In school we’d been taught mainly dates and dull facts about the past, and most text books were boring and neutered of excitement. So for me school was dead and deathly for a growing mind. I only remember a handful of teachers that seemed truly excited about teaching and the subjects they taught. My literature, mathematics, and science teachers in several cities we lived in all seemed to care about their subjects and made me interested. And, that above all is what keeps one going, curiosity and interest.

I have to admit that philosophy came late in life. Most of these old books just didn’t make much sense at all. Like many undergraduates I probably got my inkling of philosophy from reading the philosophy of histories by Coplestone. Having been raised a Christian it took a while to overcome many of my doubts and feelings about what I read, but I persisted and much of what I read opened my mind to contrary thoughts and doubts concerning the validity of my upbringing and the Church. Needless to say it took years to work through these doubts and tribulations. Having been raised in Southern Baptist and Methodist ideology since childhood I was bound with the old notion of sin and death, hell and eternal punishment of the wicked, etc. Mentally it took me years to overcome my fear of eternal damnation, and the idea that that God and Devil alike were priestly lies; a way to control the mass mind of their tribes and nations.

Sorry to be so long winded… but for me literature, philosophy, sciences, history – the culture of the West gave me a new perspective and ballast against the ignorance and fear of my childhood world. I remember James Joyce once saying

“When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”

Maybe in the end that is something we all must do or remain in the prison house of fear and trepidation… never knowing our own thoughts, but rather trapped in the cage of an Other who decides for us what is true and good. I’d rather die alone, and with my own thoughts than be bound to the lock and stamp of some dogmatic world of ritual and repetition that seeks to control my mind. But, that’s me… I don’t suggest others follow me, but to follow their own path.