The Fourth Estate: InfoSphere, Technocapitalism, and the Eclipse of the Human

It’s time to bring this long digression to a conclusion, by reaching out impatiently towards the end. The basic theme has been mind control, or thought-suppression, as demonstrated by the Media-Academic complex that dominates contemporary Western societies … the Cathedral.

Nick Land, The Dark Enlightenment

An illuminated 24/ 7 world without shadows is the final capitalist mirage of post-history , of an exorcism of the otherness that is the motor of historical change.

Jonathan Crary, 24/7

There is Mark Fischer said “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it” (2).1 As another author Luis Suarez-Villa in his recent Globalization and Technocapitalism tells us “the ethos of technocapitalism places experimentalism at the core of corporate power”, much as production was at the core of industrial corporate power, undertaken through factory regimes and labor processes. And , much as the ethos of past capitalist eras was accompanied by social pathologies and by frameworks of domination, so the new ethos of technocapitalism introduces pathological constructs of global domination that are likely to be hallmarks of the twenty-first century.2

There are those like Steven Best and Douglas Kellner in their now dated The Postmodern Adventure who once believed that democracy was salvageable, that “the future of democracy” they tell us “depends in part on whether new technologies will be used for domination or democratization, and whether each individual will sit on the sidelines or participate in the development of new democratic public spheres” (248).3 Yet, that time has passed, too; and, with it any hope of democracy as we once knew it.

Another author Barry C. Lynn of the New American Foundation in his latest work on the economics of destruction of our monopoly capitalism Cornered states: “the entire system of distributed and oppositional ownership over the American industrial corporation – developed over the course of a century – was undone in a generation” (236).4 Speaking of the Chicago School of Economics and the obliteration of the old industrial economies during the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. Now the Banker, the Shareholder, the CEO are the central power elite: the Capitalist as Agent is no longer in charge of a thriving system of work in which it protects the livelihoods of its employees and supports their rights, but is now bound by a new economic agenda in which it must reduce the workforce capacity, deplete the older industrial base by no longer maintaining the machines and infrastructures that supported it, and stripping out the various forms of wealth that once kept such systems in place: such as salaries and pensions, R & D funds, and safety and redundancy capital (Lynn, 234).

The older image of the Capitalist as some singular owner (a J.P. Morgan or John D. Rockefeller) has vanished and in its place as Lynn reminds us is “an extremely powerful class that has largely commoditized all its holdings and thus escaped all the legal strictures that tie individual owners to real property” (Lynn, 235). All of this has led to what he calls ‘The Citadel’. First they killed off three of the key defenders of the old world: the worker, the engineer, and the state. They corrupted the CEO by creating a system in which they became the elite members of a new pay club with millions in their pockets to do the bidding of this new power elite. Then they maximized the fictional construct of the Shareholder to be the frontman mask for their insidious pulverization of the market place, workers rights, and the slow devolution of the industrial-era economics of a now obsolete age. Lastly the reinstated the ultimate heist, they put a human face onto this beast under the legal rubric of the Corporation as Person, as a legal entity to hide their nefarious and illegal world of theft, piracy, and economic destruction. As Lynn tells it this is the new amoral world of the financiers: “Control without ownership; power without responsibility; appetite without mind. Our industrial treasures smashed. Our ability to create destroyed. (237).

As Douglas Ruskoff recently said unlike Europe’s fascist dictatorships, this state of affairs [our incorporation in the Corporate State] came about rather bloodlessly—at least on the domestic front. Indeed, the real lesson of the twentieth century is that the battle for total social control would be waged and won not through war and overt repression, but through culture and commerce. Instead of depending on a paternal dictator or nationalist ideology, today’s system of control depends on a society fastidiously cultivated to see the corporation and its logic as central to its welfare, value, and very identity. That’s why it’s no longer Big Brother who should frighten us—however much corporate lobbies still seek to vilify anything to do with government beyond their own bailouts. Sure, democracy may be the quaint artifact of an earlier era, but what has taken its place? Suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of citizens, and the occasional repression of voting notwithstanding, this mess is not the fault of a particular administration or political party, but of a culture, economy, and belief system that places market priorities above life itself. It’s not the fault of a government or a corporation, the news media or the entertainment industry, but the merging of all these entities into a single, highly centralized authority with the ability to write laws, issue money, and promote its expansion into our world.4.5

There are those on the far Left and the far Right who see no alternative to this state of affairs short of a full and complete: exit. On the left we have the Exodus of such Paolo Virno who tells we must form a new alliance between Intellect and Action which is forged, has a number of fixed stars in its heaven: radical Disobedience, Intemperance, Multitude, Soviet, Example, Right of Resistance. These categories allude to a political theory of the future, a theory perhaps capable of facing up to the political crises of the late twentieth century and outlining a solution that is radically anti-Hobbesian.5 Virno sees this as a sort of exodus, a great movement of the multitude beyond the State, anti-statist in intent and method.6

In another of my articles Franco Berardi: Panic Society and the Semiopath I once described the new citizen of this dark capitalism as the semiopath. As I read between the lines in Berardi’s precarious rhapsody I am coming to the realization that the perfect citizen of semiocapitalism is not the psychopath but the Semiopath, the infonaut caught in the web of deceitful capital neither fully Borg nor a member of that species we once quaintly called homosapiens. The Semiopath is a voyeur of signs rather than a creator, a semiotician of the death-drive rather than a desiring machine, a cyberzombie of the edge worlds frozen on the cyberscreens of an endless night of civilization. A living semblance of our former humanity glued to the economics of an Occasionalist nightmare in which the mediator of causality is no longer God or Mind, but, as Zizek reminds us, the immaterial software algorithms on those pieces of material hardware we call Computers. Our machinic cousins now arbitrate the virtual subjects of the new cybertariat, those neo-intellectuals of our posthuman era. What modes of composition and recomposition connect us to the lightwaves and digitized byways of cyberspace; its movement of along the lines of consistency we term social composition? Is the mode of composition of this machinic subjectivation formed out of the traumatic zero world of our negative economics? As the modes of its communication among machines stretching across the global networks and assemblages sucks up more and more of the bitter dregs of humanity what will be left to salvage by century’s end? The communication of machine with machine goes on without us in the silent nights and days, while we oblivious to its music dive into the slipstreams idly playing the strings of its throbbing diodes like troubadours of some new alien sound poetry. Will the singularity (possible or not?) come in like a tiger or like the whimper of some bad suicide? Do we play the computer, or does it play us?

On the Right you have both Libertarians and what is tentatively termed by their loosely knit cohorts as the Neoreaction, which is best described by Nick Land:

For the hardcore neo-reactionaries, democracy is not merely doomed, it is doom itself. Fleeing it approaches an ultimate imperative. The subterranean current that propels such anti-politics is recognizably Hobbesian, a coherent dark enlightenment, devoid from its beginning of any Rousseauistic enthusiasm for popular expression. Predisposed, in any case, to perceive the politically awakened masses as a howling irrational mob, it conceives the dynamics of democratization as fundamentally degenerative: systematically consolidating and exacerbating private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption. The democratic politician and the electorate are bound together by a circuit of reciprocal incitement, in which each side drives the other to ever more shameless extremities of hooting, prancing cannibalism, until the only alternative to shouting is being eaten. (see: The Dark Enlightenment)

For Land “democracy might begin as a defensible procedural mechanism for limiting government power, but it quickly and inexorably develops into something quite different: a culture of systematic thievery. …Democracy is essentially tragic because it provides the populace with a weapon to destroy itself, one that is always eagerly seized, and used. Nobody ever says ‘no’ to free stuff. Scarcely anybody even sees that there is no free stuff. Utter cultural ruination is the necessary conclusion.”(ibid.)

Yet, for Land this is not all, for we are fast approaching the bionic horizon in which there is no “essential difference between learning what we really are and re-defining ourselves as technological contingencies, or technoplastic beings, susceptible to precise, scientifically-informed transformations. ‘Humanity’ becomes intelligible as it is subsumed into the technosphere, where information processing of the genome – for instance — brings reading and editing into perfect coincidence” (ibid.). He goes on to say: “Religious traditionalists of the Western Orthosphere are right to identify the looming bionic horizon with a (negative) theological event. Techno-scientific auto-production specifically supplants the fixed and sacralized essence of man as a created being, amidst the greatest upheaval in the natural order since the emergence of eukaryotic life, half a billion years ago. It is not merely an evolutionary event, but the threshold of a new evolutionary phase. John H. Campbell heralds the emergence of Homo autocatalyticus, whilst arguing: “In point of fact, it is hard to imagine how a system of inheritance could be more ideal for engineering than ours is.”

Some say we are living in the Age of the Zettabyte. A recent study, in 2011 shows that we passed the zettabyte (1000 exabytes) barrier: In 2011, the amount of information created and replicated will surpass 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes)— growing by a factor of 9 in just five years. (Gantz and Reinsel, 2011) This figure is now expected to grow fourfold approximately every three years. Every day, enough new data is being generated to fill all US libraries eight times over.  (Floridi, 2012c).7

In this age of information overload when machines not humans begin to take over as agents with the capacity to navigate this new infosphere of information in ways our Renaissance forbears could only dream of we are being reontologized as a new breed commoditized citizenery of this great Infosphere says Luciano Floridi, philosopher of information and its ethical implications:

We are already living in an infosphere that will become increasingly synchronized (time), delocalized ( space ), and correlated (interactions). Although this might be interpreted, optimistically, as the friendly face of globalization, we should not harbour illusions about how widespread and inclusive the evolution of the information society will be. Unless we manage to solve it, the digital divide will become a chasm, generating new forms of discrimination between those who can be denizens of the infosphere and those who cannot, between insiders and outsiders, between information rich and information poor. It will redesign the map of worldwide society, generating or widening generational, geographic, socio-economic, and cultural divides. Yet the gap will not be reducible to the distance between rich and poor countries, since it will cut across societies. Pre-historical cultures have virtually disappeared, with the exception of some small tribes in remote corners of the world. The new divide will be between historical and hyperhistorical ones. We might be preparing the ground for tomorrow’s informational slums (Floridi, 9).

Floridi goes on to tell us that we’ve been steadily moving through the passage from a nominalist world of unique objects to a Platonist world of types of objects, all perfectly reproducible as identical to one other, therefore epistemically indiscernible for a while now. As he states it when our ancestors bought a horse, they bought this horse or that horse , not ‘the’ horse. Today , we find it obvious that two automobiles may be virtually identical and that we are invited to test-drive and buy the model rather than an individual ‘incarnation’ of it. We buy the type not the token. Indeed, we are fast moving towards a commodification of objects that considers repair as synonymous with replacement, even when it comes to entire buildings. This has led , by way of compensation, to a prioritization of informational branding—a process compared by Klein to the creation of ‘cultural accessories and lifestyle philosophies’ — and of re-appropriation. The person who puts a sticker in the window of her car, which is otherwise perfectly identical to thousands of others, is fighting an anti-Platonic battle in support of a nominalist philosophy. The information revolution has further exacerbated this process. Once our window-shopping becomes Windows-shopping and no longer means walking down the street but browsing through the web, the processes of de-physicalization and typification of individuals as unique and irreplaceable entities start eroding our sense of personal identity as well. We begin to act and conceptualize ourselves as mass-produced, anonymous entities among other anonymous entities, exposed to billions of other similar informational organisms online. We conceive ourselves as bundles of types, from gender to religion, from family role to working position, from education to social class. So we construct, self-brand, and re-appropriate ourselves in the infosphere by using blogs and Facebook entries, homepages , YouTube videos, and Flickr albums, fashionable clothes, and choices of places we visit, types of holidays we take, and cars we drive, and so forth. It is perfectly reasonable that Second Life should be a paradise for fashion enthusiasts of all kinds. Not only does it provide a new and flexible platform for designers and creative artists, it is also the right context in which users (avatars) intensely feel the pressure to obtain visible signs of self-identity and unique personal tastes. After all, your free avatar looks like anybody else’s. Likewise, there is no inconsistency between a society so concerned about privacy rights and the success of services such as Facebook. We use and expose information about ourselves to become less informationally anonymous and indiscernible. We wish to maintain a high level of informational privacy almost as if that were the only way of saving a precious capital that can then be publicly invested (squandered, pessimists would say) by us in order to construct ourselves as individuals easily discernible and uniquely re-identifiable by others. (Floridi, pp. 12-13)

Floridi describes this great transformation in economics, technology, and the post-human break as the fourth revolution and the evolution of inforgs or Informational Organisms. As he tells it an inforg “should not be confused with the sci-fi vision of a ‘cyborged’ humanity, or a revised version of the extended mind thesis” (Floridit, 15). No. Instead it is happening transparently, day by day as you walk around with your Bluetooth wireless headset implanted in your ear is bringing you under its seductive transparency a slow immersion in a new kind of enslavement to a new technologized environment in which the very foundations of our identity are being reshaped and redefined without us ever realizing this consciously. Floridi argues that this subtle process of re-ontologization taking place across the globe:

We are witnessing an epochal, unprecedented migration of humanity from its Newtonian, physical space to the infosphere itself as its Umwelt, not least because the latter is absorbing the former. As a result, humans will be inforgs among other (possibly artificial) inforgs and agents operating in an environment that is friendlier to informational creatures. And as digital immigrants like us are replaced by digital natives like our children, the latter will come to appreciate that there is no ontological difference between infosphere and physical world, only a difference in levels of abstraction. When the migration is complete, we shall increasingly feel deprived, excluded, handicapped, or impoverished to the point of paralysis and psychological trauma whenever we are disconnected from the infosphere, like fish out of water. One day, being an inforg will be so natural that any disruption in our normal flow of information will make us sick.(Floridi, pp. 16-17)

Floridi’s take is that we are already so far along in this transformation that our fictions of the future are in themselves obsolete. The SciFi paradigm of cyborgs, posthuman machines, etc. is no longer the point and will probably never happen in the way these authors envisioned, instead we should begin looking around us at the invisible layers of our own technological Information and Communications Systems that actually are already transforming the way we think and live. As he states it we have begun to accept the virtual as reality. Our information society is better seen as a neo-manufacturing society in which raw materials have been superseded by data and information. We now live for better or worse in a new synthetic commons, a synthetic environment in which the breakdown of human identity is becoming more and more passé as we are digitized and reprogrammed into inforgs.

Deleuze once described the dividual as a physically embodied human subject that is endlessly divisible and reducible to data representations via the modern technologies of control, like computer-based systems.8 Our new technocapitalist elite both in governmental and corporate circles have been funding heavily in data mining, ICT’s (Information and Communications Technologies), etc. for some time now all with an objective to further their own control agendas. As we begin to merge with this new co-evolved environment of the InfoSphere we are also becoming what one author terms the Sleepless Generation.9 Even as the strategic logic of US military planning has been directed toward removing the living individual from many parts of the command, control, and execution circuit. Untold billions are spent developing robotic and other remote-operated targeting and killing systems, with results that have been dismayingly evident in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. We discover that the remaining human soldiers are entering what must be termed sleeplessness research which is part of a quest for soldiers whose physical capabilities will more closely approximate the functionalities of non-human apparatuses and networks. There are massive ongoing efforts by the scientific-military complex to develop forms of “augmented cognition” that will enhance many kinds of human-machine interaction. Simultaneously, the military is also funding many other areas of brain research, including the development of an anti-fear drug. There will be occasions when, for example, missile-armed drones cannot be used and death squads of sleep-resistant, fear-proofed commandos will be needed for missions of indefinite duration. As part of these endeavors, white-crowned sparrows have been removed from the seasonal rhythms of the Pacific coast environment to aid in the imposition of a machinic model of duration and efficiency onto the human body. As history has shown, war-related innovations are inevitably assimilated into a broader social sphere, and the sleepless soldier would be the forerunner of the sleepless worker or consumer. Non-sleep products, when aggressively promoted by pharmaceutical companies, would become first a lifestyle option, and eventually, for many, a necessity.(Crary,  Kindle Locations 38-51).

As this author puts it:

[M]any institutions in the developed world have been running 24/ 7 for decades now. It is only recently that the elaboration, the modeling of one’s personal and social identity, has been reorganized to conform to the uninterrupted operation of markets, information networks, and other systems. A 24/ 7 environment has the semblance of a social world, but it is actually a non-social model of machinic performance and a suspension of living that does not disclose the human cost required to sustain its effectiveness. It must be distinguished from what Lukács and others in the early twentieth century identified as the empty, homogenous time of modernity, the metric or calendar time of nations, of finance or industry, from which individual hopes or projects were excluded. What is new is the sweeping abandonment of the pretense that time is coupled to any long-term undertakings, even to fantasies of “progress” or development . An illuminated 24/ 7 world without shadows is the final capitalist mirage of post-history , of an exorcism of the otherness that is the motor of historical change.(Kindle Locations 112-119).

In other words even the old Enlightenment conceptions of a progressive politics have finally lost their way and are now being abandoned literally by both the cognoscenti (digital intellectuals) and the dark elites (power merchants) of our present era. What remains of our humanity is anyone’s guess. The Inforgasm is upon us, the slipstream worlds of human/machine have begun to reverse engineer each other in a convoluted involution in which we are returning to our own native climes as machinic beings. Maybe a schizoanalyst could sort this all out. For me there is no escape, no exit, just the harsh truth that what is coming at us is our own blind brain in reverse, an engineering feat that no one would have thought possible: consciousness gives way to the very machinic processes that underpin its actual and virtual histories.

Welcome to the Fourth Estate…

I can add colors to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.

— William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part Three, Act III, Scene ii

The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem.

Ludwig Wittgenstein,  Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Some wait alone, some share their invisible rooms with others. Invisible, yes, what do the furnishings matter, at this stage of things? Underfoot crunches the oldest of city dirt, last crystallizations of all the city had denied, threatened, lied to its children. Each has been hearing a voice, one he thought was talking only to him, say, “You didn’t really believe you’d be saved. Come, we all know who we are by now. No one was ever going to take the trouble to save you, old fellow. . . .”

Thomas Pynchon,   Gravity’s Rainbow

 

1. Fisher, Mark (2012-08-07). Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books) (p. 2). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
2. Luis Suarez-Villa (2013-01-28). Globalization and Technocapitalism (Kindle Locations 803-807). Ashgate. Kindle Edition.
3. Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Adventure. (The Guilford Press, 2001).
4. Barry C. Lynn. Cornered. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010)
4.5. Rushkoff, Douglas (2009-05-27). Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (Kindle Locations 292-302). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
5. 1. Paolo Virno;Michael Hardt. Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (Kindle Locations 2578-2580). Kindle Edition.
6  (see my post The Political Theory of the Future: Paolo Virno and Bifo Berardi)
7. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 5). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
8. see my post: Control Society: The History, Logic, and Methodologies of Control
9. Crary, Jonathan (2013-06-04). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

23 thoughts on “The Fourth Estate: InfoSphere, Technocapitalism, and the Eclipse of the Human

  1. I liked Mark Fisher’s book. It offered useful insight and lots of good examples.

    I agree with where you begin this post, but I’m not sure I can follow you all the way to where you see us heading. It isn’t that I necessarily disagree with the general drift of your thought. It’s just that I think it is too early to call.

    I would, however, disagree with one particular aspect. You mentioned the issues of democracy a couple of times. Here:

    “There are those like Steven Best and Douglas Kellner in their now dated The Postmodern Adventure who once believed that democracy was salvageable, that “the future of democracy” they tell us “depends in part on whether new technologies will be used for domination or democratization, and whether each individual will sit on the sidelines or participate in the development of new democratic public spheres” (248).3 Yet, that time has passed, too; and, with it any hope of democracy as we once knew it.”

    And here:

    “For Land “democracy might begin as a defensible procedural mechanism for limiting government power, but it quickly and inexorably develops into something quite different: a culture of systematic thievery. …Democracy is essentially tragic because it provides the populace with a weapon to destroy itself, one that is always eagerly seized, and used. Nobody ever says ‘no’ to free stuff. Scarcely anybody even sees that there is no free stuff. Utter cultural ruination is the necessary conclusion.””

    What I’d argue is that democracy has yet to be tried. I’d prefer to judge something after it has been tested.

    The political system we have has some superficial accoutrements of democracy, but it is mostly just for show. Even after the American Revolution, fewer Americans could vote than before the Revolution. Ain’t that a humdinger!?! It took nearly a couple of centuries to get inclusive suffrage. Still, vast numbers of Americans are disenfranchised through anti-democratic practices such as voter purges and long polling lines in poor neighborhoods and because many states make it illegal for excons to vote (and don’t get me started on our prison-industrial complex).

    Democracy has been under discussion in this country since the American Revolution. But most populist demands for democracy have either been violently suppressed or ignored. It reminds me of how, prior to the Revolutionary Era, there was a couple of centuries of discussion of Enlightenment and proto-Enlightenment ideas. We humans seem to have to collectively think about something for a very long time before we seriously attempt to implement something.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever get around to attempting a nation-wide democratic experiment in this country, but I wouldn’t discount it out of hand. Future possibilities aside, our present problems can’t be blamed on democracy. Most Americans don’t vote and the candidates they vote for are determined by the oligarchy. Derrick Jensen, in one of his books, quoted Meir Berliner who was a Nazi resistance fighter. She said, “When the oppressor gives me two choices, I always take the third.” Democracy isn’t about two choices. No, it’s about the third choice not offered by those who wish to undemocratically rule.

    Speaking of technology in terms of democracy or domination, you concluded:

    “Yet, that time has passed, too; and, with it any hope of democracy as we once knew it.”

    The one thing I can say about technology is that we haven’t a clue where it is heading. It is an ongoing experiment that with a single innovation could shift directions, no matter who tries to control it. Technology is getting too vast and unwieldy. Even the elite aren’t sure about it.

    Maybe if and when we try out democracy we can see what relationship it might have to technology.

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    • Remember that the political statements are not “my views”, but were of the current extreme Left and Right spectrums… my own views are more toward a form of Communism in the sense of Badiou and Zizek.

      Same for the views expressed on technology: these, too, are mostly the current state of affairs of certain Philosophers of Information and Technology rather than my own personal views.

      The two things should not be confused…

      As for the end I was expressing more of the tendency of a certain skeptical naturalism which underpins my own post-intentional valences.

      From your other posts I glean that you are one who is sitting back and contemplating it all, but would rather not make any commitments one way or the other toward the future of technology or democracy. This seems to be part and parcel of some of your earlier posts, more of an attitude toward knowledge rather than knowledge itself.

      I see these posts as theory-fictions, as linguistic sign-posts, antenna jutting up out of the matrix of my current studies like little vignettes of impossible objects that may or may not ever be realized. I do not see them as prognostications but as provocations, challenges to others to think through what is going on, to question and problematize the very things that stir them as well.

      I see that this has done its job by your post. You have pondered and qualified your own estimates of the truth or validity of these thoughts and come back with your own spectrum of beliefs in a clear and precise way. I think that clarifying one’s position is probably the best way to approach such things: it’s a way of examining one’s life… which is where I start… at rock bottom with Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

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      • “Remember that the political statements are not “my views””

        It wasn’t clear to me, from reading, where the demarcation was between the views you were presenting and your presentation of those views. I realized you were bringing more than one view into focus and it was your view that was creating the context, but I wasn’t sure how much was the view of others and how much was your view of those views. I wasn’t intentionally confusing them. Rather, I was confused about them.

        Part of it is that I’m not used to your writing style. It isn’t the style of writing I read often. I read plenty of academic work, but historians and social scientists don’t tend to write in this style.

        “As for the end I was expressing more of the tendency of a certain skeptical naturalism which underpins my own post-intentional valences.”

        That ending part expressing your own views was meant to be included when I write, “I’m not sure I can follow you all the way to where you see us heading.” I see many categories of people beyond the “cognoscenti (digital intellectuals) and the dark elites (power merchants)”, the vast majority of the population not being either cognoscenti or dark elites. Who and what one focuses on will predetermine or at least influence the conclusions one is likely to come to.

        I was writing my comment in a less than optimal way. I was responding on my Kindle while at work. I should have explained more specifically what I was disagreeing with. But maybe my thoughts weren’t quite clear either.

        “From your other posts I glean that you are one who is sitting back and contemplating it all, but would rather not make any commitments one way or the other toward the future of technology or democracy. This seems to be part and parcel of some of your earlier posts, more of an attitude toward knowledge rather than knowledge itself.”

        Yes and no.

        I’ve learned to be very circumspect. I know how easy it is to delude oneself into thinking one understands something when one doesn’t or not fully. People can even learn to sound intelligent and articulate while being largely clueless. Everything I write is conditional because all knowledge is conditional, partly conditional on the simple fact that our ignorance will always be greater than our knowledge.

        I do have strong opinions. And I will state them from time to time, actually quite regularly. But I try to be clear about what is my opinion and not pass it off as a certainty.

        I’m also wary about words. I know how they can be used in so many ways, just as often leading to confusion as to insight and understanding. It always depends on what is meant by a word.

        I think there is a natural impulse in humans that easily expresses in democratic and proto-democratic ways. I’m committed to democracy to the extent I’m committed to what I know about human psychology and society. I’m more with Jefferson and Paine in not seeing democracy as being fundamentally about government and instead making a distinction between government and society, the latter being how humans relate and live together. Some get so caught up in ideological rhetoric that they can’t see beyond it. As such, many people don’t know how to take democracy on its own terms as it is expressed in everyday behavior. The term ‘democracy’ can seem meaningless because of all the confusion. Still, democracy is more than just a word or the arguments about and the criticisms/dismissals of the word.

        I have faith in many things about human nature by which I mean I have tentative ideas about what motivates people, individually and collectively. People are far from being unpredictable. People writ large in the form of society seem to easily fall into patterns, trends and cycles. But that isn’t to say that the specifics are predictable. We can at best speak of a wide variety of possibilities and then with varying degrees of confidence surmise about their probability, although this is largely guesswork. Anyone who speaks with too much certainty about the future (or even the present) should be scrutinized with immense doubt.

        “I think that clarifying one’s position is probably the best way to approach such things: it’s a way of examining one’s life”

        I completely agree.

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  2. By the way, my last comment needs to be put into context. I’m not defending anything in particular. I am and always have been more of a pessimist than an optimist. It is easier for me to see the negatives, whether it’s because of my depression or something else. When in the right mood, I can dwell in a critical attitude like no other.

    Even so, there is another part of my personality. I have this persistent intuition about the unknown, specifically that there is more of it than there is known. Certainties don’t mesh well with my thinking. The unknown is pregnant with possibilities, yes less than desirable possibilities but also possibilities greater than anything we could dream.

    One thing history proves to us is that predictions of the future more often prove wrong than right.

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    • I agree the future is a blank wall we measure against our ignorance. Most of these writers are not talking about the future but about the present and the immediate truth of our history in the present which in all reflection is already past – even the past of our present writing. Yet, having said that I do believe there are patterns, tendencies, certain powers or dispositions if you will that seem to portray aspects of this infinite incomplete puzzle better than others. I pick and choose among these broken fragments weaving together slices of a wall that is being painted in an almost cubist way with time as the key.

      At the end of his story The Library of Babel, Jorge-Luis Borges tells us:

      “I have written the word “infinite,” I have not included that adjective out of mere rhetorical habit; I hereby state that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who believe it to have limits hypothesize that in some remote place or places the corridors and staircases and hexagons may, inconceivably, end – which is absurd. And, yet those who picture the world as unlimited forget that the number of possible books is not. I will be bold enough to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The library is unlimited by periodic. If an eternal traveler should journey in any direction, he would find after untold centuries that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder – which, repeated, becomes order: the Order. My solitude is cheered by that elegant hope.”

      For me the future is that infinity we fill day by day with our disorder, and yet it strangely turns into an order of which we are unaware except as we become masters of a certain type of repetition.

      I would probably add Freud’s thoughts on the matter:

      “When one has lived for long within a particular culture and has often striven to discover its origins and the path of its development, one feels for once the temptation to turn one’s attention in the other direction and to ask what further fate awaits this culture and what transformations it is destined to undergo. But one soon finds that the value of such an enquiry is diminished from the outset by several considerations. Above all, by the fact that there are only a few people who can survey human activity in all its ramifications. Most people have been compelled to restrict themselves to a single, or to a few, spheres of interest; but the less a man knows of the past and the present the more unreliable must his judgment of the future prove. And further it is precisely in the matter of this judgment that the subjective expectations of the individual play a part that is difficult to assess; for these prove to be dependent on purely personal factors in his own experience, on his more or less hopeful attitude to life, according as temperament, success or failure has prescribed for him. And finally one must take into account the remarkable fact that in general men experience the present naively, so to speak, without being able to estimate its content; they must first place it at a distance, i.e. the present must have become the past before one can win from it points of vantage from which to gauge the future.”

      Freud, Sigmund (2011-03-07). THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION (Kindle Locations 60-63). Wilder Publications. Kindle Edition.

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  3. Masterful, Stephen. Brilliant. I’m especially excited by the Floridi piece: he’s been on my to watch list for years now. In The Philosophy of Information he makes a powerful case for just how bloody antediluvian the bulk of contemporary philosophy is (and then sets out to develop his own account of semantic externalism – such is life). The only twist I would add to this dark scenario is what I call the Akratic Divide – a divide that I see animating my present debate with the retro-continentalist crowd, for instance. It’s also the divide I see myself straddling with my novels. The key thing here is the commodification of illusion: the further removed from scarcity and personal (as opposed to impersonal) interdependence a populace becomes, the more it can indulge all those egocentric biases evolved to maximize reproductive opportunity in materially enforced allocentric social conditions. The automatic drives too maximize fitness indicators.

    Mass culture, as fractionate and involuted as it is, will become progressively more atavistic and narcissistic, increasingly invested in rationalizing our intuitions of exceptionality. The socio-economic apparatus, meanwhile, which has long since managed us like livestock-with-limited-institutional-recourse (to entrench the illusion of legitimacy-via-process), has already begun treating us explicitly like machines.

    This raises the spectre of ingroup administrative cultures that share little, if any, of the ‘values’ shared by the masses – power over disconnected from the over-powered in a manner more profound than ever before. The integration that Floridi imagines (and it’s at least worth checking out Andy Clark’s techno-optimistic take) will have this profound Akratic Divide, with administrative elites becoming ever more indistinguishable from the tyranny of technique, and the service caste menials becoming indistinguishable from the content tyrannized, literally *becoming* the very video games corporations use the mechanics of addiction to design today.

    Neuropath, baby!

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    • As an aside this morning I was thinking about that great beast Wal-Mart, a machine of the commoditized realms, that covers at least the states, and now Japan and China, etc. with its pared down generalized mass merchandised set of controlled products for the mass commoditized consumer at the bottom line economy of flows… My little sis works for this beast and she is an efficient and qualified, intelligent worker in this great hive world. Yet, as she tells me the system does not work, its broken at the core. Why? People are LAZY and PETTY…. they do not follow the rules, regulations, technologized helpmates (i.e., electronic devices to track and match products: Talazons, hand-helds that communicate on-hands / off-hands with the centralized data banks of the corporate offices, etc.). And, most of all they despise her for being too efficient and good at her job… Not only are people in this supposed smiley face environment not happy, but in fact are petty, selfish, conniving, back-biting, viscious, and downright human in the sense of creating small in-groups that spend their time attacking anyone that is too efficient, too machinelike, etc. This sort of pettiness seems more and more prevalent in the workplace and the home. My sister’s only defense has been up till now to maintain a rock solid work ethic and perform her duty to an almost overt perfection to keep the petty ones at bay. But now she is foundering because the pettiness has surfaced in almost every department in her store to the point that people actually are taking pictures of her merchandising, etc. trying to find a way to bring her down. I’ve experienced such things in my own software world but not to that extent and usually it comes not from fellow workers (ie. software engineers) but from the middle-tier management who are less prone to understand the intricacies and nuances of design and methodologies of software architecture and implementation. Strange how people of narrow mind and focus suddenly feel the need to attack everything around them to defend their own integrity and self-worth. But there it is… when I think about my post and all these theoretical visions I wonder if these writers have actually ever worked in the marketplace and seen how our society really works?

      My point is that no matter how much theorizing we do about such entities we sometimes forget the actual humans who for the most part are at the bottom feeder level are for the most part spiteful, hateful, anarchic, and miserable with this world of our present capitalist machine etc. When I think of multiplying that analogy to the nth degree across the planet in all these corporations – think of our US Government at the moment with its stupidity, bickering, conniving, back-biting, bottom feeder mentality in Washington. This is the real state of affairs on this planet… one always needs to somehow fit these theories back into what is really going on… somewhere between the two is the actual truth. Yes?

      So much is left out of these theoretical notions as I’ve written about that even I question their validity. My point is that even in such places as – let’s take Eve Online, a space sim, mmorpg (Multiplayer online game with upward of 40 to 50 thousand players at any one time) which stretches across a vast universe has become so petty and politicized, monopolized by hate, bigotry, pettiness, control freaks that playing such games is almost impossible to enjoy. Having been a fan of many of these innovations I’ve played mmorpg’s etc. for years with my children and now grandchildren and realize that the real world of this supposed anonymous zone is filled with the truth about our socio-pathic world we are no living in. As well as using the communications devices such as Ventrillo, TeamSpeak, Mumble, etc. For in these places that on the surface present a Utopic realm we find nothing but the blitzkrieg of a dystopic set of beings whose only goal is to bring about the misery of all other beings.

      That old cliché of misery likes company is actually well founded folk wisdom. More and more as one dips below the surface of all the smiley faces on meets on a daily basis one discovers under the hood a bunch of grumbling and miserable people who work in jobs they hate for wages they can ill-afford to leave from pay check to pay check for the survival rate lives of misery they lead.

      I’m trying to figure out how to splice this vision with what I wrote about in my post… haven’t been able to actually do that yet.

      Like

      • Your point, as I see it, is that in describing the global machinery it’s easy to forget the billions of components that make it possible, the kinds of constraints they impose globally. It’s an old saw in political economy: we need a theory of human nature. My thumbnail above looks at us pretty much the way you do, compelled to fall into pointless ingroup competition everywhere and always. We’re getting shouldered out of industry precisely because the most sophisticated reward/punishment regimes we create possess nowhere near the power to contravene those instincts that got us here in the first place.

        In other words, the primary obstacle to economic efficiency has become the human, the very thing this efficiency is supposed to serve. Humans are dismantling themselves in the service of humanity. It’s exactly like Adorno says – Society is insane.

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    • You said it: In other words, the primary obstacle to economic efficiency has become the human, the very thing this efficiency is supposed to serve. Humans are dismantling themselves in the service of humanity. It’s exactly like Adorno says – Society is Insane!

      Yea, it’s an insane world, baby, and not getting any better… dark days indeed! More like devolution than evolution… the great sink hole of human misery flowing down into the bottom feeders pit. Dystopia here I come…

      (When you describe “the global machinery it’s easy to forget the billions of components that make it possible” I think of Morton’s hyper-Object in which we are all units/components… strange how with a few modifications Harman’s OOO could become a useful heuristic toolset for exploration of this notion. The biggest part would entail a transformation of the metaphors to inform it with current sciences of the neuroscience field rather than phenonmenology of philsophy… his notion of the interaction of real and synthetic/sensible objects turned into machinic materialist entities rather than intentional creatures… a post-intentional naturalism displacing the phenomenological bric-a-brac.)

      Yet, one wonders if it is society that is insane or if it is rather the system we’ve created in this machinelike world of late capitalism that has enforced its machininic designs on a creature that will never ever be able to be a machine? Maybe we need a human economics rather than a machine one? What if the system is insane, not the humans? In other words to change Adorno’s statement – Capitalism is Insane!

      Or, are you of the persuasion that it is all moot now, that the inevitable deterministic tide of time is eliminating us from the equation and we are just not ready to accept this state of affairs: that what is truly happening is that a combination of machinic intellgences (AI, android, cyborg, inforg, etc.) is replacing us with a new mold of the human (i.e, the socio-path and psycho-path as normative)?

      _______________

      I like your: “Humans are dismantling themselves in the service of humanity.” Made me think of Philp K. Dick story (I’ll have to find it now… five volumes of his stories in front of me lol). The last service agent of the empire is finally tasked with dismantling his boss for the good of commerce. I remember laughing my head off. An almost Cordwainer Smith like story… another great satirist of our late capitalism. Dang I need to find out if it was Phil or some other writer… either way, funny that certain of our twisted SciFi writers have already been down that path before us… 🙂

      Oh, I see Levi has questioned the ‘Subject’ in a new post… haven’t had time to read it through yet.

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      • “Yet, one wonders if it is society that is insane or if it is rather the system we’ve created in this machinelike world of late capitalism that has enforced its machininic designs on a creature that will never ever be able to be a machine? Maybe we need a human economics rather than a machine one? What if the system is insane, not the humans? In other words to change Adorno’s statement – Capitalism is Insane!”

        That tends to be my view. If insanity was the norm of humans, the species wouldn’t have survived this long nor civilization lasted this long.

        “Made me think of Philp K. Dick story”

        I’m a big fan of PKD. I haven’t read all of his short stories, but I’ve read many of them. I don’t recall that particular story. It does sound like a PKD type story, though.

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  4. “My point is that no matter how much theorizing we do about such entities we sometimes forget the actual humans who for the most part are at the bottom feeder level are for the most part spiteful, hateful, anarchic, and miserable with this world of our present capitalist machine etc. When I think of multiplying that analogy to the nth degree across the planet in all these corporations – think of our US Government at the moment with its stupidity, bickering, conniving, back-biting, bottom feeder mentality in Washington”
    yep, same thing with the wallstreeters who crashed the global economy very sexy to wax philosophical like Bifo about quants and all but these were narcissistic buffoons who were literally buying favors with lobsters and cheesecake, the same kinds of blockheads you can see on CSPAN “representing” us in various elected offices, we will all be brought down by these all too familiar and all-too-human factors geared up by very powerful technologies that they don’t understand and that let them “extract” resources from minerals to data and polluting everything around them, the only “post” to human will be when we finally do ourselves in…

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    • haha… yea, if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny in a bitter ironic sort of way, but in the end you may be right instead of ‘post’ if will be ‘after’ …

      What comes after the collapse of the human species? Have we even begun to think through that option of horrific suffering? Will the earth send up something else more capable of wise intelligence? Or will it be more of the same blind madness of the brain that led to our demise?

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      • it may in part depend on how badly we poison the biosphere as we go, unlike many folks in our corner of the web I do think that humans are pretty significantly different sorts of critters however much DNA we might share with flowers and such and don’t see things adding up in quite the same way again to be close to intelligence that might be tied in with being wise.
        I used to do a lot of consulting when I managed an EAP (and still do some here&there to help with the bills) that let me see behind the curtains of a wide variety of institutions from colleges to prisons, plastic and steel manufacturing, high-end machine engineering, various government clinics/hospitals, courts, public schools, and such (just met with a pharmacy school administrator this morning, may the fled g_ds help us all) and the kinds of baboonish stressed out go for yours ugliness that you describe in relation to your poor sister’s situation is everywhere and no one and no rule/system/ideology/etc is really in charge, too many players/variables and too much chaos (not the physics but the mayhem) and patchwork assemblies for anyone to even know what’s happening let alone how it might be fixed.

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

  6. “The Semiopath is a voyeur of signs rather than a creator, a semiotician of the death-drive rather than a desiring machine, a cyberzombie of the edge worlds frozen on the cyberscreens of an endless night of civilization”.

    When I read this, I immediately thought of ‘the new aesthetic’. In the words of one critic:

    ‘The ‘new aesthetic’ documents is the shift from earlier considerations of machine labor as an amplifier and extension of human action — as an augmentation of human labor — to its replacement by models where the machine does not augment but supplant, in the process apparently removing the human intermediary that is the labor that historically lies between the work of human designer-engineers and fabrication following their plans’.

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    • Oh, interesting, I didn’t really realize there was a name for what I do… haha, for me my aesthetic is probably an outgrowth of my infinite reading of Cioran, Ballard, Nietzsche, Pynchon, Ligotti and other stylists sometimes decadent, sometimes pure cynical despair… with a technological twist of invention added.

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  7. Whenever I encounter dark readings of the info/techno trajectories we’re headed on I’m drawn back to Virilio- one of the first philosophers who really captured my imagination with his hyperpessimistic prognostications. I continually use his terms, here and elsewhere, “endocolonisation” whenever I see discussions of the technological supplanting humanity, invading it’s boundaries, via miniaturisation of technoprocesses and the ever shrinking, ever more penetrating, ever more temporally accelerated technological gaze, a pure vision-machine.

    First and foremost though, endocolonisation occurs whenever imperialist regimes reach a limit and find themselves unable to proceed, as if there were a lack of territory to discover, to conquer, and to administer, extracting it’s resources, domesticating its peoples, stripping them both for political-economic value and shipping them home, or elsewhere. In Virilio’s view of things, colonialism was, as all military ventures are, primarily a question of information and speed: the production and control of information, the monopolisation of techniques of movement and time. How do imperialists defeat native populations? In Virilio’s eyes, they make maps, the distribute supplies, they get to know the land, and bring in all kinds of logistics to support the effort. These logistics are obviously tied to speed, especially where we’re concerned with inter-Imperialist rivalries, state-national capitals trying to get their first, the seas being dominated by whoever had the fastest ships. More brutally, native populations are suppressed or massacred because the invader’s weaponry reloads faster, can be launched faster, flies through the air faster and over greater distances.

    At certain phases though, the colonial strategy is involuted, “brought home” as it were. Speed as an exercise of power was born. A banal example is traffic control, brought in when car production had to be managed, but really, it seems to me, almost all aspects of the society of control, insofar as it is about the regulation of bodies in space, is always about the regulation of speed. Much of the “death of the social” talk that was floating around maybe 10 years ago might better have been thought of as a product of endocolonial forms of power, where states, and other capitalists, began an imperialist conquest of social space, and an extension of their dominance of social time. Before I left London, I definitely saw this as a very concrete reality. After 9/11 & 7/7 suddenly central London, airports, big train stations, some embassies, had armed police patrols. The US Embassy had great concrete slabs set up to act as both blast absorbers and a means to carve out space and slow down the movement of bodies toward it. All our cities are coming more and more to look like colonial cities, an aspect of gentrification that cleaves the city from itself in order to produce the dwelling of the colonists by removing the indigenous populations.

    Virilio extends this though. In an interview in ‘Virilio Live’ he states quite baldly that the ‘transplant revolution’ inaugerates a regime of

    [i]’endocolonisation of the human body by technology. The human body is eaten up, invaded, and controlled by technology…So we have this technology of absorption, or as the Futurists used to say: man will be fed by technology, and technology will colonise human behaviour, just as the television and computer are doing, but this last form of colonisation will be much more intimate, and a much more irresistible form. This is scary! It is neo-eugenism, endo-technological eugenism!’ [/i]

    When Virilio wrote Pure War, he stated that the civilian population had ceased to exist because we’d all been militarised; so today, I guess, he’s probably somewhere saying that the human body no longer exists, or is at least on the cusp of disappearance, into the machine because the machine is becoming indistinguishably integrated into the body.

    But I’d go with what dmf says above as well. What does this mean, this insistence that technology will or has colonised the body? When Virilio talks war he talks about the military class. When he talks speed he talks about dromological machines (boats, telecommunications, algorithms), but when it comes to the body- and whose body?- his reactionary stances are obvious: “technology” itself is out to get “the body”, “the human”, and, in other places he will also say, “phenomenology”.

    Virilio is a good diagnostician, but he is also a symptom. I still look to him for this precise reason. Conversations, fears, despairs, seem too much to be located at the abstract level of technology as if technology were a monster, or as if it were some kind of Heideggarian horizon that had already absorbed everything else.

    This is hysterical, and I mean it in the Lacanian sense. Techno-hysteria constructs a technological big Other and attributes to it a desire for conquest that the hysteric can then identify with at a distance (itself a kind of tele-operation). Although, let me say I’m using Lacan’s language in a way that doesn’t believe it…lulz

    Technology is figured as a predator. This is a brilliant move, isn’t it? Those wielding the particular machines disappear. “It’s all the machine”- as if the machine weren’t always already a plugging in of the inorganic mechanisms and the organic ones.

    Are we accessories of some vast machine, a hyper-object too big to control, too big to know, too big to intuit? Well…which machine? Which hyper-object? Were we ever in control of production, machinery, so on…if technology exists as a “hyper-object” then what does that tell us? I’m getting closer to dmf’s position on these things…it begins to look a lot like idealism, with the Object displacing the Idea.

    In psychological studies the important thing is locus of control…where we locate control… so what? What’s shifting is a change in the locus of control…it’s externalisation on a grand scale. But that misses the point about control, about it’s illusory nature. The inside/outside, depth/surface, division remains intact…that seems a big problem to me.

    I dunno…maybe I’m in a buddhist mood… can’t we, just like, give up on the whole idea of control maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan? 🙂

    Or, why not speak in terms of collaborations? “Who is in control?” becomes “who or what is collaborating”?

    Or, maybe, just maybe, I’ve slipped away from the point and am swimming in an ocean of irrelevance. There again, I can’t help it… I’m a digital native guys… technology made me this way.

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    • Prescient indeed. Think about it. We are seeing the neurosciences, biotech, and nanotech along with in physics of quantum computing and quantum encryption technologies as big business as corporate and government initiatives seek more and more control over the human domains. From the Human Genome Project to military tech initiatives for enhanced humans we are in what Arthur Kroker terms the “third-wave eugenics” era. He sees it as the moment of a great Cultural Trauma in which humanity enters a zero-point of non-meaning. We see this in the cloning, replication, transgenic seed industry… the stockpiling and control of natural wild seeds while experimentation in certain African countries the specialized seeds of Monsanto and other such combines goes on with minimal supervision. And even the Left leaning organizations that keep and track such things have to real power to stop it. When scientists of repute expose many of the truths they become instantly anathematized, discredited, ousted, and generally brought low by the very system they once inhabited.

      So many things that Lewis Mumford and others documented in his great histories of technology and the city was a first start, but we need greater tools…. such work as Deleuze/Guartti were moments of an opening into something different, while others such as Badiou, Zizek, Johnston, etc. are actually a retrograde return to older notions and rehashed fictions of philosophy and political ethics. Both speak of materialism but in the end profess a form of ethical Idealism.

      All these new materialisms seem actually to be trying to integrate aspects of the Idealist traditions into their differing strategies. I’m not really too happy with any of these so far. As Iain Hamilton Grant and his cohorts show perfectly well in their short history of Idealism the Idea is front and center in all these strategies, a speculative realism of the Idea… whatever wants, as you say to be put in place of that big word: Object, Materialism, etc.

      For me the truth is to follow the money trail, to see what governments and corporations are doing on our planet, to investigate how they are seeking to create new international laws, codes, rules, regulations to govern not just within States but on the global scale that destroys the sovereignty of nations and creates or invents or constructs something else…

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      • I’m not sure I’d want to speak of Deleuze&Guattari as idealists…or at least not Guattari. The further I go into his solo work, especially where he is concerned with therapeutic practice, the more I see someone very willing to cut things down. Of course, the buck might stop with him at the ethico-aesthetic stuff, which he cites as an axiological-imperative, that he is quite bald in saying must always trump the techno-scientific paradigm. For all the talk of subjectivity as a fabrication out of machinic molecularity, it still all has to cohere around a protectionism of those old “existential territories”…those reterritorialisations that resist the chaotic plenum, reducing the real back to its manageable chunks. Is that ethical idealism? I’m not sure…after all, the idea of the ethico-aesthetic is that it is situated after the techno-scientific…the latter must dictate how the former operates to avoid it all collapsing into some atavism. With the retention of talk of forces too, a trace of the ideal. Everything is a force- but what is a force? Didn’t Newton think that “the force of gravity” was still a spooky idea?

        At bottom, the reason I’m so interested in Guattari at the moment, besides his radical psychiatric thinking, is insistence on the fabricated- a better word than constructed, with all its connotations- nature of everything that exists. Molecular production- yes, cool…but the molecules and the machines are bodies themselves…bodies, not forces, not anything ghostly.

        But then, I think I’m struggling to really integrate the new domain we’ve entered…like an operating system trying to run software newer than itself, I experience some lagging…and then we’re back on the question of speed.

        I simply want to avoid, as far as possible, the position that Lewis Mumford is often drawn into, called up for, as represented by Zerzan et al. If neuroscience threatens us, call it a megamachine, call it a bad guy, destroy it, and save our souls. Maybe it’s a false dialectic, but more than discovering I’m an illusion I fear those who would save me from such a discovery: the agony of knowledge is preferable to the agony of salvation.

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      • Yea, that would place technology as another big Other in Zizek’s sense which as u suggest is the problem with Zerzan and his progeny etc. Like anything else technology is not some singular all defining thing, but a multitude of layers of material processes that happen to be situated as human artifacts at the moment. But that might change…

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  8. Steven, A brilliant montage, but it’s in the nature of montages to mix together things that need independent analysis. If one rejects an anthropocentric ethics, then the reconfiguration of life that you describe is not an apocalypse, it’s a problem. I agree with Arran that there is something hysterical about the dark teleology that imputes quasi-intentions to this or that colonizing agency. Modern technology is not a Moloch, though it does generate very complex, fast systems that are recalcitrant to rational or democratic oversight. Somehow, we need to hollow out spaces of relative autonomy within this planetary system –

    Like

    • True… I try to compress too much information sometimes! I agree, technology is not some new big Other in Zizek’s sense, it does not have some independent vitalist life of its own as if there was a guiding power there. Most of these themes need, as you say, their own detailed analysis. Some of these posts are more like sudden sparks jetting up as I see things that otherwise would never be connected jutting up in many differing knowledge sites. Yes, this hollowing out of spaces, seems to be part of the use many contemporary philosophers are speaking of when they tell us we need an ‘exit’ strategy.

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