The Bionic Horizon: The Law of Acceleration

A law of acceleration, definite and constant as any law of science, cannot be supposed to relax its energy to suit the convenience of man.

– Henry Adams, The Law of Acceleration

As exponential growth continues to accelerate into the first half of the twenty-first century, it will appear to explode into infinity, at least from the limited and linear perspective of contemporary humans.

– Ray Kurzweil, The Law of Accelerating Returns

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.

—Nick Land, Meltdown

If you’re accelerating, there are material constraints upon your capacity to accelerate, but there must also be a transcendental speed limit at some point. The ultimate limit is not a limit at all for him, it’s death, or cosmic schizophrenia.

– Ray Brassier, Accelerationism

Technological acceleration and its alliance with late capitalism Benjamin Noys reminds us becomes fused in the utopias of cyberpunk fiction (here). As Noys remarks: “while promising the traversal of capitalism I argue that what it delivers is a reinforcement of the ‘thrill’ of capitalism as a continuing operator of the dematerialization and rematerialization of new ‘bodies’ of labour, while minimizing or valorizing the ‘threat’ of these experiences.” One can remember Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams, Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson, and Neuromancer by William Gibson to name only three of the fabled cyberpunkers. One could add one’s own favorite list: Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Paul Di Filippo just to name a few. In later times such utopian dreams of capital would turn toward the dystopic critical appraisal of such works as Richard Morgan’s trilogy of Takeshi Kovacs a sleever who changes bodies as regularly as we do our clothes. Reincarnated on demand by elite socialites this cyborgian mercenary version of the Chandleresque private eye slips into an out of death sequences without a hitch since his recorded memories backed up and locked away can be retrieved from a subcortical implant hooked to his brain stem. Against this speedworld theoretic of cyberphutures as Noys names it he tells us “rather than the reinforcement and replication of capitalist relations as the means to achieve our future we consider imagining new avant-gardes and new politics that take seriously the reconfiguration and negation of these relations. In this way we could finally rescind the promise of the cybernetic phuture”.

Richard Feynman once remarked: “The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom.” It was another twentieth century visionary, Buckmenster Fuller, who described his concept of ephemeralization as the apparent driver of accelerating change, “the invisible chemical, metallurgical, and electronic production of ever-more-efficient and satisfyingly effective performance with the investment of ever-less weight and volume of materials per unit function formed or performed”.1 The point of this concept is the ability of technological advancement to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing”. Fuller’s vision was that ephemeralization will result in ever-increasing standards of living for an ever-growing population despite finite resources. Utopian?

A critical eye was cast early on toward such postmodern motifs as accelerationism by both Lewis Mumford and Jaques Ellul. It was Mumford who concerned himself with the machinic world of technique: “The machine is antisocial, it tends, by reason of its progressive character, to the most acute forms of human exploitation”. 2 While Ellul railed against those critics of capitalism pointing out that they had missed the real point: “Capitalism did not create our world; the machine did.”3

Mumford divided techniques into two types:  megatechiques, which emphasizes constant, unrestricted expansion, production, and replacement. He contends that these goals work against technical perfection, durability, social efficiency, and overall human satisfaction; and, biotechnics, an organic model of technology in which organic systems direct themselves to “qualitative richness, amplitude, spaciousness, and freedom from quantitative pressures and crowding. Self-regulation, self-correction, and self-propulsion are as much an integral property of organisms as nutrition, reproduction, growth, and repair.” Biotechnics models life in seeking balance, wholeness, and completeness. Yet, Mumford went further he explained that technique shifted between two operations: polytechnic, which enlists many different modes of technology, providing a complex framework to solve human problems; and, monotechnic, which is technology only for its own sake, which oppresses humanity as it moves along its own trajectory.

Jaques Ellul defines technique as “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.”(ibid.) Ellul was pessimistic about the outcome of technology and saw technology becoming a total phenomenon for civilization, a defining force of that would give birth to a new social order in which “efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity”. (ibid.)  Ellul set forth seven characteristics of modern technology that make efficiency a necessity: rationality, artificiality, automatism of technical choice, self-augmentation, monism, universalism, and autonomy. Most of this would during the postmodern era become stock and trade within the neoliberal order. At the center of this neoliberal order would be formed a technique and an ethic to enforce this technique based on Rational Choice Theory. The basic idea of rational choice theory is that patterns of behavior in societies reflect the choices made by individuals as they try to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs. In other words, people make decisions about how they should act by comparing the costs and benefits of different courses of action. As a result, patterns of behavior will develop within the society that result from those choices.

Yet, as one critic pointed out the concept of rationality, to use Hegelian language, represents the relations of modern capitalist society one-sidedly. The burden of rational-actor theory is the assertion that “naturally” constituted individuals facing existential conflicts over scarce resources would rationally impose on themselves the institutional structures of modern capitalist society, or something approximating them. But this way of looking at matters systematically neglects the ways in which modern capitalist society and its social relations in fact constitute the “rational”, calculating individual. The well-known limitations of rational-actor theory, its static quality, its logical antinomies, its vulnerability to arguments of infinite regress, its failure to develop a progressive concrete research program, can all be traced to this starting-point.4

Yet, many neoliberal thinkers still assume that humans make decisions in a rational, rather than a stochastic manner which implies that their behavior can be modeled and thus predictions can be made about future actions. They also buy into the mathematical formality of rational choice theory models believing that these allow social scientists to derive results from their models that may have otherwise not be seen, and submit these theoretical results for empirical verification. Much of the outgrowth of Rational Choice Theory began in the early work of Game Theorists. John von Neumann published a paper in 1928 which became central as an original proof that used Brouwer’s fixed-point theorem on continuous mappings into compact convex sets, which became a standard method in game theory and mathematical economics. He would later write Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.  This foundational work contains the method for finding mutually consistent solutions for two-person zero-sum games. During the following time period, work on game theory was primarily focused on cooperative game theory, which analyzes optimal strategies for groups of individuals, presuming that they can enforce agreements between them about proper strategies.

In 1946 General Henry H. Arnold, commander of the United States Army Air Forces, established Project RAND with the objective of looking into long-range planning of future weapons. This project would turn into one of the early think tanks of the coming Neoliberal Era. Since the 1950s, the RAND has been instrumental in defining U.S. military strategy. It was here that Nash would use his early doctoral thesis to produce his famous Nash equilibrium theory that provides a solution concept of a non-cooperative gaming involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only his own strategy unilaterally. This became the basis of the prisoner’s dilemma,  a canonical example of a game that shows why two individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. Nash would later develop work on the role of money in society. Within the framing theorem that people can be so controlled and motivated by money that they may not be able to reason rationally about it, he has criticized interest groups that promote quasi-doctrines based on Keynesian economics that permit manipulative short-term inflation and debt tactics that ultimately undermine currencies.

While all this was going on the Chicago School of Economics took an interest in such game theories to provide the Neoliberal Order a way of ousting Keynesianism from the world. Chicago economists such as Thorstein Veblen, John Maurice Clark, Frank Knight, Jacob Viner, Theodore Schultz, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase, Merton Miller, Robert Fogel, Richard Posner, Gary Becker, Robert Lucas, Kevin Murphy, and Steven Levitt.5 The dark roots of the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions of the 1980s can be found at the University of Chicago. Over the past quarter-century, one by one many developing countries have adopted free-market oriented economic policies, and the same holds true for them. China, India and the countries of the former Soviet Union are the highest-profile examples, but many other smaller countries followed the same route. Although some contest it, globalization, which is nothing more than the application of free-market policies across borders, cultures, and continents, has enforced its strange logics onto the world on a heretofore unseen scale. As activist Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, argues criticizing that Chicago School rational monarch of neoliberal economics, Milton  Friedman,  stating that his ideology and principles have guided the economic restructuring that followed the military coups in countries such as Chile and Indonesia, drawing analogies between the way that Friedman proposed using the social “shock” of the coups to create an economic “blank slate” with Ewen Cameron’s controversial medical experiments that used electroshock therapy to create a mental “blank slate” in patients with mental disorders. Based on the extent to which the application of neoliberal policies has contributed to income disparities and inequality, both Klein and Noam Chomsky have suggested that the primary role of neoliberalism was as an ideological cover for capital accumulation by multinational corporations.(wiki)

An aspect of Ellul’s notion that technique pervades our postmodern era comes with such ideas as Resilient Control Systems which takes the Rational paradigm of game theory and neoliberal economics and considers all of these elements and those disciplines that contribute to a more effective design, such as cognitive psychology, computer science, and control engineering to develop interdisciplinary solutions. These solutions consider such things such as how to tailor the control system operating displays to best enable the user to make an accurate and reproducible response, how to design in cyber security protections such that the system defends itself from attack by changing its behaviors, and how to better integrate widely distributed computer control systems to prevent cascading failures that result in disruptions to critical industrial operations. One can imagine a dystopic web of interconnected control systems, either architecture termed as distributed control systems (DCS) or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), the application of control is moving toward a more decentralized state. In moving to a smart grid, the complex interconnected nature of individual homes, commercial facilities and diverse power generation and storage creates an opportunity and a challenge to ensuring that the resulting system is more resilient to threats. The ability to operate these systems to achieve a global optimum for multiple considerations, such as overall efficiency, stability and security, will require mechanisms to holistically design complex networked control systems. Multi-agent methods suggest a mechanism to tie a global objective to distributed assets, allowing for management and coordination of assets for optimal benefit and semi-autonomous, but constrained controllers that can react rapidly to maintain resilience for rapidly changing conditions.

David Hume would displace the Reason of the dogmatic rationalists with ‘desire’ as the great governor of behavior in human and other systems. Hume’s anti-rationalism informed much of his theory of belief and knowledge, in his treatment of the notions of induction, causation, and the external world. But it was not confined to this sphere, and permeated just as strongly his theories of motivation, action, and morality. In a famous sentence in the Treatise, Hume circumscribes reason’s role in the production of action: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” Immanuel Kant waking up from his proverbial “dogmatic slumber” after reading Hume would spend the rest of his life answering the corrosive power of that philosopher by internalizing Reason, no longer in the world, but in the very seat of human cognition: “Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but … let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition.” This would turn the Copernican Revolution on its head by reversing course and internalizing both Plato’s eternal realm of Forms (the Categories of Thought, Intuition, Understanding, etc.) and Value (Ethics). As John McCumber argues in Time and Philosophy Kant tried to salvage traditional ethics which up to his time had resided in an atemporal timeless realm of pure knowledge by internalizing it within the Mind itself.6 This notion of Reason and the Categories of the Mind being somehow eternal and situated outside of time lead to a series of unresolved issues within Kant’s system that later Idealists and two hundred of years of philosophical speculation have yet to resolve. The point being, that if Reason and the Categories are timeless how do they ever produce change in a temporal world, how do they even relate to temporal objects such as Kant’s ‘appearances’, much less his atemporal things-in-themselves that can only be inferred never known directly?

By circuitous route I slowly return to Accelerationism by way of Nick Land who in his Thirst for Annihilation and Fanged Noumena would lay the ground for a critique of the Neoliberal Order. “To describe Kant and capital as two sides of a coin is as necessary as it is ridiculous. A strange coin indeed that can synthesize a humble citizen of Konigsberg with the run-away reconstruction of a planet.”6 (3)  One dismisses Land at one’s peril, for Land brings sparks, insights into the central dilemmas of the past two hundred years of thought by descending into Kant’s lair and discovering there the failure of thought that is with us still. Even the great Hegel does not escape the scathing indictments: “Hegel’s philosophy is the life support machine of Kantianism, the medical apparatus responding to a crisis” (3).

It is to Hegel Land turns for an understanding to accelerationism, because Hegel understood that the Kantian conception of infinity which “abstractly opposes itself to finitude rather than subsuming it, indefinitely perpetuated a dangerous tension, insofar as it ascetically suspends the moment of resolution” (4). It is just here that the key to Land’s original insight into accelerationism comes into play: “This bad infinity – the endless task of perpetual growth (capital) – is incapable of ever diminishing the prospect of utter collapse” (4). For Kant the mathematical sublime is situated in the failure of the imagination to comprehend natural objects that appear boundless and formless, or appear “absolutely great”. This imaginative failure is recuperated through the pleasure taken in reason’s assertion of the concept of infinity. The English word infinity derives from Latin infinitas, which can be translated as “unboundedness”, itself calqued from the Greek word apeiros, meaning “endless”.

 “When you cut into the present the future leaks out,” said, William S. Burroughs. Reading Fanged Noumena is like entering the thoughts of a machinic intelligence which like some Philip K. Dick novel has descending into the transmorgraphied flesh of Nick Land’s brain indelibly switching out and replacing neurons with nanobots that have collapsed from the future to produce a new vision of futurity in the now. In his essay Meltdown he remarks that conversing “upon the terrestrial meltdown singularity, phase-out culture accelerates through its digitech-heated adaptive landscape, passing through compression thresholds normed to an intensive logistic curve: 1500, 1756, 1884, 1948, 1980, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 … Nothing human makes it out of the near future” (443). But not to worry he tells us, we have K-tactics which is not a matter of building the future, but of dismantling the past. It assembles itself by charting and escaping the technical-neurochemical deficiency conditions for linear-progressive palaeo-domination time, and discovers that the future as virtuality is accessible now, according to a mode of machinic adjacency that securitized social reality is compelled to repress. This is not remotely a question of hope, aspiration or prophecy, but of communications engineering connecting with the efficient intensive singularities, and releasing them from constriction within linear-historical development. Virtuality counterposes itself to history, as invasion to accumulation. It is matter as arrival, even when camouflaged as a deposit of the past. (FN 452)

John Lindblom in his essay speaks of ‘creative interventions’ that can take place in the gap between ‘deterritorialization’, such as in the mobilization of images, machines, information, and so on, which then is ‘reterritorialized’ and incorporated into the latest functionalism concomitant with the constantly updated capitalist infrastructure: “by pinpointing those moments of creative possibilities that capitalism inevitably needs to produce in order to maintain its own potency, and follow them along lines which capitalism itself would never consider.”7 He goes on to argue:

Going back to technology and new media, a key issue for accelerationist theory would be to reflect on how one would approach the vast number of technological resources (the Internet, social media, portable electronic devices, etc.) which have been developed under capitalism, and instrumentalize them in ways which capitalism itself necessarily must inhibit.

He takes note of Nick Land’s contribution to a theory of Accelerationism remarking: “Land’s vision of capitalism as an inhuman invasion from the future that dissolves human culture into ‘dehumanized, emptied landscapes’ has been criticized for its rabid nihilism, machinic obscurism, and Deleuzian Thatcherism.” Yet, against those who would dismiss Land out of hand, he amends that under the hood of Land’s dark Deleuzian nightmare world bleakness is a series of “philosophical arguments that provide a sobering contrast to the tiresome conservatism of much postmodern theory”. He comments that for Land, techno-capitalist acceleration is not simply a process that will restore corrupted human relations under current technological infrastructures, but rather an “inhuman desubjectification-program that will renegotiate our basic notions of what it means to be human to begin with”. In an almost agreement with both Mumford and Ellul in regarding humans as being infiltrated by technique rather than adapting to it, Lindblom remarks that we need better tools to diagnose the “technological infiltration of human agency” as the future collapses upon the present. Yet, he also points toward a posthuman or almost transhumanist movement as he sees opportunity in an accelerationism, saying, late capitalism “consequently points at an even more radical form of accelerationism, in which the ultimate aim goes beyond the political concerns of reinventing human relations in light of new technology, and instead sees the current mutations of techno-capital as a speculative opportunity to rethink basic notions of humanity as such.”(ibid.)

As Anti-Realist social constructivist discourses begin to fall out of favor as a possible speculative realist turn takes effect, such divisive categories and nature-culture begin to dissolve the distinctions of their binary categories offering what Rosi Braidotti calls new forms of posthuman possibilities. In her new work The Posthuman she set about to answer four basic questions:

1. How can we account for the intellectual and historical itineraries that may have led us to the posthuman?
2. Where does the posthuman condition leave humanity and, more specifically, what new forms of subjectivity does it engender?
3. How can we stop the posthuman from becoming inhuman(e)?
4. What is the function of the Humanities and of theory in posthuman times?

She connects her notion of the posthuman nomadic subject with both materialism and vitalism, embodiment and the embeddedness of radical immanence of a ‘politics of location’. Against the anti-foundationlism of postmodernity, and the linguistic turn of post-structuralism she finds herself moving backwards and forwards to Spinoza, Deleuze-Guattari, plus feminist and post-colonial theories.8 Ray Brassier in contrapoised critique of Deleuze-Guattari’s vitalistic proclivities once said that to “refuse vitalism is not to favour the stasis of indifference over the movement of difference but to affirm the irreducible reality of physical death along with the autonomy of absolute space-time as identity of difference and indifference.”(204)9 Braidotti in an almost direct reply expounds on Life:

Life, by the same token, is neither a metaphysical notion, nor a semiotic system of meaning; it expresses itself in a multiplicity of empirical acts: there is nothing to say, but everything to do. Life, simply by being life, expresses itself by actualizing flows of energies, through codes of vital information across complex somatic, cultural and technologically networked systems. This is why I defend the idea of amor fati as a way of accepting vital processes and the expressive intensity of a Life we share with multiple others, here, and now.(190)

In a manifesto like moment she explains that she wants to think from the here and now: “from missing seeds and dying species … But also, simultaneously and relentlessly generative ways in which life, as bios and zoe, keeps of fighting back. This is the kind of materialism that makes me a posthuman thinker at heart and a joyful member of multiple companion species in practice” (194). That Rosi’s posthumanism is positive and rosy is not hard to press, but is it viable in such a world where the unbounded nihilism of a more-than-human world machinic world vies with such an optimistic and vitalistic philosophy more than just another utopian hope? In a cannibalistic world of late capitalism are we even allowed such optimistic hope?

Ben Woodard in his early Slime Dynamics – Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life reminds us that humans “like any other polyp of living matter, are nothing but heaps of slime slapped together and shaped by the accidents of time and the context of space. The fact that we have evolved self-consciousness should not guarantee or maintain meaning.Meaning is only ever the final gloss on being which when removed does not then dictate mass suicide nor pure apathy (Woodard. Slime Dynamics – Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life. (Zero Books, 2012) p. 66).

Woodard’s excellent meditation on the dark vitality at the heart of life can be read in an afternoon. The format is a series of essays that expand in waves upon the central theme of the patient work of the negative, not the negative that negates life, but the patient negation that eliminates meaning from the very fabric of space and time revealing the pathology of existence: “… subtracting meaning, reducing ontological life to biological life is only to unbind pathology which seems like a far more useful weapon in combating a structure than meaning…”(66). He explains this saying,

“Pathology opens the oddness of any creation in time and space thereby spreading a plague of tenuousness across all of existence. … Everything Dies. This introduces the tension between inactivity between inaction and action, that things will perish but so will I. The strange temporality is reflected in the symptom, in that particular things in time form our particular pathological trajectory but this trajectory continuously reminds us of its existence (66-67).”

Reza Negarestani in his essay Death as a Perversion: Openess and Germinal Death (here) tells us the ”desire for openness has been considered the desire for life, death, horror, outside and intensity and this is why it has been cautiously appropriated whether through desire itself or despotic rigidities. However, it has been never totally blocked, for even in the case of monolithic despotism and rigidity, we do not encounter closure but strictly economical openness which is the indispensable part of any paranoiacally isolationist organization.” This type of openess Negarestani terms affordance and tells us that through “affordance, openness is represented as the level of being open (to) not being opened (the plane of epidemic and contagion: plagues, contaminations, possession, etc.).” In a declarative statement he continues:

“”I am open to you.” means, I have the capacity to bear your investment or ‘I afford you’ (this is not an intentional conservative voice but what arises as the fundamental noise produced by the machinery of different levels of organization and boundary, and finally organic survival); if you exceed this capacity I will be cracked, lacerated and laid open. ”

Woodard tells us that this kind of openess is a form of “being splayed open” that recognizes pathology but does not legitimate structure (67). He tells us that we must remain open to the pathological and to life itself so that the power of the Cthuloid ethics reveals the fissures and cracks of our lacerated pathologies (67). Ultimately Woodard’s meditation lays bare the emptiness within and without, a darkness that is a blinding nihil that affords a “metaphysical construct opposed to emergence and that is at once a simultaneous resurrection and mutilation of vitalism (8).”

The term “emergent” was coined by the pioneer psychologist G. H. Lewes, who wrote:

“Every resultant is either a sum or a difference of the co-operant forces; their sum, when their directions are the same — their difference, when their directions are contrary. Further, every resultant is clearly traceable in its components, because these are homogeneous and commensurable. It is otherwise with emergents, when, instead of adding measurable motion to measurable motion, or things of one kind to other individuals of their kind, there is a co-operation of things of unlike kinds. The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference.” 4

Woodard tells us that vitalism is traditionally not unlike emergentism in that both suggest there is something more to life, something that drives and/or affects life that is not purely reducible to the classifiable componenets of life itself (8). Against this signification of vitalism as emergentism as that which harbors the meaning of life or vital substance that “propels life forward”, he offers instead the theory that the “vital force is time and its effect on space” that propels all things forward (8). In his readings of Deleuze, Guattari, Bergson and Merleau-Ponty he comes to the realization that vitalism cannot be a thing, that it cannot be a force “because it says nothing about life itself as a force, only that it develops but not how(9).” What all the philosophers of vitalism have left out is a dark truth Woodard tells us, one that shows forth the force of time itself: “… time as something beyond thought which is the force of vitalism (life emerges over time) and the substance of vitalism is not the germ plasm trumping heredity but space as it is filled by life (9).”

As Gene Moreno remarks in Notes on the Inorganic –

By constantly invading and liquidating resource-rich contexts, capitalism encourages images that project what will inevitably be left in its wake: a dead world. And just as one can imagine (or see) patches of devastated and desolate land, a kind of localized post-extraction desertification, one can just as easily imagine this becoming a planetary condition: the globe as a rotating, dead lithosphere, coated in a fine dust of decomposing once-organic particles. Individual patches of dead world synthesized into a continuous crust.

As we think about the implications of the NBIC technologies (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology, and Cognitive Science) that portend a posthuman matrix of possible futures we need to take stock of just what kind of future is possibly collapsing on us. Moreno reminds us that nanotech might just end in grey goo as a dead, undifferentiated, slimy surface—a “massive lithosphere covered in lifeless sludge and nanomass wreckage”.  In this scenario the future becomes our hostage, a debtors prison for the unknown creatures that we must hold at bay: “This is the new normal, the way power is extracted from the only future that transnational capital proposes as conducive to its maintenance and growth. Like credit in the financial sphere, pre-emptive design objectifies the future before it even arrives.” Moreno acknowledges Land’s apocalyptic of the future collapse of a dark intelligence invading our present like an invisible monstrosity that “feeds on what it finds, leaving behind a metaphorical grey chemical sludge. This alien intelligence from the future seems committed to bringing about an ultimate inorganic state, the apocalypse of that final drag of everything into the post-biological, and it is working incrementally as it moves forward through history in order to realize the future it left behind.”

Moreno chants all the usual suspects from Franco Berardi with his no future, to the intensities of Deleuze-Guattari, to Steven Shaviro whose book Post-Cinematic Affect offers us an “accelerationist aesthetics”. In a succinct re-elaboration of the basic themes of accelerationism Moreno remarks:

Embracing capitalism’s penchant for always undoing more and more in its quest for self-perpetuation and growth, for treating any blockage as an incentive to crank up its rhythms, accelerationism experiments with the possibility of speeding up and intensifying capitalist relations and ways of living, exacerbating its dissolutions and its velocities, until something breaks. Accelerationism aims to rev up crisis and render it unsustainable, to pipe even more energy into processes of social fracture, to exacerbate the fragmentation of experience, and to intensify sensorial overload and subjective dispersal in order to drive masochistically toward an incompatibility between capitalism and forms of excess it can’t accommodate. Counterintuitive for kids brought up on the delights of critique and its penchant for refusing complicity with the dominant order, one no longer resists these tendencies. Instead, one accelerates until the scaffolding and the logic that hold it all together burst asunder. Hyperactive production is recoded as turbo-destruction and vice versa.

Remarking on Shaviro’s accelerationist aesthetics Moreno says that accelerationist cartographics is a “kind of social ground-shaping, actively adding to and participating in the space it diagrams, forging new routes through it, pressuring new curvatures and foldings on the geometries it encounters”. In a positive light he commends Shaviro’s tactic as helping us “trace the slippery contours of the warped and warping world we traverse daily, the seemingly infinite and tangled networks we are plugged into, the non-spaces we inhabit and the subjective modulations they produce, the invisible forces that sway us one way and then another”.

At the end of his book Post Cinematic Affect Steven Shaviro tells us his “argument comes down to the assertion that accelerationism is a useful, productive, and even necessary aesthetic strategy today – for all that it is dubious as a political one. The project of cognitive and affective mapping seeks, at the very least, to explore the contours of the prison we find ourselves in. This is a crucial task at any time; but all the more so today, when that prison has no outside, but is conterminous with the world as a whole.” 10

Edmund Berger chimes in over at Deterritorial Investigations Unit tells us that in an accelerating capitalism the critical question that comes to us is how autonomy and enslavement can no longer be opposed but are now synonymous with one another? (here) He comments on the similarities of Hardt and Negri’s Empire and other works to Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek “Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics”. As he states it:

While differing in various ways, there are certain respects in which their accelerationist politics tie nicely into the strains of post-Autonomia thought, particularly those that were laid forth in Hardt and Negri’s Empire. Hardt and Negri too saw that the existing infrastructure of the transnational neoliberal complex was assembled from the multitude’s own desires and General Intellect (rendered by Williams and Srnicek as the procession of “technological evolution” that is captured in the machinic enslavement of “capitalist objectives”) and as such held innate potentials for appropriate and redistribution through the actualization of positive biopower. “…we must push Empire to come out the other side,” as we read in Empire.

 This is where the labour of the negative still needs a place under the dark moon of theory. For if as Benjamin Noys contends that “accelerationists affirm is the capitalist power of dissolution and fragmentation,” as well as that accelerationism therefore aims “to exacerbate capitalism to the point of collapse” then we must ask just what this collapse would entail in (post)human and animal etc. suffering? Zizek once remarked that “in order to function properly, power discourse must be inherently split, it must “cheat” performatively, to disavow its own underlying performative gesture. Sometimes, therefore, the only truly subversive thing to do when confronted with a power discourse is simply to take it at its word”.11 He also advocated that we should tarry with the negative, that “the crucial, hitherto underestimated ideological impact of the coming …crisis will be precisely to make the “collapse of the big Other” part of our everyday experience … Perhaps, however, our very physical survival hinges on our ability to consummate the act of assuming fully the “nonexistence of the Other,” of tarrying with the negative.”(ibid.) Maybe that is just it, what if the Big Other is Time, the Future that we assume is accelerating toward us with its inhuman intelligence gobbling us up like some Chronos eating his titanic children is just an illusion? At the end of their manifesto Srnicek and Williams add in section 24 say:

The future needs to be con­struc­ted. It has been demol­ished by neo­lib­eral cap­it­al­ism and reduced to a cut-​price prom­ise of greater inequal­ity, con­flict, and chaos. This col­lapse in the idea of the future is symp­to­matic of the regress­ive his­tor­ical status of our age, rather than, as cyn­ics across the polit­ical spec­trum would have us believe, a sign of scep­tical matur­ity. What accel­er­a­tion­ism pushes towards is a future that is more mod­ern — an altern­at­ive mod­ern­ity that neo­lib­er­al­ism is inher­ently unable to gen­er­ate. The future must be cracked open once again, unfasten­ing our hori­zons towards the uni­ver­sal pos­sib­il­it­ies of the Outside.

Yet, I wonder if this ‘constructed’ entails a return to the anti-realist program of social constructionism, or is this something different and possibly an unhinging of that unbounded nihil of which Ray Brassier once spoke? Is this ‘Outside’ the outside of the neoliberal order and discourse? And does this accelerationism push towards or does it rather need to activate the future in our local moments? And what is this modernity, this alternative modernity entail? As they tell us in the manifesto “We can­not return to mass industrial-​Fordist labour by fiat, if at all.” Would we want to even if we could? Against the dark force of neoliberalism they tell us the best we can hope for is a “recov­ery of lost pos­sible futures, and indeed the recov­ery of the future as such”.

They attack Land as a neoliberal when he is in fact against the what he, and his compatriots term, the neoliberal Cathedral. Williams and Srinicek argue: “How­ever Land­ian neo­lib­er­al­ism con­fuses speed with accel­er­a­tion. We may be mov­ing fast, but only within a strictly defined set of cap­it­al­ist para­met­ers that them­selves never waver. We exper­i­ence only the increas­ing speed of a local hori­zon, a simple brain-​dead onrush rather than an accel­er­a­tion which is also nav­ig­a­tional, an exper­i­mental pro­cess of dis­cov­ery within a uni­ver­sal space of pos­sib­il­ity. It is the lat­ter mode of accel­er­a­tion which we hold as essential.” Yet, Land sees neoliberalism as the enemy. His form or Reactionary thought converges on what he’s termed the Dark Enlightenment. Following from such thinkers as Thomas Hobbes to Hans-Hermann Hoppe and beyond, it asks: How can the sovereign power be prevented – or at least dissuaded — from devouring society? It consistently finds democratic ‘solutions’ to this problem risible, at best. Land following his Sith Lord, Mencius Moldbug asks “Can you imagine a 21st-century post-demotist society? One that saw itself as recovering from democracy…”.

Land tells us that Moldbug teaches a new formalism – the “Neo-Cameralist State”:

To a neocameralist, a state is a business which owns a country. A state should be managed, like any other large business, by dividing logical ownership into negotiable shares, each of which yields a precise fraction of the state’s profit. (A well-run state is very profitable.) Each share has one vote, and the shareholders elect a board, which hires and fires managers.

This business’s customers are its residents. A profitably-managed neocameralist state will, like any business, serve its customers efficiently and effectively. Misgovernment equals mismanagement.

So we seem to be reverting to a Corporate Feudalism with the shareholders as the new aristocracy who “squash the democratic myth that a state ‘belongs’ to the citizenry”. As Land says at the end of 4d Dark Enlightenment tells us “liberty has no future in the Anglophone world outside the prospect of secession. The coming crack-up is the only way out.” As we move into the new century Land gives us three scenarios for a possible future:

(1) Modernity 2.0. Global modernization is re-invigorated from a new ethno-geographical core, liberated from the degenerate structures of its Eurocentric predecessor, but no doubt confronting long range trends of an equally mortuary character. This is by far the most encouraging and plausible scenario (from a pro-modernist perspective), and if China remains even approximately on its current track it will be assuredly realized. (India, sadly, seems to be too far gone in its native version of demosclerosis to seriously compete.)

(2) Postmodernity. Amounting essentially to a new dark age, in which Malthusian limits brutally re-impose themselves, this scenario assumes that Modernity 1.0 has so radically globalized its own morbidity that the entire future of the world collapses around it. If the Cathedral ‘wins’ this is what we have coming.

(3) Western Renaissance. To be reborn it is first necessary to die, so the harder the ‘hard reboot’ the better. Comprehensive crisis and disintegration offers the best odds (most realistically as a sub-theme of option #1).

Land opts for number #1, and even that will need some work he tell us:

(1) Replacement of representational democracy by constitutional republicanism (or still moreextreme anti-political governmental mechanisms).

(2) Massive downsizing of government and its rigorous confinement to core functions (at most).

(3) Restoration of hard money (precious metal coins and bullion deposit notes) and abolition of central banking.

(4) Dismantling of state monetary and fiscal discretion, thus abolishing practical macroeconomics and liberating the autonomous (or ‘catallactic’) economy. (This point is redundant, since it follows rigorously from 2 & 3 above, but it’s the real prize, so worth emphasizing.)

The typical reactionary thematic: Constitutional Republicanism, small government, gold standard, and, get rid of the Fed and Central Banks. It’s at this point that he brings us to the bionic horizon, the singularity event. We’ve been dominated by The Cathedral for too long: “The basic theme has been mind control, or thought-suppression, as demonstrated by the Media-Academic complex that dominates contemporary Western societies, and which Mencius Moldbug names the Cathedral. … The central dogma of the Cathedral has been formalized as the Standard Social Scientific Model (SSSM) or ‘blank slate theory’. Like a latter day prophet of the posthuman science Land tells us:

1. Most evolutionary change is associated with the origin of new species.

2. Several modes of evolution may operate simultaneously. In this case the most effective dominates the process.

3. Tiny minorities of individuals do most of the evolving instead of the species as a whole.

Yes, one admits the old evolutionary tracks pretty much went this route, but what do we do in an age when humans can intervene into their own genome and bring changes of which they might have no control over? And what of our machine cousins, and the technological singularity that might allow them to surpass us and replicate themselves in their own hyper formalism of the evolutionary process? As Williams and Srinicek remind us “A van­ish­ingly small cog­nit­ariat of elite intel­lec­tual work­ers shrinks with each passing year — and increas­ingly so as algorithmic auto­ma­tion winds its way through the spheres of affect­ive and intel­lec­tual labour.”

As humans become more and more obsolete within the hypertechnocapitalism of this accelerated future who will be left to repair the machines if they break down? And, more to the point, what will be the need of humans once the machines take over every latch niche of the evolutionary territory of that bright future? Will humans become the slaves of these future masters of the hypersphere of intelligence that is already cannibalizing us like morsels on the pointillist pin of time?

Williams and Srinicek argue that “if the polit­ical left is to have a future it must be one in which it max­im­ally embraces this sup­pressed accel­er­a­tion­ist tendency.” They seek not to destroy capitalism but to steer it toward other goals: “towards com­mon ends. The exist­ing infra­struc­ture is not a cap­it­al­ist stage to be smashed, but a spring­board to launch towards post-​capitalism.” In number #7 of their manifesto they state: “Whereas the techno-​utopians argue for accel­er­a­tion on the basis that it will auto­mat­ic­ally over­come social con­flict, our pos­i­tion is that tech­no­logy should be accel­er­ated pre­cisely because it is needed in order to win social conflicts.” So they perceive theirs within a social accelerationist dialogue from the Left point of view?

Social Accelerationsim has been around for a while now: here and here and here. Hartmut Rosa in his book Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity advances an account of the temporal structure of society from the perspective of critical theory. He identifies three categories of change in the tempo of modern social life: technological acceleration, evident in transportation, communication, and production; the acceleration of social change, reflected in cultural knowledge, social institutions, and personal relationships; and acceleration in the pace of life, which happens despite the expectation that technological change should increase an individual’s free time.

According to Rosa, both the structural and cultural aspects of our institutions and practices are marked by the “shrinking of the present,” a decreasing time period during which expectations based on past experience reliably match the future. When this phenomenon combines with technological acceleration and the increasing pace of life, time seems to flow ever faster, making our relationships to each other and the world fluid and problematic. It is as if we are standing on “slipping slopes,” a steep social terrain that is itself in motion and in turn demands faster lives and technology. As Rosa deftly shows, this self-reinforcing feedback loop fundamentally determines the character of modern life.

One is reminded as well of Paul Virilio’s “dromology,” a narrative of historical acceleration which proceeds from the revolution in transport to that in transmission and finally to the impending “transplantation” revolution dawning in the emergent possibilities of biotechnology (Virilio 9-15). The effects of technological acceleration on social reality are certainly tremendous. In particular, they completely transformed the “space-time regime” of society, i.e., the perception and organization of space and time in social life. Thus, in the age of globalization and the u-topicality of the Internet, time is increasingly conceived as compressing or even annihilating space (e.g., Harvey 201-210). Space, it seems, virtually “contracts” by the speed of transport and communication. Thus, measured by the time it takes to cross the distance from, say, London to New York, space has shrunk from the pre-industrial age of sailing ships to the time of jet-planes to less than 1/60th of its original size, i.e., from about three weeks to about eight hours.

The most pressing and astonishing facet of social acceleration Rosa tells us is the spectacular and epidemic “time-famine” of modern (Western) societies. In modernity, social actors increasingly feel that they are running out of time, that they are short on time. It seems as if time was perceived like a raw material which is consumed like oil and which is, therefore, getting increasingly scarce and expensive. This perception of time lies at the heart of a third type of (objectively measurable) acceleration in Western societies that is neither logically nor causally entailed by the first two. Quite to the contrary, at least at first glance, this time-hunger appears to be totally paradoxical with respect to technological acceleration. This third category is the acceleration of the pace of (social) life, which has been postulated again and again in the history of modernity (e.g., by Georg Simmel or, more recently, by Robert Levine). It can be defined as an increase in the number of episodes of action or experience per unit of time, i.e., it is the consequence of the desire or felt need to do more things in less time. As such, it is the central focus of much of the discussion about cultural acceleration and the alleged need for deceleration.

Continuing with Williams and Srinicek in #8 of their manifesto they remark: “We believe that any post-​capitalism will require post-​capitalist plan­ning.” Planning? Experts? Elite specialists? The very idea that we can “develop both a cog­nit­ive map of the exist­ing sys­tem and a spec­u­lat­ive image of the future eco­nomic system” seems almost iffy since all the variables that we’d need to take into account would use much of the same neoliberal statistical mathematics and decisional processes that are failing us now? Maybe I’m all wrong in this reading but they will need to explain to me more about what they mean by planning… and, of course, in number #9 they tell us: “take advant­age of every tech­no­lo­gical and sci­entific advance made pos­sible by cap­it­al­ist soci­ety. We declare that quan­ti­fic­a­tion is not an evil to be elim­in­ated, but a tool to be used in the most effect­ive man­ner pos­sible. Eco­nomic mod­el­ling is — simply put — a neces­sity for mak­ing intel­li­gible a com­plex world … The accel­er­a­tion­ist left must become lit­er­ate in these tech­nical fields.” So again we have experts and specialists who we will have to depend on for knowledge of their respective domains to make these accurate models through simulation, etc. Does any of this sound familiar? Rational choice planning, anyone? The very control systems we’re using (computers) have already integrated us into their own design. Our freedom is already illusory when we forget that we are no longer independent of the tools we once created, but are instead totally dependent on them for our very survival or modeling of future scenarios? What ever happened to human imagination?

In number #11 they tell us “The left must develop soci­o­tech­nical hege­mony: both in the sphere of ideas, and in the sphere of mater­ial plat­forms.” Yet, I wonder if any group left or right gains such totalistic hegemony will we not end in a conformist non-autonomous society, a pure dictatorship of mind and culture: the perfect control society? Listen as they continue: “While much of the cur­rent global plat­form is biased towards cap­it­al­ist social rela­tions, this is not an inev­it­able neces­sity. These mater­ial plat­forms of pro­duc­tion, fin­ance, logist­ics, and con­sump­tion can and will be repro­grammed and reformat­ted towards post-​capitalist ends.” Isn’t what their saying the reeducation of the mass of society, the reprogramming of men, women, and children who support this system? A vast Paideia of pedagogical reconstruction programs to intervene into humanity on a scale never before seen?

In number #12 they throw our participatory democracy as an option: “We do not believe that dir­ect action is suf­fi­cient to achieve any of this.” In number #13 they make it explicit: “The over­whelm­ing priv­ileging of democracy-​as-​process needs to be left behind.” So if people will no longer have a democracy as a process, then what replaces it? They return to the Enlightenment in number #14: “This is a pro­ject which must align polit­ics with the leg­acy of the Enlight­en­ment, to the extent that it is only through har­ness­ing our abil­ity to under­stand ourselves and our world bet­ter (our social, tech­nical, eco­nomic, psy­cho­lo­gical world) that we can come to rule ourselves.” So the idea of using every aspect of the sciences and Enlightenment project will remain within the paradigm of this new regimen of practices. Instead of a centralized command center the opt for (number #15) “an eco­logy of organ­isa­tions, a plur­al­ism of forces, res­on­at­ing and feed­ing back on their com­par­at­ive strengths.”

So in number #16 they return us to the neoliberal beginnings, where “Mim­ick­ing the Mont Pel­erin Soci­ety of the neo­lib­eral revolu­tion, this is to be tasked with cre­at­ing a new ideo­logy, eco­nomic and social mod­els, and a vis­ion of the good to replace and sur­pass the ema­ci­ated ideals that rule our world today.” Why do we need ‘ideology’? What do they mean by ideology? False consciousness? The Zizekian definition of The Sublime Object of Ideology? A vision of the ‘good’ – a Utopian vision? Is this a return to Platonic forms, or something else?

In number #17 that speak of ‘reform’ – why Reform? “We need to con­struct wide-​scale media reform.” If they plan on taking over the reigns, why reform it – why not just change it as they use their supposed planning? Reform is the neoliberal way of working within the system… can we reform a dead system that is bound to the economic strictures? Do we even want to use such terms as ‘reform’?

In number #18 they want to “recon­sti­t­ute vari­ous forms of class power”. Why? Why would we want to bring about the very inequalities of separation and meritocracy that has caused many of the issue to begin with? Privelege, exceptionalism, etc. Are we going to keep all the old hierarches as well?

In number #21 they offer us mythology: “We declare that only a Pro­methean polit­ics of max­imal mas­tery over soci­ety and its envir­on­ment is cap­able of either deal­ing with global prob­lems or achiev­ing vic­tory over cap­ital.” War words. Victory over capital? In earlier sections they assumed to use capital, to accelerate it toward their own goals. One doesn’t have a victory of capital, one has a victory over others? Capital is a machine a technique that in some ways uses us rather than we do it. One can have no victory over capital, only a long slow movement of deceleration… it’s called depression. To have a victory of capital is to stop the flow and end most of civilization with it. Yet, as they tell us “What must be coupled to such com­plex sys­tems ana­lysis is a new form of action: impro­vis­at­ory and cap­able of execut­ing a design through a prac­tice which works with the con­tin­gen­cies it dis­cov­ers only in the course of its act­ing, in a polit­ics of geo­so­cial artistry and cun­ning ration­al­ity. A form of abduct­ive exper­i­ment­a­tion that seeks the best means to act in a com­plex world.” Problem with improvisation is that how can you have some systematic planning committee and also artistic economics? Experimenting with peoples lives like it was some algorithmic game?

Then in number #22 they exclaim “We need to revive the argu­ment that was tra­di­tion­ally made for post-​capitalism: not only is cap­it­al­ism an unjust and per­ver­ted sys­tem, but it is also a sys­tem that holds back pro­gress.” Does it? Is it capitalism that holds back progress? From what I’ve studied it is control, and especially the corporate and governmental control policies of these very think tanks and academic policy makers that stymies innovation and technological advancement. Seems we have religious ideology as well: look at Stem cell research, etc. In drugs and pharmaceuticals we have years of testing and rigid regulations etc. that hold back innovation. It’s not capitalism per se but progressive regulation and reactionary religious practices that hold back innovation. These are cultural not economic factors that must be considered.

In number #23 they strike fear: “The choice facing us is severe: either a glob­al­ised post-​capitalism or a slow frag­ment­a­tion towards prim­it­iv­ism, per­petual crisis, and plan­et­ary eco­lo­gical collapse.” Why an either/or scenario? Are there other scenarios? We always seem stuck in the endless war scenarios of us/them… if you don’t follow our path you’re doomed type scenario. Can our language rise above all this partisan bullshit? Are we to remain in a world where there is a left / right split forevermore? How can we ever build a path forward unless we somehow forge new forms of governance that respect both sides of the issue without partisanship. Are we doomed to our Stalinist purges and our Hitler ovens?  Is there no path forward that allows humans an alternative to the vast machine of ideological entrapment? Until we on the Left reach across to the Right the path forward will forever end in either genocide or self-defeat of endless war or tyranny. Is this your future?

I kept thinking of the ‘Outside’ that Williams and Srinicek seem to want to push through at the end of their manifesto. What would it be? Is this the Utopian site of no site? The place where the equilibrium is finally reached, or the eternal realm where history finally ends, or an earthly paradise where we lay down our arms and turn them to ploughshares? Or, is it just that mirror image of our own real lives where we can finally just breath normally and without fear, where we can walk alone at night or with another under the stars vulnerable to whatever may come our way, finally able to accept life on its own terms without forcing it into some model of life, some constructed simulation of life rather than life itself? Why can’t we just slow down rather than accelerate? Why do we need to push things beyond their limits? And, I kept remembering Brassier’s statement about that transcendental speed limit, that bionic horizon beyond which we dare not go, for if we reached it we would discover that unbearable lightness of being of which Milan Kundera once said:

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”

———————————

1. Buckmenster Fuller, Critical Path. St. Martin’s Griffin; 2nd edition (February 15, 1982)
2. Lewis Mumford. Techniques and Civilization. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1934)
3. Jaques Ellul. The Technological Society. (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1964).
4. Foley D. K (1989) Ideology and Methodology. An unpublished lecture to Berkeley graduate students in 1989 discussing personal and collective survival strategies for non-mainstream economists.
6. John McCumber. Time and Philsophy. (McGilles-Queen’s University Press 2011)
5. Van Overtveldt, Johan (2006-08-01). The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business (p. 365). Agate. Kindle Edition.
6. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge, 1992)
7. Jon Lindblom. Techno-Cultural Acceleration: A Few Initial Remarks: here.
8. Rosi Braidotti. The Posthuman. (Polity Press 2013)
9. Ray Brassier. Nihil Unbound Enlightenment and Extinction. (Palgrave 2007)
10. Shaviro, Steven (2010-10-12). Post Cinematic Affect (Kindle Locations 1969-1972). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle
11. Zizek, Slavoj; Fish, Stanley; Jameson, Fredric (1993-10-20). Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology (Post-Contemporary Interventions) (Kindle Locations 4616-4618). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

13 thoughts on “The Bionic Horizon: The Law of Acceleration

  1. ” We always seem stuck in the endless war scenarios of us/them… if you don’t follow our path you’re doomed type scenario. Can our language rise above all this partisan bullshit? ”

    Oh dear. Well, this was a useful mess, everything about ‘accelerationism’ splattered all over the place and repetition ad infinitum. But it caught me up with this, for one, and I don’t think all that much of it. It’s meant to be sensational, except the leftist version comes across rather sad, and is itself just a reaction (which wasn’t necessary, nobody was listening to Nick Land that much anyway, outside his ‘club’ or ‘church’, acc. to what day it is.)

    The main problem I see is that this ‘accelerationism’ either of left or right (and an ‘alternative leftist accelerationism’ sounds almost like Zizek’s ‘leftist Thatcher’), useless even if accompanied by infinite verbiage. Deceleration is not depression necessarily, and for most people this ‘accelerationism’ is no more the oxygen they breathe than 9/11 truth was what anybody but a handful of lunatic bleugers was breathing (till ‘God’ died.)

    It’s an admirable fat post, a good example of that same kind of bloated post-modernism in architecture and the popular lively arts I was talking about a few days ago. As such, one is grateful, since it means I didn’t have to read the Accelerationist Manifesto by Srinicek and Williams, and finally somebody wore themselves out by summing it up. Thanks. I do read Nick Land every day, not because I think he is any longer worth discussing, but he seems to have had a resurgence of energy and is ‘packaging and selling’ like crazy, and cheerleading for the lucky 250 million joyous ones who’ll soon by bought out, .put in high rises in their old pastures, and then run out of money, so we can GROW THE ECONOMY. That’s the only phrase anybody ever uses–as I was saying, I read him and always have, because he’s got very adroit English, and used it very cleverly the other day (I won’t quote him directly), just like an Edwardian dandy. He uses all these wiles to charm and cajole,. which isn’t to say that a lot of his current followers aren’t very erudite and smart; they are surprisingly so. But they are all saying something they won’t say, and a number of them say better things than he does. He just writes better, it’s more nimble, you can learn something about turns of phrase from him, even though he is basically saying very little. He’s a CHINESE. He really HAS forgotten what it’s like to be an Englishman,. and that he does exemplify well. His own writing and ‘crowd management’ is very skillful, and his writing is only lackluster when he goes to far with the superlatives about someone’s admirable (but not earth-moving) comment. But he really is basically a preacher, and the sermon is very New England Puritan with lots of chinoiserie (little enterprises for the ‘dark twin’ as of yesterday, more politeness for the ‘billable bleug’ on the Chinese-run Urban Futures, where he has to be ‘more vanilla’. Wifely productions on street-food traditions, etc.) Constant schizophrenia of all sorts between biological ‘responsibility’ and loathing of the biological. And who’d have ever thought they’d be talking about ‘God’ and ‘Nature as God’ on a Nick Land bleug? He likes an audience and does know how to command one. He always tries to create some kind of paranoia, whatever new trend he’s follosing (and he’s a particularly astute ‘trendy’, as was once said of David Bowie), but you get used to that, since he’s usually talking about himself, as in ‘Cold Turkey’–well, you WOULD have to in China. And never mentioned are the famous blackmails now being practised on govt. officials with Photoshopped sex pictures, and trying not to appear so ‘conspicuous consumptive’, as it were. Even if you hate the extreme Reaction,. he talks about it in a more entertaining way than these drear extreme leftists. They can’t really appropriate something like that without seeming like a kind of unsharpened knife, or just ‘bad Cathedral’.

    I have noticed that Edward Snowden caused barely a ripple. And he’s the oxygen most people are breathing and glad to as well, even if they are as anti-terrorist as I am, and have reason to be. The bleugs in general want to be out of the mainstream, which is legit except the mainstream is where it’s at until it isn’t.

    Also never mentioned is that the worst air pollutions are now found not in LA or Athens, but in Beijing and that most treasured paradise Singapore. That might make someone think that GROWING THE ECONOMY was not the only thing one might think of. Also, interest rates falling in China. But who cares? They’re having fun, sharing stories of their marriages and babies, while moving into their fictional ‘dark’. Somehow doing ‘two shades of bleug’ acc. to what the ‘billable-ism’ facts on the ground is not very convincing, and reeks of wishy-washy. Nick says ‘go Cold Turkey on money’, but I guess he means don’t spend any except for Shanghai street vendors. The one legit point he has is Shanghai Public Relations, which doesn’t interest me personally, except for the image of glut that appears in my mind, but that someone smart writing about a single city is okay. I’ve got their first guidebook, which i’ve read bits of. At least Nick and his neo-reacties seems to have money, and the not whining about that helps, even if their attempts to kill off all humane social programs is a kind of 1% posture which some of them may have, but not all. After all, they’ve got the ‘future’ to take care of, and they may not all want to make their kids ‘work their way through internet college’ by waiting on tables.

    I feel you pain, though. Just to say that deceleration and acceleration can be quickly followed one after another on a personal level, especially if, as opposed to Paul Krugman, domestic austerity and governmental austerity are not the same thing (but the neo-reacties think it is, and want as much harshness as possible, or some of them do.) Krugman’s latest http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/opinion/krugman-profits-without-production.html?_r=0 came to mind when you were saying “The point of this concept is the ability of technological advancement to do “more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing”. This is obviously the near-term goal of the neoreacties. I doubt the ‘leftist accelerationists’ are anything other than a parody of these very neoreacties ‘Cathedral’, which is not itself convincing as unappealing since the neo-reacties offer only ‘harsh realities’, you know, the way Chinese hospitals throw you out on the street if you don’t have insurance or just cash.

    But watch out for quicksand, you know. It’s hard to get out of. Most don’t.

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    • Haha… yes, I found it:

      http://www.artfiction.ch/magasin-89.php?1227866846

      Authors: Patrick Mullins, Dominic Fox, Saint Nick Land

      But I don’t seem to find it anywhere stateside? Was it a limited edition sold out? Oh, well, at least have your blog marked now… interesting Patrick… do you ramble in your sleep, too. 🙂 Your mind is like a sieve, of course mine is too… and, yes, long winded on this one: should have marked it private… been working back through this stuff mainly for notes on my current dystopian novel in progress using much of the material from both the reactionaries and leftists who both oppose the Cathedral … more of an inverse relation to Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Doctor Faustus, Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi… a twofold look at how it will all play out if we push acceleration to its mad deluzian conclusion… a tryptich that will follow clone like replications of J.G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick down the alice hole… who knows where we’ll come out… that is in the works!

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  2. New reader here. Just curious, have you ever come across the recent science fiction of Paolo Bacigalupi? Particularly the Windup Girl–I haven’t read it myself but I have friends who I trust who recommend it a great deal. It really seems to get into the nitty-gritty of food production itself being a form of out-of-control bioweapon.

    “The Windup Girl is set in 23rd century Thailand. Global warming has raised the levels of world’s oceans, carbon fuel sources have become depleted, and manually wound springs are used as energy storage devices. Biotechnology is dominant and mega corporations like AgriGen, PurCal and RedStar (called calorie companies) control food production through ‘genehacked’ seeds, and use bioterrorism, private armies and economic hitmen to create markets for their products. Frequent catastrophes, such as deadly and widespread plagues and illness, caused by genetically modified crops and mutant pests, ravage entire populations. The natural genetic seed stock of the world’s plants has been almost completely supplanted by those that are genetically engineered to be sterile.”

    All the best.

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  3. Wow Steven, this is an excellent post – I’m going to have to go back over it several times to let it all sink in. As you have, I too have grown increasingly distrusting of the various accelerationist projects – at one time, I was seduced in a way by Land’s schizoid trajectory (and I still think there he has a lot to offer, albeit more from the mental and theoretical acceleration viewpoint). It seems to me that this fetishization of “the future,” as you have pointed out, is a return to modernity’s metanarrative tendencies, and has the potential to bring along with it all the dangerous aspects of modernism. The question that is pertinent is who, exactly, would lead this acceleration? Neoliberalism’s own acceleration is vanguardist, relying on networks of businessmen and politicians and intellectuals, along with assorted think-tanks, funding outlets, transnational groups, etc, to sell these goods – goods that they claim are self-evident and natural. The left accelerationist manifesto is clear that there would have to be a vanguardist function in their program as well – they name drop the Mont Pelerin Society, think-tanks and funding bodies in a direct imitation of how the neoliberal revolution conducted itself. At the same time, they disavow “bodies in the streets” activism and the “folk politics” of localism. If there are eliminated in exchange for the regime of experts and planners, what we end up with is the postmodern adaptation of authoritarian high-modernism – Lenin’s ghost haunts accelerationism, and one could almost feel as if Le Corbusier’s utopian cityscapes would be prime illustrations to accompany the recent manifesto. Even the form – the manifesto – is an artifact from this earlier age.

    The focus on “the future” as something abstract that comes into physicality through top-down processes reeks of politicized Hegelianism, and it too is inherently dangerous. From the Prussian state to fascism to Soviet communism to neoliberalism (via Fukuyama), this philosophy has brought more pain and suffering to the world than few other things combined. Bifo’s “no future” at times seems like a crisis derived from a quasi-Hegelian stance (his love/hate relationship with Hegel is expressed in multiple places), but it would be wrong to associate him directly with accelerationism – though he never mentions Land, et. al, much of his current work could be in fact read as a critique of accelerationism, particularly his emphasis on deceleration. This too is problematic, as Arran James points on a reply to your previous post, for it leans towards a reactionary position built from nostalgia for modernity. The irony is that the new left accelerationists are also guilty of this return to modernity; both acceleration and deceleration hint at the return of meta-narratives, and set sights on an overly deterministic and borderline metaphysical conception of politics and reality. Perhaps the bigger problem is simply the “politics of speed.” If we acceleration, who, what, and how are we accelerating? The same question applies for deceleration. Machinic technology is given a lump identifier in both forms – either positive or negative – but this too is a stance that harkens back to modernity’s binary oppositions. We should instead rethink the machine from a position outside totalizing binaries, a transversal sense. If Spinoza asked “what can the body do?” and cybernetics teaches us the relationship between the body, the animal, and the machine, then the daunting questions before us should be first “how does the machinic operate as an environment that the body exists within,” and from there “what can the machinic do?”

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    • “We should instead rethink the machine from a position outside totalizing binaries, a transversal sense. If Spinoza asked “what can the body do?” and cybernetics teaches us the relationship between the body, the animal, and the machine, then the daunting questions before us should be first “how does the machinic operate as an environment that the body exists within,” and from there “what can the machinic do?””

      Yes, exactly, and one reason I went back and started rereading Lewis Mumford and Jaques Ellul. Both garnered that the important term was not machine but ‘technique’ which is the pervading environment, the machine being but a local manifestation of its tributary flow into our lives. As technology becomes more and more pervasive one wonders: Are we adapting machines to our lives; or, are we being adapted by technique to the machinic life of our technology? Because I’m a little dark in my reasoning I’d have to side with the latter. If we take all of our data storage devices from Sumerian clay tablets to our projected quantum computers as a sign of this transposition of technology evolving its own course using us as it’s tool rather than us using it then what are we presented with?

      As we become more and more psychopathic or sociopathic and less affective are we not, too, becoming machines in truth and deed? I mean Karel Capeck in R.U.R. and Yevgeny Zamyatin in We long ago saw how the Enlightenment project of Reason if played out to the nth degree would evolve. We seem to be bent on some inhuman transformation: transhumanism, technological singularity, acceleration to what? Land’s antennae just captured the schizoanalysis of that inhuman intelligence coming at us, as did Philip K. Dick in Valis, or Lem in The Master’s Voice , etc. Is it too late to stop the train?

      Like that old saying: “Stop the world, I want to get off!” But where would we go? There is no where or when to go too anymore… we seem to have lost our Utopian gestures of hope, and instead have begun digging up all those lost causes of which Zizek speaks… seeking some human realm in the dirt of past ages, something to cling to that is still human before we ‘melt into air’ as Marx once stated…

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      • Trans/post-humanism is the great crossroads that we must interact with, the immanent horizon of our age of multiple accelerations. Aside from theoreticians engaging with cybernetic theory this seems to the most taboo of topics, and even for these theoreticians the physical integration of man and machine is still a topic to be treaded lightly. But we should remember that human subjectivity is already, and always has been transhuman, in that subjectivity is also composed of multiple aspects of both human and inhuman nature. Technobiological integration may at the crossroads of the rebounding lines of technocapitalist globalization, but subjectivity is already a matter of existing on its own crossroads – the body, the affective sea that it resonates with, the ecological environment around it, the political party or lack thereof it chooses, its economic positioning, the cultural circumstances it exists within and all the myriad sub-machines that compose it.

        The horrifying implications of trans/post-humanism arises with the specter of machinic enslavement, that illusive concept that D & G put forth by amplifying the theory-fictions of Mumford – with the machine situate us in a Matrix-like totalizing environment, with a crisis-wrought homeostasis of subjectivity brought on the commanding signifiers of technique? (Though they care not to admit it, D & G resemble more and more Baudrillard in this technological discourse) We become appendages of the machine, tools or cogs in its rationale… is this not already our sad reality, when we consider the positioning of the human body and its subjectivity within the cogs of corporate capitalism, either as a winner, loser, or its abject? What alternative is there to machinic enslavement? I like to think of individuals like Henry Miller, Rimbaud, the Beats, the Situationists, individuals of a militant avant-garde, individuals who were not the appendages of the cultural machine but who made the cultural machine their appendages. If we must look backwards to modernity to escape postmodernism, I think the route of authoritarian high modernism (as espoused by the left accelerationists) is the wrong one; let us look back to these who compulsively eek out lines of flight from the symbolic order, who make the machines move in unpredictable ways by virtue of their attempted autonomy.

        Oh, as an interesting aside, there’s some of the communiques floating around between Debord and Ellul… aside from Ellul’s reliance on religion, the Situationists noticed the remarkable affinity between their two works.

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      • Yes, I understood he’d written a lot on ethics and religion as well, being a Catholic? or Protestant? – haven’t read much other than his technology classic. Interesting that Debord saw affinities between their respective programs…

        Yep, Henry Miller was an early influence … always seemed a sort of anarcho thrust to his writings… yet, he had a proclivity toward early communism as well (think: Reds – where he spoke highly of the early days ).

        For me Modernism will always be that period of artistic bursting in Paris after WWI and up to the great depression… the camaraderie and open café world with endless talk seems like a sort of open utopic moment, too.

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  4. @Steven,

    I’m not quite sure which strain of Christianity he subscribed to, but I believe it was rather non-denominational (wiki says “Christian Universalism), and it was certainly of an anarchist variety. I’ve never had a chance to read his work on the technological society (big fan of Mumford, though), although that book’s companion piece of propaganda has been a long time resource. It always seemed to have a sort of Situationist flare about it – the analysis of technique is largely absent, but his understanding of an all-pervasive and inescapable manipulation of public opinion and the inability for top-down civilization to arrive at discernible “truths” is largely in line with the notion of the spectacle. I may go and sift through my old mess of notes and put up a post on Ellul and the Situationists; I’ve been working on a larger piece concerning the postmodern “abstract machine,” and just reviewing the dystopian anticipations that were emerging (particularly in France) would be extremely helpful.

    I was unaware on Miller’s communist sympathies! He’s been a reference point forever lurking in the back of mind… recently came across your older piece on Land and Miller’s work as “sacred writing,” which was excellent food for thought. How could the utopian aspirations of these moments in late modernism apply to today? Does this abstract space of the internet allow for the same kinds of communication that drove all these people, or was the openness to visceral experience that initially created the fertile soil for these radical forms to blossom? Does this have any relevance today? I feel that it does, but another part seems like wishful thinking on my part. And if it does, how can we translate it to address life in a hyper-complex, transnational, digitized, networked plane?

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    • Does this abstract space of the internet allow for the same kinds of communication that drove all these people, or was the openness to visceral experience that initially created the fertile soil for these radical forms to blossom?

      In the beginning, back in the 1996 to about 2000 the net was close, people seemed a lot more involved and alert, open and communicative, intimate… the intimacy seemed to be there and broke down a lot of the barriers. But it seems that over the years things have changed, distrust and resentment seemed to have creeped in… this sense of isolation, aloneness, rather than community and intimacy. Not sure why… even my old google boards have dried up due to so much confrontational crap rather than friendship and conversation.

      Even in philosophy you have this sort of demeaning agenda against anything different or new. I was reading this guy Leiter Reports who is a sort of bigot of philosophy, opinionated and seems petty the way he comes over:

      http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/06/why-do-these-people.html

      But I just use him as an example. I see the same all the time, and not just on philosophy blogs, it seems to be the prevalent attitude now. Pettiness, small minded bullshit. This isn’t communication, its just downright snobbishness and elitism. If you have a Doctorate, if you have a prime teaching position, if your an authority, blah , blah, blah… dam, who gives a shit if you have a degree or not? I don’t … but did that stop me from continuing my education on my own? No, of course not. Am I a philosopher… many of my old professors that I used to correspond with certainly thought so and used to encourage me to publish, etc.

      There was a time I felt like doing that, but then realized the whole idea of publishing in peer reviewed journals smelled of a closed world that I’ve been against for ages. I’m against the expert regimes, the idea that someone is some kind of specialist who has earned the right to be acknowledged, separated out as something superior – one of the elite intellectual classes. Maybe it’s because of my bottom up plebianism and working class mentality that always abjured this need to have some piece of paper to show: “See I’m an expert, I have a piece of paper that states it right here!” Of course not all who become doctorates are that way… that’s not the point, it’s the system that forces us into this expert credentialism that I’m disgusted with… just another part of the capitalist one-upmanship program. And, then when I see people like Leiter castigating those not part of the perceived main stream of philosophy… it all comes back to me… Leiter is one of those petty souls who has that piece of paper and lauds it over everyone else from his pulpit of supposedly superior height…

      What’s funny, is that I taught myself computer languages, and worked my way up the ladder of software engineering by my own knowledge and ability to produce and solve problems. I had no education in this profession, I just read and studied on my own and went the open source path and worked for some top dog companies along the way. Do I care? Not a bit… for me it was about the code, the algorithms, about understand what makes this world of 1’s and 0’s create what you and I are doing. How mathematics has created everything we call the hardware and software of our communicative world of information. Math and music run the world, generate its codings, decodings, and recodings… without algorithms there would be no digital devices… the world is generated from a simple set of algorithms that have evolved over time from those early languages to create all of what we see today on the net. This to me is the amazing thing… and, yet, we have been incorporated into its magic, enslaved by the very code we originally created… that is the scary thing… where is this algorithmic world taking us next?

      I digress. What I saw in Paris of the 1920’s was a world city with people from all over the earth guided there because of it being the central hub of art and philosophy. A place where multitudes met each other on the streets and in cafes, confronted each other, learned from each other, celebrated life, death, politics, struggle… in jouissance, the painfuljoy of sheer exuberance of communication through a myriad of mediums. Could we have that again? Sure we could? What Badiou and Zizek talk of the Idea of communism… could as well come back to that early moment of the Idea of modernism when humans met humans one on one and in groups physically creating something new…

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  5. Pingback: Reading Notes from S.M. Amadae’s “Rationalizing Democracy” | Deterritorial Investigations Unit

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